Essays of Michel de Montaigne
Book The Second



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Such as make it their business to oversee human actions, do not find themselves in anything so much perplexed as to reconcile them and bring them into the world’s eye with the same lustre and reputation; for they commonly so strangely contradict one another that it seems impossible they should proceed from one and the same person. We find the younger Marius one while a son of Mars and another a son of Venus. Pope Boniface VIII. entered, it is said, into his Papacy like a fox, behaved himself in it like a lion, and died like a dog; and who could believe it to be the same Nero, the perfect image of all cruelty, who, having the sentence of a condemned man brought to him to sign, as was the custom, cried out, “O that I had never been taught to write!” so much it went to his heart to condemn a man to death. All story is full of such examples, and every man is able to produce so many to himself, or out of his own practice or observation, that I sometimes wonder to see men of understanding give themselves the trouble of sorting these pieces, considering that irresolution appears to me to be the most common and manifest vice of our nature witness the famous verse of the player Publius:

“Malum consilium est, quod mutari non potest.”

[“‘Tis evil counsel that will admit no change.”
—Pub. Mim., ex Aul. Gell., xvii. 14.]

There seems some reason in forming a judgment of a man from the most usual methods of his life; but, considering the natural instability of our manners and opinions, I have often thought even the best authors a little out in so obstinately endeavouring to make of us any constant and solid contexture; they choose a general air of a man, and according to that interpret all his actions, of which, if they cannot bend some to a uniformity with the rest, they are presently imputed to dissimulation. Augustus has escaped them, for there was in him so apparent, sudden, and continual variety of actions all the whole course of his life, that he has slipped away clear and undecided from the most daring critics. I can more hardly believe a man’s constancy than any other virtue, and believe nothing sooner than the contrary. He that would judge of a man in detail and distinctly, bit by bit, would oftener be able to speak the truth. It is a hard matter, from all antiquity, to pick out a dozen men who have formed their lives to one certain and constant course, which is the principal design of wisdom; for to comprise it all in one word, says one of the ancients, and to contract all the rules of human life into one, “it is to will, and not to will, always one and the same thing: I will not vouchsafe,” says he, “to add, provided the will be just, for if it be not just, it is impossible it should be always one.” I have indeed formerly learned that vice is nothing but irregularity, and want of measure, and therefore ‘tis impossible to fix constancy to it. ‘Tis a saying of. Demosthenes, “that the beginning oh all virtue is consultation and deliberation; the end and perfection, constancy.” If we would resolve on any certain course by reason, we should pitch upon the best, but nobody has thought on’t:

“Quod petit, spernit; repetit, quod nuper omisit;
AEstuat, et vitae disconvenit ordine toto.”

[“That which he sought he despises; what he lately lost, he seeks
again. He fluctuates, and is inconsistent in the whole order of
life.”—Horace, Ep., i. I, 98.]

Our ordinary practice is to follow the inclinations of our appetite, be it to the left or right, upwards or downwards, according as we are wafted by the breath of occasion. We never meditate what we would have till the instant we have a mind to have it; and change like that little creature which receives its colour from what it is laid upon. What we but just now proposed to ourselves we immediately alter, and presently return again to it; ‘tis nothing but shifting and inconsistency:

“Ducimur, ut nervis alienis mobile lignum.”

[“We are turned about like the top with the thong of others.”
—Idem, Sat., ii. 7, 82.]

We do not go, we are driven; like things that float, now leisurely, then with violence, according to the gentleness or rapidity of the current:

“Nonne videmus,
Quid sibi quisque velit, nescire, et quaerere semper
Commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit?”

[“Do we not see them, uncertain what they want, and always asking
for something new, as if they could get rid of the burthen.”
—Lucretius, iii. 1070.]

Every day a new whimsy, and our humours keep motion with the time.

“Tales sunt hominum mentes, quali pater ipse
Juppiter auctificas lustravit lumine terras.”

[“Such are the minds of men, that they change as the light with
which father Jupiter himself has illumined the increasing earth.”
—Cicero, Frag. Poet, lib. x.]

We fluctuate betwixt various inclinations; we will nothing freely, nothing absolutely, nothing constantly. In any one who had prescribed and established determinate laws and rules in his head for his own conduct, we should perceive an equality of manners, an order and an infallible relation of one thing or action to another, shine through his whole life; Empedocles observed this discrepancy in the Agrigentines, that they gave themselves up to delights, as if every day was their last, and built as if they had been to live for ever. The judgment would not be hard to make, as is very evident in the younger Cato; he who therein has found one step, it will lead him to all the rest; ‘tis a harmony of very according sounds, that cannot jar. But with us ‘t is quite contrary; every particular action requires a particular judgment. The surest way to steer, in my opinion, would be to take our measures from the nearest allied circumstances, without engaging in a longer inquisition, or without concluding any other consequence. I was told, during the civil disorders of our poor kingdom, that a maid, hard by the place where I then was, had thrown herself out of a window to avoid being forced by a common soldier who was quartered in the house; she was not killed by the fall, and therefore, repeating her attempt would have cut her own throat, had she not been prevented; but having, nevertheless, wounded herself to some show of danger, she voluntarily confessed that the soldier had not as yet importuned her otherwise; than by courtship, earnest solicitation, and presents; but that she was afraid that in the end he would have proceeded to violence, all which she delivered with such a countenance and accent, and withal embrued in her own blood, the highest testimony of her virtue, that she appeared another Lucretia; and yet I have since been very well assured that both before and after she was not so difficult a piece. And, according to my host’s tale in Ariosto, be as handsome a man and as worthy a gentleman as you will, do not conclude too much upon your mistress’s inviolable chastity for having been repulsed; you do not know but she may have a better stomach to your muleteer.

Antigonus, having taken one of his soldiers into a great degree of favour and esteem for his valour, gave his physicians strict charge to cure him of a long and inward disease under which he had a great while languished, and observing that, after his cure, he went much more coldly to work than before, he asked him what had so altered and cowed him: “Yourself, sir,” replied the other, “by having eased me of the pains that made me weary of my life.” Lucullus’s soldier having been rifled by the enemy, performed upon them in revenge a brave exploit, by which having made himself a gainer, Lucullus, who had conceived a good opinion of him from that action, went about to engage him in some enterprise of very great danger, with all the plausible persuasions and promises he could think of;

“Verbis, quae timido quoque possent addere mentem”

[“Words which might add courage to any timid man.”
—Horace, Ep., ii. 2, 1, 2.]

“Pray employ,” answered he, “some miserable plundered soldier in that affair”:

“Quantumvis rusticus, ibit,
Ibit eo, quo vis, qui zonam perdidit, inquit;”

[“Some poor fellow, who has lost his purse, will go whither you
wish, said he.”—Horace, Ep., ii. 2, 39.]

and flatly refused to go. When we read that Mahomet having furiously rated Chasan, Bassa of the Janissaries, because he had seen the Hungarians break into his squadrons, and himself behave very ill in the business, and that Chasan, instead of any other answer, rushed furiously alone, scimitar in hand, into the first body of the enemy, where he was presently cut to pieces, we are not to look upon that action, peradventure, so much as vindication as a turn of mind, not so much natural valour as a sudden despite. The man you saw yesterday so adventurous and brave, you must not think it strange to see him as great a poltroon the next: anger, necessity, company, wine, or the sound of the trumpet had roused his spirits; this is no valour formed and established by reason, but accidentally created by such circumstances, and therefore it is no wonder if by contrary circumstances it appear quite another thing.

These supple variations and contradictions so manifest in us, have given occasion to some to believe that man has two souls; other two distinct powers that always accompany and incline us, the one towards good and the other towards ill, according to their own nature and propension; so abrupt a variety not being imaginable to flow from one and the same source.

For my part, the puff of every accident not only carries me along with it according to its own proclivity, but moreover I discompose and trouble myself by the instability of my own posture; and whoever will look narrowly into his own bosom, will hardly find himself twice in the same condition. I give to my soul sometimes one face and sometimes another, according to the side I turn her to. If I speak variously of myself, it is because I consider myself variously; all the contrarieties are there to be found in one corner or another; after one fashion or another: bashful, insolent; chaste, lustful; prating, silent; laborious, delicate; ingenious, heavy; melancholic, pleasant; lying, true; knowing, ignorant; liberal, covetous, and prodigal: I find all this in myself, more or less, according as I turn myself about; and whoever will sift himself to the bottom, will find in himself, and even in his own judgment, this volubility and discordance. I have nothing to say of myself entirely, simply, and solidly without mixture and confusion. ‘Distinguo’ is the most universal member of my logic. Though I always intend to speak well of good things, and rather to interpret such things as fall out in the best sense than otherwise, yet such is the strangeness of our condition, that we are often pushed on to do well even by vice itself, if well-doing were not judged by the intention only. One gallant action, therefore, ought not to conclude a man valiant; if a man were brave indeed, he would be always so, and upon all occasions. If it were a habit of valour and not a sally, it would render a man equally resolute in all accidents; the same alone as in company; the same in lists as in a battle: for, let them say what they will, there is not one valour for the pavement and another for the field; he would bear a sickness in his bed as bravely as a wound in the field, and no more fear death in his own house than at an assault. We should not then see the same man charge into a breach with a brave assurance, and afterwards torment himself like a woman for the loss of a trial at law or the death of a child; when, being an infamous coward, he is firm in the necessities of poverty; when he shrinks at the sight of a barber’s razor, and rushes fearless upon the swords of the enemy, the action is commendable, not the man.

Many of the Greeks, says Cicero,—[Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 27.]— cannot endure the sight of an enemy, and yet are courageous in sickness; the Cimbrians and Celtiberians quite contrary;

“Nihil enim potest esse aequabile,
quod non a certa ratione proficiscatur.”

[“Nothing can be regular that does not proceed from a fixed ground
of reason.”—Idem, ibid., c. 26.]

No valour can be more extreme in its kind than that of Alexander: but it is of but one kind, nor full enough throughout, nor universal. Incomparable as it is, it has yet some blemishes; of which his being so often at his wits’ end upon every light suspicion of his captains conspiring against his life, and the carrying himself in that inquisition with so much vehemence and indiscreet injustice, and with a fear that subverted his natural reason, is one pregnant instance. The superstition, also, with which he was so much tainted, carries along with it some image of pusillanimity; and the excess of his penitence for the murder of Clytus is also a testimony of the unevenness of his courage. All we perform is no other than a cento, as a man may say, of several pieces, and we would acquire honour by a false title. Virtue cannot be followed but for herself, and if one sometimes borrows her mask to some other purpose, she presently pulls it away again. ‘Tis a vivid and strong tincture which, when the soul has once thoroughly imbibed it, will not out but with the piece. And, therefore, to make a right judgment of a man, we are long and very observingly to follow his trace: if constancy does not there stand firm upon her own proper base,

“Cui vivendi via considerata atque provisa est,”

[“If the way of his life is thoroughly considered and traced out.”
—Cicero, Paradox, v. 1.]

if the variety of occurrences makes him alter his pace (his path, I mean, for the pace may be faster or slower) let him go; such an one runs before the wind, “Avau le dent,” as the motto of our Talebot has it.

‘Tis no wonder, says one of the ancients, that chance has so great a dominion over us, since it is by chance we live. It is not possible for any one who has not designed his life for some certain end, it is impossible for any one to arrange the pieces, who has not the whole form already contrived in his imagination. Of what use are colours to him that knows not what he is to paint? No one lays down a certain design for his life, and we only deliberate thereof by pieces. The archer ought first to know at what he is to aim, and then accommodate his arm, bow, string, shaft, and motion to it; our counsels deviate and wander, because not levelled to any determinate end. No wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain, port. I cannot acquiesce in the judgment given by one in the behalf of Sophocles, who concluded him capable of the management of domestic affairs, against the accusation of his son, from having read one of his tragedies.

Neither do I allow of the conjecture of the Parians, sent to regulate the Milesians sufficient for such a consequence as they from thence derived coming to visit the island, they took notice of such grounds as were best husbanded, and such country-houses as were best governed; and having taken the names of the owners, when they had assembled the citizens, they appointed these farmers for new governors and magistrates; concluding that they, who had been so provident in their own private concerns, would be so of the public too. We are all lumps, and of so various and inform a contexture, that every piece plays, every moment, its own game, and there is as much difference betwixt us and ourselves as betwixt us and others:

“Magnam rem puta, unum hominem agere.”

[“Esteem it a great thing always to act as one and the same
man.”—Seneca, Ep., 150.]

Since ambition can teach man valour, temperance, and liberality, and even justice too; seeing that avarice can inspire the courage of a shop-boy, bred and nursed up in obscurity and ease, with the assurance to expose himself so far from the fireside to the mercy of the waves and angry Neptune in a frail boat; that she further teaches discretion and prudence; and that even Venus can inflate boys under the discipline of the rod with boldness and resolution, and infuse masculine courage into the heart of tender virgins in their mothers’ arms:

“Hac duce, custodes furtim transgressa jacentes,
Ad juvenem tenebris sola puella venit:”

[“She leading, the maiden, furtively passing by the recumbent
guards, goes alone in the darkness to the youth.”
—Tibullus, ii. 2, 75.]

‘tis not all the understanding has to do, simply to judge us by our outward actions; it must penetrate the very soul, and there discover by what springs the motion is guided. But that being a high and hazardous undertaking, I could wish that fewer would attempt it.


The world is nothing but variety and disemblance, vices are all alike, as they are vices, and peradventure the Stoics understand them so; but although they are equally vices, yet they are not all equal vices; and he who has transgressed the ordinary bounds a hundred paces:

“Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum,”

[“Beyond or within which the right cannot exist.”
—Horace, Sat., i, 1, 107.]

should not be in a worse condition than he that has advanced but ten, is not to be believed; or that sacrilege is not worse than stealing a cabbage:

“Nec vincet ratio hoc, tantumdem ut peccet, idemque,
Qui teneros caules alieni fregerit horti,
Et qui nocturnus divum sacra legerit.”

There is in this as great diversity as in anything whatever. The confounding of the order and measure of sins is dangerous: murderers, traitors, and tyrants get too much by it, and it is not reasonable they should flatter their consciences, because another man is idle, lascivious, or not assiduous at his devotion. Every one overrates the offence of his companions, but extenuates his own. Our very instructors themselves rank them sometimes, in my opinion, very ill. As Socrates said that the principal office of wisdom was to distinguish good from evil, we, the best of whom are vicious, ought also to say the same of the science of distinguishing betwixt vice and vice, without which, and that very exactly performed, the virtuous and the wicked will remain confounded and unrecognised.

Now, amongst the rest, drunkenness seems to me to be a gross and brutish vice. The soul has greater part in the rest, and there are some vices that have something, if a man may so say, of generous in them; there are vices wherein there is a mixture of knowledge, diligence, valour, prudence, dexterity, and address; this one is totally corporeal and earthly. And the rudest nation this day in Europe is that alone where it is in fashion. Other vices discompose the understanding: this totally overthrows it and renders the body stupid:

“Cum vini vis penetravit . . .
Consequitur gravitas membrorum, praepediuntur
Crura vacillanti, tardescit lingua, madet mens,
Nant oculi; clamor, singultus, jurgia, gliscunt.”

[“When the power of wine has penetrated us, a heaviness of the limbs
follows, the legs of the tottering person are impeded; the tongue
grows torpid, the mind is dimmed, the eyes swim; noise, hiccup, and
quarrels arise.—“Lucretius, i. 3, 475.]

The worst state of man is that wherein he loses the knowledge and government of himself. And ‘tis said amongst other things upon this subject, that, as the must fermenting in a vessel, works up to the top whatever it has in the bottom, so wine, in those who have drunk beyond measure, vents the most inward secrets:

“Tu sapientum
Curas et arcanum jocoso
Consilium retegis Lyaeo.”

[“Thou disclosest to the merry Lyacus the cares and secret
counsel of the wise.”—Horace, Od., xxi. 1, 114.]

[Lyacus, a name given to Bacchus.]

Josephus tells us that by giving an ambassador the enemy had sent to him his full dose of liquor, he wormed out his secrets. And yet, Augustus, committing the most inward secrets of his affairs to Lucius Piso, who conquered Thrace, never found him faulty in the least, no more than Tiberias did Cossus, with whom he intrusted his whole counsels, though we know they were both so given to drink that they have often been fain to carry both the one and the other drunk out of the Senate:

“Hesterno inflatum venas ut semper, Lyaeo.”

[“Their veins full, as usual, of yesterday’s wine.”
—Virgil, Egl., vi. 15.]

And the design of killing Caesar was as safely communicated to Cimber, though he would often be drunk, as to Cassius, who drank nothing but water.

[As to which Cassius pleasantly said: “What, shall I bear
a tyrant, I who cannot bear wine?”]

We see our Germans, when drunk as the devil, know their post, remember the word, and keep to their ranks:

“Nec facilis victoria de madidis, et
Blaesis, atque mero titubantibus.”

[“Nor is a victory easily obtained over men so drunk, they can
scarce speak or stand.”—Juvenal, Sat., xv. 47.]

I could not have believed there had been so profound, senseless, and dead a degree of drunkenness had I not read in history that Attalus having, to put a notable affront upon him, invited to supper the same Pausanias, who upon the very same occasion afterwards killed Philip of Macedon, a king who by his excellent qualities gave sufficient testimony of his education in the house and company of Epaminondas, made him drink to such a pitch that he could after abandon his beauty, as of a hedge strumpet, to the muleteers and servants of the basest office in the house. And I have been further told by a lady whom I highly honour and esteem, that near Bordeaux and about Castres where she lives, a country woman, a widow of chaste repute, perceiving in herself the first symptoms of breeding, innocently told her neighbours that if she had a husband she should think herself with child; but the causes of suspicion every day more and more increasing, and at last growing up to a manifest proof, the poor woman was reduced to the necessity of causing it to be proclaimed in her parish church, that whoever had done that deed and would frankly confess it, she did not only promise to forgive, but moreover to marry him, if he liked the motion; whereupon a young fellow that served her in the quality of a labourer, encouraged by this proclamation, declared that he had one holiday found her, having taken too much of the bottle, so fast asleep by the chimney and in so indecent a posture, that he could conveniently do his business without waking her; and they yet live together man and wife.

It is true that antiquity has not much decried this vice; the writings even of several philosophers speak very tenderly of it, and even amongst the Stoics there are some who advise folks to give themselves sometimes the liberty to drink, nay, to drunkenness, to refresh the soul:

“Hoc quoque virtutum quondam certamine, magnum
Socratem palmam promeruisse ferunt.”

[“In this trial of power formerly they relate that the great
Socrates deserved the palm.”—Cornet. Gallus, Ep., i. 47.]

That censor and reprover of others, Cato, was reproached that he was a hard drinker:

“Narratur et prisci Catonis
Saepe mero caluisse virtus.”

[“And of old Cato it is said, that his courage was often warmed with
wine.”—Horace, Od., xxi. 3, 11.—Cato the Elder.]

Cyrus, that so renowned king, amongst the other qualities by which he claimed to be preferred before his brother Artaxerxes, urged this excellence, that he could drink a great deal more than he. And in the best governed nations this trial of skill in drinking is very much in use. I have heard Silvius, an excellent physician of Paris, say that lest the digestive faculties of the stomach should grow idle, it were not amiss once a month to rouse them by this excess, and to spur them lest they should grow dull and rusty; and one author tells us that the Persians used to consult about their most important affairs after being well warmed with wine.

My taste and constitution are greater enemies to this vice than my discourse; for besides that I easily submit my belief to the authority of ancient opinions, I look upon it indeed as an unmanly and stupid vice, but less malicious and hurtful than the others, which, almost all, more directly jostle public society. And if we cannot please ourselves but it must cost us something, as they hold, I find this vice costs a man’s conscience less than the others, besides that it is of no difficult preparation, nor hard to be found, a consideration not altogether to be despised. A man well advanced both in dignity and age, amongst three principal commodities that he said remained to him of life, reckoned to me this for one, and where would a man more justly find it than amongst the natural conveniences? But he did not take it right, for delicacy and the curious choice of wines is therein to be avoided. If you found your pleasure upon drinking of the best, you condemn yourself to the penance of drinking of the worst. Your taste must be more indifferent and free; so delicate a palate is not required to make a good toper. The Germans drink almost indifferently of all wines with delight; their business is to pour down and not to taste; and it’s so much the better for them: their pleasure is so much the more plentiful and nearer at hand.

Secondly, to drink, after the French fashion, but at two meals, and then very moderately, is to be too sparing of the favours of the god. There is more time and constancy required than so. The ancients spent whole nights in this exercise, and ofttimes added the day following to eke it out, and therefore we are to take greater liberty and stick closer to our work. I have seen a great lord of my time, a man of high enterprise and famous success, that without setting himself to’t, and after his ordinary rate of drinking at meals, drank not much less than five quarts of wine, and at his going away appeared but too wise and discreet, to the detriment of our affairs. The pleasure we hold in esteem for the course of our lives ought to have a greater share of our time dedicated to it; we should, like shopboys and labourers, refuse no occasion nor omit any opportunity of drinking, and always have it in our minds. Methinks we every day abridge and curtail the use of wine, and that the after breakfasts, dinner snatches, and collations I used to see in my father’s house, when I was a boy, were more usual and frequent then than now.

Is it that we pretend to a reformation? Truly, no: but it may be we are more addicted to Venus than our fathers were. They are two exercises that thwart and hinder one another in their vigour. Lechery weakens our stomach on the one side; and on the other sobriety renders us more spruce and amorous for the exercise of love.

‘Tis wonderful what strange stories I have heard my father tell of the chastity of that age wherein he lived. It was for him to say it, being both by art and nature cut out and finished for the service of ladies. He spoke well and little: ever mixing his language with some illustration out of authors most in use, especially in Spanish, and among the Spanish he whom they called Marcus Aurelius—[ Guevara’s Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.]—was ordinarily in his mouth. His behaviour was gently grave, humble, and very modest; he was very solicitous of neatness and propriety both in his person and clothes, whether on horseback or afoot, he was monstrously punctual in his word; and of a conscience and religion generally tending rather towards superstition than otherwise. For a man of little stature, very strong, well proportioned, and well knit; of a pleasing countenance inclining to brown, and very adroit in all noble exercises. I have yet in the house to be seen canes poured full of lead, with which they say he exercised his arms for throwing the bar or the stone, or in fencing; and shoes with leaden soles to make him lighter for running or leaping. Of his vaulting he has left little miracles behind him: I have seen him when past three score laugh at our exercises, and throw himself in his furred gown into the saddle, make the tour of a table upon his thumbs and scarce ever mount the stairs into his chamber without taking three or four steps at a time. But as to what I was speaking of before; he said there was scarce one woman of quality of ill fame in the whole province: he would tell of strange confidences, and some of them his own, with virtuous women, free from any manner of suspicion of ill, and for his own part solemnly swore he was a virgin at his marriage; and yet it was after a long practice of arms beyond the mountains, of which wars he left us a journal under his own hand, wherein he has given a precise account from point to point of all passages, both relating to the public and to himself. And he was, moreover, married at a well advanced maturity, in the year 1528, the three-and-thirtieth year of his age, upon his way home from Italy. But let us return to our bottles.

The incommodities of old age, that stand in need of some refreshment and support, might with reason beget in me a desire of this faculty, it being as it were the last pleasure the course of years deprives us of. The natural heat, say the good-fellows, first seats itself in the feet: that concerns infancy; thence it mounts into the middle region, where it makes a long abode and produces, in my opinion, the sole true pleasures of human life; all other pleasures in comparison sleep; towards the end, like a vapour that still mounts upward, it arrives at the throat, where it makes its final residence, and concludes the progress. I do not, nevertheless, understand how a man can extend the pleasure of drinking beyond thirst, and forge in his imagination an appetite artificial and against nature; my stomach would not proceed so far; it has enough to do to deal with what it takes in for its necessity. My constitution is not to care for drink but as following eating and washing down my meat, and for that reason my last draught is always the greatest. And seeing that in old age we have our palate furred with phlegms or depraved by some other ill constitution, the wine tastes better to us as the pores are cleaner washed and laid more open. At least, I seldom taste the first glass well. Anacharsis wondered that the Greeks drank in greater glasses towards the end of a meal than at the beginning; which was, I suppose, for the same reason the Germans do the same, who then begin the battle of drink.

Plato forbids children wine till eighteen years of age, and to get drunk till forty; but, after forty, gives them leave to please themselves, and to mix a little liberally in their feasts the influence of Dionysos, that good deity who restores to younger men their gaiety and to old men their youth; who mollifies the passions of the soul, as iron is softened by fire; and in his Lazes allows such merry meetings, provided they have a discreet chief to govern and keep them in order, as good and of great utility; drunkenness being, he says, a true and certain trial of every one’s nature, and, withal, fit to inspire old men with mettle to divert themselves in dancing and music; things of great use, and that they dare not attempt when sober. He, moreover, says that wine is able to supply the soul with temperance and the body with health. Nevertheless, these restrictions, in part borrowed from the Carthaginians, please him: that men forbear excesses in the expeditions of war; that every judge and magistrate abstain from it when about the administrations of his place or the consultations of the public affairs; that the day is not to be employed with it, that being a time due to other occupations, nor the night on which a man intends to get children.

‘Tis said that the philosopher Stilpo, when oppressed with age, purposely hastened his end by drinking pure wine. The same thing, but not designed by him, despatched also the philosopher Arcesilaus.

But ‘tis an old and pleasant question, whether the soul of a wise man can be overcome by the strength of wine?

“Si munitae adhibet vim sapientiae.”

To what vanity does the good opinion we have of ourselves push us? The most regular and most perfect soul in the world has but too much to do to keep itself upright, and from being overthrown by its own weakness. There is not one of a thousand that is right and settled so much as one minute in a whole life, and that may not very well doubt, whether according to her natural condition she ever can be; but to join constancy to it is her utmost perfection; I mean when nothing should jostle and discompose her, which a thousand accidents may do. ‘Tis to much purpose that the great poet Lucretius keeps such a clatter with his philosophy, when, behold! he goes mad with a love philtre. Is it to be imagined that an apoplexy will not stun Socrates as well as a porter? Some men have forgotten their own names by the violence of a disease; and a slight wound has turned the judgment of others topsy-turvy. Let him be as wise as he will, after all he is but a man; and than that what is there more frail, more miserable, or more nothing? Wisdom does not force our natural dispositions,

“Sudores itaque, et pallorem exsistere toto
Corpore, et infringi linguam, vocemque aboriri,
Caligare oculos, sonere aures, succidere artus,
Demque concidere, ex animi terrore, videmus.”

[“Sweat and paleness come over the whole body, the tongue is
rendered powerless, the voice dies away, the eyes are darkened,
there is ringing in the ears, the limbs sink under us by the
influence of fear.”—Lucretius, iii. 155.]

he must shut his eyes against the blow that threatens him; he must tremble upon the margin of a precipice, like a child; nature having reserved these light marks of her authority, not to be forced by our reason and the stoic virtue, to teach man his mortality and our weakness; he turns pale with fear, red with shame, and groans with the cholic, if not with desperate outcry, at least with hoarse and broken voice:

“Humani a se nihil alienum putet.”

[“Let him not think himself exempt from that which is incidental to
men in general.”—Terence, Heauton, i. 1, 25.]

The poets, that feign all things at pleasure, dare not acquit their greatest heroes of tears:

“Sic fatur lacrymans, classique immittit habenas.”

[“Thus he speaks, weeping, and then sets sail with his fleet.”
—Aeneid, vi. i.]

‘Tis sufficient for a man to curb and moderate his inclinations, for totally to suppress them is not in him to do. Even our great Plutarch, that excellent and perfect judge of human actions, when he sees Brutus and Torquatus kill their children, begins to doubt whether virtue could proceed so far, and to question whether these persons had not rather been stimulated by some other passion.—[Plutarch, Life of Publicola, c. 3.] —All actions exceeding the ordinary bounds are liable to sinister interpretation, for as much as our liking no more holds with what is above than with what is below it.

Let us leave that other sect, that sets up an express profession of scornful superiority—[The Stoics.]—: but when even in that sect, reputed the most quiet and gentle, we hear these rhodomontades of Metrodorus:

“Occupavi te, Fortuna, atque cepi: omnesque aditus tuos
interclusi ut ad me aspirare non posses;”

[“Fortune, I have got the better of thee, and have made all the
avenues so sure thou canst not come at me.”
—Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 9.]

when Anaxarchus, by command of Nicocreon the tyrant of Cyprus, was put into a stone mortar, and laid upon with mauls of iron, ceases not to say, “Strike, batter, break; ‘tis not Anaxarchus, ‘tis but his sheath that you pound and bray so”; when we hear our martyrs cry out to the tyrant from the middle of the flame, “This side is roasted enough, fall to and eat, it is enough done; fall to work with the other;” when we hear the child in Josephus’ torn piece-meal with pincers, defying Antiochus, and crying out with a constant and assured voice: “Tyrant, thou losest thy labour, I am still at ease; where is the pain, where are the torments with which thou didst so threaten me? Is this all thou canst do? My constancy torments thee more than thy cruelty does me. O pitiful coward, thou faintest, and I grow stronger; make me complain, make me bend, make me yield if thou canst; encourage thy guards, cheer up thy executioners; see, see they faint, and can do no more; arm them, flesh them anew, spur them up”; truly, a man must confess that there is some phrenzy, some fury, how holy soever, that at that time possesses those souls. When we come to these Stoical sallies: “I had rather be mad than voluptuous,” a saying of Antisthenes. When Sextius tells us, “he had rather be fettered with affliction than pleasure”: when Epicurus takes upon him to play with his gout, and, refusing health and ease, defies all torments, and despising the lesser pains, as disdaining to contend with them, he covets and calls out for others sharper, more violent, and more worthy of him;

“Spumantemque dari, pecora inter inertia, votis
Optat aprum, aut fulvum descendere monte leonem:”

[“And instead of timid beasts, wishes the foaming boar or tawny lion
would come from the mountain.”—AEneid, iv. 158.]

who but must conclude that these are wild sallies pushed on by a courage that has broken loose from its place? Our soul cannot from her own seat reach so high; ‘tis necessary she must leave it, raise herself up, and, taking the bridle in her teeth, transport her man so far that he shall afterwards himself be astonished at what he has done; as, in war, the heat of battle impels generous soldiers to perform things of so infinite danger, as afterwards, recollecting them, they themselves are the first to wonder at; as it also fares with the poets, who are often rapt with admiration of their own writings, and know not where again to find the track through which they performed so fine a Career; which also is in them called fury and rapture. And as Plato says, ‘tis to no purpose for a sober-minded man to knock at the door of poesy: so Aristotle says, that no excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness; and he has reason to call all transports, how commendable soever, that surpass our own judgment and understanding, madness; forasmuch as wisdom is a regular government of the soul, which is carried on with measure and proportion, and for which she is to herself responsible. Plato argues thus, that the faculty of prophesying is so far above us, that we must be out of ourselves when we meddle with it, and our prudence must either be obstructed by sleep or sickness, or lifted from her place by some celestial rapture.


[Cos. Cea is the form of the name given by Pliny]

If to philosophise be, as ‘tis defined, to doubt, much more to write at random and play the fool, as I do, ought to be reputed doubting, for it is for novices and freshmen to inquire and to dispute, and for the chairman to moderate and determine.

My moderator is the authority of the divine will, that governs us without contradiction, and that is seated above these human and vain contestations.

Philip having forcibly entered into Peloponnesus, and some one saying to Damidas that the Lacedaemonians were likely very much to suffer if they did not in time reconcile themselves to his favour: “Why, you pitiful fellow,” replied he, “what can they suffer who do not fear to die?” It being also asked of Agis, which way a man might live free? “Why,” said he, “by despising death.” These, and a thousand other sayings to the same purpose, distinctly sound of something more than the patient attending the stroke of death when it shall come; for there are several accidents in life far worse to suffer than death itself. Witness the Lacedaemonian boy taken by Antigonus, and sold for a slave, who being by his master commanded to some base employment: “Thou shalt see,” says the boy, “whom thou hast bought; it would be a shame for me to serve, being so near the reach of liberty,” and having so said, threw himself from the top of the house. Antipater severely threatening the Lacedaemonians, that he might the better incline them to acquiesce in a certain demand of his: “If thou threatenest us with more than death,” replied they, “we shall the more willingly die”; and to Philip, having written them word that he would frustrate all their enterprises: “What, wilt thou also hinder us from dying?” This is the meaning of the sentence, “That the wise man lives as long as he ought, not so long as he can; and that the most obliging present Nature has made us, and which takes from us all colour of complaint of our condition, is to have delivered into our own custody the keys of life; she has only ordered, one door into life, but a hundred thousand ways out. We may be straitened for earth to live upon, but earth sufficient to die upon can never be wanting, as Boiocalus answered the Romans.”—[Tacitus, Annal., xiii. 56.]—Why dost thou complain of this world? it detains thee not; thy own cowardice is the cause, if thou livest in pain. There needs no more to die but to will to die:

“Ubique mors est; optime hoc cavit deus.
Eripere vitam nemo non homini potest;
At nemo mortem; mille ad hanc aditus patent.”

[“Death is everywhere: heaven has well provided for that. Any one
may deprive us of life; no one can deprive us of death. To death
there are a thousand avenues.”—Seneca, Theb:, i, I, 151.]

Neither is it a recipe for one disease only; death is the infallible cure of all; ‘tis a most assured port that is never to be feared, and very often to be sought. It comes all to one, whether a man give himself his end, or stays to receive it by some other means; whether he pays before his day, or stay till his day of payment come; from whencesoever it comes, it is still his; in what part soever the thread breaks, there’s the end of the clue. The most voluntary death is the finest. Life depends upon the pleasure of others; death upon our own. We ought not to accommodate ourselves to our own humour in anything so much as in this. Reputation is not concerned in such an enterprise; ‘tis folly to be concerned by any such apprehension. Living is slavery if the liberty of dying be wanting. The ordinary method of cure is carried on at the expense of life; they torment us with caustics, incisions, and amputations of limbs; they interdict aliment and exhaust our blood; one step farther and we are cured indeed and effectually. Why is not the jugular vein as much at our disposal as the median vein? For a desperate disease a desperate cure. Servius the grammarian, being tormented with the gout, could think of no better remedy than to apply poison to his legs, to deprive them of their sense; let them be gouty at their will, so they were insensible of pain. God gives us leave enough to go when He is pleased to reduce us to such a condition that to live is far worse than to die. ‘Tis weakness to truckle under infirmities, but it’s madness to nourish them. The Stoics say, that it is living according to nature in a wise man to, take his leave of life, even in the height of prosperity, if he do it opportunely; and in a fool to prolong it, though he be miserable, provided he be not indigent of those things which they repute to be according to nature. As I do not offend the law against thieves when I embezzle my own money and cut my own purse; nor that against incendiaries when I burn my own wood; so am I not under the lash of those made against murderers for having deprived myself of my own life. Hegesias said, that as the condition of life did, so the condition of death ought to depend upon our own choice. And Diogenes meeting the philosopher Speusippus, so blown up with an inveterate dropsy that he was fain to be carried in a litter, and by him saluted with the compliment, “I wish you good health.” “No health to thee,” replied the other, “who art content to live in such a condition.”

And in fact, not long after, Speusippus, weary of so languishing a state of life, found a means to die.

But this does not pass without admitting a dispute: for many are of opinion that we cannot quit this garrison of the world without the express command of Him who has placed us in it; and that it appertains to God who has placed us here, not for ourselves only but for His Glory and the service of others, to dismiss us when it shall best please Him, and not for us to depart without His licence: that we are not born for ourselves only, but for our country also, the laws of which require an account from us upon the score of their own interest, and have an action of manslaughter good against us; and if these fail to take cognisance of the fact, we are punished in the other world as deserters of our duty:

“Proxima deinde tenent maesti loca, qui sibi letum
Insontes peperere manu, lucemque perosi
Proiecere animas.”

[“Thence the sad ones occupy the next abodes, who, though free
from guilt, were by their own hands slain, and, hating light,
sought death.”—AEneid, vi. 434.]

There is more constancy in suffering the chain we are tied to than in breaking it, and more pregnant evidence of fortitude in Regulus than in Cato; ‘tis indiscretion and impatience that push us on to these precipices: no accidents can make true virtue turn her back; she seeks and requires evils, pains, and grief, as the things by which she is nourished and supported; the menaces of tyrants, racks, and tortures serve only to animate and rouse her:

“Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus
Nigrae feraci frondis in Algido,
Per damma, percmdes, ab ipso
Ducit opes, animumque ferro.”

[“As in Mount Algidus, the sturdy oak even from the axe itself
derives new vigour and life.”—Horace, Od., iv. 4, 57.]

And as another says:

“Non est, ut putas, virtus, pater,
Timere vitam; sed malis ingentibus
Obstare, nec se vertere, ac retro dare.”

[“Father, ‘tis no virtue to fear life, but to withstand great
misfortunes, nor turn back from them.”—Seneca, Theb., i. 190.]

Or as this:

“Rebus in adversis facile est contemnere mortem
Fortius ille facit, qui miser esse potest.”

[“It is easy in adversity to despise death; but he acts more
bravely, who can live wretched.”—Martial, xi. 56, 15.]

‘Tis cowardice, not virtue, to lie squat in a furrow, under a tomb, to evade the blows of fortune; virtue never stops nor goes out of her path, for the greatest storm that blows:

“Si fractus illabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinae.”

[“Should the world’s axis crack, the ruins will but crush
a fearless head.”—Horace, Od., iii. 3, 7.]

For the most part, the flying from other inconveniences brings us to this; nay, endeavouring to evade death, we often run into its very mouth:

“Hic, rogo, non furor est, ne moriare, mori?”

[“Tell me, is it not madness, that one should die for fear
of dying?”—Martial, ii. 80, 2.]

like those who, from fear of a precipice, throw themselves headlong into it;

“Multos in summa pericula misfit
Venturi timor ipse mali: fortissimus ille est,
Qui promptus metuenda pati, si cominus instent,
Et differre potest.”

[“The fear of future ills often makes men run into extreme danger;
he is truly brave who boldly dares withstand the mischiefs he
apprehends, when they confront him and can be deferred.”
—Lucan, vii. 104.]

“Usque adeo, mortis formidine, vitae
Percipit humanos odium, lucisque videndae,
Ut sibi consciscant moerenti pectore lethum
Obliti fontem curarum hunc esse timorem.”

[“Death to that degree so frightens some men, that causing them to
hate both life and light, they kill themselves, miserably forgetting
that this same fear is the fountain of their cares.”
—Lucretius, iii. 79.]

Plato, in his Laws, assigns an ignominious sepulture to him who has deprived his nearest and best friend, namely himself, of life and his destined course, being neither compelled so to do by public judgment, by any sad and inevitable accident of fortune, nor by any insupportable disgrace, but merely pushed on by cowardice and the imbecility of a timorous soul. And the opinion that makes so little of life, is ridiculous; for it is our being, ‘tis all we have. Things of a nobler and more elevated being may, indeed, reproach ours; but it is against nature for us to contemn and make little account of ourselves; ‘tis a disease particular to man, and not discerned in any other creatures, to hate and despise itself. And it is a vanity of the same stamp to desire to be something else than what we are; the effect of such a desire does not at all touch us, forasmuch as it is contradicted and hindered in itself. He that desires of a man to be made an angel, does nothing for himself; he would be never the better for it; for, being no more, who shall rejoice or be sensible of this benefit for him.

“Debet enim, misere cui forti, aegreque futurum est,
Ipse quoque esse in eo turn tempore, cum male possit

[“For he to whom misery and pain are to be in the future, must
himself then exist, when these ills befall him.”
—Idem, ibid., 874.]

Security, indolence, impassability, the privation of the evils of this life, which we pretend to purchase at the price of dying, are of no manner of advantage to us: that man evades war to very little purpose who can have no fruition of peace; and as little to the purpose does he avoid trouble who cannot enjoy repose.

Amongst those of the first of these two opinions, there has been great debate, what occasions are sufficient to justify the meditation of self-murder, which they call “A reasonable exit.”—[ Diogenes Laertius, Life of Zeno.]—For though they say that men must often die for trivial causes, seeing those that detain us in life are of no very great weight, yet there is to be some limit. There are fantastic and senseless humours that have prompted not only individual men, but whole nations to destroy themselves, of which I have elsewhere given some examples; and we further read of the Milesian virgins, that by a frantic compact they hanged themselves one after another till the magistrate took order in it, enacting that the bodies of such as should be found so hanged should be drawn by the same halter stark naked through the city. When Therykion tried to persuade Cleomenes to despatch himself, by reason of the ill posture of his affairs, and, having missed a death of more honour in the battle he had lost, to accept of this the second in honour to it, and not to give the conquerors leisure to make him undergo either an ignominious death or an infamous life; Cleomenes, with a courage truly Stoic and Lacedaemonian, rejected his counsel as unmanly and mean; “that,” said he, “is a remedy that can never be wanting, but which a man is never to make use of, whilst there is an inch of hope remaining”: telling him, “that it was sometimes constancy and valour to live; that he would that even his death should be of use to his country, and would make of it an act of honour and virtue.” Therykion, notwithstanding, thought himself in the right, and did his own business; and Cleomenes afterwards did the same, but not till he had first tried the utmost malevolence of fortune. All the inconveniences in the world are not considerable enough that a man should die to evade them; and, besides, there being so many, so sudden and unexpected changes in human things, it is hard rightly to judge when we are at the end of our hope:

“Sperat et in saeva victus gladiator arena,
Sit licet infesto pollice turba minax.”

[“The gladiator conquered in the lists hopes on, though the
menacing spectators, turning their thumb, order him to die.”
—Pentadius, De Spe, ap. Virgilii Catadecta.]

All things, says an old adage, are to be hoped for by a man whilst he lives; ay, but, replies Seneca, why should this rather be always running in a man’s head that fortune can do all things for the living man, than this, that fortune has no power over him that knows how to die? Josephus, when engaged in so near and apparent danger, a whole people being violently bent against him, that there was no visible means of escape, nevertheless, being, as he himself says, in this extremity counselled by one of his friends to despatch himself, it was well for him that he yet maintained himself in hope, for fortune diverted the accident beyond all human expectation, so that he saw himself delivered without any manner of inconvenience. Whereas Brutus and Cassius, on the contrary, threw away the remains of the Roman liberty, of which they were the sole protectors, by the precipitation and temerity wherewith they killed themselves before the due time and a just occasion. Monsieur d’Anguien, at the battle of Serisolles, twice attempted to run himself through, despairing of the fortune of the day, which went indeed very untowardly on that side of the field where he was engaged, and by that precipitation was very near depriving himself of the enjoyment of so brave a victory. I have seen a hundred hares escape out of the very teeth of the greyhounds:

“Aliquis carnifici suo superstes fuit.”

[“Some have survived their executioners.”—Seneca, Ep., 13.]

“Multa dies, variusque labor mutabilis nevi
Rettulit in melius; multos alterna revisens
Lusit, et in solido rursus fortuna locavit.”

[“Length of days, and the various labour of changeful time, have
brought things to a better state; fortune turning, shews a reverse
face, and again restores men to prosperity.”—AEneid, xi. 425.]

Piny says there are but three sorts of diseases, to escape which a man has good title to destroy himself; the worst of which is the stone in the bladder, when the urine is suppressed.

[“In the quarto edition of these essays, in 1588, Pliny is said to
mention two more, viz., a pain in the stomach and a headache, which,
he says (lib. xxv. c. 9.), were the only three distempers almost
for which men killed themselves.”]

Seneca says those only which for a long time are discomposing the functions of the soul. And some there have been who, to avoid a worse death, have chosen one to their own liking. Democritus, general of the AEtolians, being brought prisoner to Rome, found means to make his escape by night: but close pursued by his keepers, rather than suffer himself to be retaken, he fell upon his own sword and died. Antinous and Theodotus, their city of Epirus being reduced by the Romans to the last extremity, gave the people counsel universally to kill themselves; but, these preferring to give themselves up to the enemy, the two chiefs went to seek the death they desired, rushing furiously upon the enemy, with intention to strike home but not to ward a blow. The Island of Gozzo being taken some years ago by the Turks, a Sicilian, who had two beautiful daughters marriageable, killed them both with his own hand, and their mother, running in to save them, to boot, which having done, sallying out of the house with a cross-bow and harquebus, with two shots he killed two of the Turks nearest to his door, and drawing his sword, charged furiously in amongst the rest, where he was suddenly enclosed and cut to pieces, by that means delivering his family and himself from slavery and dishonour. The Jewish women, after having circumcised their children, threw them and themselves down a precipice to avoid the cruelty of Antigonus. I have been told of a person of condition in one of our prisons, that his friends, being informed that he would certainly be condemned, to avoid the ignominy of such a death suborned a priest to tell him that the only means of his deliverance was to recommend himself to such a saint, under such and such vows, and to fast eight days together without taking any manner of nourishment, what weakness or faintness soever he might find in himself during the time; he followed their advice, and by that means destroyed himself before he was aware, not dreaming of death or any danger in the experiment. Scribonia advising her nephew Libo to kill himself rather than await the stroke of justice, told him that it was to do other people’s business to preserve his life to put it after into the hands of those who within three or four days would fetch him to execution, and that it was to serve his enemies to keep his blood to gratify their malice.

We read in the Bible that Nicanor, the persecutor of the law of God, having sent his soldiers to seize upon the good old man Razis, surnamed in honour of his virtue the father of the Jews: the good man, seeing no other remedy, his gates burned down, and the enemies ready to seize him, choosing rather to die nobly than to fall into the hands of his wicked adversaries and suffer himself to be cruelly butchered by them, contrary to the honour of his rank and quality, stabbed himself with his own sword, but the blow, for haste, not having been given home, he ran and threw himself from the top of a wall headlong among them, who separating themselves and making room, he pitched directly upon his head; notwithstanding which, feeling yet in himself some remains of life, he renewed his courage, and starting up upon his feet all bloody and wounded as he was, and making his way through the crowd to a precipitous rock, there, through one of his wounds, drew out his bowels, which, tearing and pulling to pieces with both his hands, he threw amongst his pursuers, all the while attesting and invoking the Divine vengeance upon them for their cruelty and injustice.

Of violences offered to the conscience, that against the chastity of woman is, in my opinion, most to be avoided, forasmuch as there is a certain pleasure naturally mixed with it, and for that reason the dissent therein cannot be sufficiently perfect and entire, so that the violence seems to be mixed with a little consent of the forced party. The ecclesiastical history has several examples of devout persons who have embraced death to secure them from the outrages prepared by tyrants against their religion and honour. Pelagia and Sophronia, both canonised, the first of these precipitated herself with her mother and sisters into the river to avoid being forced by some soldiers, and the last also killed herself to avoid being ravished by the Emperor Maxentius.

It may, peradventure, be an honour to us in future ages, that a learned
author of this present time, and a Parisian, takes a great deal of pains
to persuade the ladies of our age rather to take any other course than to
enter into the horrid meditation of such a despair. I am sorry he had
never heard, that he might have inserted it amongst his other stories,
the saying of a woman, which was told me at Toulouse, who had passed
through the handling of some soldiers: “God be praised,” said she, “that
once at least in my life I have had my fill without sin.” In truth,
these cruelties are very unworthy the French good nature, and also, God
be thanked, our air is very well purged of them since this good advice:
tis enough that they say “no” in doing it, according to the rule of the
good Marot.

“Un doulx nenny, avec un doulx sourire
Est tant honneste.”—Marot.

History is everywhere full of those who by a thousand ways have exchanged a painful and irksome life for death. Lucius Aruntius killed himself, to fly, he said, both the future and the past. Granius Silvanus and Statius Proximus, after having been pardoned by Nero, killed themselves; either disdaining to live by the favour of so wicked a man, or that they might not be troubled, at some other time, to obtain a second pardon, considering the proclivity of his nature to suspect and credit accusations against worthy men. Spargapises, son of Queen Tomyris, being a prisoner of war to Cyrus, made use of the first favour Cyrus shewed him, in commanding him to be unbound, to kill himself, having pretended to no other benefit of liberty, but only to be revenged of himself for the disgrace of being taken. Boges, governor in Eion for King Xerxes, being besieged by the Athenian army under the conduct of Cimon, refused the conditions offered, that he might safe return into Asia with all his wealth, impatient to survive the loss of a place his master had given him to keep; wherefore, having defended the city to the last extremity, nothing being left to eat, he first threw all the gold and whatever else the enemy could make booty of into the river Strymon, and then causing a great pile to be set on fire, and the throats of all the women, children, concubines, and servants to be cut, he threw their bodies into the fire, and at last leaped into it himself.

Ninachetuen, an Indian lord, so soon as he heard the first whisper of the Portuguese Viceroy’s determination to dispossess him, without any apparent cause, of his command in Malacca, to transfer it to the King of Campar, he took this resolution with himself: he caused a scaffold, more long than broad, to be erected, supported by columns royally adorned with tapestry and strewed with flowers and abundance of perfumes; all which being prepared, in a robe of cloth of gold, set full of jewels of great value, he came out into the street, and mounted the steps to the scaffold, at one corner of which he had a pile lighted of aromatic wood. Everybody ran to see to what end these unusual preparations were made; when Ninachetuen, with a manly but displeased countenance, set forth how much he had obliged the Portuguese nation, and with how unspotted fidelity he had carried himself in his charge; that having so often, sword in hand, manifested in the behalf of others, that honour was much more dear to him than life, he was not to abandon the concern of it for himself: that fortune denying him all means of opposing the affront designed to be put upon him, his courage at least enjoined him to free himself from the sense of it, and not to serve for a fable to the people, nor for a triumph to men less deserving than himself; which having said he leaped into the fire.

Sextilia, wife of Scaurus, and Paxaea, wife of Labeo, to encourage their husbands to avoid the dangers that pressed upon them, wherein they had no other share than conjugal affection, voluntarily sacrificed their own lives to serve them in this extreme necessity for company and example. What they did for their husbands, Cocceius Nerva did for his country, with less utility though with equal affection: this great lawyer, flourishing in health, riches, reputation, and favour with the Emperor, had no other cause to kill himself but the sole compassion of the miserable state of the Roman Republic. Nothing can be added to the beauty of the death of the wife of Fulvius, a familiar favourite of Augustus: Augustus having discovered that he had vented an important secret he had entrusted him withal, one morning that he came to make his court, received him very coldly and looked frowningly upon him. He returned home, full of, despair, where he sorrowfully told his wife that, having fallen into this misfortune, he was resolved to kill himself: to which she roundly replied, “‘tis but reason you should, seeing that having so often experienced the incontinence of my tongue, you could not take warning: but let me kill myself first,” and without any more saying ran herself through the body with a sword. Vibius Virrius, despairing of the safety of his city besieged by the Romans and of their mercy, in the last deliberation of his city’s senate, after many arguments conducing to that end, concluded that the most noble means to escape fortune was by their own hands: telling them that the enemy would have them in honour, and Hannibal would be sensible how many faithful friends he had abandoned; inviting those who approved of his advice to come to a good supper he had ready at home, where after they had eaten well, they would drink together of what he had prepared; a beverage, said he, that will deliver our bodies from torments, our souls from insult, and our eyes and ears from the sense of so many hateful mischiefs, as the conquered suffer from cruel and implacable conquerors. I have, said he, taken order for fit persons to throw our bodies into a funeral pile before my door so soon as we are dead. Many enough approved this high resolution, but few imitated it; seven-and-twenty senators followed him, who, after having tried to drown the thought of this fatal determination in wine, ended the feast with the mortal mess; and embracing one another, after they had jointly deplored the misfortune of their country, some retired home to their own houses, others stayed to be burned with Vibius in his funeral pyre; and were all of them so long in dying, the vapour of the wine having prepossessed the veins, and by that means deferred the effect of poison, that some of them were within an hour of seeing the enemy inside the walls of Capua, which was taken the next morning, and of undergoing the miseries they had at so dear a rate endeavoured to avoid. Jubellius Taurea, another citizen of the same country, the Consul Fulvius returning from the shameful butchery he had made of two hundred and twenty-five senators, called him back fiercely by name, and having made him stop: “Give the word,” said he, “that somebody may dispatch me after the massacre of so many others, that thou mayest boast to have killed a much more valiant man than thyself.” Fulvius, disdaining him as a man out of his wits, and also having received letters from Rome censuring the inhumanity of his execution which tied his hands, Jubellius proceeded: “Since my country has been taken, my friends dead, and having with my own hands slain my wife and children to rescue them from the desolation of this ruin, I am denied to die the death of my fellow-citizens, let me borrow from virtue vengeance on this hated life,” and therewithal drawing a short sword he carried concealed about him, he ran it through his own bosom, falling down backward, and expiring at the consul’s feet.

Alexander, laying siege to a city of the Indies, those within, finding themselves very hardly set, put on a vigorous resolution to deprive him of the pleasure of his victory, and accordingly burned themselves in general, together with their city, in despite of his humanity: a new kind of war, where the enemies sought to save them, and they to destroy themselves, doing to make themselves sure of death, all that men do to secure life.

Astapa, a city of Spain, finding itself weak in walls and defence to withstand the Romans, the inhabitants made a heap of all their riches and furniture in the public place; and, having ranged upon this heap all the women and children, and piled them round with wood and other combustible matter to take sudden fire, and left fifty of their young men for the execution of that whereon they had resolved, they made a desperate sally, where for want of power to overcome, they caused themselves to be every man slain. The fifty, after having massacred every living soul throughout the whole city, and put fire to this pile, threw themselves lastly into it, finishing their generous liberty, rather after an insensible, than after a sorrowful and disgraceful manner, giving the enemy to understand, that if fortune had been so pleased, they had as well the courage to snatch from them victory as they had to frustrate and render it dreadful, and even mortal to those who, allured by the splendour of the gold melting in this flame, having approached it, a great number were there suffocated and burned, being kept from retiring by the crowd that followed after.

The Abydeans, being pressed by King Philip, put on the same resolution; but, not having time, they could not put it ‘in effect. The king, who was struck with horror at the rash precipitation of this execution (the treasure and movables that they had condemned to the flames being first seized), drawing off his soldiers, granted them three days’ time to kill themselves in, that they might do it with more order and at greater ease: which time they filled with blood and slaughter beyond the utmost excess of all hostile cruelty, so that not so much as any one soul was left alive that had power to destroy itself. There are infinite examples of like popular resolutions which seem the more fierce and cruel in proportion as the effect is more universal, and yet are really less so than when singly executed; what arguments and persuasion cannot do with individual men, they can do with all, the ardour of society ravishing particular judgments.

The condemned who would live to be executed in the reign of Tiberius, forfeited their goods and were denied the rites of sepulture; those who, by killing themselves, anticipated it, were interred, and had liberty to dispose of their estates by will.

But men sometimes covet death out of hope of a greater good. “I desire,” says St. Paul, “to be with Christ,” and “who shall rid me of these bands?” Cleombrotus of Ambracia, having read Plato’s Pheedo, entered into so great a desire of the life to come that, without any other occasion, he threw himself into the sea. By which it appears how improperly we call this voluntary dissolution, despair, to which the eagerness of hope often inclines us, and, often, a calm and temperate desire proceeding from a mature and deliberate judgment. Jacques du Chastel, bishop of Soissons, in St. Louis’s foreign expedition, seeing the king and whole army upon the point of returning into France, leaving the affairs of religion imperfect, took a resolution rather to go into Paradise; wherefore, having taken solemn leave of his friends, he charged alone, in the sight of every one, into the enemy’s army, where he was presently cut to pieces. In a certain kingdom of the new discovered world, upon a day of solemn procession, when the idol they adore is drawn about in public upon a chariot of marvellous greatness; besides that many are then seen cutting off pieces of their flesh to offer to him, there are a number of others who prostrate themselves upon the place, causing themselves to be crushed and broken to pieces under the weighty wheels, to obtain the veneration of sanctity after death, which is accordingly paid them. The death of the bishop, sword in hand, has more of magnanimity in it, and less of sentiment, the ardour of combat taking away part of the latter.

There are some governments who have taken upon them to regulate the justice and opportunity of voluntary death. In former times there was kept in our city of Marseilles a poison prepared out of hemlock, at the public charge, for those who had a mind to hasten their end, having first, before the six hundred, who were their senate, given account of the reasons and motives of their design, and it was not otherwise lawful, than by leave from the magistrate and upon just occasion to do violence to themselves.—[Valerius Maximus, ii. 6, 7.]—The same law was also in use in other places.

Sextus Pompeius, in his expedition into Asia, touched at the isle of Cea in Negropont: it happened whilst he was there, as we have it from one that was with him, that a woman of great quality, having given an account to her citizens why she was resolved to put an end to her life, invited Pompeius to her death, to render it the more honourable, an invitation that he accepted; and having long tried in vain by the power of his eloquence, which was very great, and persuasion, to divert her from that design, he acquiesced in the end in her own will. She had passed the age of four score and ten in a very happy state, both of body and mind; being then laid upon her bed, better dressed than ordinary and leaning upon her elbow, “The gods,” said she, “O Sextus Pompeius, and rather those I leave than those I go to seek, reward thee, for that thou hast not disdained to be both the counsellor of my life and the witness of my death. For my part, having always experienced the smiles of fortune, for fear lest the desire of living too long may make me see a contrary face, I am going, by a happy end, to dismiss the remains of my soul, leaving behind two daughters of my body and a legion of nephews”; which having said, with some exhortations to her family to live in peace, she divided amongst them her goods, and recommending her domestic gods to her eldest daughter, she boldly took the bowl that contained the poison, and having made her vows and prayers to Mercury to conduct her to some happy abode in the other world, she roundly swallowed the mortal poison. This being done, she entertained the company with the progress of its operation, and how the cold by degrees seized the several parts of her body one after another, till having in the end told them it began to seize upon her heart and bowels, she called her daughters to do the last office and close her eyes.

Pliny tells us of a certain Hyperborean nation where, by reason of the sweet temperature of the air, lives rarely ended but by the voluntary surrender of the inhabitants, who, being weary of and satiated with living, had the custom, at a very old age, after having made good cheer, to precipitate themselves into the sea from the top of a certain rock, assigned for that service. Pain and the fear of a worse death seem to me the most excusable incitements.


I give, as it seems to me, with good reason the palm to Jacques Amyot of all our French writers, not only for the simplicity and purity of his language, wherein he excels all others, nor for his constancy in going through so long a work, nor for the depth of his knowledge, having been able so successfully to smooth and unravel so knotty and intricate an author (for let people tell me what they will, I understand nothing of Greek; but I meet with sense so well united and maintained throughout his whole translation, that certainly he either knew the true fancy of the author, or having, by being long conversant with him, imprinted a vivid and general idea of that of Plutarch in his soul, he has delivered us nothing that either derogates from or contradicts him), but above all, I am the most taken with him for having made so discreet a choice of a book so worthy and of so great utility wherewith to present his country. We ignorant fellows had been lost, had not this book raised us out of the dirt; by this favour of his we dare now speak and write; the ladies are able to read to schoolmasters; ‘tis our breviary. If this good man be yet living, I would recommend to him Xenophon, to do as much by that; ‘tis a much more easy task than the other, and consequently more proper for his age. And, besides, though I know not how, methinks he does briskly—and clearly enough trip over steps another would have stumbled at, yet nevertheless his style seems to be more his own where he does not encounter those difficulties, and rolls away at his own ease.

I was just now reading this passage where Plutarch says of himself, that Rusticus being present at a declamation of his at Rome, there received a packet from the emperor, and deferred to open it till all was done: for which, says he, all the company highly applauded the gravity of this person. ‘Tis true, that being upon the subject of curiosity and of that eager passion for news, which makes us with so much indiscretion and impatience leave all to entertain a newcomer, and without any manner of respect or outcry, tear open on a sudden, in what company soever, the letters that are delivered to us, he had reason to applaud the gravity of Rusticus upon this occasion; and might moreover have added to it the commendation of his civility and courtesy, that would not interrupt the current of his declamation. But I doubt whether any one can commend his prudence; for receiving unexpected letters, and especially from an emperor, it might have fallen out that the deferring to read them might have been of great prejudice. The vice opposite to curiosity is negligence, to which I naturally incline, and wherein I have seen some men so extreme that one might have found letters sent them three or four days before, still sealed up in their pockets.

I never open any letters directed to another; not only those intrusted with me, but even such as fortune has guided to my hand; and am angry with myself if my eyes unawares steal any contents of letters of importance he is reading when I stand near a great man. Never was man less inquisitive or less prying into other men’s affairs than I.

In our fathers’ days, Monsieur de Boutieres had like to have lost Turin from having, while engaged in good company at supper, delayed to read information that was sent him of the treason plotted against that city where he commanded. And this very Plutarch has given me to understand, that Julius Caesar had preserved himself, if, going to the Senate the day he was assassinated by the conspirators, he had read a note which was presented to him by, the way. He tells also the story of Archias, the tyrant of Thebes, that the night before the execution of the design Pelopidas had plotted to kill him to restore his country to liberty, he had a full account sent him in writing by another Archias, an Athenian, of the whole conspiracy, and that, this packet having been delivered to him while he sat at supper, he deferred the opening of it, saying, which afterwards turned to a proverb in Greece, “Business to-morrow.”

A wise man may, I think, out of respect to another, as not to disturb the company, as Rusticus did, or not to break off another affair of importance in hand, defer to read or hear any new thing that is brought him; but for his own interest or particular pleasure, especially if he be a public minister, that he will not interrupt his dinner or break his sleep is inexcusable. And there was anciently at Rome, the consular place, as they called it, which was the most honourable at the table, as being a place of most liberty, and of more convenient access to those who came in to speak to the person seated there; by which it appears, that being at meat, they did not totally abandon the concern of other affairs and incidents. But when all is said, it is very hard in human actions to give so exact a rule upon moral reasons, that fortune will not therein maintain her own right.


The Sieur de la Brousse, my brother, and I, travelling one day together during the time of our civil wars, met a gentleman of good sort. He was of the contrary party, though I did not know so much, for he pretended otherwise: and the mischief on’t is, that in this sort of war the cards are so shuffled, your enemy not being distinguished from yourself by any apparent mark either of language or habit, and being nourished under the same law, air, and manners, it is very hard to avoid disorder and confusion. This made me afraid myself of meeting any of our troops in a place where I was not known, that I might not be in fear to tell my name, and peradventure of something worse; as it had befallen me before, where, by such a mistake, I lost both men and horses, and amongst others an Italian gentleman my page, whom I bred with the greatest care and affection, was miserably slain, in whom a youth of great promise and expectation was extinguished. But the gentleman my brother and I met had so desperate, half-dead a fear upon him at meeting with any horse, or passing by any of the towns that held for the King, that I at last discovered it to be alarms of conscience. It seemed to the poor man as if through his visor and the crosses upon his cassock, one would have penetrated into his bosom and read the most secret intentions of his heart; so wonderful is the power of conscience. It makes us betray, accuse, and fight against ourselves, and for want of other witnesses, to give evidence against ourselves:

“Occultum quatiens animo tortore flagellum.”

[“The torturer of the soul brandishing a sharp scourge within.”
—Juvenal, iii. 195.]

This story is in every child’s mouth: Bessus the Paeonian, being reproached for wantonly pulling down a nest of young sparrows and killing them, replied, that he had reason to do so, seeing that those little birds never ceased falsely to accuse him of the murder of his father. This parricide had till then been concealed and unknown, but the revenging fury of conscience caused it to be discovered by him himself, who was to suffer for it. Hesiod corrects the saying of Plato, that punishment closely follows sin, it being, as he says, born at the same time with it. Whoever expects punishment already suffers it, and whoever has deserved it expects it. Wickedness contrives torments against itself:

“Malum consilium consultori pessimum.”

[“Ill designs are worst to the contriver.”
—Apud Aul. Gellium, iv. 5.]

as the wasp stings and hurts another, but most of all itself, for it there loses its sting and its use for ever,

“Vitasque in vulnere ponunt.”

[“And leave their own lives in the wound.”
—Virgil, Geo., iv. 238.]

Cantharides have somewhere about them, by a contrariety of nature, a counterpoison against their poison. In like manner, at the same time that men take delight in vice, there springs in the conscience a displeasure that afflicts us sleeping and waking with various tormenting imaginations:

“Quippe ubi se multi, per somnia saepe loquentes,
Aut morbo delirantes, protraxe ferantur,
Et celata diu in medium peccata dedisse.”

[“Surely where many, often talking in their sleep, or raving in
disease, are said to have betrayed themselves, and to have given
publicity to offences long concealed.”—Lucretius, v. 1157.]

Apollodorus dreamed that he saw himself flayed by the Scythians and afterwards boiled in a cauldron, and that his heart muttered these words “I am the cause of all these mischiefs that have befallen thee.” Epicurus said that no hiding-hole could conceal the wicked, since they could never assure themselves of being hid whilst their conscience discovered them to themselves.

“Prima est haec ultio, quod se
Judice nemo nocens absohitur.”

[“Tis the first punishment of sin that no man absolves himself.” or:
“This is the highest revenge, that by its judgment no offender is
absolved.”—Juvenal, xiii. 2.]

As an ill conscience fills us with fear, so a good one gives us greater confidence and assurance; and I can truly say that I have gone through several hazards with a more steady pace in consideration of the secret knowledge I had of my own will and the innocence of my intentions:

“Conscia mens ut cuique sua est, ita concipit intra
Pectora pro facto spemque metumque suo.”

[“As a man’s conscience is, so within hope or fear prevails, suiting
to his design.”—Ovid, Fast., i. 485.]

Of this are a thousand examples; but it will be enough to instance three of one and the same person. Scipio, being one day accused before the people of Rome of some crimes of a very high nature, instead of excusing himself or flattering his judges: “It will become you well,” said he, “to sit in judgment upon a head, by whose means you have the power to judge all the world.” Another time, all the answer he gave to several impeachments brought against him by a tribune of the people, instead of making his defence: “Let us go, citizens,” said he, “let us go render thanks to the gods for the victory they gave me over the Carthaginians as this day,” and advancing himself before towards the Temple, he had presently all the assembly and his very accuser himself following at his heels. And Petilius, having been set on by Cato to demand an account of the money that had passed through his hands in the province of Antioch, Scipio being come into the senate to that purpose, produced a book from under his robe, wherein he told them was an exact account of his receipts and disbursements; but being required to deliver it to the prothonotary to be examined, he refused, saying, he would not do himself so great a disgrace; and in the presence of the whole senate tore the book with his own hands to pieces. I do not believe that the most seared conscience could have counterfeited so great an assurance. He had naturally too high a spirit and was accustomed to too high a fortune, says Titius Livius, to know how to be criminal, and to lower himself to the meanness of defending his innocence. The putting men to the rack is a dangerous invention, and seems to be rather a trial of patience than of truth. Both he who has the fortitude to endure it conceals the truth, and he who has not: for why should pain sooner make me confess what really is, than force me to say what is not? And, on the contrary, if he who is not guilty of that whereof he is accused, has the courage to undergo those torments, why should not he who is guilty have the same, so fair a reward as life being in his prospect? I believe the ground of this invention proceeds from the consideration of the force of conscience: for, to the guilty, it seems to assist the rack to make him confess his fault and to shake his resolution; and, on the other side, that it fortifies the innocent against the torture. But when all is done, ‘tis, in plain truth, a trial full of uncertainty and danger what would not a man say, what would not a man do, to avoid so intolerable torments?

“Etiam innocentes cogit mentiri dolor.”

[“Pain will make even the innocent lie.”—Publius Syrus, De Dolore.]

Whence it comes to pass, that him whom the judge has racked that he may not die innocent, he makes him die both innocent and racked. A thousand and a thousand have charged their own heads by false confessions, amongst whom I place Philotas, considering the circumstances of the trial Alexander put upon him and the progress of his torture. But so it is that some say it is the least evil human weakness could invent; very inhumanly, notwithstanding, and to very little purpose, in my opinion.

Many nations less barbarous in this than the Greeks and Romans who call them so, repute it horrible and cruel to torment and pull a man to pieces for a fault of which they are yet in doubt. How can he help your ignorance? Are not you unjust, that, not to kill him without cause, do worse than kill him? And that this is so, do but observe how often men prefer to die without reason than undergo this examination, more painful than execution itself; and that oft-times by its extremity anticipates execution, and perform it. I know not where I had this story, but it exactly matches the conscience of our justice in this particular. A country-woman, to a general of a very severe discipline, accused one of his soldiers that he had taken from her children the little soup meat she had left to nourish them withal, the army having consumed all the rest; but of this proof there was none. The general, after having cautioned the woman to take good heed to what she said, for that she would make herself guilty of a false accusation if she told a lie, and she persisting, he presently caused the soldier’s belly to be ripped up to clear the truth of the fact, and the woman was found to be right. An instructive sentence.


‘Tis not to be expected that argument and instruction, though we never so voluntarily surrender our belief to what is read to us, should be of force to lead us on so far as to action, if we do not, over and above, exercise and form the soul by experience to the course for which we design it; it will, otherwise, doubtless find itself at a loss when it comes to the pinch of the business. This is the reason why those amongst the philosophers who were ambitious to attain to a greater excellence, were not contented to await the severities of fortune in the retirement and repose of their own habitations, lest he should have surprised them raw and inexpert in the combat, but sallied out to meet her, and purposely threw themselves into the proof of difficulties. Some of them abandoned riches to exercise themselves in a voluntary poverty; others sought out labour and an austerity of life, to inure them to hardships and inconveniences; others have deprived themselves of their dearest members, as of sight, and of the instruments of generation, lest their too delightful and effeminate service should soften and debauch the stability of their souls.

But in dying, which is the greatest work we have to do, practice can give us no assistance at all. A man may by custom fortify himself against pain, shame, necessity, and such-like accidents, but as to death, we can experiment it but once, and are all apprentices when we come to it. There have, anciently, been men so excellent managers of their time that they have tried even in death itself to relish and taste it, and who have bent their utmost faculties of mind to discover what this passage is, but they are none of them come back to tell us the news:

“Nemo expergitus exstat,
Frigida quern semel est vitai pausa sequuta.”

[“No one wakes who has once fallen into the cold sleep of death.”
—Lucretius, iii. 942]

Julius Canus, a noble Roman, of singular constancy and virtue, having been condemned to die by that worthless fellow Caligula, besides many marvellous testimonies that he gave of his resolution, as he was just going to receive the stroke of the executioner, was asked by a philosopher, a friend of his: “Well, Canus, whereabout is your soul now? what is she doing? What are you thinking of?”—“I was thinking,” replied the other, “to keep myself ready, and the faculties of my mind full settled and fixed, to try if in this short and quick instant of death, I could perceive the motion of the soul when she parts from the body, and whether she has any sentiment at the separation, that I may after come again if I can, to acquaint my friends with it.” This man philosophises not unto death only, but in death itself. What a strange assurance was this, and what bravery of courage, to desire his death should be a lesson to him, and to have leisure to think of other things in so great an affair:

“Jus hoc animi morientis habebat.”

[“This mighty power of mind he had dying."-Lucan, viii. 636.]

And yet I fancy, there is a certain way of making it familiar to us, and in some sort of making trial what it is. We may gain experience, if not entire and perfect, yet such, at least, as shall not be totally useless to us, and that may render us more confident and more assured. If we cannot overtake it, we may approach it and view it, and if we do not advance so far as the fort, we may at least discover and make ourselves acquainted with the avenues. It is not without reason that we are taught to consider sleep as a resemblance of death: with how great facility do we pass from waking to sleeping, and with how little concern do we lose the knowledge of light and of ourselves. Peradventure, the faculty of sleeping would seem useless and contrary to nature, since it deprives us of all action and sentiment, were it not that by it nature instructs us that she has equally made us to die as to live; and in life presents to us the eternal state she reserves for us after it, to accustom us to it and to take from us the fear of it. But such as have by violent accident fallen into a swoon, and in it have lost all sense, these, methinks, have been very near seeing the true and natural face of death; for as to the moment of the passage, it is not to be feared that it brings with it any pain or displeasure, forasmuch as we can have no feeling without leisure; our sufferings require time, which in death is so short, and so precipitous, that it must necessarily be insensible. They are the approaches that we are to fear, and these may fall within the limits of experience.

Many things seem greater by imagination than they are in effect; I have passed a good part of my life in a perfect and entire health; I say, not only entire, but, moreover, sprightly and wanton. This state, so full of verdure, jollity, and vigour, made the consideration of sickness so formidable to me, that when I came to experience it, I found the attacks faint and easy in comparison with what I had apprehended. Of this I have daily experience; if I am under the shelter of a warm room, in a stormy and tempestuous night, I wonder how people can live abroad, and am afflicted for those who are out in the fields: if I am there myself, I do not wish to be anywhere else. This one thing of being always shut up in a chamber I fancied insupportable: but I was presently inured to be so imprisoned a week, nay a month together, in a very weak, disordered, and sad condition; and I have found that, in the time of my health, I much more pitied the sick, than I think myself to be pitied when I am so, and that the force of my imagination enhances near one-half of the essence and reality of the thing. I hope that when I come to die I shall find it the same, and that, after all, it is not worth the pains I take, so much preparation and so much assistance as I call in, to undergo the stroke. But, at all events, we cannot give ourselves too much advantage.

In the time of our third or second troubles (I do not well remember which), going one day abroad to take the air, about a league from my own house, which is seated in the very centre of all the bustle and mischief of the late civil wars in France; thinking myself in all security and so near to my retreat that I stood in need of no better equipage, I had taken a horse that went very easy upon his pace, but was not very strong. Being upon my return home, a sudden occasion falling out to make use of this horse in a kind of service that he was not accustomed to, one of my train, a lusty, tall fellow, mounted upon a strong German horse, that had a very ill mouth, fresh and vigorous, to play the brave and set on ahead of his fellows, comes thundering full speed in the very track where I was, rushing like a Colossus upon the little man and the little horse, with such a career of strength and weight, that he turned us both over and over, topsy-turvy with our heels in the air: so that there lay the horse overthrown and stunned with the fall, and I ten or twelve paces from him stretched out at length, with my face all battered and broken, my sword which I had had in my hand, above ten paces beyond that, and my belt broken all to pieces, without motion or sense any more than a stock. ‘Twas the only swoon I was ever in till that hour in my life. Those who were with me, after having used all the means they could to bring me to myself, concluding me dead, took me up in their arms, and carried me with very much difficulty home to my house, which was about half a French league from thence. On the way, having been for more than two hours given over for a dead man, I began to move and to fetch my breath; for so great abundance of blood was fallen into my stomach, that nature had need to rouse her forces to discharge it. They then raised me upon my feet, where I threw off a whole bucket of clots of blood, as this I did also several times by the way. This gave me so much ease, that I began to recover a little life, but so leisurely and by so small advances, that my first sentiments were much nearer the approaches of death than life:

“Perche, dubbiosa ancor del suo ritorno,
Non s’assicura attonita la mente.”

[“For the soul, doubtful as to its return, could not compose itself”
—Tasso, Gierus. Lib., xii. 74.]

The remembrance of this accident, which is very well imprinted in my memory, so naturally representing to me the image and idea of death, has in some sort reconciled me to that untoward adventure. When I first began to open my eyes, it was with so perplexed, so weak and dead a sight, that I could yet distinguish nothing but only discern the light:

“Come quel ch’or apre, or’chiude
Gli occhi, mezzo tra’l sonno e l’esser desto.”

[“As a man that now opens, now shuts his eyes, between sleep
and waking.”—Tasso, Gierus. Lib., viii., 26.]

As to the functions of the soul, they advanced with the same pace and measure with those of the body. I saw myself all bloody, my doublet being stained all over with the blood I had vomited. The first thought that came into my mind was that I had a harquebuss shot in my head, and indeed, at the time there were a great many fired round about us. Methought my life but just hung upon my, lips: and I shut my eyes, to help, methought, to thrust it out, and took a pleasure in languishing and letting myself go. It was an imagination that only superficially floated upon my soul, as tender and weak as all the rest, but really, not only exempt from anything displeasing, but mixed with that sweetness that people feel when they glide into a slumber.

I believe it is the very same condition those people are in, whom we see swoon with weakness in the agony of death we pity them without cause, supposing them agitated with grievous dolours, or that their souls suffer under painful thoughts. It has ever been my belief, contrary to the opinion of many, and particularly of La Boetie, that those whom we see so subdued and stupefied at the approaches of their end, or oppressed with the length of the disease, or by accident of an apoplexy or falling sickness,

“Vi morbi saepe coactus
Ante oculos aliquis nostros, ut fulminis ictu,
Concidit, et spumas agit; ingemit, et tremit artus;
Desipit, extentat nervos, torquetur, anhelat,
Inconstanter, et in jactando membra fatigat;”

[“Often, compelled by the force of disease, some one as
thunderstruck falls under our eyes, and foams, groans, and trembles,
stretches, twists, breathes irregularly, and in paroxysms wears out
his strength.”—Lucretius, iii. 485.]

or hurt in the head, whom we hear to mutter, and by fits to utter grievous groans; though we gather from these signs by which it seems as if they had some remains of consciousness, and that there are movements of the body; I have always believed, I say, both the body and the soul benumbed and asleep,

“Vivit, et est vitae nescius ipse suae,”

[“He lives, and does not know that he is alive.”
—Ovid, Trist., i. 3, 12.]

and could not believe that in so great a stupefaction of the members and so great a defection of the senses, the soul could maintain any force within to take cognisance of herself, and that, therefore, they had no tormenting reflections to make them consider and be sensible of the misery of their condition, and consequently were not much to be pitied.

I can, for my part, think of no state so insupportable and dreadful, as to have the soul vivid and afflicted, without means to declare itself; as one should say of such as are sent to execution with their tongues first cut out (were it not that in this kind of dying, the most silent seems to me the most graceful, if accompanied with a grave and constant countenance); or if those miserable prisoners, who fall into the hands of the base hangman soldiers of this age, by whom they are tormented with all sorts of inhuman usage to compel them to some excessive and impossible ransom; kept, in the meantime, in such condition and place, where they have no means of expressing or signifying their thoughts and their misery. The poets have feigned some gods who favour the deliverance of such as suffer under a languishing death:

“Hunc ego Diti
Sacrum jussa fero, teque isto corpore solvo.”

[“I bidden offer this sacred thing to Pluto, and from that body
dismiss thee.”—AEneid, iv. 782.]

both the interrupted words, and the short and irregular answers one gets from them sometimes, by bawling and keeping a clutter about them; or the motions which seem to yield some consent to what we would have them do, are no testimony, nevertheless, that they live, an entire life at least. So it happens to us in the yawning of sleep, before it has fully possessed us, to perceive, as in a dream, what is done about us, and to follow the last things that are said with a perplexed and uncertain hearing which seems but to touch upon the borders of the soul; and to make answers to the last words that have been spoken to us, which have more in them of chance than sense.

Now seeing I have in effect tried it, I have no doubt but I have hitherto made a right judgment; for first, being in a swoon, I laboured to rip open the buttons of my doublet with my nails, for my sword was gone; and yet I felt nothing in my imagination that hurt me; for we have many motions in us that do not proceed from our direction;

“Semianimesque micant digiti, ferrumque retractant;”

[“Half-dead fingers grope about, and grasp again the sword.”
—AEneid, x. 396.]

so falling people extend their arms before them by a natural impulse, which prompts our limbs to offices and motions without any commission from our reason.

“Falciferos memorant currus abscindere membra . . .
Ut tremere in terra videatur ab artubus id quod
Decidit abscissum; cum mens tamen atque hominis vis
Mobilitate mali, non quit sentire dolorem.”

[“They relate that scythe-bearing chariots mow off limbs, so that
they quiver on the ground; and yet the mind of him from whom the
limb is taken by the swiftness of the blow feels no pain.”
—Lucretius, iii. 642.]

My stomach was so oppressed with the coagulated blood, that my hands moved to that part, of their own voluntary motion, as they frequently do to the part that itches, without being directed by our will. There are several animals, and even men, in whom one may perceive the muscles to stir and tremble after they are dead. Every one experimentally knows that there are some members which grow stiff and flag without his leave. Now, those passions which only touch the outward bark of us, cannot be said to be ours: to make them so, there must be a concurrence of the whole man; and the pains which are felt by the hand or the foot while we are sleeping, are none of ours.

As I drew near my own house, where the alarm of my fall was already got before me, and my family were come out to meet me, with the hubbub usual in such cases, not only did I make some little answer to some questions which were asked me; but they moreover tell me, that I was sufficiently collected to order them to bring a horse to my wife whom on the road, I saw struggling and tiring herself which is hilly and rugged. This should seem to proceed from a soul its functions; but it was nothing so with me. I knew not what I said or did, and they were nothing but idle thoughts in the clouds, that were stirred up by the senses of the eyes and ears, and proceeded not from me. I knew not for all that, whence I came or whither I went, neither was I capable to weigh and consider what was said to me: these were light effects, that the senses produced of themselves as of custom; what the soul contributed was in a dream, lightly touched, licked and bedewed by the soft impression of the senses. Notwithstanding, my condition was, in truth, very easy and quiet; I had no affliction upon me, either for others or myself; it was an extreme languor and weakness, without any manner of pain. I saw my own house, but knew it not. When they had put me to bed I found an inexpressible sweetness in that repose; for I had been desperately tugged and lugged by those poor people who had taken the pains to carry me upon their arms a very great and a very rough way, and had in so doing all quite tired out themselves, twice or thrice one after another. They offered me several remedies, but I would take none, certainly believing that I was mortally wounded in the head. And, in earnest, it had been a very happy death, for the weakness of my understanding deprived me of the faculty of discerning, and that of my body of the sense of feeling; I was suffering myself to glide away so sweetly and after so soft and easy a manner, that I scarce find any other action less troublesome than that was. But when I came again to myself and to resume my faculties:

“Ut tandem sensus convaluere mei,”

[“When at length my lost senses again returned.”
—Ovid, Trist., i. 3, 14.]

which was two or three hours after, I felt myself on a sudden involved in terrible pain, having my limbs battered and ground with my fall, and was. so ill for two or three nights after, that I thought I was once more dying again, but a more painful death, having concluded myself as good as dead before, and to this hour am sensible of the bruises of that terrible shock. I will not here omit, that the last thing I could make them beat into my head, was the memory of this accident, and I had it over and over again repeated to me, whither I was going, from whence I came, and at what time of the day this mischance befell me, before I could comprehend it. As to the manner of my fall, that was concealed from me in favour to him who had been the occasion, and other flim-flams were invented. But a long time after, and the very next day that my memory began to return and to represent to me the state wherein I was, at the instant that I perceived this horse coming full drive upon me (for I had seen him at my heels, and gave myself for gone, but this thought had been so sudden, that fear had had no leisure to introduce itself) it seemed to me like a flash of lightning that had pierced my soul, and that I came from the other world.

