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Essays of
Michel de Montaigne

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CHAPTER XLI——NOT TO COMMUNICATE A MAN’S HONOUR

Of all the follies of the world, that which is most universally received is the solicitude of reputation and glory; which we are fond of to that degree as to abandon riches, peace, life, and health, which are effectual and substantial goods, to pursue this vain phantom and empty word, that has neither body nor hold to be taken of it:

               La fama, ch’invaghisce a un dolce suono
               Gli superbi mortali, et par si bella,
               E un eco, un sogno, anzi d’un sogno un’ombra,
               Ch’ad ogni vento si dilegua a sgombra.”

     [“Fame, which with alluring sound charms proud mortals, and appears
     so fair, is but an echo, a dream, nay, the shadow of a dream, which
     at every breath vanishes and dissolves.”
      —Tasso, Gerus., xiv. 63.]

And of all the irrational humours of men, it should seem that the philosophers themselves are among the last and the most reluctant to disengage themselves from this: ‘tis the most restive and obstinate of all:

         “Quia etiam bene proficientes animos tentare non cessat.”

     [“Because it ceases not to assail even well-directed minds”
      —St. Augustin, De Civit. Dei, v. 14.]

There is not any one of which reason so clearly accuses the vanity; but it is so deeply rooted in us that I dare not determine whether any one ever clearly discharged himself from it or no. After you have said all and believed all has been said to its prejudice, it produces so intestine an inclination in opposition to your best arguments that you have little power to resist it; for, as Cicero says, even those who most controvert it, would yet that the books they write about it should visit the light under their own names, and seek to derive glory from seeming to despise it. All other things are communicable and fall into commerce: we lend our goods and stake our lives for the necessity and service of our friends; but to communicate a man’s honour, and to robe another with a man’s own glory, is very rarely seen.

And yet we have some examples of that kind. Catulus Luctatius in the Cimbrian war, having done all that in him lay to make his flying soldiers face about upon the enemy, ran himself at last away with the rest, and counterfeited the coward, to