This long story of so light an accident would appear vain enough, were it not for the knowledge I have gained by it for my own use; for I do really find, that to get acquainted with death, needs no more but nearly to approach it. Every one, as Pliny says, is a good doctrine to himself, provided he be capable of discovering himself near at hand. Here, this is not my doctrine, ‘tis my study; and is not the lesson of another, but my own; and if I communicate it, it ought not to be ill taken, for that which is of use to me, may also, peradventure, be useful to another. As to the rest, I spoil nothing, I make use of nothing but my own; and if I play the fool, ‘tis at my own expense, and nobody else is concerned in’t; for ‘tis a folly that will die with me, and that no one is to inherit. We hear but of two or three of the ancients, who have beaten this path, and yet I cannot say if it was after this manner, knowing no more of them but their names. No one since has followed the track: ‘tis a rugged road, more so than it seems, to follow a pace so rambling and uncertain, as that of the soul; to penetrate the dark profundities of its intricate internal windings; to choose and lay hold of so many little nimble motions; ‘tis a new and extraordinary undertaking, and that withdraws us from the common and most recommended employments of the world. ‘Tis now many years since that my thoughts have had no other aim and level than myself, and that I have only pried into and studied myself: or, if I study any other thing, ‘tis to apply it to or rather in myself. And yet I do not think it a fault, if, as others do by other much less profitable sciences, I communicate what I have learned in this, though I am not very well pleased with my own progress. There is no description so difficult, nor doubtless of so great utility, as that of a man’s self: and withal, a man must curl his hair and set out and adjust himself, to appear in public: now I am perpetually tricking myself out, for I am eternally upon my own description. Custom has made all speaking of a man’s self vicious, and positively interdicts it, in hatred to the boasting that seems inseparable from the testimony men give of themselves:

“In vitium ducit culpae fuga.”

[“The avoiding a mere fault often leads us into a greater.”
Or: “The escape from a fault leads into a vice”
—Horace, De Arte Poetics, verse 31.]

Instead of blowing the child’s nose, this is to take his nose off altogether. I think the remedy worse than the disease. But, allowing it to be true that it must of necessity be presumption to entertain people with discourses of one’s self, I ought not, pursuing my general design, to forbear an action that publishes this infirmity of mine, nor conceal the fault which I not only practise but profess. Notwithstanding, to speak my thought freely, I think that the custom of condemning wine, because some people will be drunk, is itself to be condemned; a man cannot abuse anything but what is good in itself; and I believe that this rule has only regard to the popular vice. They are bits for calves, with which neither the saints whom we hear speak so highly of themselves, nor the philosophers, nor the divines will be curbed; neither will I, who am as little the one as the other, If they do not write of it expressly, at all events, when the occasions arise, they don’t hesitate to put themselves on the public highway. Of what does Socrates treat more largely than of himself? To what does he more direct and address the discourses of his disciples, than to speak of themselves, not of the lesson in their book, but of the essence and motion of their souls? We confess ourselves religiously to God and our confessor; as our neighbours, do to all the people. But some will answer that we there speak nothing but accusation against ourselves; why then, we say all; for our very virtue itself is faulty and penetrable. My trade and art is to live; he that forbids me to speak according to my own sense, experience, and practice, may as well enjoin an architect not to speak of building according to his own knowledge, but according to that of his neighbour; according to the knowledge of another, and not according to his own. If it be vainglory for a man to publish his own virtues, why does not Cicero prefer the eloquence of Hortensius, and Hortensius that of Cicero? Peradventure they mean that I should give testimony of myself by works and effects, not barely by words. I chiefly paint my thoughts, a subject void of form and incapable of operative production; ‘tis all that I can do to couch it in this airy body of the voice; the wisest and devoutest men have lived in the greatest care to avoid all apparent effects. Effects would more speak of fortune than of me; they manifest their own office and not mine, but uncertainly and by conjecture; patterns of some one particular virtue. I expose myself entire; ‘tis a body where, at one view, the veins, muscles, and tendons are apparent, every of them in its proper place; here the effects of a cold; there of the heart beating, very dubiously. I do not write my own acts, but myself and my essence.

I am of opinion that a man must be very cautious how he values himself, and equally conscientious to give a true report, be it better or worse, impartially. If I thought myself perfectly good and wise, I would rattle it out to some purpose. To speak less of one’s self than what one really is is folly, not modesty; and to take that for current pay which is under a man’s value is pusillanimity and cowardice, according to, Aristotle. No virtue assists itself with falsehood; truth is never matter of error. To speak more of one’s self than is really true is not always mere presumption; ‘tis, moreover, very often folly; to, be immeasurably pleased with what one is, and to fall into an indiscreet self-love, is in my opinion the substance of this vice. The most sovereign remedy to cure it, is to do quite contrary to what these people direct who, in forbidding men to speak of themselves, consequently, at the same time, interdict thinking of themselves too. Pride dwells in the thought; the tongue can have but a very little share in it.

They fancy that to think of one’s self is to be delighted with one’s self; to frequent and converse with one’s self, to be overindulgent; but this excess springs only in those who take but a superficial view of themselves, and dedicate their main inspection to their affairs; who call it mere reverie and idleness to occupy one’s self with one’s self, and the building one’s self up a mere building of castles in the air; who look upon themselves as a third person only, a stranger. If any one be in rapture with his own knowledge, looking only on those below him, let him but turn his eye upward towards past ages, and his pride will be abated, when he shall there find so many thousand wits that trample him under foot. If he enter into a flattering presumption of his personal valour, let him but recollect the lives of Scipio, Epaminondas; so many armies, so many nations, that leave him so far behind them. No particular quality can make any man proud, that will at the same time put the many other weak and imperfect ones he has in the other scale, and the nothingness of human condition to make up the weight. Because Socrates had alone digested to purpose the precept of his god, “to know himself,” and by that study arrived at the perfection of setting himself at nought, he only was reputed worthy the title of a sage. Whosoever shall so know himself, let him boldly speak it out.


They who write the life of Augustus Caesar,—[Suetonius, Life of Augustus, c. 25.]—observe this in his military discipline, that he was wonderfully liberal of gifts to men of merit, but that as to the true recompenses of honour he was as sparing; yet he himself had been gratified by his uncle with all the military recompenses before he had ever been in the field. It was a pretty invention, and received into most governments of the world, to institute certain vain and in themselves valueless distinctions to honour and recompense virtue, such as the crowns of laurel, oak, and myrtle, the particular fashion of some garment, the privilege to ride in a coach in the city, or at night with a torch, some peculiar place assigned in public assemblies, the prerogative of certain additional names and titles, certain distinctions in the bearing of coats of arms, and the like, the use of which, according to the several humours of nations, has been variously received, and yet continues.

We in France, as also several of our neighbours, have orders of knighthood that are instituted only for this end. And ‘tis, in earnest, a very good and profitable custom to find out an acknowledgment for the worth of rare and excellent men, and to satisfy them with rewards that are not at all chargeable either to prince or people. And that which has always been found by ancient experience, and which we have heretofore observed among ourselves, that men of quality have ever been more jealous of such recompenses than of those wherein there was gain and profit, is not without very good ground and reason. If with the reward, which ought to be simply a recompense of honour, they should mix other commodities and add riches, this mixture, instead of procuring an increase of estimation, would debase and abate it. The Order of St. Michael, which has been so long in repute amongst us, had no greater commodity than that it had no communication with any other commodity, which produced this effect, that formerly there was no office or title whatever to which the gentry pretended with so great desire and affection as they did to that; no quality that carried with it more respect and grandeur, valour and worth more willingly embracing and with greater ambition aspiring to a recompense purely its own, and rather glorious than profitable. For, in truth, other gifts have not so great a dignity of usage, by reason they are laid out upon all sorts of occasions; with money a man pays the wages of a servant, the diligence of a courier, dancing, vaulting, speaking, and the meanest offices we receive; nay, and reward vice with it too, as flattery, treachery, and pimping; and therefore ‘tis no wonder if virtue less desires and less willingly receives this common sort of payment, than that which is proper and peculiar to her, throughout generous and noble. Augustus had reason to be more sparing of this than the other, insomuch that honour is a privilege which derives its principal essence from rarity; and so virtue itself:

“Cui malus est nemo, quis bonus esse potest?”

[“To whom no one is ill who can be good?"-Martial, xii. 82.]

We do not intend it for a commendation when we say that such a one is careful in the education of his children, by reason it is a common act, how just and well done soever; no more than we commend a great tree, where the whole forest is the same. I do not think that any citizen of Sparta glorified himself much upon his valour, it being the universal virtue of the whole nation; and as little upon his fidelity and contempt of riches. There is no recompense becomes virtue, how great soever, that is once passed into a custom; and I know not withal whether we can ever call it great, being common.

Seeing, then, that these remunerations of honour have no other value and estimation but only this, that few people enjoy them, ‘tis but to be liberal of them to bring them down to nothing. And though there should be now more men found than in former times worthy of our order, the estimation of it nevertheless should not be abated, nor the honour made cheap; and it may easily happen that more may merit it; for there is no virtue that so easily spreads as that of military valour. There is another virtue, true, perfect, and philosophical, of which I do not speak, and only make use of the word in our common acceptation, much greater than this and more full, which is a force and assurance of the soul, equally despising all sorts of adverse accidents, equable, uniform, and constant, of which ours is no more than one little ray. Use, education, example, and custom can do all in all to the establishment of that whereof I am speaking, and with great facility render it common, as by the experience of our civil wars is manifest enough; and whoever could at this time unite us all, Catholic and Huguenot, into one body, and set us upon some brave common enterprise, we should again make our ancient military reputation flourish. It is most certain that in times past the recompense of this order had not only a regard to valour, but had a further prospect; it never was the reward of a valiant soldier but of a great captain; the science of obeying was not reputed worthy of so honourable a guerdon. There was therein a more universal military expertness required, and that comprehended the most and the greatest qualities of a military man:

“Neque enim eaedem militares et imperatorix artes sunt,”

[“For the arts of soldiery and generalship are not the same.”
—Livy, xxv. 19.]

as also, besides, a condition suitable to such a dignity. But, I say, though more men were worthy than formerly, yet ought it not to be more liberally distributed, and it were better to fall short in not giving it at all to whom it should be due, than for ever to lose, as we have lately done, the fruit of so profitable an invention. No man of spirit will deign to advantage himself with what is in common with many; and such of the present time as have least merited this recompense themselves make the greater show of disdaining it, in order thereby to be ranked with those to whom so much wrong has been done by the unworthy conferring and debasing the distinction which was their particular right.

Now, to expect that in obliterating and abolishing this, suddenly to create and bring into credit a like institution, is not a proper attempt for so licentious and so sick a time as this wherein we now are; and it will fall out that the last will from its birth incur the same inconveniences that have ruined the other.—[Montaigne refers to the Order of the Saint-Esprit, instituted by Henry III. in 1578.]—The rules for dispensing this new order had need to be extremely clipt and bound under great restrictions, to give it authority; and this tumultuous season is incapable of such a curb: besides that, before this can be brought into repute, ‘tis necessary that the memory of the first, and of the contempt into which it is fallen, be buried in oblivion.

This place might naturally enough admit of some discourse upon the consideration of valour, and the difference of this virtue from others; but, Plutarch having so often handled this subject, I should give myself an unnecessary trouble to repeat what he has said. But this is worth considering: that our nation places valour, vaillance, in the highest degree of virtue, as its very word evidences, being derived from valeur, and that, according to our use, when we say a man of high worth a good man, in our court style—‘tis to say a valiant man, after the Roman way; for the general appellation of virtue with them takes etymology from vis, force. The proper, sole, and essential profession of, the French noblesse is that of arms: and ‘tis likely that the first virtue that discovered itself amongst men and has given to some advantage over others, was that by which the strongest and most valiant have mastered the weaker, and acquired a particular authority and reputation, whence came to it that dignified appellation; or else, that these nations, being very warlike, gave the pre-eminence to that of the virtues which was most familiar to them; just as our passion and the feverish solicitude we have of the chastity of women occasions that to say, a good woman, a woman of worth, a woman of honour and virtue, signifies merely a chaste woman as if, to oblige them to that one duty, we were indifferent as to all the rest, and gave them the reins in all other faults whatever to compound for that one of incontinence.


To Madame D’Estissac.
MADAM, if the strangeness and novelty of my subject, which are wont to give value to things, do not save me, I shall never come off with honour from this foolish attempt: but ‘tis so fantastic, and carries a face so unlike the common use, that this, peradventure, may make it pass. ‘Tis a melancholic humour, and consequently a humour very much an enemy to my natural complexion, engendered by the pensiveness of the solitude into which for some years past I have retired myself, that first put into my head this idle fancy of writing. Wherein, finding myself totally unprovided and empty of other matter, I presented myself to myself for argument and subject. ‘Tis the only book in the world of its kind, and of a wild and extravagant design. There is nothing worth remark in this affair but that extravagancy: for in a subject so vain and frivolous, the best workman in the world could not have given it a form fit to recommend it to any manner of esteem.

Now, madam, having to draw my own picture to the life, I had omitted one important feature, had I not therein represented the honour I have ever had for you and your merits; which I have purposely chosen to say in the beginning of this chapter, by reason that amongst the many other excellent qualities you are mistress of, that of the tender love you have manifested to your children, is seated in one of the highest places. Whoever knows at what age Monsieur D’Estissac, your husband, left you a widow, the great and honourable matches that have since been offered to you, as many as to any lady of your condition in France, the constancy and steadiness wherewith, for so many years, you have sustained so many sharp difficulties, the burden and conduct of affairs, which have persecuted you in every corner of the kingdom, and are not yet weary of tormenting you, and the happy direction you have given to all these, by your sole prudence or good fortune, will easily conclude with me that we have not so vivid an example as yours of maternal affection in our times. I praise God, madam, that it has been so well employed; for the great hopes Monsieur D’Estissac, your son, gives of himself, render sufficient assurance that when he comes of age you will reap from him all the obedience and gratitude of a very good man. But, forasmuch as by reason of his tender years, he has not been capable of taking notice of those offices of extremest value he has in so great number received from you, I will, if these papers shall one day happen to fall into his hands, when I shall neither have mouth nor speech left to deliver it to him, that he shall receive from me a true account of those things, which shall be more effectually manifested to him by their own effects, by which he will understand that there is not a gentleman in France who stands more indebted to a mother’s care; and that he cannot, in the future, give a better nor more certain testimony of his own worth and virtue than by acknowledging you for that excellent mother you are.

If there be any law truly natural, that is to say, any instinct that is seen universally and perpetually imprinted in both beasts and men (which is not without controversy), I can say, that in my opinion, next to the care every animal has of its own preservation, and to avoid that which may hurt him, the affection that the begetter bears to his offspring holds the second place in this rank. And seeing that nature appears to have recommended it to us, having regard to the extension and progression of the successive pieces of this machine of hers, ‘tis no wonder if, on the contrary, that of children towards their parents is not so great. To which we may add this other Aristotelian consideration, that he who confers a benefit on any one, loves him better than he is beloved by him again: that he to whom is owing, loves better than he who owes; and that every artificer is fonder of his work, than, if that work had sense, it would be of him; by reason that it is dear to us to be, and to be consists in movement and action; therefore every one has in some sort a being in his work. He who confers a benefit exercises a fine and honest action; he who receives it exercises the useful only. Now the useful is much less lovable than the honest; the honest is stable and permanent, supplying him who has done it with a continual gratification. The useful loses itself, easily slides away, and the memory of it is neither so fresh nor so pleasing. Those things are dearest to us that have cost us most, and giving is more chargeable than receiving.

Since it has pleased God to endue us with some capacity of reason, to the end we may not, like brutes, be servilely subject and enslaved to the laws common to both, but that we should by judgment and a voluntary liberty apply ourselves to them, we ought, indeed, something to yield to the simple authority of nature, but not suffer ourselves to be tyrannically hurried away and transported by her; reason alone should have the conduct of our inclinations. I, for my part, have a strange disgust for those propensions that are started in us without the mediation and direction of the judgment, as, upon the subject I am speaking of, I cannot entertain that passion of dandling and caressing infants scarcely born, having as yet neither motion of soul nor shape of body distinguishable, by which they can render themselves amiable, and have not willingly suffered them to be nursed near me. A true and regular affection ought to spring and increase with the knowledge they give us of themselves, and then, if they are worthy of it, the natural propension walking hand in hand with reason, to cherish them with a truly paternal love; and so to judge, also, if they be otherwise, still rendering ourselves to reason, notwithstanding the inclination of nature. ‘Tis oft-times quite otherwise; and, most commonly, we find ourselves more taken with the running up and down, the games, and puerile simplicities of our children, than we do, afterwards, with their most complete actions; as if we had loved them for our sport, like monkeys, and not as men; and some there are, who are very liberal in buying them balls to play withal, who are very close-handed for the least necessary expense when they come to age. Nay, it looks as if the jealousy of seeing them appear in and enjoy the world when we are about to leave it, rendered us more niggardly and stingy towards them; it vexes us that they tread upon our heels, as if to solicit us to go out; if this were to be feared, since the order of things will have it so that they cannot, to speak the truth, be nor live, but at the expense of our being and life, we should never meddle with being fathers at all.

For my part, I think it cruelty and injustice not to receive them into the share and society of our goods, and not to make them partakers in the intelligence of our domestic affairs when they are capable, and not to lessen and contract our own expenses to make the more room for theirs, seeing we beget them to that effect. ‘Tis unjust that an old fellow, broken and half dead, should alone, in a corner of the chimney, enjoy the money that would suffice for the maintenance and advancement of many children, and suffer them, in the meantime, to lose their’ best years for want of means to advance themselves in the public service and the knowledge of men. A man by this course drives them to despair, and to seek out by any means, how unjust or dishonourable soever, to provide for their own support: as I have, in my time, seen several young men of good extraction so addicted to stealing, that no correction could cure them of it. I know one of a very good family, to whom, at the request of a brother of his, a very honest and brave gentleman, I once spoke on this account, who made answer, and confessed to me roundly, that he had been put upon this paltry practice by the severity and avarice of his father; but that he was now so accustomed to it he could not leave it off. And, at that very time, he was trapped stealing a lady’s rings, having come into her chamber, as she was dressing with several others. He put me in mind of a story I had heard of another gentleman, so perfect and accomplished in this fine trade in his youth, that, after he came to his estate and resolved to give it over, he could not hold his hands, nevertheless, if he passed by a shop where he saw anything he liked, from catching it up, though it put him to the shame of sending afterwards to pay for it. And I have myself seen several so habituated to this quality that even amongst their comrades they could not forbear filching, though with intent to restore what they had taken. I am a Gascon, and yet there is no vice I so little understand as that; I hate it something more by disposition than I condemn it by reason; I do not so much as desire anything of another man’s. This province of ours is, in plain truth, a little more decried than the other parts of the kingdom; and yet we have several times seen, in our times, men of good families of other provinces, in the hands of justice, convicted of abominable thefts. I fear this vice is, in some sort, to be attributed to the fore-mentioned vice of the fathers.

And if a man should tell me, as a lord of very good understanding once did, that “he hoarded up wealth, not to extract any other fruit and use from his parsimony, but to make himself honoured and sought after by his relations; and that age having deprived him of all other power, it was the only remaining remedy to maintain his authority in his family, and to keep him from being neglected and despised by all around,” in truth, not only old age, but all other imbecility, according to Aristotle, is the promoter of avarice; that is something, but it is physic for a disease that a man should prevent the birth of. A father is very miserable who has no other hold on his children’s affection than the need they have of his assistance, if that can be called affection; he must render himself worthy to be respected by his virtue and wisdom, and beloved by his kindness and the sweetness of his manners; even the very ashes of a rich matter have their value; and we are wont to have the bones and relics of worthy men in regard and reverence. No old age can be so decrepid in a man who has passed his life in honour, but it must be venerable, especially to his children, whose soul he must have trained up to their duty by reason, not by necessity and the need they have of him, nor by harshness and compulsion:

“Et errat longe mea quidem sententia
Qui imperium credat esse gravius, aut stabilius,
Vi quod fit, quam illud, quod amicitia adjungitur.”

[“He wanders far from the truth, in my opinion, who thinks that
government more absolute and durable which is acquired by force than
that which is attached to friendship.”—Terence, Adelph., i. I, 40.]

I condemn all violence in the education of a tender soul that is designed for honour and liberty. There is I know not what of servile in rigour and constraint; and I am of opinion that what is not to be done by reason, prudence, and address, is never to be affected by force. I myself was brought up after that manner; and they tell me that in all my first age I never felt the rod but twice, and then very slightly. I practised the same method with my children, who all of them died at nurse, except Leonora, my only daughter, and who arrived to the age of five years and upward without other correction for her childish faults (her mother’s indulgence easily concurring) than words only, and those very gentle; in which kind of proceeding, though my end and expectation should be both frustrated, there are other causes enough to lay the fault on without blaming my discipline, which I know to be natural and just, and I should, in this, have yet been more religious towards the males, as less born to subjection and more free; and I should have made it my business to fill their hearts with ingenuousness and freedom. I have never observed other effects of whipping than to render boys more cowardly, or more wilfully obstinate.

Do we desire to be beloved of our children? Will we remove from them all occasion of wishing our death though no occasion of so horrid a wish can either be just or excusable?

“Nullum scelus rationem habet.”

[“No wickedness has reason.”—Livy, xxviii. 28]

Let us reasonably accommodate their lives with what is in our power. In order to this, we should not marry so young that our age shall in a manner be confounded with theirs; for this inconvenience plunges us into many very great difficulties, and especially the gentry of the nation, who are of a condition wherein they have little to do, and who live upon their rents only: for elsewhere, with people who live by their labour, the plurality and company of children is an increase to the common stock; they are so many new tools and instruments wherewith to grow rich.

I married at three-and-thirty years of age, and concur in the opinion of thirty-five, which is said to be that of Aristotle. Plato will have nobody marry before thirty; but he has reason to laugh at those who undertook the work of marriage after five-and-fifty, and condemns their offspring as unworthy of aliment and life. Thales gave the truest limits, who, young and being importuned by his mother to marry, answered, “That it was too soon,” and, being grown into years and urged again, “That it was too late.” A man must deny opportunity to every inopportune action. The ancient Gauls’ looked upon it as a very horrid thing for a man to have society with a woman before he was twenty years of age, and strictly recommended to the men who designed themselves for war the keeping their virginity till well grown in years, forasmuch as courage is abated and diverted by intercourse with women:

“Ma, or congiunto a giovinetta sposa,
E lieto omai de’ figli, era invilito
Negli affetti di padre et di marito.”

[“Now, married to a young wife and happy in children, he was
demoralised by his love as father and husband.”
—Tasso, Gierus., x. 39.]

Muley Hassam, king of Tunis, he whom the Emperor Charles V. restored to his kingdom, reproached the memory of his father Mahomet with the frequentation of women, styling him loose, effeminate, and a getter of children.—[Of whom he had thirty-four.]—The Greek history observes of Iccus the Tarentine, of Chryso, Astyllus, Diopompos, and others, that to keep their bodies in order for the Olympic games and such like exercises, they denied themselves during that preparation all commerce with Venus. In a certain country of the Spanish Indies men were not permitted to marry till after forty age, and yet the girls were allowed at ten. ‘Tis not time for a gentleman of thirty years old to give place to his son who is twenty; he is himself in a condition to serve both in the expeditions of war and in the court of his prince; has need of all his appurtenances; and yet, doubtless, he ought to surrender a share, but not so great an one as to forget himself for others; and for such an one the answer that fathers have ordinarily in their mouths, “I will not put off my clothes, before I go to bed,” serves well.

But a father worn out with age and infirmities, and deprived by weakness and want of health of the common society of men, wrongs himself and his to amass a great heap of treasure. He has lived long enough, if he be wise, to have a mind to strip himself to go to bed, not to his very shirt, I confess, but to that and a good, warm dressing-gown; the remaining pomps, of which he has no further use, he ought voluntarily to surrender to those, to whom by the order of nature they belong. ‘Tis reason he should refer the use of those things to them, seeing that nature has reduced him to such a state that he cannot enjoy them himself; otherwise there is doubtless malice and envy in the case. The greatest act of the Emperor Charles V. was that when, in imitation of some of the ancients of his own quality, confessing it but reason to strip ourselves when our clothes encumber and grow too heavy for us, and to lie down when our legs begin to fail us, he resigned his possessions, grandeur, and power to his son, when he found himself failing in vigour, and steadiness for the conduct of his affairs suitable with the glory he had therein acquired:

“Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne
Peccet ad extremum ridendus, et ilia ducat.”

[“Dismiss the old horse in good time, lest, failing in the lists,
the spectators laugh.”—Horace, Epist., i., I, 8.]

This fault of not perceiving betimes and of not being sensible of the feebleness and extreme alteration that age naturally brings both upon body and mind, which, in my opinion, is equal, if indeed the soul has not more than half, has lost the reputation of most of the great men in the world. I have known in my time, and been intimately acquainted with persons of great authority, whom one might easily discern marvellously lapsed from the sufficiency I knew they were once endued with, by the reputation they had acquired in their former years, whom I could heartily, for their own sakes, have wished at home at their ease, discharged of their public or military employments, which were now grown too heavy for their shoulders. I have formerly been very familiar in a gentleman’s house, a widower and very old, though healthy and cheerful enough: this gentleman had several daughters to marry and a son already of ripe age, which brought upon him many visitors, and a great expense, neither of which well pleased him, not only out of consideration of frugality, but yet more for having, by reason of his age, entered into a course of life far differing from ours. I told him one day a little boldly, as I used to do, that he would do better to give us younger folk room, and to leave his principal house (for he had but that well placed and furnished) to his son, and himself retire to an estate he had hard by, where nobody would trouble his repose, seeing he could not otherwise avoid being importuned by us, the condition of his children considered. He took my advice afterwards, and found an advantage in so doing.

I do not mean that a man should so instal them as not to reserve to himself a liberty to retract; I, who am now arrived to the age wherein such things are fit to be done, would resign to them the enjoyment of my house and goods, but with a power of revocation if they should give me cause to alter my mind; I would leave to them the use, that being no longer convenient for me; and, of the general authority and power over all, would reserve as much as—I thought good to myself; having always held that it must needs be a great satisfaction to an aged father himself to put his children into the way of governing his affairs, and to have power during his own life to control their behaviour, supplying them with instruction and advice from his own experience, and himself to transfer the ancient honour and order of his house into the hands of those who are to succeed him, and by that means to satisfy himself as to the hopes he may conceive of their future conduct. And in order to this I would not avoid their company; I would observe them near at hand, and partake, according to the condition of my age, of their feasts and jollities. If I did not live absolutely amongst them, which I could not do without annoying them and their friends, by reason of the morosity of my age and the restlessness of my infirmities, and without violating also the rules and order of living I should then have set down to myself, I would, at least, live near them in some retired part of my house, not the best in show, but the most commodious. Nor as I saw some years ago, a dean of St. Hilary of Poitiers given up to such a solitude, that at the time I came into his chamber it had been two and twenty years that he had not stepped one foot out of it, and yet had all his motions free and easy, and was in good health, saving a cold that fell upon his lungs; he would, hardly once in a week, suffer any one to come in to see him; he always kept himself shut up in his chamber alone, except that a servant brought him, once a day, something to eat, and did then but just come in and go out again. His employment was to walk up and down, and read some book, for he was a bit of a scholar; but, as to the rest, obstinately bent to die in this retirement, as he soon after did. I would endeavour by pleasant conversation to create in my children a warm and unfeigned friendship and good-will towards me, which in well-descended natures is not hard to do; for if they be furious brutes, of which this age of ours produces thousands, we are then to hate and avoid them as such.

I am angry at the custom of forbidding children to call their father by the name of father, and to enjoin them another, as more full of respect and reverence, as if nature had not sufficiently provided for our authority. We call Almighty God Father, and disdain to have our children call us so; I have reformed this error in my family.—[As did Henry IV. of France]—And ‘tis also folly and injustice to deprive children, when grown up, of familiarity with their father, and to carry a scornful and austere countenance toward them, thinking by that to keep them in awe and obedience; for it is a very idle farce that, instead of producing the effect designed, renders fathers distasteful, and, which is worse, ridiculous to their own children. They have youth and vigour in possession, and consequently the breath and favour of the world; and therefore receive these fierce and tyrannical looks—mere scarecrows— of a man without blood, either in his heart or veins, with mockery and contempt. Though I could make myself feared, I had yet much rather make myself beloved: there are so many sorts of defects in old age, so much imbecility, and it is so liable to contempt, that the best acquisition a man can make is the kindness and affection of his own family; command and fear are no longer his weapons. Such an one I have known who, having been very imperious in his youth, when he came to be old, though he might have lived at his full ease, would ever strike, rant, swear, and curse: the most violent householder in France: fretting himself with unnecessary suspicion and vigilance. And all this rumble and clutter but to make his family cheat him the more; of his barn, his kitchen, cellar, nay, and his very purse too, others had the greatest use and share, whilst he keeps his keys in his pocket much more carefully than his eyes. Whilst he hugs himself with the pitiful frugality of a niggard table, everything goes to rack and ruin in every corner of his house, in play, drink, all sorts of profusion, making sport in their junkets with his vain anger and fruitless parsimony. Every one is a sentinel against him, and if, by accident, any wretched fellow that serves him is of another humour, and will not join with the rest, he is presently rendered suspected to him, a bait that old age very easily bites at of itself. How often has this gentleman boasted to me in how great awe he kept his family, and how exact an obedience and reverence they paid him! How clearly he saw into his own affairs!

“Ille solos nescit omnia.”

[“He alone is ignorant of all that is passing.”
—Terence, Adelph., iv. 2, 9.]

I do not know any one that can muster more parts, both natural and acquired, proper to maintain dominion, than he; yet he is fallen from it like a child. For this reason it is that I have picked out him, amongst several others that I know of the same humour, for the greatest example. It were matter for a question in the schools, whether he is better thus or otherwise. In his presence, all submit to and bow to him, and give so much way to his vanity that nobody ever resists him; he has his fill of assents, of seeming fear, submission, and respect. Does he turn away a servant? he packs up his bundle, and is gone; but ‘tis no further than just out of his sight: the steps of old age are so slow, the senses so troubled, that he will live and do his old office in the same house a year together without being perceived.

And after a fit interval of time, letters are pretended to come from a great way off; very humble, suppliant; and full of promises of amendment, by virtue of which he is again received into favour. Does Monsieur make any bargain, or prepare any despatch that does not please? ‘tis suppressed, and causes afterwards forged to excuse the want of execution in the one or answer in the other. No letters being first brought to him, he never sees any but those that shall seem fit for his knowledge. If by accident they fall first into his own hand, being used to trust somebody to read them to him; he reads extempore what he thinks fit, and often makes such a one ask him pardon who abuses and rails at him in his letter. In short, he sees nothing, but by an image prepared and designed beforehand and the most satisfactory they can invent, not to rouse and awaken his ill humour and choler. I have seen, under various aspects, enough of these modes of domestic government, long-enduring, constant, to the like effect.

Women are evermore addicted to cross their husbands: they lay hold with both hands on all occasions to contradict and oppose them; the first excuse serves for a plenary justification. I have seen one who robbed her husband wholesale, that, as she told her confessor, she might distribute the more liberal alms. Let who will trust to that religious dispensation. No management of affairs seems to them of sufficient dignity, if proceeding from the husband’s assent; they must usurp it either by insolence or cunning, and always injuriously, or else it has not the grace and authority they desire. When, as in the case I am speaking of, ‘tis against a poor old man and for the children, then they make use of this title to serve their passion with glory; and, as for a common service, easily cabal, and combine against his government and dominion. If they be males grown up in full and flourishing health, they presently corrupt, either by force or favour, steward, receivers, and all the rout. Such as have neither wife nor son do not so easily fall into this misfortune; but withal more cruelly and unworthily. Cato the elder in his time said: So many servants, so many enemies; consider, then, whether according to the vast difference between the purity of the age he lived in and the corruption of this of ours, he does not seem to shew us that wife, son, and servant, are so many enemies to us? ‘Tis well for old age that it is always accompanied by want of observation, ignorance, and a proneness to being deceived. For should we see how we are used and would not acquiesce, what would become of us? especially in such an age as this, where the very judges who are to determine our controversies are usually partisans to the young, and interested in the cause. In case the discovery of this cheating escape me, I cannot at least fail to discern that I am very fit to be cheated. And can a man ever enough exalt the value of a friend, in comparison with these civil ties? The very image of it which I see in beasts, so pure and uncorrupted, how religiously do I respect it! If others deceive me, yet do I not, at least, deceive myself in thinking I am able to defend myself from them, or in cudgelling my brains to make myself so. I protect myself from such treasons in my own bosom, not by an unquiet and tumultuous curiosity, but rather by diversion and resolution. When I hear talk of any one’s condition, I never trouble myself to think of him; I presently turn my eyes upon myself to see in what condition I am; whatever concerns another relates to me; the accident that has befallen him gives me caution, and rouses me to turn my defence that way. We every day and every hour say things of another that we might properly say of ourselves, could we but apply our observation to our own concerns, as well as extend it to others. And several authors have in this manner prejudiced their own cause by running headlong upon those they attack, and darting those shafts against their enemies, that are more properly, and with greater advantage, to be turned upon themselves.

The late Mareschal de Montluc having lost his son, who died in the island of Madeira, in truth a very worthy gentleman and of great expectation, did to me, amongst his other regrets, very much insist upon what a sorrow and heart-breaking it was that he had never made himself familiar with him; and by that humour of paternal gravity and grimace to have lost the opportunity of having an insight into and of well knowing, his son, as also of letting him know the extreme affection he had for him, and the worthy opinion he had of his virtue. “That poor boy,” said he, “never saw in me other than a stern and disdainful countenance, and is gone in a belief that I neither knew how to love him nor esteem him according to his desert. For whom did I reserve the discovery of that singular affection I had for him in my soul? Was it not he himself, who ought to have had all the pleasure of it, and all the obligation? I constrained and racked myself to put on, and maintain this vain disguise, and have by that means deprived myself of the pleasure of his conversation, and, I doubt, in some measure, his affection, which could not but be very cold to me, having never other from me than austerity, nor felt other than a tyrannical manner of proceeding.”

[Madame de Sevigne tells us that she never read this passage without
tears in her eyes. “My God!” she exclaims, “how full is this book
of good sense!” Ed.]

I find this complaint to be rational and rightly apprehended: for, as I myself know by too certain experience, there is no so sweet consolation in the loss of friends as the conscience of having had no reserve or secret for them, and to have had with them a perfect and entire communication. Oh my friend,—[La Boetie.] am I the better for being sensible of this; or am I the worse? I am, doubtless, much the better. I am consoled and honoured, in the sorrow for his death. Is it not a pious and a pleasing office of my life to be always upon my friend’s obsequies? Can there be any joy equal to this privation?

I open myself to my family, as much as I can, and very willingly let them know the state of my opinion and good will towards them, as I do to everybody else: I make haste to bring out and present myself to them; for I will not have them mistaken in me, in anything. Amongst other particular customs of our ancient Gauls, this, as Caesar reports,—[De Bello Gall., vi. r8.]—was one, that the sons never presented themselves before their fathers, nor durst ever appear in their company in public, till they began to bear arms; as if they would intimate by this, that it was also time for their fathers to receive them into their familiarity and acquaintance.

I have observed yet another sort of indiscretion in fathers of my time, that, not contented with having deprived their children, during their own long lives, of the share they naturally ought to have had in their fortunes, they afterwards leave to their wives the same authority over their estates, and liberty to dispose of them according to their own fancy. And I have known a certain lord, one of the principal officers of the crown, who, having in reversion above fifty thousand crowns yearly revenue, died necessitous and overwhelmed with debt at above fifty years of age; his mother in her extremest decrepitude being yet in possession of all his property by the will of his father, who had, for his part, lived till near fourscore years old. This appears to me by no means reasonable. And therefore I think it of very little advantage to a man, whose affairs are well enough, to seek a wife who encumbers his estate with a very great fortune; there is no sort of foreign debt that brings more ruin to families than this: my predecessors have ever been aware of that danger and provided against it, and so have I. But those who dissuade us from rich wives, for fear they should be less tractable and kind, are out in their advice to make a man lose a real commodity for so frivolous a conjecture. It costs an unreasonable woman no more to pass over one reason than another; they cherish themselves most where they are most wrong. Injustice allures them, as the honour of their virtuous actions does the good; and the more riches they bring with them, they are so much the more good-natured, as women, who are handsome, are all the more inclined and proud to be chaste.

‘Tis reasonable to leave the administration of affairs to the mothers, till the children are old enough, according to law, to manage them; but the father has brought them, up very ill, if he cannot hope that, when they come to maturity, they will have more wisdom and ability in the management of affairs than his wife, considering the ordinary weakness of the sex. It were, notwithstanding, to say the truth, more against nature to make the mothers depend upon the discretion of their children; they ought to be plentifully provided for, to maintain themselves according to their quality and age, by reason that necessity and indigence are much more unbecoming and insupportable to them than to men; the son should rather be cut short than the mother.

In general, the most judicious distribution of our goods, when we come to die, is, in my opinion, to let them be distributed according to the custom of the country; the laws have considered the matter better than we know how to do, and ‘tis wiser to let them fail in their appointment, than rashly to run the hazard of miscarrying in ours. Nor are the goods properly ours, since, by civil prescription and without us, they are all destined to certain successors. And although we have some liberty beyond that, yet I think we ought not, without great and manifest cause, to take away that from one which his fortune has allotted him, and to which the public equity gives him title; and that it is against reason to abuse this liberty, in making it serve our own frivolous and private fancies. My destiny has been kind to me in not presenting me with occasions to tempt me and divert my affection from the common and legitimate institution. I see many with whom ‘tis time lost to employ a long exercise of good offices: a word ill taken obliterates ten years’ merit; he is happy who is in a position to oil their goodwill at this last passage. The last action carries it, not the best and most frequent offices, but the most recent and present do the work. These are people that play with their wills as with apples or rods, to gratify or chastise every action of those who pretend to an interest in their care. ‘Tis a thing of too great weight and consequence to be so tumbled and tossed and altered every moment, and wherein the wise determine once for all, having above all things regard to reason and the public observance. We lay these masculine substitutions too much to heart, proposing a ridiculous eternity to our names. We are, moreover, too superstitious in vain conjectures as to the future, that we derive from the words and actions of children. Peradventure they might have done me an injustice, in dispossessing me of my right, for having been the most dull and heavy, the most slow and unwilling at my book, not of all my brothers only, but of all the boys in the whole province: whether about learning my lesson, or about any bodily exercise. ‘Tis a folly to make an election out of the ordinary course upon the credit of these divinations wherein we are so often deceived. If the ordinary rule of descent were to be violated, and the destinies corrected in the choice they have made of our heirs, one might more plausibly do it upon the account of some remarkable and enormous personal deformity, a permanent and incorrigible defect, and in the opinion of us French, who are great admirers of beauty, an important prejudice.

The pleasant dialogue betwixt Plato’s legislator and his citizens will be an ornament to this place, “What,” said they, feeling themselves about to die, “may we not dispose of our own to whom we please? God! what cruelty that it shall not be lawful for us, according as we have been served and attended in our sickness, in our old age, in our affairs, to give more or less to those whom we have found most diligent about us, at our own fancy and discretion!” To which the legislator answers thus:

“My friends, who are now, without question, very soon to die, it is hard for you in the condition you are, either to know yourselves, or what is yours, according to the delphic inscription. I, who make the laws, am of opinion, that you neither are yourselves your own, nor is that yours of which you are possessed. Both your goods and you belong to your families, as well those past as those to come; but, further, both your family and goods much more appertain to the public. Wherefore, lest any flatterer in your old age or in your sickness, or any passion of your own, should unseasonably prevail with you to make an unjust will, I shall take care to prevent that inconvenience; but, having respect both to the universal interests of the city and that of your particular family, I shall establish laws, and make it by good reasons appear, that private convenience ought to give place to the common benefit. Go then cheerfully where human necessity calls you. It is for me, who regard no more the one thing than the other, and who, as much as in me lies, am provident of the public interest, to have a care as to what you leave behind you.”

To return to my subject: it appears to me that women are very rarely born, to whom the prerogative over men, the maternal and natural excepted, is in any sort due, unless it be for the punishment of such, as in some amorous fever have voluntarily submitted themselves to them: but that in no way concerns the old ones, of whom we are now speaking. This consideration it is which has made us so willingly to enact and give force to that law, which was never yet seen by any one, by which women are excluded the succession to our crown: and there is hardly a government in the world where it is not pleaded, as it is here, by the probability of reason that authorises it, though fortune has given it more credit in some places than in others. ‘Tis dangerous to leave the disposal of our succession to their judgment, according to the choice they shall make of children, which is often fantastic and unjust; for the irregular appetites and depraved tastes they have during the time of their being with child, they have at all other times in the mind. We commonly see them fond of the most weak, ricketty, and deformed children; or of those, if they have such, as are still hanging at the breast. For, not having sufficient force of reason to choose and embrace that which is most worthy, they the more willingly suffer themselves to be carried away, where the impressions of nature are most alone; like animals that know their young no longer than they give them suck. As to the rest, it is easy by experience to be discerned that this natural affection to which we give so great authority has but very weak roots. For a very little profit, we every day tear their own children out of the mothers’ arms, and make them take ours in their room: we make them abandon their own to some pitiful nurse, to whom we disdain to commit ours, or to some she-goat, forbidding them, not only to give them suck, what danger soever they run thereby, but, moreover, to take any manner of care of them, that they may wholly be occupied with the care of and attendance upon ours; and we see in most of them an adulterate affection, more vehement than the natural, begotten by custom toward the foster children, and a greater solicitude for the preservation of those they have taken charge of, than of their own. And that which I was saying of goats was upon this account; that it is ordinary all about where I live, to see the countrywomen, when they want milk of their own for their children, to call goats to their assistance; and I have at this hour two men-servants that never sucked women’s milk more than eight days after they were born. These goats are immediately taught to come to suckle the little children, know their voices when they cry, and come running to them. If any other than this foster-child be presented to them, they refuse to let it suck; and the child in like manner will refuse to suck another goat. I saw one the other day from whom they had taken away the goat that used to nourish it, by reason the father had only borrowed it of a neighbour; the child would not touch any other they could bring, and died, doubtless of hunger. Beasts as easily alter and corrupt their natural affection as we: I believe that in what Herodotus relates of a certain district of Lybia, there are many mistakes; he says that the women are there in common; but that the child, so soon as it can go, finds him out in the crowd for his father, to whom he is first led by his natural inclination.

Now, to consider this simple reason for loving our children, that we have begot them, therefore calling them our second selves, it appears, methinks, that there is another kind of production proceeding from us, that is of no less recommendation: for that which we engender by the soul, the issue of our understanding, courage, and abilities, springs from nobler parts than those of the body, and that are much more our own: we are both father and mother in this generation. These cost us a great deal more and bring us more honour, if they have anything of good in them. For the value of our other children is much more theirs than ours; the share we have in them is very little; but of these all the beauty, all the grace and value, are ours; and also they more vividly represent us than the others. Plato adds, that these are immortal children that immortalise and deify their fathers, as Lycurgus, Solon, Minos. Now, histories being full of examples of the common affection of fathers to their children, it seems not altogether improper to introduce some few of this other kind. Heliodorus, that good bishop of Trikka, rather chose to lose the dignity, profit, and devotion of so venerable a prelacy, than to lose his daughter; a daughter that continues to this day very graceful and comely; but, peradventure, a little too curiously and wantonly tricked, and too amorous for an ecclesiastical and sacerdotal daughter. There was one Labienus at Rome, a man of great worth and authority, and amongst other qualities excellent in all sorts of literature, who was, as I take it, the son of that great Labienus, the chief of Caesar’s captains in the wars of Gaul; and who, afterwards, siding with Pompey the great, so valiantly maintained his cause, till he was by Caesar defeated in Spain. This Labienus, of whom I am now speaking, had several enemies, envious of his good qualities, and, tis likely, the courtiers and minions of the emperors of his time who were very angry at his freedom and the paternal humour which he yet retained against tyranny, with which it is to be supposed he had tinctured his books and writings. His adversaries prosecuted several pieces he had published before the magistrates at Rome, and prevailed so far against him, as to have them condemned to the fire. It was in him that this new example of punishment was begun, which was afterwards continued against others at Rome, to punish even writing and studies with death. There would not be means and matter enough of cruelty, did we not mix with them things that nature has exempted from all sense and suffering, as reputation and the products of the mind, and did we not communicate corporal punishments to the teachings and monuments of the Muses. Now, Labienus could not suffer this loss, nor survive these his so dear issue, and therefore caused himself to be conveyed and shut up alive in the monument of his ancestors, where he made shift to kill and bury himself at once. ‘Tis hard to shew a more vehement paternal affection than this. Cassius Severus, a man of great eloquence and his very intimate friend, seeing his books burned, cried out that by the same sentence they should as well condemn him to the fire too, seeing that he carried in his memory all that they contained. The like accident befel Cremutius Cordus, who being accused of having in his books commended Brutus and Cassius, that dirty, servile, and corrupt Senate, worthy a worse master than Tiberius, condemned his writings to the flame. He was willing to bear them company, and killed himself with fasting. The good Lucan, being condemned by that rascal Nero, at the last gasp of his life, when the greater part of his blood was already spent through the veins of his arms, which he had caused his physician to open to make him die, and when the cold had seized upon all his extremities, and began to approach his vital parts, the last thing he had in his memory was some of the verses of his Battle of Phaysalia, which he recited, dying with them in his mouth. What was this, but taking a tender and paternal leave of his children, in imitation of the valedictions and embraces, wherewith we part from ours, when we come to die, and an effect of that natural inclination, that suggests to our remembrance in this extremity those things which were dearest to us during the time of our life?

Can we believe that Epicurus who, as he says himself, dying of the intolerable pain of the stone, had all his consolation in the beauty of the doctrine he left behind him, could have received the same satisfaction from many children, though never so well-conditioned and brought up, had he had them, as he did from the production of so many rich writings? Or that, had it been in his choice to have left behind him a deformed and untoward child or a foolish and ridiculous book, he, or any other man of his understanding, would not rather have chosen to have run the first misfortune than the other? It had been, for example, peradventure, an impiety in St. Augustin, if, on the one hand, it had been proposed to him to bury his writings, from which religion has received so great fruit, or on the other to bury his children, had he had them, had he not rather chosen to bury his children. And I know not whether I had not much rather have begot a very beautiful one, through society with the Muses, than by lying with my wife. To this, such as it is, what I give it I give absolutely and irrevocably, as men do to their bodily children. That little I have done for it, is no more at my own disposal; it may know many things that are gone from me, and from me hold that which I have not retained; and which, as well as a stranger, I should borrow thence, should I stand in need. If I am wiser than my book, it is richer than I. There are few men addicted to poetry, who would not be much prouder to be the father to the AEneid than to the handsomest youth of Rome; and who would not much better bear the loss of the one than of the other. For according to Aristotle, the poet, of all artificers, is the fondest of his work. ‘Tis hard to believe that Epaminondas, who boasted that in lieu of all posterity he left two daughters behind him that would one day do their father honour (meaning the two victories he obtained over the Lacedaemonians), would willingly have consented to exchange these for the most beautiful creatures of all Greece; or that Alexander or Caesar ever wished to be deprived of the grandeur of their glorious exploits in war, for the convenience of children and heirs, how perfect and accomplished soever. Nay, I make a great question, whether Phidias or any other excellent sculptor would be so solicitous of the preservation and continuance of his natural children, as he would be of a rare statue, which with long labour and study he had perfected according to art. And to those furious and irregular passions that have sometimes inflamed fathers towards their own daughters, and mothers towards their own sons, the like is also found in this other sort of parentage: witness what is related of Pygmalion who, having made the statue of a woman of singular beauty, fell so passionately in love with this work of his, that the gods in favour of his passion inspired it with life.

“Tentatum mollescit ebur, positoque rigore,
Subsidit digitis.”

[“The ivory grows soft under his touch and yields to his fingers.”
—Ovid, Metam., x. 283.]


‘Tis an ill custom and unmanly that the gentlemen of our time have got, not to put on arms but just upon the point of the most extreme necessity, and to lay them by again, so soon as ever there is any show of the danger being over; hence many disorders arise; for every one bustling and running to his arms just when he should go to charge, has his cuirass to buckle on when his companions are already put to rout. Our ancestors were wont to give their head-piece, lance and gauntlets to be carried, but never put off the other pieces so long as there was any work to be done. Our troops are now cumbered and rendered unsightly with the clutter of baggage and servants who cannot be from their masters, by reason they carry their arms. Titus Livius speaking of our nation:

“Intolerantissima laboris corpora vix arma humeris gerebant.”

[“Bodies most impatient of labour could scarce endure to wear
their arms on their shoulders.”—Livy, x. 28.]

Many nations do yet, and did anciently, go to war without defensive arms, or with such, at least, as were of very little proof:

“Tegmina queis capitum, raptus de subere cortex.”

[“To whom the coverings of the heads were the bark of the
cork-tree.”—AEneid, vii. 742.]

Alexander, the most adventurous captain that ever was, very seldom wore armour, and such amongst us as slight it, do not by that much harm to the main concern; for if we see some killed for want of it, there are few less whom the lumber of arms helps to destroy, either by being overburthened, crushed, and cramped with their weight, by a rude shock, or otherwise. For, in plain truth, to observe the weight and thickness of the armour we have now in use, it seems as if we only sought to defend ourselves, and are rather loaded than secured by it. We have enough to do to support its weight, being so manacled and immured, as if we were only to contend with our own arms, and as if we had not the same obligation to defend them, that they have to defend us. Tacitus gives a pleasant description of the men-at-arms among our ancient Gauls, who were so armed as only to be able to stand, without power to harm or to be harmed, or to rise again if once struck down. Lucullus, seeing certain soldiers of the Medes, who formed the van of Tigranes’ army, heavily armed and very uneasy, as if in prisons of iron, thence conceived hopes with great ease to defeat them, and by them began his charge and victory. And now that our musketeers are in credit, I believe some invention will be found out to immure us for our safety, and to draw us to the war in castles, such as those the ancients loaded their elephants withal.

This humour is far differing from that of the younger Scipio, who sharply reprehended his soldiers for having planted caltrops under water, in a ditch by which those of the town he held besieged might sally out upon him; saying, that those who assaulted should think of attacking, and not to fear; suspecting, with good reason, that this stop they had put to the enemies, would make themselves less vigilant upon their guard. He said also to a young man, who showed him a fine buckler he had, that he was very proud of, “It is a very fine buckler indeed, but a Roman soldier ought to repose greater confidence in his right hand than in his left.”

Now ‘tis nothing but the not being used to wear it that makes the weight of our armour so intolerable:

“L’usbergo in dosso haveano, et l’elmo in testa,
Due di questi guerrier, de’ quali io canto;
Ne notte o di, d’ appoi ch’ entraro in questa
Stanza, gl’haveano mai messi da canto;
Che facile a portar come la vesta
Era lor, perche in uso l’havean tanto:”

[“Two of the warriors, of whom I sing, had on their backs their
cuirass and on their heads their casque, and never had night or day
once laid them by, whilst here they were; those arms, by long
practice, were grown as light to bear as a garment”
—Ariosto, Cant., MI. 30.]

the Emperor Caracalla was wont to march on foot, completely armed, at the head of his army. The Roman infantry always carried not only a morion, a sword, and a shield (for as to arms, says Cicero, they were so accustomed to have them always on, that they were no more trouble to them than their own limbs):

“Arma enim membra militis esse dicunt.”

but, moreover, fifteen days’ provision, together with a certain number of stakes, wherewith to fortify their camp, sixty pounds in weight. And Marius’ soldiers, laden at the same rate, were inured to march in order of battle five leagues in five hours, and sometimes, upon any urgent occasion, six.

Their military discipline was much ruder than ours, and accordingly produced much greater effects. The younger Scipio, reforming his army in Spain, ordered his soldiers to eat standing, and nothing that was drest. The jeer that was given a Lacedaemonian soldier is marvellously pat to this purpose, who, in an expedition of war, was reproached for having been seen under the roof of a house: they were so inured to hardship that, let the weather be what it would, it was a shame to be seen under any other cover than the roof of heaven. We should not march our people very far at that rate.

As to what remains, Marcellinus, a man bred up in the Roman wars, curiously observes the manner of the Parthians arming themselves, and the rather, for being so different from that of the Romans. “They had,” says he, “armour so woven as to have all the scales fall over one another like so many little feathers; which did nothing hinder the motion of the body, and yet were of such resistance, that our darts hitting upon them, would rebound” (these were the coats of mail our forefathers were so constantly wont to use). And in another place: “they had,” says he, “strong and able horses, covered with thick tanned hides of leather, and were themselves armed ‘cap-a-pie’ with great plates of iron, so artificially ordered, that in all parts of the limbs, which required bending, they lent themselves to the motion. One would have said, that they had been men of iron; having armour for the head so neatly fitted, and so naturally representing the form of a face, that they were nowhere vulnerable, save at two little round holes, that gave them a little light, corresponding with their eyes, and certain small chinks about their nostrils, through which they, with great difficulty, breathed,”

“Flexilis inductis animatur lamina membris,
Horribilis visu; credas simulacra moveri
Ferrea, cognatoque viros spirare metallo.
Par vestitus equis: ferrata fronte minantur,
Ferratosque movent, securi vulneris, armos.”

[“Plates of steel are placed over the body, so flexible that,
dreadful to be seen, you would think these not living men, but
moving images. The horses are similarly armed, and, secured from
wounds, move their iron shoulders.”—Claud, In Ruf., ii. 358.]

‘Tis a description drawing very near resembling the equipage of the men-at-arms in France, with their barded horses. Plutarch says, that Demetrius caused two complete suits of armour to be made for himself and for Alcimus, a captain of the greatest note and authority about him, of six score pounds weight each, whereas the ordinary suits weighed but half as much.


I make no doubt but that I often happen to speak of things that are much better and more truly handled by those who are masters of the trade. You have here purely an essay of my natural parts, and not of those acquired: and whoever shall catch me tripping in ignorance, will not in any sort get the better of me; for I should be very unwilling to become responsible to another for my writings, who am not so to myself, nor satisfied with them. Whoever goes in quest of knowledge, let him fish for it where it is to be found; there is nothing I so little profess. These are fancies of my own, by which I do not pretend to discover things but to lay open myself; they may, peradventure, one day be known to me, or have formerly been, according as fortune has been able to bring me in place where they have been explained; but I have utterly forgotten it; and if I am a man of some reading, I am a man of no retention; so that I can promise no certainty, more than to make known to what point the knowledge I now have has risen. Therefore, let none lay stress upon the matter I write, but upon my method in writing it. Let them observe, in what I borrow, if I have known how to choose what is proper to raise or help the invention, which is always my own. For I make others say for me, not before but after me, what, either for want of language or want of sense, I cannot myself so well express. I do not number my borrowings, I weigh them; and had I designed to raise their value by number, I had made them twice as many; they are all, or within a very few, so famed and ancient authors, that they seem, methinks, themselves sufficiently to tell who they are, without giving me the trouble. In reasons, comparisons, and arguments, if I transplant any into my own soil, and confound them amongst my own, I purposely conceal the author, to awe the temerity of those precipitate censors who fall upon all sorts of writings, particularly the late ones, of men yet living; and in the vulgar tongue which puts every one into a capacity of criticising and which seem to convict the conception and design as vulgar also. I will have them give Plutarch a fillip on my nose, and rail against Seneca when they think they rail at me. I must shelter my own weakness under these great reputations. I shall love any one that can unplume me, that is, by clearness of understanding and judgment, and by the sole distinction of the force and beauty of the discourse. For I who, for want of memory, am at every turn at a loss to, pick them out of their national livery, am yet wise enough to know, by the measure of my own abilities, that my soil is incapable of producing any of those rich flowers that I there find growing; and that all the fruits of my own growth are not worth any one of them. For this, indeed, I hold myself responsible; if I get in my own way; if there be any vanity and defect in my writings which I do not of myself perceive nor can discern, when pointed out to me by another; for many faults escape our eye, but the infirmity of judgment consists in not being able to discern them, when by another laid open to us. Knowledge and truth may be in us without judgment, and judgment also without them; but the confession of ignorance is one of the finest and surest testimonies of judgment that I know. I have no other officer to put my writings in rank and file, but only fortune. As things come into my head, I heap them one upon another; sometimes they advance in whole bodies, sometimes in single file. I would that every one should see my natural and ordinary pace, irregular as it is; I suffer myself to jog on at my own rate. Neither are these subjects which a man is not permitted to be ignorant in, or casually and at a venture, to discourse of. I could wish to have a more perfect knowledge of things, but I will not buy it so dear as it costs. My design is to pass over easily, and not laboriously, the remainder of my life; there is nothing that I will cudgel my brains about; no, not even knowledge, of what value soever.

I seek, in the reading of books, only to please myself by an honest diversion; or, if I study, ‘tis for no other science than what treats of the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to die and how to live well.

“Has meus ad metas sudet oportet equus.”

[“My horse must work according to my step.”
—Propertius, iv.]

I do not bite my nails about the difficulties I meet with in my reading; after a charge or two, I give them over. Should I insist upon them, I should both lose myself and time; for I have an impatient understanding, that must be satisfied at first: what I do not discern at once is by persistence rendered more obscure. I do nothing without gaiety; continuation and a too obstinate endeavour, darkens, stupefies, and tires my judgment. My sight is confounded and dissipated with poring; I must withdraw it, and refer my discovery to new attempts; just as, to judge rightly of the lustre of scarlet, we are taught to pass the eye lightly over it, and again to run it over at several sudden and reiterated glances. If one book do not please me, I take another; and I never meddle with any, but at such times as I am weary of doing nothing. I care not much for new ones, because the old seem fuller and stronger; neither do I converse much with Greek authors, because my judgment cannot do its work with imperfect intelligence of the material.

Amongst books that are simply pleasant, of the moderns, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Rabelais, and the Basia of Johannes Secundus (if those may be ranged under the title) are worth reading for amusement. As to the Amadis, and such kind of stuff, they had not the credit of arresting even my childhood. And I will, moreover, say, whether boldly or rashly, that this old, heavy soul of mine is now no longer tickled with Ariosto, no, nor with the worthy Ovid; his facility and inventions, with which I was formerly so ravished, are now of no more relish, and I can hardly have the patience to read them. I speak my opinion freely of all things, even of those that, perhaps, exceed my capacity, and that I do not conceive to be, in any wise, under my jurisdiction. And, accordingly, the judgment I deliver, is to show the measure of my own sight, and not of the things I make so bold to criticise. When I find myself disgusted with Plato’s ‘Axiochus’, as with a work, with due respect to such an author be it spoken, without force, my judgment does not believe itself: it is not so arrogant as to oppose the authority of so many other famous judgments of antiquity, which it considers as its tutors and masters, and with whom it is rather content to err; in such a case, it condemns itself either to stop at the outward bark, not being able to penetrate to the heart, or to consider it by sortie false light. It is content with only securing itself from trouble and disorder; as to its own weakness, it frankly acknowledges and confesses it. It thinks it gives a just interpretation to the appearances by its conceptions presented to it; but they are weak and imperfect. Most of the fables of AEsop have diverse senses and meanings, of which the mythologists chose some one that quadrates well to the fable; but, for the most part, ‘tis but the first face that presents itself and is superficial only; there yet remain others more vivid, essential, and profound, into which they have not been able to penetrate; and just so ‘tis with me.

But, to pursue the business of this essay, I have always thought that, in poesy, Virgil, Lucretius, Catullus, and Horace by many degrees excel the rest; and signally, Virgil in his Georgics, which I look upon as the most accomplished piece in poetry; and in comparison of which a man may easily discern that there are some places in his AEneids, to which the author would have given a little more of the file, had he had leisure: and the fifth book of his AEneids seems to me the most perfect. I also love Lucan, and willingly read him, not so much for his style, as for his own worth, and the truth and solidity of his opinions and judgments. As for good Terence, the refined elegance and grace of the Latin tongue, I find him admirable in his vivid representation of our manners and the movements of the soul; our actions throw me at every turn upon him; and I cannot read him so often that I do not still discover some new grace and beauty. Such as lived near Virgil’s time complained that some should compare Lucretius to him. I am of opinion that the comparison is, in truth, very unequal: a belief that, nevertheless, I have much ado to assure myself in, when I come upon some excellent passage in Lucretius. But if they were so angry at this comparison, what would they say to the brutish and barbarous stupidity of those who, nowadays, compare him with Ariosto? Would not Ariosto himself say?

“O seclum insipiens et inficetum!”

[“O stupid and tasteless age.”—Catullus, xliii. 8.]

I think the ancients had more reason to be angry with those who compared Plautus with Terence, though much nearer the mark, than Lucretius with Virgil. It makes much for the estimation and preference of Terence, that the father of Roman eloquence has him so often, and alone of his class, in his mouth; and the opinion that the best judge of Roman poets —[Horace, De Art. Poetica, 279.]—has passed upon his companion. I have often observed that those of our times, who take upon them to write comedies (in imitation of the Italians, who are happy enough in that way of writing), take three or four plots of those of Plautus or Terence to make one of their own, and , crowd five or six of Boccaccio’s novels into one single comedy. That which makes them so load themselves with matter is the diffidence they have of being able to support themselves with their own strength. They must find out something to lean to; and not having of their own stuff wherewith to entertain us, they bring in the story to supply the defect of language. It is quite otherwise with my author; the elegance and perfection of his way of speaking makes us lose the appetite of his plot; his refined grace and elegance of diction everywhere occupy us: he is so pleasant throughout,

“Liquidus, puroque simillimus amni,”

[“Liquid, and likest the pure river.”
—Horace, Ep., ii. s, 120.]

and so possesses the soul with his graces that we forget those of his fable. This same consideration carries me further: I observe that the best of the ancient poets have avoided affectation and the hunting after, not only fantastic Spanish and Petrarchic elevations, but even the softer and more gentle touches, which are the ornament of all succeeding poesy. And yet there is no good judgment that will condemn this in the ancients, and that does not incomparably more admire the equal polish, and that perpetual sweetness and flourishing beauty of Catullus’s epigrams, than all the stings with which Martial arms the tails of his. This is by the same reason that I gave before, and as Martial says of himself:

“Minus illi ingenio laborandum fuit,
in cujus locum materia successerat:”

[“He had the less for his wit to do that the subject itself
supplied what was necessary.”—Martial, praef. ad lib. viii.]

The first, without being moved, or without getting angry, make themselves sufficiently felt; they have matter enough of laughter throughout, they need not tickle themselves; the others have need of foreign assistance; as they have the less wit they must have the more body; they mount on horseback, because they are not able to stand on their own legs. As in our balls, those mean fellows who teach to dance, not being able to represent the presence and dignity of our noblesse, are fain to put themselves forward with dangerous jumping, and other strange motions and tumblers tricks; and the ladies are less put to it in dance; where there are various coupees, changes, and quick motions of body, than in some other of a more sedate kind, where they are only to move a natural pace, and to represent their ordinary grace and presence. And so I have seen good drolls, when in their own everyday clothes, and with the same face they always wear, give us all the pleasure of their art, when their apprentices, not yet arrived at such a pitch of perfection, are fain to meal their faces, put themselves into ridiculous disguises, and make a hundred grotesque faces to give us whereat to laugh. This conception of mine is nowhere more demonstrable than in comparing the AEneid with Orlando Furioso; of which we see the first, by dint of wing, flying in a brave and lofty place, and always following his point: the latter, fluttering and hopping from tale to tale, as from branch to branch, not daring to trust his wings but in very short flights, and perching at every turn, lest his breath and strength should fail.

“Excursusque breves tentat.”

[“And he attempts short excursions.”
—Virgil, Georgics, iv. 194.]

These, then, as to this sort of subjects, are the authors that best please me.

As to what concerns my other reading, that mixes a little more profit with the pleasure, and whence I learn how to marshal my opinions and conditions, the books that serve me to this purpose are Plutarch, since he has been translated into French, and Seneca. Both of these have this notable convenience suited to my humour, that the knowledge I there seek is discoursed in loose pieces, that do not require from me any trouble of reading long, of which I am incapable. Such are the minor works of the first and the epistles of the latter, which are the best and most profiting of all their writings. ‘Tis no great attempt to take one of them in hand, and I give over at pleasure; for they have no sequence or dependence upon one another. These authors, for the most part, concur in useful and true opinions; and there is this parallel betwixt them, that fortune brought them into the world about the same century: they were both tutors to two Roman emperors: both sought out from foreign countries: both rich and both great men. Their instruction is the cream of philosophy, and delivered after a plain and pertinent manner. Plutarch is more uniform and constant; Seneca more various and waving: the last toiled and bent his whole strength to fortify virtue against weakness, fear, and vicious appetites; the other seems more to slight their power, and to disdain to alter his pace and to stand upon his guard. Plutarch’s opinions are Platonic, gentle, and accommodated to civil society; those of the other are Stoical and Epicurean, more remote from the common use, but, in my opinion, more individually commodious and more firm. Seneca seems to lean a little to the tyranny of the emperors of his time, and only seems; for I take it for certain that he speaks against his judgment when he condemns the action of the generous murderers of Caesar. Plutarch is frank throughout: Seneca abounds with brisk touches and sallies; Plutarch with things that warm and move you more; this contents and pays you better: he guides us, the other pushes us on.

As to Cicero, his works that are most useful to my design are they that treat of manners and rules of our life. But boldly to confess the truth (for since one has passed the barriers of impudence, there is no bridle), his way of writing appears to me negligent and uninviting: for his prefaces, definitions, divisions, and etymologies take up the greatest part of his work: whatever there is of life and marrow is smothered and lost in the long preparation. When I have spent an hour in reading him, which is a great deal for me, and try to recollect what I have thence extracted of juice and substance, for the most part I find nothing but wind; for he is not yet come to the arguments that serve to his purpose, and to the reasons that properly help to form the knot I seek. For me, who only desire to become more wise, not more learned or eloquent, these logical and Aristotelian dispositions of parts are of no use. I would have a man begin with the main proposition. I know well enough what death and pleasure are; let no man give himself the trouble to anatomise them to me. I look for good and solid reasons, at the first dash, to instruct me how to stand their shock, for which purpose neither grammatical subtleties nor the quaint contexture of words and argumentations are of any use at all. I am for discourses that give the first charge into the heart of the redoubt; his languish about the subject; they are proper for the schools, for the bar, and for the pulpit, where we have leisure to nod, and may awake, a quarter of an hour after, time enough to find again the thread of the discourse. It is necessary to speak after this manner to judges, whom a man has a design to gain over, right or wrong, to children and common people, to whom a man must say all, and see what will come of it. I would not have an author make it his business to render me attentive: or that he should cry out fifty times Oyez! as the heralds do. The Romans, in their religious exercises, began with ‘Hoc age’ as we in ours do with ‘Sursum corda’; these are so many words lost to me: I come already fully prepared from my chamber. I need no allurement, no invitation, no sauce; I eat the meat raw, so that, instead of whetting my appetite by these preparatives, they tire and pall it. Will the licence of the time excuse my sacrilegious boldness if I censure the dialogism of Plato himself as also dull and heavy, too much stifling the matter, and lament so much time lost by a man, who had so many better things to say, in so many long and needless preliminary interlocutions? My ignorance will better excuse me in that I understand not Greek so well as to discern the beauty of his language. I generally choose books that use sciences, not such as only lead to them. The two first, and Pliny, and their like, have nothing of this Hoc age; they will have to do with men already instructed; or if they have, ‘tis a substantial Hoc age; and that has a body by itself. I also delight in reading the Epistles to Atticus, not only because they contain a great deal of the history and affairs of his time, but much more because I therein discover much of his own private humours; for I have a singular curiosity, as I have said elsewhere, to pry into the souls and the natural and true opinions of the authors, with whom I converse. A man may indeed judge of their parts, but not of their manners nor of themselves, by the writings they exhibit upon the theatre of the world. I have a thousand times lamented the loss of the treatise Brutus wrote upon Virtue, for it is well to learn the theory from those who best know the practice.

But seeing the matter preached and the preacher are different things, I would as willingly see Brutus in Plutarch, as in a book of his own. I would rather choose to be certainly informed of the conference he had in his tent with some particular friends of his the night before a battle, than of the harangue he made the next day to his army; and of what he did in his closet and his chamber, than what he did in the public square and in the senate. As to Cicero, I am of the common opinion that, learning excepted, he had no great natural excellence. He was a good citizen, of an affable nature, as all fat, heavy men, such as he was, usually are; but given to ease, and had, in truth, a mighty share of vanity and ambition. Neither do I know how to excuse him for thinking his poetry fit to be published; ‘tis no great imperfection to make ill verses, but it is an imperfection not to be able to judge how unworthy his verses were of the glory of his name. For what concerns his eloquence, that is totally out of all comparison, and I believe it will never be equalled. The younger Cicero, who resembled his father in nothing but in name, whilst commanding in Asia, had several strangers one day at his table, and, amongst the rest, Cestius seated at the lower end, as men often intrude to the open tables of the great. Cicero asked one of his people who that man was, who presently told him his name; but he, as one who had his thoughts taken up with something else, and who had forgotten the answer made him, asking three or four times, over and over again; the same question, the fellow, to deliver himself from so many answers and to make him know him by some particular circumstance; “‘tis that Cestius,” said he, “of whom it was told you, that he makes no great account of your father’s eloquence in comparison of his own.” At which Cicero, being suddenly nettled, commanded poor Cestius presently to be seized, and caused him to be very well whipped in his own presence; a very discourteous entertainer! Yet even amongst those, who, all things considered, have reputed his, eloquence incomparable, there have been some, who have not stuck to observe some faults in it: as that great Brutus his friend, for example, who said ‘twas a broken and feeble eloquence, ‘fyactam et elumbem’. The orators also, nearest to the age wherein he lived, reprehended in him the care he had of a certain long cadence in his periods, and particularly took notice of these words, ‘esse videatur’, which he there so often makes use of. For my part, I more approve of a shorter style, and that comes more roundly off. He does, though, sometimes shuffle his parts more briskly together, but ‘tis very seldom. I have myself taken notice of this one passage:

“Ego vero me minus diu senem mallem,
quam esse senem, antequam essem.”

[“I had rather be old a brief time, than be old before old age.
—“Cicero, De Senect., c. 10.]

The historians are my right ball, for they are pleasant and easy, and where man, in general, the knowledge of whom I hunt after, appears more vividly and entire than anywhere else:

[The easiest of my amusements, the right ball at tennis being that
which coming to the player from the right hand, is much easier
played with.—Coste.]

the variety and truth of his internal qualities, in gross and piecemeal, the diversity of means by which he is united and knit, and the accidents that threaten him. Now those that write lives, by reason they insist more upon counsels than events, more upon what sallies from within, than upon what happens without, are the most proper for my reading; and, therefore, above all others, Plutarch is the man for me. I am very sorry we have not a dozen Laertii,—[Diogenes Laertius, who wrote the Lives of the Philosophers]—or that he was not further extended; for I am equally curious to know the lives and fortunes of these great instructors of the world, as to know the diversities of their doctrines and opinions. In this kind of study of histories, a man must tumble over, without distinction, all sorts of authors, old and new, French or foreign, there to know the things of which they variously treat. But Caesar, in my opinion, particularly deserves to be studied, not for the knowledge of the history only, but for himself, so great an excellence and perfection he has above all the rest, though Sallust be one of the number. In earnest, I read this author with more reverence and respect than is usually allowed to human writings; one while considering him in his person, by his actions and miraculous greatness, and another in the purity and inimitable polish of his language, wherein he not only excels all other historians, as Cicero confesses, but, peradventure, even Cicero himself; speaking of his enemies with so much sincerity in his judgment, that, the false colours with which he strives to palliate his evil cause, and the ordure of his pestilent ambition excepted, I think there is no fault to be objected against him, saving this, that he speaks too sparingly of himself, seeing so many great things could not have been performed under his conduct, but that his own personal acts must necessarily have had a greater share in them than he attributes to them.

I love historians, whether of the simple sort, or of the higher order. The simple, who have nothing of their own to mix with it, and who only make it their business to collect all that comes to their knowledge, and faithfully to record all things, without choice or discrimination, leave to us the entire judgment of discerning the truth. Such, for example, amongst others, is honest Froissart, who has proceeded in his undertaking with so frank a plainness that, having committed an error, he is not ashamed to confess and correct it in the place where the finger has been laid, and who represents to us even the variety of rumours that were then spread abroad, and the different reports that were made to him; ‘tis the naked and inform matter of history, and of which every one may make his profit, according to his understanding. The more excellent sort of historians have judgment to pick out what is most worthy to be known; and, of two reports, to examine which is the most likely to be true: from the condition of princes and their humours, they conclude their counsels, and attribute to them words proper for the occasion; such have title to assume the authority of regulating our belief to what they themselves believe; but certainly, this privilege belongs to very few. For the middle sort of historians, of which the most part are, they spoil all; they will chew our meat for us; they take upon them to judge of, and consequently, to incline the history to their own fancy; for if the judgment lean to one side, a man cannot avoid wresting and writhing his narrative to that bias; they undertake to select things worthy to be known, and yet often conceal from us such a word, such a private action, as would much better instruct us; omit, as incredible, such things as they do not understand, and peradventure some, because they cannot express good French or Latin. Let them display their eloquence and intelligence, and judge according to their own fancy: but let them, withal, leave us something to judge of after them, and neither alter nor disguise, by their abridgments and at their own choice, anything of the substance of the matter, but deliver it to us pure and entire in all its dimensions.

For the most part, and especially in these latter ages, persons are culled out for this work from amongst the common people, upon the sole consideration of well-speaking, as if we were to learn grammar from them; and the men so chosen have fair reason, being hired for no other end and pretending to nothing but babble, not to be very solicitous of any part but that, and so, with a fine jingle of words, prepare us a pretty contexture of reports they pick up in the streets. The only good histories are those that have been written themselves who held command in the affairs whereof they write, or who participated in the conduct of them, or, at least, who have had the conduct of others of the same nature. Such are almost all the Greek and Roman histories: for, several eye-witnesses having written of the same subject, in the time when grandeur and learning commonly met in the same person, if there happen to be an error, it must of necessity be a very slight one, and upon a very doubtful incident. What can a man expect from a physician who writes of war, or from a mere scholar, treating of the designs of princes? If we could take notice how scrupulous the Romans were in this, there would need but this example: Asinius Pollio found in the histories of Caesar himself something misreported, a mistake occasioned; either by reason he could not have his eye in all parts of his army at once and had given credit to some individual persons who had not delivered him a very true account; or else, for not having had too perfect notice given him by his lieutenants of what they had done in his absence.—[Suetonius, Life of Caesar, c. 56.]—By which we may see, whether the inquisition after truth be not very delicate, when a man cannot believe the report of a battle from the knowledge of him who there commanded, nor from the soldiers who were engaged in it, unless, after the method of a judicial inquiry, the witnesses be confronted and objections considered upon the proof of the least detail of every incident. In good earnest the knowledge we have of our own affairs, is much more obscure: but that has been sufficiently handled by Bodin, and according to my own sentiment —[In the work by jean Bodin, entitled “Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem.” 1566.]—A little to aid the weakness of my memory (so extreme that it has happened to me more than once, to take books again into my hand as new and unseen, that I had carefully read over a few years before, and scribbled with my notes) I have adopted a custom of late, to note at the end of every book (that is, of those I never intend to read again) the time when I made an end on’t, and the judgment I had made of it, to the end that this might, at least, represent to me the character and general idea I had conceived of the author in reading it; and I will here transcribe some of those annotations.

I wrote this, some ten years ago, in my Guicciardini (of what language soever my books speak to me in, I always speak to them in my own): “He is a diligent historiographer, from whom, in my opinion, a man may learn the truth of the affairs of his time, as exactly as from any other; in the most of which he was himself also a personal actor, and in honourable command. There is no appearance that he disguised anything, either upon the account of hatred, favour, or vanity; of which the free censures he passes upon the great ones, and particularly those by whom he was advanced and employed in commands of great trust and honour, as Pope Clement VII., give ample testimony. As to that part which he thinks himself the best at, namely, his digressions and discourses, he has indeed some very good, and enriched with fine features; but he is too fond of them: for, to leave nothing unsaid, having a subject so full, ample, almost infinite, he degenerates into pedantry and smacks a little of scholastic prattle. I have also observed this in him, that of so many souls and so many effects, so many motives and so many counsels as he judges, he never attributes any one to virtue, religion, or conscience, as if all these were utterly extinct in the world: and of all the actions, how brave soever in outward show they appear in themselves, he always refers the cause and motive to some vicious occasion or some prospect of profit. It is impossible to imagine but that, amongst such an infinite number of actions as he makes mention of, there must be some one produced by the way of honest reason. No corruption could so universally have infected men that some one would not escape the contagion which makes me suspect that his own taste was vicious, whence it might happen that he judged other men by himself.”

In my Philip de Commines there is this written: “You will here find the language sweet and delightful, of a natural simplicity, the narration pure, with the good faith of the author conspicuous therein; free from vanity, when speaking of himself, and from affection or envy, when speaking of others: his discourses and exhortations rather accompanied with zeal and truth, than with any exquisite sufficiency; and, throughout, authority and gravity, which bespeak him a man of good extraction, and brought up in great affairs.”

Upon the Memoirs of Monsieur du Bellay I find this: “‘Tis always pleasant to read things written by those that have experienced how they ought to be carried on; but withal, it cannot be denied but there is a manifest decadence in these two lords—[Martin du Bellay and Guillaume de Langey, brothers, who jointly wrote the Memoirs.]—from the freedom and liberty of writing that shine in the elder historians, such as the Sire de Joinville, the familiar companion of St. Louis; Eginhard, chancellor to Charlemagne; and of later date, Philip de Commines. What we have here is rather an apology for King Francis, against the Emperor Charles V., than history. I will not believe that they have falsified anything, as to matter of fact; but they make a common practice of twisting the judgment of events, very often contrary to reason, to our advantage, and of omitting whatsoever is ticklish to be handled in the life of their master; witness the proceedings of Messieurs de Montmorency and de Biron, which are here omitted: nay, so much as the very name of Madame d’Estampes is not here to be found. Secret actions an historian may conceal; but to pass over in silence what all the world knows and things that have drawn after them public and such high consequences, is an inexcusable defect. In fine, whoever has a mind to have a perfect knowledge of King Francis and the events of his reign, let him seek it elsewhere, if my advice may prevail. The only profit a man can reap from these Memoirs is in the special narrative of battles and other exploits of war wherein these gentlemen were personally engaged; in some words and private actions of the princes of their time, and in the treaties and negotiations carried on by the Seigneur de Langey, where there are everywhere things worthy to be known, and discourses above the vulgar strain.”


I fancy virtue to be something else, and something more noble, than good nature, and the mere propension to goodness, that we are born into the world withal. Well-disposed and well-descended souls pursue, indeed, the same methods, and represent in their actions the same face that virtue itself does: but the word virtue imports, I know not what, more great and active than merely for a man to suffer himself, by a happy disposition, to be gently and quietly drawn to the rule of reason. He who, by a natural sweetness and facility, should despise injuries received, would doubtless do a very fine and laudable thing; but he who, provoked and nettled to the quick by an offence, should fortify himself with the arms of reason against the furious appetite of revenge, and after a great conflict, master his own passion, would certainly do a great deal more. The first would do well; the latter virtuously: one action might be called goodness, and the other virtue; for methinks, the very name of virtue presupposes difficulty and contention, and cannot be exercised without an opponent. ‘Tis for this reason, perhaps, that we call God good, mighty, liberal and just; but we do not call Him virtuous, being that all His operations are natural and without endeavour.—[Rousseau, in his Emile, book v., adopts this passage almost in the same words.]— It has been the opinion of many philosophers, not only Stoics, but Epicureans—and this addition—

[“Montaigne stops here to make his excuse for thus naming the
Epicureans with the Stoics, in conformity to the general opinion
that the Epicureans were not so rigid in their morals as the Stoics,
which is not true in the main, as he demonstrates at one view. This
involved Montaigne in a tedious parenthesis, during which it is
proper that the reader be attentive, that he may not entirely lose
the thread of the argument. In some later editions of this author,
it has been attempted to remedy this inconvenience, but without
observing that Montaigne’s argument is rendered more feeble and
obscure by such vain repetitions: it is a licence that ought not to
be taken, because he who publishes the work of another, ought to
give it as the other composed ft. But, in Mr Cotton’s translation,
he was so puzzled with this enormous parenthesis that he has quite
left it out”—Coste.]

I borrow from the vulgar opinion, which is false, notwithstanding the witty conceit of Arcesilaus in answer to one, who, being reproached that many scholars went from his school to the Epicurean, but never any from thence to his school, said in answer, “I believe it indeed; numbers of capons being made out of cocks, but never any cocks out of capons.” —[Diogenes Laertius, Life of Archesilaus, lib. iv., 43.]—For, in truth, the Epicurean sect is not at all inferior to the Stoic in steadiness, and the rigour of opinions and precepts. And a certain Stoic, showing more honesty than those disputants, who, in order to quarrel with Epicurus, and to throw the game into their hands, make him say what he never thought, putting a wrong construction upon his words, clothing his sentences, by the strict rules of grammar, with another meaning, and a different opinion from that which they knew he entertained in his mind and in his morals, the Stoic, I say, declared that he abandoned the Epicurean sect, upon this among other considerations, that he thought their road too lofty and inaccessible;

[“And those are called lovers of pleasure, being in effect
lovers of honour and justice, who cultivate and observe all
the virtues.”—Cicero, Ep. Fam., xv. i, 19.]

These philosophers say that it is not enough to have the soul seated in a good place, of a good temper, and well disposed to virtue; it is not enough to have our resolutions and our reasoning fixed above all the power of fortune, but that we are, moreover, to seek occasions wherein to put them to the proof: they would seek pain, necessity, and contempt to contend with them and to keep the soul in breath:

“Multum sibi adjicit virtus lacessita.”

[“Virtue is much strengthened by combats.”
or: “Virtue attacked adds to its own force.”
—Seneca, Ep., 13.]

‘Tis one of the reasons why Epaminondas, who was yet of a third sect, —[The Pythagorean.]—refused the riches fortune presented to him by very lawful means; because, said he, I am to contend with poverty, in which extreme he maintained himself to the last. Socrates put himself, methinks, upon a ruder trial, keeping for his exercise a confounded scolding wife, which was fighting at sharps. Metellus having, of all the Roman senators, alone attempted, by the power of virtue, to withstand the violence of Saturninus, tribune of the people at Rome, who would, by all means, cause an unjust law to pass in favour of the commons, and, by so doing, having incurred the capital penalties that Saturninus had established against the dissentient, entertained those who, in this extremity, led him to execution with words to this effect: That it was a thing too easy and too base to do ill; and that to do well where there was no danger was a common thing; but that to do well where there was danger was the proper office of a man of virtue. These words of Metellus very clearly represent to us what I would make out, viz., that virtue refuses facility for a companion; and that the easy, smooth, and descending way by which the regular steps of a sweet disposition of nature are conducted is not that of a true virtue; she requires a rough and stormy passage; she will have either exotic difficulties to wrestle with, like that of Metellus, by means whereof fortune delights to interrupt the speed of her career, or internal difficulties, that the inordinate appetites and imperfections of our condition introduce to disturb her.

I am come thus far at my ease; but here it comes into my head that the soul of Socrates, the most perfect that ever came to my knowledge, should by this rule be of very little recommendation; for I cannot conceive in that person any the least motion of a vicious inclination: I cannot imagine there could be any difficulty or constraint in the course of his virtue: I know his reason to be so powerful and sovereign over him that she would never have suffered a vicious appetite so much as to spring in him. To a virtue so elevated as his, I have nothing to oppose. Methinks I see him march, with a victorious and triumphant pace, in pomp and at his ease, without opposition or disturbance. If virtue cannot shine bright, but by the conflict of contrary appetites, shall we then say that she cannot subsist without the assistance of vice, and that it is from her that she derives her reputation and honour? What then, also, would become of that brave and generous Epicurean pleasure, which makes account that it nourishes virtue tenderly in her lap, and there makes it play and wanton, giving it for toys to play withal, shame, fevers, poverty, death, and torments? If I presuppose that a perfect virtue manifests itself in contending, in patient enduring of pain, and undergoing the uttermost extremity of the gout; without being moved in her seat; if I give her troubles and difficulty for her necessary objects: what will become of a virtue elevated to such a degree, as not only to despise pain, but, moreover, to rejoice in it, and to be tickled with the throes of a sharp colic, such as the Epicureans have established, and of which many of them, by their actions, have given most manifest proofs? As have several others, who I find to have surpassed in effects even the very rules of their discipline. Witness the younger Cato: When I see him die, and tearing out his own bowels, I am not satisfied simply to believe that he had then his soul totally exempt from all trouble and horror: I cannot think that he only maintained himself in the steadiness that the Stoical rules prescribed him; temperate, without emotion, and imperturbed. There was, methinks, something in the virtue of this man too sprightly and fresh to stop there; I believe that, without doubt, he felt a pleasure and delight in so noble an action, and was more pleased in it than in any other of his life:

“Sic abiit a vita, ut causam moriendi nactum se esse gauderet.”

[“He quitted life rejoicing that a reason for dying had arisen.”
—Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 30.]

I believe it so thoroughly that I question whether he would have been content to have been deprived of the occasion of so brave an exploit; and if the goodness that made him embrace the public concern more than his own, withheld me not, I should easily fall into an opinion that he thought himself obliged to fortune for having put his virtue upon so brave a trial, and for having favoured that theif—[Caesar]—in treading underfoot the ancient liberty of his country. Methinks I read in this action I know not what exaltation in his soul, and an extraordinary and manly emotion of pleasure, when he looked upon the generosity and height of his enterprise:

“Deliberate morte ferocior,”

[“The more courageous from the deliberation to die.”
—Horace, Od., i. 37, 29.]

not stimulated with any hope of glory, as the popular and effeminate judgments of some have concluded (for that consideration was too mean and low to possess so generous, so haughty, and so determined a heart as his), but for the very beauty of the thing in itself, which he who had the handling of the springs discerned more clearly and in its perfection than we are able to do. Philosophy has obliged me in determining that so brave an action had been indecently placed in any other life than that of Cato; and that it only appertained to his to end so; notwithstanding, and according to reason, he commanded his son and the senators who accompanied him to take another course in their affairs:

“Catoni, quum incredibilem natura tribuisset gravitatem,
eamque ipse perpetue constantia roboravisset, semperque
in proposito consilio permansisset, moriendum potius,
quam tyranni vultus aspiciendus, erat.”

[“Cato, whom nature had given incredible dignity, which he had
fortified by perpetual constancy, ever remaining of his
predetermined opinion, preferred to die rather than to look
on the countenance of a tyrant.”—Cicero, De Ofc., i. 31.]

Every death ought to hold proportion with the life before it; we do not become others for dying. I always interpret the death by the life preceding; and if any one tell me of a death strong and constant in appearance, annexed to a feeble life, I conclude it produced by some feeble cause, and suitable to the life before. The easiness then of his death and the facility of dying he had acquired by the vigour of his soul; shall we say that it ought to abate anything of the lustre of his virtue? And who, that has his brain never so little tinctured with the true philosophy, can be content to imagine Socrates only free from fear and passion in the accident of his prison, fetters, and condemnation? and that will not discover in him not only firmness and constancy (which was his ordinary condition), but, moreover, I know not what new satisfaction, and a frolic cheerfulness in his last words and actions? In the start he gave with the pleasure of scratching his leg when his irons were taken off, does he not discover an equal serenity and joy in his soul for being freed from past inconveniences, and at the same time to enter into the knowledge of the things to come? Cato shall pardon me, if he please; his death indeed is more tragical and more lingering; but yet this is, I know not how, methinks, finer. Aristippus, to one that was lamenting this death: “The gods grant me such an one,” said he. A man discerns in the soul of these two great men and their imitators (for I very much doubt whether there were ever their equals) so perfect a habitude to virtue, that it was turned to a complexion. It is no longer a laborious virtue, nor the precepts of reason, to maintain which the soul is so racked, but the very essence of their soul, its natural and ordinary habit; they have rendered it such by a long practice of philosophical precepts having lit upon a rich and fine nature; the vicious passions that spring in us can find no entrance into them; the force and vigour of their soul stifle and extinguish irregular desires, so soon as they begin to move.

Now, that it is not more noble, by a high and divine resolution, to hinder the birth of temptations, and to be so formed to virtue, that the very seeds of vice are rooted out, than to hinder by main force their progress; and, having suffered ourselves to be surprised with the first motions of the passions, to arm ourselves and to stand firm to oppose their progress, and overcome them; and that this second effect is not also much more generous than to be simply endowed with a facile and affable nature, of itself disaffected to debauchery and vice, I do not think can be doubted; for this third and last sort of virtue seems to render a man innocent, but not virtuous; free from doing ill, but not apt enough to do well: considering also, that this condition is so near neighbour to imperfection and cowardice, that I know not very well how to separate the confines and distinguish them: the very names of goodness and innocence are, for this reason, in some sort grown into contempt. I very well know that several virtues, as chastity, sobriety, and temperance, may come to a man through personal defects. Constancy in danger, if it must be so called, the contempt of death, and patience in misfortunes, may ofttimes be found in men for want of well judging of such accidents, and not apprehending them for such as they are. Want of apprehension and stupidity sometimes counterfeit virtuous effects as I have often seen it happen, that men have been commended for what really merited blame. An Italian lord once said this, in my presence, to the disadvantage of his own nation: that the subtlety of the Italians, and the vivacity of their conceptions were so great, and they foresaw the dangers and accidents that might befall them so far off, that it was not to be thought strange, if they were often, in war, observed to provide for their safety, even before they had discovered the peril; that we French and the Spaniards, who were not so cunning, went on further, and that we must be made to see and feel the danger before we would take the alarm; but that even then we could not stick to it. But the Germans and Swiss, more gross and heavy, had not the sense to look about them, even when the blows were falling about their ears. Peradventure, he only talked so for mirth’s sake; and yet it is most certain that in war raw soldiers rush into dangers with more precipitancy than after they have been cudgelled*—(The original has eschauldex—scalded)

“Haud ignarus . . . . quantum nova gloria in armis,
Et praedulce decus, primo certamine possit.”

[“Not ignorant how much power the fresh glory of arms and sweetest
honour possess in the first contest.”—AEneid, xi. 154]

For this reason it is that, when we judge of a particular action, we are to consider the circumstances, and the whole man by whom it is performed, before we give it a name.

To instance in myself: I have sometimes known my friends call that prudence in me, which was merely fortune; and repute that courage and patience, which was judgment and opinion; and attribute to me one title for another, sometimes to my advantage and sometimes otherwise. As to the rest, I am so far from being arrived at the first and most perfect degree of excellence, where virtue is turned into habit, that even of the second I have made no great proofs. I have not been very solicitous to curb the desires by which I have been importuned. My virtue is a virtue, or rather an innocence, casual and accidental. If I had been born of a more irregular complexion, I am afraid I should have made scurvy work; for I never observed any great stability in my soul to resist passions, if they were never so little vehement: I know not how to nourish quarrels and debates in my own bosom, and, consequently, owe myself no great thanks that I am free from several vices:

“Si vitiis mediocribus et mea paucis
Mendosa est natura, alioqui recta, velut si
Egregio inspersos reprehendas corpore naevos:”

[“If my nature be disfigured only with slight and few vices, and is
otherwise just, it is as if you should blame moles on a fair body.”
—Horatius, Sat., i. 6, 65.]

I owe it rather to my fortune than my reason. She has caused me to be descended of a race famous for integrity and of a very good father; I know not whether or no he has infused into me part of his humours, or whether domestic examples and the good education of my infancy have insensibly assisted in the work, or, if I was otherwise born so:

“Seu Libra, seu me Scorpius adspicit
Formidolosus, pars violentior
Natalis hors, seu tyrannus
Hesperive Capricornus undae:”

[“Whether the Balance or dread Scorpio, more potent over my natal
hour, aspects me, or Capricorn, supreme over the Hesperian sea.”
—Horace, Od., ii. 117.]

but so it is, that I have naturally a horror for most vices. The answer of Antisthenes to him who asked him, which was the best apprenticeship “to unlearn evil,” seems to point at this. I have them in horror, I say, with a detestation so natural, and so much my own, that the same instinct and impression I brought of them with me from my nurse, I yet retain, and no temptation whatever has had the power to make me alter it. Not so much as my own discourses, which in some things lashing out of the common road might seem easily to license me to actions that my natural inclination makes me hate. I will say a prodigious thing, but I will say it, however: I find myself in many things more under reputation by my manners than by my opinion, and my concupiscence less debauched than my reason. Aristippus instituted opinions so bold in favour of pleasure and riches as set all the philosophers against him: but as to his manners, Dionysius the tyrant, having presented three beautiful women before him, to take his choice; he made answer, that he would choose them all, and that Paris got himself into trouble for having preferred one before the other two: but, having taken them home to his house, he sent them back untouched. His servant finding himself overladen upon the way, with the money he carried after him, he ordered him to pour out and throw away that which troubled him. And Epicurus, whose doctrines were so irreligious and effeminate, was in his life very laborious and devout; he wrote to a friend of his that he lived only upon biscuit and water, entreating him to send him a little cheese, to lie by him against he had a mind to make a feast. Must it be true, that to be a perfect good man, we must be so by an occult, natural, and universal propriety, without law, reason, or example? The debauches wherein I have been engaged, have not been, I thank God, of the worst sort, and I have condemned them in myself, for my judgment was never infected by them; on the contrary, I accuse them more severely in myself than in any other; but that is all, for, as to the rest. I oppose too little resistance and suffer myself to incline too much to the other side of the balance, excepting that I moderate them, and prevent them from mixing with other vices, which for the most part will cling together, if a man have not a care. I have contracted and curtailed mine, to make them as single and as simple as I can:

“Nec ultra
Errorem foveo.”

[“Nor do I cherish error further.”
or: “Nor carry wrong further.”
—Juvenal, viii. 164.]

For as to the opinion of the Stoics, who say, “That the wise man when he works, works by all the virtues together, though one be most apparent, according to the nature of the action”; and herein the similitude of a human body might serve them somewhat, for the action of anger cannot work, unless all the humours assist it, though choler predominate; —if they will thence draw a like consequence, that when the wicked man does wickedly, he does it by all the vices together, I do not believe it to be so, or else I understand them not, for I by effect find the contrary. These are sharp, unsubstantial subleties, with which philosophy sometimes amuses itself. I follow some vices, but I fly others as much as a saint would do. The Peripatetics also disown this indissoluble connection; and Aristotle is of opinion that a prudent and just man may be intemperate and inconsistent. Socrates confessed to some who had discovered a certain inclination to vice in his physiognomy, that it was, in truth, his natural propension, but that he had by discipline corrected it. And such as were familiar with the philosopher Stilpo said, that being born with addiction to wine and women, he had by study rendered himself very abstinent both from the one and the other.

What I have in me of good, I have, quite contrary, by the chance of my birth; and hold it not either by law, precept, or any other instruction; the innocence that is in me is a simple one; little vigour and no art. Amongst other vices, I mortally hate cruelty, both by nature and judgment, as the very extreme of all vices: nay, with so much tenderness that I cannot see a chicken’s neck pulled off without trouble, and cannot without impatience endure the cry of a hare in my dog’s teeth, though the chase be a violent pleasure. Such as have sensuality to encounter, freely make use of this argument, to shew that it is altogether “vicious and unreasonable; that when it is at the height, it masters us to that degree that a man’s reason can have no access,” and instance our own experience in the act of love,

“Quum jam praesagit gaudia corpus,
Atque in eo est Venus,
ut muliebria conserat arva.”

[None of the translators of the old editions used for this etext
have been willing to translate this passage from Lucretius, iv.
1099; they take a cop out by bashfully saying: “The sense is in the
preceding passage of the text.” D.W.]

wherein they conceive that the pleasure so transports us, that our reason cannot perform its office, whilst we are in such ecstasy and rapture. I know very well it may be otherwise, and that a man may sometimes, if he will, gain this point over himself to sway his soul, even in the critical moment, to think of something else; but then he must ply it to that bent. I know that a man may triumph over the utmost effort of this pleasure: I have experienced it in myself, and have not found Venus so imperious a goddess, as many, and much more virtuous men than I, declare. I do not consider it a miracle, as the Queen of Navarre does in one of the Tales of her Heptameron—[“Vu gentil liure pour son estoffe.”]—(which is a very pretty book of its kind), nor for a thing of extreme difficulty, to pass whole nights, where a man has all the convenience and liberty he can desire, with a long-coveted mistress, and yet be true to the pledge first given to satisfy himself with kisses and suchlike endearments, without pressing any further. I conceive that the example of the pleasure of the chase would be more proper; wherein though the pleasure be less, there is the higher excitement of unexpected joy, giving no time for the reason, taken by surprise, to prepare itself for the encounter, when after a long quest the beast starts up on a sudden in a place where, peradventure, we least expected it; the shock and the ardour of the shouts and cries of the hunters so strike us, that it would be hard for those who love this lesser chase, to turn their thoughts upon the instant another way; and the poets make Diana triumph over the torch and shafts of Cupid:

“Quis non malarum, quas amor curas habet,
Haec inter obliviscitur?”

[“Who, amongst such delights would not remove out of his thoughts
the anxious cares of love.”—Horace, Epod., ii. 37.]

To return to what I was saying before, I am tenderly compassionate of others’ afflictions, and should readily cry for company, if, upon any occasion whatever, I could cry at all. Nothing tempts my tears but tears, and not only those that are real and true, but whatever they are, feigned or painted. I do not much lament the dead, and should envy them rather; but I very much lament the dying. The savages do not so much offend me, in roasting and eating the bodies of the dead, as they do who torment and persecute the living. Nay, I cannot look so much as upon the ordinary executions of justice, how reasonable soever, with a steady eye. Some one having to give testimony of Julius Caesar’s clemency; “he was,” says he, “mild in his revenges. Having compelled the pirates to yield by whom he had before been taken prisoner and put to ransom; forasmuch as he had threatened them with the cross, he indeed condemned them to it, but it was after they had been first strangled. He punished his secretary Philemon, who had attempted to poison him, with no greater severity than mere death.” Without naming that Latin author,—[Suetonius, Life of Casay, c. 74.]—who thus dares to allege as a testimony of mercy the killing only of those by whom we have been offended; it is easy to guess that he was struck with the horrid and inhuman examples of cruelty practised by the Roman tyrants.

For my part, even in justice itself, all that exceeds a simple death appears to me pure cruelty; especially in us who ought, having regard to their souls, to dismiss them in a good and calm condition; which cannot be, when we have agitated them by insufferable torments. Not long since, a soldier who was a prisoner, perceiving from a tower where he was shut up, that the people began to assemble to the place of execution, and that the carpenters were busy erecting a scaffold, he presently concluded that the preparation was for him, and therefore entered into a resolution to kill himself, but could find no instrument to assist him in his design except an old rusty cart-nail that fortune presented to him; with this he first gave himself two great wounds about his throat, but finding these would not do, he presently afterwards gave himself a third in the belly, where he left the nail sticking up to the head. The first of his keepers who came in found him in this condition: yet alive, but sunk down and exhausted by his wounds. To make use of time, therefore, before he should die, they made haste to read his sentence; which having done, and he hearing that he was only condemned to be beheaded, he seemed to take new courage, accepted wine which he had before refused, and thanked his judges for the unhoped-for mildness of their sentence; saying, that he had taken a resolution to despatch himself for fear of a more severe and insupportable death, having entertained an opinion, by the preparations he had seen in the place, that they were resolved to torment him with some horrible execution, and seemed to be delivered from death in having it changed from what he apprehended.

I should advise that those examples of severity by which ‘tis designed to retain the people in their duty, might be exercised upon the dead bodies of criminals; for to see them deprived of sepulture, to see them boiled and divided into quarters, would almost work as much upon the vulgar, as the pain they make the living endure; though that in effect be little or nothing, as God himself says, “Who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do;”—[Luke, xii. 4.]—and the poets singularly dwell upon the horrors of this picture, as something worse than death:

“Heu! reliquias semiustas regis, denudatis ossibus,
Per terram sanie delibutas foede divexarier.”

[“Alas! that the half-burnt remains of the king, exposing his bones,
should be foully dragged along the ground besmeared with gore.”
—Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 44.]

I happened to come by one day accidentally at Rome, just as they were upon executing Catena, a notorious robber: he was strangled without any emotion of the spectators, but when they came to cut him in quarters, the hangman gave not a blow that the people did not follow with a doleful cry and exclamation, as if every one had lent his sense of feeling to the miserable carcase. Those inhuman excesses ought to be exercised upon the bark, and not upon the quick. Artaxerxes, in almost a like case, moderated the severity of the ancient laws of Persia, ordaining that the nobility who had committed a fault, instead of being whipped, as they were used to be, should be stripped only and their clothes whipped for them; and that whereas they were wont to tear off their hair, they should only take off their high-crowned tiara.’—[Plutarch, Notable Sayings of the Ancient King.]—The so devout Egyptians thought they sufficiently satisfied the divine justice by sacrificing hogs in effigy and representation; a bold invention to pay God so essential a substance in picture only and in show.

I live in a time wherein we abound in incredible examples of this vice, through the licence of our civil wars; and we see nothing in ancient histories more extreme than what we have proof of every day, but I cannot, any the more, get used to it. I could hardly persuade myself, before I saw it with my eyes, that there could be found souls so cruel and fell, who, for the sole pleasure of murder, would commit it; would hack and lop off the limbs of others; sharpen their wits to invent unusual torments and new kinds of death, without hatred, without profit, and for no other end but only to enjoy the pleasant spectacle of the gestures and motions, the lamentable groans and cries of a man dying in anguish. For this is the utmost point to which cruelty can arrive:

“Ut homo hominem, non iratus, non timens,
tantum spectaturus, occidat.”

[“That a man should kill a man, not being angry, not in fear, only
for the sake of the spectacle.”—Seneca, Ep., 90.]

For my own part, I cannot without grief see so much as an innocent beast pursued and killed that has no defence, and from which we have received no offence at all; and that which frequently happens, that the stag we hunt, finding himself weak and out of breath, and seeing no other remedy, surrenders himself to us who pursue him, imploring mercy by his tears:

“Questuque cruentus,
Atque imploranti similis,”

[“Who, bleeding, by his tears seems to crave mercy.”
—AEnead, vii. 501.]

has ever been to me a very unpleasing sight; and I hardly ever take a beast alive that I do not presently turn out again. Pythagoras bought them of fishermen and fowlers to do the same:

“Primoque a caede ferarum,
Incaluisse puto maculatum sanguine ferrum.”

[“I think ‘twas slaughter of wild beasts that first stained the
steel of man with blood.”—Ovid, Met., xv. 106.]

Those natures that are sanguinary towards beasts discover a natural proneness to cruelty. After they had accustomed themselves at Rome to spectacles of the slaughter of animals, they proceeded to those of the slaughter of men, of gladiators. Nature has herself, I fear, imprinted in man a kind of instinct to inhumanity; nobody takes pleasure in seeing beasts play with and caress one another, but every one is delighted with seeing them dismember, and tear one another to pieces. And that I may not be laughed at for the sympathy I have with them, theology itself enjoins us some favour in their behalf; and considering that one and the same master has lodged us together in this palace for his service, and that they, as well as we, are of his family, it has reason to enjoin us some affection and regard to them. Pythagoras borrowed the metempsychosis from the Egyptians; but it has since been received by several nations, and particularly by our Druids:

“Morte carent animae; semperque, priore relicts
Sede, novis domibus vivunt, habitantque receptae.”

[“Souls never die, but, having left their former seat, live
and are received into new homes.”—Ovid, Met., xv. 158.]

The religion of our ancient Gauls maintained that souls, being eternal, never ceased to remove and shift their places from one body to another; mixing moreover with this fancy some consideration of divine justice; for according to the deportments of the soul, whilst it had been in Alexander, they said that God assigned it another body to inhabit, more or less painful, and proper for its condition:

“Muta ferarum
Cogit vincla pati; truculentos ingerit ursis,
Praedonesque lupis; fallaces vulpibus addit:
Atque ubi per varios annos, per mille figuras

Egit, Lethaeo purgatos flumine, tandem
Rursus ad humanae revocat primordia formae:”

[“He makes them wear the silent chains of brutes, the bloodthirsty
souls he encloses in bears, the thieves in wolves, the deceivers in
foxes; where, after successive years and a thousand forms, man had
spent his life, and after purgation in Lethe’s flood, at last he
restores them to the primordial human shapes.”
—Claudian, In Ruf., ii. 482.]

If it had been valiant, he lodged it in the body of a lion; if voluptuous, in that of a hog; if timorous, in that of a hart or hare; if malicious, in that of a fox, and so of the rest, till having purified it by this chastisement, it again entered into the body of some other man:

“Ipse ego nam memini, Trojani, tempore belli
Panthoides Euphorbus eram.”

[“For I myself remember that, in the days of the Trojan war, I was
Euphorbus, son of Pantheus.”—Ovid, Met., xv. 160; and see Diogenes
Laertius, Life of Pythagoras.]

As to the relationship betwixt us and beasts, I do not much admit of it; nor of that which several nations, and those among the most ancient and most noble, have practised, who have not only received brutes into their society and companionship, but have given them a rank infinitely above themselves, esteeming them one while familiars and favourites of the gods, and having them in more than human reverence and respect; others acknowledged no other god or divinity than they:

“Bellux a barbaris propter beneficium consecratae.”

[“Beasts, out of opinion of some benefit received by them, were
consecrated by barbarians”—Cicero, De Natura Deor., i. 36.]

“Crocodilon adorat
Pars haec; illa pavet saturam serpentibus ibin:
Effigies sacri hic nitet aurea cercopitheci;
Hic piscem flumints, illic
Oppida tota canem venerantur.”

[“This place adores the crocodile; another dreads the ibis, feeder
on serpents; here shines the golden image of the sacred ape; here
men venerate the fish of the river; there whole towns worship a
dog.”—Juvenal, xv. 2.]

And the very interpretation that Plutarch, gives to this error, which is very well conceived, is advantageous to them: for he says that it was not the cat or the ox, for example, that the Egyptians adored: but that they, in those beasts, adored some image of the divine faculties; in this, patience and utility: in that, vivacity, or, as with our neighbours the Burgundians and all the Germans, impatience to see themselves shut up; by which they represented liberty, which they loved and adored above all other godlike attributes, and so of the rest. But when, amongst the more moderate opinions, I meet with arguments that endeavour to demonstrate the near resemblance betwixt us and animals, how large a share they have in our greatest privileges, and with how much probability they compare us together, truly I abate a great deal of our presumption, and willingly resign that imaginary sovereignty that is attributed to us over other creatures.

But supposing all this were not true, there is nevertheless a certain respect, a general duty of humanity, not only to beasts that have life and sense, but even to trees, and plants. We owe justice to men, and graciousness and benignity to other creatures that are capable of it; there is a certain commerce and mutual obligation betwixt them and us. Nor shall I be afraid to confess the tenderness of my nature so childish, that I cannot well refuse to play with my dog, when he the most unseasonably importunes me to do so. The Turks have alms and hospitals for beasts. The Romans had public care to the nourishment of geese, by whose vigilance their Capitol had been preserved. The Athenians made a decree that the mules and moyls which had served at the building of the temple called Hecatompedon should be free and suffered to pasture at their own choice, without hindrance. The Agrigentines had a common use solemnly to inter the beasts they had a kindness for, as horses of some rare quality, dogs, and useful birds, and even those that had only been kept to divert their children; and the magnificence that was ordinary with them in all other things, also particularly appeared in the sumptuosity and numbers of monuments erected to this end, and which remained in their beauty several ages after. The Egyptians buried wolves, bears, crocodiles, dogs, and cats in sacred places, embalmed their bodies, and put on mourning at their death. Cimon gave an honourable sepulture to the mares with which he had three times gained the prize of the course at the Olympic Games. The ancient Xantippus caused his dog to be interred on an eminence near the sea, which has ever since retained the name, and Plutarch says, that he had a scruple about selling for a small profit to the slaughterer an ox that had been long in his service.


Learning is, indeed, a very great and a very material accomplishment; and those who despise it sufficiently discover their own want of understanding; but learning yet I do not prize it at the excessive rate that some others do, as Herillus, the philosopher, for one, who therein places the sovereign good, and maintained “That it was only in her to render us wise and contented,” which I do not believe; no more than I do what others have said, that learning is the mother of all virtue, and that all vice proceeds from ignorance, which, if it be true, required a very long interpretation. My house has long-been open to men of knowledge, and is very well known to them; for my father, who governed it fifty years and upwards, inflamed with the new ardour with which Francis the First embraced letters, and brought them into esteem, with great diligence and expense hunted after the acquaintance of learned men, receiving them into his house as persons sacred, and that had some particular inspiration of divine wisdom; collecting their sayings and sentences as so many oracles, and with so much the greater reverence and religion as he was the less able to judge of them; for he had no knowledge of letters any more than his predecessors. For my part I love them well, but I do not adore them. Amongst others, Peter Bunel, a man of great reputation for knowledge in his time, having, with some others of his sort, staid some days at Montaigne in my father’s company, he presented him at his departure with a book, entitled Theologia naturalis; sive Liber Creaturarum, magistri Raimondi de Sebonde. And as the Italian and Spanish tongues were familiar to my father, and as this book was written in a sort of jargon of Spanish with Latin terminations, he hoped that, with a little help, he might be able to understand it, and therefore recommended it to him for a very useful book, and proper tor the time wherein he gave it to him; which was when the novel doctrines of Luther began to be in vogue, and in many places to stagger our ancient belief: wherein he was very well advised, wisely, in his own reason, foreseeing that the beginning of this distemper would easily run into an execrable atheism, for the vulgar, not having the faculty of judging of things, suffering themselves to be carried away by chance and appearance, after having once been inspired with the boldness to despise and control those opinions which they had before had in extreme reverence, such as those wherein their salvation is concerned, and that some of the articles of their religion are brought into doubt and dispute, they afterwards throw all other parts of their belief into the same uncertainty, they having with them no other authority or foundation than the others they had already discomposed; and shake off all the impressions they had received from the authority of the laws, or the reverence of the ancient customs, as a tyrannical yoke:

Nam cupide eonculcatur nimis ante metutum;

“For with most eagerness they spurn the law,
By which they were before most kept in awe;”

resolving to admit nothing for the future to which they had not first interposed their own decrees, and given their particular consent.

It happened that my father, a little before his death, having accidentally found this book under a heap of other neglected papers, commanded me to translate it for him into French. It is good too translate such authors as this, where there is little but the matter itself to express; but such wherein grace of language and elegance of style are aimed at, are dangerous to attempt, especially when a man is to turn them into a weaker idiom. It was a strange and a new undertaking for me; but having by chance at that time nothing else to do, and not being able to resist the command of the best father that ever was, I did it as well as I could; and he was so well pleased with it as to order it to be printed, which after his death was done.

I found the ideas of this author exceeding fine the contexture of his work well followed, and his design full of piety; and because many people take a delight to read it, and particularly the ladies, to whom we owe the most service, I have often thought to assist them to clear the book of two principal objections made to it. His design is bold and daring, for he undertakes, by human and natural reasons, to establish and make good, against the atheists, all the articles of the Christian religion: wherein, to speak the truth, he is so firm and so successful that I do not think it possible to do better upon that subject; nay, I believe he has been equalled by none. This work seeming to me to be too beautiful and too rich for an author whose name is so little known, and of whom all that we know is that he was a Spaniard, practising physic at Toulouse about two hundred years ago; I enquired of Adrian Turnebus, who knew all things, what he thought of that book; who made answer, “That he thought it was some abstract drawn from St. Thomas d’Aquin; for that, in truth, his mind, so full of infinite erudition and admirable subtlety, was alone capable of such thoughts.” Be this as it may, whoever was the author and inventor (and ‘tis not reasonable, without greater certainty, to deprive Sebond of that title), he was a man of great judgment and most admirable parts.

The first thing they reprehend in his work is “That Christians are to blame to repose their belief upon human reason, which is only conceived by faith and the particular inspiration of divine grace.” In which objection there appears to be something of zeal to piety, and therefore we are to endeavour to satisfy those who put it forth with the greater mildness and respect. This were a task more proper for a man well read in divinity than for me, who know nothing of it; nevertheless, I conceive that in a thing so divine, so high, and so far transcending all human intelligence, as is that truth, with which it has pleased the bounty of God to enlighten us, it is very necessary that he should moreover lend us his assistance, as a very extraordinary favour and privilege, to conceive and imprint it in our understanding. And I do not believe that means purely human are in any sort capable of doing it: for, if they were, so many rare and excellent souls, and so abundantly furnished with natural force, in former ages, could not have failed, by their reason, to arrive at this knowledge. ‘Tis faith alone that livelily mind certainly comprehends the deep mysteries of our religion; but, withal, I do not say that it is not a worthy and very laudable attempt to accommodate those natural and human utensils with which God has endowed us to the service of our faith: it is not to be doubted but that it is the most noble use we can put them to; and that there is not a design in a Christian man more noble than to make it the aim and end of all his studies to extend and amplify the truth of his belief. We do not satisfy ourselves with serving God with our souls and understandings only, we moreover owe and render him a corporal reverence, and apply our limbs and motions, and external things to do him honour; we must here do the same, and accompany our faith with all the reason we have, but always with this reservation, not to fancy that it is upon us that it depends, nor that our arguments and endeavours can arrive at so supernatural and divine a knowledge. If it enters not into us by an extraordinary infusion; if it enters not only by reason, but, moreover, by human ways, it is not in us in its true dignity and splendour: and yet, I am afraid, we only have it by this way.

If we hold upon God by the mediation of a lively faith; if we hold upon God by him, and not by us; if we had a divine basis and foundation, human occasions would not have the power to shake us as they do; our fortress would not surrender to so weak a battery; the love of novelty, the constraint of princes, the success of one party, and the rash and fortuitous change of our opinions, would not have the power to stagger and alter our belief: we should not then leave it to the mercy of every new argument, nor abandon it to all the rhetoric in the world; we should withstand the fury of these waves with an immovable and unyielding constancy:

As a great rock repels the rolling tides,

That foam and bark about her marble sides,
From its strong bulk

If we were but touched with this ray of divinity, it would appear throughout; not only our words, but our works also, would carry its brightness and lustre; whatever proceeded from us would be seen illuminated with this noble light. We ought to be ashamed that, in all the human sects, there never was any of the faction, that did not, in some measure, conform his life and behaviour to it, whereas so divine and heavenly an institution does only distinguish Christians by the name! Will you see the proof of this? Compare our manners to those of a Mahometan or Pagan, you will still find that we fall very

short; there, where, out of regard to the reputation and advantage of our religion, we ought to shine in excellency at a vast distance beyond all others: and that it should be said of us, “Are they so just, so charitable, so good: Then they are Christians.” All other signs are common to all religions; hope, trust, events, ceremonies, penance,

martyrs. The peculiar mark of our truth ought to be our virtue, as it is also the most heavenly and difficult, and the most worthy product of truth. For this our good St. Louis was in the right, who, when the Tartar king, who was become Christian, designed to come to Lyons to kiss the Pope’s feet, and there to be an eye-witness of the sanctity he hoped to find in our manner, immediately diverted him from his purpose; for fear lest our disorderly way of living should, on the contrary, put him out of conceit with so holy a belief! And yet it happened quite otherwise since to that other, who, going to Rome, to the same end, and there seeing the dissoluteness of the prelates and people of that time, settled himself so much the more firmly in our religion, considering how great the force and divinity of it must necessarily be that could maintain its dignity and splendour among so much corruption, and in so vicious hands. If we had but one single grain of faith, we should remove mountains from their places, saith the sacred Word; our actions, that would then be directed and accompanied by the divinity, would not be merely human, they would have in them something of miraculous, as well as our belief: Brevis est institutio vit honest beauque, si credos. “Believe, and the way to happiness and virtue is a short one.” Some impose upon the world that they believe that which they do not; others, more in number, make themselves believe that they believe, not being able to penetrate into what it is to believe. We think it strange if, in the civil war which, at this time, disorders our state, we see events float and vary aller a common and ordinary manner; which is because we bring nothing to it but our own. Justice, which is in one party, is only there for ornament and palliation; it, is, indeed, pretended, but ‘tis not there received, settled and espoused: it is there, as in the mouth of an advocate, not as in the heart and affection of the party. God owes his extraordinary assistance to faith and religion; not to our passions. Men there are the conductors, and therein serve themselves with religion, whereas it ought to be quite contrary. Observe, if it be not by our own hands that we guide and train it, and draw it like wax into so many contrary figures, from a rule in itself so direct and firm. When and where was this more manifest than in France in our days? They who have taken it on the left hand, they who have taken it on the right; they who call it black, they who call it white, alike employ it to their violent and ambitious designs, conduct it with a progress, so conform in riot and injustice that they render the diversity they pretended in their opinions, in a thing whereon the conduct and rule of our life depends, doubtful and hard to believe. Did one ever see, come from the same school and discipline, manners more united, and more the same? Do but observe with what horrid impudence we toss divine arguments to and fro, and how irreligiously we have both rejected and retaken them, accord—as fortune has shifted our places in these intestine storms.

This so solemn proposition, “Whether it be lawful for a subject to rebel and take up arms against his prince for the defence of his religion,” do you remember in whose mouths, the last year, the affirmative of it was the prop of one party, and the negative the pillar of another? And hearken now from what quarter comes the voice and instruction of the one and the other, and if arms make less noise and rattle for this cause than for that. We condemn those to the fire who say that truth must be made to bear the yoke of our necessity; and how much worse does France than say it? Let us confess the truth; whoever should draw out from the army, even that raised by the king, those who take up arms out of pure zeal to religion, and also those who only do it to protect the laws of their country, or for the service of their prince, could hardly, out of both these put together, make one complete company of gens-d’armes. Whence does this proceed, that there are so few to be found who have maintained the same will and the same progress in our civil commotions, and that we see them one while move but a foot-pace, and another run full speed? and the same men one while damage our affairs by their violent heat and fierceness, and another by their coldness, gentleness, and slowness; but that they are pushed on by particular and casual considerations, according to the variety wherein they move?

I evidently perceive that we do not willingly afford devotion any other offices but those that least suit with our own passions.

There hostility so admirable as the Christian. Our zeal performs wonders, when it seconds our inclinations to hatred, cruelty, ambition, avarice, detraction, and rebellion: but when it moves, against the hair, towards bounty, benignity, and temperance, unless, by miracle, some rare and virtuous disposition prompts us to it, we stir neither hand nor toot. Our religion is intended to extirpate vices, whereas it screens, nourishes, and incites them. We must not mock God. If we believed in him, I do not say by faith, but with a simple belief, that is to say (and I speak it to our great shame) if we believed in him and recognised him as we do any other history, or as we would do one of our companions, we should love him above all other things for the infinite bounty and beauty that shines in him;—at least, he would go equal in our affection with riches, pleasure, glory, and our friends. The best of us is not so much afraid to outrage him as he is afraid to injure his neighbour, his kinsman, or his master. Is there any understanding so weak that, having on one side the object of one of our vicious pleasures, and on the other (in equal knowledge and persuasion) the state of an immortal glory, would change the first for the other? and yet we often renounce this out of mere contempt: for what lust tempts us to blaspheme, if not, perhaps, the very desire to offend. The philosopher Antisthenes, as he was being initiated in the mysteries of Orpheus, the priest telling him, “That those who professed themselves of that religion were certain to receive perfect and eternal felicity after death,”—“If thou believest that,” answered he, “why dost thou not die thyself?” Diogenes, more rudely, according to his manner, and more remote from our purpose, to the priest that in like manner preached to him, “To become of his religion, that he might obtain the happiness of the other world;—“What!” said he, “thou wouldest have me to believe that Agesilaus and Epaminondas, who were so great men, shall be miserable, and that thou, who art but a calf, and canst do nothing to purpose, shalt be happy, because thou art a priest?” Did we receive these great promises of eternal beatitude with the same reverence and respect that we do a philosophical discourse, we should not have death in so great horror:

Non jam se moriens dissolvi conqurreretur;
Sed magis ire foras, stemque relinquere ut angais,
Gauderet, prealonga senex aut cornua cervus.

“We should not on a death bed grieve to be
Dissolved, but rather launch out cheerfully
From our old hut, and with the snake, be glad
To cast off the corrupted slough we had;
Or with th’ old stag rejoice to be now clear
From the large horns, too ponderous grown to bear.”

“I desire to be dissolved,” we should say, “and to be with Jesus Christ” The force of Plato’s arguments concerning the immortality of the soul set some of his disciples to seek a premature grave, that they might the sooner enjoy the things he had made them hope for.

All this is a most evident sign that we only receive our religion after our own fashion, by our own hands, and no otherwise than as other religions are received. Either we are happened in the country where it is in practice, or we reverence the antiquity of it, or the authority of the men who have maintained it, or fear the menaces it fulminates against misbelievers, or are allured by its promises. These considerations ought, ‘tis true, to be applied to our belief but as subsidiaries only, for they are human obligations. Another religion, other witnesses, the like promises and threats, might, by the same way, imprint a quite contrary belief. We are Christians by the same title that we are Perigordians or Germans. And what Plato says, “That there are few men so obstinate in their atheism whom a pressing danger will not reduce to an acknowledgment of the divine power,” does not concern a true Christian: ‘tis for mortal and human religions to be received by human recommendation. What kind of faith can that be that cowardice and want of courage establish in us? A pleasant faith, that does not believe what it believes but for want of courage to disbelieve it! Can a vicious passion, such as inconstancy and astonishment, cause any regular product in our souls? “They are confident in their judgment,” says he, “that what is said of hell and future torments is all feigned: but an occasion of making the expedient presenting itself, when old age or diseases bring them to the brink of the grave, the terror of death, by the horror of that future condition, inspires them with a new belief!” And by reason that such impressions render them timorous, he forbids in his Laws all such threatening doctrines, and all persuasion that anything of ill can befall a man from the gods, excepting for his great good when they happen to him, and for a medicinal effect. They say of Bion that, infected with the atheism of Theodoras, he had long had religious men in great scorn and contempt, but that death surprising him, he gave himself up to the most extreme superstition; as if the gods withdrew and returned according to the necessities of Bion. Plato and these examples would conclude that we are brought to a belief of God either by reason or by force. Atheism being a proposition as unnatural as monstrous, difficult also and hard to establish in the human understanding, how arrogant soever, there are men enough seen, out of vanity and pride, to be the authors of extraordinary and reforming opinions, and outwardly to affect the profession of them; who, if they are such fools, have, nevertheless, not the power to plant them in their own conscience. Yet will they not fail to lift up their hands towards heaven if you give them a good thrust with a sword in the breast, and when fear or sickness has abated and dulled the licentious fury of this giddy humour they will easily re-unite, and very discreetly suffer themselves to be reconciled to the public faith and examples. A doctrine seriously digested is one thing, and those superficial impressions another; which springing from the disorder of an unhinged understanding, float at random and great uncertainty in the fancy. Miserable and senseless men, who strive to be worse than they can!

The error of paganism and the ignorance of our sacred truth, let this great soul of Plato, but great only in human greatness, fall also into this other mistake, “That children and old men were most susceptible of religion,” as if it sprung and derived its credit from our weakness. The knot that ought to bind the judgment and the will, that ought to restrain the soul and join it to our creator, should be a knot that derives its foldings and strength not from our considerations, from our reasons and passions, but from a divine and supernatural constraint, having but one form, one face, and one lustre, which is the authority of God and his divine grace. Now the heart and soul being governed and commanded by faith, ‘tis but reason that they should muster all our other faculties, according as they are able to perform to the service and assistance of their design. Neither is it to be imagined that all this machine has not some marks imprinted upon it by the hand of the mighty architect, and that there is not in the things of this world some image that in some measure resembles the workman who has built and formed them. He has, in his stupendous works, left the character of his divinity, and ‘tis our own weakness only that hinders us from discerning it. ‘Tis what he himself is pleased to tell us, “That he manifests his invisible operations to us by those that are visible.” Sebond applied himself to this laudable and noble study, and demonstrates to us that there is not any part or member of the world that disclaims or derogates from its maker. It were to do wrong to the divine goodness, did not the universe consent to our belief. The heavens, the earth, the elements, our bodies and our souls,—all things concur to this; we have but to find out the way to use them; they instruct us, if we are capable of instruction. For this world is a sacred temple, into which man is introduced, there to contemplate statues, not the works of a mortal hand, but such as the divine purpose has made the objects of sense; the sun, the stars, the water, and the earth, to represent those that are intelligible to us. “The invisible tilings of God,” says St. Paul, “appear by the creation of the world, his eternal wisdom and divinity being considered by his works.”

And God himself envies not men the grace
Of seeing and admiring heaven’s face;
But, rolling it about, he still anew
Presents its varied splendour to our view,
And on oar minds himself inculcates, so
That we th’ Almighty mover well may know:
Instructing us by seeing him the cause
Of ill, to revcreoce and obey his laws.”

Now our prayers and human discourses are but as sterile and undigested matter. The grace of God is the form; ‘tis that which gives fashion and value to it. As the virtuous actions of Socrates and Cato remain vain and fruitless, for not having had the love and obedience to the true creator of all things, so is it with our imaginations and discourses; they have a kind of body, but it is an inform mass, without fashion and without light, if faith and grace be not added thereto. Faith coming to tinct and illustrate Sehond’s arguments renders them firm and stolid; and to that degree that they are capable of serving for directions, and of being the first guides to an elementary Christian to put him into the way of this knowledge. They in some measure form him to, and render him capable of, the grace of God, by which means he afterwards completes and perfects himself in the true belief. I know a man of authority, bred up to letters, who has confessed to me to have been brought back from the errors of unbelief by Sebond’s arguments. And should they be stripped of this ornament, and of the assistance and approbation of the faith, and be looked upon as mere fancies only, to contend with those who are precipitated into the dreadful and horrible darkness of irrligion, they will even there find them as solid and firm as any others of the same quality that can be opposed against them; so that we shall be ready to say to our opponents:

Si melius quid habes, arcesse; vel imperium fer:

“If you have arguments more fit.
Produce them, or to these submit.”

let them admit the force of our reasons, or let them show us others, and upon some other subject, better woven and of finer thread. I am, unawares, half engaged in the second objection, to which I proposed to make answer in the behalf of Sebond. Some say that his arguments are weak, and unable to make good what he intends, and undertake with great ease to confute them. These are to be a little more roughly handled, for they are more dangerous and malicious than the first Men willingly wrest the sayings of others to favour their own prejudicate opinions. To an atheist all writings tend to atheism: he corrupts the most innocent matter with his own venom. These have their judgments so prepossessed that they cannot relish Sebond’s reasons. As to the rest, they think we give them very fair play in putting them into the liberty of combatting our religion with weapons merely human, whom, in her majesty, full of authority and command, they durst not attack. The means that I shall use, and that I think most proper to subdue this frenzy, is to crush and spurn under foot pride and human arrogance; to make them sensible of the inanity, vanity, and vileness of man; to wrest the wretched arms of their reason out of their hands; to make them bow down and bite the ground under the authority and reverence of the Divine Majesty. ‘Tis to that alone that knowledge and wisdom appertain; that alone that can make a true estimate of itself, and from which we purloin whatever we value ourselves upon: [—Greek—] “God permits not any being but himself to be truly wise.” Let us subdue this presumption, the first foundation of the tyranny of the evil spirit Deus superbis re-sistit, humilibus autem dal gratiam. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” “Understanding is in the gods,” says Plato, “and not at all, or very little, in men.” Now it is in the mean time a great consolation to a Christian man to see our frail and mortal parts so fitly suited to our holy and divine faith that, when we employ them to the subjects of their own mortal and frail nature they are not even there more unitedly or more firmly adjusted. Let us see, then, if man has in his power other more forcible and convincing reasons than those of Sebond; that is to say, if it be in him to arrive at any certainty by argument and reason. For St. Augustin, disputing against these people, has good cause to reproach them with injustice, “In that they maintain the part of our belief to be false that our reason cannot establish.” And to show that a great many things may be, and have been, of which our nature could not sound the reason and causes, he proposes to them certain known and undoubted experiments, wherein men confess they see nothing; and this he does, as all other things, with a curious and ingenious inquisition. We must do more than this, and make them know that, to convince the weakness of their reason, there is no necessity of culling out uncommon examples: and that it is so defective and so blind that there is no faculty clear enough for it; that to it the easy and the hard are all one; that all subjects equally, and nature in general, disclaim its authority and reject its mediation.

What does truth mean when she preaches to us to fly worldly philosophy, when she so often inculcates to us, “That our wisdom is but folly in the sight of God: that the vainest of all vanities is man: that the man who presumes upon his wisdom does not yet know what wisdom is; and that man, who is nothing, if he thinks himself to be anything, does seduce and deceive himself.” These sentences of the Holy Spirit do so clearly and vividly express that which I would maintain that I should need no other proof against men who would with all humility and obedience submit to his authority: but these will be whipped at their own expense, and will not suffer a man to oppose their reason but by itself.

Let us then, for once, consider a man alone, without foreign assistance, armed only with his own proper arms, and unfurnished of the divine grace and wisdom, which is all his honour, strength, and the foundation of his being. Let us see how he stands in this fine equipage. Let him make me understand, by the force of his reason, upon what foundations he has built those great advantages he thinks he has over other creatures. Who has made him believe that this admirable motion of the celestial arch, the eternal light of those luminaries that roll so high over his head, the wondrous and fearful motions of that infinite ocean, should be established and continue so many ages for his service and convenience? Can any thing be imagined so ridiculous, that this miserable and wretched creature, who is not so much as master of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he has not power to know the least part, much less to command the whole? And the privilege which he attributes to himself of being the only creature in this vast fabric who has the understanding to discover the beauty and the paris of it; the only one who can return thanks to the architect, and keep account of the revenues and disbursements of the world; who, I wonder, sealed him this patent? Let us see his commission for this great employment Was it granted in favour of the wise only? Few people will be concerned in it. Are fools and wicked persons worthy so extraordinary a favour, and, being the worst part of the world, to be preferred before the rest? Shall we believe this man?—“For whose sake shall we, therefore, conclude that the world was made? For theirs who have the use of reason: these are gods and men, than whom certainly nothing can be better:” we can never sufficiently decry the impudence of this conjunction. But, wretched creature, what has he in himself worthy of such an advantage? Considering the incorruptible existence of the celestial bodies; beauty; magnitude, and continual revolution by so exact a rule;

Cum suspicimus mni clestia mundi
Templa super, stellisque micantibus arthera fiium,
El venit in mcntem lun solisque viarurn.

“When we the heavenly arch above behold.
And the vast sky adorned with stars of gold.
And mark the r’eglar course? that the sun
And moon in their alternate progress run.”

considering the dominion and influence those bodies have, not only over our lives and fortunes;

Facta etenim et vitas hominum suspendit ab aatris;

“Men’s lives and actions on the stars depend.”

but even over our inclinations, our thoughts and wills, which they govern, incite and agitate at the mercy of their influences, as our reason teaches us;

“Contemplating the stars he finds that they
Rule by a secret and a silent sway;
And that the enamell’d spheres which roll above
Do ever by alternate causes move.
And, studying these, he can also foresee,
By certain signs, the turns of destiny;”

seeing that not only a man, not only kings, but that monarchies, empires, and all this lower world follow the influence of the celestial motions,

“How great a change a little motion brings!
So great this kingdom is that governs kings:”

if our virtue, our vices, our knowledge, and this very discourse we are upon of the power of the stars, and the comparison we are making betwixt them and us, proceed, as our reason supposes, from their favour;

“One mad in love may cross the raging main,
To level lofty Ilium with the plain;
Another’s fate inclines him more by far
To study laws and statutes for the bar.
Sons kill their father, fathers kill their sons,
And one arm’d brother ‘gainst another runs..
This war’s not their’s, but fate’s, that spurs them on
To shed the blood which, shed, they must bemoan;
And I ascribe it to the will of fate
That on this theme I now expatiate:”

if we derive this little portion of reason we have from the bounty of heaven, how is it possible that reason should ever make us equal to it? How subject its essence and condition to our knowledge? Whatever we see in those bodies astonishes us: Qu molitio, qua ferramenta, qui vectes, qu machina, qui ministri tanti operis fuerunt? “What contrivance, what tools, what materials, what engines, were employed about so stupendous a work?” Why do we deprive them of soul, of life, and discourse? Have we discovered in them any immoveable or insensible stupidity, we who have no commerce with them but by obedience? Shall we say that we have discovered in no other creature but man the use of a reasonable soul? What! have we seen any thing like the sun? Does he cease to be, because we have seen nothing like him? And do his motions cease, because there are no other like them? If what we have not seen is not, our knowledge is marvellously contracted: Qu sunt tant animi angusti! “How narrow are our understandings!” Are they not dreams of human vanity, to make the moon a celestial earth? there to fancy mountains and vales, as Anaxagoras did? there to fix habitations and human abodes, and plant colonies for our convenience, as Plato and Plutarch have done? And of our earth to make a luminous and resplendent star? “Amongst the other inconveniences of mortality this is one, that darkness of the understanding which leads men astray, not so much from a necessity of erring, but from a love of error. The corruptible body stupifies the soul, and the earthly habitation dulls the faculties of the imagination.”

Presumption is our natural and original disease. The most wretched and frail of all creatures is man, and withal the proudest. He feels and sees himself lodged here in the dirt and filth of the world, nailed and rivetted to the worst and deadest part of the universe, in the lowest story of the house, the most remote from the heavenly arch, with animals of the worst condition of the three; and yet in his imagination will be placing himself above the circle of the moon, and bringing the heavens under his feet. ‘Tis by the same vanity of imagination that he equals himself to God, attributes to himself divine qualities, withdraws and separates himself from the the crowd of other creatures, cuts out the shares of the animals, his fellows and companions, and distributes to them portions of faculties and force, as himself thinks fit How does he know, by the strength of his understanding, the secret and internal motions of animals?—from what comparison betwixt them and us does he conclude the stupidity he attributes to them? When I play with my cat who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me? We mutually divert one another with our play. If I have my hour to begin or to refus, she also has hers. Plato, in his picture of the golden age under Saturn, reckons, among the chief advantages that a man then had, his communication with beasts, of whom, inquiring and informing himself, he knew the true qualities and differences of them all, by which he acquired a very perfect intelligence and prudence, and led his life more happily than we could do. Need we a better proof to condemn human impudence in the concern of beasts? This great author was of opinion that nature, for the most part in the corporal form she gave them, had only regard to the use of prognostics that were derived thence in his time. The defect that hinders communication betwixt them and us, why may it not be in our part as well as theirs? ‘Tis yet to determine where the fault lies that we understand not one another,—for we understand them no more than they do us; and by the same reason they may think us to be beasts as we think them. ‘Tis no great wonder if we understand not them, when we do not understand a Basque or a Troglodyte. And yet some have boasted that they understood them, as Apollonius Tyanaus, Melampus, Tiresias, Thales, and others. And seeing, as cusmographers report, that there are nations that have a dog for their king, they must of necessity be able to interpret his voice and motions. We must observe the parity betwixt us, have some tolerable apprehension of their meaning, and so have beasts of ours,—much about the same. They caress us, threaten us, and beg of us, and we do the same to them.

As to the rest, we manifestly discover that they have a full and absolute communication amongst themselves, and that they perfectly understand one another, not only those of the same, but of divers kinds:

“The tamer herds, and wilder sort of brutes.
Though we of higher race conclude them mutes.
Yet utter dissonant and various notes,
From gentler lungs or more distended throats,
As fear, or grief, or anger, do them move,
Or as they do approach the joys of love.”

In one kind of barking of a dog the horse knows there is anger, of another sort of bark he is not afraid. Even in the very beasts that have no voice at all, we easily conclude, from the society of offices we observe amongst them, some other sort of communication: their very motions discover it:

“As infants who, for want of words, devise
Expressive motions with their hands and eyes.”

And why not, as well as our dumb people, dispute, argue, and tell stories by signs? Of whom I have seen some, by practice, so clever and active that way that, in fact, they wanted nothing of the perfection of making themselves understood. Lovers are angry, reconciled, intreat, thank, appoint, and, in short, speak all things by their eyes:

“Even silence in a lover
Love and passion can discover.”

What with the hands? We require, promise, call, dismiss, threaten, pray, supplicate, deny, refuse, interrogate, admire, number, confess, repent, fear, express confusion, doubt, instruct, command, incite, encourage, swear, testify, accuse, condemn, absolve, abuse, despise, defy, provoke, flatter, applaud, bless, submit, mock, reconcile, recommend, exalt, entertain, congratulate, complain, grieve, despair, wonder, exclaim, and what not! And all this with a variety and multiplication, even emulating speech. With the head we invite, remand, confess, deny, give the lie, welcome, honour, reverence, disdain, demand, rejoice, lament, reject, caress, rebuke, submit, huff, encourage, threaten, assure, and inquire. What with the eyebrows?—what with the shoulders! There is not a motion that does not speak, and in an intelligible language without discipline, and a public language that every one understands: whence it should follow, the variety and use distinguished from others considered, that these should rather be judged the property of human nature. I omit what necessity particularly does suddenly suggest to those who are in need;—the alphabets upon the fingers, grammars in gesture, and the sciences which are only by them exercised and expressed; and the nations that Pliny reports have no other language. An ambassador of the city of Abdera, after a long conference with Agis, King of Sparta, demanded of him, “Well, sir, what answer must I return to my fellow-citizens?” “That I have given thee leave,” said he, “to say what thou wouldest, and as much as thou wouldest, without ever speaking a word.” is not this a silent speaking, and very easy to be understood?

As to the rest, what is there in us that we do not see in the operations of animals? Is there a polity better ordered, the offices better distributed, and more inviolably observed and maintained, than that of bees? Can we imagine that such, and so regular, a distribution of employments can be carried on without reasoning and deliberation?

“Hence to the bee some sages have assign’d
Some portion of the god and heavenly wind.”

The swallows that we see at the return of the spring, searching all the corners of our houses for the most commodious places wherein to build their nest; do they seek without judgment, and amongst a thousand choose out the most proper for their purpose, without discretion? And in that elegant and admirable contexture of their buildings, can birds rather make choice of a square figure than a round, of an obtuse than of a right angle, without knowing their properties and effects? Do they bring water, and then clay, without knowing that the hardness of the latter grows softer by being wetted? Do they mat their palace with moss or down without foreseeing that their tender young will lie more safe and easy? Do they secure themselves from the wet and rainy winds, and place their lodgings against the east, without knowing the different qualities of the winds, and considering that one is more wholesome than another? Why does the spider make her web tighter in one place, and slacker in another; why now make one sort of knot, and then another, if she has not deliberation, thought, and conclusion? We sufficiently discover in most of their works how much animals excel us, and how unable our art is to imitate them. We see, nevertheless, in our rougher performances, that we employ all our faculties, and apply the utmost power of our souls; why do we not conclude the same of them?

Why should we attribute to I know not what natural and servile inclination the works that excel all we can do by nature and art? wherein, without being aware, we give them a mighty advantage over us in making nature, with maternal gentleness and love, accompany and learn them, as it were, by the hand to all the actions and commodities of their life, whilst she leaves us to chance and fortune, and to seek out by art the things that are necessary to our conservation, at the same time denying us the means of being able, by any instruction or effort of understanding, to arrive at the natural sufficiency of beasts; so that their brutish stupidity surpasses, in all conveniences, all that our divine intelligence can do. Really, at this rate, we might with great reason call her an unjust stepmother: but it is nothing so, our polity is not so irregular and unformed.

Nature has universally cared for all her creatures, and there is not one she has not amply furnished with all means necessary for the conservation of its being. For the common complaints I hear men make (as the license of their opinions one while lifts them up above the clouds, and then again depresses them to the antipodes), that we are the only animal abandoned naked upon the bare earth, tied and bound, not having wherewithal to arm and clothe us but by the spoil of others; whereas nature has covered all other creatures either with shells, husks, bark, hair, wool, prickles, leather, down, feathers, scales, or silk, according to the necessities of their being; has armed them with talons, teeth, or horns, wherewith to assault and defend, and has herself taught them that which is most proper for them, to swim, to run, to fly, and sing, whereas man neither knows how to walk, speak, eat, or do any thing but weep, without teaching;

“Like to the wretched mariner, when toss’d
By raging seas upon the desert coast,
The tender babe lies naked on the earth,
Of all supports of life stript by his birth;
When nature first presents him to the day,
Freed from the cell wherein before he lay,
He fills the ambient air with doleful cries.
Foretelling thus life’s future miseries;
But beasts, both wild and tame, greater and less,
Do of themselves in strength and bulk increase;
They need no rattle, nor the broken chat,
Ay which the nurse first teaches boys to prate
They look not out for different robes to wear,
According to the seasons of the year;
And need no arms nor walls their goods to save,
Since earth and liberal nature ever have,
And will, in all abundance, still produce
All things whereof they can have need or use:”

these complaints are false; there is in the polity of the world a greater equality and more uniform relation. Our skins are as sufficient to defend us from the injuries of the weather as theirs are; witness several nations that yet know not the use of clothes. Our ancient Gauls were but slenderly clad, any more than the Irish, our neighbours, though in so cold a climate; but we may better judge of this by ourselves: for all those parts that we are pleased to expose to the air are found very able to endure it: the face, the feet, the hands, the arms, the head, according to the various habit; if there be a tender part about us, and that would seem to be in danger from cold, it should be the stomach where the digestion is; and yet our forefathers were there always open, and our ladies, as tender and delicate as they are, go sometimes half-bare as low as the navel. Neither is the binding or swathing of infants any more necessary; and the Lacedmoman mothers brought theirs in all liberty of motion of members, without any ligature at all. Our crying is common with the greatest part of other animals, and there are but few creatures that are not observed to groan, and bemoan themselves a long time after they come into the world; forasmuch as it is a behaviour suitable to the weakness wherein they find themselves. As to the custom of eating, it is in us, as in them, natural, and without instruction;

“For every one soon finds his natural force.
Which he, or better may employ, or worse.”

Who doubts but an infant, arrived to the strength of feeding himself, may make shift to find something to eat And the earth produces and offers him wherewithal to supply his necessity, without other culture and artifice; and if not at all times, no more does she do it to beasts, witness the provision we see ants and other creatures hoard up against the dead seasons of the year. The late discovered nations, so abundantly furnished with natural meat and drink, without care, or without cookery, may give us to understand that bread is not our only food, and that, without tillage, our mother nature has provided us sufficiently of all we stand in need of: nay, it appears more fully and plentifully than she does at present, now that we have added our own industry:

“The earth did first spontaneously afford
Choice fruits and wines to furnish out the board;
With herbs and flow’rs unsown in verdant fields.
But scarce by art so good a harvest yields;
Though men and oxen mutually have strove,
With all their utmost force the soil t’ improve,”

the debauchery and irregularity of our appetites outstrips all the inventions we can contrive to satisfy it.

As to arms, we have more natural ones than than most other animals more various motions of limbs, and naturally and without lesson extract more service from them. Those that are trained to fight naked are seen to throw themselves into the like hazards that we do. If some beasts surpass us in this advantage, we surpass many others. And the industry of fortifying the body, and covering it by acquired means, we have by instinct and natural precept? That it is so, the elephant shows who sharpen, and whets the teeth he makes use of in war (for he has particular ones for that service, which he spares, and never employs them at all to any other use); when bulls go to fight, they toss and throw the dust about them; boars whet their tusks; and the ichneumon, when he is about to engage with the crocodile, fortifies his body, and covers and crusts it all over with close-wrought and well-tempered slime, as with a cuirass. Why shall we not say that it is also natural for us to arm ourselves with wood and iron?

As to speech, it is certain that if it be not natural it is not necessary. Nevertheless I believe that a child which had been brought up in an absolute solitude, remote from all society of men (which would be an experiment very hard to make), would have some kind of speech to express his meaning by. And ‘tis not to be supposed that nature should have denied that to us which she has given to several other animals: for what is this faculty we observe in them, of complaining, rejoicing, calling to one another for succour, and inviting each other to love, which they do with the voice, other than speech? And why should they not speak to one another? They speak to us, and we to them. In how many several sorts of ways do we speak to our dogs, and they answer us? We converse with them in another sort of language, and use other appellations, than we do with birds, hogs, oxen, horses, and alter the idiom according to the kind.

“Thus from one swarm of ants some sally out.
To spy another’s stock or mark its rout.”

Lactantius seems to attribute to beasts not only speech, but laughter also. And the difference of language which is seen amongst us, according to the difference of countries, is also observed in animals of the same kind. Aristotle, in proof of this, instances the Various calls of partridges, according to the situation of places:

“And various birds do from their warbling throats
At various times, utter quite different notes,
And some their hoarse songs with the seasons change.”

But it is yet to be known what language this child would speak; and of that what is said by guess has no great appearance. If a man will allege to me, in opposition to this opinion, that those who are naturally deaf speak not, I answer that this is not only because they could not receive the instruction of speaking by ear, but rather because the sense of hearing, of which they are deprived, relates to that of speaking, and that these hold together by a natural and inseparable tie, in such manner that what we speak we must first speak to ourselves within, and make it sound in our own ears, before we can utter it to others.

All this I have said to prove the resemblance there is in human things, and to bring us back and join us to the crowd. We are neither above nor below the rest All that is under heaven, says the sage, runs one law and one fortune:

“All things remain
Bound and entangled in one fatal chain.”

There is, indeed, some difference,—there are several orders and degrees; but it is under the aspect of one and the same nature:

“All things by their own rites proceed, and draw
Towards their ends, by nature’s certain law.”

Man must be compelled and restrained within the bounds of this polity. Miserable creature! he is not in a condition really to step over the rail. He is fettered and circumscribed, he is subjected to the same necessity that the other creatures of his rank and order are, and of a very mean condition, without any prerogative of true and real pre-eminence. That which he attributes to himself, by vain fancy and opinion, has neither body nor taste. And if it be so, that he only, of all the animals, has this liberty of imagination and irregularity of thoughts, representing to him that which is, that which is not, and that he would have, the false and the true, ‘tis an advantage dearly bought, and of which he has very little reason to be proud; for thence springs the principal and original fountain of all the evils that befal him,—sin, sickness, irresolution, affliction, despair. I say, then, to return to my subject, that there is no appearance to induce a man to believe that beasts should, by a natural and forced inclination, do the same things that we do by our choice and industry. We ought from like effects to conclude like faculties, and from greater effects greater faculties; and consequently confess that the same reasoning, and the same ways by which we operate, are common with them, or that they have others that are better. Why should we imagine this natural constraint in them, who experience no such effect in ourselves? added that it is more honourable to be guided and obliged to act regularly by a natural and inevitable condition, and nearer allied to the divinity, than to act regularly by a temerarious and fortuitous liberty, and more safe to entrust the reins of our conduct in the hands of nature than our own. The vanity of our presumption makes us prefer rather to owe our sufficiency to our own exertions than to her bounty, and to enrich the other animals with natural goods, and abjure them in their favour, in order to honour and ennoble ourselves with goods acquired, very foolishly in my opinion; for I should as much value parts and virtues naturally and purely my own as those I had begged and obtained from education. It is not in our power to obtain a nobler reputation than to be favoured of God and nature.

For instance, take the fox, the people of Thrace make use of when they wish to pass over the ice of some frozen river, and turn him out before them to that purpose; when we see him lay his ear upon the bank of the river, down to the ice, to listen if from a more remote or nearer distance he can hear the noise of the waters’ current, and, according as he finds by that the ice to be of a less or greater thickness, to retire or advance,—have we not reason to believe thence that the same rational thoughts passed through his head that we should have upon the like occasions; and that it is a ratiocination and consequence, drawn from natural sense, that that which makes a noise runs, that which runs is not frozen, what is not frozen is liquid, and that which is liquid yields to impression! For to attribute this to a mere quickness of the sense of hearing, without reason and consequence, is a chimra that cannot enter into the imagination. We are to suppose the same of the many sorts of subtleties and inventions with which beasts secure themselves from, and frustrate, the enterprizes we plot against them.

And if we will make an advantage even of this, that it is in our power to seize them, to employ them in our service, and to use them at our pleasure, ‘tis still but the same advantage we have over one another. We have our slaves upon these terms: the Climacid, were they not women in Syria who, squat on all fours, served for a ladder or footstool, by which the ladies mounted their coaches? And the greatest part of free persons surrender, for very trivial conveniences, their life and being into the power of another. The wives and concubines of the Thracians contended who should be chosen to be slain upon their husband’s tomb. Have tyrants ever failed of finding men enough vowed to their devotion? some of them moreover adding this necessity, of accompanying them in death as well as life? Whole armies have bound themselves after this manner to their captains. The form of the oath in the rude school of gladiators was in these words: “We swear to suffer ourselves to be chained, burnt, wounded, and killed with the sword, and to endure all that true gladiators suffer from their master, religiously engaging both body and soul in his service.”

Uire meum, si vis, flamma caput, et pete ferro
Corpus, et iutorto verbere terga seca.

“Wound me with steel, or burn my head with fire.
Or scourge my shoulders with well-twisted wire.”

This was an obligation indeed, and yet there, in one year, ten thousand entered into it, to their destruction. When the Scythians interred their king they strangled upon his body the most beloved of his concubines, his cup-bearer, the master of his horse, his chamberlain, the usher of his chamber, and his cook. And upon the anniversary thereof they killed fifty horses, mounted by fifty pages, that they had impaled all up the spine of the back to the throat, and there left them fixed in triumph about his tomb. The men that serve us do it cheaper, and for a less careful and favourable usage than what we treat our hawks, horses and dogs withal. To what solicitude do we not submit for the conveniences of these? I do not think that servants of the most abject condition would willingly do that for their masters that princes think it an honour to do for their beasts. Diogenes seeing his relations solicitous to redeem, him from servitude: “They are fools,” said he; “‘tis he that keeps and nourishes me that in reality serves me.” And they who entertain beasts ought rather to be said to serve them, than to be served by them. And withal in this these have something more generous in that one lion never submitted to another lion, nor one horse to another, for want of courage. As we go to the chase of beasts, so do tigers and lions to the chase of men, and do the same execution upon one another; dogs upon hares, pikes upon tench, swallows upon grass-hoppers, and sparrow-hawks upon blackbirds and larks:

“The stork with snakes and lizards from the wood
And pathless wilds supports her callow brood,
While Jove’s own eagle, bird of noble blood,
Scours the wide country for undaunted food;
Sweeps the swift hare or swifter fawn away,
And feeds her nestlings with the generous prey.”

We divide the quarry, as well as the pains and labour of the chase, with our hawks and hounds. And about Amphipolis, in Thrace, the hawkers and wild falcons equally divide the prey in the half. As also along the lake Motis, if the fisherman does not honestly leave the wolves an equal share of what he has caught, they presently go and tear his nets in pieces. And as we have a way of sporting that is carried on more by subtlety than force, as springing hares, and angling with line and hook, there is also the like amongst other animals. Aristotle says that the cuttle-fish casts a gut out of her throat as long as a line, which she extends and draws back at pleasure; and as she perceives some little fish approach her she lets it nibble upon the end of this gut, lying herself concealed in the sand or mud, and by little and little draws it in, till the little fish is so near her that at one spring she may catch it.

As to strength, there is no creature in the world exposed to so many injuries as man. We need not a whale, elephant, or a crocodile, nor any such-like animals, of which one alone is sufficient to dispatch a great number of men, to do our business; lice are sufficient to vacate Sylla’s dictatorship; and the heart and life of a great and triumphant emperor is the breakfast of a little contemptible worm!

Why should we say that it is only for man, or knowledge built up by art and meditation, to distinguish the things useful for his being, and proper for the cure of his diseases, and those which are not; to know the virtues of rhubarb and polypody. When we see the goats of Candia, when wounded with an arrow, among a million of plants choose out dittany for their cure; and the tortoise, when she has eaten a viper, immediately go out to look for origanum to purge her; the dragon to rub and clear his eyes with fennel; the storks to give themselves clysters of sea-water; the elephants to draw not only out of their own bodies, and those of their companions, but out of the bodies of their masters too (witness the elephant of King Porus whom Alexander defeated), the darts and javelins thrown at them in battle, and that so dexterously that we ourselves could not do it with so little pain to the patient;—why do we not say here also that this is knowledge and reason? For to allege, to their disparagement, that ‘tis by the sole instruction and dictate of nature that they know all this, is not to take from them the dignity of knowledge and reason, but with greater force to attribute it to them than to us, for the honour of so infallible a mistress. Chrysippus, though in other things as scornful a judge of the condition of animals as any other philosopher whatever, considering the motions of a dog, who coming to a place where three ways met, either to hunt after his master he has lost, or in pursuit of some game that flies before him, goes snuffing first in one of the ways, and then in another, and, after having made himself sure of two, without finding the trace of what he seeks, dashes into the third without examination, is forced to confess that this reasoning is in the dog: “I have traced my master to this place; he must of necessity be gone one of these three ways; he is not gone this way nor that, he must then infallibly be gone this other;” and that assuring himself by this conclusion, he makes no use of his nose in the third way, nor ever lays it to the ground, but suffers himself to be carried on there bv the force of reason. This sally, purely logical, and this use of propositions divided and conjoined, and the right enumeration of parts, is it not every whit as good that the dog knows all this of himself as well as from Trapezuntius?

Animals are not incapable, however, of being instructed after our method. We teach blackbirds, ravens, pies, and parrots, to speak: and the facility wherewith we see they lend us their voices, and render both them and their breath so supple and pliant, to be formed and confined within a certain number of letters and syllables, does evince that they have a reason within, which renders them so docile and willing to learn. Everybody, I believe, is glutted with the several sorts of tricks that tumblers teach their dogs; the dances, where they do not miss any one cadence of the sound they hear; the several various motions and leaps they make them perform by the command of a word. But I observe this effect with the greatest admiration, which nevertheless is very common, in the dogs that lead the blind, both in the country and in cities: I have taken notice how they stop at certain doors, where they are wont to receive alms; how they avoid the encounter of coaches and carts, even there where they have sufficient room to pass; I have seen them, by the trench of a town, forsake a plain and even path and take a worse, only to keep their masters further from the ditch;—how could a man have made this dog understand that it was his office to look to his master’s safely only, and to despise his own conveniency to serve him? And how had he the knowledge that a way was wide enough for him that was not so for a blind man? Can all this be apprehended without ratiocination!

I must not omit what Plutarch says he saw of a dog at Rome with the Emperor Vespasian, the father, at the theatre of Marcellus. This dog served a player, that played a farce of several parts and personages, and had therein his part. He had, amongst other things, to counterfeit himself for some time dead, by reason of a certain drug he was supposed to eat After he had swallowed a piece of bread, which passed for the drug, he began after awhile to tremble and stagger, as if he was taken giddy: at last, stretching himself out stiff, as if dead, he suffered himself to be drawn and dragged from place to place, as it was his part to do; and afterward, when he knew it to be time, he began first gently to stir, as if awaking out of a profound sleep, and lifting up his head looked about him after such a manner as astonished all the spectators.

The oxen that served in the royal gardens of Susa, to water them, and turn certain great wheels to draw water for that purpose, to which buckets were fastened (such as there are many in Languedoc), being ordered every one to draw a hundred turns a day, they were so accustomed to this number that it was impossible by any force to make them draw one turn more; but, their task being performed, they would suddenly stop and stand still. We are almost men before we can count a hundred, and have lately discovered nations that have no knowledge of numbers at all.

There is more understanding required in the teaching of’ others than in being taught. Now, setting aside what Democritus held and proved, “That most of the arts we have were taught us by other animals,” as by the spider to weave and sew; by the swallow to build; by the swan and nightingale music; and by several animals to make medicines:—Aristotle is of opinion “That the nightingales teach their young ones to sing, and spend a great deal of time and care in it;” whence it happens that those we bring up in cages, and which have not had the time to learn of their parents, want much of the grace of their singing: we may judge by this that they improve by discipline and study; and, even amongst the wild, it is not all and every one alike—every one has learnt to do better or worse, according to their capacity. And so jealous are they one of another, whilst learning, that they contention with emulation, and by so vigorous a contention that sometimes the vanquished fall dead upon the place, the breath rather failing than the voice. The younger ruminate pensively and begin to mutter some broken notes; the disciple listens to the master’s lesson, and gives the best account he is able; they are silent oy turns; one may hear faults corrected and observe some reprehensions of the teacher. “ have formerly seen,” says Arrian, “an elephant having a cymbal hung at each leg, and another fastened to his trunk, at the sound of which all the others danced round about him, rising and bending at certain cadences, as they were guided by the instrument; and ‘twas delightful to hear this harmony.” In the spectacles of Rome there were ordinarily seen elephants taught to move and dance to the sound of the voice, dances wherein were several changes and cadences very hard to learn. And some have been known so intent upon their lesson as privately to practice it by themselves, that they might not be chidden nor beaten by their masters.

But this other story of the pie, of which we have Plutarch himself for a warrant, is very strange. She lived in a barber’s shop at Rome, and did wonders in imitating with her voice whatever she heard. It happened one day that certain trumpeters stood a good while sounding before the shop. After that, and all the next day, the pie was pensive, dumb, and melancholic; which every body wondered at, and thought the noise of the trumpets had so stupified and astonished her that her voice was gone with her hearing. But they found at last that it was a profound meditation and a retiring into herself, her thoughts exercising and preparing her voice to imitate the sound of those trumpets, so that the first voice she uttered was perfectly to imitate their strains, stops, and changes; having by this new lesson quitted and taken in disdain all she had learned before.

I will not omit this other example of a dog, also, which the same Plutarch (I am sadly confounding all order, but I do not propose arrangement here any more than elsewhere throughout my book) which Plutarch says he saw on board a ship. This dog being puzzled how to get the oil that was in the bottom of a jar, which he could not reach with his tongue by reason of the narrow mouth of the vessel, went and fetched stones and let them fall into the jar till he made the oil rise so high that he could reach it. What is this but an effect of a very subtle capacity! ‘Tis said that the ravens of Barbary do the same, when the water they would drink is too low. This action is somewhat akin to what Juba, a king of their nation relates of the elephants: “That when, by the craft of the hunter, one of them is trapped in certain deep pits prepared for them, and covered over with brush to deceive them, all the rest, in great diligence, bring a great many stones and logs of wood to raise the bottom so that he may get out.” But this animal, in several other effects, comes so near to human capacity that, should I particularly relate all that experience hath delivered to us, I should easily have what I usually maintain granted: namely, that there is more difference betwixt such and such a man than betwixt such a beast and such a man. The keeper of an elephant in a private house of Syria robbed him every meal of the half of his allowance. One day his master would himself feed him, and poured the full measure of barley he had ordered for his allowance into his manger which the elephant, casting an angry look at the keeper, with his trunk separated the one-half from the other, and thrust it aside, by that declaring the wrong was done him. And another, having a keeper that mixed stones with his corn to make up the measure, came to the pot where he was boiling meat for his own dinner, and filled it with ashes. These are particular effects: but that which all the world has seen, and all the world knows, that in all the armies of the Levant one of the greatest force consisted in elephants, with whom they did, without comparison, much greater execution than we now do with our artillery; which takes, pretty nearly, their place in a day of battle (as may easily be supposed by such as are well read in ancient history);

“The sires of these huge animals were wont
The Carthaginian Hannibal to mount;
Our leaders also did these beasts bestride,
And mounted thus Pyrrhus his foes defied;
Nay, more, upon their backs they used to bear
Castles with armed cohorts to the war.”

They must necessarily have very confidently relied upon the fidelity and understanding of these beasts when they entrusted them with the vanguard of a battle, where the least stop they should have made, by reason of the bulk and heaviness of their bodies, and the least fright that should have made them face about upon their own people, had been enough to spoil all: and there are but few examples where it has happened that they have fallen foul upon their own troops, whereas we ourselves break into our own battalions and rout one another. They had the charge not of one simple movement only, but of many several things to be performed in the battle: as the Spaniards did to their dogs in their new conquest of the Indies, to whom they gave pay and allowed them a share in the spoil; and those animals showed as much dexterity and judgment in pursuing the victory and stopping the pursuit; in charging and retiring, as occasion required; and in distinguishing their friends from their enemies, as they did ardour and fierceness.

We more admire and value things that are unusual and strange than those of ordinary observation. I had not else so long insisted upon these examples: for I believe whoever shall strictly observe what we ordinarily see in those animals we have amongst us may there find as wonderful effects as those we seek in remote countries and ages. ‘Tis one and the same nature that rolls on her course, and whoever has sufficiently considered the present state of things, might certainly conclude as to both the future ana the past. I have formerly seen men, brought hither by sea from very distant countries, whose language not being understood by us, and moreover their mien, countenance, and habit, being quite differing from ours; which of us did not repute them savages and brutes! Who did not attribute it to stupidity and want of common sense to see them mute, ignorant of the French tongue, ignorant of our salutations and cringes, our port and behaviour, from which all human nature must by all means take its pattern and example. All that seems strange to us, and that we do not understand, we condemn. The same thing happens also in the judgments we make of beasts. They have several conditions like to ours; from those we may, by comparison, draw some conjecture: but by those qualities that are particular to themselves, what know we what to make of them! The horses, dogs, oxen, sheep, birds, and most of the animals that live amongst us, know our voices, and suffer themselves to be governed by them: so did Crassus’s lamprey, and came when he called it; as also do the eels that are found in the Lake Arethusa; and I have seen several ponds where the fishes come to eat at a certain call of those who use to feed them.

“They every one have names, and one and all
Straightway appear at their own master’s call:”

We may judge of that. We may also say that the elephants have some participation of religion forasmuch as after several washings and purifications they are observed to lift up their trunk like arms, and, fixing their eyes towards the rising of the sun, continue long in meditation and contemplation, at certain hours of the days, of their own motion; without instruction or precept But because we do not see any such signs in other animals, we cannot for that conclude that they are without religion, nor make any judgment of what is concealed from us. As we discern something in this action which the philosopher Cleanthes took notice of, because it something resembles our own. He saw, he says, “Ants go from their ant-hill, carrying the dead body of an ant towards another ant-hill, whence several other ants came out to meet them, as if to speak with them; where, after having been a while together, the last returned to consult, you may suppose, with their fellow-citizens, and so made two or three journeys, by reason of the difficulty of capitulation. In the conclusion, the last comers brought the first a worm out of their burrow, as it were for the ransom of the defunct, which the first laid upon their backs and carried home, leaving the dead body to the others.” This was the interpretation that Cleanthes gave of this transaction, giving us by that to understand that those creatures that have no voice are not, nevertheless, without intercourse and mutual communication, whereof ‘tis through our own defect that we do not participate; and for that reason foolishly take upon us to pass our censure. But they yet produce either effects far beyond our capacity, to which we are so far from being able to arrive by imitation that we cannot so much as by imitation conceive it. Many are of opinion that in the great and last naval engagement that Antony lost to Augustus, his admiral galley was stayed in the middle of her course by the little fish the Latins call remora, by reason of the property she has of staying all sorts of vessels to which she fastens herself. And the Emperor Caligula, sailing with a great navy upon the coast of Romania, his galley only was suddenly stayed by the same fish, which, he caused to be taken, fastened as it was to the keel of his ship, very angry that such a little animal could resist both the sea, the wind, and the force of all his oars, by being only fastened by the beak to his galley (for it is a shell-fish); and was moreover, not without great reason, astonished that, being brought to him in the vessel, it had no longer the strength it had without. A citizen of Cyzicus formerly acquired the reputation of a good mathematician for having learnt the quality of the hedge-hog: he has his burrow open in divers places, and to several winds, and, foreseeing the wind that is to come, stops the hole on that side, which that citizen observing, gave the city certain predictions of the wind which was presently to blow. The camlon takes her colour from the place upon which she is laid; but the polypus gives himself what colour he pleases, according to occasion, either to conceal himself from what he fears, or from what he has a design to seize: in the camlon ‘tis a passive, but in the polypus ‘tis an active, change. We have some changes of colour, as in fear, anger, shame, and other passions, that alter our complexions; but it is by the effect of suffering, as with the camlon. It is in the power of the jaundice, indeed, to make us turn yellow, but ‘tis not in the power of our own will. Now these effects that we discover in other animals, much greater than ours, seem to imply some more excellent faculty in them unknown to us; as ‘tis to be presumed there are several other qualities and abilities of theirs, of which no appearances have arrived at us.

Amongst all the predictions of elder times, the most ancient and the most certain were those taken from the flight of birds; we have nothing certain like it, nor any thing to be so much admired. That rule and order of the moving of the wing, whence they derived the consequences of future things, must of necessity be guided by some excellent means to so noble an operation: for to attribute this great effect to any natural disposition, without the intelligence, consent, and meditation of him by whom it is produced, is an opinion evidently false. That it is so, the cramp-fish has this quality, not only to benumb all the members that touch her, but even through the nets transmit a heavy dulness into the hands of those that move and handle them; nay, it is further said that if one pour water upon her, he will feel this numbness mount up the water to the hand, and stupefy the feeling through the water. This is a miraculous force; but ‘tis not useless to the cramp-fish; she knows it, and makes use on’t; for, to catch the prey she desires, she will bury herself in the mud, that other fishes swimming over her, struck and benumbed with this coldness of hers, may fall into her power. Cranes, swallows, and other birds of passage, by shifting their abode according to the seasons, sufficiently manifest the knowledge they have of their divining faculty, and put it in use. Huntsmen assure us that to cull out from amongst a great many puppies that which ought to be preserved as the best, the best way is to refer the choice to the mother; as thus, take them and carry them out of the kennel, and the first she brings back will certainly be the best; or if you make a show as if you would environ the kennel with fire, that one she first catches up to save. By which it appears they have a sort of prognostic which we have not; or that they have some virtue in judging of their whelps other and more certain than we have.

The manner of coming into the world, of engendering, nourishing, acting, moving, living and dying of beasts, is so near to ours that whatever we retrench from their moving causes, and add to our own condition above theirs, can by no means proceed from any meditation of our own reason. For the regimen of our health, physicians propose to us the example of the beasts’ manners and way of living; for this saying (out of Plutarch) has in all times been in the mouth of these people: “Keep warm thy feet and head, as to the rest, live like a beast.”

The chief of all natural actions is generation; we have a certain disposition of members which is the most proper for us to that end; nevertheless, we are ordered by Lucretius to conform to the gesture and posture of the brutes as the most effectual:—

More ferarum,
Quadrupedumque magis ritu, plerumque putantur
Concipere uxores:
Quia sic loca sumere possunt,
Pectoribus positis, sublatis semina lumbis;

and the same authority condemns, as hurtful, those indiscreet and impudent motions which the women have added of their own invention, to whom it proposes the more temperate and modest pattern and practice of the beasts of their own sex:—

Nam mulier prohibet se concipere atque rpugnt,
Clunibus ipsa viri Venerem si lta retractet,
Atque exossato ciet omni pectore fluctua.
Ejicit enim sulci recta regione viaque
Vomerem, atque locis avertit seminis ictum.

If it be justice to render to every one their due, the beasts that serve, love, and defend their benefactors, and that pursue and fall upon strangers and those who offend them, do in this represent a certain air of our justice; as also in observing a very equitable equality in the distribution of what they have to their young. And as to friendship, they have it without comparison more lively and constant than men have. King Lysimachus’s dog, Hyrcanus, master being dead, lay on his bed, obstinately refusing either to eat or drink; and, the day that his body was burnt, he took a run and leaped into the fire, where he was consumed, As also did the dog of one Pyrrhus, for he would not stir from off his master’s bed from the time he died; and when they carried him away let himself be carried with him, and at last leaped into the pile where they burnt his master’s body. There are inclinations of affection which sometimes spring in us, without the consultation of reason; and by a fortuitous temerity, which others call sympathy; of which beasts are as capable as we. We see horses take such an acquaintance with one another that we have much ado to make them eat or travel, when separated; we observe them to fancy a particular colour in those of their own kind, and, where they meet it, run to it with great joy and demonstrations of good will, and have a dislike and hatred for some other colour. Animals have choice, as well as we, in their amours, and cull out their mistresses; neither are they exempt from our jealousies and implacable malice.

Desires are either natural and necessary, as to eat and drink; or natural and not necessary, as the coupling with females; or neither natural nor necessary; of which last sort are almost all the desires of men; they are all superfluous and artificial. For ‘tis marvellous how little will satisfy nature, how little she has left us to desire; our ragouts and kickshaws are not of her ordering. The Stoics say that a man may live on an olive a day. The delicacy of our wines is no part of her instruction, nor the refinements we introduce into the indulgence of our amorous appetites:—

Neque ilia
Magno prognatum deposcit consule cunnum.

“Nature, in her pursuit of love, disclaims
The pride of titles, and the pomp of names.”

These irregular desires, that the ignorance of good and a false opinion have infused into us, are so many that they almost exclude all the natural; just as if there were so great a number of strangers in the city as to thrust out the natural inhabitants, or, usurping upon their ancient rights and privileges, should extinguish their authority and introduce new laws and customs of their own. Animals are much more regular than we, and keep themselves with greater moderation within the limits nature has prescribed; but yet not so exactly that they have not sometimes an analogy with our debauches. And as there have been furious desires that have impelled men to the love of beasts, so there have been examples of beasts that have fallen in love with us, and been seized with monstrous affection betwixt kinds; witness the elephant who was rival to Aristophanes the grammarian in the love of a young herb-wench in the city of Alexandria, who was nothing behind him in all the offices of a very passionate suitor; for going through the market where they sold fruit, he would take some in his trunk and carry them to her. He would as much as possible keep her always in his sight, and would sometimes put his trunk under her handkerchief into her bosom, to feel her breasts. They tell also of a dragon in love with a girl, and of a goose enamoured of a child; of a ram that was suitor to the minstrelless Glaucia, in the town of Asopus; and we see not unfrequently baboons furiously in love with women. We see also certain male animals that are fond of the males of their own kind. Oppian and others give us some examples of the reverence that beasts have to their kindred in their copulations; but experience often shows us the contrary:—

Nec habetur turpe juvenc
Ferre patrem tergo; fit equo sua filia conjux;
Quasque creavit, init pecudes caper; ipsaque cujus
Semine concepta est, ex illo concipit ales.

“The heifer thinks it not a shame to take
Her lusty sire upon her willing back:
The horse his daughter leaps, goats scruple not
T’ increase the herd by those they have begot;
And birds of all sorts do in common live,
And by the seed they have conceived conceive.”

And for subtle cunning, can there be a more pregnant example than in the philosopher Thales’s mule? who, fording a river, laden with salt, and by accident stumbling there, so that the sacks he carried were all wet, perceiving that by the melting of the salt his burden was something lighter, he never failed, so oft as he came to any river, to lie down with his load; till his master, discovering the knavery, ordered that he should be laden with wood? wherein, finding himself mistaken, he ceased to practise that device. There are several that very vividly represent the true image of our avarice; for we see them infinitely solicitus to get all they can, and hide it with that exceeding great care, though they never make any use of it at all. As to thrift, they surpass us not only in the foresight and laying up, and saving for the time to come, but they have, moreover, a great deal of the science necessary thereto. The ants bring abroad into the sun their grain and seed to air, refresh and dry them when they perceive them to mould and grow musty, lest they should decay and rot. But the caution and prevention they use in gnawing their grains of wheat surpass all imagination of human prudence; for by reason that the wheat does not always continue sound and dry, but grows soft, thaws and dissolves as if it were steeped in milk, whilst hasting to germination; for fear lest it should shoot and lose the nature and property of a magazine for their subsistence, they nibble off the end by which it should shoot and sprout.

As to what concerns war, which is the greatest and most magnificent of human actions, I would very fain know whether we would use it for an argument of some prerogative or, on contrary, for a testimony of our weakness and imperfection; as, in truth, the science of undoing and killing one another, and of ruining and destroying our own kind, has nothing in it so tempting as to make it be coveted by beasts who have it not.

Quando leoni Fortior eripuit vitam leo? quo nemore unquam
Expiravit aper majoris dentibus apri?

“No lion drinks a weaker lion’s gore,
No boar expires beneath a stronger boar.”

Yet are they not universally exempt; witness the furious encounters of bees, and the enterprises of the princes of the contrary armies:—

Spe duobus Regibus incessit magno discordia motu;
Continuoque animos vulgi et trepidantia bello
Gorda licet long prsciscere.

“But if contending factions arm the hive,
When rival kings in doubtful battle strive,
Tumultuous crowds the dread event prepare,
And palpitating hearts that beat to war.”

I never read this divine description but that, methinks, I there see human folly and vanity represented in their true and lively colours. For these warlike movements, that so ravish us with their astounding noise and horror, this rattle of guns, drums, and cries,

Fulgur ibi ad coelum se tollit, totaque circum
re renidescit tellus, subterque virm vi
Excitur pedibus sonitus, clamoreque montes
Icti rejectant voces ad sidera mundi;

“When burnish’d arms to heaven dart their rays,
And many a steely beam i’ th’ sunlight plays,
When trampled is the earth by horse and man,
Until the very centre groans again,
And that the rocks, struck by the various cries,
Reverberate the sound unto the skies;”

in the dreadful embattling of so many thousands of armed men, and so great fury, ardour, and courage, ‘tis pleasant to consider by what idle occasions they are excited, and by how light ones appeased:—

Paridis propter narratur amorem
Greci Barbari diro collisa duello:

“Of wanton Paris the illicit love
Did Greece and Troy to ten years’ warfare move:”

all Asia was ruined and destroyed for the lust of Paris; the envy of one single man, a despite, a pleasure, a domestic jealousy, causes that ought not to set two oyster-wenches by the ears, is the mover of all this mighty bustle. Shall we believe those very men who are themselves the principal authors of these mischiefs? Let us then hear the greatest, the most powerful, the most victorious emperor that ever was, turning into a jest, very pleasantly and ingeniously, several battles fought both by sea and land, the blood and lives of five hundred thousand men that followed his fortune, and the strength and riches of two parts of the world drained for the expense of his expeditions:—

Quod futuit Glaphyran Antonius, hanc mihi poenam
Fulvia constituit, se quoqne uti futuam.
Fulviam ego ut futuam! quid, si me Manius oret
Podicem, faciam? Non puto, si sapiam.
Aut futue, aut pugnemus, ait
Quid, si mihi vitii
Charior est ips mentula? Signa canant.

Qui? moi, que je serve Fulvie!
Sufflt-il quelle en ait envie?
A ce compte, on verrait se retirer von moi
Mille pouses mal satisfaites.
Aime-moi, me dit elle, ou combattons. Mais quoi?
Elle est bien laide! Allons, sonnes trompettes.

‘Cause Anthony is fired with Glaphire’s charms
Fain would his Fulvia tempt me to her arms.
If Anthony be false, what then? must I
Be slave to Fulvia’s lustful tyranny?
Then would a thousand wanton, waspish wives,

(I use my Latin with the liberty of conscience you are pleased to allow me.) Now this great body, with so many fronts, and so many motions, which seems to threaten heaven and earth:—

Quam multi Lybico volvuntur marmore fluctus,
Svus ubi Orion hibemis conditur undis,
Vel quam solo novo dens torrentur Arist,
Aut Hermi campo, aut Lyci flaventibus arvis;
Scuta sonant, pulsuque pedum tremit excita tellus:

“Not thicker billows beat the Lybian main,
When pale Orion sits in wintry rain;
Nor thicker harvests on rich Hermus rise,
Or Lycian fields, when Phobus burns the skies,
Than stand these troops: their bucklers ring around;
Their trampling turns the turf and shakes the solid ground:”

this furious monster, with so many heads and arms, is yet man—feeble, calamitous, and miserable man! ‘Tis but an ant-hill disturbed and provoked:—

It nigrum campis agmen:

“The black troop marches to the field:”

a contrary blast, the croaking of a flight of ravens, the stumble of a horse, the casual passage of an eagle, a dream, a voice, a sign, a morning mist, are any one of them sufficient to beat down and overturn him. Dart but a sunbeam in his face, he is melted and vanished. Blow but a little dust in his eyes, as our poet says of the bees, and all our ensigns and legions, with the great Pompey himself at the head of them, are routed and crushed to pieces; for it was he, as I take it, that Sertorious beat in Spain with those fine arms, which also served Eumenes against Antigonus, and Surena against Crassus:—

“Swarm to my bed like bees into their hives.
Declare for love, or war, she said; and frown’d:
No love I’ll grant: to arms bid trumpets sound.”

Hi motus animorum, atque hoc certamina tanta,
Pulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescent.

“Yet at thy will these dreadful conflicts cease,
Throw but a little dust and all is peace.”

Let us but slip our flies after them, and they will have the force and courage to defeat them. Of fresh memory, the Portuguese having besieged the city of Tamly, in the territory of Xiatine, the inhabitants of the place brought a great many hives, of which are great plenty in that place, upon the wall; and with fire drove the bees so furiously upon the enemy that they gave over the enterprise, not being able to stand their attacks and endure their stings; and so the citizens, by this new sort of relief, gained liberty and the victory with so wonderful a fortune, that at the return of their defenders from the battle they found they had not lost so much as one. The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mould; the weight and importance of the actions of princes considered, we persuade ourselves that they must be produced by some as weighty and important causes; but we are deceived; for they are pushed on, and pulled back in their motions, by the same springs that we are in our little undertakings. The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbour causes a war betwixt princes; the same reason that makes us whip a lackey, falling into the hands of a king makes him ruin a whole province. They are as lightly moved as we, but they are able to do more. In a gnat and an elephant the passion is the same.

As to fidelity, there is no animal in the world so treacherous as man. Our histories have recorded the violent pursuits that dogs have made after the murderers of their masters. King Pyrrhus observing a dog that watched a dead man’s body, and understanding that he had for three days together performed that office, commanded that the body should be buried, and took the dog along with him. One day, as he was at a general muster of his army, this dog, seeing his master’s murderers, with great barking and extreme signs of anger flew upon them, and by this first accusation awakened the revenge of this murder, which was soon after perfected by form of justice. As much was done by the dog of the wise Hesiod, who convicted the sons of Ganictor of Naupactus of the murder committed on the person of his master. Another dog being to guard a temple at Athens, having spied a sacrilegious thief carrying away the finest jewels, fell to barking at him with all his force, but the warders not awaking at the noise, he followed him, and day being broke, kept off at a little distance, without losing sight of him; if he offered him any thing to eat he would not take it, but would wag his tail at all the passengers he met, and took whatever they gave him; and if the thief laid down to sleep, he likewise stayed upon the same place. The news of this dog being come to the warders of the temple they put themselves upon the pursuit, inquiring of the colour of the dog, and at last found him in the city of Cromyon, and the thief also, whom they brought back to Athens, where he got his reward; and the judges, in consideration of this good office, ordered a certain measure of corn for the dog’s daily sustenance, at the public charge, and the priests to take care of it. Plutarch delivers this story for a certain truth, and that it happened in the age wherein he lived.

As to gratitude (for I think we need bring this word into a little repute), this one example, which Apion reports himself to have been an eye-witness of, shall suffice.

“One day,” says he, “at Rome, they entertained the people with the sight of the fighting of several strange beasts, and principally of lions of an unusual size; there was one amongst the rest who, by his furious deportment, by the strength and largeness of his limbs, and by his loud and dreadful roaring, attracted the eyes of all the spectators. Amongst other slaves that were presented to the people in this combat of beasts there was one Androdus, of Dacia, belonging to a Roman lord of consular dignity. This lion having seen him at a distance first made a sudden stop, as it were in a wondering posture, and then softly approached nearer in a gentle and peaceable manner, as if it were to enter into acquaintance with him. This being done, and being now assured of what he sought for, he began to wag his tail, as dogs do when they flatter their masters, and to kiss and lick the hands and thighs of the poor wretch, who was beside himself, and almost dead with fear. Androdus being by this kindness of the lion a little come to himself, and having taken so much heart as to consider and know him, it was a singular pleasure to see the joy and caresses that passed betwixt them. At which the people breaking into loud acclamations of joy, the emperor caused the slave to be called, to know from him the cause of so strange an event; who thereupon told him a new and a very strange story: “My master,” said he, “being pro-consul in Africa, I was constrained, by his severity and cruel usage, being daily beaten, to steal from him and run away; and, to hide myself secretly from a person of so great authority in the province, I thought it my best way to fly to the solitudes, sands, and uninhabitable parts of that country, resolving that in case the means of supporting life should chance to fail me, to make some shift or other to kill myself. The sun being excessively hot at noon, and the heat intolerable, I lit upon a private and almost inaccessible cave, and went into it Soon after there came in to me this lion, with one foot wounded and bloody, complaining and groaning with the pain he endured. At his coming I was exceeding afraid; but he having spied me hid in the comer of his den, came gently to me, holding out and showing me his wounded foot, as if he demanded my assistance in his distress. I then drew out a great splinter he had got there, and, growing a little more familiar with him, squeezing the wound thrust out the matter, dirt, and gravel which was got into it, and wiped and cleansed it the best I could. He, finding himself something better, and much eased of his pain, laid him down to rest, and presently fell asleep with his foot in my hand. From that time forward he and I lived together in this cave three whole years upon one and the same diet; for of the beasts that he killed in hunting he always brought me the best pieces, which I roasted in the sun for want of fire, and so ate it. At last, growing weary of this wild and brutish life, the lion being one day gone abroad to hunt for our ordinary provision, I departed thence, and the third day after was taken by the soldiers, who brought me from Africa to this city to my master, who presently condemned me to die, and to be thus exposed to the wild beasts. Now, by what I see, this lion was also taken soon after, who has now sought to recompense me for the benefit and cure that he received at my hands.” This is the story that Androdus told the emperor, which he also conveyed from hand to hand to the people; wherefore, at the general request, he was absolved from his sentence and set at liberty, and the lion was, by order of the people, presented to him. “We afterwards saw,” says Apion, “Androdus leading this lion, in nothing but a small leash, from tavern to tavern at Rome, and receiving what money every body would give him, the lion being so gentle as to suffer himself to be covered with the flowers that the people threw upon him, every one that met him saying, ‘There goes the lion that entertained the man; there goes the man that cured the lion.’”

We often lament the loss of beasts we love, and so do they the loss of us:—

Post, bellator equus, positis insignibus, thon
It lacrymans, guttisque humectt grandibus ora.

“To close the pomp, thon, the steed of state.
Is led, the fun’ral of his lord to wait.
Stripped of his trappings, with a sullen pace
He walks, and the big tears run rolling down his face.”

As some nations have their wives in common, and some others have every one his own, is not the same seen among beasts, and marriages better kept than ours? As to the society and confederation they make amongst themselves, to league together and to give one another mutual assistance, is it not known that oxen, hogs, and other animals, at the cry of any of their kind that we offend, all the herd run to his aid and embody for his defence? The fish Scarus, when he has swallowed the angler’s hook, his fellows all crowd about him and gnaw the line in pieces; and if, by chance, one be got into the bow net, the others present him their tails on the outside, which he holding fast with his teeth, they after that manner disengage and draw him out.

Mullets, when one of their companions is engaged, cross the line over their back, and, with a fin they have there, indented like a saw, cut and saw it asunder. As to the particular offices that we receive from one another for the service of life, there are several like examples amongst them. ‘Tis said that the whale never moves that she has not always before her a little fish like the sea-gudgeon, for this reason called the guide-fish, whom the whale follows, suffering himself to be led and turned with as great facility as the rudder guides the ship; in recompense of which service also, whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that enter into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s mouth, are immediately lost and swallowed up, this little fish retires into it in great security, and there sleeps, during which time the whale never stirs; but so soon as ever it goes out he immediately follows it; and if by accident he loses the sight of his little guide, he goes wandering here and there, and strikes his sides against the rocks like a ship that has lost her helm; which Plutarch affirms to have seen in the island of Anticyra. There is a like society betwixt the little bird called the wren and the crocodile. The wren serves for a sentinel over this great animal; and if the ichneumon, his mortal enemy, approach to fight him, this little bird, for fear lest he should surprise him asleep, both with his voice and bill rouses him and gives him notice of his danger. He feeds of this monster’s leavings, who receives him familiarly into his mouth, suffering him to peck in his jaws and betwixt his teeth, and thence to pick out the bits of flesh that remain; and when he has a mind to shut his mouth, he first gives the bird warning to go out by closing it by little and little, and without bruising or doing it any harm at all. The shell-fish called the naker, lives in the same intelligence with the shrimp, a little sort of animal of the lobster kind, which serves him in the nature of a porter, sitting at the opening of the shell, which the naker keeps always gaping and open till the shrimp sees some little fish, proper for their prey, within the hollow of the shell, where she enters too, and pinches the naker so to the quick that she is forced to close her shell, where they two together devour the prey they have trapped in their fort. In the manner of living of the tunnies we observe a singular knowledge of the three parts of mathematics. As to astrology, they teach it men, for they stay in the place where they are surprised by the brumal solstice, and never stir thence till the next equinox; for which reason Aristotle himself attributes to them this science. As to geometry and arithmetic, they always form their numbers in the figure of a cube, every way square, and make up the body of a battalion, solid, close, and environed round with six equal sides, and swim in this square order, as large behind as before; so that whoever in seeing them can count one rank may easily number the whole troop, by reason that the depth is equal to the breadth, and the breadth to the length.

As to magnanimity, it will be hard to exhibit a better instance of it than in the example of the great dog sent to Alexander the Great from the Indies. They first brought him a stag to encounter, next a boar, and after that a bear, all which he slighted, and disdained to stir from his place; but when he saw a lion he then immediately roused himself, evidently manifesting that he declared that alone worthy to enter the lists with him. Touching repentance and the acknowledgment of faults, ‘tis reported of an elephant that, having in the impetuosity of his rage killed his keeper, he fell into so extreme a sorrow that he would never after eat, but starved himself to death. And as to clemency, ‘tis said of a tiger, the most cruel of all beasts, that a kid having been put in to him, he suffered a two days’ hunger rather than hurt it, and the third broke the grate he was shut up in, to seek elsewhere for prey; so unwilling he was to fall upon the kid, his familiar and his guest, And as to the laws of familiarity and agreement, formed by conversation, it ordinarily happens that we bring up cats, dogs, and hares, tame together.

But that which seamen by experience know, and particularly in the Sicilian Sea, of the quality of the halcyons, surpasses all human thought of what kind of animal has nature even so much honoured the birth? The poets indeed say that one only island, Delos, which was before a floating island, was fixed for the service of Latona’s lying-in; but God has ordered that the whole ocean should be stayed, made stable and smooth, without waves, without winds or rain, whilst the halcyon produces her young, which is just about the solstice, the shortest day of the year; so that by her privilege we have seven days and seven nights in the very heart of winter wherein we may sail without danger. Their females never have to do with any other male but their own, whom they serve and assist all their lives, without ever forsaking him. If he becomes weak and broken with age, they take him upon their shoulders and carry him from place to place, and serve him till death. But the most inquisitive into the secrets of nature could never yet arrive at the knowledge of the wonderful fabric wherewith the halcyon builds her nest for her little ones, nor guess at the materials. Plutarch, who has seen and handled many of them, thinks it is the bones of some fish which she joins and binds together, interlacing them, some lengthwise and others across, and adding ribs and hoops in such manner that she forms at last a round vessel fit to launch; which being done, and the building finished, she carries it to the beach, where the sea beating gently against it shows where she is to mend what is not well jointed and knit, and where better to fortify the seams that are leaky, that open at the beating of the waves; and, on the contrary, what is well built and has had the due finishing, the beating of the waves does so close and bind together that it is not to be broken or cracked by blows either of stone or iron without very much ado. And that which is more to be admired is the proportion and figure of the cavity within, which is composed and proportioned after such a manner as not to receive or admit any other thing than the bird that built it; for to any thing else it is so impenetrable, close, and shut, nothing can enter, not so much as the water of the sea. This is a very dear description of this building, and borrowed from a very good hand; and yet me-thinks it does not give us sufficient light into the difficulty of this architecture. Now from what vanity can it proceed to despise and look down upon, and disdainfully to interpret, effects that we can neither imitate nor comprehend?

To pursue a little further this equality and correspondence betwixt us and beasts, the privilege our soul so much glorifies herself upon, of things she conceives to her own law, of striping all things that come to her of their mortal and corporeal qualities, of ordering and placing things she conceives worthy her taking notice of, stripping and divesting them of their corruptible qualities, and making them to lay aside length, breadth, depth, weight, colour, smell, roughness, smoothness, hardness, softness, and all sensible accidents, as mean and superfluous vestments, to accommodate them to her own immortal and spiritual condition; as Rome and Paris, for example, that I have in my fancy, Paris that I imagine, I imagine and comprehend it without greatness and without place, without stone, without plaster, and without wood; this very same privilege, I say, seems evidently to be in beasts; for a courser accustomed to trumpets, to musket-shots, and battles, whom we see start and tremble in his sleep and stretched upon his litter, as if he were in a fight; it is almost certain that he conceives in his soul the beat of a drum without noise, and an army without arms and without body:—

Quippe videbis equos fortes, cum membra jacebunt
In somnis, sudare tamen, spirareque spe,
Et quasi de palm summas contendere vires:

“You shall see maneg’d horses in their sleep
Sweat, snort, start, tremble, and a clutter keep,
As if with all their force they striving were
The victor’s palm proudly away to bear:”

the hare, that a greyhound imagines in his sleep, after which we see him pant so whilst he sleeps, stretch out his tail, shake his legs, and perfectly represents all the motions of a course, is a hare without fur and without bones:—

Venantumque canes in molli spe quiete
Jactant crura tamen subito, vocesque repente
Mittunt, et crebras reducunt naribus auras,
Ut vestigia si teneant inventa ferarum:
Expergeftique sequuntur inania spe
Cervorum simulacra, fag quasi dedita cernant;
Donee discussis redeant erroribus ad se:

“And hounds stir often in their quiet rest,
Spending their mouths, as if upon a quest,
Snuff, and breathe quick and short, as if they went
In a full chase upon a burning scent:
Nay, being wak’d, imagin’d stags pursue,
As if they had them in their real view,
Till, having shook themselves more broad awake,
They do at last discover the mistake:”

the watch-dogs, that we often observe to snarl in their dreams, and afterwards bark out, and start up as if they perceived some stranger at hand; the stranger that their soul discerns is a man spiritual and imperceptible, without dimension, without colour, and without being:—

Consueta domi catulorum blanda propago
Degere, spe levem ex oculis volucremque soporem
Discutere, et corpus de terra corripere instant,
Proinde quasi ignotas facies atque ora tuantur.

“The fawning whelps of household curs will rise,
And, shaking the soft slumber from their eyes,
Oft bark and stare at ev’ry one within,
As upon faces they had never seen.”

to the beauty of the body, before I proceed any further I should know whether or no we are agreed about the description. ‘Tis likely we do not well know what beauty is in nature and in general, since to our own human beauty we give so many divers forms, of which, were there any natural rule and prescription, we should know it in common, as the heat of the fire. But we fancy the forms according to our own appetite and liking:—

Turpis Romano Belgicus ore color:

“A German hue ill suits, a Roman face.”

The Indians paint it black and tawny, with great swelled lips, wide flat noses and load the cartilage betwixt the nostrils with great rings of gold, to make it hang down to the mouth; as also the under lip with great hoops, enriched with precious stones, that weigh them down to fall upon the chin, it being with them a singular grace to show their teeth, even below the roots. In Peru the greatest ears are the most beautiful, which they stretch out as far as they can by art. And a man now living says that he has seen in an eastern nation this care of enlarging them in so great repute, and the ear loaded with so ponderous jewels, that he did with great ease put his arm, sleeve and all, through the hole of an ear. There are elsewhere nations that take great care to black their teeth, and hate to see them white, whilst others paint them red. The women are reputed more beautiful, not only in Biscay, but elsewhere, for having their heads shaved; and, which is more, in certain frozen countries, as Pliny reports. The Mexicans esteem a low forehead a great beauty, and though they shave all other parts, they nourish hair on the forehead and increase it by art, and have great breasts in so great reputation that they affect to give their children suck over their shoulders. We should paint deformity so. The Italians fashion it gross and massy; the Spaniards gaunt and slender; and amongst us one has it white, another brown; one soft and delicate, another strong and vigorous; one will have his mistress soft and gentle, others haughty and majestic. Just as the preference in beauty that Plato attributes to the spherical figure the Epicureans gave rather to the pyramidal or square, and cannot swallow a god in the form of a bowl. But, be it how it will, nature has no more privileged us in this from her common laws than in the rest And if we will judge ourselves aright, we shall find that, if there be some animals less favoured in this than we, there are others, and in greater number, that are more; a multis animalibus decore vincimur “Many animals surpass us in beauty,” even among the terrestrial, our compatriots; for as to those of sea, setting the figure aside, which cannot fall into any manner of proportion, being so much another thing in colour, clearness, smoothness, and arrangement, we sufficiently give place to them; and no less, in all qualities, to the aerial. And this prerogative that the poets make such a mighty matter of, our erect stature, looking towards heaven our original,

Pronaque cum spectent animalia ctera terrain,
Os homini sublime ddit, columque tueri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus,

“Whilst all the brutal creatures downward bend
Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
He set man’s face aloft, that, with his eyes
Uplifted, he might view the starry skies,”

is truly poetical; for there are several little beasts who have their sight absolutely turned towards heaven; and I find the gesture of camels and ostriches much higher raised and more erect than ours. What animals have not their faces above and not before, and do not look opposite, as we do; and that do not in their natural posture discover as much of heaven and earth as man? And what qualities of our bodily constitution, in Plato and Cicero, may not indifferently serve a thousand sorts of beasts? Those that most resemble us are the most despicable and deformed of all the herd; for those, as to outward appearance and form of visage, are baboons:—

Simia quam similis, turpissima bestia, nobis?

“How like to man, in visage and in shape,
Is, of all beasts the most uncouth, the ape?”

as to the internal and vital parts, the hog. In earnest, when I consider man stark naked, even in that sex which seems to have greatest share of beauty, his defects, natural subjection, and imperfections, I find that we have more reason than any other animal, to cover ourselves; and are to be excused from borrowing of those to whom nature has in this been kinder than to us, to trick ourselves out with their beauties, and hide ourselves under their spoils, their wool, feathers, hair, and silk. Let us observe, as to the rest, that man is the sole animal whose nudities offend his own companions, and the only one who in his natural actions withdraws and hides himself from his own kind. And really ‘tis also an effect worth consideration, that they who are masters in the trade prescribe, as a remedy for amorous passions, the full and free view of the body a man desires; for that to cool the ardour there needs no more but freely and fully to see what he loves:—

Ille quod obscnas in aperto corpore partes
Viderat, in cursu qui fuit, hsit amor.

“The love that’s tilting when those parts appear
Open to view, flags in the hot career,”

And, although this receipt may peradventure proceed from a nice and cold humour, it is notwithstanding a very great sign of our deficiencies that use and acquaintance should make us disgust one another. It is not modesty, so much as cunning and prudence, that makes our ladies so circumspect to refuse us admittance into their cabinets before they are painted and tricked up for the public view:—

Nec Veneres nostras hoc fallit; quo magis ips
Omnia summopere hos vit postscenia celant,
Quos retinere volunt, adstrictoque esse in amore:

“Of this our ladies are full well aware,
Which make them, with such privacy and care,
Behind the scene all those defects remove,
Likely to check the flame of those they love,”

whereas, in several animals there is nothing that we do not love, and that does not please our senses; so that from their very excrements we do not only extract wherewith to heighten our sauces, but also our richest ornaments and perfumes. This discourse reflects upon none but the ordinary sort of women, and is not so sacrilegious as to comprehend those divine, supernatural, and extraordinary beauties, which we see shine occasionally among us like stars under a corporeal and terrestrial veil.

As to the rest, the very share that we allow to beasts of the bounty of nature, by our own confession, is very much to their advantage. We attribute to ourselves imaginary and fantastic good, future and absent good, for which human capacity cannot of herself be responsible; or good, that we falsely attribute to ourselves by the license of opinion, as reason, knowledge, and honour, and leave to them for their dividend, essential, durable, and palpable good, as peace, repose, security, innocence, and health; health, I say, the fairest and richest present that nature can make us. Insomuch that philosophy, even the Stoic, is so bold as to say, “That Heraclitus and Pherecides, could they have trucked their wisdom for health, and have delivered themselves, the one of his dropsy, and the other of the lousy disease that tormented him, they had done well.” By which they set a greater value upon wisdom, comparing and putting it into the balance with health, than they do with this other proposition, which is also theirs; they say that if Circe had presented Ulysses with the two potions, the one to make a fool become a wise man, and the other to make a wise man become a fool, that Ulysses ought rather to have chosen the last, than consent to that by which Circe changed his human figure into that of a beast; and say that wisdom itself would have spoke to him after this manner: “Forsake me, let me alone, rather than lodge me under the body and figure of an ass.” How! the philosophers, then will abandon this great and divine wisdom for this corporeal and terrestrial covering? It is then no more by reason, by discourse, and by the soul, that we excel beasts; ‘tis by our beauty, our fair complexion, and our fine symmetry of parts, for which we must quit our intelligence, our prudence, and all the rest. Well, I accept this open and free confession; certainly they knew that those parts, upon which we so much value ourselves, are no other than vain fancy. If beasts then had all the virtue, knowledge, wisdom, and stoical perfection, they would still be beasts, and would not be comparable to man, miserable, wicked, mad, man. For, in short, whatever is not as we are is nothing worth; and God, to procure himself an esteem among us, must put himself into that shape, as we shall show anon. By which it appears that it is not upon any true ground of reason, but by a foolish pride and vain opinion, that we prefer ourselves before other animals, and separate ourselves from their society and condition.

But to return to what I was upon before; we have for our part inconstancy, irresolution, incertitude, sorrow, superstition, solicitude of things to come, even after we shall be no more, ambition, avarice, jealousy, envy, irregular, frantic, and untamed appetites, war, lying, disloyalty, detraction, and curiosity. Doubtless, we have strangely overpaid this fine reason, upon which we so much glorify ourselves, and this capacity of judging and knowing, if we have bought it at the price of this infinite number of passions to which we are eternally subject. Unless we shall also think fit, as even Socrates does, to add to the counterpoise that notable prerogative above beasts, That whereas nature has prescribed them certain seasons and limits for the delights of Venus, she has given us the reins at all hours and all seasons.” Ut vinum ogrotis, quia prodest rar, nocet sopissime, melius est non adhibere omnino, quam, spe dubio salutis, in apertam per-niciem incurrere; sic, haud scio an melius fuerit humano generi motum istum celerem cogitationis, acumen, solertiam, quam rationem vocamus, quoniam pestifera sint multis, ad-modum paucis saluiaria, non dari omnino, quam tam muniice et tam large dari? As it falls out that wine often hurting the sick, and very rarely doing them good, it is better not to give them any at all than to run into an apparent danger out of hope of an uncertain benefit, so I know not whether it had not been better for mankind that this quick motion, this penetration, this subtlety that we call reason, had not been given to man at all; considering how pestiferous it is to many, and useful but to few, than to have been conferred in so abundant manner, and with so liberal a hand.” Of what advantage can we conceive the knowledge of so many things was to Yarro and Aristotle? Did it exempt them from human inconveniences? Were they by it freed from the accidents that lay heavy upon the shoulders of a porter? Did they extract from their logic any consolation for the gout? Or, for knowing how this humour is lodged in the joints, did they feel it the less? Did they enter into composition with death by knowing that some nations rejoice at his approach; or with cuckoldry, by knowing that in some parts of the world wives are in common? On the contrary, having been reputed the greatest men for knowledge, the one amongst the Romans and the other amongst the Greeks, and in a time when learning did most flourish, we have not heard, nevertheless, that they had any particular excellence in their lives; nay, the Greek had enough to do to clear himself from some notable blemishes in his. Have we observed that pleasure and health have a better relish with him that understands astrology and grammar than with others?

Illiterati num minus nervi rigent?

“Th’ illiterate ploughman is as fit
For Venus’ service as the wit:”

or shame and poverty less troublesome to the first than to the last?

Scilicet et morbis et debilitate carebis,
Et luctum et curam effugies, et tempora vit
Longa tibi post hc fato meliore dabuntur.

“Disease thy couch shall flee,
And sorrow and care; yes, thou, be sure, wilt see
Long years of happiness, till now unknown.”

I have known in my time a hundred artisans, a hundred labourers, wiser and more happy than the rectors of the university, and whom I had much rather have resembled. Learning, methinks, has its place amongst the necessary, things of life, as glory, nobility, dignity, or at the most, as beauty, riches, and such other qualities, which indeed are useful to it, but remotely, and more by opinion than by nature. We stand very little more in need of offices, rules, and laws of living in our society, than cranes and ants do in theirs; and yet we see that these carry themselves very regularly without erudition. If man was wise, he would take the true value of every thing according as it was useful and proper to his life. Whoever will number us by our actions and deportments will find many more excellent men amongst the ignorant than among the learned; aye, in all sorts of virtue. Old Rome seems to me to have been of much greater value, both for peace and war, than that learned Rome that ruined itself. And, though all the rest should be equal, yet integrity and innocency would remain to the ancients, for they cohabit singularly well with simplicity. But I will leave this discourse, that would lead me farther than I am willing to follow; and shall only say this further, ‘tis only humility and submission that can make a complete good man. We are not to leave the knowledge of his duty to every man’s own judgment; we are to prescribe it to him, and not suffer him to choose it at his own discretion; otherwise, according to the imbecility, and infinite variety of our reasons and opinions, we should at large forge ourselves duties that would, as Epicurus says, enjoin us to eat one another.

The first law that ever God gave to man was a law of pure obedience; it was a commandment naked and simple, wherein man had nothing to inquire after, nor to dispute; forasmuch as to obey is the proper office of a rational soul, acknowledging a heavenly superior and benefactor. From obedience and submission spring all other virtues, as all sin does from selfopinion. And, on the contrary, the first temptation that by the devil was offered to human nature, its first poison insinuated itself into us by the promise made us of knowledge and wisdom; Eritis sicut Dii, scientes bonum et malum. “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And the sirens, in Homer, to allure Ulysses, and draw him within the danger of their snares, offered to give him knowledge. The plague of man is the opinion of wisdom; and for this reason it is that ignorance is so recommended to us, by our religion, as proper to faith and obedience; Cavete ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam et inanes seductiones, secundum elementa mundi. “Take heed, lest any man deceive you by philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and the rudiments of the world.” There is in this a general consent amongst all sorts of philosophers, that the sovereign good consists in the tranquillity of the soul and body; but where shall we find it?

Ad summum, sapiens uno minor est Jove, dives,
Liber, honoratus, pulcher, rex deniqne regum;
Prcipue sanus, nisi cum pituita molesta est:

“In short, the wise is only less than Jove,
Rich, free, and handsome; nay, a king above
All earthly kings; with health supremely blest,
Excepting when a cold disturbs his rest!”

It seems, in truth, that nature, for the consolation of our miserable and wretched state, has only given us presumption for our inheritance. ‘Tis as Epictetus says, that man has nothing properly his own, but the use of his opinion; we have nothing but wind and smoke for our portion. The gods have health in essence, says philosophy, and sickness in intelligence. Man, on the contrary, possesses his goods by fancy, his ills in essence. We have reason to magnify the power of our imagination; for all our goods are only in dream. Hear this poor calamitous animal huff! “There is nothing,” says Cicero, “so charming as the employment of letters; of letters, I say, by means whereof the infinity of things, the immense grandeur of nature, the heavens even in this world, the earth, and the seas are discovered to us; ‘tis they that have taught us religion, moderation, and the grandeur of courage, and that have rescued our souls from darkness, to make her see all things, high, low, first, last, and middling; ‘tis they that furnish us wherewith to live happily and well, and conduct us to pass over our lives without displeasure, and without offence.” Does not this man seem to speak of the condition of the ever-living and almighty God? But as to effects, a thousand little countrywomen have lived lives more equal, more sweet, and constant than his.

Deus ille fuit, deus, inclyte Memmi,
Qui princeps vit rationem invenit earn, qu
Nunc appellatur sapientia; quique per artem
Fluctibus tantis vitam, tantisque tenebris,
In tam tranquilla et tam clara luce locavit:

“That god, great Memmus, was a god no doubt
Who, prince of life, first found that reason out
Now wisdom called; and by his art, who did
That life in tempests tost, and darkness hid,
Place in so great a calm, and clear a light:”

here are brave ranting words; but a very slight accident put this man’s understanding in a worse condition than that of the meanest shepherd, notwithstanding this instructing god, this divine wisdom. Of the same stamp and impudence is the promise of Democritus’s book: “I am going to speak of all things;” and that foolish title that Aristotle prefixes to one of his, order only afforded him a few lucid intervals which he employed in composing his book, and at last made him kill himself,—Eusebius’s Chronicon.

Of the Mortal Gods; and the judgment of Chrysippus, that “Dion was as virtuous as God;” and my Seneca himself says, that “God had given him life; but that to live well was his own;” conformably to this other: In virtute vere gloriamur; quod non contingeret, si id donum Deo, non nobis haberemus: “We truly glory in our virtue; which would not be, if it was given us of God, and not by ourselves;” this is also Seneca’s saying; “that the wise man hath fortitude equal with God, but that his is in spite of human frailty, wherein therefore he more than equals God.” There is nothing so ordinary as to meet with sallies of the like temerity; there is none of us, who take so much offence to see himself equalled with God, as he does to see himself undervalued by being ranked with other creatures; so much more are we jealous of our own interest than that of our Creator.

But we must trample under foot this foolish vanity, and briskly and boldly shake the ridiculous foundation upon which these false opinions are founded. So long as man shall believe he has any means and power of himself, he will never acknowledge what he owes to his Maker; his eggs shall always be chickens, as the saying is; we must therefore strip him to his shirt. Let us see some notable examples of the effects of his philosophy: Posidonius being tormented with a disease so painful as made him writhe his arms and gnash his teeth, thought he sufficiently scorned the dolour, by crying out against it: “Thou mayst do thy worst, I will not confess that thou art an evil.” He was as sensible of the pain as my footman, but he made a bravado of bridling his tongue, at least, and restraining it within the laws of his sect: Re succumbere non oportebat, verbis gloriantem. “It did not become him, that spoke so big, to confess his frailty when he came to the test.” Arcesilas being ill of the gout, and Car-neades, who had come to see him, going away troubled at his condition, he called him back, and showing him his feet and breast: “There is nothing comes thence hither,” said he. This has something a better grace, for he feels himself in pain, and would be disengaged from it; but his heart, notwithstanding, is not conquered nor subdued by it. The other stands more obstinately to his point, but, I fear, rather verbally than really. And Dionysius Heracleotes, afflicted with a vehement smarting in his eyes, was reduced to quit these stoical resolutions. But even though knowledge should, in effect, do as they say, and could blunt the point, and dull the edge, of the misfortunes that attend us, what does she, more than what ignorance does more purely and evidently?—The philosopher Pyrrho, being at sea in very great danger, by reason of a mighty storm, presented nothing to the imitation of those who were with him, in that extremity, but a hog they had on board, that was fearless and unconcerned at the tempest. Philosophy, when she has said all she can, refers us at last to the example of a gladiator, wrestler, or muleteer, in which sort of people we commonly observe much less apprehension of death, sense of pain, and other inconveniences, and more of endurance, than ever knowledge furnished any one withal, that was not bom and bred to hardship. What is the cause that we make incisions, and cut the tender limbs of an infant, and those of a horse, more easily than our own—but ignorance only? How many has mere force of imagination made sick? We often see men cause themselves to be let blood, purged, and physicked, to be cured of diseases they only feel in opinion.—When real infirmities fail us, knowledge lends us her’s; that colour, that complexion, portend some catarrhous defluxion; this hot season threatens us with a fever; this breach in the life-line of your left hand gives you notice of some near and dangerous indisposition; and at last she roundly attacks health itself; saying, this sprightliness and vigour of youth cannot continue in this posture; there must be blood taken, and the heat abated, lest it turn against yourself. Compare the life of a man subjected to such imaginations, to that of a labourer that suffers himself to be led by his natural appetite, measuring things only by the present sense, without knowledge, and without prognostic, that feels no pain or sickness, but when he is really ill. Whereas the other has the stone in his soul, before he has it in his bladder; as if it were not time enough to suffer the evil when it shall come, he must anticipate it by fancy, and run to meet it.

What I say of physic may generally serve in example for all other sciences. Thence is derived that ancient opinion of the philosophers that placed the sovereign good in the discovery of the weakness of our judgment My ignorance affords me as much occasion of hope as of fear; and having no other rule for my health than that of the examples of others, and of events I see elsewhere upon the like occasion, I find of all sorts, and rely upon those which by comparison are most favourable to me. I receive health with open arms, free, full, and entire, and by so much the more whet my appetite to enjoy it, by how much it is at present less ordinary and more rare; so far am I from troubling its repose and sweetness with the bitterness of a new and constrained manner of living. Beasts sufficiently show us how much the agitation of our minds brings infirmities and diseases upon us. That which is told us of those of Brazil, that they never die but of old age, is attributed to the serenity and tranquillity of the air they live in; but I rather attribute it to the serenity and tranquillity of their souls, free from all passion, thought, or employment, extended or unpleasing, a people that pass over their lives in a wonderful simplicity and ignorance, without letters, without law, without king, or any manner of religion. And whence comes that, which we find by experience, that the heaviest and dullest men are most able; and the most to be desired in amorous performances; and that the love of a muleteer often renders itself more acceptable than that of a gentleman, if it be not that the agitation of the soul in the latter disturbs his physical ability, dissolves and tires it, as it also ordinarily troubles and tires itself. What puts the soul beside itself, and more usually throws it into madness, but her own promptness, vigour, and agility, and, finally, her own proper force? Of what is the most subtle folly made, but of the most subtle wisdom? As great friendships spring from great enmities, and vigorous health from mortal diseases, so from the rare and vivid agitations of our souls proceed the most wonderful and most distracted frenzies; ‘tis but half a turn of the toe from the one to the other. In the actions of madmen we see how infinitely madness resembles the most vigorous operations of the soul. Who does not know how indiscernible the difference is betwixt folly and the sprightly elevations of a free soul, and the effects of a supreme and extraordinary virtue? Plato says that melancholy persons are the most capable of discipline, and the most excellent; and accordingly in none is there so great a propension to madness. Great wits are ruined by their own proper force and pliability; into what a condition, through his own agitation and promptness of fancy, is one of the most judicious, ingenious, and nearest formed, of any other Italian poet, to the air of the ancient and true poesy, lately fallen! Has he not vast obligation to this vivacity that has destroyed him? to this light that has blinded him? to this exact and subtle apprehension of reason that has put him beside his own? to this curious and laborious search after sciences, that has reduced him to imbecility? and to this rare aptitude to the exercises of the soul, that has rendered him without exercise and without soul? I was more angry, if possible, than compassionate, to see him at Ferrara in so pitiful a condition surviving himself, forgetting both himself and his works, which, without his knowledge, though before his face, have been published unformed and incorrect.

Would you have a man healthy, would you have him regular, and in a steady and secure posture? Muffle him up in the shades of stupidity and sloth. We must be made beasts to be made wise, and hoodwinked before we are fit to be led. And if one shall tell me that the advantage of having a cold and dull sense of pain and other evils, brings this disadvantage along with it, to render us consequently less sensible also in the fruition of good and pleasure, this is true; but the misery of our condition is such that we have not so much to enjoy as to avoid, and that the extremest pleasure does not affect us to the degree that a light grief does: Segnius homines bona quam mala sentiunt. We are not so sensible of the most perfect health as we are of the least sickness.

In cute vix sum ma violatum plagula corpus;
Quando valere nihil quemquam movet. Hoc juvat unum,
Quod me non torquet latus, aut pes;
Ctera quisquam Vix queat aut sanum sese, aut sentire valentem.

“The body with a little sting is griev’d,
When the most perfect health is not perceiv’d,
This only pleases me, that spleen nor gout
Neither offend my side nor wring my foot;
Excepting these, scarce any one can tell,
Or e’er observes, when he’s in health and well.”

Our well-being is nothing but the not being ill. Which is the reason why that sect of philosophers, which sets the greatest value upon pleasure, has yet fixed it chiefly in unconsciousness of pain. To be freed from ill is the greatest good that man can hope for or desire; as Ennius says,—

Nimium boni est, cui nihil est mali;

for that every tickling and sting which are in certain pleasures, and that seem to raise us above simple health and passiveness, that active, moving, and, I know not how, itching, and biting pleasure; even that very pleasure itself aims at nothing but insensibility as its mark. The appetite that carries us headlong to women’s embraces has no other end but only to cure the torment of our ardent and furious desires, and only requires to be glutted and laid at rest, and delivered from the fever. And so of the rest. I say, then, that if simplicity conducts us to a state free from evil, she leads us to a very happy one according to our condition. And yet we are not to imagine it so stupid an insensibility as to be totally without sense; for Crantor had very good reason to controvert the insensibility of Epicurus, if founded so deep that the very first attack and birth of evils were not to be perceived: “I do not approve such an insensibility as is neither possible nor to be desired. I am very well content not to be sick; but if I am, I would know that I am so; and if a caustic be applied, or incisions made in any part, I would feel them.” In truth, whoever would take away the knowledge and sense of evil, would at the same time eradicate the sense of pleasure, and finally annihilate man himself: Istud nihil dolere, non sine magn mercede contingit, immanitatis in animo, stuporis in corpore. “An insensibility that is not to be purchased but at the price of inhumanity in the soul, and of stupidity of the body.” Evil appertains to man of course. Neither is pain always to be avoided, nor pleasure always pursued.

‘Tis a great advantage to the honour of ignorance that knowledge itself throws us into its arms, when she finds herself puzzled to fortify us against the weight of evil; she is constrained to come to this composition, to give us the reins, and permit us to fly into the lap of the other, and to shelter ourselves under her protection from the strokes and injuries of fortune. For what else is her meaning when she instructs us to divert our thoughts from the ills that press upon us, and entertain them with the meditation of pleasures past and gone; to comfort ourselves in present afflictions with the remembrance of fled delights, and to call to our succour a vanished satisfaction, to oppose it to the discomfort that lies heavy upon us? Levationes gritudinum in avocatione a cogitand molesti, et revocation ad contemplandas voluptates, ponit; “He directs us to alleviate our grief and pains by rejecting unpleasant thoughts, and recalling agreeable ideas;” if it be not that where her power fails she would supply it with policy, and make use of sleight of hand where force of limbs will not serve her turn? For not only to a philosopher, but to any man in his right wits, when he has upon him the thirst of a burning fever, what satisfaction can it be to him to remember the pleasure he took in drinking Greek wine a month ago? It would rather only make matters worse to him:—

Che ricordarsi il ben doppia la noia.

“The thinking of pleasure doubles trouble.”

Of the same stamp is this other counsel that philosophy gives, only to remember the happiness that is past, and to forget the misadventures we have undergone; as if we had the science of oblivion in our own power, and counsel, wherein we are yet no more to seek.

Suavis laborum est prteritorum rmoria.

“Sweet is the memory of by-gone pain.”

How does philosophy, that should arm me to contend with fortune, and steel my courage to trample all human adversities under foot, arrive to this degree of cowardice to make me hide my head at this rate, and save myself by these pitiful and ridiculous shifts? For the memory represents to us not what we choose, but what she pleases; nay, there is nothing that so much imprints any thing in our memory as a desire to forget it. And ‘tis a good way to retain and keep any thing safe in the soul to solicit her to lose it. And this is false: Est situm in nobis, ut et adversa quasi perpetua oblivione obruamus, et secunda jucunde et suaviter meminerimus; “it is in our power to bury, as it were, in a perpetual oblivion, all adverse accidents, and to retain a pleasant and delightful memory of our successes;” and this is true: Memini etiam quo nolo; oblivisci non possum quo volo. “I do also remember what I would not; but I cannot forget what I would.” And whose counsel is this? His, qui se unies sapiervtem profiteri sit ausus; “who alone durst profess himself a wise man.”

Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, et omnes
Prstinxit stellas, exortus uti thereus Sol.

“Who from mankind the prize of knowledge won,
And put the stars out like the rising sun.”

To empty and disfurnish the memory, is not this the true way to ignorance?

Iners malorum remedium ignorantia est.

“Ignorance is but a dull remedy for evils.”

We find several other like precepts, whereby we are permitted to borrow frivolous appearances from the vulgar, where we find the strongest reason will not answer the purpose, provided they administer satisfaction and comfort Where they cannot cure the wound, they are content to palliate and benumb it I believe they will not deny this, that if they could add order and constancy in a state of life that could maintain itself in ease and pleasure by some debility of judgment, they would accept it:—

Potare, et spargere flores
Incipiam, patiarque vel inconsultus haberi.

“Give me to drink, and, crown’d with flowers, despise
The grave disgrace of being thought unwise.”

There would be a great many philosophers of Lycas’s mind this man, being otherwise of very regular manners, living quietly and contentedly in his family, and not failing in any office of his duty, either towards his own or strangers, and very carefully preserving himself from hurtful things, became, nevertheless, by some distemper in his brain, possessed with a conceit that he was perpetually in the theatre, a spectator of the finest sights and the best comedies in the world; and being cured by the physicians of his frenzy, was hardly prevented from endeavouring by suit to compel them to restore him again to his pleasing imagination:—

Pol I me occidistis, amici,
Non servastis, ait; cui sic extorta voluptas,
Et demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error;

“By heaven! you’ve killed me, friends, outright,
And not preserved me; since my dear delight
And pleasing error, by my better sense
Unhappily return’d, is banished hence;”

with a madness like that of Thrasylaus the son of Pythodorus, who made himself believe that all the ships that weighed anchor from the port of Pirus, and that came into the haven, only made their voyages for his profit; congratulating them upon their successful navigation, and receiving them with the greatest joy; and when his brother Crito caused him to be restored to his better understanding, he infinitely regretted that sort of condition wherein he had lived with so much delight and free from all anxiety of mind. ‘Tis according to the old Greek verse, that “there is a great deal of convenience in not being over-wise.”

And Ecclesiastes, “In much wisdom there is much sorrow;” and “Who gets wisdom gets labour and trouble.”

Even that to which philosophy consents in general, that last remedy which she applies to all sorts of necessities, to put an end to the life we are not able to endure. Placet?—Pare. Non placet?—Qucumque vis, exi. Pungit dolor?—Vel fodiat sane. Si nudus es, da jugulum; sin tectus armis Vulcaniis, id est fortitudine, rsist; “Does it please?—Obey it. Not please?—Go where thou wilt. Does grief prick thee,—nay, stab thee?—If thou art naked, present thy throat; if covered with the arms of Vulcan, that is, fortitude, resist it.” And this word, so used in the Greek festivals, aut bibat, aut abeat, “either drink or go,” which sounds better upon the tongue of a Gascon, who naturally changes the h into v, than on that of Cicero:—

Vivere si recte nescis, decede peritis.
Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius quo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius tas.

“If to live well and right thou dost not know,
Give way, and leave thy place to those that do.
Thou’st eaten, drunk, and play’d to thy content,
‘Tis time to make thy parting compliment,
Lest youth, more decent in their follies, scoff
The nauseous scene, and hiss thee reeling off;”

What is it other than a confession of his impotency, and a sending back not only to ignorance, to be there in safety, but even to stupidity, insensibility, and nonentity?

Democritum postquam matura vetustas
Admonuit memorem motus languescere mentis;
Sponte sua letho caput obvius obtulit ipse.

“Soon as, through age, Democritus did find
A manifest decadence in his mind,
He thought he now surviv’d to his own wrong,
And went to meet his death, that stay’d too long.”

‘Tis what Antisthenes said, “That a man should either make provision of sense to understand, or of a halter to hang himself;” and what Chrysippus alleged upon this saying of the poet Tyrtus:—

“Or to arrive at virtue or at death;”

and Crates said, “That love would be cured by hunger, if not by time; and whoever disliked these two remedies, by a rope.” That Sextius, of whom both Seneca and Plutarch speak with so high an encomium, having applied himself, all other things set aside, to the study of philosophy, resolved to throw himself into the sea, seeing the progress of his studies too tedious and slow. He ran to find death, since he could not overtake knowledge. These are the words of the law upon the subject: “If peradventure some great inconvenience happen, for which there is no remedy, the haven is near, and a man may save himself by swimming out of his body as out of a leaky skiff; for ‘tis the fear of dying, and not the love of life, that ties the fool to his body.”

As life renders itself by simplicity more pleasant, so more innocent and better, also it renders it as I was saying before: “The simple and ignorant,” says St. Paul, “raise themselves up to heaven and take possession of it; and we, with all our knowledge, plunge ourselves into the infernal abyss.” I am neither swayed by Valentinian, a professed enemy to all learning and letters, nor by Licinius, both Roman emperors, who called them the poison and pest of all political government; nor by Mahomet, who, as ‘tis said, interdicted all manner of learning to his followers; but the example of the great Lycurgus, and his authority, with the reverence of the divine Lacedemonian policy, so great, so admirable, and so long flourishing in virtue and happiness, without any institution or practice of letters, ought certainly to be of very great weight. Such as return from the new world discovered by the Spaniards in our fathers’ days, testify to us how much more honestly and regularly those nations live, without magistrate and without law, than ours do, where there are more officers and lawyers than there are of other sorts of men and business:—

Di cittatorie piene, e di libelli,
D’esamine, e di carte di procure,
Hanno le mani e il seno, e gran fastelli
Di chioge, di consigli, et di letture:
Per cui le faculta de* poverelli
Non sono mai nelle citt sicure;
Hanno dietro e dinanzi, e d’ambi i lati,
Notai, procuratori, ed avvocati.

“Their bags were full of writs, and of citations,
Of process, and of actions and arrests,
Of bills, of answers, and of replications,
In courts of delegates, and of requests,
To grieve the simple sort with great vexations;
They had resorting to them as their guests,
Attending on their circuit, and their journeys,
Scriv’ners, and clerks, and lawyers, and attorneys.”

It was what a Roman senator of the latter ages said, that their predecessors’ breath stunk of garlic, but their stomachs were perfumed with a good conscience; and that, on the contrary, those of his time were all sweet odour without, but stunk within of all sorts of vices; that is to say, as I interpret it, that they abounded with learning and eloquence, but were very defective in moral honesty. Incivility, ignorance, simplicity, roughness, are the natural companions of innocence; curiosity, subtlety, knowledge, bring malice in their train; humility, fear, obedience, and affability, which are the principal things that support and maintain human society, require an empty and docile soul, and little presuming upon itself.

Christians have a particular knowledge, how natural and original an evil curiosity is in man; the thirst of knowledge, and the desire to become more wise, was the first ruin of man, and the way by which he precipitated himself into eternal damnation. Pride was his ruin and corruption. ‘Tis pride that diverts him from the common path, and makes him embrace novelties, and rather choose to be head of a troop, lost and wandering in the path of error; to be a master and a teacher of lies, than to be a disciple in the school of truth, suffering himself to be led and guided by the hand of another, in the right and beaten road. ‘Tis, peradventure, the meaning of this old Greek saying, that superstition follows pride, and obeys it as if it were a father: [—Greek—] Ah, presumption, how much dost thou hinder us?

After that Socrates was told that the god of wisdom had assigned to him the title of sage, he was astonished at it, and, searching and examining himself throughout, could find no foundation for this divine judgment. He knew others as just, temperate, valiant, and learned, as himself; and more eloquent, more handsome, and more profitable to their country than he. At last he concluded that he was not distinguished from others, nor wise, but only because he did not think himself so; and that his God considered the opinion of knowledge and wisdom as a singular absurdity in man; and that his best doctrine was the doctrine of ignorance, and simplicity his best wisdom. The sacred word declares those miserable among us who have an opinion of themselves: “Dust and ashes,” says it to such, “what hast thou wherein to glorify thyself?” And, in another place, “God has made man like unto a shadow,” of whom who can judge, when by removing the light it shall be vanished! Man is a thing of nothing.

Our force is so far from being able to comprehend the divine height, that, of the works of our Creator, those best bear his mark, and are with better title his, which we the least understand. To meet with an incredible thing is an occasion to Christians to believe; and it is so much the more according to reason, by how much it is against human reason. If it were according to reason, it would be no more a miracle; and if it were according to example, it would be no longer a singular thing. Melius scitur Deus nesdendo: “God is better known by not knowing him,” says St. Austin: and Tacitus, Sanctius est ac reverentius de actis Deorum credere, quam scire; “it is more holy and reverent to believe the works of God than to know them;” and Plato thinks there is something of impiety in inquiring too curiously into God, the world, and the first causes of things: Atque illum quidem parentem hujus universitaiis invenire, difficile; et, quum jam inveneris, indicare in vulgtis, nefas: “to find out the parent of the world is very difficult; and when found out, to reveal him to the vulgar is sin,” says Cicero. We talk indeed of power, truth, justice; which are words that signify some great thing; but that thing we neither see nor conceive at all. We say that God fears, that God is angry, that God loves,

Immortalia mortali sermone notantes:

“Giving to things immortal mortal names.”

These are all agitations and emotions that cannot be in God, according to our form, nor can we imagine them, according to his. It only belongs to God to know himself, and to interpret his own works; and he does it in our language, going out of himself, to stoop to us who grovel upon the earth. How can prudence, which is the choice between good and evil, be properly attributed to him whom no evil can touch? How can reason and intelligence, which we make use of, to arrive by obscure at apparent things; seeing that nothing is obscure to him? How justice, which distributes to every one what appertains to him, a thing begot by the society and community of men, how is that in God? How temperance, which is the moderation of corporal pleasures, that have no place in the Divinity? Fortitude to support pain, labour, and dangers, as little appertains to him as the rest; these three things have no access to him. For which reason Aristotle holds him equally exempt from virtue and vice: Neque gratia, neque ira teneri potest; quod quo talia essent, imbecilla essent omnia? “He can neither be affected with favour nor indignation, because both these are the effects of frailty.”

The participation we have in the knowledge of truth, such as it is, is not acquired by our own force: God has sufficiently given us to understand that, by the witnesses he has chosen out of the common people, simple and ignorant men, that he has been pleased to employ to instruct us in his admirable secrets. Our faith is not of our own acquiring; ‘tis purely the gift of another’s bounty: ‘tis not by meditation, or by virtue of our own understanding, that we have acquired our religion, but by foreign authority and command wherein the imbecility of our own judgment does more assist us than any force of it; and our blindness more than our clearness of sight: ‘tis more by__ the mediation of our ignorance than of our knowledge that we know any thing of the divine wisdom. ‘Tis no wonder if our natural and earthly parts cannot conceive that supernatural and heavenly knowledge: let us bring nothing of our own, but obedience and subjection; for, as it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Finally, should I examine whether it be in the power of man to find out that which he seeks and if that quest, wherein he has busied himself so many ages, has enriched him with any new force, or any solid truth; I believe he will confess, if he speaks from his conscience, that all he has got by so long inquiry is only to have learned to know his own weakness. We have only by a long study confirmed and verified the natural ignorance we were in before. The same has fallen out to men truly wise, which befalls the ears of corn; they shoot and raise their heads high and pert, whilst empty; but when full and swelled with grain in maturity, begin to flag and droop. So men, having tried and sounded all things, and having found in that mass of knowledge, and provision of so many various things, nothing solid and firm, and nothing but vanity, have quitted their presumption, and acknowledged their natural condition. ‘Tis what Velleius reproaches Cotta withal and Cicero, “that they had learned of Philo, that they had learned nothing.” Pherecydes, one of the seven sages, writing to Thales upon his death-bed; “I have,” said he, “given order to my people, after my interment, to carry my writings to thee. If they please thee and the other sages, publish; if not, suppress them. They contain no certainty with which I myself am satisfied. Neither do I pretend to know the truth, or to attain to it. I rather open than discover things.” The wisest man that ever was, being asked what he knew, made answer, “He knew this, that he knew nothing.” By which he verified what has been said, that the greatest part of what we know is the least of what we do not; that is to say, that even what we think we know is but a piece, and a very little one, of our ignorance. We know things in dreams, says Plato, and are ignorant of them in truth. Ormes pene veteres nihil cognosci, nihil percipi, nihil sciri posse dixerunt; angustos sensus, imbecilles animos, brevia curricula vito. “Almost all the ancients have declared that there is nothing to be known, nothing to be perceived or understood; the senses are too limited, men’s minds too weak, and the course of life too short.” And of Cicero himself, who stood indebted to his learning for all he was worth, Valerius says, “That he began to disrelish letters in his old age; and when at his studies, it was with great independency upon any one party; following what he thought probable, now in one sect, and then in another, evermore wavering under the doubts of the academy.” Dicendum est, sed ita ut nihil affirment, quceram omnia, dubitans plerumque, et mihi diffidens. “Something I must say, but so as to affirm nothing; I inquire into all things, but for the most part in doubt and distrust of myself.”

I should have too fair a game should I consider man in his common way of living and in gross; yet I might do it by his own rule, who judges truth not by weight, but by the number of votes. Let us set the people aside,

Qui vigilans stertit,....
Mortua cui vita est prope jam vivo atque videnti;

“Half of his life by lazy sleep’s possess’d,
And when awake his soul but nods at best;”

who neither feel nor judge, and let most of their natural faculties lie idle; I will take man in his highest ground. Let us consider him in that little number of men, excellent and culled out from the rest, who, having been endowed with a remarkable and particular natural force, have moreover hardened and whetted it by care, study, and art, and raised it to the highest pitch of wisdom to which it can possibly arrive. They have adjusted their souls to all ways and all biases; have propped and supported them with all foreign helps proper for them, and enriched and adorned them with all they could borrow for their advantage, both within and without the world; ‘tis in these is placed the utmost and most supreme height to which human nature can attain. They have regulated the world with policies and laws. They have instructed it with arts and sciences, and by the example of their admirable manners. I shall make account of none but such men as these, their testimony and experience. Let us examine how far they have proceeded, and where they stopped. The errors and defects that we shall find amongst these men the world may boldly avow as their own.

Whoever goes in search of any thing must come to this, either to say that he has found it, or that it is not to be found, or that he is yet upon the search. All philosophy is divided into these three kinds; her design is to seek out truth, knowledge, and certainty. The Peripatetics, Epicureans, Stoics, and others, have thought they have found it. These established the sciences we have, and have treated of them as of certain knowledge. Clitomachus, Carneades, and the Academics, have despaired in their search, and concluded that truth could not be conceived by our understandings. The result of these is weakness and human ignorance. This sect has had the most and the most noble followers. Pyrrho, and other skeptics or epechists, whose dogmas are held by many of the ancients to be taken from Homer, the seven sages, and from Archilochus and Euripides, and to whose number these are added, Zeno, Democritus, and Xenophanes, say that they are yet upon the inquiry after truth. These conclude that the others, who think they have found it out, are infinitely deceived; and that it is too daring a vanity in the second sort to determine that human reason is not able to attain unto it; for this establishing a standard of our power, to know and judge the difficulty of things, is a great and extreme knowledge, of which they doubt whether man is capable:—

Nil sciri quisquis putat, id quoque nescit,
An sciri possit; quam se nil scire fatetur.

“He that says nothing can be known, o’erthrows
His own opinion, for he nothing knows,
So knows not that.”

The ignorance that knows itself, judges and condemns itself, is not an absolute ignorance; to be such, it must be ignorant of itself; so that the profession of the Pyrrhonians is to waver, doubt, and inquire, not to make themselves sure of, or responsible to themselves for any thing. Of the three actions of the soul, imaginative, appetitive, and consentive, they receive the two first; the last they kept ambiguous, without inclination or approbation, either of one thing or another, so light as it is. Zeno represented the motion of his imagination upon these divisions of the faculties of the soul thus: “An open and expanded hand signified appearance; a hand half shut, and the fingers a little bending, consent; a clenched fist, comprehension; when with the left he yet thrust the right fist closer, knowledge.” Now this situation of their judgment upright and inflexible, receiving all objects without application or consent, leads them to their ataraxy, which is a peaceable condition of life, temperate, and exempt from the agitations we receive by the impression of opinion and knowledge that we think we have of things; whence spring fear, avarice, envy, immoderate desires, ambition, pride, superstition, love of novelty, rebellion, disobedience, obstinacy, and the greatest part of bodily ills; nay, and by that they are exempt from the jealousy of their discipline; for they debate after a very gentle manner; they fear no requital in their disputes; when they affirm that heavy things descend they would be sorry to be believed, and love tobe contradicted, to engender doubt and suspense of judgment, which is their end. They only put forward their propositions to contend with those they think we have in our belief. If you take their arguments, they will as readily maintain the contrary; ‘tis all one to them, they have no choice. If you maintain that snow is black, they will argue on the contrary that it is white; if you say it is neither the one nor the other, they will maintain that it is both. If you hold, of certain judgment, that you know nothing, they will maintain that you do. Yea, and if by an affirmative axiom you assure them that you doubt, they will argue against you that you doubt not; or that you cannot judge and determine that you doubt. And by this extremity of doubt, which jostles itself, they separate and divide themselves from many opinions, even of those they have several ways maintained, both concerning doubt and ignorance. “Why shall not they be allowed to doubt,” say they, “as well as the dogmatists, one of whom says green, another yellow? Can any thing be proposed to us to grant, or deny, which it shall not be permitted to consider as ambiguous?” And where others are carried away, either by the custom of their country, or by the instruction of parents, or by accident, as by a tempest, without judgment and without choice, nay, and for the most part before the age of discretion, to such and such an opinion, to the sect whether Stoic or Epicurean, with which they are prepossessed, enslaved, and fast bound, as to a thing they cannot forsake: Ad quamcumque disciplinant, velut tempestate, delati, ad earn, tanquam ad saxum, adhorescunt; “every one cleaves to the doctrine he has happened upon, as to a rock against which he has been thrown by tempest;” why shall not these likewise be permitted to maintain their liberty, and consider things without obligation or slavery? hoc liberiores et solutiores, quod integra illis est judicandi potestas: “in this more unconstrained and free, because they have the greater power of judging.” Is it not of some advantage to be disengaged from the necessity that curbs others? Is it not better to remain in suspense than to entangle one’s self in the innumerable errors that human fancy has produced? Is it not much better to suspend one’s persuasion than to intermeddle with these wrangling and seditious divisions: “What shall I choose?” “What you please, provided you will choose.” A very foolish answer; but such a one, nevertheless, as all dogmatism seems to point at, and by which we are not permitted to be ignorant of what we are ignorant of.

Take the most eminent side, that of the greatest reputation; it will never be so sure that you shall not be forced to attack and contend with a hundred and a hundred adversaries to defend it. Is it not better to keep out of this hurly-burly? You are permitted to embrace Aristotle’s opinions of the immortality of the soul with as much zeal as your honour and life, and to give the lie to Plato thereupon, and shall they be interdicted to doubt him? If it be lawful for Pantius to maintain his opinion about augury, dreams, oracles, vaticinations, of which the Stoics made no doubt at all; why may not a wise man dare to do the same in all things that he dared to do in those he had learned of his masters, established by the common consent of the school, whereof he is a professor and a member? If it be a child that judges, he knows not what it is; if a wise man, he is prepossessed. They have reserved for themselves a marvellous advantage in battle, having eased themselves of the care of defence. If you strike them, they care not, provided they strike too, and they turn every thing to their own use. If they overcome, your argument is lame; if you, theirs; if they fall short, they verify ignorance; if you fall short, you do it; if they prove that nothing is known, ‘tis well; if they cannot prove it, ‘tis also well: Ut quurn in eadem re paria contrariis in partibus momenta inveniuntur, facilius ab utraque parte assertio sustineatur: “That when like sentiments happen pro and con in the same thing, the assent may on both sides be more easily suspended.” And they make account to find out, with much greater facility, why a thing is false, than why ‘tis true; that which is not, than that which is; and what they do not believe, than what they do. Their way of speaking is: “I assert nothing; it is no more so than so, or than neither one nor t’other; I understand it not. Appearances are everywhere equal; the law of speaking, pro or con, is the same. Nothing seems true, that may not seem false.” Their sacramental word is that is to say, “I hold, I stir not.” This is the burden of their song, and others of like stuff. The effect of which is a pure, entire, perfect, and absolute suspension of judgment. They make use of their reason to inquire and debate, but not to fix and determine. Whoever shall imagine a perpetual confession of ignorance, a judgment without bias, propension, or inclination, upon any occasion whatever, conceives a true idea of Pyrrhonism. I express this fancy as well as I can, by reason that many find it hard to conceive, and the authors themselves represent it a little variously and obscurely.

As to what concerns the actions of life, they are in this of the common fashion. They yield and give up themselves to their natural inclinations, to the power and impulse of passions, to the constitution of laws and customs, and to the tradition of arts; Non enim nos Deus ista scire, sed tantummodo uti, voluit. “For God would not have us know, but only use those things.” They suffer their ordinary actions to be guided by those things, without any dispute or judgment. For which reason I cannot consent to what is said of Pyrrho, by those who represent him heavy and immovable, leading a kind of savage and unsociable life, standing the jostle of carts, going upon the edge of precipices, and refusing to accommodate himself to the laws. This is to enhance upon his discipline; he would never make himself a stock or a stone, he would show himself a living man, discoursing, reasoning, enjoying all reasonable conveniences and pleasures, employing and making use of all his corporal and spiritual faculties in rule and reason. The fantastic, imaginary, and false privileges that man had usurped of lording it, ordaining, and establishing, he has utterly quitted and renounced. Yet there is no sect but is constrained to permit her sage to follow several things not comprehended, perceived, or consented to, if he means to live. And if he goes to sea, he follows that design, not knowing whether his voyage shall be successful or no; and only insists upon the tightness of the vessel, the experience of the pilot, and the convenience of the season, and such probable circumstances; after which he is bound to go, and suffer himself to be governed by appearances, provided there be no express and manifest contrariety in them. He has a body, he has a soul; the senses push them, the mind spurs them on. And although he does not find in himself this proper and singular sign of judging, and that he perceives that he ought not to engage his consent, considering that there may be some false, equal to these true appearances, yet does he not, for all that, fail of carrying on the offices of his life with great liberty and convenience. How many arts are there that profess to consist more in conjecture than knowledge; that decide not on true and false, and only follow that which seems so! There are, say they, true and false, and we have in us wherewith to seek it; but not to make it stay when we touch it. We are much more prudent, in letting ourselves be regulated by the order of the world, without inquiry. A soul clear from prejudice has a marvellous advance towards tranquillity and repose. Men that judge and control their judges, do never duly submit to them.

How much more docile and easy to be governed, both by the laws of religion and civil polity, are simple and incurious minds, than those over-vigilant wits, that will still be prating of divine and human causes! There is nothing in human invention that carries so great a show of likelihood and utility as this; this presents man, naked and empty, confessing his natural weakness, fit to receive some foreign force from above, unfurnished of human, and therefore more apt to receive into him the divine knowledge, making nought of his own judgment, to give more room to faith; neither disbelieving nor establishing any dogma against common observances; humble, obedient, disciplinable, and studious; a sworn enemy of heresy; and consequently freeing himself from vain and irreligious opinions, introduced by false sects. ‘Tis a blank paper prepared to receive such forms from the finger of God as he shall please to write upon it. The more we resign and commit ourselves to God, and the more we renounce ourselves, of the greater value we are. “Take in good part,” says Ecclesiastes, “the things that present themselves to thee, as they seem and taste from hand to mouth; the rest is out of thy knowledge.” Dominus novit cogitationes hominum, quoniam van sunt: “The Lord knoweth the hearts of men, that they are but vanity.”

Thus we see that of the three general sects of philosophy, two make open profession of doubt and ignorance; and in that of the Dogmatists, which is the third, it is easy to discover that the greatest part of them only assume this face of confidence and assurance that

they may produce the better effect; they have not so much thought to establish any certainty for us, as to show us how far they have proceeded in their search of truth: Quam docti jingunt magis quam nrunt: “Which the learned rather feign than know.” Timus, being to instruct Socrates in what he knew of the gods, the world, and men, proposes to speak to him as a man to a man; and that it is sufficient, if his reasons are probable as those of another; for that exact reasons were neither in his nor any other mortal hand; which one of his followers has thus imitated: Ut potero, explicabo: nec tamen, ut Pythius Apollo, certa ut sint et fixa qu dixero; sed, ut homunculus, probabilia conjectur sequens: “I will, as well as I am able, explain; affirming, yet not as the Pythian oracle, that what I say is fixed and certain, but like a mere man, that follows probabilities by conjecture.” And this, upon the natural and common subject of the contempt of death; he has elsewhere translated from the very words of Plato: Si forte, de Deorum natur ortuque mundi disserentes, minus id quod habemiis in animo consequi-mur, haud erit mirum; oquum est enim meminisse, et me, qui disseram, hominem esse, et vos, qui judicetis, ut, si probabilia dicentur, nihil ultra requiratis? “If perchance, when we discourse of the nature of God, and the world’s original, we cannot do it as we desire, it will be no great wonder. For it is just you should remember that both I who speak and you who are to judge, are men; so that if probable things are delivered, you shall require and expect no more.” Aristotle ordinarily heaps up a great number of other men’s opinions and beliefs, to compare them with his own, and to let us see how much he has gone beyond them, and how much nearer he approaches to the likelihood of truth; for truth is not to be judged by the authority and testimony of others; which made Epicurus religiously avoid quoting them in his writings. This is the prince of all dogmatists, and yet we are told by him that the more we know the more we have room for doubt. In earnest, we sometimes see him shroud and muffle up himself in so thick and so inextricable an obscurity that we know not what to make of his advice; it is, in effect, a Pyrrhonism under a resolutive form. Hear Cicero’s protestation, who expounds to us another’s fancy by his own: Qui requirunt quid de quque re ipsi sentiamus, curiosius id faciunt quam necesse est,... Hoc in philosophi ratio, contra omnia disserendi, nuttamque rem aperte judicandi, profecta a Socrate, repetita ab Arcesila, conjirmata a Gameade, usqu ad nostram viget cetatem..........Hi sumus, qui omnibus veris falsa quodam adjuncta esse dicamus, tanta similitudine, ut in iis nulla insit certe judicandi et assentiendi nota. “They who desire to know what we think of every thing are therein more inquisitive than is necessary. This practice in philosophy of disputing against every thing, and of absolutely concluding nothing, begun by Socrates, repeated by Arcesilaus, and confirmed by Cameades, has continued in use even to our own times. We are they who declare that there is so great a mixture of things false amongst all that are true, and they so resemble one another, that there can be in them no certain mark to direct us either to judge or assent.” Why hath not Aristotle only, but most of the philosophers, affected difficulty, if not to set a greater value upon the vanity of the subject, and amuse the curiosity of our minds by giving them this hollow and fleshless bone to pick? Clitomachus affirmed “That he could never discover by Carneades’s writings what opinion he was of.” This was it that made Epicurus affect to be abstruse, and that procured Heraclitus the epithet of [—Greek—] Difficulty is a coin the learned make use of, like jugglers, to conceal the vanity of their art, and which human sottishness easily takes for current pay.

Claras, ob obscuram linguam, magis inter manes...
Omnia enim stolidi magis admirantur amantque
Inversis qu sub verbis latitantia cemunt.

“Bombast and riddle best do puppies please,
For fools admire and love such things as these;
And a dull quibble, wrapt in dubious phrase,
Up to the height doth their wise wonder raise.”

Cicero reprehends some of his friends for giving more of their time to the study of astrology, logic, and geometry, than they were really worth; saying that they were by these diverted from the duties of life, and more profitable and proper studies. The Cyrenaick philosophers, in like manner, despised physics and logic. Zeno, in the very beginning of the books of the commonwealth, declared all the liberal arts of no use. Chrysippus said “That what Plato and Aristotle had writ, concerning logic, they had only done in sport, and by way of exercise;” and could not believe that they spoke in earnest of so vain a thing. Plutarch says the same of metaphysics. And Epicurus would have said as much of rhetoric, grammar, poetry, mathematics, and, natural philosophy excepted, of all the sciences; and Socrates of them all, excepting that which treats of manners and of life. Whatever any one required to be instructed in, by him, he would ever, in the first place, demand an account of the conditions of his life present and past, which he examined and judged, esteeming all other learning subsequent to that and supernumerary: Parum mihi placeant e littero quo ad virtutem doctoribus nihil pro-fuerunt. “That learning is in small repute with me which nothing profited the teachers themselves to virtue.” Most of the arts have been in like manner decried by the same knowledge; but they did not consider that it was from the purpose to exercise their wits in those very matters wherein there was no solid advantage.

As to the rest, some have looked upon Plato as a dogmatist, others as a doubter, others in some things the one, and in other things the other. Socrates, the conductor of his dialogues, is eternally upon questions and stirring up disputes, never determining, never satisfying, and professes to have no other science but that of opposing himself. Homer, their author, has equally laid the foundations of all the sects of philosophy, to show how indifferent it was which way we should choose. ‘Tis said that ten several sects sprung from Plato; yet, in my opinion, never did any instruction halt and stumble, if his does not.

Socrates said that midwives, in taking upon them the trade of helping others to bring forth, left the trade of bringing forth themselves; and that by the title of a wise man or sage, which the gods had conferred upon him, he was disabled, in his virile and mental love, of the faculty of bringing forth, contenting himself to help and assist those that could; to open their nature, anoint the passes, and facilitate their birth; to judge of the infant, baptize, nourish, fortify, swath, and circumcise it, exercising and employing his understanding in the perils and fortunes of others.

It is so with the most part of this third sort of authors, as the ancients have observed in the writings of Anaxagoras, Democritus, Parmenides, Xenophanes, and others. They have a way of writing, doubtful in substance and design, rather inquiring than teaching, though they mix their style with some dogmatical periods. Is not the same thing seen in Seneca and Plutarch? How many contradictions are there to be found if a man pry narrowly into them! So many that the reconciling lawyers ought first to reconcile them every one to themselves. Plato seems to have affected this method of philosophizing in dialogues; to the end that he might with greater decency, from several mouths, deliver the diversity and variety of his own fancies. It is as well to treat variously of things as to treat of them conformably, and better, that is to say, more copiously and with greater profit. Let us take example from ourselves: judgments are the utmost point of all dogmatical and determinative speaking; and yet those arrets that our parliaments give the people, the most exemplary of them, and those most proper to nourish in them the reverence due to that dignity, principally through the sufficiency of the persons acting, derive their beauty not so much from the conclusion, which with them is quotidian and common to every judge, as from the dispute and heat of divers and contrary arguments that the matter of law and equity will permit And the largest field for reprehension that some philosophers have against others is drawn from the diversities and contradictions wherein every one of them finds himself perplexed, either on purpose to show the vacillation of the human mind concerning every thing, or ignorantly compelled by the volubility and incomprehensibility of all matter; which is the meaning of the maxim—“In a slippery and sliding place let us suspend our belief;” for, as Euripides says,—

“God’s various works perplex the thoughts of men.”

Like that which Empedocles, as if transported with a divine fury, and compelled by truth, often strewed here and there in his writings: “No, no, we feel nothing, we see nothing; all things are concealed from us; there is not one thing of which we can positively say what it is;” according to the divine saying: Cogitationes mortalium timid, et incert adinventiones nostro et providentice. “For the thoughts of mortal men are doubtful; and our devices are but uncertain.” It is not to be thought strange if men, despairing to overtake what they hunt after, have not however lost the pleasure of the chase; study being of itself so pleasant an employment; and so pleasant that amongst the pleasures, the Stoics forbid that also which proceeds from the exercise of the mind, will have it curbed, and find a kind of intemperance in too much knowledge.

Democritus having eaten figs at his table that tasted of honey, fell presently to considering with himself whence they should derive this unusual sweetness; and to be satisfied in it, was about to rise from the table to see the place whence the figs had been gathered; which his maid observing, and having understood the cause, smilingly told him that “he need not trouble himself about that, for she had put them into a vessel in which there had been honey.” He was vexed at this discovery, and that she had deprived him of the occasion of this inquiry, and robbed his curiosity of matter to work upon: “Go thy way,” said he, “thou hast done me an injury; but, for all that, I will seek out the cause as if it were natural;” and would willingly have found out some true reason for a false and imaginary effect. This story of a famous and great philosopher very clearly represents to us that studious passion that puts us upon the pursuit of things, of the acquisition of which we despair. Plutarch gives a like example of some one who would not be satisfied in that whereof he was in doubt, that he might not lose the pleasure of inquiring into it; like the other who would not that his physician should allay the thirst of his fever, that he might not lose the pleasure of quenching it by drinking. Satius est supervacua discere, quam nihil. “‘Tis better to learn more than necessary than nothing at all.” As in all sorts of feeding, the pleasure of eating is very often single and alone, and that what we take, which is acceptable to the palate, is not always nourishing or wholesome; so that which our minds extract from science does not cease to be pleasant, though there be nothing in it either nutritive or healthful. Thus they say: “The consideration of nature is a diet proper for our minds, it raises and elevates us, makes us disdain low and terrestrial things, by comparing them with those that are celestial and high. The mere inquisition into great and occult things is very pleasant, even to those who acquire no other benefit than the reverence and fear of judging it.” This is what they profess. The vain image of this sickly curiosity is yet more manifest in this other example which they so often urge. “Eudoxus wished and begged of the gods that he might once see the sun near at hand, to comprehend the form, greatness, and beauty of it; even though he should thereby be immediately burned.” He would at the price of his life purchase a knowledge, of which the use and possession should at the same time be taken from him; and for this sudden and vanishing knowledge lose all the other knowledge he had in present, or might afterwards have acquired.

I cannot easily persuade myself that Epicurus, Plato, and Pytagoras, have given us their atom, idea and numbers, for current pay. They were too wise to establish their articles of faith upon things so disputable and uncertain. But in that obscurity and ignorance in which the world then was, every one of these great men endeavoured to present some kind of image or reflection of light, and worked their brains for inventions that might have a pleasant and subtle appearance; provided that, though false, they might make good their ground against those that would oppose them. Unicuique ista pro ingenio finguntur, non ex scienti vi. “These things every one fancies according to his wit, and not by any power of knowledge.”

One of the ancients, who was reproached, “That he professed philosophy, of which he nevertheless in his own judgment made no great account,” made answer, “That this was truly to philosophize.”

They wished to consider all, to balance every thing, and found that an employment well suited to our natural curiosity. Some things they wrote for the benefit of public society, as their religions; and for that consideration it was but reasonable that they should not examine public opinions to the quick, that they might not disturb the common obedience to the laws and customs of their country.

Plato treats of this mystery with a raillery manifest enough; for where he writes according to his own method he gives no certain rule. When he plays the legislator he borrows a magisterial and positive style, and boldly there foists in his most fantastic inventions, as fit to persuade the vulgar, as impossible to be believed by himself; knowing very well how fit we are to receive all sorts of impressions, especially the most immoderate and preposterous; and yet, in his Laws, he takes singular care that nothing be sung in public but poetry, of which the fiction and fabulous relations tend to some advantageous end; it being so easy to imprint all sorts of phantasms in human minds, that it were injustice not to feed them rather with profitable untruths than with untruths that are unprofitable and hurtful. He says very roundly, in his Republic, “That it is often necessary, for the benefit of men, to deceive them.” It is very easy to distinguish that some of the sects have more followed truth, and the others utility, by which the last have gained their reputation. ‘Tis the misery of our condition that often that which presents itself to our imagination for the truest does not appear the most useful to life. The boldest sects, as the Epicurean, Pyrrhonian, and the new Academic, are yet constrained to submit to the civil law at the end of the account.

There are other subjects that they have tumbled and tossed about, some to the right and others to the left, every one endeavouring, right or wrong, to give them some kind of colour; for, having found nothing so abstruse that they would not venture to speak of, they are very often forced to forge weak and ridiculous conjectures; not that they themselves looked upon them as any foundation, or establishing any certain truth, but merely for exercise. Non tam id sensisse quod dicerent, quam exercere ingnia materio difficultate videntur voluisse. “They seem not so much themselves to have believed what they said, as to have had a mind to exercise their wits in the difficulty of the matter.” And if we did not take it thus, how should we palliate so great inconstancy, variety, and vanity of opinions, as we see have been produced by those excellent and admirable men? As, for example, what can be more vain than to imagine, to guess at God, by our analogies and conjectures? To direct and govern him and the world by our capacities and our laws? And to serve ourselves, at the expense of the divinity, with what small portion of capacity he has been pleased to impart to our natural condition; and because we cannot extend our sight to his glorious throne, to have brought him down to our corruption and our miseries?

Of all human and ancient opinions concerning religion, that seems to me the most likely and most excusable, that acknowledged God as an incomprehensible power, the original and preserver of all things, all goodness, all perfection, receiving and taking in good part the honour and reverence that man paid him, under what method, name, or ceremonies soever—

Jupiter omnipotens, rerum, regumque, demque,
Progenitor, genitrixque.

“Jove, the almighty, author of all things,
The father, mother, of both gods and kings.”

This zeal has universally been looked upon from heaven with a gracious eye. All governments have reaped fruit from their devotion; impious men and actions have everywhere had suitable events. Pagan histories acknowledge dignity, order, justice, prodigies, and oracles, employed for their profit and instruction in their fabulous religions; God, through his mercy, vouchsafing, by these temporal benefits, to cherish the tender principles of a kind of brutish knowledge that natural reason gave them of him, through the deceiving images of their dreams. Not only deceiving and false, but impious also and injurious, are those that man has forged from his own invention: and of all the religions that St. Paul found in repute at Athens, that which they had dedicated “to the unknown God” seemed to him the most to be excused.

Pythagoras shadowed the truth a little more closely, judging that the knowledge of this first cause and being of beings ought to be indefinite, without limitation, without declaration; that it was nothing else than the extreme effort of our imagination towards perfection, every one amplifying the idea according to the talent of his capacity. But if Numa attempted to conform the devotion of his people to this project; to attach them to a religion purely mental, without any prefixed object and material mixture, he undertook a thing of no use; the human mind could never support itself floating in such an infinity of inform thoughts; there is required some certain image to be presented according to its own model. The divine majesty has thus, in some sort, suffered himself to be circumscribed in corporal limits for our advantage. His supernatural and celestial sacraments have signs of our earthly condition; his adoration is by sensible offices and words; for ‘tis man that believes and prays. I shall omit the other arguments upon this subject; but a man would have much ado to make me believe that the sight of our crucifixes, that the picture of our Saviour’s passion, that the ornaments and ceremonious motions of our churches, that the voices accommodated to the devotion of our thoughts, and that emotion of the senses, do not warm the souls of the people with a religious passion of very advantageous effect.

Of those to whom they have given a body, as necessity required in that universal blindness, I should, I fancy, most incline to those who adored the sun:—

La Lumire commune,
L’oil du monde; et si Dieu au chef porte des yeux,
Les rayons du soleil sont ses yeulx radieux,
Qui donnent vie touts, nous maintiennent et gardent,
Et les faictsdes humains en ce monde regardent:
Ce beau, ce grand soleil qui nous faict les saisons,
Selon qu’il entre ou sort de ses douze maisons;
Qui remplit l’univers de ses vertus cognues;
Qui d’un traict de ses yeulx nous dissipe les nues;
L’esprit, l’ame du monde, ardent et flamboyant,
En la course d’un jour tout le Ciel tournoyant;
Plein d’immense grandeur, rond, vagabond, et ferme;
Lequel tient dessoubs luy tout le monde pour terme:
En repos, sans repos; oysif, et sans sjour;
Fils aisn de nature, et le pre du jour:

“The common light that equal shines on all,
Diffused around the whole terrestrial ball;
And, if the almighty Ruler of the skies
Has eyes, the sunbeams are his radiant eyes,
That life and safety give to young and old,
And all men’s actions upon earth behold.
This great, this beautiful, the glorious sun,
Who makes their course the varied seasons run;
That with his virtues fills the universe,
And with one glance can sullen clouds disperse;
Earth’s life and soul, that, flaming in his sphere,
Surrounds the heavens in one day’s career;
Immensely great, moving yet firm and round,
Who the whole world below has made his bound;
At rest, without rest, idle without stay,
Nature’s first son, and father of the day:”

forasmuch as, beside this grandeur and beauty of his, ‘tis the only piece of this machine that we discover at the remotest distance from us; and by that means so little known that they were pardonable for entering into so great admiration and reverence of it.

Thales, who first inquired into this sort of matter, believed God to be a Spirit that made all things of water; Anaximander, that the gods were always dying and entering into life again; and that there were an infinite number of worlds; Anaximines, that the air was God, that he was procreate and immense, always moving. Anaxagoras the first, was of opinion that the description and manner of all things were conducted by the power and reason of an infinite spirit. Alcmon gave divinity to the sun, moon, and stars, and to the soul. Pythagoras made God a spirit, spread over the nature of all things, whence our souls are extracted; Parmenides, a circle surrounding the heaven, and supporting the world by the ardour of light. Empedocles pronounced the four elements, of which all things are composed, to be gods; Protagoras had nothing to say, whether they were or were not, or what they were; Democritus was one while of opinion that the images and their circuitions were gods; another while, the nature that darts out those images; and then, our science and intelligence. Plato divides his belief into several opinions; he says, in his Timus, that the Father of the World cannot be named; in his Laws, that men are not to inquire into his being; and elsewhere, in the very same books, he makes the world, the heavens, the stars, the earth, and our souls, gods; admitting, moreover, those which have been received by ancient institution in every republic.

Xenophon reports a like perplexity in Socrates’s doctrine; one while that men are not to inquire into the form of God, and presently makes him maintain that the sun is God, and the soul God; that there is but one God, and then that there are many. Speusippus, the nephew of Plato, makes God a certain power governing all things, and that he has a soul. Aristotle one while says it is the spirit, and another the world; one while he gives the world another master, and another while makes God the heat of heaven. Zenocrates makes eight, five named amongst the planets; the sixth composed of all the fixed stars, as of so many members; the seventh and eighth, the sun and moon. Heraclides Ponticus does nothing but float in his opinion, and finally deprives God of sense, and makes him shift from one form to another, and at last says that it is heaven and earth. Theophrastus wanders in the same irresolution amongst his fancies, attributing the superintendency of the world one while to the understanding, another while to heaven, and then to the stars. Strato says that ‘tis nature, she having the power of generation, augmentation, and diminution, without form and sentiment Zeno says ‘tis the law of nature, commanding good and prohibiting evil; which law is an animal; and takes away the accustomed gods, Jupiter, Juno, and Vesta. Diogenes Apolloniates, that ‘tis air. Zenophanes makes God round, seeing and hearing, not breathing, and having nothing in common with human nature. Aristo thinks the form of God to be incomprehensible, deprives him of sense, and knows not whether he be an animal or something else; Cleanthes, one while supposes it to be reason, another while the world, another the soul of nature, and then the supreme heat rolling about, and environing all. Perseus, Zeno’s disciple, was of opinion that men have given the title of gods to such as have been useful, and have added any notable advantage to human life, and even to profitable things themselves. Chrysippus made a confused heap of all the preceding theories, and reckons, amongst a thousand forms of gods that he makes, the men also that have been deified. Diagoras and Theodoras flatly denied that there were any gods at all. Epicurus makes the gods shining, transparent, and perflable, lodged as betwixt two forts, betwixt two worlds, secure from blows, clothed in a human figure, and with such members as we have; which members are to them of no use:—

Ego Deum genus esse semper duxi, et dicam colitum;
Sed eos non curare opinor quid agat humanum genus.

“I ever thought that gods above there were,
But do not think they care what men do here.”

Trust to your philosophy, my masters; and brag that you have found the bean in the cake when you see what a rattle is here with so many philosophical heads! The perplexity of so many worldly forms has gained this over me, that manners and opinions contrary to mine do not so much displease as instruct me; nor so much make me proud as they humble me, in comparing them. And all other choice than what comes from the express and immediate hand of God seems to me a choice of very little privilege. The policies of the world are no less opposite upon this subject than the schools, by which we may understand that fortune itself is not more variable and inconstant, nor more blind and inconsiderate, than our reason. The things that are most unknown are most proper to be deified; wherefore to make gods of ourselves, as the ancients did, exceeds the extremest weakness of understanding. I would much rather have gone along with those who adored the serpent, the dog, or the ox; forasmuch as their nature and being is less known to us, and that we have more room to imagine what we please of those beasts, and to attribute to them extraordinary faculties. But to have made gods of our own condition, of whom we ought to know the imperfections; and to have attributed to them desire, anger, revenge, marriages, generation, alliances, love, jealousy, our members and bones, our fevers and pleasures, our death and obsequies; this must needs have proceeded from a marvellous inebriety of the human understanding;

Qu procul usque adeo divino ab numine distant,
Inque Dem numro qu sint indigna videri;

“From divine natures these so distant are,
They are unworthy of that character.”

Formo, otates, vestitus, omatus noti sunt; genera, conjugia, cognationes, omniaque traducta ad similitudinem imbellitar tis humano: nam et perturbatis animis inducuntur; accipimus enim deorurn cupiditates, cegritudines, iracundias; “Their forms, ages, clothes, and ornaments are known: their descents, marriages, and kindred, and all adapted to the similitude of human weakness; for they are represented to us with anxious minds, and we read of the lusts, sickness, and anger of the gods;” as having attributed divinity not only to faith, virtue, honour, concord, liberty, victory, and piety; but also to voluptuousness, fraud, death, envy, old age, misery; to fear, fever, ill fortune, and other injuries of our frail and transitory life:—

Quid juvat hoc, templis nostros inducere mores?
O curv in terris anim et colestium inanes!

“O earth-born souls! by earth-born passions led,
To every spark of heav’nly influence dead!
Think ye that what man values will inspire
In minds celestial the same base desire?”

The Egyptians, with an impudent prudence, interdicted, upon pain of hanging, that any one should say that their gods, Serapis and Isis, had formerly been men; and yet no one was ignorant that they had been such; and their effigies, represented with the finger upon the mouth, signified, says Varro, that mysterious decree to their priests, to conceal their mortal original, as it must by necessary consequence cancel all the veneration paid to them. Seeing that man so much desired to equal himself to God, he had done better, says Cicero, to have attracted those divine conditions to himself, and drawn them down hither below, than to send his corruption and misery up on high; but, to take it right, he has several ways done both the one and the other, with like vanity of opinion.

When philosophers search narrowly into the hierarchy of their gods, and make a great bustle about distinguishing their alliances, offices, and power, I cannot believe they speak as they think. When Plato describes Pluto’s orchard to us, and the bodily conveniences or pains that attend us after the ruin and annihilation of our bodies, and accommodates them to the feeling we have in this life:—

Secreti celant calles, et myrtea circum
Sylva tegit; cur non ips in morte relinquunt;

“In secret vales and myrtle groves they lie,
Nor do cares leave them even when they die.”

when Mahomet promises his followers a Paradise hung with tapestry, gilded and enamelled with gold and precious stones, furnished with wenches of excelling beauty, rare wines, and delicate dishes; it is easily discerned that these are deceivers that accommodate their promises to our sensuality, to attract and allure us by hopes and opinions suitable to our mortal appetites. And yet some amongst us are fallen into the like error, promising to themselves after the resurrection a terrestrial and temporal life, accompanied with all sorts of worldly conveniences and pleasures. Can we believe that Plato, he who had such heavenly conceptions, and was so well acquainted with the Divinity as thence to derive the name of the Divine Plato, ever thought that the poor creature, man, had any thing in him applicable to that incomprehensible power? and that he believed that the weak holds we are able to take were capable, or the force of our understanding sufficient, to participate of beatitude or eternal pains? We should then tell him from human reason: “If the pleasures thou dost promise us in the other life are of the same kind that I have enjoyed here below, this has nothing in common with infinity; though all my five natural senses should be even loaded with pleasure, and my soul full of all the contentment it could hope or desire, we know what all this amounts to, all this would be nothing; if there be any thing of mine there, there is nothing divine; if this be no more than what may belong to our present condition, it cannot be of any value. All contentment of mortals is mortal. Even the knowledge of our parents, children, and friends, if that can affect and delight us in the other world, if that still continues a satisfaction to us there, we still remain in earthly and finite conveniences. We cannot as we ought conceive the greatness of these high and divine promises, if we could in any sort conceive them; to have a worthy imagination of them we must imagine them unimaginable, inexplicable, and incomprehensible, and absolutely another thing than those of our miserable experience.” “Eye hath not seen,” saith St. Paul, “nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him.” And if, to render us capable, our being were reformed and changed (as thou, Plato, sayest, by thy purifications), it ought to be so extreme and total a change, that by physical doctrine it be no more us;—

Hector erat tunc cum bello certabat; at ille
Tractus ab monio non erat Hector eqao;

He Hector was whilst he could fight, but when
Dragg’d by Achilles’ steeds, no Hector then;

it must be something else that must receive these recompenses:—

Quod mutatur... dissolvitur; interit ergo;
Trajiciuntur enim partes, atque ordine migrant.

“Things changed dissolved are, and therefore die;
Their parts are mix’d, and from their order fly.”

For in Pythagoras’s metempsychosis, and the change of habitation that he imagined in souls, can we believe that the lion, in whom the soul of Csar is enclosed, does espouse Csar’s passions, or that the lion is he? For if it was still Csar, they would be in the right who, controverting this opinion with Plato, reproach him that the son might be seen to ride his mother transformed into a mule, and the like absurdities. And can we believe that in the mutations that are made of the bodies of animals into others of the same kind, the new comers are not other than their predecessors? From the ashes of a phoenix, a worm, they say, is engendered, and from that another phoenix; who can imagine that this second phoenix is no other than the first? We see our silk-worms, as it were, die and wither; and from this withered body a butterfly is produced; and from that another worm; how ridiculous would it be to imagine that this was still the first! That which once has ceased to be is no more:—

Nec, si materiam nostram collegerit tas
Post obitum, rursumque redegerit, ut sita nunc est,
Atque iterum nobis fuerint data lumina vit,
Pertineat quidquam tamen ad nos id quoque factum,
Interrupta semel cum sit repetentia nostra.

“Neither tho’ time should gather and restore
Our matter to the form it was before,
And give again new light to see withal,
Would that new figure us concern at all;
Or we again ever the same be seen,
Our being having interrupted been.”

And, Plato, when thou sayest in another place that it shall be the spiritual part of man that will be concerned in the fruition of the recompense of another life, thou tellest us a thing wherein there is as little appearance of truth:—

Scilicet, avolsis radicibus, ut nequit ullam
Dispicere ipsa oculus rem, seorsum corpore toto;

“No more than eyes once from their optics torn,
Can ever after any thing discern;”

for, by this account, it would no more be man, nor consequently us, who would be concerned in this enjoyment; for we are composed of two principal essential parts, the separation of which is the death and ruin of our being:—

Inter enim jecta est vital pausa, vageque
Deerrarunt passim motus ab sensibus omnes;

“When once that pause of life is come between,
‘Tis just the same as we had never been;”

we cannot say that the man suffers when the worms feed upon his members, and that the earth consumes them:—

Et nihil hoc ad nos, qui coltu conjugioque
Corporis atque anim consistimus uniter apti.

“What’s that to us? for we are only we,
While soul and body in one frame agree.”

Moreover, upon what foundation of their justice can the gods take notice of or reward man after his death and virtuous actions, since it was themselves that put them in the way and mind to do them? And why should they be offended at or punish him for wicked ones, since themselves have created in him so frail a condition, and when, with one glance of their will, they might prevent him from falling? Might not Epicurus, with great colour of human reason, object this to Plato, did he not often save himself with this sentence: “That it is impossible to establish any thing certain of the immortal nature by the mortal?” She does nothing but err throughout, but especially when she meddles with divine things. Who does more evidently perceive this than we? For although we have given her certain and infallible principles; and though we have enlightened her steps with the sacred lamp of truth that it has pleased God to communicate to us; we daily see, nevertheless, that if she swerve never so little from the ordinary path; and that she stray from, or wander out of the way set out and beaten by the church, how soon she loses, confounds and fetters herself, tumbling and floating in this vast, turbulent, and waving sea of human opinions, without restraint, and without any determinate end; so soon as she loses that great and common road, she enters into a labyrinth of a thousand several paths.

Man cannot be any thing but what he is, nor imagine beyond the reach of his capacity. “Tis a greater presumption,” says Plutarch, “in them who are but men to attempt to speak and discourse of the gods and demi-gods than it is in a man utterly ignorant of music to give an opinion of singing; or in a man who never saw a camp to dispute about arms and martial affairs, presuming by some light conjecture to understand the effects of an art he is totally a stranger to.” Antiquity, I believe, thought to put a compliment upon, and to add something to, the divine grandeur in assimilating it to man, investing it with his faculties, and adorning it with his ugly humours and most shameful necessities; offering it our aliments to eat, presenting it with our dances, mummeries, and farces, to divert it; with our vestments to cover it, and our houses to inhabit, coaxing it with the odour of incense and the sounds of music, with festoons and nosegays; and to accommodate it to our vicious passions, flattering its justice with inhuman vengeance, and with the ruin and dissipation of things by it created and preserved as Tiberius Sempronius, who burnt the rich spoils and arms he had gained from the enemy in Sardinia for a sacrifice to Vulcan; and Paulus milius, those of Macedonia, to Mars and Minerva; and Alexander, arriving at the Indian Ocean, threw several great vessels of gold into the sea, in honour of Thetes; and moreover loading her altars with a slaughter not of innocent beasts only, but of men also, as several nations, and ours among the rest, were commonly used to do; and I believe there is no nation under the sun that has not done the same:—

Sulmone creatos
Quatuor hc juvenes, totidem quos educat Ufens,
Viventes rapit, inferias quos immolet umbris.

“Four sons of Sulmo, four whom Ufens bred,
He took in flight, and living victims led,
To please the ghost of Pallas, and expire
In sacrifice before his fun’ral pyre.”

The Get hold themselves to be immortal, and that their death is nothing but a journey to their god Zamolxis. Every five years they dispatch some one among them to him, to entreat of him such necessaries as they stand in need of. This envoy is chosen by lot, and the form of dispatching him, after he has been instructed by word of mouth what he is to deliver, is that of the assistants, three hold up as many javelins, upon which the rest throw his body with all their force. If he happen to be wounded in a mortal part, and that he immediately dies, ‘tis held a certain argument of divine favour; but if he escapes, he is looked upon as a wicked and execrable wretch, and another is dismissed after the same manner in his stead. Amestris, the mother of Xerxes, being grown old, caused at once fourteen young men, of the best families of Persia, to be buried alive, according to the religion of the country, to gratify some infernal deity. And even to this day the idols of Themixtitan are cemented with the blood of little children, and they delight in no sacrifice but of these pure and infantine souls; a justice thirsty of innocent blood:—

Tantum religio potuit suadere maloram.

“Such impious use was of religion made,
So many demon acts it could persuade.”

The Carthaginians immolated their own children to Saturn; and those who had none of their own bought of others, the father and mother being in the mean time obliged to assist at the ceremony with a gay and contented countenance.

It was a strange fancy to think to gratify the divine bounty with our afflictions; like the Lacedemonians, who regaled their Diana with the tormenting of young boys, whom they caused to be whipped for her sake, very often to death. It was a savage humour to imagine to gratify the architect by the subversion of his building, and to think to take away the punishment due to the guilty by punishing the innocent; and that poor Iphigenia, at the port of Aulis, should by her death and immolation acquit, towards God, the whole army of the Greeks from all the crimes they had committed;

Et casta inceste, nubendi tempore in ipso,
Hostia concideret mactatu mosta parentis;

“That the chaste virgin in her nuptial band
Should die by an unnat’ral father’s hand;”

and that the two noble and generous souls of the two Decii, the father and the son, to incline the favour of the gods to be propitious to the affairs of Rome, should throw themselves headlong into the thickest of the enemy: Quo fuit tanta deorum iniquitas, ut placari populo Romano non possent, nisi tales viri occidissent? “How great an injustice in the gods was it that they could not be reconciled to the people of Rome unless such men perished!” To which may be added, that it is not for the criminal to cause himself to be scourged according to his own measure nor at his own time, but that it purely belongs to the judge, who considers nothing as chastisements but the penalty that he appoints, and cannot call that punishment which proceeds from the consent of him that suffers. The divine vengeance presupposes an absolute dissent in us, both for its justice and for our own penalty. And therefore it was a ridiculous humour of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, who, to interrupt the continued course of his good fortune, and to balance it, went and threw the dearest and most precious jewel he had into the sea, believing that by this voluntary and antedated mishap he bribed and satisfied the revolution and vicissitude of fortune; and she, to mock his folly, ordered it so that the same jewel came again into his hands, found in the belly of a fish. And then to what end were those tearings and dismemberments of the Corybantes, the Menades, and, in our times, of the Mahometans, who slash their faces, bosoms, and limbs, to gratify their prophet; seeing that the offence lies in the will, not in the breast, eyes, genitals, roundness of form, the shoulders, or the throat? Tantus est perturbto mentis, et sedibus suis pilso, furor, ut sic dii placentur, quemadmodum ne homines quidem soviunt. “So great is the fury and madness of troubled minds when once displaced from the seat of reason, as if the gods should be appeased with what even men are not so cruel as to approve.” The use of this natural contexture has not only respect to us, but also to the service of God and other men; ‘tis as unjust for us voluntarily to wound or hurt it as to kill ourselves upon any pretence whatever; it seems to be great cowardice and treason to exercise cruelty upon, and to destroy, the functions of the body that are stupid and servile, to spare the soul the solicitude of governing them according to reason: Ubi iratos deos timent, qui sic propitios habere merentur? In regi libidinis voluptatem castrati sunt quidam; sed nemo sibi, ne vir esset, jubente domino, mantis intulit. “Where are they so afraid of the anger of the gods as to merit their favour at that rate? Some, indeed, have been made eunuchs for the lust of princes: but no man at his master’s command has put his own hand to unman himself.” So did they fill their religion with several ill effects:—

Spius olim Religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.

“In elder times Religion did commit most fearful crimes.”

Now nothing of ours can in any sort be compared or likened unto the divine nature, which will not blemish and stain it with much imperfection.

How can that infinite beauty, power, and goodness, admit of any correspondence or similitude to such abject things as we are, without extreme wrong and manifest dishonour to his divine greatness? Infirmum dei fortius est hominibs; et stultum dei sapientius est hominibus. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Stilpo, the philosopher, being asked, “Whether the gods were delighted with our adorations and sacrifices?”—“You are indiscreet,” answered he; “let us withdraw apart, if you would talk of such things.” Nevertheless, we prescribe him bounds, we keep his power besieged by our reasons (I call our ravings and dreams reason, with the dispensation of philosophy, which says, “That the wicked man, and even the fool, go mad by reason, but a particular form of reason”), we would subject him to the vain and feeble appearances of our understandings,—him who has made both us and our knowledge. Because that nothing is made of nothing, God therefore could not make the world without matter. What! has God put into our hands the keys and most secret springs of his power? Is he obliged not to exceed the limits of our knowledge? Put the case, O man! that thou hast been able here to mark some footsteps of his effects; dost thou therefore think that he has employed all he can, and has crowded all his forms and ideas in this work? Thou seest nothing but the order and revolution of this little cave in which thou art lodged, if, indeed, thou dost see so much; whereas his divinity has an infinite jurisdiction beyond. This part is nothing in comparison of the whole:—

Omnia cum colo, terrque, manque,
Nil sunt ad summam summal totius omnem.

“The earth, the sea, and skies, from pole to pole,
Are small, nay, nothing to the mighty whole.”

‘Tis a municipal law that thou allegest, thou knowest not what is universal Tie thyself to that to which thou art subject, but not him; he is not of thy brotherhood, thy fellow-citizen, or companion. If he has in some sort communicated himself unto thee, ‘tis not to debase himself unto thy littleness, nor to make thee comptroller of his power; the human body cannot fly to the clouds; rules are for thee. The sun runs every day his ordinary course; the bounds of the sea and the earth cannot be confounded; the water is unstable and without firmness; a wall, unless it be broken, is impenetrable to a solid body; a man cannot preserve his life in the flames; he cannot be both in heaven and upon earth, and corporally in a thousand places at once. ‘Tis for thee that he has made these rules; ‘tis thee that they concern; he has manifested to Christians that he has enfranchised himself from them all when it pleased him. And, in truth, why, almighty as he is, should he have limited his power within any certain bounds? In favour of whom should he have renounced his privilege? Thy reason has in no other thing more of likelihood and foundation than in that wherein it persuades thee that there is a plurality of worlds:—

Terramque et solem, lunam, mare, estera quo rant,
Non esse unica, sed numro magis innumerali.

“That earth, sun, moon, sea, and the rest that are,
Not single, but innumerable were.”

The most eminent minds of elder times believed it; and some of this age of ours, compelled by the appearances of human reason, do the same; forasmuch as in this fabric that we behold there is nothing single and one,

Cum in summ res nulla sit una,
Unica quo gignatur, et unica solaque crescat;

“Since nothing’s single in this mighty place,
That can alone beget, alone increase;”

and that all the kinds are multiplied in some number; by which it seems not to be likely that God should have made this work only without a companion; and that the matter of this form should have been totally drained in this individual.

Quare etiam atque etiam tales fateare necesse est
Esse alios alibi congressus materiali;
Qualis hic est, avido complexu quem tenet ther.

“Wherefore ‘tis necessary to confess
That there must elsewhere be the like congress
Of the like matter, which the airy space
Holds fast within its infinite embrace.”

Especially if it be a living creature, which its motions render so credible that Plato affirms it, and that many of our people do either confirm, or dare not deny it; no more than that ancient opinion that the heavens, the stars, and other members of the world, are creatures composed of body and soul, mortal in respect of their composition, but immortal by the determination of the Creator. Now if there be many worlds, as Democritus, Epicurus, and almost all philosophy has believed, what do we know that the principles and rules of this of ours in like manner concern the rest? They may peradventure have another form and another polity. Epicurus supposes them either like or unlike. We see in this world an infinite difference and variety, only by distance of places; neither com, wine, nor any of our animals are to be seen in that new comer of the world discovered by our fathers; ‘tis all there another thing; and in times past, do but consider in how many parts of the world they had no knowledge either of Bacchus or Ceres. If Pliny and Herodotus are to be believed, there are in certain places kinds of men very little resembling us, mongrel and ambiguous forms, betwixt the human and brutal natures; there are countries where men are bom without heads, having their mouth and eyes in their breast; where they are all hermaphrodites; where they go on all four; where they have but one eye in the forehead, and a head more like a dog than like ours; where they are half fish the lower part, and live in the water; where the women bear at five years old, and live but eight; where the head and the skin of the forehead is so hard that a sword will not touch it, but rebounds again; where men have no beards; nations that know not the use of fire; others that eject seed of a black colour. What shall we say of those that naturally change themselves into wolves, colts, and then into men again? And if it be true, as Plutarch says, that in some place of the Indies there are men without mouths, who nourish themselves with the smell of certain odours, how many of our descriptions are false? He is no longer risible, nor, perhaps, capable of reason and society. The disposition and cause of our internal composition would then for the most part be to no purpose, and of no use.

Moreover, how many things are there in our own knowledge that oppose those fine rules we have cut out for and prescribe to nature? And yet we must undertake to circumscribe thereto God himself! How many things do we call miraculous, and contrary to nature? This is done by every nation and by every man, according to the proportion of his ignorance. How many occult properties and quintessences do we daily discover? For, for us to go “according to nature,” is no more but to go “according to our understanding,” as far as that is able to follow, and as far as we are able to see into it; all beyond that is, forsooth, monstrous and irregular. Now, by this account, all things shall be monstrous to the wisest and most understanding men; for human reason has persuaded them that there was no manner of ground nor foundation, not so much as to be assured that snow is white, and Anaxagoras affirmed it to be black; if there be any thing, or if there be nothing; if there be knowledge or ignorance, which Metrodorus of Chios denied that man was able to determine; or whether we live, as Euripides doubts whether the life we live is life, or whether that we call death be not life, [—Greek—] and not without some appearance. For why do we derive the title of being from this instant, which is but a flash in the infinite course of an eternal night, and so short an interruption of our perpetual and natural condition, death possessing all the before and after this moment, and also a good part of the moment itself. Others swear there is no motion at all, as followers of Melissus, and that nothing stirs. For if there be but one, neither can that spherical motion be of any use to him, nor motion from one place to another, as Plato proves: “That there is neither generation nor corruption in nature.” Protagoras says that there is nothing in nature but doubt; that a man may equally dispute of all things; and even of this, whether a man can equally dispute of all things; Nausiphanes, that of things which seem to be, nothing is more than it is not; that there is nothing certain but uncertainty; Parmenides, that of that which seems, there is no one thing in general; that there is but one thing; Zeno, that one same is not, and that there is nothing; if there were one thing, it would either be in another or in itself; if it be in another, they are two; if it be in itself, they are yet two; the comprehending, and the comprehended. According to these doctrines the nature of things is no other than a shadow, either false or vain.

This way of speaking in a Christian man has ever seemed to me very indiscreet and irreverent. “God cannot die; God cannot contradict himself; God cannot do this or that.” I do not like to have the divine power so limited by the laws of men’s mouths; and the idea which presents itself to us in those propositions ought to be more religiously and reverently expressed.

Our speaking has its failings and defects, as well as all the rest. Most of the occasions of disturbance in the world are grammatical ones; our suits only spring from disputes as to the interpretation of laws; and most wars proceed from the inability of ministers clearly to express the conventions and treaties of amity of princes. How many quarrels, and of how great importance, has the doubt of the meaning of this syllable, hoc,* created in the world? Let us take the clearest conclusion that logic itself

* Montaigne here refers to the controversies between
the Catholics and Protestants about transubstantiation.

presents us withal; if you say, “It is fine weather,” and that you say true, it is then fine weather. Is not this a very certain form of speaking? And yet it will deceive us; that it will do so, let us follow the example: If you say, “I lie,” if you say true, you do lie. The art, the reason, and force of the conclusion of this, are the same with the other, and yet we are gravelled. The Pyrrhonian philosophers, I see, cannot express their general conception in any kind of speaking; for they would require a new language on purpose; ours is all formed of affirmative propositions, which are totally antarctic to them; insomuch that when they say “I doubt,” they are presently taken by the throat, to make them confess that at least they know and are assured that they do doubt. By which means they have been compelled to shelter themselves under this medical comparison, without which their humour would be inexplicable: when they pronounce, “I know not,” or, “I doubt,” they say that this proposition carries off itself with the rest, no more nor less than rhubarb, that drives out the ill humours, and carries itself off with them. This fancy will be more certainly understood by interrogation: “What do I know?” as I bear it with the emblem of a balance.

See what use they make of this irreverent way of speaking; in the present disputes about our religion, if you press its adversaries too hard, they will roundly tell you, “that it is not in the power of God to make it so, that his body should be in paradise and upon earth, and in several places at once.” And see, too, what advantage the old scoffer made of this. “At least,” says he, “it is no little consolation to man to see that God cannot do all things; for he cannot kill himself, though he would; which is the greatest privilege we have in our condition; he cannot make mortal immortal, nor revive the dead; nor make it so, that he who has lived has not; nor that he who has had honours has not had them; having no other right to the past than that of oblivion.” And that the comparison of man to God may yet be made out by jocose examples: “He cannot order it so,” says he, “that twice ten shall not be twenty.” This is what he says, and what a Christian ought to take heed shall not escape his lips. Whereas, on the contrary, it seems as if men studied this foolish daring of language, to reduce God to their own measure:—

Cras vel atr Nube polum, Pater, occupato,
Vel sole puro; non tamen irritum
Quodcumque retro est efficiet, neque
Diffinget infectumque reddet
Quod fugiens semel hora vexit.

“To-morrow, let it shine or rain,
Yet cannot this the past make vain:
Nor uncreate and render void
That which was yesterday enjoyed.”

When we say that the infinity of ages, as well past as to come, are but one instant with God; that his goodness, wisdom, and power are the same with his essence; our mouths speak it, but our understandings apprehend it not; and yet, such is our vain opinion of ourselves, that we must make the Divinity to pass through our sieve; and thence proceed all the dreams and errors with which the world abounds, whilst we reduce and weigh in our balance a thing so far above our poise. Mirum quo procdat improbitas cordis humani, parvulo aliquo intritata successu. “‘Tis wonderful to what the wickedness of man’s heart will proceed, if elevated with the least success.” How magisterially and insolently does Epicurus reprove the Stoics, for maintaining that the truly good and happy being appertained only to God, and that the wise man had nothing but a shadow and resemblance of it! How temerariously have they bound God to destiny (a thing which, by my consent, none that bears the name of a Christian shall ever do again)! and Thales, Plato, and Pythagoras have enslaved him to necessity. This arrogance of attempting to discover God with our eyes has been the cause that an eminent person among us has attributed to the Divinity a corporal form; and is the reason of what happens to us every day, of attributing to God important events, by a particular assignment. Because they weigh with us, they conclude that they also weigh with him, and that he has a more intent and vigilant regard to them than to others of less moment to us or of ordinary course: Magna Dii curant, parva negligunt: “The gods are concerned at great matters, but slight the small.” Listen to him; he will clear this to you by his reason: Nec in regnis quidem reges omnia minima curant: “Neither indeed do kings in their administration take notice of all the least concerns.” As if to that King of kings it were more or less to subvert a kingdom, or to move the leaf of a tree; or as if his providence acted after another manner in inclining the event of a battle than in the leap of a flea. The hand of his government is laid upon every thing after the same manner, with the same power and order; our interest does nothing towards it; our inclinations and measures sway nothing with him. Deus ita artifex magnus in magnis, ut minor non sit in parvis: “God is so great an artificer in great things, that he is no less in the least” Our arrogancy sets this blasphemous comparison ever before us. Because our employments are a burden to us, Strato has courteously been pleased to exempt the gods from all offices, as their priests are; he makes nature produce and support all things; and with her weights and motions make up the several parts of the world, discharging human nature from the awe of divine judgments: Quod beatum terumque sit, id nec habere negotii quicquam, nec exhibere alteri: “What is blessed and eternal has neither any business itself nor gives any to another.” Nature will that in like things there should be a like relation. The infinite number of mortals, therefore, concludes a like number of immortals; the infinite things that kill and destroy presupposes as many that preserve and profit. As the souls of the gods, without tongue, eye, or ear, do every one of them feel amongst themselves what the other feels, and judge our thoughts; so the souls of men, when at liberty and loosed from the body, either by sleep or some ecstacy, divine, foretell, and see things, which, whilst joined to the body, they could not see. “Men,” says St. Paul, “professing themselves to be wise, they become fools; and change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” Do but take notice of the juggling in the ancient deifications. After the great and stately pomp of the funeral, so soon as the fire began to mount to the top of the pyramid, and to catch hold of the couch where the body lay, they at the same time turned out an eagle, which flying upward, signified that the soul went into Paradise. We have a thousand medals, and particularly of the worthy Faustina, where this eagle is represented carrying these deified souls to heaven with their heels upwards. ‘Tis pity that we should fool ourselves with our own fopperies and inventions,

Quod finxere, timent,

“They fear their own inventions,”

like children who are frighted with the same face of their playfellow, that they themselves have smeared and smutted. Quasi quicquam infelicius sit homine, cui sua figmenta dominantur:

“As if any thing could be more unhappy than man, who is insulted over by his own imagination.” ‘Tis far from honouring him who made us, to honour him that we have made. Augustus had more temples than Jupiter, served with as much religion and belief of miracles. The Thracians, in return of the benefits they had received from Agesilaus, came to bring him word that they had canonized him: “Has your nation,” said he to them, “the power to make gods of whom they please? Pray first deify some one amongst yourselves, and when I shall see what advantage he has by it, I will thank you for your offer.” Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens. Hear Trismegistus in praise of our sufficiency: “Of all the wonderful things, it surmounts all wonder that man could find out the divine nature and make it.” And take here the arguments of the school of philosophy itself:—

Nosse cui divos et coli munina soli,
Aut soli nescire, datum.

“To whom to know the deities of heaven,
Or know he knows them not, alone ‘tis given.”

“If there is a God, he is a living creature; if he be a living creature, he has sense; and if he has sense, he is subject to corruption. If he be without a body he is without a soul, and consequently without action; and if he has a body, it is perishable.” Is not here a triumph? we are incapable of having made the world; there must then be some more excellent nature that has put a hand to the work. It were a foolish and ridiculous arrogance to esteem ourselves the most perfect thing of the universe. There must then be something that is better, and that must be God. When you see a stately and stupendous edifice, though you do not know who is the owner of it, you would yet conclude it was not built for rats. And this divine structure, that we behold of the celestial palace, have we not reason to believe that it is the residence of some possessor, who is much greater than we? Is not the most supreme always the most worthy? but we are in the lowest form. Nothing without a soul and without reason can produce a living creature capable of reason. The world produces us, the world then has soul and reason. Every part of us is less than we. We are part of the world, the world therefore is endued with wisdom and reason, and that more abundantly than we. ‘Tis a fine thing to have a great government; the government of the world then appertains to some happy nature. The stars do us no harm; they are then full of goodness. We have need of nourishment; then so have the gods also, and feed upon the vapours of the earth. Worldly goods are not goods to God; therefore they are not goods to us; offending and being offended are equally testimonies of imbecility; ‘tis therefore folly to fear God. God is good by his nature; man by his industry, which is more. The divine and human wisdom have no other distinction, but that the first is eternal; but duration is no accession to wisdom, therefore we are companions. We have life, reason, and liberty; we esteem goodness, charity, and justice; these qualities are then in him. In conclusion, building and destroying, the conditions of the Divinity, are forged by man, according as they relate to himself. What a pattern, and what a model! let us stretch, let us raise and swell human qualities as much as we please; puff up thyself, poor man, yet more and more, and more:—

Non, si tu ruperis, inquit.

“Not if thou burst,” said he.

Profecto non Deum, quern cogitare non possunt, sed semetip pro illo cogitantes, non ilium, sed seipsos, non illi, sed sibi comparant? “Certainly they do not imagine God, whom they cannot imagine; but they imagine themselves in his stead; they do not compare him, but themselves, not to him, but to themselves.” In natural things the effects do but half relate to their causes. What’s this to the purpose? His condition is above the order of nature, too elevated, too remote, and too mighty, to permit itself to be bound and fettered by our conclusions. ‘Tis not through ourselves that we arrive at that place; our ways lie too low. We are no nearer heaven on the top of Mount Cenis than at the bottom of the sea; take the distance with your astrolabe. They debase God even to the carnal knowledge of women, to so many times, and so many generations. Paulina, the wife of Satuminus, a matron of great reputation at Rome, thinking she lay with the god Serapis, found herself in the arms of an amoroso of hers, through the panderism of the priests of his temple. Varro, the most subtle and most learned of all the Latin authors, in his book of theology, writes, that the sexton of Hercules’s temple, throwing dice with one hand for himself, and with the other for Hercules, played after that manner with him for a supper and a wench; if he won, at the expense of the offerings; if he lost, at his own. The sexton lost, and paid the supper and the wench. Her name was Laurentina, who saw by night this god in her arms, who moreover told her, that the first she met the next day, should give her a heavenly reward; which proved to be Taruncius, a rich young man, who took her home to his house, and in time left her his inheritrix. She, in her turn, thinking to do a thing that would be pleasing to the god, left the people of Rome heirs to her; and therefore had divine honours attributed to her. As if it had not been sufficient that Plato was originally descended from the gods by a double line, and that he had Neptune for the common father of his race, it was certainly believed at Athens, that Aristo, having a mind to enjoy the fair Perictione, could not, and was warned by the god Apollo, in a dream, to leave her unpolluted and untouched, till she should first be brought to bed. These were the father and mother of Plato. How many ridiculous stories are there of like cuckoldings, committed by the gods against poor mortal men! And how many husbands injuriously scandaled in favour of the children! In the Mahometan religion there are Merlins enough found by the belief of the people; that is to say, children without fathers, spiritual, divinely conceived in the wombs of virgins, and carry names that signify so much in their language.

We are to observe that to every thing nothing is more dear and estimable than its being (the lion, the eagle the dolphin, prize nothing above their own kind); and that every thing assimilates the qualities of all other things to its own proper qualities, which we may indeed extend or contract, but that’s all; for beyond that relation and principle our imagination cannot go, can guess at nothing else, nor possibly go out thence, nor stretch beyond it; whence spring these ancient conclusions: of all forms the most beautiful is that of man; therefore God must be of that form. No one can be happy without virtue, nor virtue be without reason, and reason cannot inhabit anywhere but in a human shape; God is therefore clothed in a human figure. Ita est informatum et anticipatum mentibus nostris, ut homini, quum de Deo cogitet, forma occurrat hu-mana. “It is so imprinted in our minds, and the fancy is so prepossessed with it, that when a man thinks of God, a human figure ever presents itself to the imagination.” Therefore it was that Xenophanes pleasantly said, “That if beasts frame any gods to themselves, as ‘tis likely they do, they make them certainly such as themselves are, and glorify themselves in it, as we do. For why may not a goose say thus; “All the parts of the universe I have an interest in; the earth serves me to walk upon; the sun to light me; the stars have their influence upon me; I have such an advantage by the winds and such by the waters; there is nothing that yon heavenly roof looks upon so favourably as me; I am the darling of nature! Is it not man that keeps, lodges, and serves me? ‘Tis for me that he both sows and grinds; if he eats me he does the same by his fellow-men, and so do I the worms that kill and devour him.” As much might be said by a crane, and with greater confidence, upon the account of the liberty of his flight, and the possession of that high and beautiful region. Tam blanda conciliatrix, et tam sui est lena ipsa natura. “So flattering and wheedling a bawd is nature to herself.”

Now by the same consequence, the destinies are then for us; for us the world; it shines it thunders for us; creator and creatures, all are for us; ‘tis the mark and point to which the universality of things aims. Look into the records that philosophy has kept for two thousand years and more, of the affairs of heaven; the gods all that while have neither acted nor spoken but for man. She does not allow them any other consultation or occupation. See them here against us in war:—

Domitosque Hercule manu
Telluris juvenes, unde periculum
Fulgens contre mu it domus
Saturai veteris.

“The brawny sons of earth, subdu’d by hand
Of Hercules on the Phlegran strand,
Where the rude shock did such an uproar make,
As made old Saturn’s sparkling palace shake.”

And here you shall see them participate of our troubles, to make a return for our having so often shared in theirs:—

Neptunus muros, magnoque emota tridenti
Fundamenta quatit, totamque sedibus urbem
Emit: hie Juno Scas svissima portas Prima tenet.

“Amidst that smother Neptune holds his place,
Below the walls’ foundation drives his mace,
And heaves the city from its solid base.
See where in arms the cruel Juno stands,
Full in the Scan gate.”

The Caunians, jealous of the authority of their own proper gods, armed themselves on the days of their devotion, and through the whole of their precincts ran cutting and slashing the air with their swords, by that means to drive away and banish all foreign gods out of their territory. Their powers are limited according that the plague, that the scurf, that the phthisic; one cures one sort of itch, another another: Adeo minimis etiam rebus prava religio inserit Deos? “At such a rate does false religion create gods for the most contemptible uses.” This one makes grapes grow, that onions; this has the presidence over lechery, that over merchandise; for every sort of artisan a god; this has his province and reputation in the east; that his in the west:—

“Here lay her armour, here her chariot stood.”

O sancte Apollo, qui umbilicum certum terrarum obtines!

“O sacred Phoebus, who with glorious ray,
From the earth’s centre, dost thy light display.”

Pallada Cecropid, Minola Creta Dianam,
Vulcanum tellus Hypsipylea colit,
Junonem Sparte, Pelopeladesque Mycen;
Pinigerum Fauni Mnalis ora caput;
Mars Latio venerandus.

“Th’ Athenians Pallas, Cynthia Crete adore,
Vulcan is worshipped on the Lemnian shore.
Proud Juno’s altars are by Spartans fed,
Th’ Arcadians worship Faunus, and ‘tis said
To Mars, by Italy, is homage paid.”

to our necessity; this cures horses, that men,

Hic illius arma, Hic currus fuit.

This has only one town or family in his possession; that lives alone; that in company, either voluntary or upon necessity:—

Junctaque sunt magno templa nepotis avo.

“And temples to the nephew joined are,
To those were reared to the great-grandfather.”

In here are some so wretched and mean (for the number amounts to six and thirty thousand) that they must pack five or six together, to produce one ear of corn, and thence take their several names; three to a door—that of the plank, that of the hinge, and that of the threshold. Four to a child—protectors of his swathing-clouts, his drink, meat, and sucking. Some certain, some uncertain and doubtful, and some that are not yet entered Paradise:—

Quos, quoniam coli nondum dignamur honore,
Quas dedimus cert terras habitare sinanras:

“Whom, since we yet not worthy think of heaven,
We suffer to possess the earth we’ve given.”

There are amongst them physicians, poets, and civilians. Some of a mean betwixt the divine and human nature; mediators betwixt God and us, adorned with a certain second and diminutive sort of adoration; infinite in titles and offices; some good; others ill; some old and decrepit, and some that are mortal. For Chrysippus was of opinion that in the last conflagration of the world all the gods were to die but Jupiter. Man makes a thousand pretty societies betwixt God and him; is he not his countryman?

Jovis incunabula Creten.

“Crete, the cradle of Jupiter.”

And this is the excuse that, upon consideration of this subject, Scvola, a high priest, and Varro, a great theologian in their times, make us: “That it is necessary that the people should be ignorant of many things that are true, and believe many things that are false.” Quum veritatem qua liberetur inquirat credatur ei expedire quod fallitur. “Seeing he inquires into the truth, by which he would be made free, ‘tis fit he should be deceived.” Human eyes cannot perceive things but by the forms they know; and we do not remember what a leap miserable Phton took for attempting to guide his father’s horses with a mortal hand. The mind of man falls into as great a depth, and is after the same manner bruised and shattered by his own rashness. If you ask of philosophy of what matter the heavens and the sun are? what answer will she return, if not that it is iron, or, with Anaxagoras, stone, or some other matter that she makes use of? If a man inquire of Zeno what nature is? “A fire,” says he, “an artisan, proper for generation, and regularly proceeding.” Archimedes, master of that science which attributes to itself the precedency before all others for truth and certainty; “the sun,” says he, “is a god of red-hot iron.” Was not this a fine imagination, extracted from the inevitable necessity of geometrical demonstrations? Yet not so inevitable and useful but that Socrates thought it was enough to know so much of geometry only as to measure the land a man bought or sold; and that Polynus, who had been a great and famous doctor in it, despised it, as full of falsity and manifest vanity, after he had once tasted the delicate fruits of the lozelly gardens of Epicurus. Socrates in Xenophon, concerning this affair, says of Anaxagoras, reputed by antiquity learned above all others in celestial and divine matters, “That he had cracked his brain, as all other men do who too immoderately search into knowledges which nothing belong to them:” when he made the sun to be a burning stone, he did not consider that a stone does not shine in the fire; and, which is worse, that it will there consume; and in making the sun and fire one, that fire does not turn the complexions black in shining upon them; that we are able to look fixedly upon fire; and that fire kills herbs and plants. ‘Tis Socrates’s opinion, and mine too, that the best judging of heaven is not to judge of it at all. Plato having occasion, in his Timous, to speak of the demons, “This undertaking,” says he, “exceeds my ability.” We are therefore to believe those ancients who said they were begotten by them; ‘tis against all reason to refuse a man’s faith to the children of the gods, though what they say should not be proved by any necessary or probable reasons; seeing they engage to speak of domestic and familiar things.

Let us see if we have a little more light in the knowledge of human and natural things. Is it not a ridiculous attempt for us to forge for those to whom, by our own confession, our knowledge is not able to attain, another body, and to lend a false form of our own invention; as is manifest in this motion of the planets; to which, seeing our wits cannot possibly arrive, nor conceive their natural conduct, we lend them material, heavy, and substantial springs of our own by which to move:—

Temo aureus, aurea summ
Curvatura rot, radiorum argenteus ordo.

“Gold was the axle, and the beam was gold;
The wheels with silver spokes on golden circles roll’d.”

You would say that we had had coachmakers, carpenters, and painters, that went up on high to make engines of various motions, and to range the wheelwork and interfacings of the heavenly bodies of differing colours about the axis of necessity, according to Plato:—

Mundus domus est maxima rerum,
Quam quinque altiton fragmine zon
Cingunt, per quam limbus pictus bis sex signis
Stellimicantibus, altus in obliquo there, lun
Bigas acceptat.

“The world’s a mansion that doth all things hold,
Which thundering zones, in number five, enfold,
Through which a girdle, painted with twelve signs,
And that with sparkling constellations, shines,
In heaven’s arch marks the diurnal course
For the sun’s chariot and his fiery horse.”

These are all dreams and fanatic follies. Why will not nature please for once to lay open her bosom to us, and plainly discover to us the means and conduct of her movements, and prepare our eyes to see them? Good God, what abuse, what mistakes should we discover in our poor science! I am mistaken if that weak knowledge of ours holds any one thing as it really is, and I shall depart hence more ignorant of all other things than my own ignorance.

Have I not read in Plato this divine saying, that “nature is nothing but enigmatic poesy!” As if a man might perhaps see a veiled and shady picture, breaking out here and there with an infinite variety of false lights to puzzle our conjectures: Latent ista omnia crassis occullata et circumfusa tenebris; ut nulla acies humani ingenii tanta sit, qu penetrare in coelum, terram intrare, possit. “All those things lie concealed and involved in so dark an obscurity that no point of human wit can be so sharp as to pierce heaven or penetrate the earth.” And certainly philosophy is no other than sophisticated poetry. Whence do the ancient writers extract their authorities but from the poets? and the first of them were poets themselves, and writ accordingly. Plato is but a poet unripped. Timon calls him, insultingly, “a monstrous forger of miracles.” All superhuman sciences make use of the poetic style. Just as women make use of teeth of ivory where the natural are wanting, and instead of their true complexion make one of some artificial matter; as they stuff themselves out with cotton to appear plump, and in the sight of every one do paint, patch, and trick up themselves with a false and borrowed beauty; so does science (and even our law itself has, they say, legitimate fictions, whereon it builds the truth of its justice); she gives us in presupposition, and for current pay, things which she herself informs us were invented; for these epicycles, eccentrics, and concentrics, which astrology makes use of to carry on the motions of the stars, she gives us for the best she could invent upon that subject; as also, in all the rest, philosophy presents us not that which really is, or what she really believes, but what she has contrived with the greatest and most plausible likelihood of truth, and the quaintest invention. Plato, upon the discourse of the state of human bodies and those of beasts, says, “I should know that what I have said is truth, had I the confirmation of an oracle; but this I will affirm, that what I have said is the most likely to be true of any thing I could say.”

‘Tis not to heaven only that art sends her ropes, engines, and wheels; let us consider a little what she says of us ourselves, and of our contexture.

There is not more retrogradation, trepidation, accession, recession, and astonishment, in the stars and celestial bodies, than they have found out in this poor little human body. In earnest, they have good reason, upon that very account, to call it the little world, so many tools and parts have they employed to erect and build it. To assist the motions they see in man, and the various functions that we find in ourselves, in how many parts have they divided the soul, in how many places lodged it? in how many orders have they divided, and to how many stories have they raised this poor creature, man, besides those that are natural and to be perceived? And how many offices and vocations have they assigned him? They make it an imaginary public thing. ‘Tis a subject that they hold and handle; and they have full power granted to them to rip, place, displace, piece, and stuff it, every one according to his own fancy, and yet they possess it not They cannot, not in reality only, but even in dreams, so govern it that there will not be some cadence or sound that will escape their architecture, as enormous as it is, and botched with a thousand false and fantastic patches. And it is not reason to excuse them; for though we are satisfied with painters when they paint heaven, earth, seas, mountains, and remote islands, that they give us some slight mark of them, and, as of things unknown, are content with a faint and obscure description; yet when they come and draw us after life, or any other creature which is known and familiar to us, we then require of them a perfect and exact representation of lineaments and colours, and despise them if they fail in it.

I am very well pleased with the Milesian girl, who observing the philosopher Thales to be always contemplating the celestial arch, and to have his eyes ever gazing upward, laid something in his way that he might stumble over, to put him in mind that it would be time to take up his thoughts about things that are in the clouds when he had provided for those that were under his feet. Doubtless she advised him well, rather to look to himself than to gaze at heaven; for, as Democritus says, by the mouth of Cicero,—

Quod est ante pedes, nemo spectat: coeli scrutantur plagas.

“No man regards what is under his feet;
They are always prying towards heaven.”

But our condition will have it so, that the knowledge of what we have in hand is as remote from us, and as much above the clouds, as that of the stars. As Socrates says, in Plato, “That whoever meddles with philosophy may be reproached as Thales was by the woman, that he sees nothing of that which is before him. For every philosopher is ignorant of what his neighbour does; aye, and of what he does himself, and is ignorant of what they both are, whether beasts or men.”

Those people, who find Sebond’s arguments too weak, that are ignorant of nothing, that govern the world, that know all,—

Qu mare compescant caus; quid temperet annum;
Stell sponte su, jussve, vagentur et errent;
Quid premat obscurum lun, quid profrt orbem;
Quid velit et posait rerum concordia discors;

“What governs ocean’s tides,
And through the various year the seasons guides;
Whether the stars by their own proper force,
Or foreign power, pursue their wand’ring course;
Why shadows darken the pale queen of night;
Whence she renews her orb and spreads her light;—
What nature’s jarring sympathy can mean;”

have they not sometimes in their writings sounded the difficulties they have met with of knowing their own being? We see very well that the finger moves, that the foot moves, that some parts assume a voluntary motion of themselves without our consent, and that others work by our direction; that one sort of apprehension occasions blushing; another paleness; such an imagination works upon the spleen only, another upon the brain; one occasions laughter, another tears; another stupefies and astonishes all our senses, and arrests the motion of all our members; at one object the stomach will rise, at another a member that lies something lower; but how a spiritual impression should make such a breach into a massy and solid subject, and the nature of the connection and contexture of these admirable springs and movements, never yet man knew: Omnia incerta ratione, et in natur majestate abdita. “All uncertain in reason, and concealed in the majesty of nature,” says Pliny. And St Augustin, Modus quo corporibus adhorent spiritus.... omnino minis est, nec comprehendi ab homine potest; et hoc ipse homo est, “The manner whereby souls adhere to bodies is altogether wonderful, and cannot be conceived by man, and yet this is man.” And yet it is not so much as doubted; for the opinions of men are received according to the ancient belief, by authority and upon trust, as if it were religion and law. ‘Tis received as gibberish which is commonly spoken; this truth, with all its clutter of arguments and proofs, is admitted as a firm and solid body, that is no more to be shaken, no more to be judged of; on the contrary, every one, according to the best of his talent, corroborates and fortifies this received belief with the utmost power of his reason, which is a supple utensil, pliable, and to be accommodated to any figure; and thus the world comes to be filled with lies and fopperies. The reason that men doubt of divers things is that they never examine common impressions; they do not dig to the root, where the faults and defects lie; they only debate upon the branches; they do not examine whether such and such a thing be true, but if it has been so and so understood; it is not inquired into whether Galen has said any thing to purpose, but whether he has said so or so. In truth it was very good reason that this curb to the liberty of our judgments and that tyranny over our opinions, should be extended to the schools and arts. The god of scholastic knowledge is Aristotle; ‘tis irreligion to question any of his decrees, as it was those of Lucurgus at Sparta; his doctrine is a magisterial law, which, peradventure, is as false as another. I do not know why I should not as willingly embrace either the ideas of Plato, or the atoms of Epicurus, or the plenum or vacuum of Leucippus and Democritus, or the water of Thales, or the infinity of nature of Anaximander, or the air of Diogenes, or the numbers and symmetry of Pythagoras, or the infinity of Parmenides, or the One of Musus, or the water and fire of Apollodorus, or the similar parts of Anaxagoras, or the discord and friendship of Empedocles, or the fire of Heraclitus, or any other opinion of that infinite confusion of opinions and determinations, which this fine human reason produces by its certitude and clearsightedness in every thing it meddles withal, as I should the opinion of Aristotle upon this subject of the principles of natural things; which principles he builds of three pieces—matter, form, and privation. And what can be more vain than to make inanity itself the cause of the production of things? Privation is a negative; of what humour could he then make the cause and original of things that are? And yet that were not to be controverted but for the exercise of logic; there is nothing disputed therein to bring it into doubt, but to defend the author of the school from foreign objections; his authority is the non-ultra, beyond which it is not permitted to inquire.

It is very easy, upon approved foundations, to build whatever we please; for, according to the law and ordering of this beginning, the other parts of the structure are easily carried on without any failure. By this way we find our reason well-grounded, and discourse at a venture; for our masters prepossess and gain beforehand as much room in our belief as is necessary towards concluding afterwards what they please, as geometricians do by their granted demands, the consent and approbation we allow them giving them wherewith to draw us to the right and left, and to whirl us about at their pleasure. Whatever springs from these presuppositions is our master and our God; he will take the level of his foundations so ample and so easy that by them he may mount us up to the clouds, if he so please. In this practice and negotiation of science we have taken the saying of Pythagoras, “That every expert person ought to be believed in his own art” for current pay. The logician refers the signification of words to the grammarians; the rhetorician borrows the state of arguments from the logician; the poet his measure from the musician: the geometrician his proportions from the arithmetician, and the metaphysicians take physical conjectures for their foundations; for every science has its principle presupposed, by which human judgment is everywhere kept in check. If you come to rush against the bar where the principal error lies, they have presently this sentence in their mouths, “That there is no disputing with persons who deny principles.” Now men can have no principles if not revealed to them by the divinity; of all the rest the beginning, the middle, and the end, is nothing but dream and vapour. To those that contend upon presupposition we must, on the contrary, presuppose to them the same axiom upon which the dispute is. For every human presupposition and declaration has as much authority one as another, if reason do not make the difference. Wherefore they are all to be put into the balance, and first the generals and those that tyrannize over us. The persuasion of certainty is a certain testimony of folly and extreme incertainty; and there are not a more foolish sort of men, nor that are less philosophers, than the Philodoxes of Plato; we must inquire whether fire be hot? whether snow be white? if there be any such things as hard or soft within our knowledge?

And as to those answers of which they make old stories, as he that doubted if there was any such thing as heat, whom they bid throw himself into the fire; and he that denied the coldness of ice, whom they bid to put ice into his bosom;—they are pitiful things, unworthy of the profession of philosophy. If they had let us alone in our natural being, to receive the appearance of things without us, according as they present themselves to us by our senses, and had permitted us to follow our own natural appetites, governed by the condition of our birth, they might then have reason to talk at that rate; but ‘tis from them we have learned to make ourselves judges of the world; ‘tis from them that we derive this fancy, “That human reason is controller-general of all that is without and within the roof of heaven; that comprehends every thing, that can do every thing; by the means of which every thing is known and understood.” This answer would be good among the cannibals, who enjoy the happiness of a long, quiet, and peaceable life, without Aristotle’s precepts, and without the knowledge of the name of physics; this answer would perhaps be of more value and greater force than all those they borrow from their reason and invention; of this all animals, and all where the power of the law of nature is yet pure and simple, would be as capable as we, but as for them they have renounced it. They need not tell us, “It is true, for you see and feel it to be so;” they must tell me whether I really feel what I think I do; and if I do feel it, they must then tell me why I feel it, and how, and what; let them tell me the name, original, the parts and junctures of heat and cold, the qualities of the agent and patient; or let them give up their profession, which is not to admit or approve of any thing but by the way of reason; that is their test in all sorts of essays; but, certainly, ‘tis a test full of falsity, error, weakness, and defect.

Which way can we better prove it than by itself? If we are not to believe her when speaking of herself, she can hardly be thought fit to judge of foreign things; if she know any thing, it must at least be her own being and abode; she is in the soul, and either a part or an effect of it; for true and essential reason, from which we by a false colour borrow the name, is lodged in the bosom of the Almighty; there is her habitation and recess; ‘tis thence that she imparts her rays, when God is pleased to impart any beam of it to mankind, as Balias issued from her father’s head, to communicate herself to the world.

Now let us see what human reason tells us of herself and of the soul, not of the soul in general, of which almost all philosophy makes the celestial and first bodies participants; nor of that which Thales attributed to things which themselves are reputed inanimate, lead thereto by the consideration of the loadstone; but of that which appertains to us, and that we ought the best to know:—

Ignoratur enim, qu sit natura animai;
Nata sit; an, contra, nascentibus insinuetur;
Et simnl intereat nobiscum morte dirempta;
An tenebras Orci visat, vastasque lacunas,
An pecudes alias divinitns insinuet se.

“For none the nature of the soul doth know,
Whether that it be born with us, or no;
Or be infused into us at our birth,
And dies with us when we return to earth,
Or then descends to the black shades below,
Or into other animals does go.”

Crates and Dicarchus were of opinion that there was no soul at all, but that the body thus stirs by a natural motion; Plato, that it was a substance moving of itself; Thales, a nature without repose; Aedepiades, an exercising of the senses; Hesiod and Anaximander, a thing composed of earth and water; Parmenides, of earth and fire; Empedocles, of blood:—

Sanguineam vomit ille animam;

“He vomits up his bloody soul.”

Posidonius, Cleanthes, and Galen, that it was heat or a hot complexion—

Igneus est ollis vigor, et colestis origo;

“Their vigour of fire and of heavenly race.”

Hippocrates, a spirit diffused all over the body; Varro, that it was an air received at the mouth, heated in the lungs, moistened in the heart, and diffused throughout the whole body; Zeno, the quintessence of the four elements; Heraclides Ponticus, that it was the light; Zenocrates and the Egyptians, a mobile number; the Chaldeans, a virtue without any determinate form:—

Habitum quemdam vitalem corporis esse,
Harmoniam Grci quam dicunt.

“A certain vital habit in man’s frame,
Which harmony the Grecian sages name.”

Let us not forget Aristotle, who held the soul to be that which naturally causes the body to move, which he calls entelechia, with as cold an invention as any of the rest; for he neither speaks of the essence, nor of the original, nor of the nature of the soul, but only takes notice of the effect Lactantius, Seneca, and most of the Dogmatists, have confessed that it was a thing they did not understand; after all this enumeration of opinions, Harum sententiarum quo vera sit, Deus aliquis viderit: “Of these opinions which is the true, let some god determine,” says Cicero. “I know by myself,” says St Bernard, “how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being.”

Heraclitus, who was of opinion that every being was full of souls and demons, did nevertheless maintain that no one could advance so far towards the knowledge of the soul as ever to arrive at it; so profound was the essence of it.

Neither is there less controversy and debate about seating of it. Hippocrates and Hierophilus place it in the ventricle of the brain; Democritus and Aristotle throughout the whole body;—

Ut bona spe valetudo cum dicitur esse
Corporis, et non est tamen hc pars ulla ralentis;

“As when the body’s health they do it call,
When of a sound man, that’s no part at all.”

Epicurus in the stomach;

Hic exsultat enim pavor ac metus;
Hc loca circum Ltiti mulcent.

“For this the seat of horror is and fear,
And joys in turn do likewise triumph here.”

The Stoics, about and within the heart; Erasistratus, adjoining the membrane of the epicranium; Empedocles, in the blood; as also Moses, which was the reason why he interdicted eating the blood of beasts, because the soul is there seated; Galen thought that every part of the body had its soul; Strato has placed it betwixt the eyebrows; Qu facie quidem sit animus, aut ubi habitet, ne quorendum quidem est: “What figure the soul is of, or what part it inhabits, is not to be inquired into,” says Cicero. I very willingly deliver this author to you in his own words; for should I alter eloquence itself? Besides, it were but a poor prize to steal the matter of his inventions; they are neither very frequent, nor of any great weight, and sufficiently known. But the reason why Chrysippus argues it to be about the heart, as all the rest of that sect do, is not to be omitted; “It is,” says he, “because when we would affirm any things we lay our hand upon our breasts; and when we would pronounce y, which signifies I, we let the lower jaw fall towards the stomach.” This place ought not to be passed over without a remark upon the vanity of so great a man; for besides that these considerations are infinitely light in themselves, the last is only a proof to the Greeks that they have their souls lodged in that part. No human judgment is so sprightly and vigilant that it does not sometimes sleep. Why do we fear to say? The Stoics, the fathers of human prudence, think that the soul of a man, crushed under a ruin, long labours and strives to get out, like a mouse caught in a trap, before it can disengage itself from the burden. Some hold that the world was made to give bodies, by way of punishment, to the spirits fallen, by their own fault, from the purity wherein they had been created, the first creation having been incorporeal; and that, according as they are more or less depraved from their spirituality, so are they more or less jocundly or dully incorporated; and that thence proceeds all the variety of so much created matter. But the spirit that for his punishment was invested with the body of the sun must certainly have a very rare and particular measure of change.

The extremities of our perquisition do all fall into astonishment and blindness; as Plutarch says of the testimony of histories, that, according to charts and maps, the utmost bounds of known r countries are taken up with marshes, impenetrable forests, deserts, and uninhabitable places; this is the reason why the most gross and childish ravings were most found in those authors who treat of the most elevated subjects, and proceed the furthest in them, losing themselves in their own curiosity and presumption. The beginning and end of knowledge are equally foolish; observe to what a pitch Plato flies in his poetic clouds; do but take notice there of the gibberish of the gods; but what did he dream of when he defined a man to be “a two-legged animal without feathers: giving those who had a mind to deride him a pleasant occasion; for, having pulled a capon alive, they went about calling it the man of Plato.”

And what did the Epicureans think of, out of what simplicity did they first imagine that their atoms that they said were bodies having some weight, and a natural motion downwards, had made the world; till they were put in mind, by their adversaries, that, according to this description, it was impossible they should unite and join to one another, their fall being so direct and perpendicular, and making so many parallel lines throughout? Wherefore there was a necessity that they should since add a fortuitous and sideways motion, and that they should moreover accoutre their atoms with hooked tails, by which they might unite and cling to one another. And even then do not those that attack them upon this second consideration put them hardly to it? “If the atoms have by chance formed so many sorts of figures, why did it never fall out that they made a house or a shoe? Why at the same rate should we not believe that an infinite number of Greek letters, strewed all over a certain place, might fall into the contexture of the Iliad?”—“Whatever is capable of reason,” says Zeno, “is better than that which is not capable; there is nothing better than the world; the world is therefore capable of reason.” Cotta, by this way of argumentation, makes the world a mathematician; ‘and tis also made a musician and an organist by this other argumentation of Zeno: “The whole is more than a part; we are capable of wisdom, and are part of the world; therefore the world is wise.” There are infinite like examples, not only of arguments that are false in themselves, but silly ones, that do not hold in themselves, and that accuse their authors not so much of ignorance as imprudence, in the reproaches the philosophers dash one another in the teeth withal, upon their dissensions in their sects and opinions.

Whoever should bundle up a lusty faggot of the fooleries of human wisdom would produce wonders. I willingly muster up these few for a pattern, by a certain meaning not less profitable to consider than the most sound and moderate instructions. Let us judge by these what opinion we are to have of man, of his sense and reason, when in these great persons that have raised human knowledge so high, so many gross mistakes and manifest errors are to be found.

For my part, I am apt to believe that they have treated of knowledge casually, and like a toy, with both hands; and have contended about reason as of a vain and frivolous instrument, setting on foot all sorts of fancies and inventions, sometimes more sinewy, and sometimes weaker. This same Plato, who defines man as if he were a cock, says elsewhere, after Socrates, “That he does not, in truth, know what man is, and that he is a member of the world the hardest to understand.” By this variety and instability of opinions, they tacitly lead us, as it were by the hand, to this resolution of their irresolution. They profess not always to deliver their opinions barefaced and apparent to us; they have one while disguised them in the fabulous shadows of poetry, and at another in some other vizor; for our imperfection carries this also along with it, that crude meat is not always proper for our stomachs; we must dry, alter, and mix it; they do the same; they sometimes conceal their real opinions and judgments, and falsify them to accommodate themselves to the public use. They will not make an open profession of ignorance, and of the imbecility of human reason, that they may not fright children; but they sufficiently discover it to us under the appearance of a troubled and inconstant science.

I advised a person in Italy, who had a great mind to speak Italian, that provided he only had a desire to make himself understood, without being ambitious in any other respect to excel, that he should only make use of the first word that came to the tongue’s end, whether Latin, French, Spanish, or Gascon, and that, by adding the Italian termination, he could not fail of hitting upon some idiom of the country, either Tuscan, Roman, Venetian, Piedmontese, or Neapolitan, and so fall in with some one of those many forms. I say the same of Philosophy; she has so many faces, so much variety, and has said so many things, that all our dreams and ravings are there to be found. Human fancy can conceive nothing good or bad that is not there: Nihil tam absurde did potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum. “Nothing can be said so absurd, that has not been said before by some of the philosophers.” And I am the more willing to expose my whimsies to the public; forasmuch as, though they are spun out of myself, and without any pattern, I know they will be found related to some ancient humour, and some will not stick to say, “See whence he took it!” My manners are natural, I have not called in the assistance of any discipline to erect them; but, weak as they are, when it came into my head to lay them open to the world’s view, and that to expose them to the light in a little more decent garb I went to adorn them with reasons and examples, it was a wonder to myself accidentally to find them conformable to so many philosophical discourses and examples. I never knew what regimen my life was of till it was near worn out and spent; a new figure—an unpremeditated and accidental philosopher.

But to return to the soul. Inasmuch as Plato has placed reason in the brain, anger in the heart, and concupiscence in the liver; ‘tis likely that it was rather an interpretation of the movements of

the soul, than that he intended a division and separation of it, as of a body, into several members. And the most likely of their opinions is that ‘tis always a soul, that by its faculty, reasons, remembers, comprehends, judges, desires, and exercises all its other operations by divers instruments of the body; as the pilot guides his ship according to his experience, one while straining or slacking the cordage, one while hoisting the mainyard, or removing the rudder, by one and the same power carrying on several effects; and that it is lodged in the brain; which appears in that the wounds and accidents that touch that part do immediately offend the faculties of the soul; and ‘tis not incongruous that it should thence diffuse itself through the other parts of the body

Medium non deserit unquam
Coeli Phoebus iter; radiis tamen omnia lustrt.

“Phoebus ne’er deviates from the zodiac’s way;
Yet all things doth illustrate with his ray.”

As the sun sheds from heaven its light and influence, and fills the world with them:—

Ctera pars animas, per totum dissita corpus,
Paret, et ad numen mentis momenque movetur.

“The other part o’ th’ soul diffus’d all o’er
The body, does obey the reason’s lore.”

Some have said that there was a general soul, as it were a great body, whence all the particular souls were extracted, and thither again return, always restoring themselves to that universal matter:—

Deum namque ire per omnes
Terrasque, tractusque maris, columque profundum;
Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum,
Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas:
Scilicet hue reddi deinde, ac resoluta referri
Omnia; nec morti esse locum:

“For God goes forth, and spreads throughout the whole
Heaven, earth, and sea, the universal soul;
Each at its birth, from him all beings share,
Both man and brute, the breath of vital air;
To him return, and, loos’d from earthly chain,
Fly whence they sprung, and rest in God again,
Spurn at the grave, and, fearless of decay,
Dwell in high heaven, and star th’ ethereal way.”

Others, that they only rejoined and reunited themselves to it; others, that they were produced from the divine substance; others, by the angels of fire and air; others, that they were from all antiquity; and some that they were created at the very point of time the bodies wanted them; others make them to descend from the orb of the moon, and return thither; the generality of the ancients believed that they were begotten from father to son, after a like manner, and produced with all other natural things; taking their argument from the likeness of children to their fathers;

Instillata patris virtus tibi;
Fortes creantur fortibus, et bonis;

“Thou hast thy father’s virtues with his blood:
For still the brave spring from the brave and good;”

and that we see descend from fathers to their children not only bodily marks, but moreover a resemblance of humours, complexions, and inclinations of the soul:—

Denique cur acris violentia triste leonum
Seminium sequitur? dolus vulpibus, et fuga, cervis
A patribus datur, et patrius pavor incitt artus?
Si non certa suo quia semine seminioque
Vis animi pariter crescit cum corpore toto.

“For why should rage from the fierce lion’s seed,
Or from the subtle fox’s craft, proceed;
Or why the tim’rous and flying hart
His fear and trembling to his race impart;
But that a certain force of mind does grow,
And still increases as the bodies do?”

That thereupon the divine justice is grounded, punishing in the children the faults of their fathers; forasmuch as the contagion of paternal vices is in some sort imprinted in the soul of children, and that the ill government of their will extends to them; moreover, that if souls had any other derivation than a natural consequence, and that they had been some other thins out of the body, they would retain some memory of their first being, the natural faculties that are proper to them of discoursing, reasoning, and remembering, being considered:—

Si in corpus nascentibus insinuatur,
Cur super anteactam tatem meminisse nequimus,
Nec vestigia gestarum rerum ulla tenemus?

“For at our birth if it infused be,
Why do we then retain no memory
Of our foregoing life, and why no more
Remember any thing we did before?”

for, to make the condition of our souls such as we would have it to be, we must suppose them all-knowing, even in their natural simplicity and purity; by these means they had been such, being free from the prison of the body, as well before they entered into it, as we hope they shall be after they are gone out of it; and from this knowledge it should follow that they should remember, being got in the body, as Plato said, “That what we learn is no other than a remembrance of what we knew before;” a thing which every one by experience may maintain to be false. Forasmuch, in the first place, as that we do not justly remember any thing but what we have been taught, and that if the memory did purely perform its office it would at least suggest to us something more than what we have learned. Secondly, that which she knew being in her purity, was a true knowledge, knowing things as they are by her divine intelligence; whereas here we make her receive falsehood and vice when we instruct her; wherein she cannot employ her reminiscence, that image and conception having never been planted in her. To say that the corporal prison does in such sort suffocate her natural faculties, that they are there utterly extinct, is first contrary to this other belief of acknowledging her power to be so great, and the operations of it that men sensibly perceive in this life so admirable, as to have thereby concluded that divinity and eternity past, and the immortality to come:—

Nam si tantopere est anirai mutata potestas,
Omnia ut actarum exciderit retinentia rerum,
Non, ut opinor, ea ab letho jam longior errat.

“For if the mind be changed to that degree
As of past things to lose all memory,
So great a change as that, I must confess,
Appears to me than death but little less.”

Furthermore, ‘tis here with us, and not elsewhere, that the force and effects of the soul ought to be considered; all the rest of her perfections are vain and useless to her; ‘tis by her present condition that all her immortality is to be rewarded and paid, and of the life of man only that she is to render an account It had been injustice to have stripped her of her means and powers; to have disarmed her in order, in the time of her captivity and imprisonment in the flesh, of her weakness and infirmity in the time wherein she was forced and compelled, to pass an infinite and perpetual sentence and condemnation, and to insist upon the consideration of so short a time, peradventure but an hour or two, or at the most but a century, which has no more proportion with infinity than an instant; in this momentary interval to ordain and definitively to determine of her whole being; it were an unreasonable disproportion, too, to assign an eternal recompense in consequence of so short a life. Plato, to defend himself from this inconvenience, will have future payments limited to the term of a hundred years, relatively to human duration; and of us ourselves there are enough who have given them temporal limits. By this they judged that the generation of the soul followed the common condition of human things, as also her life, according to the opinion of Epicurus and Democritus, which has been the most received; in consequence of these fine appearances that they saw it bom, and that, according as the body grew more capable, they saw it increase in vigour as the other did; that its feebleness in infancy was very manifest, and in time its better strength and maturity, and after that its declension and old age, and at last its decrepitude:—

Gigni pariter cum corpore, et una
Crescere sentimus, pariterque senescere mentem.

“Souls with the bodies to be born we may
Discern, with them t’ increase, with them decay.”

They perceived it to be capable of divers passions, and agitated with divers painful motions, whence it fell into lassitude and uneasiness; capable of alteration and change, of cheerfulness, of stupidity and languor, and subject to diseases and injuries, as the stomach or the foot;

Mentem sanari, corpus ut grum,
Ceraimus, et flecti medicin posse videmus;

“Sick minds, as well as bodies, we do see
By Med’cine’s virtue oft restored to be;”

dazzled and intoxicated with the fumes of wine, jostled from her seat by the vapours of a burning fever, laid asleep by the application of some medicaments, and roused by others,—

Corpoream naturam animi esse necesse est,
Corporeis quoniam telis ictuque laborat;

“There must be of necessity, we find,
A nature that’s corporeal of the mind,
Because we evidently see it smarts
And wounded is with shafts the body darts;”

they saw it astonished and overthrown in all its faculties through the mere bite of a mad dog, and in that condition to have no stability of reason, no sufficiency, no virtue, no philosophical resolution, no resistance that could exempt it from the subjection of such accidents; the slaver of a contemptible cur shed upon the hand of Socrates, to shake all his wisdom and all his great and regulated imaginations, and so to annihilate them, ad that there remained no trace of his former knowledge,—

Vis.... animal Conturbatur, et.... divisa seorsum
Disjectatur, eodem illo distracta veneno;

“The power of the soul’s disturbed; and when
That once is but sequestered from her, then
By the same poison ‘tis dispersed abroad;”

and this poison to find no more resistance in that great soul than in an infant of four years old; a poison sufficient to make all philosophy, if it were incarnate, become furious and mad; insomuch that Cato, who ever disdained death and fortune, could not endure the sight of a looking-glass, or of water, overwhelmed with horror and affright at the thought of falling, by the contagion of a mad dog, into the disease called by physicians hydrophobia:—

Vis morbi distracta per artus
Turbat agens animam, spumantes quore salso
Ventorum ut validis fervescunt viribus und.

“Throughout the limbs diffused, the fierce disease
Disturbs the soul, as in the briny seas,
The foaming waves to swell and boil we see,
Stirred by the wind’s impetuosity.”

Now, as to this particular, philosophy has sufficiently armed man to encounter all other accidents either with patience, or, if the search of that costs too dear, by an infallible defeat, in totally depriving himself of all sentiment; but these are expedients that are only of use to a soul being itself, and in its full power, capable of reason and deliberation; but not at all proper for this inconvenience, where, in a philosopher, the soul becomes the soul of a madman, troubled, overturned, and lost; which many occasions may produce, as a too vehement agitation that any violent passion of the soul may beget in itself; or a wound in a certain part of the person, or vapours from the stomach, any of which may stupefy the understanding and turn the brain.

Morbis in corporis avius errat
Spe animus; dementit enim, deliraque fatur;
Interdumque gravi lethargo fertur in altum
ternumque soporem, oculis mi tuque cadenti:

“For when the body’s sick, and ill at ease,
The mind doth often share in the disease;
Wonders, grows wild, and raves, and sometimes by
A heavy and a stupid lethargy,
Is overcome and cast into a deep,
A most profound and everlasting sleep.”

The philosophers, methinks, have not much touched this string, no more than another of equal importance; they have this dilemma continually in their mouths, to console our mortal condition: “The soul is either mortal or immortal; if mortal, it will suffer no pain; if immortal, it will change for the better.”—They never touch the other branch, “What if she change for the worse?” and leave to the poets the menaces of future torments. But thereby they make themselves a good game. These are two omissions that I often meet with in their discourses. I return to the first.

This soul loses the use of the sovereign stoical good, so constant and so firm. Our fine human wisdom must here yield, and give up her arms. As to the rest, they also considered, by the vanity of human reason, that the mixture and association of two so contrary things as the mortal and the immortal, was unimaginable:—

Quippe etenim mortale terao jungere, et una
Consentire putare, et fungi mutua posse,
Desipere est. Quid enim diversius esse putandum est,
Aut magis inter se disjunctum discrepitansque,
Quam, mortale quod est, immortali atque perenni
Junctum, in concilio, svas tolerare procellas?

“The mortal and th’ eternal, then, to blend,
And think they can pursue one common end,
Is madness: for what things more diff’rent are.
Distinct in nature, and disposed to jar?
How can it then be thought that these should bear,
When thus conjoined, of harms an equal share?”

Moreover, they perceived the soul tending towards death as well as the body:—

Simul ovo fessa fatiscit:

“Fatigued together with the weight of years:”

which, according to Zeno, the image of sleep does sufficiently demonstrate to us; for he looks upon it “as a fainting and fall of the soul, as well as of the body:” Contrahi animum et quasi labi putat atque decidere: and, what they perceived in some, that the soul maintained its force and vigour to the last gasp of life, they attributed to the variety of diseases, as it is observable in men at the last extremity, that some retain one sense, and some another; one the hearing, and another the smell, without any manner of defect or alteration; and that there is not so universal a deprivation that some parts do not remain vigorous and entire:—

Non alio pacto, quam si, pes cum dolet gri,
In nullo caput interea sit forte dolore.

“So, often of the gout a man complains,
Whose head is, at the same time, free from pains.”

The sight of our judgment is, to truth, the same that the owl’s eyes are to the splendour of the sun, says Aristotle. By what can we better convince him, than by so gross blindness in so apparent a light? For the contrary opinion of the immortality of the soul, which, Cicero says, was first introduced, according to the testimony of books at least, by Pherecydes

Syrius, in the time of King Tullus (though some attribute it to Thales, and others to others), ‘tis the part of human science that is treated of with the greatest doubt and

reservation. The most positive dogmatists are fain, in this point principally, to fly to the refuge of the Academy. No one doubts what Aristotle has established upon this subject, no more than all the ancients in general, who handle it with a wavering belief: Rem gratissimam promittentium magis quam probantium: “A thing more acceptable in the promisors than the provers.” He conceals himself in clouds of words of difficult, unintelligible sense, and has left to those of his sect as great a dispute about his judgment as about the matter itself.

Two things rendered this opinion plausible to them; one, that, without the immortality of souls, there would be nothing whereon to ground the vain hopes of glory, which is a consideration of wonderful

repute in the world; the other, that it is a very profitable impression, as Plato says, that vices, when they escape the discovery and cognizance of human justice, are still within the reach of the divine, which will pursue them even after the death of the guilty. Man is excessively solicitous to prolong his being, and has to the utmost of his power provided for it; there are monuments for the conservation of the body, and glory to preserve the name. He has employed all his wit and opinion to the rebuilding of himself, impatient of his fortune, and to prop himself by his inventions. The soul, by reason of its anxiety and impotence, being unable to stand by itself, wanders up and down to seek out consolations, hopes, and foundations, and alien circumstances, to which she adheres and fixes; and how light or fantastic soever invention delivers them to her, relies more willingly, and with greater assurance, upon them than upon herself. But ‘tis wonderful to observe how the most constant and obstinate maintainers of this just and clear persuasion of the immortality of the soul fall short, and how weak their arguments are, when they go about to prove it by human reason: Somnia sunt non docentis, sed optantis: “They are dreams, not of the teacher, but wisher,” says one of the ancients. By which testimony man may know that he owes the truth he himself finds out to fortune and accident; since that even then, when it is fallen into his hand, he has not wherewith to hold and maintain it, and that his reason has not force to make use of it. All things produced by our own meditation and understanding, whether true or false, are subject to incertitude and controversy. ‘Twas for the chastisement of our pride, and for the instruction of our miserable condition and incapacity, that God wrought the perplexity and confusion of the tower of Babel. Whatever we undertake without his assistance, whatever we see without the lamp of his grace, is but vanity and folly. We corrupt the very essence of truth, which is uniform and constant, by our weakness, when fortune puts it into our possession. What course soever man takes of himself, God still permits it to come to the same confusion, the image whereof he so lively represents to us in the just chastisement wherewith he crushed Nimrod’s presumption, and frustrated the vain attempt of his proud structure; Perdam sapientiam sapientium, et prudentiam prudentium reprobabo. “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” The diversity of idioms and tongues, with which he disturbed this work, what are they other than this infinite and perpetual alteration and discordance of opinions and reasons, which accompany and confound the vain building of human wisdom, and to very good effect too; for what would hold us, if we had but the least grain of knowledge? This saint has very much obliged me: Ipsa veritatis occultatio ant humili-tatis exercitatio est, aut elationis attritio “The very concealment of the truth is either an exercise of humility or a quelling of presumption.” To what a pitch of presumption and insolence do we raise our blindness and folly!

But to return to my subject. It was truly very good reason that we should be beholden to God only, and to the favour of his grace, for the truth of so noble a belief, since from his sole bounty we receive the fruit of immortality, which consists in the enjoyment of eternal beatitude. Let us ingenuously confess that God alone has dictated it to us, and faith; for ‘tis no lesson of nature and our own reason. And whoever will inquire into his own being and power, both within and without, without this divine privilege; whoever shall consider man impartially, and without flattery, will see in him no efficacy or faculty that relishes of any thing but death and earth. The more we give and confess to owe and render to God, we do it with the greater Christianity. That which this Stoic philosopher says he holds from the fortuitous consent of the popular voice; had it not been better that he had held it from God? Cum de animarum otemitate disserimus, non leve momentum apud nos habet consensus hominum aut timentium inferos, aut colentium. Utor hc public persuasione. “When we discourse of the immortality of souls, the consent of men that either fear or adore the infernal powers, is of no small advantage. I make use of this public persuasion.” Now the weakness of human arguments upon this subject is particularly manifested by the fabulous circumstances they have superadded as consequences of this opinion, to find out of what condition this immortality of ours was. Let us omit the Stoics, (usuram nobis largiuntur tanquam cornicibus; diu mansuros aiunt animos; semper, negant. “They give us a long life, as also they do to crows; they say our soul shall continue long, but that it shall continue always they deny,”) who give to souls a life after this, but finite. The most universal and received fancy, and that continues down to our times in various places, is that of which they make Pythagoras the author; not that he was the original inventor, but because it received a great deal of weight and repute by the authority of his approbation: “That souls, at their departure out of us, did nothing but shift from one body to another, from a lion to a horse, from a horse to a king, continually travelling at this rate from habitation to habitation;” and he himself said that he remembered he had been tha-lides, since that Euphorbus, afterwards Hermotimus, and, finally, from Pyrrhus was passed into Pythagoras; having a memory of himself of two hundred and six years. And some have added that these very souls sometimes mount up to heaven, and come down again:—

O pater, aime aliquas ad colum hinc ire putandum est
Sublimes animas, iterumque ad tarda reverti
Corpora? Qu lucis miseris tam dira cupido?

“O, father, is it then to be conceiv’d
That any of these spirits, so sublime,
Should hence to the celestial regions climb,
And thence return to earth to reassume
Their sluggish bodies rotting in a tomb?
For wretched life whence does such fondness come?”

Origen makes them eternally to go and come from a better to a worse estate. The opinion that Varro mentions is that, after four hundred and forty years’ revolution, they should be reunited to their first bodies; Chrysippus held that this would happen after a certain space of time unknown and unlimited. Plato, who professes to have embraced this belief from Pindar and the ancient poets, that we are to undergo infinite vicissitudes of mutation, for which the soul is prepared, having neither punishment nor reward in the other world but what is temporal, as its life here is but temporal, concludes that it has a singular knowledge of the affairs of heaven, of hell, of the world, through all which it has passed, repassed, and made stay in several voyages, are matters for her memory. Observe her progress elsewhere: “The soul that has lived well is reunited to the stars to which it is assigned; that which has lived ill removes into a woman, and if it do not there reform, is again removed into a beast of condition suitable to its vicious manners, and shall see no end of its punishments till it be returned to its natural constitution, and that it has, by the force of reason, purged itself from those gross, stupid, and elementary qualities it was polluted with.” But I will not omit the objection the Epicureans make against this transmigration from one body to another; ‘tis a pleasant one; they ask what expedient would be found out if the number of the dying should chance to be greater than that of those who are coming into the world. For the souls, turned out of their old habitation, would scuffle and crowd which should first get possession of their new lodging; and they further demand how they shall pass away their time, whilst waiting till new quarters are made ready for them? Or, on the contrary, if more animals should be born than die, the body, they say, would be but in an ill condition whilst waiting for a soul to be infused into it; and it would fall out that some bodies would die before they had been alive.

Denique comrabia ad Veneris, partusque ferarum
Esse animas prsto, deridiculum esse videtur;
Et spectare immortales mortalia membra
Innumero numro, certareque prproperanter
Inter se, qu prima potissimaq insinueter.

“Absurd to think that whilst wild beasts beget,
Or bear their young, a thousand souls do wait,
Expect the falling body, fight and strive
Which first shall enter in and make it live.”

Others have arrested the soul in the body of the deceased, with it to animate serpents, worms, and other beasts, which are said to be bred out of the corruption of our members, and even out of our ashes; others divide them into two parts, the one mortal, the other immortal; others make it corporeal, and nevertheless immortal. Some make it immortal, without

sense or knowledge. There are others, even among ourselves, who have believed that devils were made of the souls of the damned; as Plutarch thinks that gods were made of those that were saved; for there are few things which that author is so positive in as he is in this; maintaining elsewhere a doubtful and ambiguous way of expression. “We are told,” says he, “and steadfastly should believe, that the souls of virtuous men, both according to nature and the divine justice, become saints, and from saints demigods, and from demigods, after they are perfectly, as in sacrifices of purgation, cleansed and purified, being delivered from all passibility and all mortality, they become, not by any civil decree, but in real truth, and according to all probability of reason, entire and perfect gods, in receiving a most happy and glorious end.” But who desires to see him—him, who is yet the most sober and moderate of the whole gang of philosophers, lay about him with greater boldness, and relate his miracles upon this subject, I refer him to his treatise of the Moon, and of the Demon of Socrates, where he may, as evidently as in any other place whatever, satisfy himself that the mysteries of philosophy have many strange things in common with those of poetry; human understanding losing itself in attempting to sound and search all things to the bottom; even as we, tired and worn out with a long course of life, return to infancy and dotage. See here the fine and certain instructions which we extract from human knowledge concerning the soul.

Neither is there less temerity in what they teach us touching our corporal parts. Let us choose out one or two examples; for otherwise we should lose ourselves in this vast and troubled ocean of medical errors. Let us first know whether, at least, they agree about the matter whereof men produce one another; for as to their first production it is no wonder if, in a thing so high and so long since past, human understanding finds itself puzzled and perplexed. Archelaus, the physician, whose disciple and favourite Socrates was, according to Aristoxenus, said that both men and beasts were made of a lacteous slime, expressed by the heat of the earth; Pythagoras says that our seed is the foam or cream of our better blood; Plato, that it is the distillation of the marrow of the backbone; raising his argument from this, that that part is first sensible of being weary of the work; Alcmeon, that it is part of the substance of the brain, and that it is so, says he, is proved by the weakness of the eyes in those who are immoderate in that exercise; Democritus, that it is a substance extracted from the whole mass of the body; Epicurus, an extract from soul and body; Aristotle, an excrement drawn from the aliment of the blood, the last which is diffused over our members; others, that it is a blood concocted and digested by the heat of the genitals, which they judge, by reason that in excessive endeavours a man voids pure blood; wherein there seems to be more likelihood, could a man extract any appearance from so infinite a confusion. Now, to bring this seed to do its work, how many contrary opinions do they set on foot? Aristotle and Democritus are of opinion that women have no sperm, and that ‘tis nothing but a sweat that they distil in the heat of pleasure and motion, and that contributes nothing at all to generation. Galen, on the contrary, and his followers, believe that without the concurrence of seeds there can be no generation. Here are the physicians, the philosophers, the lawyers, and divines, by the ears with our wives about the dispute, “For what term women carry their fruit?” and I, for my part, by the example of myself, stick with those that maintain a woman goes eleven months with child. The world is built upon this experience; there is no so commonplace a woman that cannot give her judgment in all these controversies; and yet we cannot agree.

Here is enough to verify that man is no better instructed in the knowledge of himself, in his corporal than in his spiritual part We have proposed himself to himself, and his reason to his reason, to see what she could say. I think I have sufficiently demonstrated how little she understands herself in herself; and who understands not himself in himself, in what can he? Quasi vero mensuram ullius rei possit agere, qui sui nesciat. “As if he could understand the measure of any other thing, that knows not his own.” In earnest, Protagoras told us a pretty flam in making man the measure of all things, that never knew so much as his own; and if it be not he, his dignity will not permit that any other creature should have this advantage; now he being so contrary in himself, and one judgment so incessantly subverting another, this favourable proposition was but a mockery, which induced us necessarily to conclude the nullity of the compass and the compasser. When Thales reputes the knowledge of man very difficult for man to comprehend, he at the same time gives him to understand that all other knowledge is impossible.

You,* for whom I have taken the pains, contrary to my custom, to write so long a discourse, will not refuse to support your Sebond by the ordinary forms of arguing, wherewith you are every day instructed, and in this will exercise both your wit and learning; for this last fencing trick is never to be made use of but as an extreme remedy; ‘tis a desperate thrust, wherein you are to quit your own arms to make your adversary abandon his; and a secret sleight, which must be very rarely, and then very reservedly, put in practice. ‘Tis great temerity to lose yourself that you may destroy another; you must not die to be revenged, as Gobrias did; for, being closely grappled in combat with a lord of Persia, Darius coming in sword in hand, and fearing to strike lest he should kill Gobrias, he called out to him boldly to fall on,

* The author, as we have already mentioned, is addressing
Margaret de Valois.

though he should run them both through at once. I have known desperate weapons, and conditions of single combat, and wherein he that offered them put himself and his adversary upon terms of inevitable death to them both, censured for unjust. The Portuguese, in the Indian Sea, took certain Turks prisoners, who, impatient of their captivity, resolved, and it succeeded, by striking the nails of the ship one against another, and making a spark to fall into the barrels of powder that were set in the place where they were guarded, to blow up and reduce themselves, their masters, and the vessel to ashes. We here touch the out-plate and utmost limits of sciences, wherein the extremity is vicious, as in virtue. Keep yourselves in the common road; it is not good to be so subtle and cunning. Remember the Tuscan proverb:—

Chi troppo s’assottiglia, si scavezza.

“Who makes himself too wise, becomes a fool.”

I advise you that, in all your opinions and discourses, as well as in your manners and all other things, you keep yourself moderate and temperate, and avoid novelty; I am an enemy to all extravagant ways. You, who by the authority of your grandeur, and yet more by the advantages which those qualities give you that are more your own, may with the twinkle of an eye command whom you please, ought to have given this charge to some one who made profession of letters, who might after a better manner have proved and illustrated these things to you. But here is as much as you will stand in need of.

Epicurus said of the laws, “That the worst were so necessary for us that without them men would devour one another.” And Plato affirms, “That without laws we should live like beasts.” Our wit is a wandering, dangerous, and temerarious utensil; it is hard to couple any order or measure to it; in those of our own time, who are endued with any rare excellence above others, or any extraordinary vivacity of understanding, we see them almost all lash out into licentiousness of opinions and manners; and ‘tis almost a miracle to find one temperate and sociable. ‘Tis all the reason in the world to limit human wit within the strictest limits imaginable; in study, as in all the rest, we ought to have its steps and advances numbered and fixed, and that the limits of its inquisition be bounded by art. It is curbed and fettered by religions, laws, customs, sciences, precepts, mortal and immortal penalties. And yet we see that it escapes from all these bonds by its volubility and dissolution; *tis a vain body which has nothing to lay hold on or to seize; a various and difform body, incapable of being either bound or held. In earnest, there are few souls so regular, firm, and well descended, as are to be trusted with their own conduct, and that can with moderation, and without temerity, sail in the liberty of their own judgments, beyond the common and received opinions; *tis more expedient to put them under pupilage. Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly; and there is not a beast to whom a headboard is more justly to be given, to keep his looks down and before his feet, and to hinder him from wandering here and there out of the tracks which custom and the laws have laid before him. And therefore it will be better for you to keep yourself in the beaten path, let it be what it will, than to fly out at a venture with this unbridled liberty. But if any of these new doctors will pretend to be ingenious in your presence, at the expense both of your soul and his own, to avoid this dangerous plague, which is every day laid in your way to infect you, this preservative, in the extremest necessity, will prevent the danger and hinder the contagion of this poison from offending either you or your company.

The liberty, then, and frolic forwardness of these ancient wits produced in philosophy and human sciences several sects of different opinions, every one undertaking to judge and make choice of what he would stick to and maintain. But now that men go all one way, Qui certis quibusdam destinatisque sententiis addicti et consecrati sunt, ut etiam, qu non probant, cogantur defendere, “Who are so tied and obliged to certain opinions that they are bound to defend even those they do not approve,” and that we receive the arts by civil authority and decree, so that the schools have but one pattern, and a like circumscribed institution and discipline, we no more take notice what the coin weighs, and is really worth, but every one receives it according to the estimate that common approbation and use puts upon it; the alloy is not questioned, but how much it is current for. In like manner all things pass; we take physic as we do geometry; and tricks of hocus-pocus, enchantments, and love-spells, the correspondence of the souls of the dead, prognostications, domifications, and even this ridiculous pursuit of the philosophers’ stone, all things pass for current pay, without any manner of scruple or contradiction. We need to know no more but that Mars’ house is in the middle of the triangle of the hand, that of Venus in the thumb, and that of Mercury in the little finger; that when the table-line cuts the tubercle of the forefinger ‘tis a sign of cruelty, that when it falls short of the middle finger, and that the natural median-line makes an angle with the vital in the same side, ‘tis a sign of a miserable death; that if in a woman the natural line be open, and does not close the angle with the vital, this denotes that she shall not be very chaste. I leave you to judge whether a man qualified with such knowledge may not pass with reputation and esteem in all companies.

Theophrastus said that human knowledge, guided by the senses, might judge of the causes of things to a certain degree; but that being arrived to first and extreme causes, it must stop short and retire, by reason either of its own infirmity or the difficulty of things. ‘Tis a moderate and gentle opinion, that our own understandings may conduct us to the knowledge of some things, and that it has certain measures of power, beyond which ‘tis temerity to employ it; this opinion is plausible, and introduced by men of well composed minds, but ‘tis hard to limit our wit, which is curious and greedy, and will no more stop at a thousand than at fifty paces; having experimentally found that, wherein one has failed, the other has hit, and that what was unknown to one age, the age following has explained; and that arts and sciences are not cast in a mould, but are formed and perfected by degrees, by often handling and polishing, as bears leisurely lick their cubs into form; what my force cannot discover, I do not yet desist to sound and to try; and by handling and kneading this new matter over and over again, by turning and heating it, I lay open to him that shall succeed me, a kind of facility to enjoy it more at his ease, and make it more maniable and supple for him,

Ut hymettia sole
Cera remollescit, tractataque poll ice multas
Vertitur in facies, ipsoque fit utilis usu;

“As wax doth softer in the sun become,
And, tempered ‘twixt the finger and the thumb,
Will varions forms, and several shapes admit,
Till for the present use ‘tis rendered fit;”

as much will the second do for the third; which is the cause that the difficulty ought not to make me despair, and my own incapacity as little; for ‘tis nothing but my own.

Man is as capable of all things as of some; and if he confesses, as Theophrastus says, the ignorance of first causes, let him at once surrender all the rest of his knowledge; if he is defective in foundation, his reason is aground; disputation and inquiry have no other aim nor stop but principles; if this aim do not stop his career, he runs into an infinite irresolution. Non potest aliud alio magis minusve comprehendi, quoniam omnium rerum una est dejinitio comprehendendi:

“One thing can no more or less be comprehended than another, because the definition of comprehending all things is the same.” Now ‘tis very likely that, if the soul knew any thing, it would in the first place know itself; and if it knew any thing out of itself, it would be its own body and case, before any thing else. If we see the gods of physic to this very day debating about our anatomy,

Mulciber in Trojam, pro Troj stabat Apollo;

“Vulcan against, for Troy Apollo stood;”

when are we to expect that they will be agreed? We are nearer neighbours to ourselves than whiteness to snow, or weight to stones. If man do not know himself, how should he know his force and functions? It is not, perhaps, that we have not some real knowledge in us; but ‘tis by chance; forasmuch as errors are received into our soul by the same way, after the same manner, and by the same conduct, it has not wherewithal to distinguish them, nor wherewithal to choose the truth from falsehood.

The Academics admitted a certain partiality of judgment, and thought it too crude to say that it was not more likely to say that snow was white than black; and that we were no more assured of the motion of a stone, thrown by the hand, than of that of the eighth sphere. And to avoid this difficulty and strangeness, that can in truth hardly lodge in our imagination, though they concluded that we were in no sort capable of knowledge, and that truth is engulfed in so profound an abyss as is not to be penetrated by human sight; yet they acknowledged some things to be more likely than others, and received into their judgment this faculty, that they had a power to incline to one appearance more than another, they allowed him this propension, interdicting all resolution. The Pyrrhonian opinion is more bold, and also somewhat more likely; for this academic inclination, and this propension to one proposition rather than another, what is it other than a recognition of some more apparent truth in this than in that? If our understanding be capable of the form, lineaments, port, and face of truth, it might as well see it entire as by halves, springing and imperfect This appearance of likelihood, which makes them rather take the left hand than the right, augments it; multiply this ounce of verisimilitude that turns the scales to a hundred, to a thousand, ounces; it will happen in the end that the balance will itself end the controversy, and determine one choice, one entire truth. But why do they suffer themselves to incline to and be swayed by verisimilitude, if they know not the truth? How should they know the similitude of that whereof they do not know the essence? Either we can absolutely judge, or absolutely we cannot If our intellectual and sensible faculties are without foot or foundation, if they only pull and drive, ‘tis to no purpose that we suffer our judgments to be carried away with any part of their operation, what appearance soever they may seem to present us; and the surest and most happy seat of our understanding would be that where it kept itself temperate, upright, and inflexible, without tottering, or without agitation: Inter visa, vera aut falsa, ad animi assensum, nihil interest: “Amongst things that seem, whether true or false, it signifies nothing to the assent of the mind.” That things do not lodge in us in their form and essence, and do not there make their entry by their own force and authority, we sufficiently see; because, if it were so, we should receive them after the same manner; wine would have the same relish with the sick as with the healthful; he who has his finger chapt or benumbed would find the same hardness in wood or iron that he handles that another does; foreign subjects then surrender themselves to our mercy, and are seated in us as we please. Now if on our part we received any thing without alteration, if human grasp were capable and strong enough to seize on truth by our own means, these means being common to all men, this truth would be conveyed from hand to hand, from one to another; and at least there would be some one thing to be found in the world, amongst so many as there are, that would be believed by men with an universal consent; but this, that there is no one proposition that is not debated and controverted amongst us, or that may not be, makes it very manifest that our natural judgment does not very clearly discern what it embraces; for my judgment cannot make my companions approve of what it approves; which is a sign that I seized it by some other means than by a natural power that is in me and in all other men.

Let us lay aside this infinite confusion of opinions, which we see even amongst the philosophers themselves, and this perpetual and universal dispute about the knowledge of things; for this is truly presupposed, that men, I mean the most knowing, the best bom, and of the best parts, are not agreed about any one thing, not that heaven is over our heads; for they that doubt of every thing, do also doubt of that; and they who deny that we are able to comprehend any thing, say that we have not comprehended that the heaven is over our heads, and these two opinions are, without comparison, the stronger in number.

Besides this infinite diversity and division, through the trouble that our judgment gives ourselves, and the incertainty that every one is sensible of in himself, ‘tis easy to perceive that its seat is very unstable and insecure. How variously do we judge of things?—How often do we alter our opinions? What I hold and believe to-day I hold and believe with my whole belief; all my instruments and engines seize and take hold of this opinion, and become responsible to me for it, at least as much as in them lies; I could not embrace nor conserve any truth with greater confidence and assurance than I do this; I am wholly and entirely possessed with it; but has it not befallen me, not only once, but a hundred, a thousand times, every day, to have embraced some other thing with all the same instruments, and in the same condition, which I have since judged to be false? A man must at least become wise at his own expense; if I have often found myself betrayed under this colour; if my touch proves commonly false, and my balance unequal and unjust, what assurance can I now have more than at other times? Is it not stupidity and madness to suffer myself to be so often deceived by my guide? Nevertheless, let fortune remove and shift us five hundred times from place to place, let her do nothing but incessantly empty and fill into our belief, as into a vessel, other and other opinions; yet still the present and the last is the certain and infallible one; for this we must abandon goods, honour, life, health, and all.

Posterior.... res ilia reperta
Perdit, et immutat sensus ad pristina qnqne.

“The last things we find out are always best,
And make us to disrelish all the rest.”

Whatever is preached to us, and whatever we learn, we should still remember that it is man that gives and man that receives; ‘tis a mortal hand that presents it to us; ‘tis a mortal hand that accepts it The things that come to us from heaven have the sole right and authority of persuasion, the sole mark of truth; which also we do not see with our own eyes, nor receive by our own means; that great and sacred image could not abide in so wretched a habitation if God for this end did not prepare it, if God did not by his particular and supernatural grace and favour fortify and reform it. At least our frail and defective condition ought to make us behave ourselves with more reservedness and moderation in our innovations and changes; we ought to remember that, whatever we receive into the understanding, we often receive things that are false, and that it is by the same instruments that so often give themselves the lie and are so often deceived.

Now it is no wonder they should so often contradict themselves, being so easy to be turned and swayed by very light occurrences. It is certain that our apprehensions, our judgment, and the faculties of the soul in general, suffer according to the movements and alterations of the body, which alterations are continual. Are not our minds more sprightly, ou memories more prompt and quick, and our thoughts more lively, in health than in sickness? Do not joy and gayety make us receive subjects that present themselves to our souls quite otherwise than care and melancholy? Do you believe that Catullus’s verses, or those of Sappho, please an old doting miser as they do a vigorous, amorous young man? Cleomenes, the son of Anexandridas, being sick, his friends reproached him that he had humours and whimsies that were new and unaccustomed; “I believe it,” said he; “neither am I the same man now as when I am in health; being now another person, my opinions and fancies are also other than they were before.” In our courts of justice this word is much in use, which is spoken of criminals when they find the judges in a good humour, gentle, and mild, Gaudeat de bon fortun ; “Let him rejoice in his good fortune;” for it is most certain that men’s judgments are sometimes more prone to condemnation, more sharp and severe, and at others more facile, easy, and inclined to excuse; he that carries with him from his house the pain of the gout, jealousy, or theft by his man, having his whole soul possessed with anger, it is not to be doubted but that his judgment will lean this way. That venerable senate of the Areopagites used to hear and determine by night, for fear lest the sight of the parties might corrupt their justice. The very air itself, and the serenity of heaven, will cause some mutation in us, according to these verses in Cicero:—

Tales sunt hominnm mentes, quali pater ipse
Jupiter auctifer lustravit lampade terras.

“Men’s minds are influenc’d by th’ external air,
Dark or serene, as days are foul or fair.”

‘Tis not only fevers, debauches, and great accidents, that overthrow our judgments,—the least things in the world will do it; and we are not to doubt, though we may not be sensible of it, that if a continued fever can overwhelm the soul, a tertian will in some proportionate measure alter it; if an apoplexy can stupefy and totally extinguish the sight of our understanding, we are not to doubt but that a great cold will dazzle it; and consequently there is hardly one single hour in a man’s whole life wherein our judgment is in its due place and right condition, our bodies being subject to so many continual mutations, and stuffed with so many several sorts of springs, that I believe the physicians, that it is hard but that there must be always some one or other out of order.

As to what remains, this malady does not very easily discover itself, unless it be extreme and past remedy; forasmuch as reason goes always lame, halting, and that too as well with falsehood as with truth; and therefore ‘tis hard to discover her deviations and mistakes. I always call that appearance of meditation which every one forges in himself reason; this reason, of the condition of which there may be a hundred contrary ones about one and the same subject, is an instrument of lead and of wax, ductile, pliable, and accommodate to all sorts of biases, and to all measures; so that nothing remains but the art and skill how to turn and mould it. How uprightly soever a judge may mean, if he does not look well to himself, which few care to do, his inclination to friendship, to relationship, to beauty or revenge, and not only things of that weight, but even the fortuitous instinct that makes us favour one thing more than another, and that, without reason’s permission, puts the choice upon us in two equal subjects, or some shadow of like vanity, may insensibly insinuate into his judgment the recommendation or disfavour of a cause, and make the balance dip.

I, that watch myself as narrowly as I can, and that have my eyes continually bent upon myself, like one that has no great business to do elsewhere,

Quis sub Arcto Rex gelid metuatur or,
Quid Tyridatem terreat, unice Securus,

“I care not whom the northern clime reveres,
Or what’s the king that Tyridates fears,”

dare hardly tell the vanity and weakness I find in myself My foot is so unstable and unsteady, I find myself so apt to totter and reel, and my sight so disordered, that, fasting, I am quite another man than when full; if health and a fair day smile upon me, I am a very affable, good-natured man; if a corn trouble my toe, I am sullen, out of humour, and not to be seen. The same pace of a horse seems to me one while hard, and another easy; and the same way one while shorter, and another longer; and the same form one while more, another less agreeable: I am one while for doing every thing, and another for doing nothing at all; and what pleases me now would be a trouble to me at another time. I have a thousand senseless and casual actions within myself; either I am possessed by melancholy or swayed by choler; now by its own private authority sadness predominates in me, and by and by, I am as merry as a cricket. When I take a book in hand I have then discovered admirable graces in such and such passages, and such as have struck my soul; let me light upon them at another time, I may turn and toss, tumble and rattle the leaves to no purpose; ‘tis then to me an inform and undiscovered mass. Even in my own writings I do not always find the air of my first fancy; I know not what I would have said, and am often put to it to correct and pump for a new sense, because I have lost the first that was better. I do nothing but go and come; my judgment does not always advance—it floats and roams:—

Velut minuta magno
Deprensa navis in mari vesaniente vento.

“Like a small bark that’s tost upon the main.
When winds tempestuous heave the liquid plain.”

Very often, as I am apt to do, having for exercise taken to maintain an opinion contrary to my own, my mind, bending and applying itself that way, does so engage me that way that I no more discern the reason of my former belief, and forsake it I am, as it were, misled by the side to which I incline, be it what it will, and carried away by my own weight. Every one almost would say the same of himself, if he considered himself as I do. Preachers very well know that the emotions which steal upon them in speaking animate them towards belief; and that in passion we are more warm in the defence of our proposition, take ourselves a deeper impression of it, and embrace it with greater vehemence and approbation than we do in our colder and more temperate state. You only give your counsel a simple brief of your cause; he returns you a dubious and uncertain answer, by which you find him indifferent which side he takes. Have you feed him well that he may relish it the better, does he begin to be really concerned, and do you find him interested and zealous in your quarrel? his reason and learning will by degrees grow hot in your cause; behold an apparent and undoubted truth presents itself to his understanding; he discovers a new light in your business, and does in good earnest believe and persuade himself that it is so. Nay, I do not know whether the ardour that springs from spite and obstinacy, against the power and violence of the magistrate and danger, or the interest of reputation, may not have made some men, even at the stake, maintain the opinion for which, at liberty, and amongst friends, they would not have burned a finger. The shocks and jostles that the soul receives from the body’s passions can do much in it, but its own can do a great deal more; to which it is so subjected that perhaps it may be made good that it has no other pace and motion but from the breath of those winds, without the agitation of which it would be becalmed and without action, like a ship in the middle of the sea, to which the winds hare denied their assistance. And whoever should maintain this, siding with the Peripatetics, would do us no great wrong, seeing it is very well known that the greatest and most noble actions of the soul proceed from, and stand in need of, this impulse of the passions. Valour, they say, cannot be perfect without the assistance of anger; Semper Ajax fortis, fortissimus tamen in furore; “Ajax was always brave, but most when in a fury:” neither do we encounter the wicked and the enemy vigorously enough if we be not angry; nay, the advocate, it is said, is to inspire the judges with indignation, to obtain justice.

Irregular desires moved Themistocles, and Demosthenes, and have pushed on the philosophers to watching, fasting, and pilgrimages; and lead us to honour, learning, and health, which are all very useful ends. And this meanness of soul, in suffering anxiety and trouble, serves to breed remorse and repentance in the conscience, and to make us sensible of the scourge of God, and politic correction for the chastisement of our offences; compassion is a spur to clemency; and the prudence of preserving and governing ourselves is roused by our fear; and how many brave actions by ambition! how many by presumption! In short, there is no brave and spiritual virtue without some irregular agitation. May not this be one of the reasons that moved the Epicureans to discharge God from all care and solicitude of our affairs; because even the effects of his goodness could not be exercised in our behalf without disturbing its repose, by the means of passions which are so many spurs and instruments pricking on the soul to virtuous actions; or have they thought otherwise, and taken them for tempests, that shamefully hurry the soul from her tranquillity? Ut maris tranquillitas intettigitur, null, ne minima quidem, aura fluctus commovente: Sic animi quietus et placatus status cemitur, quum perturbatis nulla est, qua moveri queat.. “As it is understood to be a calm sea when there is not the least breath of air stirring; so the state of the soul is discerned to be quiet and appeased when there is no perturbation to move it.”

What varieties of sense and reason, what contrariety of imaginations does the diversity of our passions inspire us with! What assurance then can we take of a thing so mobile and unstable, subject by its condition to the dominion of trouble, and never going other than a forced and borrowed pace? If our judgment be in the power even of sickness and perturbation; if it be from folly and rashness that it is to receive the impression of things, what security can we expect from it?

Is it not a great boldness in philosophy to believe that men perform the greatest actions, and nearest approaching the Divinity, when they are furious, mad, and beside themselves? We better ourselves by the privation of our reason, and drilling it. The two natural ways to enter into the cabinet of the gods, and there to foresee the course of destiny, are fury and sleep.

This is pleasant to consider; by the dislocation that passions cause in our reason, we become virtuous; by its extirpation, occasioned by madness or the image of death, we become diviners and prophets. I was never so willing to believe philosophy in any thing as this. ‘Tis a pure enthusiasm wherewith sacred truth has inspired the spirit of philosophy, which makes it confess, contrary to its own proposition, that the most calm, composed, and healthful estate ef the soul that philosophy can seat it in is not its best condition; our waking is more a sleep than sleep itself, our wisdom less wise than folly; our dreams are worth more than our meditation; and the worst place we can take is in ourselves. But does not philosophy think that we are wise enough to consider that the voice that the spirit utters, when dismissed from man, so clear-sighted, so great, and so perfect, and whilst it is in man so terrestrial, ignorant, and dark, is a voice proceeding from the spirit of dark, terrestrial, and ignorant man, and for this reason a voice not to be trusted and believed?

I, being of a soft and heavy complexion, have no great experience of these vehement agitations, the most of which surprise the soul on a sudden, without giving it leisure to recollect itself. But the passion that is said to be produced by idleness in the hearts of young men, though it proceed leisurely, and with a measured progress, does evidently manifest, to those who have tried to oppose its power, the violence our judgment suffers in this alteration and conversion. I have formerly attempted to withstand and repel it; for I am so far from being one of those that invite vices, that I do not so much as follow them, if they do not haul me along; I perceived it to spring, grow, and increase, in spite of my resistance; and at last, living and seeing as I was, wholly to seize and possess me. So that, as if rousing from drunkenness, the images of things began to appear to me quite other than they used to be; I evidently saw the advantages of the object I desired, grow, and increase, and expand by the influence of my imagination, and the difficulties of my attempt to grow more easy and smooth; and both my reason and conscience to be laid aside; but this fire being evaporated in an instant, as from a flash of lightning, I was aware that my soul resumed another kind of sight, another state, and another judgment; the difficulties of retreat appeared great and invincible, and the same things had quite another taste and aspect than the heat of desire had presented them to me; which of the two most truly? Pyrrho knows nothing about it. We are never without sickness. Agues have their hot and cold fits; from the effects of an ardent passion we fall again to shivering; as much as I had advanced, so much I retired:—

Qualis ubi alterno procurrens gurgite pontus,
Nunc ruit ad terras, scopulosque superjacit undam
Spumeus, extremamque sinu perfundit arenam;
Nunc rapidus retro, atque stu revoluta resorbens
Saxa, fugit, littusque vado labente relihquit.

“So swelling surges, with a thundering roar,
Driv’n on each others’ backs, insult the shore,
Bound o’er the rocks, encroach upon the land,
And far upon the beach heave up the sand;
Then backward rapidly they take their way,
Repulsed from upper ground, and seek the sea.”

Now, from the knowledge of this volubility of mine, I have accidentally begot in myself a certain constancy of opinions, and have not much altered those that were first and natural in me; for what appearance soever there may be in novelty, I do not easily change, for fear of losing by the bargain; and, as I am not capable of choosing, I take other men’s choice, and keep myself in the station wherein God has placed me; I could not otherwise keep myself from perpetual rolling. Thus have I, by the grace of God, preserved myself entire, without anxiety or trouble of conscience, in the ancient faith of our religion, amidst so many sects and divisions as our age has produced. The writings of the ancients, the best authors I mean, being full and solid, tempt and carry me which way almost they will; he that I am reading seems always to have the most force; and I find that every one in his turn is in the right, though they contradict one another. The facility that good wits have of rendering every thing likely they would recommend, and that nothing is so strange to which they do not undertake to give colour enough to deceive such simplicity as mine, this evidently shows the weakness of their testimony. The heavens and the stars have been three thousand years in motion; all the world were of that belief till Cleanthes the Samian, or, according to Theophrastus, Nicetas of Syracuse, took it into his head to maintain that it was the earth that moved, turning about its axis by the oblique circle of the zodiac. And Copernicus has in our times so grounded this doctrine that it very regularly serves to all astrological consequences; what use can we make of this, if not that we ought not much to care which is the true opinion? And who knows but that a third, a thousand years hence, may over throw the two former.

Sic volvenda tas commutt tempora rerum:
Quod fuit in pretio, fit nullo denique honore;
Porro aliud succedit, et e contemptibus exit,
Inque dies magis appetitur, floretque repertum
Laudibus, et miro est mortales inter honore.

“Thus ev’ry thing is changed in course of time,
What now is valued passes soon its prime;
To which some other thing, despised before,
Succeeds, and grows in vogue still more and more;
And once received, too faint all praises seem,
So highly it is rais’d in men’s esteem.”

So that when any new doctrine presents itself to us, we have great reason to mistrust, and to consider that, before that was set on foot, the contrary had been generally received; and that, as that has been overthrown by this, a third invention, in time to come, may start up which may damn the second. Before the principles that Aristotle introduced were in reputation, other principles contented human reason, as these satisfy us now. What patent have these people, what particular privilege, that the career of our invention must be stopped by them, and that the possession of our whole future belief should belong to them? They are no more exempt from being thrust out of doors than their predecessors were. When any one presses me with a new argument, I ought to believe that what I cannot answer another can; for to believe all likelihoods that a man cannot confute is great simplicity; it would by that means come to pass that all the vulgar (and we are all of the vulgar) would have their belief as tumable as a weathercock; for their souls, being so easy to be imposed upon, and without any resistance, must of force incessantly receive other and other impressions, the last still effacing all footsteps of that which went before. He that finds himself weak ought to answer, according to practice, that he will speak with his counsel, or refer himself to the wiser, from whom he received his instruction. How long is it that physic has been practised in the world? ‘Tis said that a new comer, called Paracelsus, changes and overthrows the whole order of ancient rules, and maintains that, till now, it has been of no other use but to kill men. I believe he will easily make this good, but I do not think it were wisdom to venture my life in making trial of his own experience. We are not to believe every one, says the precept, because every one can say all things. A man of this profession of novelties and physical reformations not long since told me that all the ancients were notoriously mistaken in the nature and motions of the winds, which he would evidently demonstrate to me if I would give him the hearing. After I had with some patience heard his arguments, which were all full of likelihood of truth: “What, then,” said I, “did those that sailed according to Theophrastus make way westward, when they had the prow towards the east? did they go sideward or backward?” “That’s fortune,” answered he, “but so it is that they were mistaken.” I replied that I had rather follow effects than reason. Now these are things that often interfere with one another, and I have been told that in geometry (which pretends to have gained the highest point of certainty of all science) there are inevitable demonstrations found which subvert the truth of all experience; as Jacques Pelletier told me, at my own house, that he had found out two lines stretching themselves one towards the other to meet, which nevertheless he affirmed, though extended to infinity, could never arrive to touch one another. And the Pyrrhonians make no other use of their arguments and their reason than to ruin the appearance of experience; and ‘tis a wonder how far the suppleness of our reason has followed them in this design of controverting the evidence of effects; for they affirm that we do not move, that we do not speak, and that there is neither weight nor heat, with the same force of argument that we affirm the most likely things. Ptolemy, who was a great man, had established the bounds of this world of ours; all the ancient philosophers thought they had the measure of it, excepting some remote isles that might escape their knowledge; it had been Pyrrhonism, a thousand years ago, to doubt the science of cosmography, and the opinions that every one had received from it; it was heresy to admit the antipodes; and behold, in this age of ours, there is an infinite extent of terra firma discovered, not an island or single country, but a division of the world, nearly equal in greatness to that we knew before. The geographers of our time stick not to assure us that now all is found; all is seen:—

Nam quod adest prosto, placet, et pollere videtur;

“What’s present pleases, and appears the best;”

but it remains to be seen whether, as Ptolemy was therein formerly deceived upon the foundation of his reason, it were not very foolish to trust now in what these people say? And whether it is not more likely that this great body, which we call the world, is not quite another thing than what we imagine.

Plato says that it changes countenance in all respects; that the heavens, the stars, and the sun, have all of them sometimes motions retrograde to what we see, changing east into west The Egyptian priests told Herodotus that from the time of their first king, which was eleven thousand and odd years since (and they showed him the effigies of all their kings in statues taken from the life), the sun had four times altered his course; that the sea and the earth did alternately change into one another; that the beginning of the world is undetermined; Aristotle and Cicero both say the same; and some amongst us are of opinion that it has been from all eternity, is mortal, and renewed again by several vicissitudes; calling Solomon and Isaiah to witness; to evade those oppositions, that God has once been a creator without a creature; that he has had nothing to do, that he got rid of that idleness by putting his hand to this work; and that consequently he is subject to change. In the most famous of the Greek schools the world is taken for a god, made by another god greater than he, and composed of a body, and a soul fixed in his centre, and dilating himself by musical numbers to his circumference; divine, infinitely happy, and infinitely great, infinitely wise and eternal; in him are other gods, the sea, the earth, the stars, who entertain one another with an harmonious and perpetual agitation and divine dance, sometimes meeting, sometimes retiring from one another; concealing and discovering themselves; changing their order, one while before, and another behind. Heraclitus was positive that the world was composed of fire; and, by the order of destiny, was one day to be enflamed and consumed in fire, and then to be again renewed. And Apuleius says of men: Sigillatim mortales, cunctim perpetui. “That they are mortal in particular, and immortal in general.” Alexander writ to his mother the narration of an Egyptian priest, drawn from their monuments, testifying the antiquity of that nation to be infinite, and comprising the birth and progress of other countries. Cicero and Diodorus say that in their time the Chaldees kept a register of four hundred thousand and odd years, Aristotle, Pliny, and others, that Zoroaster flourished six thousand years before Plato’s time. Plato says that they of the city of Sais have records in writing of eight thousand years; and that the city of Athens was built a thousand years before the said city of Sais; Epicurus, that at the same time things are here in the posture we see, they are alike and in the same manner in several other worlds; which he would have delivered with greater assurance, had he seen the similitude and concordance of the new discovered world of the West Indies with ours, present and past, in so many strange examples.

In earnest, considering what is come to our knowledge from the course of this terrestrial polity, I have often wondered to see in so vast a distance of places and times such a concurrence of so great a number of popular and wild opinions, and of savage manners and beliefs, which by no means seem to proceed from our natural meditation. The human mind is a great worker of miracles! But this relation has, moreover, I know not what of extraordinary in it; ‘tis found to be in names, also, and a thousand other things; for they found nations there (that, for aught we know, never heard of us) where circumcision was in use; where there were states and great civil governments maintained by women only, without men; where our fasts and Lent were represented, to which was added abstinence from women; where our crosses were several ways in repute; here they were made use of to honour and adorn their sepultures, there they were erected, and particularly that of St Andrew, to protect themselves from nocturnal visions, and to lay upon the cradles of infants against enchantments; elsewhere there was found one of wood, of very great height, which was adored for the god of rain, and this a great way in the interior; there was seen an express image of our penance priests, the use of mitres, the celibacy of priests, the art of divination by the entrails of sacrificed beasts, abstinence from all sorts of flesh and fish in their diet, the manner of priests officiating in a particular and not a vulgar language; and this fancy, that the first god was driven away by a second, his younger brother; that they were created with all sorts of necessaries and conveniences, which have since been in a degree taken from them for their sins, their territory changed, and their natural condition made worse; that they were of old overwhelmed by the inundation of water from heaven; that but few families escaped, who retired into caves on high mountains, the mouths of which they stopped so that the waters could not get in, having shut up, together with themselves, several sorts of animals; that when they perceived the rain to cease they sent out dogs, which returning clean and wet, they judged that the water was not much abated; afterwards sending out others, and seeing them return dirty, they issued out to repeople the world, which they found only full of serpents. In one place we met with the belief of a day of judgment; insomuch that they were marvellously displeased at the Spaniards for discomposing the bones of the dead, in rifling the sepultures for riches, saying that those bones so disordered could not easily rejoin; the traffic by exchange, and no other way; fairs and markets for that end; dwarfs and deformed people for the ornament of the tables of princes; the use of falconry, according to the nature of their hawks; tyrannical subsidies; nicety in gardens; dancing, tumbling tricks, music of instruments, coats of arms, tennis-courts, dice and lotteries, wherein they are sometimes so eager and hot as to stake themselves and their liberty; physic, no otherwise than by charms; the way of writing in cypher; the belief of only one first man, the father of all nations; the adoration of one God, who formerly lived a man in perfect virginity, fasting, and penitence, preaching the laws of nature, and the ceremonies of religion, and that vanished from the world without a natural death; the theory of giants; the custom of making themselves drunk with their beverages, and drinking to the utmost; religious ornaments painted with bones and dead men’s skulls; surplices, holy water sprinkled; wives and servants, who present themselves with emulation, burnt and interred with the dead husband or master; a law by which the eldest succeeds to all the estate, no part being left for the younger but obedience; the custom that, upon promotion to a certain office of great authority, the promoted is to take upon him a new name, and to leave that which he had before; another to strew lime upon the knee of the new-born child, with these words:

“From dust thou earnest, and to dust thou must return;” as also the art of augury. The vain shadows of our religion, which are observable in some of these examples, are testimonies of its dignity and divinity. It is not only in some sort insinuated into all the infidel nations on this side of the world, by a certain imitation, but in these barbarians also, as by a common and supernatural inspiration; for we find there the belief of purgatory, but of a new form; that which we give to the fire they give to the cold, and imagine that souls are purged and punished by the rigour of an excessive coldness. And this example puts me in mind of another pleasant diversity; for as there were there some people who delighted to unmuffle the ends of their instruments, and clipped off the prepuce after the Mahometan and Jewish manner; there were others who made so great conscience of laying it bare, that they carefully pursed it up with little strings to keep that end from peeping into the air; and of this other diversity, that whereas we, to honour kings and festivals, put on the best clothes we have; in some regions, to express their disparity and submission to their king, his subjects present themselves before him in their vilest habits, and entering his palace, throw some old tattered garment over their better apparel, to the end that all the lustre and ornament may solely be in him. But to proceed:—

If nature enclose within the bounds of her ordinary progress the beliefs, judgments, and opinions of men, as well as all other things; if they have their revolution, their season, their birth and death, like cabbage plants; if the heavens agitate and rule them at their pleasure, what magisterial and permanent authority do we attribute to them? If we experimentally see that the form of our beings depends upon the air, upon the climate, and upon the soil, where we are bom, and not only the colour, the stature, the complexion, and the countenances, but moreover the very faculties of the soul itself: Et plaga codi non solum ad robor corporum, sed etiam anirum facit: “The climate is of great efficacy, not only to the strength of bodies, but to that of souls also,” says Vegetius; and that the goddess who founded the city of Athens chose to situate it in a temperature of air fit to make men prudent, as the Egyptian priests told Solon: Athenis tenue colum; ex quo etiam acutiores putantur Attici; crassum Thebis; itaque pingues Thebani, et valentes: “The air of Athens is subtle and thin; whence also the Athenians are reputed to be more acute; and at Thebes more gross and thick; wherefore the Thebans are looked upon as more heavy-witted and more strong.” In such sort that, as fruits and animals grow different, men are also more or less warlike, just, temperate, and docile; here given to wine, elsewhere to theft or uncleanness; here inclined to superstition, elsewhere to unbelief; in one place to liberty, in another to servitude; capable of one science or of one art, dull or ingenious, obedient or mutinous, good or bad, according as the place where they are seated inclines them; and assume a new complexion, if removed, like trees, which was the reason why Cyrus would not grant the Persians leave to quit their rough and craggy country to remove to another more pleasant and even, saying, that fertile and tender soils made men effeminate and soft. If we see one while one art and one belief flourish, and another while another, through some celestial influence; such an age to produce such natures, and to incline mankind to such and such a propension, the spirits of men one while gay and another gray, like our fields, what becomes of all those fine prerogatives we so soothe ourselves withal? Seeing that a wise man may be mistaken, and a hundred men and a hundred nations, nay, that even human nature itself, as we believe, is many ages wide in one thing or another, what assurances have we that she should cease to be mistaken, or that in this very age of ours she is not so?

Methinks that amongst other testimonies of our imbecility, this ought not to be forgotten, that man cannot, by his own wish and desire, find out what he wants; that not in fruition only, but in imagination and wish, we cannot agree about what we would have to satisfy and content us. Let us leave it to our own thought to cut out and make up at pleasure; it cannot so much as covet what is proper for it, and satisfy itself:—

Quid enim ratione timemus,
Aut cupimus? Quid tain dextro pede concipis, ut te
Conatus non poniteat, votique peracti?

“For what, with reason, do we speak or shun,
What plan, how happily soe’r begun,
That, when achieved, we do not wish undone?”

And therefore it was that Socrates only begged of the gods that they would give him what they knew to be best for him; and the private and public prayer of the Lacedemonians was simply for good and useful things, referring the choice and election of them to the discretion of the Supreme Power:—

Conjugium petimus, partumqu uxoris; at illis
Notum, qui pueri, qualisque futura sit uxor:

“We ask for Wives and children; they above
Know only, when we have them, what they’ll prove;”

and Christians pray to God, “Thy will be done,” that they may not fall into the inconvenience the poet feigns of King Midas. He prayed to the gods that all he touched might be turned into gold; his prayer was heard; his wine was gold, his bread was gold, the feathers of his bed, his shirt, his clothes, were all gold, so that he found himself overwhelmed with the fruition of his desire, and endowed with an intolerable benefit, and was fain to unpray his prayers.

Attonitus novitate mali, divesque, miserque,
Effugere optt opes, et, qu modo voverat, odit.

“Astonished at the strangeness of the ill,
To be so rich, yet miserable still;
He wishes now he could his wealth evade,
And hates the thing for which before he prayed.”

To instance in myself: being young, I desired of fortune, above all things, the order of St. Michael, which was then the utmost distinction of honour amongst the French nobles, and very rare. She pleasantly gratified my longing; instead of raising me, and lifting me up from my own place to attain to it, she was much kinder to me; for she brought it so low, and made it so cheap, that it stooped down to my shoulders, and lower. Cleobis and Bito, Trophonius and Agamedes, having requested, the first of their goddess, the last of their god, a recompense worthy of their piety, had death for a reward; so differing from ours are heavenly opinions concerning what is fit for us. God might grant us riches, honours, life, and even health, to our own hurt; for every thing that is pleasing to us is not always good for us. If he sends us death, or an increase of sickness, instead of a cure, Vvrga tua et baculus, tuus ipsa me consolata sunt. “Thy rod and thy staff have comforted me,” he does it by the rule of his providence, which better and more certainly discerns what is proper for us than we can do; and we ought to take it in good part, as coming from a wise and most friendly hand

Si consilium vis:
Permittee ipsis expendere numinibus, quid
Conveniat nobis, rebusque sit utile nostris...
Carior est illis homo quam sibi;

“If thou’lt be rul’d, to th’ gods thy fortunes trust,
Their thoughts are wise, their dispensations just.
What best may profit or delight they know,
And real good, for fancied bliss, bestow;
With eyes of pity, they our frailties scan,
More dear to them, than to himself, is man;”

for to require of him honours and commands, is to require ‘that he may throw you into a battle, set you upon a cast at dice, or something of the like nature, whereof the issue is to you unknown, and the fruit doubtful.

There is no dispute so sharp and violent amongst the philosophers, as about the question of the sovereign good of man; whence, by the calculation of Varro, rose two hundred and eighty-eight sects. Qui autem de summo bono dissentit, de tot philosophies ratione disputt. “For whoever enters into controversy concerning the supreme good, disputes upon the whole matter of philosophy.”

Trs mihi conviv prope dissentire videntur,
Poscentes vario mul turn divers a palato;
Quid dem? Quid non dem? Renuis tu quod jubet alter;
Quod petis, id sane est invisum acidumque duobus;

“I have three guests invited to a feast,
And all appear to have a different taste;
What shall I give them? What shall I refuse?
What one dislikes the other two shall choose;
And e’en the very dish you like the best
Is acid or insipid to the rest:”

nature should say the same to their contests and debates. Some say that our well-being lies in virtue, others in pleasure, others in submitting to nature; one in knowledge, another in being exempt from pain, another in not suffering ourselves to be carried away by appearances; and this fancy seems to have some relation to that of the ancient Pythagoras,

Nil admirari, prope res est una, Numici,
Solaque, qu possit facere et servare beatum:

“Not to admire’s the only art I know
Can make us happy, and can keep us so;”

which is the drift of the Pyrrhonian sect; Aristotle attributes the admiring nothing to magnanimity; and Arcesilaus said, that constancy and a right inflexible state of judgment were the true good, and consent and application the sin and evil; and there, it is true, in being thus positive, and establishing a certain axiom, he quitted Pyrrhonism; for the’ Pyrrhonians, when they say that ataraxy, which is the immobility of judgment, is the sovereign good, do not design to speak it affirmatively; but that the same motion of soul which makes them avoid precipices, and take shelter from the cold, presents them such a fancy, and makes them refuse another.

How much do I wish that, whilst I live, either some other or Justus Lipsius, the most learned man now living, of a most polite and judicious understanding, truly resembling my Turnebus, had both the will and health, and leisure sufficient, carefully and conscientiously to collect into a register, according to their divisions and classes, as many as are to be found, of the opinions of the ancient philosophers, about the subject of our being and manners, their controversies, the succession and reputation of sects; with the application of the lives of the authors and their disciples to their own precepts, in memorable accidents, and upon exemplary occasions. What a beautiful and useful work that would be!

As to what remains, if it be from ourselves that we are to extract the rules of our manners, upon what a confusion do we throw ourselves! For that which our reason advises us to, as the most likely, is generally for every one to obey the laws of his country, as was the advice of Socrates, inspired, as he says, by a divine counsel; and by that, what would it say, but that our duty has no other rule but what is accidental? Truth ought to have a like and universal visage; if man could know equity and justice that had a body and a true being, he would not fetter it to the conditions of this country or that; it would not be from the whimsies of the Persians or Indians that virtue would receive its form. There is nothing more subject to perpetual agitation than the laws; since I was born, I have known those of the English, our neighbours, three or four times changed, not only in matters of civil regimen, which is the only thing wherein constancy may be dispensed with, but in the most important subject that can be, namely, religion, at which I am the more troubled and ashamed, because it is a nation with whom those of my province have formerly had so great familiarity and acquaintance, that there yet remains in my house some footsteps of our ancient kindred; and here with us at home, I have known a thing that was capital to become lawful; and we that hold of others are likewise, according to the chance of war, in a possibility of being one day found guilty of high-treason, both divine and human, should the justice of our arms fall into the power of injustice, and, after a few years’ possession, take a quite contrary being. How could that ancient god more clearly accuse the ignorance of human knowledge concerning the divine Being, and give men to understand that their religion was but a thing of their own contrivance, useful as a bond to their society, than declaring as he did to those who came to his tripod for instruction, that every one’s true worship was that which he found in use in the place where he chanced to be? O God, what infinite obligation have we to the bounty of our sovereign Creator, for having disabused our belief from these wandering and arbitrary devotions, and for having seated it upon the eternal foundation of his holy word? But what then will philosophers say to us in this necessity? “That we follow the laws of our country;” that is to say, this floating sea of the opinions of a republic, or a prince, that will paint out justice for me in as many colours, and form it as many ways as there are changes of passions in themselves; I cannot suffer my judgment to be so flexible. What kind of virtue is that which I see one day in repute, and that to-morrow shall be in none, and which the crossing of a river makes a crime? What sort of truth can that be, which these mountains limit to us, and make a lie to all the world beyond them?

But they are pleasant, when, to give some certainty to the laws, they say, that there are some firm, perpetual, and immovable, which they call natural, that are imprinted in human kind by the condition of their own proper being; and of these some reckon three, some four, some more, some less; a sign that it is a mark as doubtful as the rest Now they are so unfortunate, (for what can I call it else but misfortune that, of so infinite a number of laws, there should not be found one at least that fortune and the temerity of chance has suffered to be universally received by the consent of all nations?) they are, I say, so miserable, that of these three or four select laws, there is not so much as one that is not contradicted and disowned, not only by one nation, but by many. Now, the only likely sign, by which they can argue or infer some natural laws, is the universality of approbation; for we should, without doubt, follow with a common consent that which nature had truly ordained us; and not only every nation, but every private man, would resent the force and violence that any one should do him who would tempt him to any thing contrary to this law. But let them produce me one of this condition. Proctagoras and Aristo gave no other essence to the justice of laws than the authority and opinion of the legislator; and that, these laid aside, the honest and the good lost their qualities, and remained empty names of indifferent things; Thrasymachus, in Plato, is of opinion that there is no other right but the convenience of the superior. There is not any thing wherein the world is so various as in laws and customs; such a thing is abominable here which is elsewhere in esteem, as in Lacedemon dexterity in stealing; marriages between near relations, are capitally interdicted amongst us; they are elsewhere in honour:—

Gentes esse ferantur,
In quibus et nato genitrix, et nata parenti
Jungitur, et pietas geminato crescit amore;

“There are some nations in the world, ‘tis said,
Where fathers daughters, sons their mothers wed;
And their affections thereby higher rise,
More firm and constant by these double ties;”

the murder of infants, the murder of fathers, the community of wives, traffic of robberies, license in all sorts of voluptuousness; in short, there is nothing so extreme that is not allowed by the custom of some nation or other.

It is credible that there are natural laws for us, as we see them in other creatures; but they are lost in us, this fine human reason everywhere so insinuating itself to govern and command, as to shuffle and confound the face of things, according to its own vanity and inconstancy: Nihil itaque amplius nostrum est; quod nostrum dico, artis est: “Therefore nothing is any more truly ours; what we call ours belongs to art.” Subjects have divers lustres and divers considerations, and thence the diversity of opinions principally proceeds; one nation considers a subject in one aspect, and stops there: another takes it in a different point of view.

There is nothing of greater horror to be imagined than for a man to eat his father; and yet the people, whose ancient custom it was so to do, looked upon it as a testimony of piety and affection, seeking thereby to give their progenitors the most worthy and honourable sepulture; storing up in themselves, and as it were in their own marrow, the bodies and relics of their fathers; and in some sort regenerating them by transmutation into their living flesh, by means of nourishment and digestion. It is easy to consider what a cruelty and abomination it must have appeared to men possessed and imbued with this snperstition to throw their fathers’ remains to the corruption of the earth, and the nourishment of beasts and worms.

Lycurgus considered in theft the vivacity, diligence, boldness, and dexterity of purloining any thing from our neighbours, and the benefit that redounded to the public that every one should look more narrowly to the conservation of what was his own; and believed that, from this double institution of assaulting and defending, advantage was to be made for military discipline (which was the principal science and virtue to which he would inure that nation), of greater consideration than the disorder and injustice of taking another man’s goods.

Dionysius, the tyrant, offered Plato a robe of the Persian fashion, long, damasked, and perfumed; Plato refused it, saying, “That being born a man, he would not willingly dress himself in women’s clothes;” but Aristippus accepted it with this answer, “That no accoutrement could corrupt a chaste courage.” His friends reproaching him with meanness of spirit, for laying it no more to heart that Dionysius had spit in his face, “Fishermen,” said he, “suffer themselves to be drenched with the waves of the sea from head to foot to catch a gudgeon.” Diogenes was washing cabbages, and seeing him pass by, “If thou couldst live on cabbage,” said he, “thou wouldst not fawn upon a tyrant;” to whom Aristippus replied, “And if thou knewest how to live amongst men, thou wouldst not be washing cabbages.” Thus reason finds appearances for divers effects; ‘tis a pot with two ears that a man may take by the right or left:—

Bellum, o terra hospita, portas:
Bello armantur eqni; bellum hc armenta minantur.
Sed tamen idem olim curru succedere sueti
Quadrupedes, et frena jugo concordia ferre;
Spes est pacis.

“War, war is threatened from this foreign ground
(My father cried), where warlike steeds are found.
Yet, since reclaimed, to chariots they submit,
And bend to stubborn yokes, and champ the bit,
Peace may succeed to war.”

Solon, being lectured by his friends not to shed powerless and unprofitable tears for the death of his son, “It is for that reason that I the more justly shed them,” said he, “because they are powerless and unprofitable.” Socrates’s wife exasperated her grief by this circumstance: “Oh, how unjustly do these wicked judges put him to death!” “Why,” replied he, “hadst thou rather they should execute me justly?” We have our ears bored; the Greeks looked upon that as a mark of slavery. We retire in private to enjoy our wives; the Indians do it in public. The Scythians immolated strangers in their temples; elsewhere temples were a refuge:—

Inde furor vulgi, quod numina vicinorum
Odit quisque locus, cum solos credat habendos
Esse deos, quos ipse colit.

“Thus ‘tis the popular fury that creates
That all their neighbours’ gods each nation hates;
Each thinks its own the genuine; in a word,
The only deities to be adored.”

I have heard of a judge who, coming upon a sharp conflict betwixt Bartolus and Aldus, and some point controverted with many contrarieties, writ in the margin of his book, “a question for a friend;” that is to say, that truth was there so controverted and disputed that in a like cause he might favour which of the parties he thought fit ‘Twas only for want of wit that he did not write “a question for a friend” throughout. The advocates and judges of our times find bias enough in all causes to accommodate them to what they themselves think fit. In so infinite a science, depending upon the authority of so many opinions, and so arbitrary a subject, it cannot be but that of necessity an extreme confusion of judgments must arise; there is hardly any suit so clear wherein opinions do not very much differ; what one court has determined one way another determines quite contrary, and itself contrary to that at another time. Of which we see very frequent examples, owing to that practice admitted amongst us, and which is a marvellous blemish to the ceremonious authority and lustre of our justice, of not abiding by one sentence, but running from judge to judge, and court to court, to decide one and the same cause.

As to the liberty of philosophical opinions concerning vice and virtue, ‘tis not necessary to be insisted upon; therein are found many opinions that are better concealed than published to weak minds. Arcesilaus said, “That in venery it was no matter where, or with whom, it was committed:” Et obsccenas voluptates, si natura requirit, non genere, aut loco, aut ordine, sed forma, otate, jigur, metiendas Epicurus putat.... ne amores quidem sanctos a sapiente alienos esse arbitrantur.... Queeramus, ad quam usque otatem juvenes amandi sint. “And obscene pleasures, if nature requires them,” Epicurus thinks, “are not to be measured either by race, kind, place, or rank, but by age, shape, and beauty.... Neither are sacred loves thought to be foreign to wise men;... we are to inquire till what age young men are to be loved.” These last two stoical quotations, and the reproach that Dicarchus threw into the teeth of Plato himself, upon this account, show how much the soundest philosophy indulges licenses and excesses very remote from common custom.

Laws derive their authority from possession and custom. ‘Tis dangerous to trace them back to their beginning; they grow great, and ennoble themselves, like our rivers, by running on; but follow them upward to their source, ‘tis but a little spring, scarce discernable,

that swells thus, and thus fortifies itself by growing old. Do but consult the ancient considerations that gave the first motion to this famous torrent, so full of dignity, awe, and reverence, you will find them so light and weak that it is no wonder if these people, who weigh and reduce every thing to reason, and who admit nothing by authority, or upon trust, have their judgments often very remote, and differing from those of the public. It is no wonder if people, who take their pattern from the first image of nature, should in most of their opinions swerve from the common path; as, for example, few amongst them would have approved of the strict conditions of our marriages, and most of them have been for having wives in common, and without obligation; they would refuse our ceremonies. Chrysippus said, “That a philosopher would make a dozen somersaults, aye, and without his breeches, for a dozen of olives.” That philosopher would hardly have advised Clisthenes to have refused Hippoclides the fair Agarista his daughter, for having seen him stand on his head upon a table. Metrocles somewhat indiscreetly broke wind backwards while in disputation, in the presence of a great auditory in his school, and kept himself hid in his own house for shame, till Crates coming to visit him, and adding to his consolations and reasons the example of his own liberty, by falling to try with him who should sound most, cured him of that scruple, and withal drew him to his own stoical sect, more free than that more reserved one of the Peripatetics, of which he had been till then. That which we call decency, not to dare to do that in public which is decent enough to do in private, the Stoics call foppery; and to mince it, and to be so modest as to conceal and disown what nature, custom, and our desires publish and proclaim of our actions, they reputed a vice. The other thought it was to undervalue the mysteries of Venus to draw them out of the private oratory, to expose them to the view of the people; and that to bring them out from behind the curtain was to debase them. Modesty is a thing of weight; secrecy, reservation, and circumspection, are parts of esteem. Pleasure did very ingeniously when, under the mask of virtue, she sued not to be prostituted in the open streets, trodden under foot, and exposed to the public view, wanting the dignity and convenience of her private cabinets. Hence some say that to put down public stews is not only to disperse fornication into all places, that was confined to one, but moreover, by the difficulty, to incite wild and idle people to this vice:—

Mochus es Aufidi, qui vir,
Scvine, fuisti:
Rivalis fuerat qui tuus, ille vir est.
Cur alina placet tibi, qu tua non placet uxor?
Numquid securus non potes arrigere?

This experience diversifies itself in a thousand examples:—

Nullus in urbe fuit tot, qui tangere vellet
Uxorem gratis, Cciliane, tuam,
Dum licuit: sed nunc, positis custodibus, ingens
Turba fututorum est. Ingeniosus homo es.

A philosopher being taken in the very act, and asked what he was doing, coldly replied, “I am planting man;” no more blushing to be so caught than if they had found him planting garlic.

It is, I suppose, out of tenderness and respect to the natural modesty of mankind that a great and religious author is of opinion that this act is so necessarily obliged to privacy and shame that he cannot persuade himself there could be any absolute performance in those impudent embraces of the Cynics, but that they contented themselves to represent lascivious gestures only, to maintain the impudence of their school’s profession; and that, to eject what shame had withheld and restrained, it was afterward necessary for them to withdraw into the shade. But he had not thoroughly examined their debauches; for Diogenes, playing the beast with himself in public, wished, in the presence of all that saw him, that he could fill his belly by that exercise. To those who asked him why he did not find out a more commodious place to eat in than in the open street, he made answer, “Because I am hungry in the open street.” The women philosophers who mixed with their sect, mixed also with their persons, in all places, without reservation; and Hipparchia was not received into Crates’s society, but upon condition that she should, in all things, follow the practice and customs of his rule. These philosophers set a great price upon virtue, and renounce all other discipline but the moral; and yet, in all their actions, they attributed the sovereign authority to the election of their sage, and above the laws; and gave no other curb to voluptuousness but moderation only, and the conservation of the liberty of others.

Heraclitus and Protagoras, forasmuch as wine seemed bitter to the sick, and pleasant to the sound, the rudder crooked in the water, and straight when out, and such like contrary appearances as are found in subjects, argued thence that all subjects had, in themselves, the causes of these appearances; and there was some bitterness in the wine which had some sympathy with the sick man’s taste, and the rudder some bending quality sympathizing with him that looks upon it in the water; and so of all the rest; which is to say, that all is in all things, and, consequently, nothing in any one; for, where all is, there is nothing.

This opinion put me in mind of the experience we have that there is no sense or aspect of any thing, whether bitter or sweet, straight or crooked, that the human mind does not find out in the writings it undertakes to tumble over. Into the cleanest, purest, and most perfect words that can possibly be, how many lies and falsities have we suggested! What heresy has not there found ground and testimony sufficient to make itself embraced and defended! ‘Tis for this that the authors of such errors will never depart from proof of the testimony of the interpretation of words. A person of dignity, who would approve to me, by authority, the search of the philosopher’s stone, wherein he was head over ears engaged, lately alleged to me at least five or six passages of the Bible upon which, he said, he first founded his attempt, for the discharge of his conscience (for he is a divine); and, in truth, the idea was not only pleasant, but, moreover, very well accommodated to the defence of this fine science.

By this way the reputation of divining fables is acquired. There is no fortune-teller, if we have this authority, but, if a man will take the pains to tumble and toss, and narrowly to peep into all the folds and glosses of his words, he may make him, like the Sibyls, say what he will. There are so many ways of interpretation that it will be hard but that, either obliquely or in a direct line, an ingenious wit will find out, in every subject, some air that will serve for his purpose; therefore we find a cloudy and ambiguous style in so frequent and ancient use. Let the author but make himself master of that, to busy posterity about his predictions, which not only his own parts, but the accidental favour of the matter itself, may do for him; and, as to the rest, express himself, whether after a foolish or a subtle manner, somewhat obscurely or contradictorily, ‘tis no matter;—a number of wits, shaking and sifting him, will bring out a great many several forms, either according to his meaning, or collateral, or contrary, to it, which will all redound to his honour; he will see himself enriched by the means of his disciples, like the regents of colleges by their pupils yearly presents. This it is which has given reputation to many things of no worth at all; that has brought several writings in vogue, and given them the fame of containing all sorts of matter can be desired; one and the same thing receiving a thousand and a thousand images and various considerations; nay, as many as we please.

Is it possible that Homer could design to say all that we make him say, and that he designed so many and so various figures, as that the divines, law-givers, captains, philosophers, and all sorts of men who treat of sciences, how variously and opposite soever, should indifferently quote him, and support their arguments by his authority, as the sovereign lord and master of all offices, works, and artisans, and counsellor-general of all enterprises? Whoever has had occasion for oracles and predictions has there found sufficient to serve his turn. ‘Tis a wonder how many and how admirable concurrences an intelligent person, and a particular friend of mine, has there found out in favour of our religion; and cannot easily be put out of the conceit that it was Homer’s design; and yet he is as well acquainted with this author as any man whatever of his time. And what he has found in favour of our religion there, very many anciently have found in favour of theirs. Do but observe how Plato is tumbled and tossed about; every one ennobling his own opinions by applying him to himself, and making him take what side they please. They draw him in, and engage him in all the new opinions the world receives; and make him, according to the different course of things, differ from himself; every one makes him disavow, according to his own sense, the manners and customs lawful in his age, because they are unlawful in ours; and all this with vivacity and power, according to the force and sprightliness of the wit of the interpreter. From the same foundation that Heraclitus and this sentence of his had, “that all things had in them those forms that we discern,” Democritus drew quite a contrary conclusion,—“that objects have in them nothing that we discern in them;” and because honey is sweet to one and bitter to another, he thence argued that it was neither sweet nor bitter. The Pyrrhonians would say that they knew not whether it is sweet or bitter, or whether the one or the other, or both; for these always gained the highest point of dubitation. The Cyrenaics held that nothing was perceptible from without, and that that only was perceptible that inwardly touched us, as pain and pleasure; acknowledging neither sound nor colour, but certain affections only that we receive from them; and that man’s judgment had no other seat Protagoras believed that “what seems true to every one, is true to every one.” The Epicureans lodged all judgment in the senses, and in the knowledge of things, and in pleasure. Plato would have the judgment of truth, and truth itself, derived from opinions and the senses, to belong to the wit and cogitation.

This discourse has put me upon the consideration of the senses, in which lies the greatest foundation and Prof of our ignorance. Whatsoever is known, is doubtless known by the faculty of the knower; for, seeing the judgment proceeds from the operation of him that judges, ‘tis reason that this operation be performed by his means and will, not by the constraint of another; as it would happen if we knew things by the power, and according to the law of their essence. Now all knowledge is conveyed to us by the senses; they are our masters:—

Via qua munita fidei
Proxima fert humanum in pectus, templaque mentis;

“It is the surest path that faith can find
By which to enter human heart and mind.”

Science begins by them, and is resolved into them. After all, we should know no more than a stone if we did not know there is sound, odour, light, taste, measure, weight, softness, hardness, sharpness, colour, smoothness, breadth, and depth; these are the platforms and principles of the structure of all our knowledge; and, according to some, science is nothing else but sense. He that could make me contradict the senses, would have me by the throat; he could not make me go further back. The senses are the beginning and the end of human knowledge:—

Invenies primis ab sensibns esse creatam
Notitiam veil; neque sensus posse refelli....
Quid majore fide porro, quam sensus, haberi Debet?

“Of truth, whate’er discoveries are made,
Are by the senses to us first conveyed;
Nor will one sense be baffled; for on what
Can we rely more safely than on that?”

Let us attribute to them the least we can, we must, however, of necessity grant them this, that it is by their means and mediation that all our instruction is directed. Cicero says, that Chrysippus having attempted to extenuate the force and virtue of the senses, presented to himself arguments and so vehement oppositions to the contrary that he could not satisfy himself therein; whereupon Cameades, who maintained the contrary side, boasted that he would make use of the very words and arguments of Chrysippus to controvert and confute him, and therefore thus cried out against him: “O miserable! thy force has destroyed thee.” There can be nothing absurd to a greater degree than to maintain that fire does not warm, that light does not shine, and that there is no weight nor solidity in iron, which are things conveyed to us by the senses; neither is there belief nor knowledge in man that can be compared to that for certainty.

The first consideration I have upon the subject of the senses is that I make a doubt whether or no man be furnished with all natural senses. I see several animals who live an entire and perfect life, some without sight, others without hearing; who knows whether to us also one, two, three, or many other senses may not be wanting? For if any one be wanting, our examination cannot discover the defect. ‘Tis the privilege of the senses to be the utmost limit of our discovery; there is nothing beyond them that can assist us in exploration, not so much as one sense in the discovery of another:—

An poterunt oculos aures reprehendere? an aures
Tactus an hunc porro tactum sapor argnet oris?
An confutabunt nares, oculive revincent?

“Can ears the eyes, the touch the ears, correct?
Or is that touch by tasting to be check’d?
Or th’ other senses, shall the nose or eyes
Confute in their peculiar faculties?”

They all make the extremest limits of our ability:—

Seorsum cuique potestas Divisa est, sua vis cuique est,

“Each has its power distinctly and alone,
And every sense’s power is its own.”

It is impossible to make a man naturally blind conceive that he does not see; impossible to make him desire sight, or to regret his defect; for which reason we ought not to derive any assurance from the soul’s being contented and satisfied with those we have; considering that it cannot be sensible herein of its infirmity and imperfection, if there be any such thing. It is impossible to say any thing to this blind man, either by reasoning, argument, or similitude, that can possess his imagination with any apprehension of light, colour, or sight; there’s nothing remains behind that can push on the senses to evidence. Those that are born blind, whom we hear wish they could see, it is not that they understand what they desire; they have learned from us that they want something; that there is something to be desired that we have, which they can name indeed and speak of its effect and consequences; but yet they know not what it is, nor apprehend it at all.

I have seen a gentleman of a good family who was born blind, or at least blind from such an age that he knows not what sight is; who is so little sensible of his defect that he makes use as we do of words proper for seeing, and applies them after a manner wholly particular and his own. They brought him a child to which he was god-father, which, having taken into his arms, “Good God,” said he, “what a fine child! How beautiful to look upon! what a pretty face it has!” He will say, like one of us, “This room has a very fine prospect;—it is clear weather;—the sun shines bright.” And moreover, being that hunting, tennis, and butts are our exercises, and he has heard so, he has taken a liking to them, will ride a-hunting, and believes he has as good share of the sport as we have; and will express himself as angry or pleased as the best of us all, and yet knows nothing of it but by the ear. One cries out to him, “Here’s a hare!” when he is upon some even plain where he may safely ride; and afterwards, when they tell him, “The hare is killed,” he will be as overjoyed and proud of it as he hears others say they are. He will take a tennis-ball in his left hand and strike it away with the racket; he will shoot with a harquebuss at random, and is contented with what his people tell him, that he is over, or wide.

Who knows whether all human kind commit not the like absurdity, for want of some sense, and that through this default the greatest part of the face of things is concealed from us? What do we know but that the difficulties which we find in several works of nature proceed hence; and that several effects of animals, which exceed our capacity, are not produced by faculty of some sense that we are defective in? and whether some of them have not by this means a life more full and entire than ours? We seize an apple with all our senses; we there find redness, smoothness, odour, and sweetness; but it may have other virtues besides these, as to heat or binding, which no sense of ours can have any reference unto. Is it not likely that there are sensitive faculties in nature that are fit to judge of and to discern those which we call the occult properties in several things, as for the loadstone to attract iron; and that the want of such faculties is the cause that we are ignorant of the true essence of such things? ‘Tis perhaps some particular sense that gives cocks to understand what hour it is at midnight, and when it grows to be towards day, and that makes them crow accordingly; that teaches chickens, before they have any experience of the matter, to fear a sparrow-hawk, and not a goose or a peacock, though birds of a much larger size; that cautions them against the hostile quality the cat has against them, and makes them not to fear a dog; to arm themselves against the mewing, a kind of flattering voice, of the one, and not against the barking, a shrill and threatening voice, of the other; that teaches wasps, ants, and rats, to fall upon the best pear and the best cheese before they have tasted them, and inspires the stag, elephant, and serpent, with the knowledge of a certain herb proper for their cure. There is no sense that has not a mighty dominion, and that does not by its power introduce an infinite number of knowledges. If we were defective in the intelligence of sounds, of harmony, and of the voice, it would cause an unimaginable confusion in all the rest of our science; for, besides what belongs to the proper effect of every sense, how many arguments, consequences, and conclusions do we draw to other things, by comparing one sense with another? Let an understanding man imagine human nature originally produced without the sense of seeing, and consider what ignorance and trouble such a defect would bring upon him, what a darkness and blindness in the soul; he will then see by that of how great importance to the knowledge of truth the privation of such another sense, or of two or three, should we be so deprived, would be. We have formed a truth by the consultation and concurrence of our five senses; but perhaps we should have the consent and contribution of eight or ten to make a certain discovery of it in its essence.

The sects that controvert the knowledge of man do it principally by the uncertainty and weakness of our senses; for since all knowledge is by their means and mediation conveyed unto us, if they fail in their report, if they corrupt or alter what they bring us from without, if the light which by them creeps into the soul be obscured in the passage, we have nothing else to hold by. From this extreme difficulty all these fancies proceed: “That every subject has in itself all we there find. That it has nothing in it of what we think we there find;” and that of the Epicureans, “That the sun is no bigger than ‘tis judged by our sight to be:—”

Quidquid id est, nihilo fertur majore figura,
Quam nostris oculis quam cemimus, esse videtur:

“But be it what it will in our esteems,
It is no bigger than to us it seems:”

that the appearances which represent a body great to him that is near, and less to him that is more remote, are both true:—

Nee tamen hic oculos falli concedimus hilum....
Proinde animi vitium hoc oculis adfingere noli:

“Yet that the eye’s deluded we deny;
Charge not the mind’s faults, therefore, on the eye:”

“and, resolutely, that there is no deceit in the senses; that we are to lie at their mercy, and seek elsewhere reasons to excuse the difference and contradictions we there find, even to the inventing of lies and other flams, if it come to that, rather than accuse the senses.” Timagoras vowed that, by pressing or turning his eye, he could never perceive the light of the candle to double, and that the seeming so proceeded from the vice of opinion, and not from the instrument. The most absurd of all absurdities, with the Epicureans, is to deny the force and effect of the senses:—

Proinde, quod in quoquo est his visum tempore, verum est
Et, si non potuit ratio dissolvere causam,
Cur ea, qu fuerint juxtim quadrata, procul sint
Visa rotunda; tamen prstat rationis egentem
Beddere mendose causas utriusque figur,
Quam manibus manifesta suis emittere ququam,
Et violare fidem primam, et convellere tota
Fundamenta, quibus nixatur vita salusque:
Non modo enim ratio ruat omnis, vita quoque ipsa
Concidat extemplo, nisi credere sensibus ausis,
Procipitesque locos vitare, et ctera, qu sint
In genere hoc fugienda.

“That what we see exists I will maintain,
And if our feeble reason can’t explain
Why things seem square when they are very near,
And at a greater distance round appear;
‘Tis better yet, for him that’s at a pause,
‘T’ assign to either figure a false cause,
Than shock his faith, and the foundations rend
On which our safety and our life depend:
For reason not alone, but life and all,
Together will with sudden ruin fall;
Unless we trust our senses, nor despise
To shun the various dangers that arise.”

This so desperate and unphilosophical advice expresses only this,—that human knowledge cannot support itself but by reason unreasonable, foolish, and mad; but that it is yet better that man, to set a greater value upon himself, make use of any other remedy, how fantastic soever, than to confess his necessary ignorance—a truth so disadvantageous to him. He cannot avoid owning that the senses are the sovereign lords of his knowledge; but they are uncertain, and falsifiable in all circumstances; ‘tis there that he is to fight it out to the last; and if his just forces fail him, as they do, to supply that defect with obstinacy, temerity, and impudence. In case what the Epicureans say be true, viz: “that we have no knowledge if the senses’ appearances be false;” and if that also be true which the Stoics say, “that the appearances of the senses are so false that they can furnish us with no manner of knowledge,” we shall conclude, to the disadvantage of these two great dogmatical sects, that there is no science at all.

As to the error and uncertainty of the operation of the senses, every one may furnish himself with as many examples as he pleases; so ordinary are the faults and tricks they put upon us. In the echo of a valley the sound of a trumpet seems to meet us, which comes from a place behind:—

Exstantesque procul medio de gurgite montes,
Classibus inter qnos liber patet exitus, idem
Apparent, et longe divolsi licet, ingens
Insula conjunctis tamen ex his ana videtur...
Et fugere ad puppim colies campique videntur,
Qnos agimns proter navim, velisque volamus....
Ubi in medio nobis equus acer obhsit
Flamine, equi corpus transversum ferre videtur
Vis, et in adversum flumen contrudere raptim.

“And rocks i’ th’ seas that proudly raise their head,
Though far disjoined, though royal navies spread,
Their sails between; yet if from distance shown,
They seem an island all combin’d in one.
Thus ships, though driven by a prosperous gale,
Seem fix’d to sailors; those seem under sail
That ride at anchor safe; and all admire,
As they row by, to see the rocks retire.
Thus, when in rapid streams my horse hath stood,
And I look’d downward on the rolling flood;
Though he stood still, I thought he did divide
The headlong streams, and strive against the tide,
And all things seem’d to move on every side.”

Take a musket-ball under the forefinger, the middle finger being lapped over it, it feels so like two that a man will have much ado to persuade himself there is but one; the end of the two fingers feeling each of them one at the same time; for that the senses are very often masters of our reason, and constrain it to receive impressions which it judges and knows to be false, is frequently seen. I set aside the sense of feeling, that has its functions nearer, more lively, and substantial, that so often, by the effects of the pains it helps the body to, subverts and overthrows all those fine Stoical resolutions, and compels him to cry out of his belly, who has resolutely established this doctrine in his soul—“That the colic, and all other pains and diseases, are indifferent things, not having the power to abate any thing of the sovereign felicity wherein the wise man is seated by his virtue.” There is no heart so effeminate that the rattle and sound of our drums and trumpets will not inflame with courage; nor so sullen that the harmony of our music will not rouse and cheer; nor so stubborn a soul that will not feel itself struck with some reverence in considering the gloomy vastness of our churches, the variety of ornaments, and order of our ceremonies; and in hearing the solemn music of our organs, and the grace and devout harmony of our voices. Even those that come in with contempt feel a certain shivering in their hearts, and something of dread that makes them begin to doubt their opinions. For my part I do not think myself strong enough to hear an ode of Horace or Catullus sung by a beautiful young mouth without emotion; and Zeno had reason to say “that the voice was the flower of beauty.” One would once make me believe that a certain person, whom all we Frenchmen know, had imposed upon me in repeating some verses that he had made; that they were not the same upon paper that they were in the air; and that my eyes would make a contrary judgment to my ears; so great a power has pronunciation to give fashion and value to works that are left to the efficacy and modulation of the voice. And therefore Philoxenus was not so much to blame, hearing one giving an ill accent to some composition of his, in spurning and breaking certain earthen vessels of his, saying, “I break what is thine, because thou corruptest what is mine.” To what end did those men who have, with a firm resolution, destroyed themselves, turn away their faces that they might not see the blow that was by themselves appointed? And that those who, for their health, desire and command incisions to be made, and cauteries to be applied to them, cannot endure the sight of the preparations, instruments, and operations of the surgeon, being that the sight is not in any way to participate in the pain? Are not these proper examples to verify the authority the senses have over the imagination? ‘Tis to much purpose that we know these tresses were borrowed from a page or a lackey; that this rouge came from Spain, and this pearl-powder from the Ocean Sea. Our sight will, nevertheless, compel us to confess their subject more agreeable and more lovely against all reason; for in this there is nothing of its own:—

Auferinrar cultu; gemmis, auroque teguntur
Crimina; pars minima est ipsa puella sni.
Spe, ubi sit quod ames, inter tarn multa requiras:
Decipit hac oculos gide dives Amor.

“By dress we’re won; gold, gems, and rich brocades
Make up the pageant that your heart invades;
In all that glittering figure which you see,
The far least part of her own self is she;
In vain for her you love amidst such cost
You search, the mistress in such dress is lost.”

What a strange power do the poets attribute to the senses, that make Narcissus so desperately in love with his own shadow,

Cunctaque miratur, quibus est mirabilis ipse;
Se cupit imprudens, et, qui probat, ipse probatur;
Dumque petit, petitur; pariterque accendit, et ardet:

“Admireth all; for which to be admired;
And inconsiderately himself desir’d.
The praises which he gives his beauty claim’d,
Who seeks is sought, th’ inflamer is inflam’d:”

and Pygmalion’s judgment so troubled by the impression of the sight of his ivory statue that he loves and adores it as if it were a living woman!

Oscnla dat, reddique putat: sequi turque, tenetque,
Et credit tactis digitos insidere membris;
Et metuit, pressos veniat ne livor in artus.

“He kisses, and believes he’s kissed again;
Seizes, and ‘twixt his arms his love doth strain,
And thinks the polish’d ivory thus held
Doth to his fingers amorous pressure yield,
And has a timorous fear, lest black and blue
Should in the parts with ardour press’d ensue.”

Put a philosopher into a cage of small thin set bars of iron, hang him on the top of the high tower of Notre Dame at Paris; he will see, by manifest reason, that he cannot possibly fall, and yet he will find (unless he has been used to the plumber’s trade) that he cannot help but the sight of the excessive height will fright and astound him; for we have enough to do to assure ourselves in the galleries of our steeples, if they are made with open work, although they are of stone; and some there are that cannot endure so much as to think of it. Let there be a beam thrown over betwixt these two towers, of breadth sufficient to walk upon, there is no philosophical wisdom so firm that can give us the courage to walk over it as we should do upon the ground. I have often tried this upon our mountains in these parts; and though I am one who am not the most subject to be afraid, I was not able to endure to look into that infinite depth without horror and trembling, though I stood above my length from the edge of the precipice, and could not have fallen unless I would. Where I also observed that, what height soever the precipice was, provided there were some tree, or some jutting out of a rock, a little to support and divide the sight, it a little eases our fears, and gives greater assurance; as if they were things by which in falling we might have some relief; but that direct precipices we are not to look upon without being giddy; Ut despici vine vertigine timid ocvlorum animique non possit: “‘To that one cannot look without dizziness;” which is a manifest imposture of the sight. And therefore it was that that fine philosopher put out his own eyes, to free the soul from being diverted by them, and that he might philosophize at greater liberty; but, by the same rule, he should have dammed up his ears, that Theophrastus says are the most dangerous instruments about us for receiving violent impressions to alter and disturb us; and, finally, should have deprived himself of all his other senses, that is to say, of his life and being; for they have all the power to command our soul and reason: Fit etiam sope specie qudam, sope vocum gravitate et cantibus, ut pettantur animi vehementius; sope etiam cura et timor, “For it often falls out that the minds are more vehemently struck by some sight, by the quality and sound of the voice, or by singing; and ofttimes also by grief and fear.” Physicians hold that there are certain complexions that are agitated by the same sounds and instruments even to fury. I have seen some who could not hear a bone gnawed under the table without impatience; and there is scarce any man who is not disturbed at the sharp and shrill noise that the file makes in grating upon the iron; as also to hear chewing near them, or to hear any one speak who has an impediment in the throat or nose, will move some people even to anger and hatred. Of what use was that piping prompter of Gracchus, who softened, raised, and moved his master’s voice whilst he declaimed at Rome, if the movements and quality of the sound had not the power to move and alter the judgments of the auditory? In earnest, there is wonderful reason to keep such a clutter about the firmness of this fine piece, that suffers itself to be turned and twined by the motion and accidents of so light a wind.

The same cheat that the senses put upon our understanding they have in turn put upon them; the soul also some times has its revenge; they lie and contend which should most deceive one another. What we see and hear when we are transported with passion, we neither see nor hear as it is:—

Et solem geminum, et duplices se ostendere Thebas.

“Thebes seems two cities, and the sun two suns.”

The object that we love appears to us more beautiful than it really is;

Multimodis igitur pravas turpesque videmus
Esse in deliciis, summoque in honore vigere;

“Hence ‘tis that ugly things in fancied dress
Seem gay, look fair to lovers’ eyes, and please;”

and that we hate more ugly; to a discontented and afflicted man the light of the day seems dark and overcast. Our senses are not only depraved, but very often stupefied by the passions of the soul; how many things do we see that we do not take notice of, if the mind be occupied with other thoughts?

In rebus quoque apertis noscere possis,
Si non advertas animum, proinde esse quasi omni
Tempore semot fuerint, longeque remot:

“Nay, even in plainest things, unless the mind
Take heed, unless she sets herself to find,
The thing no more is seen, no more belov’d,
Than if the most obscure and most remov’d:”

it would appear that the soul retires within, and amuses the powers of the senses. And so both the inside and the outside of man is full of infirmity and falsehood.

They who have compared our lives to a dream were, perhaps, more in the right than they were aware of. When we dream, the soul lives, works, and exercises all its faculties, neither more nor less than when awake; but more largely and obscurely, yet not so much, neither, that the difference should be as great as betwixt night and the meridian brightness of the sun, but as betwixt night and shade; there she sleeps, here she slumbers; but, whether more or less, ‘tis still dark, and Cimmerian darkness. We wake sleeping, and sleep waking. I do not see so clearly in my sleep; but as to my being awake, I never found it clear enough and free from clouds; moreover, sleep, when it is profound, sometimes rocks even dreams themselves asleep; but our waking is never so sprightly that it rightly purges and dissipates those whimsies, which are waking dreams, and worse than dreams. Our reason and soul receiving those fancies and opinions that come in dreams, and authorizing the actions of our dreams with the like approbation that they do those of the day, wherefore do we not doubt whether our thought, our action, is not another sort of dreaming, and our waking a certain kind of sleep?

If the senses be our first judges, it is not ours that we are alone to consult; for, in this faculty, beasts have as great, or greater, than we; it is certain that some of them have the sense of hearing more quick than man; others that of seeing, others that of feeling, others that of touch and taste. Democritus said, that the gods and brutes had the sensitive faculties more perfect than man. But betwixt the effects of their senses and ours the difference is extreme. Our spittle cleanses and dries up our wounds; it kills the serpent:—

Tantaque in his rebas distantia differitasque est,
Ut quod aliis cibus est, aliis fuat acre venenum.
Spe etenim serpens, hominis contacta saliv,
Disperit, ac sese mandendo conficit ipsa:

“And in those things the difference is so great
That what’s one’s poison is another’s meat;
For serpents often have been seen, ‘tis said,
When touch’d with human spittle, to go mad,
And bite themselves to death:”

what quality shall we attribute to our spittle? as it affects ourselves, or as it affects the serpent? By which of the two senses shall we prove the true essence that we seek for?

Pliny says there are certain sea-hares in the Indies that are poison to us, and we to them; insomuch that, with the least touch, we kill them. Which shall be truly poison, the man or the fish? Which shall we believe, the fish of the man, or the man of the fish? One quality of the air infects a man, that does the ox no harm; some other infects the ox, but hurts not the man. Which of the two shall, in truth and nature, be the pestilent quality? To them who have the jaundice, all things seem yellow and paler than to us:—

Lurida prterea fiunt, qucunque tuentur Arquati.

“Besides, whatever jaundic’d eyes do view
Looks pale as well as those, and yellow too.”

They who are troubled with the disease that the physicians call hyposphagma—which is a suffusion of blood under the skin—see all things red and bloody. What do we know but that these humours, which thus alter the operations of sight, predominate in beasts, and are usual with them? for we see some whose eyes are yellow, like us who have the jaundice; and others of a bloody colour; ‘tis likely that the colours of objects seem other to them than to us. Which of the two shall make a right judgment? for it is not said that the essence of things has a relation to man only; hardness, whiteness, depth, and sharpness, have reference to the service and knowledge of animals as well as to us, and nature has equally designed them for their use. When we press down the eye, the body that we look upon we perceive to be longer and more extended;—many beasts have their eyes so pressed down; this length, therefore, is perhaps the true form of that body, and not that which our eyes give it in the usual state. If we close the lower part of the eye things appear double to us:—

Bina lucemarum fiorentia lumina flammis...
Et duplices hominum facis, et corpora bina.

“One lamp seems double, and the men appear
Each on two bodies double heads to bear.”

If our ears be hindered, or the passage stopped with any thing, we receive the sound quite otherwise than we usually do; animals, likewise, who have either the ears hairy, or but a very little hole instead of an ear, do not, consequently, hear as we do, but receive another kind of sound. We see at festivals and theatres that, opposing a painted glass of a certain colour to the light of the flambeaux, all things in the place appear to us green, yellow, or violet:—

Et vulgo faciunt id lutea russaque vela,
Et ferrugina, cum, magnis intenta theatris,
Per malos vulgata trabesque, trementia pendent;
Namque ibi consessum caveai subter, et omnem
Scenai speciem, patrum, matrumque, deorumque
Inficiunt, coguntque suo volitare colore:

“Thus when pale curtains, or the deeper red,
O’er all the spacious theatre are spread,
Which mighty masts and sturdy pillars bear,
And the loose curtains wanton in the air;
Whole streams of colours from the summit flow,
The rays divide them in their passage through,
And stain the scenes, and men, and gods below:”

‘tis likely that the eyes of animals, which we see to be of divers colours, produce the appearance of bodies the same with their eyes.

We should, therefore, to make a right judgment of the oppositions of the senses, be first agreed with beasts, and secondly amongst ourselves; which we by no means are, but enter into dispute every time that one hears, sees, or tastes something otherwise than another does, and contests, as much as upon any other thing, about the diversity of the images that the senses represent to us. A child, by the ordinary rule of nature, hears, sees, and talks otherwise than a man of thirty years old; and he than one of threescore. The senses are, in some, more obscure and dusky, and more open and quick in others. We receive things variously, according as we are, and according as they appear to us. Those rings which are cut out in the form of feathers, which are called endless feathers, no eye can discern their size, or can keep itself from the deception that on one side they enlarge, and on the other contract, and come So a point, even when the ring is being turned round the finger; yet, when you feel them, they seem all of an equal size. Now, our perception being so uncertain and so controverted, it is no more a wonder if we are told that we may declare that snow appears white to us; but that to affirm that it is in its own essence really so is more than we are able to justify; and, this foundation being shaken, all the knowledge in the world must of necessity fall to ruin. What! do our senses themselves hinder one another? A picture seems raised and embossed to the sight; in the handling it seems flat to the touch. Shall we say that musk, which delights the smell, and is offensive to the taste, is agreeable or no? There are herbs and unguents proper for one part o the body, that are hurtful to another; honey is pleasant to the taste, but offensive to the sight. They who, to assist their lust, used in ancient times to make use of magnifying-glasses to represent the members they were to employ bigger, by that ocular tumidity to please themselves the more; to which of their senses did they give the prize,—whether to the sight, that represented the members as large and great as they would desire, or to the feeling, which represented them little and contemptible? Are they our senses that supply the subject with these different conditions, and have the subjects themselves, nevertheless, but one? As we see in the bread we eat, it is nothing but bread, but, by being eaten, it becomes bones, blood, flesh, hair; and nails:—

Ut cibus in membra atque artus cum diditur omnes,
Disperit,, atque aliam naturam sufficit ex se;

“As meats, diffus’d through all the members, lose
Their former state, and different things compose;”

the humidity sucked up by the root of a tree becomes trunk, leaf, and fruit; and the air, being but one, is modulated, in a trumpet, to a thousand sorts of sounds; are they our senses, I would fain know, that, in like manner, form these subjects into so many divers qualities, or have they them really such in themselves? And upon this doubt what can we determine of their true essence? Moreover, since the accidents of disease, of raving, or sleep, make things appear otherwise to us than they do to the healthful, the wise, and those that are awake, is it not likely that our right posture of health and understanding, and our natural humours, have, also, wherewith to give a being to things that have a relation to their own condition, and accommodate them to themselves, as well as when they are disordered;—that health is as capable of giving them an aspect as sickness? Why has not the temperate a certain form of objects relative to it, as well as the intemperate? and why may it not as well stamp it with its own character as the other? He whose mouth is out of taste, says the wine is flat; the healthful man commends its flavour, and the thirsty its briskness. Now, our condition always accommodating things to itself, and transforming them according to its own posture, we cannot know what things truly are in themselves, seeing that nothing comes to us but what is falsified and altered by the senses. Where the compass, the square, and the rule, are crooked, all propositions drawn thence, and all buildings erected by those guides, must, of necessity, be also defective; the uncertainty of our senses renders every thing uncertain that they produce:—

Denique ut in fabric, si prava est rgula prima,
Normaque si fallax rectis regionibus exit,
Et libella aliqu si ex parte claudicat hilum;
Omnia mendose fieri, atque obstipa necessum est,
Prava, cubantia, prona, supina, atque absona tecta;
Jam ruere ut qudam videantux’velle, ruantque
Prodita judiciis fallacibus omnia primis;
Sic igitur ratio tibi reram prava necesse est,
Falsaque sit, falsis qucunque ab sensibus orta est.

“But lastly, as in building, if the line
Be not exact and straight, the rule decline,
Or level false, how vain is the design!
Uneven, an ill-shap’d and tottering wall
Must rise; this part must sink, that part must fall,
Because the rules were false that fashion’d all;
Thus reason’s rules are false if all commence
And rise from failing and from erring sense.”

As to what remains, who can be fit to judge of and to determine those differences? As we say in controversies of religion that we must have a judge neither inclining to the one side nor the other, free from all choice and affection, which cannot be amongst Christians, just so it falls out in this; for if he be old he cannot judge of the sense of old age, being himself a party in the case; if young, there is the same exception; if healthful, sick, asleep, or awake, he is still the same incompetent judge. We must have some one exempt from all these propositions, as of things indifferent to him; and by this rule we must have a judge that never was.

To judge of the appearances that we receive of subjects, we ought t have a deciding instrument; to verify this instrument we must have demonstration; to verify this demonstration an instrument; and here we are round again upon the wheel, and no further advanced. Seeing the senses cannot determine our dispute, being full of uncertainty themselves, it must then be reason that must do it; but no reason can be erected upon any other foundation than that of another reason; and so we run back to all infinity. Our fancy does not apply itself to things that are strange, but is conceived by the mediation of the senses; and the senses do not comprehend a foreign subject, but only their own passions; by which means fancy and appearance are no part of the subject, but only of the passion and sufferance of sense; which passion and subject are different things; wherefore whoever judges by appearances judges by another thing than the subject. And to say that the passions of the senses convey to the soul the quality of foreign subjects by resemblance, how can the soul and understanding be assured of this resemblance, having of itself no commerce with foreign subjects? As they who never knew Socrates cannot, when they see his picture, say it is like him. Now, whoever would, notwithstanding, judge by appearances, if it be by all, it is impossible, because they hinder one another by their contrarieties and discrepancies, as we by experience see: shall some select appearances govern the rest? you must verify this select by another select, the second by a third, and thus there will never be any end to it. Finally, there is no constant existence, neither of the objects’ being nor our own; both we, and our judgments, and all mortal things, are evermore incessantly running and rolling; and consequently nothing certain can be established from the one to the other, both the judging and the judged being in a continual motion and mutation.

We have no communication with being, by reason that all human nature is always in the middle, betwixt being bom and dying, giving but an obscure appearance and shadow, a weak and uncertain opinion of itself; and if, perhaps, you fix your thought to apprehend your being, it would be but like grasping water; for the more you clutch your hand to squeeze and hold what is in its own nature flowing, so much more you lose of what you would grasp and hold. So, seeing that all things are subject to pass from one change to another, reason, that there looks for a real substance, finds itself deceived, not being able to apprehend any thing that is subsistent and permanent, because that every thing is either entering into being, and is not yet arrived at it, or begins to die before it is bom. Plato said, that bodies had never any existence, but only birth; conceiving that Homer had made the Ocean and Thetis father and mother of the gods, to show us that all things are in a perpetual fluctuation, motion, and variation; the opinion of all the philosophers, as he says, before his time, Parmenides only excepted, who would not allow things to have motion, on the power whereof he sets a mighty value. Pythagoras was of opinion that all matter was flowing and unstable; the Stoics, that there is no time present, and that what we call so is nothing but the juncture and meeting of the future and the past; Heraclitus, that never any man entered twice into the same river; Epichar-mus, that he who borrowed money but an hour ago does not owe it now; and that he who was invited over-night to come the next day to dinner comes nevertheless uninvited, considering that they are no more the same men, but are become others; and that there could not a mortal substance be found twice in the same condition; for, by the suddenness and quickness of the change, it one while disperses, and another reunites; it comes and goes after such a manner that what begins to be born never arrives to the perfection of being, forasmuch as that birth is never finished and never stays, as being at an end, but from the seed is evermore changing and shifting one to another; as human seed is first in the mother’s womb made a formless embryo, after delivered thence a sucking infant, afterwards it becomes a boy, then a youth, then a man, and at last a decrepit old man; so that age and subsequent generation is always destroying and spoiling that which went before:—

Mutt enira mundi naturam totius tas,
Ex alioque alius status excipere omnia debet;
Nec manet ulla sui similis res; omnia migrant,
Omnia commutt natura, et vertere cogit.

“For time the nature of the world translates,
And from preceding gives all things new states;
Nought like itself remains, but all do range,
And nature forces every thing to change.”

“And yet we foolishly fear one kind of death, whereas we have already passed, and do daily pass, so many others; for not only, as Heraclitus said, the death of fire is generation of air, and the death of air generation of water; but, moreover, we may more manifestly discern it in ourselves; manhood dies, and passes away when age comes on; and youth is terminated in the flower of age of a full-grown man, infancy in youth, and the first age dies in infancy; yesterday died in to-day, and to-day will die in to-morrow; and there is nothing that remains in the same state, or that is always the same thing. And that it is so let this be the proof; if we are always one and the same, how comes it to pass that we are now pleased with one thing, and by and by with another? How comes it to pass that we love or hate contrary things, that we praise or condemn them? How comes it to pass that we have different affections, and no more retain the same sentiment in the same thought? For it is not likely that without mutation we should assume other passions; and, that which suffers mutation does not remain the same, and if it be not the same it is not at all; but the same that the being is does, like it, unknowingly change and alter; becoming evermore another from another thing; and consequently the natural senses abuse and deceive themselves, taking that which seems for that which is, for want of well knowing what that which is, is. But what is it then that truly is? That which is eternal; that is to say, that never had beginning, nor never shall have ending, and to which time can bring no mutation. For time is a mobile thine, and that appears as in a shadow, with a matter evermore flowing and running, without ever remaining stable and permanent; and to which belong those words, before and after, has been, or shall be: which at the first sight, evidently show that it is not a thing that is; for it were a great folly, and a manifest falsity, to say that that is which is not et being, or that has already ceased to be. And as to these words, present, instant, and now, by which it seems that we principally support and found the intelligence of time, reason, discovering, does presently destroy it; for it immediately divides and splits it into the future and past, being of necessity to consider it divided in two. The same happens to nature, that is measured, as to time that measures it; for she has nothing more subsisting and permanent than the other, but all things are either born, bearing, or dying. So that it were sinful to say of God, who is he only who is, that he was, or that he shall be ; for those are terms of declension, transmutation, and vicissitude, of what cannot continue or remain in being; wherefore we are to conclude that God alone is, not according to any measure of time, but according to an immutable and an immovable eternity, not measured by time, nor subject to any declension; before whom nothing was, and after whom nothing shall be, either more new or more recent, but a real being, that with one sole now fills the for ever, and that there is nothing that truly is but he alone; without our being able to say, he has been, or shall be; without beginning, and without end.” To this so religious conclusion of a pagan I shall only add this testimony of one of the same condition, for the close of this long and tedious discourse, which would furnish me with endless matter: “What a vile and abject thing,” says he, “is man, if he do not raise himself above humanity!” ‘Tis a good word and a profitable desire, but withal absurd; for to make the handle bigger than the hand, the cubic longer than the arm, and to hope to stride further than our legs can reach, is both impossible and monstrous; or that man should rise above himself and humanity; for he cannot see but with his eyes, nor seize but with his hold. He shall be exalted, if God will lend him an extraordinary hand; he shall exalt himself, by abandoning and renouncing his own proper means, and by suffering himself to be raised and elevated by means purely celestial. It belongs to our Christian faith, and not to the stoical virtue, to pretend to that divine and miraculous metamorphosis.


When we judge of another’s assurance in death, which, without doubt, is the most remarkable action of human life, we are to take heed of one thing, which is that men very hardly believe themselves to have arrived to that period. Few men come to die in the opinion that it is their latest hour; and there is nothing wherein the flattery of hope more deludes us; It never ceases to whisper in our ears, “Others have been much sicker without dying; your condition is not so desperate as ‘tis thought; and, at the worst, God has done other miracles.” Which happens by reason that we set too much value upon ourselves; it seems as if the universality of things were in some measure to suffer by our dissolution, and that it commiserates our condition, forasmuch as our disturbed sight represents things to itself erroneously, and that we are of opinion they stand in as much need of us as we do of them, like people at sea, to whom mountains, fields, cities, heaven and earth are tossed at the same rate as they are:

“Provehimur portu, terraeque urbesque recedunt:”

[“We sail out of port, and cities and lands recede.”
—AEneid, iii. 72.]

Whoever saw old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present time, laying the fault of his misery and discontent upon the world and the manners of men?

“Jamque caput quassans, grandis suspirat arator.
Et cum tempora temporibus praesentia confert
Praeteritis, laudat fortunas saepe parentis,
Et crepat antiquum genus ut pietate repletum.”

[“Now the old ploughman, shaking his head, sighs, and compares
present times with past, often praises his parents’ happiness, and
talks of the old race as full of piety.”—Lucretius, ii. 1165.]

We will make all things go along with us; whence it follows that we consider our death as a very great thing, and that does not so easily pass, nor without the solemn consultation of the stars:

“Tot circa unum caput tumultuantes dens,”

[“All the gods to agitation about one man.”
—Seneca, Suasor, i. 4.]

and so much the more think it as we more value ourselves. “What, shall so much knowledge be lost, with so much damage to the world, without a particular concern of the destinies? Does so rare and exemplary a soul cost no more the killing than one that is common and of no use to the public? This life, that protects so many others, upon which so many other lives depend, that employs so vast a number of men in his service, that fills so many places, shall it drop off like one that hangs but by its own simple thread? None of us lays it enough to heart that he is but one: thence proceeded those words of Caesar to his pilot, more tumid than the sea that threatened him:

“Italiam si coelo auctore recusas,
Me pete: sola tibi causa est haec justa timoris,
Vectorem non nosce tuum; perrumpe procellas,
Tutela secure mea.”

[“If you decline to sail to Italy under the God’s protection, trust
to mine; the only just cause you have to fear is, that you do not
know your passenger; sail on, secure in my guardianship.”
—Lucan, V. 579.]

And these:

“Credit jam digna pericula Caesar
Fatis esse suis; tantusne evertere, dixit,
Me superis labor est, parva quern puppe sedentem,
Tam magno petiere mari;”

[“Caesar now deemed these dangers worthy of his destiny: ‘What!’
said he, ‘is it for the gods so great a task to overthrow me, that
they must be fain to assail me with great seas in a poor little
bark.’”—Lucan, v. 653.]

and that idle fancy of the public, that the sun bore on his face mourning for his death a whole year:

“Ille etiam extincto miseratus Caesare Romam,
Cum caput obscura nitidum ferrugine texit:”

[“Caesar being dead, the sun in mourning clouds, pitying Rome,
clothed himself.”—Virgil, Georg., i. 466.]

and a thousand of the like, wherewith the world suffers itself to be so easily imposed upon, believing that our interests affect the heavens, and that their infinity is concerned at our ordinary actions:

“Non tanta caelo societas nobiscum est, ut nostro
fato mortalis sit ille quoque siderum fulgor.”

[“There is no such alliance betwixt us and heaven, that the
brightness of the stars should be made also mortal by our death.”
—Pliny, Nat. Hist., ii. 8.]

Now, to judge of constancy and resolution in a man who does not yet believe himself to be certainly in danger, though he really is, is not reason; and ‘tis not enough that he die in this posture, unless he purposely put himself into it for this effect. It commonly falls out in most men that they set a good face upon the matter and speak with great indifference, to acquire reputation, which they hope afterwards, living, to enjoy. Of all whom I have seen die, fortune has disposed their countenances and no design of theirs; and even of those who in ancient times have made away with themselves, there is much to be considered whether it were a sudden or a lingering death. That cruel Roman Emperor would say of his prisoners, that he would make them feel death, and if any one killed himself in prison, “That fellow has made an escape from me”; he would prolong death and make it felt by torments:

“Vidimus et toto quamvis in corpore caeso
Nil anima lethale datum, moremque nefandae,
Durum saevitix, pereuntis parcere morti.”

[“We have seen in tortured bodies, amongst the wounds, none that
have been mortal, inhuman mode of dire cruelty, that means to kill,
but will not let men die.”—Lucan, iv. i. 78.]

In plain truth, it is no such great matter for a man in health and in a temperate state of mind to resolve to kill himself; it is very easy to play the villain before one comes to the point, insomuch that Heliogabalus, the most effeminate man in the world, amongst his lowest sensualities, could forecast to make himself die delicately, when he should be forced thereto; and that his death might not give the lie to the rest of his life, had purposely built a sumptuous tower, the front and base of which were covered with planks enriched with gold and precious stones, thence to precipitate himself; and also caused cords twisted with gold and crimson silk to be made, wherewith to strangle himself; and a sword with the blade of gold to be hammered out to fall upon; and kept poison in vessels of emerald and topaz wherewith to poison himself according as he should like to choose one of these ways of dying:

“Impiger. . . ad letum et fortis virtute coacta.”

[“Resolute and brave in the face of death by a forced courage.
—“Lucan, iv. 798.]

Yet in respect of this person, the effeminacy of his preparations makes it more likely that he would have thought better on’t, had he been put to the test. But in those who with greater resolution have determined to despatch themselves, we must examine whether it were with one blow which took away the leisure of feeling the effect for it is to be questioned whether, perceiving life, by little and little, to steal away the sentiment of the body mixing itself with that of the soul, and the means of repenting being offered, whether, I say, constancy and obstinacy in so dangerous an intention would have been found.

In the civil wars of Caesar, Lucius Domitius, being taken in the Abruzzi, and thereupon poisoning himself, afterwards repented. It has happened in our time that a certain person, being resolved to die and not having gone deep enough at the first thrust, the sensibility of the flesh opposing his arm, gave himself two or three wounds more, but could never prevail upon himself to thrust home. Whilst Plautius Silvanus was upon his trial, Urgulania, his grandmother, sent him a poniard with which, not being able to kill himself, he made his servants cut his veins. Albucilla in Tiberius time having, to kill himself, struck with too much tenderness, gave his adversaries opportunity to imprison and put him to death their own way.’ And that great leader, Demosthenes, after his rout in Sicily, did the same; and C. Fimbria, having struck himself too weakly, entreated his servant to despatch him. On the contrary, Ostorius, who could not make use of his own arm, disdained to employ that of his servant to any other use but only to hold the poniard straight and firm; and bringing his throat to it, thrust himself through. ‘Tis, in truth, a morsel that is to be swallowed without chewing, unless a man be thoroughly resolved; and yet Adrian the emperor made his physician mark and encircle on his pap the mortal place wherein he was to stab to whom he had given orders to kill him. For this reason it was that Caesar, being asked what death he thought to be the most desired, made answer, “The least premeditated and the shortest.”—[Tacitus, Annals, xvi. 15]— If Caesar dared to say it, it is no cowardice in me to believe it.” A short death,” says Pliny, “is the sovereign good hap of human life. “People do not much care to recognise it. No one can say that he is resolute for death who fears to deal with it and cannot undergo it with his eyes open: they whom we see in criminal punishments run to their death and hasten and press their execution, do it not out of resolution, but because they will not give them selves leisure to consider it; it does not trouble them to be dead, but to die:

“Emodi nolo, sed me esse mortem nihil astigmia:”

[“I have no mind to die, but I have no objection to be dead.”
—Epicharmus, apud Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 8.]

‘tis a degree of constancy to which I have experimented, that I can arrive, like those who plunge into dangers, as into the sea, with their eyes shut.

There is nothing, in my opinion, more illustrious in the life of Socrates, than that he had thirty whole days wherein to ruminate upon the sentence of his death, to have digested it all that time with a most assured hope, without care, and without alteration, and with a series of words and actions rather careless and indifferent than any way stirred or discomposed by the weight of such a thought.

That Pomponius Atticus, to whom Cicero writes so often, being sick, caused Agrippa, his son-in-law, and two or three more of his friends, to be called to him, and told them, that having found all means practised upon him for his recovery to be in vain, and that all he did to prolong his life also prolonged and augmented his pain, he was resolved to put an end both to the one and the other, desiring them to approve of his determination, or at least not to lose their labour in endeavouring to dissuade him. Now, having chosen to destroy himself by abstinence, his disease was thereby cured: the remedy that he had made use of to kill himself restored him to health. His physicians and friends, rejoicing at so happy an event, and coming to congratulate him, found themselves very much deceived, it being impossible for them to make him alter his purpose, he telling them, that as he must one day die, and was now so far on his way, he would save himself the labour of beginning another time. This man, having surveyed death at leisure, was not only not discouraged at its approach, but eagerly sought it; for being content that he had engaged in the combat, he made it a point of bravery to see the end; ‘tis far beyond not fearing death to taste and relish it.

The story of the philosopher Cleanthes is very like this: he had his gums swollen and rotten; his physicians advised him to great abstinence: having fasted two days, he was so much better that they pronounced him cured, and permitted him to return to his ordinary course of diet; he, on the contrary, already tasting some sweetness in this faintness of his, would not be persuaded to go back, but resolved to proceed, and to finish what he had so far advanced.

Tullius Marcellinus, a young man of Rome, having a mind to anticipate the hour of his destiny, to be rid of a disease that was more trouble to him than he was willing to endure, though his physicians assured him of a certain, though not sudden, cure, called a council of his friends to deliberate about it; of whom some, says Seneca, gave him the counsel that out of unmanliness they would have taken themselves; others, out of flattery, such as they thought he would best like; but a Stoic said this to him: “Do not concern thyself, Marcellinus, as if thou didst deliberate of a thing of importance; ‘tis no great matter to live; thy servants and beasts live; but it is a great thing to die handsomely, wisely, and firmly. Do but think how long thou hast done the same things, eat, drink, and sleep, drink, sleep, and eat: we incessantly wheel in the same circle. Not only ill and insupportable accidents, but even the satiety of living, inclines a man to desire to die.” Marcellinus did not stand in need of a man to advise, but of a man to assist him; his servants were afraid to meddle in the business, but this philosopher gave them to under stand that domestics are suspected even when it is in doubt whether the death of the master were voluntary or no; otherwise, that it would be of as ill example to hinder him as to kill him, forasmuch as:

“Invitum qui servat, idem facit occidenti.”

[“He who makes a man live against his will, ‘tis as cruel
as to kill him.”—Horat., De Arte Poet., 467]

He then told Marcellinus that it would not be unbecoming, as what is left on the tables when we have eaten is given to the attendants, so, life being ended, to distribute something to those who have been our servants. Now Marcellinus was of a free and liberal spirit; he, therefore, divided a certain sum of money amongst his servants, and consoled them. As to the rest, he had no need of steel nor of blood: he resolved to go out of this life and not to run out of it; not to escape from death, but to essay it. And to give himself leisure to deal with it, having forsaken all manner of nourishment, the third day following, after having caused himself to be sprinkled with warm water, he fainted by degrees, and not without some kind of pleasure, as he himself declared.

In fact, such as have been acquainted with these faintings, proceeding from weakness, say that they are therein sensible of no manner of pain, but rather feel a kind of delight, as in the passage to sleep and best. These are studied and digested deaths.

But to the end that Cato only may furnish out the whole example of virtue, it seems as if his good with which the leisure to confront and struggle with death, reinforcing his destiny had put his ill one into the hand he gave himself the blow, seeing he had courage in the danger, instead of letting it go less. And if I had had to represent him in his supreme station, I should have done it in the posture of tearing out his bloody bowels, rather than with his sword in his hand, as did the statuaries of his time, for this second murder was much more furious than the first.


‘Tis a pleasant imagination to fancy a mind exactly balanced betwixt two equal desires: for, doubtless, it can never pitch upon either, forasmuch as the choice and application would manifest an inequality of esteem; and were we set betwixt the bottle and the ham, with an equal appetite to drink and eat, there would doubtless be no remedy, but we must die of thirst and hunger. To provide against this inconvenience, the Stoics, when they are asked whence the election in the soul of two indifferent things proceeds, and that makes us, out of a great number of crowns, rather take one than another, they being all alike, and there being no reason to incline us to such a preference, make answer, that this movement of the soul is extraordinary and irregular, entering into us by a foreign, accidental, and fortuitous impulse. It might rather, methinks, he said, that nothing presents itself to us wherein there is not some difference, how little soever; and that, either by the sight or touch, there is always some choice that, though it be imperceptibly, tempts and attracts us; so, whoever shall presuppose a packthread equally strong throughout, it is utterly impossible it should break; for, where will you have the breaking to begin? and that it should break altogether is not in nature. Whoever, also, should hereunto join the geometrical propositions that, by the certainty of their demonstrations, conclude the contained to be greater than the containing, the centre to be as great as its circumference, and that find out two lines incessantly approaching each other, which yet can never meet, and the philosopher’s stone, and the quadrature of the circle, where the reason and the effect are so opposite, might, peradventure, find some argument to second this bold saying of Pliny:

“Solum certum nihil esse certi,
et homine nihil miserius ant superbius.”

[“It is only certain that there is nothing certain, and that nothing
is more miserable or more proud than man.”—Nat. Hist., ii. 7.]


There is no reason that has not its contrary, say the wisest of the philosophers. I was just now ruminating on the excellent saying one of the ancients alleges for the contempt of life: “No good can bring pleasure, unless it be that for the loss of which we are beforehand prepared.”

“In aequo est dolor amissae rei, et timor amittendae,”

[“The grief of losing a thing, and the fear of losing it,
are equal.”—Seneca, Ep., 98.]

meaning by this that the fruition of life cannot be truly pleasant to us if we are in fear of losing it. It might, however, be said, on the contrary, that we hug and embrace this good so much the more earnestly, and with so much greater affection, by how much we see it the less assured and fear to have it taken from us: for it is evident, as fire burns with greater fury when cold comes to mix with it, that our will is more obstinate by being opposed:

“Si nunquam Danaen habuisset ahenea turris,
Non esses, Danae, de Jove facta parens;”

[“If a brazen tower had not held Danae, you would not, Danae, have
been made a mother by Jove.”—Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 27.]

and that there is nothing naturally so contrary to our taste as satiety which proceeds from facility; nor anything that so much whets it as rarity and difficulty:

“Omnium rerum voluptas ipso, quo debet fugare, periculo crescit.”

[“The pleasure of all things increases by the same danger that
should deter it.”—Seneca, De Benef., vii. 9.]

“Galla, nega; satiatur amor, nisi gaudia torquent.”

[“Galla, refuse me; love is glutted with joys that are not attended
with trouble.”—Martial, iv. 37.]

To keep love in breath, Lycurgus made a decree that the married people of Lacedaemon should never enjoy one another but by stealth; and that it should be as great a shame to take them in bed together as committing with others. The difficulty of assignations, the danger of surprise, the shame of the morning,

“Et languor, et silentium,
Et latere petitus imo Spiritus:”

[“And languor, and silence, and sighs, coming from the innermost
heart.”—Hor., Epod., xi. 9.]

these are what give the piquancy to the sauce. How many very wantonly pleasant sports spring from the most decent and modest language of the works on love? Pleasure itself seeks to be heightened with pain; it is much sweeter when it smarts and has the skin rippled. The courtesan Flora said she never lay with Pompey but that she made him wear the prints of her teeth.—[Plutarch, Life of Pompey, c. i.]

“Quod petiere, premunt arcte, faciuntque dolorem
Corporis, et dentes inlidunt saepe labellis . . .
Et stimuli subsunt, qui instigant laedere ad ipsum,
Quodcunque est, rabies unde illae germina surgunt.”

[“What they have sought they dress closely, and cause pain; on the
lips fix the teeth, and every kiss indents: urged by latent stimulus
the part to wound”—Lucretius, i. 4.]

And so it is in everything: difficulty gives all things their estimation; the people of the march of Ancona more readily make their vows to St. James, and those of Galicia to Our Lady of Loreto; they make wonderful to-do at Liege about the baths of Lucca, and in Tuscany about those of Aspa: there are few Romans seen in the fencing school of Rome, which is full of French. That great Cato also, as much as us, nauseated his wife whilst she was his, and longed for her when in the possession of another. I was fain to turn out into the paddock an old horse, as he was not to be governed when he smelt a mare: the facility presently sated him as towards his own, but towards strange mares, and the first that passed by the pale of his pasture, he would again fall to his importunate neighings and his furious heats as before. Our appetite contemns and passes by what it has in possession, to run after that it has not:

“Transvolat in medio posita, et fugientia captat.”

[“He slights her who is close at hand, and runs after her
who flees from him.”—Horace, Sat., i. 2, 108.]

To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind to’t:

“Nisi to servare puellam
Incipis, incipiet desinere esse mea:”

[“Unless you begin to guard your mistress, she will soon begin
to be no longer mine.”—Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 47.]

to give it wholly up to us is to beget in us contempt. Want and abundance fall into the same inconvenience:

“Tibi quod superest, mihi quod desit, dolet.”

[“Your superfluities trouble you, and what I want
troubles me.—“Terence, Phoym., i. 3, 9.]

Desire and fruition equally afflict us. The rigors of mistresses are troublesome, but facility, to say truth, still more so; forasmuch as discontent and anger spring from the esteem we have of the thing desired, heat and actuate love, but satiety begets disgust; ‘tis a blunt, dull, stupid, tired, and slothful passion:

“Si qua volet regnare diu, contemnat amantem.”

[“She who would long retain her power must use her lover ill.”
—Ovid, Amor., ii. 19, 33]

“Contemnite, amantes:
Sic hodie veniet, si qua negavit heri.”

[“Slight your mistress; she will to-day come who denied you
yesterday.—“Propertius, ii. 14, 19.]

Why did Poppea invent the use of a mask to hide the beauties of her face, but to enhance it to her lovers? Why have they veiled, even below the heels, those beauties that every one desires to show, and that every one desires to see? Why do they cover with so many hindrances, one over another, the parts where our desires and their own have their principal seat? And to what serve those great bastion farthingales, with which our ladies fortify their haunches, but to allure our appetite and to draw us on by removing them farther from us?

“Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri.”

[“She flies to the osiers, and desires beforehand to be seen going.”
—Virgil, Eclog., iii. 65.]

“Interdum tunica duxit operta moram.”

[“The hidden robe has sometimes checked love.”
—Propertius, ii. 15, 6.]

To what use serves the artifice of this virgin modesty, this grave coldness, this severe countenance, this professing to be ignorant of things that they know better than we who instruct them in them, but to increase in us the desire to overcome, control, and trample underfoot at pleasure all this ceremony and all these obstacles? For there is not only pleasure, but, moreover, glory, in conquering and debauching that soft sweetness and that childish modesty, and to reduce a cold and matronlike gravity to the mercy of our ardent desires: ‘tis a glory, say they, to triumph over modesty, chastity, and temperance; and whoever dissuades ladies from those qualities, betrays both them and himself. We are to believe that their hearts tremble with affright, that the very sound of our words offends the purity of their ears, that they hate us for talking so, and only yield to our importunity by a compulsive force. Beauty, all powerful as it is, has not wherewithal to make itself relished without the mediation of these little arts. Look into Italy, where there is the most and the finest beauty to be sold, how it is necessitated to have recourse to extrinsic means and other artifices to render itself charming, and yet, in truth, whatever it may do, being venal and public, it remains feeble and languishing. Even so in virtue itself, of two like effects, we notwithstanding look upon that as the fairest and most worthy, wherein the most trouble and hazard are set before us.

‘Tis an effect of the divine Providence to suffer the holy Church to be afflicted, as we see it, with so many storms and troubles, by this opposition to rouse pious souls, and to awaken them from that drowsy lethargy wherein, by so long tranquillity, they had been immerged. If we should lay the loss we have sustained in the number of those who have gone astray, in the balance against the benefit we have had by being again put in breath, and by having our zeal and strength revived by reason of this opposition, I know not whether the utility would not surmount the damage.

We have thought to tie the nuptial knot of our marriages more fast and firm by having taken away all means of dissolving it, but the knot of the will and affection is so much the more slackened and made loose, by how much that of constraint is drawn closer; and, on the contrary, that which kept the marriages at Rome so long in honour and inviolate, was the liberty every one who so desired had to break them; they kept their wives the better, because they might part with them, if they would; and, in the full liberty of divorce, five hundred years and more passed away before any one made use on’t.

“Quod licet, ingratum est; quod non licet, acrius urit.”

[“What you may, is displeasing; what is forbidden, whets the
appetite.—“Ovid, Amor., ii. 19.]

We might here introduce the opinion of an ancient upon this occasion, “that executions rather whet than dull the edge of vices: that they do not beget the care of doing well, that being the work of reason and discipline, but only a care not to be taken in doing ill:”

“Latius excisae pestis contagia serpunt.”

[“The plague-sore being lanced, the infection spreads all the more.”
—Rutilius, Itinerar. 1, 397.]

I do not know that this is true; but I experimentally know, that never civil government was by that means reformed; the order and regimen of manners depend upon some other expedient.

The Greek histories make mention of the Argippians, neighbours to Scythia, who live without either rod or stick for offence; where not only no one attempts to attack them, but whoever can fly thither is safe, by reason of their virtue and sanctity of life, and no one is so bold as to lay hands upon them; and they have applications made to them to determine the controversies that arise betwixt men of other countries. There is a certain nation, where the enclosures of gardens and fields they would preserve, are made only of a string of cotton; and, so fenced, is more firm and secure than by our hedges and ditches.

“Furem signata sollicitant . . .
aperta effractarius praeterit.”

[“Things sealed, up invite a thief: the housebreaker
passes by open doors.”—Seneca, Epist., 68.]

Peradventure, the facility of entering my house, amongst other things, has been a means to preserve it from the violence of our civil wars: defence allures attempt, and defiance provokes an enemy. I enervated the soldiers’ design by depriving the exploit of danger and all manner of military glory, which is wont to serve them for pretence and excuse: whatever is bravely, is ever honourably, done, at a time when justice is dead. I render them the conquest of my house cowardly and base; it is never shut to any one that knocks; my gate has no other guard than a porter, and he of ancient custom and ceremony; who does not so much serve to defend it as to offer it with more decorum and grace; I have no other guard nor sentinel than the stars. A gentleman would play the fool to make a show of defence, if he be not really in a condition to defend himself. He who lies open on one side, is everywhere so; our ancestors did not think of building frontier garrisons. The means of assaulting, I mean without battery or army, and of surprising our houses, increases every day more and more beyond the means to guard them; men’s wits are generally bent that way; in invasion every one is concerned: none but the rich in defence. Mine was strong for the time when it was built; I have added nothing to it of that kind, and should fear that its strength might turn against myself; to which we are to consider that a peaceable time would require it should be dismantled. There is danger never to be able to regain it, and it would be very hard to keep; for in intestine dissensions, your man may be of the party you fear; and where religion is the pretext, even a man’s nearest relations become unreliable, with some colour of justice. The public exchequer will not maintain our domestic garrisons; they would exhaust it: we ourselves have not the means to do it without ruin, or, which is more inconvenient and injurious, without ruining the people. The condition of my loss would be scarcely worse. As to the rest, you there lose all; and even your friends will be more ready to accuse your want of vigilance and your improvidence, and your ignorance of and indifference to your own business, than to pity you. That so many garrisoned houses have been undone whereas this of mine remains, makes me apt to believe that they were only lost by being guarded; this gives an enemy both an invitation and colour of reason; all defence shows a face of war. Let who will come to me in God’s name; but I shall not invite them; ‘tis the retirement I have chosen for my repose from war. I endeavour to withdraw this corner from the public tempest, as I also do another corner in my soul. Our war may put on what forms it will, multiply and diversify itself into new parties; for my part, I stir not. Amongst so many garrisoned houses, myself alone amongst those of my rank, so far as I know, in France, have trusted purely to Heaven for the protection of mine, and have never removed plate, deeds, or hangings. I will neither fear nor save myself by halves. If a full acknowledgment acquires the Divine favour, it will stay with me to the end: if not, I have still continued long enough to render my continuance remarkable and fit to be recorded. How? Why, there are thirty years that I have thus lived.


There is the name and the thing: the name is a voice which denotes and signifies the thing; the name is no part of the thing, nor of the substance; ‘tis a foreign piece joined to the thing, and outside it. God, who is all fulness in Himself and the height of all perfection, cannot augment or add anything to Himself within; but His name may be augmented and increased by the blessing and praise we attribute to His exterior works: which praise, seeing we cannot incorporate it in Him, forasmuch as He can have no accession of good, we attribute to His name, which is the part out of Him that is nearest to us. Thus is it that to God alone glory and honour appertain; and there is nothing so remote from reason as that we should go in quest of it for ourselves; for, being indigent and necessitous within, our essence being imperfect, and having continual need of amelioration, ‘tis to that we ought to employ all our endeavour. We are all hollow and empty; ‘tis not with wind and voice that we are to fill ourselves; we want a more solid substance to repair us: a man starving with hunger would be very simple to seek rather to provide himself with a gay garment than with a good meal: we are to look after that whereof we have most need. As we have it in our ordinary prayers:

“Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus.”

We are in want of beauty, health, wisdom, virtue, and such like essential qualities: exterior ornaments should, be looked after when we have made provision for necessary things. Divinity treats amply and more pertinently of this subject, but I am not much versed in it.

Chrysippus and Diogenes were the earliest and firmest advocates of the contempt of glory; and maintained that, amongst all pleasures, there was none more dangerous nor more to be avoided than that which proceeds from the approbation of others. And, in truth, experience makes us sensible of many very hurtful treasons in it. There is nothing that so poisons princes as flattery, nor anything whereby wicked men more easily obtain credit and favour with them; nor panderism so apt and so usually made use of to corrupt the chastity of women as to wheedle and entertain them with their own praises. The first charm the Syrens made use of to allure Ulysses is of this nature:

“Deca vers nous, deca, o tres-louable Ulysse,
Et le plus grand honneur don’t la Grece fleurisse.”

[“Come hither to us, O admirable Ulysses, come hither, thou greatest
ornament and pride of Greece.”—Homer, Odysseus, xii. 184.]

These philosophers said, that all the glory of the world was not worth an understanding man’s holding out his finger to obtain it:

“Gloria quantalibet quid erit, si gloria tantum est?”

[“What is glory, be it as glorious as it may be, if it be no more
than glory?”—Juvenal, Sat., vii. 81.]

I say for it alone; for it often brings several commodities along with it, for which it may justly be desired: it acquires us good-will, and renders us less subject and exposed to insult and offence from others, and the like. It was also one of the principal doctrines of Epicurus; for this precept of his sect, Conceal thy life, that forbids men to encumber themselves with public negotiations and offices, also necessarily presupposes a contempt of glory, which is the world’s approbation of those actions we produce in public.—[Plutarch, Whether the saying, Conceal thy life, is well said.]—He that bids us conceal ourselves, and to have no other concern but for ourselves, and who will not have us known to others, would much less have us honoured and glorified; and so advises Idomeneus not in any sort to regulate his actions by the common reputation or opinion, except so as to avoid the other accidental inconveniences that the contempt of men might bring upon him.

These discourses are, in my opinion, very true and rational; but we are, I know not how, double in ourselves, which is the cause that what we believe we do not believe, and cannot disengage ourselves from what we condemn. Let us see the last and dying words of Epicurus; they are grand, and worthy of such a philosopher, and yet they carry some touches of the recommendation of his name and of that humour he had decried by his precepts. Here is a letter that he dictated a little before his last gasp:


“Whilst I was passing over the happy and last day of my life, I
write this, but, at the same time, afflicted with such pain in my
bladder and bowels that nothing can be greater, but it was
recompensed with the pleasure the remembrance of my inventions and
doctrines brought to my soul. Now, as the affection thou hast ever
from thy infancy borne towards me and philosophy requires, take upon
thee the protection of Metrodorus’ children.”

This is the letter. And that which makes me interpret that the pleasure he says he had in his soul concerning his inventions, has some reference to the reputation he hoped for thence after his death, is the manner of his will, in which he gives order that Amynomachus and Timocrates, his heirs, should, every January, defray the expense of the celebration of his birthday as Hermachus should appoint; and also the expense that should be made the twentieth of every moon in entertaining the philosophers, his friends, who should assemble in honour of the memory of him and of Metrodorus.—[Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 30.]

Carneades was head of the contrary opinion, and maintained that glory was to be desired for itself, even as we embrace our posthumous issue for themselves, having no knowledge nor enjoyment of them. This opinion has not failed to be the more universally followed, as those commonly are that are most suitable to our inclinations. Aristotle gives it the first place amongst external goods; and avoids, as too extreme vices, the immoderate either seeking or evading it. I believe that, if we had the books Cicero wrote upon this subject, we should there find pretty stories; for he was so possessed with this passion, that, if he had dared, I think he could willingly have fallen into the excess that others did, that virtue itself was not to be coveted, but upon the account of the honour that always attends it:

“Paulum sepultae distat inertiae
Celata virtus:”

[“Virtue concealed little differs from dead sloth.”
—Horace, Od., iv. 9, 29.]

which is an opinion so false, that I am vexed it could ever enter into the understanding of a man that was honoured with the name of philosopher.

If this were true, men need not be virtuous but in public; and we should be no further concerned to keep the operations of the soul, which is the true seat of virtue, regular and in order, than as they are to arrive at the knowledge of others. Is there no more in it, then, but only slily and with circumspection to do ill? “If thou knowest,” says Carneades, “of a serpent lurking in a place where, without suspicion, a person is going to sit down, by whose death thou expectest an advantage, thou dost ill if thou dost not give him caution of his danger; and so much the more because the action is to be known by none but thyself.” If we do not take up of ourselves the rule of well-doing, if impunity pass with us for justice, to how many sorts of wickedness shall we every day abandon ourselves? I do not find what Sextus Peduceus did, in faithfully restoring the treasure that C. Plotius had committed to his sole secrecy and trust, a thing that I have often done myself, so commendable, as I should think it an execrable baseness, had we done otherwise; and I think it of good use in our days to recall the example of P. Sextilius Rufus, whom Cicero accuses to have entered upon an inheritance contrary to his conscience, not only not against law, but even by the determination of the laws themselves; and M. Crassus and Hortensius, who, by reason of their authority and power, having been called in by a stranger to share in the succession of a forged will, that so he might secure his own part, satisfied themselves with having no hand in the forgery, and refused not to make their advantage and to come in for a share: secure enough, if they could shroud themselves from accusations, witnesses, and the cognisance of the laws:

“Meminerint Deum se habere testem, id est (ut ego arbitror)
mentem suam.”

[“Let them consider they have God to witness, that is (as I
interpret it), their own consciences.”—Cicero, De Offic., iii. 10.]

Virtue is a very vain and frivolous thing if it derive its recommendation from glory; and ‘tis to no purpose that we endeavour to give it a station by itself, and separate it from fortune; for what is more accidental than reputation?

“Profecto fortuna in omni re dominatur: ea res cunctas ex
libidine magis, quhm ex vero, celebrat, obscuratque.”

[“Fortune rules in all things; it advances and depresses things
more out of its own will than of right and justice.”
—Sallust, Catilina, c. 8.]

So to order it that actions may be known and seen is purely the work of fortune; ‘tis chance that helps us to glory, according to its own temerity. I have often seen her go before merit, and often very much outstrip it. He who first likened glory to a shadow did better than he was aware of; they are both of them things pre-eminently vain glory also, like a shadow, goes sometimes before the body, and sometimes in length infinitely exceeds it. They who instruct gentlemen only to employ their valour for the obtaining of honour:

“Quasi non sit honestum, quod nobilitatum non sit;”

[“As though it were not a virtue, unless celebrated”
—Cicero De Offic. iii. 10.]

what do they intend by that but to instruct them never to hazard themselves if they are not seen, and to observe well if there be witnesses present who may carry news of their valour, whereas a thousand occasions of well-doing present themselves which cannot be taken notice of? How many brave individual actions are buried in the crowd of a battle? Whoever shall take upon him to watch another’s behaviour in such a confusion is not very busy himself, and the testimony he shall give of his companions’ deportment will be evidence against himself:

“Vera et sapiens animi magnitudo, honestum illud,
quod maxime naturam sequitur, in factis positum,
non in gloria, judicat.”

[“The true and wise magnanimity judges that the bravery which most
follows nature more consists in act than glory.”
—Cicero, De Offic. i. 19.]

All the glory that I pretend to derive from my life is that I have lived it in quiet; in quiet, not according to Metrodorus, or Arcesilaus, or Aristippus, but according to myself. For seeing philosophy has not been able to find out any way to tranquillity that is good in common, let every one seek it in particular.

To what do Caesar and Alexander owe the infinite grandeur of their renown but to fortune? How many men has she extinguished in the beginning of their progress, of whom we have no knowledge, who brought as much courage to the work as they, if their adverse hap had not cut them off in the first sally of their arms? Amongst so many and so great dangers I do not remember I have anywhere read that Caesar was ever wounded; a thousand have fallen in less dangers than the least of those he went through. An infinite number of brave actions must be performed without witness and lost, before one turns to account. A man is not always on the top of a breach, or at the head of an army, in the sight of his general, as upon a scaffold; a man is often surprised betwixt the hedge and the ditch; he must run the hazard of his life against a henroost; he must dislodge four rascally musketeers out of a barn; he must prick out single from his party, and alone make some attempts, according as necessity will have it. And whoever will observe will, I believe, find it experimentally true, that occasions of the least lustre are ever the most dangerous; and that in the wars of our own times there have more brave men been lost in occasions of little moment, and in the dispute about some little paltry fort, than in places of greatest importance, and where their valour might have been more honourably employed.

Who thinks his death achieved to ill purpose if he do not fall on some signal occasion, instead of illustrating his death, wilfully obscures his life, suffering in the meantime many very just occasions of hazarding himself to slip out of his hands; and every just one is illustrious enough, every man’s conscience being a sufficient trumpet to him.

“Gloria nostra est testimonium conscientiae nostrae.”

[“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.”
—Corinthians, i. I.]

He who is only a good man that men may know it, and that he may be the better esteemed when ‘tis known; who will not do well but upon condition that his virtue may be known to men: is one from whom much service is not to be expected:

“Credo ch ‘el reste di quel verno, cose
Facesse degne di tener ne conto;
Ma fur fin’ a quel tempo si nascose,
Che non a colpa mia s’ hor ‘non le conto
Perche Orlando a far l’opre virtuose
Piu ch’a narrar le poi sempre era pronto;
Ne mai fu alcun’ de’suoi fatti espresso,
Se non quando ebbe i testimonii appresso.”

[“The rest of the winter, I believe, was spent in actions worthy of
narration, but they were done so secretly that if I do not tell them
I am not to blame, for Orlando was more bent to do great acts than
to boast of them, so that no deeds of his were ever known but those
that had witnesses.”—Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, xi. 81.]

A man must go to the war upon the account of duty, and expect the recompense that never fails brave and worthy actions, how private soever, or even virtuous thoughts-the satisfaction that a well-disposed conscience receives in itself in doing well. A man must be valiant for himself, and upon account of the advantage it is to him to have his courage seated in a firm and secure place against the assaults of fortune:

“Virtus, repulsaa nescia sordidx
Intaminatis fulget honoribus
Nec sumit, aut ponit secures
Arbitrio popularis aura.”

[“Virtue, repudiating all base repulse, shines in taintless
honours, nor takes nor leaves dignity at the mere will of the
vulgar.”—Horace, Od., iii. 2, 17.]

It is not for outward show that the soul is to play its part, but for ourselves within, where no eyes can pierce but our own; there she defends us from the fear of death, of pain, of shame itself: there she arms us against the loss of our children, friends, and fortunes: and when opportunity presents itself, she leads us on to the hazards of war:

“Non emolumento aliquo, sed ipsius honestatis decore.”

[“Not for any profit, but for the honour of honesty itself.”
—Cicero, De Finib., i. 10.]

This profit is of much greater advantage, and more worthy to be coveted and hoped for, than, honour and glory, which are no other than a favourable judgment given of us.

A dozen men must be called out of a whole nation to judge about an acre of land; and the judgment of our inclinations and actions, the most difficult and most important matter that is, we refer to the voice and determination of the rabble, the mother of ignorance, injustice, and inconstancy. Is it reasonable that the life of a wise man should depend upon the judgment of fools?

“An quidquam stultius, quam, quos singulos contemnas,
eos aliquid putare esse universes?”

[“Can anything be more foolish than to think that those you despise
singly, can be anything else in general.”
—Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 36.]

He that makes it his business to please them, will have enough to do and never have done; ‘tis a mark that can never be aimed at or hit:

“Nil tam inaestimabile est, quam animi multitudinis.”

[“Nothing is to be so little understood as the minds of the
multitude.”—Livy, xxxi. 34.]

Demetrius pleasantly said of the voice of the people, that he made no more account of that which came from above than of that which came from below. He [Cicero] says more:

“Ego hoc judico, si quando turpe non sit, tamen non
esse non turpe, quum id a multitudine laudatur.”

[“I am of opinion, that though a thing be not foul in itself,
yet it cannot but become so when commended by the multitude.”
—Cicero, De Finib., ii. 15.]

No art, no activity of wit, could conduct our steps so as to follow so wandering and so irregular a guide; in this windy confusion of the noise of vulgar reports and opinions that drive us on, no way worth anything can be chosen. Let us not propose to ourselves so floating and wavering an end; let us follow constantly after reason; let the public approbation follow us there, if it will; and as it wholly depends upon fortune, we have no reason sooner to expect it by any other way than that. Even though I would not follow the right way because it is right, I should, however, follow it as having experimentally found that, at the end of the reckoning, ‘tis commonly the most happy and of greatest utility.

“Dedit hoc providentia hominibus munus,
ut honesta magis juvarent.”

[“This gift Providence has given to men, that honest things should
be the most agreeable.”—Quintilian, Inst. Orat., i. 12.]

The mariner of old said thus to Neptune, in a great tempest: “O God, thou wilt save me if thou wilt, and if thou choosest, thou wilt destroy me; but, however, I will hold my rudder straight.”—[Seneca, Ep., 85.]— I have seen in my time a thousand men supple, halfbred, ambiguous, whom no one doubted to be more worldly-wise than I, lose themselves, where I have saved myself:

“Risi successus posse carere dolos.”

[“I have laughed to see cunning fail of success.”
—Ovid, Heroid, i. 18.]

Paulus AEmilius, going on the glorious expedition of Macedonia, above all things charged the people of Rome not to speak of his actions during his absence. Oh, the license of judgments is a great disturbance to great affairs! forasmuch as every one has not the firmness of Fabius against common, adverse, and injurious tongues, who rather suffered his authority to be dissected by the vain fancies of men, than to do less well in his charge with a favourable reputation and the popular applause.

There is I know not what natural sweetness in hearing one’s self commended; but we are a great deal too fond of it:

“Laudari metuam, neque enim mihi cornea fibra est
Sed recti finemque extremumque esse recuso
Euge tuum, et belle.”

[“I should fear to be praised, for my heart is not made of horn;
but I deny that ‘excellent—admirably done,’ are the terms and
final aim of virtue.”—Persius, i. 47.]

I care not so much what I am in the opinions of others, as what I am in my own; I would be rich of myself, and not by borrowing. Strangers see nothing but events and outward appearances; everybody can set a good face on the matter, when they have trembling and terror within: they do not see my heart, they see but my countenance. One is right in decrying the hypocrisy that is in war; for what is more easy to an old soldier than to shift in a time of danger, and to counterfeit the brave when he has no more heart than a chicken? There are so many ways to avoid hazarding a man’s own person, that we have deceived the world a thousand times before we come to be engaged in a real danger: and even then, finding ourselves in an inevitable necessity of doing something, we can make shift for that time to conceal our apprehensions by setting a good face on the business, though the heart beats within; and whoever had the use of the Platonic ring, which renders those invisible that wear it, if turned inward towards the palm of the hand, a great many would very often hide themselves when they ought most to appear, and would repent being placed in so honourable a post, where necessity must make them bold.

“Falsus honor juvat, et mendax infamia terret
Quem nisi mendosum et mendacem?”

[“False honour pleases, and calumny affrights, the guilty
and the sick.”—Horace, Ep., i. 16, 89.]

Thus we see how all the judgments that are founded upon external appearances, are marvellously uncertain and doubtful; and that there is no so certain testimony as every one is to himself. In these, how many soldiers’ boys are companions of our glory? he who stands firm in an open trench, what does he in that more than fifty poor pioneers who open to him the way and cover it with their own bodies for fivepence a day pay, do before him?

“Non quicquid turbida Roma
Elevet, accedas; examenque improbum in illa
Castiges trutina: nec to quaesiveris extra.”

[“Do not, if turbulent Rome disparage anything, accede; nor correct
a false balance by that scale; nor seek anything beyond thyself.”
—Persius, Sat., i. 5.]

The dispersing and scattering our names into many mouths, we call making them more great; we will have them there well received, and that this increase turn to their advantage, which is all that can be excusable in this design. But the excess of this disease proceeds so far that many covet to have a name, be it what it will. Trogus Pompeius says of Herostratus, and Titus Livius of Manlius Capitolinus, that they were more ambitious of a great reputation than of a good one. This is very common; we are more solicitous that men speak of us, than how they speak; and it is enough for us that our names are often mentioned, be it after what manner it will. It should seem that to be known, is in some sort to have a man’s life and its duration in others’ keeping. I, for my part, hold that I am not, but in myself; and of that other life of mine which lies in the knowledge of my friends, to consider it naked and simply in itself, I know very well that I am sensible of no fruit nor enjoyment from it but by the vanity of a fantastic opinion; and when I shall be dead, I shall be still and much less sensible of it; and shall, withal, absolutely lose the use of those real advantages that sometimes accidentally follow it.

I shall have no more handle whereby to take hold of reputation, neither shall it have any whereby to take hold of or to cleave to me; for to expect that my name should be advanced by it, in the first place, I have no name that is enough my own; of two that I have, one is common to all my race, and indeed to others also; there are two families at Paris and Montpellier, whose surname is Montaigne, another in Brittany, and one in Xaintonge, De La Montaigne. The transposition of one syllable only would suffice so to ravel our affairs, that I shall share in their glory, and they peradventure will partake of my discredit; and, moreover, my ancestors have formerly been surnamed, Eyquem,—[Eyquem was the patronymic.]—a name wherein a family well known in England is at this day concerned. As to my other name, every one may take it that will, and so, perhaps, I may honour a porter in my own stead. And besides, though I had a particular distinction by myself, what can it distinguish, when I am no more? Can it point out and favour inanity?

“Non levior cippus nunc imprimit ossa?
Laudat posteritas! Nunc non e manibus illis,
Nunc non a tumulo fortunataque favilla,
Nascentur violae?”

[“Does the tomb press with less weight upon my bones? Do comrades
praise? Not from my manes, not from the tomb, not from the ashes
will violets grow.”—Persius, Sat., i. 37.]

but of this I have spoken elsewhere. As to what remains, in a great battle where ten thousand men are maimed or killed, there are not fifteen who are taken notice of; it must be some very eminent greatness, or some consequence of great importance that fortune has added to it, that signalises a private action, not of a harquebuser only, but of a great captain; for to kill a man, or two, or ten: to expose a man’s self bravely to the utmost peril of death, is indeed something in every one of us, because we there hazard all; but for the world’s concern, they are things so ordinary, and so many of them are every day seen, and there must of necessity be so many of the same kind to produce any notable effect, that we cannot expect any particular renown from it:

“Casus multis hic cognitus, ac jam
Tritus, et a medio fortunae ductus acervo.”

[“The accident is known to many, and now trite; and drawn from the
midst of Fortune’s heap.”—Juvenal, Sat., xiii. 9.]

Of so many thousands of valiant men who have died within these fifteen hundred years in France with their swords in their hands, not a hundred have come to our knowledge. The memory, not of the commanders only, but of battles and victories, is buried and gone; the fortunes of above half of the world, for want of a record, stir not from their place, and vanish without duration. If I had unknown events in my possession, I should think with great ease to out-do those that are recorded, in all sorts of examples. Is it not strange that even of the Greeks and Romans, with so many writers and witnesses, and so many rare and noble exploits, so few are arrived at our knowledge:

“Ad nos vix tenuis famx perlabitur aura.”

[“An obscure rumour scarce is hither come.”—AEneid, vii. 646.]

It will be much if, a hundred years hence, it be remembered in general that in our times there were civil wars in France. The Lacedaemonians, entering into battle, sacrificed to the Muses, to the end that their actions might be well and worthily written, looking upon it as a divine and no common favour, that brave acts should find witnesses that could give them life and memory. Do we expect that at every musket-shot we receive, and at every hazard we run, there must be a register ready to record it? and, besides, a hundred registers may enrol them whose commentaries will not last above three days, and will never come to the sight of any one. We have not the thousandth part of ancient writings; ‘tis fortune that gives them a shorter or longer life, according to her favour; and ‘tis permissible to doubt whether those we have be not the worst, not having seen the rest. Men do not write histories of things of so little moment: a man must have been general in the conquest of an empire or a kingdom; he must have won two-and-fifty set battles, and always the weaker in number, as Caesar did: ten thousand brave fellows and many great captains lost their lives valiantly in his service, whose names lasted no longer than their wives and children lived:

“Quos fama obscura recondit.”

[“Whom an obscure reputation conceals.”—AEneid, v. 302.]

Even those whom we see behave themselves well, three months or three years after they have departed hence, are no more mentioned than if they had never been. Whoever will justly consider, and with due proportion, of what kind of men and of what sort of actions the glory sustains itself in the records of history, will find that there are very few actions and very few persons of our times who can there pretend any right. How many worthy men have we known to survive their own reputation, who have seen and suffered the honour and glory most justly acquired in their youth, extinguished in their own presence? And for three years of this fantastic and imaginary life we must go and throw away our true and essential life, and engage ourselves in a perpetual death! The sages propose to themselves a nobler and more just end in so important an enterprise:

“Recte facti, fecisse merces est: officii fructus,
ipsum officium est.”

[“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it; the fruit
of a good service is the service itself.”—Seneca, Ep., 8.]

It were, peradventure, excusable in a painter or other artisan, or in a rhetorician or a grammarian, to endeavour to raise himself a name by his works; but the actions of virtue are too noble in themselves to seek any other reward than from their own value, and especially to seek it in the vanity of human judgments.

If this false opinion, nevertheless, be of such use to the public as to keep men in their duty; if the people are thereby stirred up to virtue; if princes are touched to see the world bless the memory of Trajan, and abominate that of Nero; if it moves them to see the name of that great beast, once so terrible and feared, so freely cursed and reviled by every schoolboy, let it by all means increase, and be as much as possible nursed up and cherished amongst us; and Plato, bending his whole endeavour to make his citizens virtuous, also advises them not to despise the good repute and esteem of the people; and says it falls out, by a certain Divine inspiration, that even the wicked themselves oft-times, as well by word as opinion, can rightly distinguish the virtuous from the wicked. This person and his tutor are both marvellous and bold artificers everywhere to add divine operations and revelations where human force is wanting:

“Ut tragici poetae confugiunt ad deum,
cum explicare argumenti exitum non possunt:”

[“As tragic poets fly to some god when they cannot explain
the issue of their argument.”—Cicero, De Nat. Deor., i. 20.]

and peradventure, for this reason it was that Timon, railing at him, called him the great forger of miracles. Seeing that men, by their insufficiency, cannot pay themselves well enough with current money, let the counterfeit be superadded. ‘Tis a way that has been practised by all the legislators: and there is no government that has not some mixture either of ceremonial vanity or of false opinion, that serves for a curb to keep the people in their duty. ‘Tis for this that most of them have their originals and beginnings fabulous, and enriched with supernatural mysteries; ‘tis this that has given credit to bastard religions, and caused them to be countenanced by men of understanding; and for this, that Numa and Sertorius, to possess their men with a better opinion of them, fed them with this foppery; one, that the nymph Egeria, the other that his white hind, brought them all their counsels from the gods. And the authority that Numa gave to his laws, under the title of the patronage of this goddess, Zoroaster, legislator of the Bactrians and Persians, gave to his under the name of the God Oromazis: Trismegistus, legislator of the Egyptians, under that of Mercury; Xamolxis, legislator of the Scythians, under that of Vesta; Charondas, legislator of the Chalcidians, under that of Saturn; Minos, legislator of the Candiots, under that of Jupiter; Lycurgus, legislator of the Lacedaemonians, under that of Apollo; and Draco and Solon, legislators of the Athenians, under that of Minerva. And every government has a god at the head of it; the others falsely, that truly, which Moses set over the Jews at their departure out of Egypt. The religion of the Bedouins, as the Sire de Joinville reports, amongst other things, enjoined a belief that the soul of him amongst them who died for his prince, went into another body more happy, more beautiful, and more robust than the former; by which means they much more willingly ventured their lives:

“In ferrum mens prona viris, animaeque capaces
Mortis, et ignavum est rediturae parcere vitae.”

[“Men’s minds are prone to the sword, and their souls able to bear
death; and it is base to spare a life that will be renewed.”
—Lucan, i. 461.]

This is a very comfortable belief, however erroneous. Every nation has many such examples of its own; but this subject would require a treatise by itself.

To add one word more to my former discourse, I would advise the ladies no longer to call that honour which is but their duty:

“Ut enim consuetudo loquitur, id solum dicitur
honestum, quod est populari fama gloriosum;”

[“As custom puts it, that only is called honest which is
glorious by the public voice.”—Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 15.]

their duty is the mark, their honour but the outward rind. Neither would I advise them to give this excuse for payment of their denial: for I presuppose that their intentions, their desire, and will, which are things wherein their honour is not at all concerned, forasmuch as nothing thereof appears without, are much better regulated than the effects:

“Qux quia non liceat, non facit, illa facit:”

[“She who only refuses, because ‘tis forbidden, consents.”
—Ovid, Amor., ii. 4, 4.]

The offence, both towards God and in the conscience, would be as great to desire as to do it; and, besides, they are actions so private and secret of themselves, as would be easily enough kept from the knowledge of others, wherein the honour consists, if they had not another respect to their duty, and the affection they bear to chastity, for itself. Every woman of honour will much rather choose to lose her honour than to hurt her conscience.


There is another sort of glory, which is the having too good an opinion of our own worth. ‘Tis an inconsiderate affection with which we flatter ourselves, and that represents us to ourselves other than we truly are: like the passion of love, that lends beauties and graces to the object, and makes those who are caught by it, with a depraved and corrupt judgment, consider the thing which they love other and more perfect than it is.

I would not, nevertheless, for fear of failing on this side, that a man should not know himself aright, or think himself less than he is; the judgment ought in all things to maintain its rights; ‘tis all the reason in the world he should discern in himself, as well as in others, what truth sets before him; if it be Caesar, let him boldly think himself the greatest captain in the world. We are nothing but ceremony: ceremony carries us away, and we leave the substance of things: we hold by the branches, and quit the trunk and the body; we have taught the ladies to blush when they hear that but named which they are not at all afraid to do: we dare not call our members by their right names, yet are not afraid to employ them in all sorts of debauchery: ceremony forbids us to express by words things that are lawful and natural, and we obey it: reason forbids us to do things unlawful and ill, and nobody obeys it. I find myself here fettered by the laws of ceremony; for it neither permits a man to speak well of himself, nor ill: we will leave her there for this time.

They whom fortune (call it good or ill) has made to, pass their lives in some eminent degree, may by their public actions manifest what they are; but they whom she has only employed in the crowd, and of whom nobody will say a word unless they speak themselves, are to be excused if they take the boldness to speak of themselves to such as are interested to know them; by the example of Lucilius:

“Ille velut fidis arcana sodalibus olim
Credebat libris, neque si male cesserat, usquam
Decurrens alio, neque si bene: quo fit, ut omnis,
Votiva pateat veluri descripta tabella
Vita senis;”

[“He formerly confided his secret thoughts to his books, as to tried
friends, and for good and evil, resorted not elsewhere: hence it
came to pass, that the old man’s life is there all seen as on a
votive tablet.”—Horace, Sat., ii. I, 30.]

he always committed to paper his actions and thoughts, and there portrayed himself such as he found himself to be:

“Nec id Rutilio et Scauro citra fidem; aut obtrectationi fuit.”

[“Nor was this considered a breach of good faith or a disparagement
to Rutilius or Scaurus.”—Tacitus, Agricola, c. I.]

I remember, then, that from my infancy there was observed in me I know not what kind of carriage and behaviour, that seemed to relish of pride and arrogance. I will say this, by the way, that it is not unreasonable to suppose that we have qualities and inclinations so much our own, and so incorporate in us, that we have not the means to feel and recognise them: and of such natural inclinations the body will retain a certain bent, without our knowledge or consent. It was an affectation conformable with his beauty that made Alexander carry his head on one side, and caused Alcibiades to lisp; Julius Caesar scratched his head with one finger, which is the fashion of a man full of troublesome thoughts; and Cicero, as I remember, was wont to pucker up his nose, a sign of a man given to scoffing; such motions as these may imperceptibly happen in us. There are other artificial ones which I meddle not with, as salutations and congees, by which men acquire, for the most part unjustly, the reputation of being humble and courteous: one may be humble out of pride. I am prodigal enough of my hat, especially in summer, and never am so saluted but that I pay it again from persons of what quality soever, unless they be in my own service. I should make it my request to some princes whom I know, that they would be more sparing of that ceremony, and bestow that courtesy where it is more due; for being so indiscreetly and indifferently conferred on all, it is thrown away to no purpose; if it be without respect of persons, it loses its effect. Amongst irregular deportment, let us not forget that haughty one of the Emperor Constantius, who always in public held his head upright and stiff, without bending or turning on either side, not so much as to look upon those who saluted him on one side, planting his body in a rigid immovable posture, without suffering it to yield to the motion of his coach, not daring so much as to spit, blow his nose, or wipe his face before people. I know not whether the gestures that were observed in me were of this first quality, and whether I had really any occult proneness to this vice, as it might well be; and I cannot be responsible for the motions of the body; but as to the motions of the soul, I must here confess what I think of the matter.

This glory consists of two parts; the one in setting too great a value upon ourselves, and the other in setting too little a value upon others. As to the one, methinks these considerations ought, in the first place, to be of some force: I feel myself importuned by an error of the soul that displeases me, both as it is unjust, and still more as it is troublesome; I attempt to correct it, but I cannot root it out; and this is, that I lessen the just value of things that I possess, and overvalue things, because they are foreign, absent, and none of mine; this humour spreads very far. As the prerogative of the authority makes husbands look upon their own wives with a vicious disdain, and many fathers their children; so I, betwixt two equal merits, should always be swayed against my own; not so much that the jealousy of my advancement and bettering troubles my judgment, and hinders me from satisfying myself, as that of itself possession begets a contempt of what it holds and rules. Foreign governments, manners, and languages insinuate themselves into my esteem; and I am sensible that Latin allures me by the favour of its dignity to value it above its due, as it does with children, and the common sort of people: the domestic government, house, horse, of my neighbour, though no better than my own, I prize above my own, because they are not mine. Besides that I am very ignorant in my own affairs, I am struck by the assurance that every one has of himself: whereas there is scarcely anything that I am sure I know, or that I dare be responsible to myself that I can do: I have not my means of doing anything in condition and ready, and am only instructed therein after the effect; as doubtful of my own force as I am of another’s. Whence it comes to pass that if I happen to do anything commendable, I attribute it more to my fortune than industry, forasmuch as I design everything by chance and in fear. I have this, also, in general, that of all the opinions antiquity has held of men in gross, I most willingly embrace and adhere to those that most contemn and undervalue us, and most push us to naught; methinks, philosophy has never so fair a game to play as when it falls upon our vanity and presumption; when it most lays open our irresolution, weakness, and ignorance. I look upon the too good opinion that man has of himself to be the nursing mother of all the most false opinions, both public and private. Those people who ride astride upon the epicycle of Mercury, who see so far into the heavens, are worse to me than a tooth-drawer that comes to draw my teeth; for in my study, the subject of which is man, finding so great a variety of judgments, so profound a labyrinth of difficulties, one upon another, so great diversity and uncertainty, even in the school of wisdom itself, you may judge, seeing these people could not resolve upon the knowledge of themselves and their own condition, which is continually before their eyes, and within them, seeing they do not know how that moves which they themselves move, nor how to give us a description of the springs they themselves govern and make use of, how can I believe them about the ebbing and flowing of the Nile? The curiosity of knowing things has been given to man for a scourge, says the Holy Scripture.

But to return to what concerns myself; I think it would be very difficult for any other man to have a meaner opinion of himself; nay, for any other to have a meaner opinion of me than of myself: I look upon myself as one of the common sort, saving in this, that I have no better an opinion of myself; guilty of the meanest and most popular defects, but not disowning or excusing them; and I do not value myself upon any other account than because I know my own value. If there be any vanity in the case, ‘tis superficially infused into me by the treachery of my complexion, and has no body that my judgment can discern: I am sprinkled, but not dyed. For in truth, as to the effects of the mind, there is no part of me, be it what it will, with which I am satisfied; and the approbation of others makes me not think the better of myself. My judgment is tender and nice, especially in things that concern myself.

I ever repudiate myself, and feel myself float and waver by reason of my weakness. I have nothing of my own that satisfies my judgment. My sight is clear and regular enough, but, at working, it is apt to dazzle; as I most manifestly find in poetry: I love it infinitely, and am able to give a tolerable judgment of other men’s works; but, in good earnest, when I apply myself to it, I play the child, and am not able to endure myself. A man may play the fool in everything else, but not in poetry;

“Mediocribus esse poetis
Non dii, non homines, non concessere columnae.”

[“Neither men, nor gods, nor the pillars (on which the poets
offered their writings) permit mediocrity in poets.”
—Horace, De Arte Poet., 372.]

I would to God this sentence was written over the doors of all our printers, to forbid the entrance of so many rhymesters!

Nihil securius est malo poetae.”

[“The truth is, that nothing is more confident than a bad poet.”
—Martial, xii. 63, 13.]

Why have not we such people?—[As those about to be mentioned.]— Dionysius the father valued himself upon nothing so much as his poetry; at the Olympic games, with chariots surpassing all the others in magnificence, he sent also poets and musicians to present his verses, with tent and pavilions royally gilt and hung with tapestry. When his verses came to be recited, the excellence of the delivery at first attracted the attention of the people; but when they afterwards came to poise the meanness of the composition, they first entered into disdain, and continuing to nettle their judgments, presently proceeded to fury, and ran to pull down and tear to pieces all his pavilions: and, that his chariots neither performed anything to purpose in the race, and that the ship which brought back his people failed of making Sicily, and was by the tempest driven and wrecked upon the coast of Tarentum, they certainly believed was through the anger of the gods, incensed, as they themselves were, against the paltry Poem; and even the mariners who escaped from the wreck seconded this opinion of the people: to which also the oracle that foretold his death seemed to subscribe; which was, “that Dionysius should be near his end, when he should have overcome those who were better than himself,” which he interpreted of the Carthaginians, who surpassed him in power; and having war with them, often declined the victory, not to incur the sense of this prediction; but he understood it ill; for the god indicated the time of the advantage, that by favour and injustice he obtained at Athens over the tragic poets, better than himself, having caused his own play called the Leneians to be acted in emulation; presently after which victory he died, and partly of the excessive joy he conceived at the success.

[Diodorus Siculus, xv. 7.—The play, however, was called the
“Ransom of Hector.” It was the games at which it was acted that
were called Leneian; they were one of the four Dionysiac festivals.]

What I find tolerable of mine, is not so really and in itself, but in comparison of other worse things, that I see well enough received. I envy the happiness of those who can please and hug themselves in what they do; for ‘tis an easy thing to be so pleased, because a man extracts that pleasure from himself, especially if he be constant in his self-conceit. I know a poet, against whom the intelligent and the ignorant, abroad and at home, both heaven and earth exclaim that he has but very little notion of it; and yet, for all that, he has never a whit the worse opinion of himself; but is always falling upon some new piece, always contriving some new invention, and still persists in his opinion, by so much the more obstinately, as it only concerns him to maintain it.

My works are so far from pleasing me, that as often as I review them, they disgust me:

“Cum relego, scripsisse pudet; quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna lini.”

[“When I reperuse, I blush at what I have written; I ever see one
passage after another that I, the author, being the judge, consider
should be erased.”—Ovid, De Ponto, i. 5, 15.]

I have always an idea in my soul, and a sort of disturbed image which presents me as in a dream with a better form than that I have made use of; but I cannot catch it nor fit it to my purpose; and even that idea is but of the meaner sort. Hence I conclude that the productions of those great and rich souls of former times are very much beyond the utmost stretch of my imagination or my wish; their writings do not only satisfy and fill me, but they astound me, and ravish me with admiration; I judge of their beauty; I see it, if not to the utmost, yet so far at least as ‘tis possible for me to aspire. Whatever I undertake, I owe a sacrifice to the Graces, as Plutarch says of some one, to conciliate their favour:

“Si quid enim placet,
Si quid dulce horninum sensibus influit,
Debentur lepidis omnia Gratiis.”

[“If anything please that I write, if it infuse delight into men’s
minds, all is due to the charming Graces.” The verses are probably
by some modern poet.]

They abandon me throughout; all I write is rude; polish and beauty are wanting: I cannot set things off to any advantage; my handling adds nothing to the matter; for which reason I must have it forcible, very full, and that has lustre of its own. If I pitch upon subjects that are popular and gay, ‘tis to follow my own inclination, who do not affect a grave and ceremonious wisdom, as the world does; and to make myself more sprightly, but not my style more wanton, which would rather have them grave and severe; at least if I may call that a style which is an inform and irregular way of speaking, a popular jargon, a proceeding without definition, division, conclusion, perplexed like that Amafanius and Rabirius.—[Cicero, Acad., i. 2.]—I can neither please nor delight, nor even tickle my readers: the best story in the world is spoiled by my handling, and becomes flat; I cannot speak but in rough earnest, and am totally unprovided of that facility which I observe in many of my acquaintance, of entertaining the first comers and keeping a whole company in breath, or taking up the ear of a prince with all sorts of discourse without wearying themselves: they never want matter by reason of the faculty and grace they have in taking hold of the first thing that starts up, and accommodating it to the humour and capacity of those with whom they have to do. Princes do not much affect solid discourses, nor I to tell stories. The first and easiest reasons, which are commonly the best taken, I know not how to employ: I am an ill orator to the common sort. I am apt of everything to say the extremest that I know. Cicero is of opinion that in treatises of philosophy the exordium is the hardest part; if this be true, I am wise in sticking to the conclusion. And yet we are to know how to wind the string to all notes, and the sharpest is that which is the most seldom touched. There is at least as much perfection in elevating an empty as in supporting a weighty thing. A man must sometimes superficially handle things, and sometimes push them home. I know very well that most men keep themselves in this lower form from not conceiving things otherwise than by this outward bark; but I likewise know that the greatest masters, and Xenophon and Plato are often seen to stoop to this low and popular manner of speaking and treating of things, but supporting it with graces which never fail them.

Farther, my language has nothing in it that is facile and polished; ‘tis rough, free, and irregular, and as such pleases, if not my judgment, at all events my inclination, but I very well perceive that I sometimes give myself too much rein, and that by endeavouring to avoid art and affectation I fall into the other inconvenience:

“Brevis esse laboro,
Obscurus fio.”

[ Endeavouring to be brief, I become obscure.”
—Hor., Art. Poet., 25.]

Plato says, that the long or the short are not properties, that either take away or give value to language. Should I attempt to follow the other more moderate, united, and regular style, I should never attain to it; and though the short round periods of Sallust best suit with my humour, yet I find Caesar much grander and harder to imitate; and though my inclination would rather prompt me to imitate Seneca’s way of writing, yet I do nevertheless more esteem that of Plutarch. Both in doing and speaking I simply follow my own natural way; whence, peradventure, it falls out that I am better at speaking than writing. Motion and action animate words, especially in those who lay about them briskly, as I do, and grow hot. The comportment, the countenance; the voice, the robe, the place, will set off some things that of themselves would appear no better than prating. Messalla complains in Tacitus of the straitness of some garments in his time, and of the fashion of the benches where the orators were to declaim, that were a disadvantage to their eloquence.

My French tongue is corrupted, both in the pronunciation and otherwise, by the barbarism of my country. I never saw a man who was a native of any of the provinces on this side of the kingdom who had not a twang of his place of birth, and that was not offensive to ears that were purely French. And yet it is not that I am so perfect in my Perigordin: for I can no more speak it than High Dutch, nor do I much care. ‘Tis a language (as the rest about me on every side, of Poitou, Xaintonge, Angoumousin, Limousin, Auvergne), a poor, drawling, scurvy language. There is, indeed, above us towards the mountains a sort of Gascon spoken, that I am mightily taken with: blunt, brief, significant, and in truth a more manly and military language than any other I am acquainted with, as sinewy, powerful, and pertinent as the French is graceful, neat, and luxuriant.

As to the Latin, which was given me for my mother tongue, I have by discontinuance lost the use of speaking it, and, indeed, of writing it too, wherein I formerly had a particular reputation, by which you may see how inconsiderable I am on that side.

Beauty is a thing of great recommendation in the correspondence amongst men; ‘tis the first means of acquiring the favour and good liking of one another, and no man is so barbarous and morose as not to perceive himself in some sort struck with its attraction. The body has a great share in our being, has an eminent place there, and therefore its structure and composition are of very just consideration. They who go about to disunite and separate our two principal parts from one another are to blame; we must, on the contrary, reunite and rejoin them. We must command the soul not to withdraw and entertain itself apart, not to despise and abandon the body (neither can she do it but by some apish counterfeit), but to unite herself close to it, to embrace, cherish, assist, govern, and advise it, and to bring it back and set it into the true way when it wanders; in sum, to espouse and be a husband to it, so that their effects may not appear to be diverse and contrary, but uniform and concurring. Christians have a particular instruction concerning this connection, for they know that the Divine justice embraces this society and juncture of body and soul, even to the making the body capable of eternal rewards; and that God has an eye to the whole man’s ways, and wills that he receive entire chastisement or reward according to his demerits or merits. The sect of the Peripatetics, of all sects the most sociable, attribute to wisdom this sole care equally to provide for the good of these two associate parts: and the other sects, in not sufficiently applying themselves to the consideration of this mixture, show themselves to be divided, one for the body and the other for the soul, with equal error, and to have lost sight of their subject, which is Man, and their guide, which they generally confess to be Nature. The first distinction that ever was amongst men, and the first consideration that gave some pre-eminence over others, ‘tis likely was the advantage of beauty:

“Agros divisere atque dedere
Pro facie cujusque, et viribus ingenioque;
Nam facies multum valuit, viresque vigebant.”

[“They distributed and conferred the lands to every man according
to his beauty and strength and understanding, for beauty was much
esteemed and strength was in favour.”—Lucretius, V. 1109.]

Now I am of something lower than the middle stature, a defect that not only borders upon deformity, but carries withal a great deal of inconvenience along with it, especially for those who are in office and command; for the authority which a graceful presence and a majestic mien beget is wanting. C. Marius did not willingly enlist any soldiers who were not six feet high. The Courtier has, indeed, reason to desire a moderate stature in the gentlemen he is setting forth, rather than any other, and to reject all strangeness that should make him be pointed at. But if I were to choose whether this medium must be rather below than above the common standard, I would not have it so in a soldier. Little men, says Aristotle, are pretty, but not handsome; and greatness of soul is discovered in a great body, as beauty is in a conspicuous stature: the Ethiopians and Indians, says he, in choosing their kings and magistrates, had regard to the beauty and stature of their persons. They had reason; for it creates respect in those who follow them, and is a terror to the enemy, to see a leader of a brave and goodly stature march at the head of a battalion:

“Ipse inter primos praestanti corpore Turnus
Vertitur arma, tenens, et toto vertice supra est.”

[“In the first rank marches Turnus, brandishing his weapon,
taller by a head than all the rest.”—Virgil, AEneid, vii. 783.]

Our holy and heavenly king, of whom every circumstance is most carefully and with the greatest religion and reverence to be observed, has not himself rejected bodily recommendation,

“Speciosus forma prae filiis hominum.”

[“He is fairer than the children of men.”—Psalm xiv. 3.]

And Plato, together with temperance and fortitude, requires beauty in the conservators of his republic. It would vex you that a man should apply himself to you amongst your servants to inquire where Monsieur is, and that you should only have the remainder of the compliment of the hat that is made to your barber or your secretary; as it happened to poor Philopoemen, who arriving the first of all his company at an inn where he was expected, the hostess, who knew him not, and saw him an unsightly fellow, employed him to go help her maids a little to draw water, and make a fire against Philopoemen’s coming; the gentlemen of his train arriving presently after, and surprised to see him busy in this fine employment, for he failed not to obey his landlady’s command, asked him what he was doing there: “I am,” said he, “paying the penalty of my ugliness.” The other beauties belong to women; the beauty of stature is the only beauty of men. Where there is a contemptible stature, neither the largeness and roundness of the forehead, nor the whiteness and sweetness of the eyes, nor the moderate proportion of the nose, nor the littleness of the ears and mouth, nor the evenness and whiteness of the teeth, nor the thickness of a well-set brown beard, shining like the husk of a chestnut, nor curled hair, nor the just proportion of the head, nor a fresh complexion, nor a pleasing air of a face, nor a body without any offensive scent, nor the just proportion of limbs, can make a handsome man. I am, as to the rest, strong and well knit; my face is not puffed, but full, and my complexion betwixt jovial and melancholic, moderately sanguine and hot,

“Unde rigent setis mihi crura, et pectora villis;”

[“Whence ‘tis my legs and breast bristle with hair.”
—Martial, ii. 36, 5.]

my health vigorous and sprightly, even to a well advanced age, and rarely troubled with sickness. Such I was, for I do not now make any account of myself, now that I am engaged in the avenues of old age, being already past forty:

“Minutatim vires et robur adultum
Frangit, et in partem pejorem liquitur aetas:”

[“Time by degrees breaks our strength and makes us grow feeble.
—“Lucretius, ii. 1131.]

what shall be from this time forward, will be but a half-being, and no more me: I every day escape and steal away from myself:

“Singula de nobis anni praedantur euntes.”

[“Of the fleeting years each steals something from me.”
—Horace, Ep., ii. 2.]

Agility and address I never had, and yet am the son of a very active and sprightly father, who continued to be so to an extreme old age. I have scarce known any man of his condition, his equal in all bodily exercises, as I have seldom met with any who have not excelled me, except in running, at which I was pretty good. In music or singing, for which I have a very unfit voice, or to play on any sort of instrument, they could never teach me anything. In dancing, tennis, or wrestling, I could never arrive to more than an ordinary pitch; in swimming, fencing, vaulting, and leaping, to none at all. My hands are so clumsy that I cannot even write so as to read it myself, so that I had rather do what I have scribbled over again, than take upon me the trouble to make it out. I do not read much better than I write, and feel that I weary my auditors otherwise (I am) not a bad clerk. I cannot decently fold up a letter, nor could ever make a pen, or carve at table worth a pin, nor saddle a horse, nor carry a hawk and fly her, nor hunt the dogs, nor lure a hawk, nor speak to a horse. In fine, my bodily qualities are very well suited to those of my soul; there is nothing sprightly, only a full and firm vigour: I am patient enough of labour and pains, but it is only when I go voluntary to work, and only so long as my own desire prompts me to it:

“Molliter austerum studio fallente laborem.”

[“Study softly beguiling severe labour.”
—Horace, Sat., ii. 2, 12.]

otherwise, if I am not allured with some pleasure, or have other guide than my own pure and free inclination, I am good for nothing: for I am of a humour that, life and health excepted, there is nothing for which I will bite my nails, and that I will purchase at the price of torment of mind and constraint:

“Tanti mihi non sit opaci
Omnis arena Tagi, quodque in mare volvitur aurum.”

[“I would not buy rich Tagus sands so dear, nor all the gold that
lies in the sea.”—Juvenal, Sat., iii. 54.]

Extremely idle, extremely given up to my own inclination both by nature and art, I would as willingly lend a man my blood as my pains. I have a soul free and entirely its own, and accustomed to guide itself after its own fashion; having hitherto never had either master or governor imposed upon me: I have walked as far as I would, and at the pace that best pleased myself; this is it that has rendered me unfit for the service of others, and has made me of no use to any one but myself.

Nor was there any need of forcing my heavy and lazy disposition; for being born to such a fortune as I had reason to be contented with (a reason, nevertheless, that a thousand others of my acquaintance would have rather made use of for a plank upon which to pass over in search of higher fortune, to tumult and disquiet), and with as much intelligence as I required, I sought for no more, and also got no more:

“Non agimur tumidis velis Aquilone secundo,
Non tamen adversis aetatem ducimus Austris
Viribus, ingenio, specie, virtute, loco, re,
Extremi primorum, extremis usque priores.”

[“The northern wind does not agitate our sails; nor Auster trouble
our course with storms. In strength, talent, figure, virtue,
honour, wealth, we are short of the foremost, but before the last.”
—Horace, Ep., ii. 2, 201.]

I had only need of what was sufficient to content me: which nevertheless is a government of soul, to take it right, equally difficult in all sorts of conditions, and that, of custom, we see more easily found in want than in abundance: forasmuch, peradventure, as according to the course of our other passions, the desire of riches is more sharpened by their use than by the need of them: and the virtue of moderation more rare than that of patience; and I never had anything to desire, but happily to enjoy the estate that God by His bounty had put into my hands. I have never known anything of trouble, and have had little to do in anything but the management of my own affairs: or, if I have, it has been upon condition to do it at my own leisure and after my own method; committed to my trust by such as had a confidence in me, who did not importune me, and who knew my humour; for good horsemen will make shift to get service out of a rusty and broken-winded jade.

Even my infancy was trained up after a gentle and free manner, and exempt from any rigorous subjection. All this has helped me to a complexion delicate and incapable of solicitude, even to that degree that I love to have my losses and the disorders wherein I am concerned, concealed from me. In the account of my expenses, I put down what my negligence costs me in feeding and maintaining it;

“Haec nempe supersunt,
Quae dominum fallunt, quae prosunt furibus.”

[“That overplus, which the owner knows not of,
but which benefits the thieves”—Horace, Ep., i. 645]

I love not to know what I have, that I may be less sensible of my loss; I entreat those who serve me, where affection and integrity are absent, to deceive me with something like a decent appearance. For want of constancy enough to support the shock of adverse accidents to which we are subject, and of patience seriously to apply myself to the management of my affairs, I nourish as much as I can this in myself, wholly leaving all to fortune “to take all things at the worst, and to resolve to bear that worst with temper and patience”; that is the only thing I aim at, and to which I apply my whole meditation. In a danger, I do not so much consider how I shall escape it, as of how little importance it is, whether I escape it or no: should I be left dead upon the place, what matter? Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and apply myself to them, if they will not apply themselves to me. I have no great art to evade, escape from or force fortune, and by prudence to guide and incline things to my own bias. I have still less patience to undergo the troublesome and painful care therein required; and the most uneasy condition for me is to be suspended on urgent occasions, and to be agitated betwixt hope and fear.

Deliberation, even in things of lightest moment, is very troublesome to me; and I find my mind more put to it to undergo the various tumblings and tossings of doubt and consultation, than to set up its rest and to acquiesce in whatever shall happen after the die is thrown. Few passions break my sleep, but of deliberations, the least will do it. As in roads, I preferably avoid those that are sloping and slippery, and put myself into the beaten track how dirty or deep soever, where I can fall no lower, and there seek my safety: so I love misfortunes that are purely so, that do not torment and tease me with the uncertainty of their growing better; but that at the first push plunge me directly into the worst that can be expected

“Dubia plus torquent mala.”

[“Doubtful ills plague us worst.”
—Seneca, Agamemnon, iii. 1, 29.]

In events I carry myself like a man; in conduct, like a child. The fear of the fall more fevers me than the fall itself. The game is not worth the candle. The covetous man fares worse with his passion than the poor, and the jealous man than the cuckold; and a man ofttimes loses more by defending his vineyard than if he gave it up. The lowest walk is the safest; ‘tis the seat of constancy; you have there need of no one but yourself; ‘tis there founded and wholly stands upon its own basis. Has not this example of a gentleman very well known, some air of philosophy in it? He married, being well advanced in years, having spent his youth in good fellowship, a great talker and a great jeerer, calling to mind how much the subject of cuckoldry had given him occasion to talk and scoff at others. To prevent them from paying him in his own coin, he married a wife from a place where any one finds what he wants for his money: “Good morrow, strumpet”; “Good morrow, cuckold”; and there was not anything wherewith he more commonly and openly entertained those who came to see him than with this design of his, by which he stopped the private chattering of mockers, and blunted all the point from this reproach.

As to ambition, which is neighbour, or rather daughter, to presumption, fortune, to advance me, must have come and taken me by the hand; for to trouble myself for an uncertain hope, and to have submitted myself to all the difficulties that accompany those who endeavour to bring themselves into credit in the beginning of their progress, I could never have done it:

“Spem pretio non emo.”

[“I will not purchase hope with ready money,” (or),
“I do not purchase hope at a price.”
—Terence, Adelphi, ii. 3, 11.]

I apply myself to what I see and to what I have in my hand, and go not very far from the shore,

“Alter remus aquas, alter tibi radat arenas:”

[“One oar plunging into the sea, the other raking the sands.”
—Propertius, iii. 3, 23.]

and besides, a man rarely arrives at these advancements but in first hazarding what he has of his own; and I am of opinion that if a man have sufficient to maintain him in the condition wherein he was born and brought up, ‘tis a great folly to hazard that upon the uncertainty of augmenting it. He to whom fortune has denied whereon to set his foot, and to settle a quiet and composed way of living, is to be excused if he venture what he has, because, happen what will, necessity puts him upon shifting for himself:

“Capienda rebus in malis praeceps via est:”

[“A course is to be taken in bad cases.” (or),
“A desperate case must have a desperate course.”
—-Seneca, Agamemnon, ii. 1, 47.]

and I rather excuse a younger brother for exposing what his friends have left him to the courtesy of fortune, than him with whom the honour of his family is entrusted, who cannot be necessitous but by his own fault. I have found a much shorter and more easy way, by the advice of the good friends I had in my younger days, to free myself from any such ambition, and to sit still:

“Cui sit conditio dulcis sine pulvere palmae:”

[“What condition can compare with that where one has gained the
palm without the dust of the course.”—Horace, Ep., i. I, 51.]

judging rightly enough of my own strength, that it was not capable of any great matters; and calling to mind the saying of the late Chancellor Olivier, that the French were like monkeys that swarm up a tree from branch to branch, and never stop till they come to the highest, and there shew their breech.

“Turpe est, quod nequeas, capiti committere pondus,
Et pressum inflexo mox dare terga genu.”

[“It is a shame to load the head so that it cannot bear the
burthen, and the knees give way.”—Propertius, iii. 9, 5.]

I should find the best qualities I have useless in this age; the facility of my manners would have been called weakness and negligence; my faith and conscience, scrupulosity and superstition; my liberty and freedom would have been reputed troublesome, inconsiderate, and rash. Ill luck is good for something. It is good to be born in a very depraved age; for so, in comparison of others, you shall be reputed virtuous good cheap; he who in our days is but a parricide and a sacrilegious person is an honest man and a man of honour:

“Nunc, si depositum non inficiatur amicus,
Si reddat veterem cum tota aerugine follem,
Prodigiosa fides, et Tuscis digna libellis,
Quaeque coronata lustrari debeat agna:”

[“Now, if a friend does not deny his trust, but restores the old
purse with all its rust; ‘tis a prodigious faith, worthy to be
enrolled in amongst the Tuscan annals, and a crowned lamb should be
sacrificed to such exemplary integrity.”—Juvenal, Sat., xiii. 611.]

and never was time or place wherein princes might propose to themselves more assured or greater rewards for virtue and justice. The first who shall make it his business to get himself into favour and esteem by those ways, I am much deceived if he do not and by the best title outstrip his competitors: force and violence can do something, but not always all. We see merchants, country justices, and artisans go cheek by jowl with the best gentry in valour and military knowledge: they perform honourable actions, both in public engagements and private quarrels; they fight duels, they defend towns in our present wars; a prince stifles his special recommendation, renown, in this crowd; let him shine bright in humanity, truth, loyalty, temperance, and especially injustice; marks rare, unknown, and exiled; ‘tis by no other means but by the sole goodwill of the people that he can do his business; and no other qualities can attract their goodwill like those, as being of the greatest utility to them:

“Nil est tam populare, quam bonitas.”

[“Nothing is so popular as an agreeable manner (goodness).”
—Cicero, Pro Ligar., c. 12.]

By this standard I had been great and rare, just as I find myself now pigmy and vulgar by the standard of some past ages, wherein, if no other better qualities concurred, it was ordinary and common to see a man moderate in his revenges, gentle in resenting injuries, religious of his word, neither double nor supple, nor accommodating his faith to the will of others, or the turns of the times: I would rather see all affairs go to wreck and ruin than falsify my faith to secure them. For as to this new virtue of feigning and dissimulation, which is now in so great credit, I mortally hate it; and of all vices find none that evidences so much baseness and meanness of spirit. ‘Tis a cowardly and servile humour to hide and disguise a man’s self under a visor, and not to dare to show himself what he is; ‘tis by this our servants are trained up to treachery; being brought up to speak what is not true, they make no conscience of a lie. A generous heart ought not to belie its own thoughts; it will make itself seen within; all there is good, or at least human. Aristotle reputes it the office of magnanimity openly and professedly to love and hate; to judge and speak with all freedom; and not to value the approbation or dislike of others in comparison of truth. Apollonius said it was for slaves to lie, and for freemen to speak truth: ‘tis the chief and fundamental part of virtue; we must love it for itself. He who speaks truth because he is obliged so to do, and because it serves him, and who is not afraid to lie when it signifies nothing to anybody, is not sufficiently true. My soul naturally abominates lying, and hates the very thought of it. I have an inward shame and a sharp remorse, if sometimes a lie escapes me: as sometimes it does, being surprised by occasions that allow me no premeditation. A man must not always tell all, for that were folly: but what a man says should be what he thinks, otherwise ‘tis knavery. I do not know what advantage men pretend to by eternally counterfeiting and dissembling, if not never to be believed when they speak the truth; it may once or twice pass with men; but to profess the concealing their thought, and to brag, as some of our princes have done, that they would burn their shirts if they knew their true intentions, which was a saying of the ancient Metellius of Macedon; and that they who know not how to dissemble know not how to rule, is to give warning to all who have anything to do with them, that all they say is nothing but lying and deceit:

“Quo quis versutior et callidior est, hoc invisior et
suspectior, detracto opinione probitatis:”

[“By how much any one is more subtle and cunning, by so much is he
hated and suspected, the opinion of his integrity being withdrawn.”
—Cicero, De Off., ii. 9.]

it were a great simplicity in any one to lay any stress either on the countenance or word of a man who has put on a resolution to be always another thing without than he is within, as Tiberius did; and I cannot conceive what part such persons can have in conversation with men, seeing they produce nothing that is received as true: whoever is disloyal to truth is the same to falsehood also.

Those of our time who have considered in the establishment of the duty of a prince the good of his affairs only, and have preferred that to the care of his faith and conscience, might have something to say to a prince whose affairs fortune had put into such a posture that he might for ever establish them by only once breaking his word: but it will not go so; they often buy in the same market; they make more than one peace and enter into more than one treaty in their lives. Gain tempts to the first breach of faith, and almost always presents itself, as in all other ill acts, sacrileges, murders, rebellions, treasons, as being undertaken for some kind of advantage; but this first gain has infinite mischievous consequences, throwing this prince out of all correspondence and negotiation, by this example of infidelity. Soliman, of the Ottoman race, a race not very solicitous of keeping their words or compacts, when, in my infancy, he made his army land at Otranto, being informed that Mercurino de’ Gratinare and the inhabitants of Castro were detained prisoners, after having surrendered the place, contrary to the articles of their capitulation, sent orders to have them set at liberty, saying, that having other great enterprises in hand in those parts, the disloyalty, though it carried a show of present utility, would for the future bring on him a disrepute and distrust of infinite prejudice.

Now, for my part, I had rather be troublesome and indiscreet than a flatterer and a dissembler. I confess that there may be some mixture of pride and obstinacy in keeping myself so upright and open as I do, without any consideration of others; and methinks I am a little too free, where I ought least to be so, and that I grow hot by the opposition of respect; and it may be also, that I suffer myself to follow the propension of my own nature for want of art; using the same liberty, speech, and countenance towards great persons, that I bring with me from my own house: I am sensible how much it declines towards incivility and indiscretion but, besides that I am so bred, I have not a wit supple enough to evade a sudden question, and to escape by some evasion, nor to feign a truth, nor memory enough to retain it so feigned; nor, truly, assurance enough to maintain it, and so play the brave out of weakness. And therefore it is that I abandon myself to candour, always to speak as I think, both by complexion and design, leaving the event to fortune. Aristippus was wont to say, that the principal benefit he had extracted from philosophy was that he spoke freely and openly to all.

Memory is a faculty of wonderful use, and without which the judgment can very hardly perform its office: for my part I have none at all. What any one will propound to me, he must do it piecemeal, for to answer a speech consisting of several heads I am not able. I could not receive a commission by word of mouth without a note-book. And when I have a speech of consequence to make, if it be long, I am reduced to the miserable necessity of getting by heart word for word, what I am to say; I should otherwise have neither method nor assurance, being in fear that my memory would play me a slippery trick. But this way is no less difficult to me than the other; I must have three hours to learn three verses. And besides, in a work of a man’s own, the liberty and authority of altering the order, of changing a word, incessantly varying the matter, makes it harder to stick in the memory of the author. The more I mistrust it the worse it is; it serves me best by chance; I must solicit it negligently; for if I press it, ‘tis confused, and after it once begins to stagger, the more I sound it, the more it is perplexed; it serves me at its own hour, not at mine.

And the same defect I find in my memory, I find also in several other parts. I fly command, obligation, and constraint; that which I can otherwise naturally and easily do, if I impose it upon myself by an express and strict injunction, I cannot do it. Even the members of my body, which have a more particular jurisdiction of their own, sometimes refuse to obey me, if I enjoin them a necessary service at a certain hour. This tyrannical and compulsive appointment baffles them; they shrink up either through fear or spite, and fall into a trance. Being once in a place where it is looked upon as barbarous discourtesy not to pledge those who drink to you, though I had there all liberty allowed me, I tried to play the good fellow, out of respect to the ladies who were there, according to the custom of the country; but there was sport enough for this pressure and preparation, to force myself contrary to my custom and inclination, so stopped my throat that I could not swallow one drop, and was deprived of drinking so much as with my meat; I found myself gorged, and my, thirst quenched by the quantity of drink that my imagination had swallowed. This effect is most manifest in such as have the most vehement and powerful imagination: but it is natural, notwithstanding, and there is no one who does not in some measure feel it. They offered an excellent archer, condemned to die, to save his life, if he would show some notable proof of his art, but he refused to try, fearing lest the too great contention of his will should make him shoot wide, and that instead of saving his life, he should also lose the reputation he had got of being a good marksman. A man who thinks of something else, will not fail to take over and over again the same number and measure of steps, even to an inch, in the place where he walks; but if he made it his business to measure and count them, he will find that what he did by nature and accident, he cannot so exactly do by design.

My library, which is a fine one among those of the village type, is situated in a corner of my house; if anything comes into my head that I have a mind to search or to write, lest I should forget it in but going across the court, I am fain to commit it to the memory of some other. If I venture in speaking to digress never so little from my subject, I am infallibly lost, which is the reason that I keep myself, in discourse, strictly close. I am forced to call the men who serve me either by the names of their offices or their country; for names are very hard for me to remember. I can tell indeed that there are three syllables, that it has a harsh sound, and that it begins or ends with such a letter; but that’s all; and if I should live long, I do not doubt but I should forget my own name, as some others have done. Messala Corvinus was two years without any trace of memory, which is also said of Georgius Trapezuntius. For my own interest, I often meditate what a kind of life theirs was, and if, without this faculty, I should have enough left to support me with any manner of ease; and prying narrowly into it, I fear that this privation, if absolute, destroys all the other functions of the soul:

“Plenus rimarum sum, hac atque iliac perfluo.”

[“I’m full of chinks, and leak out every way.”
—Ter., Eunuchus, ii. 2, 23.]

It has befallen me more than once to forget the watchword I had three hours before given or received, and to forget where I had hidden my purse; whatever Cicero is pleased to say, I help myself to lose what I have a particular care to lock safe up:

“Memoria certe non modo Philosophiam sed omnis
vitae usum, omnesque artes, una maxime continet.”

[“It is certain that memory contains not only philosophy,
but all the arts and all that appertain to the use of life.”
—Cicero, Acad., ii. 7.]

Memory is the receptacle and case of science: and therefore mine being so treacherous, if I know little, I cannot much complain. I know, in general, the names of the arts, and of what they treat, but nothing more. I turn over books; I do not study them. What I retain I no longer recognise as another’s; ‘tis only what my judgment has made its advantage of, the discourses and imaginations in which it has been instructed: the author, place, words, and other circumstances, I immediately forget; and I am so excellent at forgetting, that I no less forget my own writings and compositions than the rest. I am very often quoted to myself, and am not aware of it. Whoever should inquire of me where I had the verses and examples, that I have here huddled together, would puzzle me to tell him, and yet I have not borrowed them but from famous and known authors, not contenting myself that they were rich, if I, moreover, had them not from rich and honourable hands, where there is a concurrence of authority with reason. It is no great wonder if my book run the same fortune that other books do, if my memory lose what I have written as well as what I have read, and what I give, as well as what I receive.

Besides the defect of memory, I have others which very much contribute to my ignorance; I have a slow and heavy wit, the least cloud stops its progress, so that, for example, I never propose to it any never so easy a riddle that it could find out; there is not the least idle subtlety that will not gravel me; in games, where wit is required, as chess, draughts, and the like, I understand no more than the common movements. I have a slow and perplexed apprehension, but what it once apprehends, it apprehends well, for the time it retains it. My sight is perfect, entire, and discovers at a very great distance, but is soon weary and heavy at work, which occasions that I cannot read long, but am forced to have one to read to me. The younger Pliny can inform such as have not experimented it themselves, how important an impediment this is to those who devote themselves to this employment.

There is no so wretched and coarse a soul, wherein some particular faculty is not seen to shine; no soul so buried in sloth and ignorance, but it will sally at one end or another; and how it comes to pass that a man blind and asleep to everything else, shall be found sprightly, clear, and excellent in some one particular effect, we are to inquire of our masters: but the beautiful souls are they that are universal, open, and ready for all things; if not instructed, at least capable of being so; which I say to accuse my own; for whether it be through infirmity or negligence (and to neglect that which lies at our feet, which we have in our hands, and what nearest concerns the use of life, is far from my doctrine) there is not a soul in the world so awkward as mine, and so ignorant of many common things, and such as a man cannot without shame fail to know. I must give some examples.

I was born and bred up in the country, and amongst husbandmen; I have had business and husbandry in my own hands ever since my predecessors, who were lords of the estate I now enjoy, left me to succeed them; and yet I can neither cast accounts, nor reckon my counters: most of our current money I do not know, nor the difference betwixt one grain and another, either growing or in the barn, if it be not too apparent, and scarcely can distinguish between the cabbage and lettuce in my garden. I do not so much as understand the names of the chief instruments of husbandry, nor the most ordinary elements of agriculture, which the very children know: much less the mechanic arts, traffic, merchandise, the variety and nature of fruits, wines, and viands, nor how to make a hawk fly, nor to physic a horse or a dog. And, since I must publish my whole shame, ‘tis not above a month ago, that I was trapped in my ignorance of the use of leaven to make bread, or to what end it was to keep wine in the vat. They conjectured of old at Athens, an aptitude for the mathematics in him they saw ingeniously bavin up a burthen of brushwood. In earnest, they would draw a quite contrary conclusion from me, for give me the whole provision and necessaries of a kitchen, I should starve. By these features of my confession men may imagine others to my prejudice: but whatever I deliver myself to be, provided it be such as I really am, I have my end; neither will I make any excuse for committing to paper such mean and frivolous things as these: the meanness of the subject compells me to it. They may, if they please, accuse my project, but not my progress: so it is, that without anybody’s needing to tell me, I sufficiently see of how little weight and value all this is, and the folly of my design: ‘tis enough that my judgment does not contradict itself, of which these are the essays.

“Nasutus sis usque licet, sis denique nasus,
Quantum noluerit ferre rogatus Atlas;
Et possis ipsum to deridere Latinum,
Non potes in nugas dicere plura mess,
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 haec novimus esse nihil.”

[“Let your nose be as keen as it will, be all nose, and even a nose
so great that Atlas will refuse to bear it: if asked, Could you even
excel Latinus in scoffing; against my trifles you could say no more
than I myself have said: then to what end contend tooth against
tooth? You must have flesh, if you want to be full; lose not your
labour then; cast your venom upon those that admire themselves; I
know already that these things are worthless.”—Mart., xiii. 2.]

I am not obliged not to utter absurdities, provided I am not deceived in them and know them to be such: and to trip knowingly, is so ordinary with me, that I seldom do it otherwise, and rarely trip by chance. ‘Tis no great matter to add ridiculous actions to the temerity of my humour, since I cannot ordinarily help supplying it with those that are vicious.

I was present one day at Barleduc, when King Francis II., for a memorial of Rene, king of Sicily, was presented with a portrait he had drawn of himself: why is it not in like manner lawful for every one to draw himself with a pen, as he did with a crayon? I will not, therefore, omit this blemish though very unfit to be published, which is irresolution; a very great effect and very incommodious in the negotiations of the affairs of the world; in doubtful enterprises, I know not which to choose:

“Ne si, ne no, nel cor mi suona intero.”

[“My heart does not tell me either yes or no.”—Petrarch.]

I can maintain an opinion, but I cannot choose one. By reason that in human things, to what sect soever we incline, many appearances present themselves that confirm us in it; and the philosopher Chrysippus said, that he would of Zeno and Cleanthes, his masters, learn their doctrines only; for, as to proofs and reasons, he should find enough of his own. Which way soever I turn, I still furnish myself with causes, and likelihood enough to fix me there; which makes me detain doubt and the liberty of choosing, till occasion presses; and then, to confess the truth, I, for the most part, throw the feather into the wind, as the saying is, and commit myself to the mercy of fortune; a very light inclination and circumstance carries me along with it.

“Dum in dubio est animus, paulo momento huc atque
Illuc impellitur.”

[“While the mind is in doubt, in a short time it is impelled this
way and that.”—Terence, Andr., i. 6, 32.]

The uncertainty of my judgment is so equally balanced in most occurrences, that I could willingly refer it to be decided by the chance of a die: and I observe, with great consideration of our human infirmity, the examples that the divine history itself has left us of this custom of referring to fortune and chance the determination of election in doubtful things:

“Sors cecidit super Matthiam.”

[“The lot fell upon Matthew.”—Acts i. 26.]

Human reason is a two-edged and dangerous sword: observe in the hands of Socrates, her most intimate and familiar friend, how many several points it has. I am thus good for nothing but to follow and suffer myself to be easily carried away with the crowd; I have not confidence enough in my own strength to take upon me to command and lead; I am very glad to find the way beaten before me by others. If I must run the hazard of an uncertain choice, I am rather willing to have it under such a one as is more confident in his opinions than I am in mine, whose ground and foundation I find to be very slippery and unsure.

Yet I do not easily change, by reason that I discern the same weakness in contrary opinions:

“Ipsa consuetudo assentiendi periculosa
esse videtur, et lubrica;”

[“The very custom of assenting seems to be dangerous
and slippery.”—Cicero, Acad., ii. 21.]

especially in political affairs, there is a large field open for changes and contestation:

“Justa pari premitur veluti cum pondere libra,
Prona, nec hac plus pane sedet, nec surgit ab illa.”

[“As a just balance, pressed with equal weight, neither dips
nor rises on either side.”—Tibullus, iv. 41.]

Machiavelli’s writings, for example, were solid enough for the subject, yet were they easy enough to be controverted; and they who have done so, have left as great a facility of controverting theirs; there was never wanting in that kind of argument replies and replies upon replies, and as infinite a contexture of debates as our wrangling lawyers have extended in favour of long suits:

“Caedimur et totidem plagis consumimus hostem;”

[“We are slain, and with as many blows kill the enemy” (or),
“It is a fight wherein we exhaust each other by mutual wounds.”
—Horace, Epist., ii. 2, 97.]

the reasons have little other foundation than experience, and the variety of human events presenting us with infinite examples of all sorts of forms. An understanding person of our times says: That whoever would, in contradiction to our almanacs, write cold where they say hot, and wet where they say dry, and always put the contrary to what they foretell; if he were to lay a wager, he would not care which side he took, excepting where no uncertainty could fall out, as to promise excessive heats at Christmas, or extremity of cold at Midsummer. I have the same opinion of these political controversies; be on which side you will, you have as fair a game to play as your adversary, provided you do not proceed so far as to shock principles that are broad and manifest. And yet, in my conceit, in public affairs, there is no government so ill, provided it be ancient and has been constant, that is not better than change and alteration.

Our manners are infinitely corrupt, and wonderfully incline to the worse; of our laws and customs there are many that are barbarous and monstrous nevertheless, by reason of the difficulty of reformation, and the danger of stirring things, if I could put something under to stop the wheel, and keep it where it is, I would do it with all my heart:

“Numquam adeo foedis, adeoque pudendis
Utimur exemplis, ut non pejora supersint.”

[“The examples we use are not so shameful and foul
but that worse remain behind.”—Juvenal, viii. 183.]

The worst thing I find in our state is instability, and that our laws, no more than our clothes, cannot settle in any certain form. It is very easy to accuse a government of imperfection, for all mortal things are full of it: it is very easy to beget in a people a contempt of ancient observances; never any man undertook it but he did it; but to establish a better regimen in the stead of that which a man has overthrown, many who have attempted it have foundered. I very little consult my prudence in my conduct; I am willing to let it be guided by the public rule. Happy the people who do what they are commanded, better than they who command, without tormenting themselves as to the causes; who suffer themselves gently to roll after the celestial revolution! Obedience is never pure nor calm in him who reasons and disputes.

In fine, to return to myself: the only thing by which I something esteem myself, is that wherein never any man thought himself to be defective; my recommendation is vulgar, common, and popular; for who ever thought he wanted sense? It would be a proposition that would imply a contradiction in itself; ‘tis a disease that never is where it is discerned; ‘tis tenacious and strong, but what the first ray of the patient’s sight nevertheless pierces through and disperses, as the beams of the sun do thick and obscure mists; to accuse one’s self would be to excuse in this case, and to condemn, to absolve. There never was porter or the silliest girl, that did not think they had sense enough to do their business. We easily enough confess in others an advantage of courage, strength, experience, activity, and beauty, but an advantage in judgment we yield to none; and the reasons that proceed simply from the natural conclusions of others, we think, if we had but turned our thoughts that way, we should ourselves have found out as well as they. Knowledge, style, and such parts as we see in others’ works, we are soon aware of, if they excel our own: but for the simple products of the understanding, every one thinks he could have found out the like in himself, and is hardly sensible of the weight and difficulty, if not (and then with much ado) in an extreme and incomparable distance. And whoever should be able clearly to discern the height of another’s judgment, would be also able to raise his own to the same pitch. So that it is a sort of exercise, from which a man is to expect very little praise; a kind of composition of small repute. And, besides, for whom do you write? The learned, to whom the authority appertains of judging books, know no other value but that of learning, and allow of no other proceeding of wit but that of erudition and art: if you have mistaken one of the Scipios for another, what is all the rest you have to say worth? Whoever is ignorant of Aristotle, according to their rule, is in some sort ignorant of himself; vulgar souls cannot discern the grace and force of a lofty and delicate style. Now these two sorts of men take up the world. The third sort into whose hands you fall, of souls that are regular and strong of themselves, is so rare, that it justly has neither name nor place amongst us; and ‘tis so much time lost to aspire unto it, or to endeavour to please it.

‘Tis commonly said that the justest portion Nature has given us of her favours is that of sense; for there is no one who is not contented with his share: is it not reason? whoever should see beyond that, would see beyond his sight. I think my opinions are good and sound, but who does not think the same of his own? One of the best proofs I have that mine are so is the small esteem I have of myself; for had they not been very well assured, they would easily have suffered themselves to have been deceived by the peculiar affection I have to myself, as one that places it almost wholly in myself, and do not let much run out. All that others distribute amongst an infinite number of friends and acquaintance, to their glory and grandeur, I dedicate to the repose of my own mind and to myself; that which escapes thence is not properly by my direction:

“Mihi nempe valere et vivere doctus.”

[“To live and to do well for myself.”
—Lucretius, v. 959.]

Now I find my opinions very bold and constant in condemning my own imperfection. And, to say the truth, ‘tis a subject upon which I exercise my judgment as much as upon any other. The world looks always opposite; I turn my sight inwards, and there fix and employ it. I have no other business but myself, I am eternally meditating upon myself, considering and tasting myself. Other men’s thoughts are ever wandering abroad, if they will but see it; they are still going forward:

“Nemo in sese tentat descendere;”

[“No one thinks of descending into himself.”
—Persius, iv. 23.]

for my part, I circulate in myself. This capacity of trying the truth, whatever it be, in myself, and this free humour of not over easily subjecting my belief, I owe principally to myself; for the strongest and most general imaginations I have are those that, as a man may say, were born with me; they are natural and entirely my own. I produced them crude and simple, with a strong and bold production, but a little troubled and imperfect; I have since established and fortified them with the authority of others and the sound examples of the ancients, whom I have found of the same judgment: they have given me faster hold, and a more manifest fruition and possession of that I had before embraced. The reputation that every one pretends to of vivacity and promptness of wit, I seek in regularity; the glory they pretend to from a striking and signal action, or some particular excellence, I claim from order, correspondence, and tranquillity of opinions and manners:

“Omnino si quidquam est decorum, nihil est profecto magis, quam
aequabilitas universae vitae, tum singularum actionum, quam
conservare non possis, si, aliorum naturam imitans, omittas tuam.”

[“If anything be entirely decorous, nothing certainly can be more so
than an equability alike in the whole life and in every particular
action; which thou canst not possibly observe if, imitating other
men’s natures, thou layest aside thy own.”—Cicero, De Of., i. 31.]

Here, then, you see to what degree I find myself guilty of this first part, that I said was the vice of presumption. As to the second, which consists in not having a sufficient esteem for others, I know not whether or no I can so well excuse myself; but whatever comes on’t I am resolved to speak the truth. And whether, peradventure, it be that the continual frequentation I have had with the humours of the ancients, and the idea of those great souls of past ages, put me out of taste both with others and myself, or that, in truth, the age we live in produces but very indifferent things, yet so it is that I see nothing worthy of any great admiration. Neither, indeed, have I so great an intimacy with many men as is requisite to make a right judgment of them; and those with whom my condition makes me the most frequent, are, for the most part, men who have little care of the culture of the soul, but that look upon honour as the sum of all blessings, and valour as the height of all perfection.

What I see that is fine in others I very readily commend and esteem: nay, I often say more in their commendation than I think they really deserve, and give myself so far leave to lie, for I cannot invent a false subject: my testimony is never wanting to my friends in what I conceive deserves praise, and where a foot is due I am willing to give them a foot and a half; but to attribute to them qualities that they have not, I cannot do it, nor openly defend their imperfections. Nay, I frankly give my very enemies their due testimony of honour; my affection alters, my judgment does not, and I never confound my animosity with other circumstances that are foreign to it; and I am so jealous of the liberty of my judgment that I can very hardly part with it for any passion whatever. I do myself a greater injury in lying than I do him of whom I tell a lie. This commendable and generous custom is observed of the Persian nation, that they spoke of their mortal enemies and with whom they were at deadly war, as honourably and justly as their virtues deserved.

I know men enough that have several fine parts; one wit, another courage, another address, another conscience, another language: one science, another, another; but a generally great man, and who has all these brave parts together, or any one of them to such a degree of excellence that we should admire him or compare him with those we honour of times past, my fortune never brought me acquainted with; and the greatest I ever knew, I mean for the natural parts of the soul, was Etienne De la Boetie; his was a full soul indeed, and that had every way a beautiful aspect: a soul of the old stamp, and that had produced great effects had his fortune been so pleased, having added much to those great natural parts by learning and study.

But how it comes to pass I know not, and yet it is certainly so, there is as much vanity and weakness of judgment in those who profess the greatest abilities, who take upon them learned callings and bookish employments as in any other sort of men whatever; either because more is required and expected from them, and that common defects are excusable in them, or because the opinion they have of their own learning makes them more bold to expose and lay themselves too open, by which they lose and betray themselves. As an artificer more manifests his want of skill in a rich matter he has in hand, if he disgrace the work by ill handling and contrary to the rules required, than in a matter of less value; and men are more displeased at a disproportion in a statue of gold than in one of plaster; so do these when they advance things that in themselves and in their place would be good; for they make use of them without discretion, honouring their memories at the expense of their understandings, and making themselves ridiculous by honouring Cicero, Galen, Ulpian, and St. Jerome alike.

I willingly fall again into the discourse of the vanity of our education, the end of which is not to render us good and wise, but learned, and she has obtained it. She has not taught us to follow and embrace virtue and prudence, but she has imprinted in us their derivation and etymology; we know how to decline Virtue, if we know not how to love it; if we do not know what prudence is really and in effect, and by experience, we have it however by jargon and heart: we are not content to know the extraction, kindred, and alliances of our neighbours; we desire, moreover, to have them our friends and to establish a correspondence and intelligence with them; but this education of ours has taught us definitions, divisions, and partitions of virtue, as so many surnames and branches of a genealogy, without any further care of establishing any familiarity or intimacy betwixt her and us. It has culled out for our initiatory instruction not such books as contain the soundest and truest opinions, but those that speak the best Greek and Latin, and by their fine words has instilled into our fancy the vainest humours of antiquity.

A good education alters the judgment and manners; as it happened to Polemon, a lewd and debauched young Greek, who going by chance to hear one of Xenocrates’ lectures, did not only observe the eloquence and learning of the reader, and not only brought away, the knowledge of some fine matter, but a more manifest and more solid profit, which was the sudden change and reformation of his former life. Whoever found such an effect of our discipline?

“Faciasne, quod olim
Mutatus Polemon? ponas insignia morbi
Fasciolas, cubital, focalia; potus ut ille
Dicitur ex collo furtim carpsisse coronas,
Postquam est impransi correptus voce magistri?”

[“Will you do what reformed Polemon did of old? will you lay aside
the joys of your disease, your garters, capuchin, muffler, as he in
his cups is said to have secretly torn off his garlands from his
neck when he heard what that temperate teacher said?”
—Horace, Sat., ii. 3, 253]

That seems to me to be the least contemptible condition of men, which by its plainness and simplicity is seated in the lowest degree, and invites us to a more regular course. I find the rude manners and language of country people commonly better suited to the rule and prescription of true philosophy, than those of our philosophers themselves:

“Plus sapit vulgus, quia tantum, quantum opus est, sapit.”

[“The vulgar are so much the wiser, because they only know what
is needful for them to know.”—Lactantms, Instit. Div., iii. 5.]

The most remarkable men, as I have judged by outward appearance (for to judge of them according to my own method, I must penetrate a great deal deeper), for soldiers and military conduct, were the Duc de Guise, who died at Orleans, and the late Marshal Strozzi; and for men of great ability and no common virtue, Olivier and De l’Hospital, Chancellors of France. Poetry, too, in my opinion, has flourished in this age of ours; we have abundance of very good artificers in the trade: D’Aurat, Beza, Buchanan, L’Hospital, Montdore, Turnebus; as to the French poets, I believe they raised their art to the highest pitch to which it can ever arrive; and in those parts of it wherein Ronsard and Du Bellay excel, I find them little inferior to the ancient perfection. Adrian Turnebus knew more, and what he did know, better than any man of his time, or long before him. The lives of the last Duke of Alva, and of our Constable de Montmorency, were both of them great and noble, and that had many rare resemblances of fortune; but the beauty and glory of the death of the last, in the sight of Paris and of his king, in their service, against his nearest relations, at the head of an army through his conduct victorious, and by a sudden stroke, in so extreme old age, merits methinks to be recorded amongst the most remarkable events of our times. As also the constant goodness, sweetness of manners, and conscientious facility of Monsieur de la Noue, in so great an injustice of armed parties (the true school of treason, inhumanity, and robbery), wherein he always kept up the reputation of a great and experienced captain.

I have taken a delight to publish in several places the hopes I have of Marie de Gournay le Jars,

[She was adopted by him in 1588. See Leon Feugere’s Mademoiselle
de Gournay: ‘Etude sur sa Vie et ses Ouvrages’.]

my adopted daughter; and certainly beloved by me more than paternally, and enveloped in my retirement and solitude as one of the best parts of my own being: I have no longer regard to anything in this world but her. And if a man may presage from her youth, her soul will one day be capable of very great things; and amongst others, of the perfection of that sacred friendship, to which we do not read that any of her sex could ever yet arrive; the sincerity and solidity of her manners are already sufficient for it, and her affection towards me more than superabundant, and such, in short, as that there is nothing more to be wished, if not that the apprehension she has of my end, being now five-and-fifty years old, might not so much afflict her. The judgment she made of my first Essays, being a woman, so young, and in this age, and alone in her own country; and the famous vehemence wherewith she loved me, and desired my acquaintance solely from the esteem she had thence of me, before she ever saw my face, is an incident very worthy of consideration.

Other virtues have had little or no credit in this age; but valour is become popular by our civil wars; and in this, we have souls brave even to perfection, and in so great number that the choice is impossible to make.

This is all of extraordinary and uncommon grandeur that has hitherto arrived at my knowledge.


Well, but some one will say to me, this design of making a man’s self the subject of his writing, were indeed excusable in rare and famous men, who by their reputation had given others a curiosity to be fully informed of them. It is most true, I confess and know very well, that a mechanic will scarce lift his eyes from his work to look at an ordinary man, whereas a man will forsake his business and his shop to stare at an eminent person when he comes into a town. It misbecomes any other to give his own character, but him who has qualities worthy of imitation, and whose life and opinions may serve for example: Caesar and Xenophon had a just and solid foundation whereon to found their narrations, the greatness of their own performances; and were to be wished that we had the journals of Alexander the Great, the commentaries that Augustus, Cato, Sylla, Brutus, and others left of their actions; of such persons men love and contemplate the very statues even in copper and marble. This remonstrance is very true; but it very little concerns me:

“Non recito cuiquam, nisi amicis, idque coactus;
Non ubivis, coramve quibuslibet, in medio qui
Scripta foro recitant, sunt multi, quique lavantes.”

[“I repeat my poems only to my friends, and when bound to do so;
not before every one and everywhere; there are plenty of reciters
in the open market-place and at the baths.”—Horace, sat. i. 4, 73.]

I do not here form a statue to erect in the great square of a city, in a church, or any public place:

“Non equidem hoc studeo, bullatis ut mihi nugis,
Pagina turgescat......
Secreti loquimur:”

[“I study not to make my pages swell with empty trifles;
you and I are talking in private.”—Persius, Sat., v. 19.]

‘tis for some corner of a library, or to entertain a neighbour, a kinsman, a friend, who has a mind to renew his acquaintance and familiarity with me in this image of myself. Others have been encouraged to speak of themselves, because they found the subject worthy and rich; I, on the contrary, am the bolder, by reason the subject is so poor and sterile that I cannot be suspected of ostentation. I judge freely of the actions of others; I give little of my own to judge of, because they are nothing: I do not find so much good in myself, that I cannot tell it without blushing.

What contentment would it not be to me to hear any one thus relate to me the manners, faces, countenances, the ordinary words and fortunes of my ancestors? how attentively should I listen to it! In earnest, it would be evil nature to despise so much as the pictures of our friends and predecessors, the fashion of their clothes and arms. I preserve their writing, seal, and a particular sword they wore, and have not thrown the long staves my father used to carry in his hand, out of my closet.

“Paterna vestis, et annulus, tanto charior est
posteris, quanto erga parentes major affectus.”

[“A father’s garment and ring is by so much dearer to his posterity,
as there is the greater affection towards parents.”
—St. Aug., De Civat. Dei, i. 13.]

If my posterity, nevertheless, shall be of another mind, I shall be avenged on them; for they cannot care less for me than I shall then do for them. All the traffic that I have in this with the public is, that I borrow their utensils of writing, which are more easy and most at hand; and in recompense shall, peradventure, keep a pound of butter in the market from melting in the sun:—[Montaigne semi-seriously speculates on the possibility of his MS. being used to wrap up butter.]

“Ne toga cordyllis, ne penula desit olivis;
Et laxas scombris saepe dabo tunicas;”

[“Let not wrappers be wanting to tunny-fish, nor olives;
and I shall supply loose coverings to mackerel.”
—Martial, xiii. I, I.]

And though nobody should read me, have I wasted time in entertaining myself so many idle hours in so pleasing and useful thoughts? In moulding this figure upon myself, I have been so often constrained to temper and compose myself in a right posture, that the copy is truly taken, and has in some sort formed itself; painting myself for others, I represent myself in a better colouring than my own natural complexion. I have no more made my book than my book has made me: ‘tis a book consubstantial with the author, of a peculiar design, a parcel of my life, and whose business is not designed for others, as that of all other books is. In giving myself so continual and so exact an account of myself, have I lost my time? For they who sometimes cursorily survey themselves only, do not so strictly examine themselves, nor penetrate so deep, as he who makes it his business, his study, and his employment, who intends a lasting record, with all his fidelity, and with all his force: The most delicious pleasures digested within, avoid leaving any trace of themselves, and avoid the sight not only of the people, but of any other person. How often has this work diverted me from troublesome thoughts? and all that are frivolous should be reputed so. Nature has presented us with a large faculty of entertaining ourselves alone; and often calls us to it, to teach us that we owe ourselves in part to society, but chiefly and mostly to ourselves. That I may habituate my fancy even to meditate in some method and to some end, and to keep it from losing itself and roving at random, ‘tis but to give to body and to record all the little thoughts that present themselves to it. I give ear to my whimsies, because I am to record them. It often falls out, that being displeased at some action that civility and reason will not permit me openly to reprove, I here disgorge myself, not without design of public instruction: and also these poetical lashes,

“Zon zur l’oeil, ion sur le groin,
Zon zur le dos du Sagoin,”

[“A slap on his eye, a slap on his snout, a slap on Sagoin’s
back.”—Marot. Fripelippes, Valet de Marot a Sagoin.]

imprint themselves better upon paper than upon the flesh. What if I listen to books a little more attentively than ordinary, since I watch if I can purloin anything that may adorn or support my own? I have not at all studied to make a book; but I have in some sort studied because I had made it; if it be studying to scratch and pinch now one author, and then another, either by the head or foot, not with any design to form opinions from them, but to assist, second, and fortify those I already have embraced. But whom shall we believe in the report he makes of himself in so corrupt an age? considering there are so few, if, any at all, whom we can believe when speaking of others, where there is less interest to lie. The first thing done in the corruption of manners is banishing truth; for, as Pindar says, to be true is the beginning of a great virtue, and the first article that Plato requires in the governor of his Republic. The truth of these days is not that which really is, but what every man persuades another man to believe; as we generally give the name of money not only to pieces of the dust alloy, but even to the false also, if they will pass. Our nation has long been reproached with this vice; for Salvianus of Marseilles, who lived in the time of the Emperor Valentinian, says that lying and forswearing themselves is with the French not a vice, but a way of speaking. He who would enhance this testimony, might say that it is now a virtue in them; men form and fashion themselves to it as to an exercise of honour; for dissimulation is one of the most notable qualities of this age.

I have often considered whence this custom that we so religiously observe should spring, of being more highly offended with the reproach of a vice so familiar to us than with any other, and that it should be the highest insult that can in words be done us to reproach us with a lie. Upon examination, I find that it is natural most to defend the defects with which we are most tainted. It seems as if by resenting and being moved at the accusation, we in some sort acquit ourselves of the fault; though we have it in effect, we condemn it in outward appearance. May it not also be that this reproach seems to imply cowardice and feebleness of heart? of which can there be a more manifest sign than to eat a man’s own words—nay, to lie against a man’s own knowledge? Lying is a base vice; a vice that one of the ancients portrays in the most odious colours when he says, “that it is to manifest a contempt of God, and withal a fear of men.” It is not possible more fully to represent the horror, baseness, and irregularity of it; for what can a man imagine more hateful and contemptible than to be a coward towards men, and valiant against his Maker? Our intelligence being by no other way communicable to one another but by a particular word, he who falsifies that betrays public society. ‘Tis the only way by which we communicate our thoughts and wills; ‘tis the interpreter of the soul, and if it deceive us, we no longer know nor have further tie upon one another; if that deceive us, it breaks all our correspondence, and dissolves all the ties of government. Certain nations of the newly discovered Indies (I need not give them names, seeing they are no more; for, by wonderful and unheardof example, the desolation of that conquest has extended to the utter abolition of names and the ancient knowledge of places) offered to their gods human blood, but only such as was drawn from the tongue and ears, to expiate for the sin of lying, as well heard as pronounced. That good fellow of Greece—[Plutarch, Life of Lysander, c. 4.]—said that children are amused with toys and men with words.

As to our diverse usages of giving the lie, and the laws of honour in that case, and the alteration they have received, I defer saying what I know of them to another time, and shall learn, if I can, in the meanwhile, at what time the custom took beginning of so exactly weighing and measuring words, and of making our honour interested in them; for it is easy to judge that it was not anciently amongst the Romans and Greeks. And it has often seemed to me strange to see them rail at and give one another the lie without any quarrel. Their laws of duty steered some other course than ours. Caesar is sometimes called thief, and sometimes drunkard, to his teeth. We see the liberty of invective they practised upon one another, I mean the greatest chiefs of war of both nations, where words are only revenged with words, and do not proceed any farther.


‘Tis usual to see good intentions, if carried on without moderation, push men on to very vicious effects. In this dispute which has at this time engaged France in a civil war, the better and the soundest cause no doubt is that which maintains the ancient religion and government of the kingdom. Nevertheless, amongst the good men of that party (for I do not speak of those who only make a pretence of it, either to execute their own particular revenges or to gratify their avarice, or to conciliate the favour of princes, but of those who engage in the quarrel out of true zeal to religion and a holy desire to maintain the peace and government of their country), of these, I say, we see many whom passion transports beyond the bounds of reason, and sometimes inspires with counsels that are unjust and violent, and, moreover, rash.

It is certain that in those first times, when our religion began to gain authority with the laws, zeal armed many against all sorts of pagan books, by which the learned suffered an exceeding great loss, a disorder that I conceive to have done more prejudice to letters than all the flames of the barbarians. Of this Cornelius Tacitus is a very good testimony; for though the Emperor Tacitus, his kinsman, had, by express order, furnished all the libraries in the world with it, nevertheless one entire copy could not escape the curious examination of those who desired to abolish it for only five or six idle clauses that were contrary to our belief.

They had also the trick easily to lend undue praises to all the emperors who made for us, and universally to condemn all the actions of those who were adversaries, as is evidently manifest in the Emperor Julian, surnamed the Apostate,

[The character of the Emperor Julian was censured, when Montaigne
was at Rome in 1581, by the Master of the Sacred Palace, who,
however, as Montaigne tells us in his journal (ii. 35), referred it
to his conscience to alter what he should think in bad taste. This
Montaigne did not do, and this chapter supplied Voltaire with the
greater part of the praises he bestowed upon the Emperor.—Leclerc.]

who was, in truth, a very great and rare man, a man in whose soul philosophy was imprinted in the best characters, by which he professed to govern all his actions; and, in truth, there is no sort of virtue of which he has not left behind him very notable examples: in chastity (of which the whole of his life gave manifest proof) we read the same of him that was said of Alexander and Scipio, that being in the flower of his age, for he was slain by the Parthians at one-and-thirty, of a great many very beautiful captives, he would not so much as look upon one. As to his justice, he took himself the pains to hear the parties, and although he would out of curiosity inquire what religion they were of, nevertheless, the antipathy he had to ours never gave any counterpoise to the balance. He made himself several good laws, and repealed a great part of the subsidies and taxes levied by his predecessors.

We have two good historians who were eyewitnesses of his actions: one of whom, Marcellinus, in several places of his history sharply reproves an edict of his whereby he interdicted all Christian rhetoricians and grammarians to keep school or to teach, and says he could wish that act of his had been buried in silence: it is probable that had he done any more severe thing against us, he, so affectionate as he was to our party, would not have passed it over in silence. He was indeed sharp against us, but yet no cruel enemy; for our own people tell this story of him, that one day, walking about the city of Chalcedon, Maris, bishop of the place; was so bold as to tell him that he was impious, and an enemy to Christ, at which, they say, he was no further moved than to reply, “Go, poor wretch, and lament the loss of thy eyes,” to which the bishop replied again, “I thank Jesus Christ for taking away my sight, that I may not see thy impudent visage,” affecting in that, they say, a philosophical patience. But this action of his bears no comparison to the cruelty that he is said to have exercised against us. “He was,” says Eutropius, my other witness, “an enemy to Christianity, but without putting his hand to blood.” And, to return to his justice, there is nothing in that whereof he can be accused, the severity excepted he practised in the beginning of his reign against those who had followed the party of Constantius, his predecessor. As to his sobriety, he lived always a soldier-like life; and observed a diet and routine, like one that prepared and inured himself to the austerities of war. His vigilance was such, that he divided the night into three or four parts, of which the least was dedicated to sleep; the rest was spent either in visiting the state of his army and guards in person, or in study; for amongst other rare qualities, he was very excellent in all sorts of learning. ‘Tis said of Alexander the Great, that being in bed, for fear lest sleep should divert him from his thoughts and studies, he had always a basin set by his bedside, and held one of his hands out with a ball of copper in it, to the end, that, beginning to fall asleep, and his fingers leaving their hold, the ball by falling into the basin, might awake him. But the other had his soul so bent upon what he had a mind to do, and so little disturbed with fumes by reason of his singular abstinence, that he had no need of any such invention. As to his military experience, he was excellent in all the qualities of a great captain, as it was likely he should, being almost all his life in a continual exercise of war, and most of that time with us in France, against the Germans and Franks: we hardly read of any man who ever saw more dangers, or who made more frequent proofs of his personal valour.

His death has something in it parallel with that of Epaminondas, for he was wounded with an arrow, and tried to pull it out, and had done so, but that, being edged, it cut and disabled his hand. He incessantly called out that they should carry him again into the heat of the battle, to encourage his soldiers, who very bravely disputed the fight without him, till night parted the armies. He stood obliged to his philosophy for the singular contempt he had for his life and all human things. He had a firm belief of the immortality of souls.

In matter of religion he was wrong throughout, and was surnamed the Apostate for having relinquished ours: nevertheless, the opinion seems to me more probable, that he had never thoroughly embraced it, but had dissembled out of obedience to the laws, till he came to the empire. He was in his own so superstitious, that he was laughed at for it by those of his own time, of the same opinion, who jeeringly said, that had he got the victory over the Parthians, he had destroyed the breed of oxen in the world to supply his sacrifices. He was, moreover, besotted with the art of divination, and gave authority to all sorts of predictions. He said, amongst other things at his death, that he was obliged to the gods, and thanked them, in that they would not cut him off by surprise, having long before advertised him of the place and hour of his death, nor by a mean and unmanly death, more becoming lazy and delicate people; nor by a death that was languishing, long, and painful; and that they had thought him worthy to die after that noble manner, in the progress of his victories, in the flower of his glory. He had a vision like that of Marcus Brutus, that first threatened him in Gaul, and afterward appeared to him in Persia just before his death. These words that some make him say when he felt himself wounded: “Thou hast overcome, Nazarene”; or as others, “Content thyself, Nazarene”; would hardly have been omitted, had they been believed, by my witnesses, who, being present in the army, have set down to the least motions and words of his end; no more than certain other miracles that are reported about it.

And to return to my subject, he long nourished, says Marcellinus, paganism in his heart; but all his army being Christians, he durst not own it. But in the end, seeing himself strong enough to dare to discover himself, he caused the temples of the gods to be thrown open, and did his uttermost to set on foot and to encourage idolatry. Which the better to effect, having at Constantinople found the people disunited, and also the prelates of the church divided amongst themselves, having convened them all before him, he earnestly admonished them to calm those civil dissensions, and that every one might freely, and without fear, follow his own religion. Which he the more sedulously solicited, in hope that this licence would augment the schisms and factions of their division, and hinder the people from reuniting, and consequently fortifying themselves against him by their unanimous intelligence and concord; having experienced by the cruelty of some Christians, that there is no beast in the world so much to be feared by man as man; these are very nearly his words.

Wherein this is very worthy of consideration, that the Emperor Julian made use of the same receipt of liberty of conscience to inflame the civil dissensions that our kings do to extinguish them. So that a man may say on one side, that to give the people the reins to entertain every man his own opinion, is to scatter and sow division, and, as it were, to lend a hand to augment it, there being no legal impediment or restraint to stop or hinder their career; but, on the other side, a man may also say, that to give the people the reins to entertain every man his own opinion, is to mollify and appease them by facility and toleration, and to dull the point which is whetted and made sharper by singularity, novelty, and difficulty: and I think it is better for the honour of the devotion of our kings, that not having been able to do what they would, they have made a show of being willing to do what they could.


The feebleness of our condition is such that things cannot, in their natural simplicity and purity, fall into our use; the elements that we enjoy are changed, and so ‘tis with metals; and gold must be debased with some other matter to fit it for our service. Neither has virtue, so simple as that which Aristo, Pyrrho, and also the Stoics, made the end of life; nor the Cyrenaic and Aristippic pleasure, been without mixture useful to it. Of the pleasure and goods that we enjoy, there is not one exempt from some mixture of ill and inconvenience:

“Medio de fonte leporum,
Surgit amari aliquid, quod in ipsis fioribus angat.”

[“From the very fountain of our pleasure, something rises that is
bitter, which even in flowers destroys.”—Lucretius, iv. 1130.]

Our extremest pleasure has some sort of groaning and complaining in it; would you not say that it is dying of pain? Nay, when we frame the image of it in its full excellence, we stuff it with sickly and painful epithets and qualities, languor, softness, feebleness, faintness, ‘morbidezza’: a great testimony of their consanguinity and consubstantiality. The most profound joy has more of severity than gaiety, in it. The highest and fullest contentment offers more of the grave than of the merry:

“Ipsa felicitas, se nisi temperat, premit.”

[“Even felicity, unless it moderate itself, oppresses?”
—Seneca, Ep. 74.]

Pleasure chews and grinds us; according to the old Greek verse, which says that the gods sell us all the goods they give us; that is to say, that they give us nothing pure and perfect, and that we do not purchase but at the price of some evil.

Labour and pleasure, very unlike in nature, associate, nevertheless, by I know not what natural conjunction. Socrates says, that some god tried to mix in one mass and to confound pain and pleasure, but not being able to do it; he bethought him at least to couple them by the tail. Metrodorus said, that in sorrow there is some mixture of pleasure. I know not whether or no he intended anything else by that saying; but for my part, I am of opinion that there is design, consent, and complacency in giving a man’s self up to melancholy. I say, that besides ambition, which may also have a stroke in the business, there is some shadow of delight and delicacy which smiles upon and flatters us even in the very lap of melancholy. Are there not some constitutions that feed upon it?

“Est quaedam flere voluptas;”

[“‘Tis a certain kind of pleasure to weep.”
—Ovid, Trist., iv. 3, 27.]

and one Attalus in Seneca says, that the memory of our lost friends is as grateful to us, as bitterness in wine, when too old, is to the palate:

“Minister vetuli, puer, Falerni
Inger’ mi calices amariores”—

[“Boy, when you pour out old Falernian wine, the bitterest put
into my bowl.”—Catullus, xxvii. I.]

and as apples that have a sweet tartness.

Nature discovers this confusion to us; painters hold that the same motions and grimaces of the face that serve for weeping; serve for laughter too; and indeed, before the one or the other be finished, do but observe the painter’s manner of handling, and you will be in doubt to which of the two the design tends; and the extreme of laughter does at last bring tears:

“Nullum sine auctoramento malum est.”

[“No evil is without its compensation.”—Seneca, Ep., 69.]

When I imagine man abounding with all the conveniences that are to be desired (let us put the case that all his members were always seized with a pleasure like that of generation, in its most excessive height) I feel him melting under the weight of his delight, and see him utterly unable to support so pure, so continual, and so universal a pleasure. Indeed, he is running away whilst he is there, and naturally makes haste to escape, as from a place where he cannot stand firm, and where he is afraid of sinking.

When I religiously confess myself to myself, I find that the best virtue I have has in it some tincture of vice; and I am afraid that Plato, in his purest virtue (I, who am as sincere and loyal a lover of virtue of that stamp as any other whatever), if he had listened and laid his ear close to himself and he did so no doubt—would have heard some jarring note of human mixture, but faint and only perceptible to himself. Man is wholly and throughout but patch and motley. Even the laws of justice themselves cannot subsist without mixture of injustice; insomuch that Plato says, they undertake to cut off the hydra’s head, who pretend to clear the law of all inconveniences:

“Omne magnum exemplum habet aliquid ex iniquo,
quod contra singulos utilitate publics rependitur,”

[“Every great example has in it some mixture of injustice, which
recompenses the wrong done to particular men by the public utility.”
—Annals, xiv. 44.]

says Tacitus.

It is likewise true, that for the use of life and the service of public commerce, there may be some excesses in the purity and perspicacity of our minds; that penetrating light has in it too much of subtlety and curiosity: we must a little stupefy and blunt them to render them more obedient to example and practice, and a little veil and obscure them, the better to proportion them to this dark and earthly life. And therefore common and less speculative souls are found to be more proper for and more successful in the management of affairs, and the elevated and exquisite opinions of philosophy unfit for business. This sharp vivacity of soul, and the supple and restless volubility attending it, disturb our negotiations. We are to manage human enterprises more superficially and roughly, and leave a great part to fortune; it is not necessary to examine affairs with so much subtlety and so deep: a man loses himself in the consideration of many contrary lustres, and so many various forms:

“Volutantibus res inter se pugnantes, obtorpuerunt.... animi.”

[“Whilst they considered of things so indifferent in themselves,
they were astonished, and knew not what to do.”—Livy, xxxii. 20.]

‘Tis what the ancients say of Simonides, that by reason his imagination suggested to him, upon the question King Hiero had put to him—[What God was.—Cicero, De Nat. Deor., i. 22.]—(to answer which he had had many days for thought), several sharp and subtle considerations, whilst he doubted which was the most likely, he totally despaired of the truth.

He who dives into and in his inquisition comprehends all circumstances and consequences, hinders his election: a little engine well handled is sufficient for executions, whether of less or greater weight. The best managers are those who can worst give account how they are so; while the greatest talkers, for the most part, do nothing to purpose; I know one of this sort of men, and a most excellent discourser upon all sorts of good husbandry, who has miserably let a hundred thousand livres yearly revenue slip through his hands; I know another who talks, who better advises than any man of his counsel, and there is not in the world a fairer show of soul and understanding than he has; nevertheless, when he comes to the test, his servants find him quite another thing; not to make any mention of his misfortunes.


The Emperor Vespasian, being sick of the disease whereof he died, did not for all that neglect to inquire after the state of the empire, and even in bed continually despatched very many affairs of great consequence; for which, being reproved by his physician, as a thing prejudicial to his health, “An emperor,” said he, “must die standing.” A fine saying, in my opinion, and worthy a great prince. The Emperor Adrian since made use of the same words, and kings should be often put in mind of them, to make them know that the great office conferred upon them of the command of so many men, is not an employment of ease; and that there is nothing can so justly disgust a subject, and make him unwilling to expose himself to labour and danger for the service of his prince, than to see him, in the meantime, devoted to his ease and frivolous amusement, and to be solicitous of his prese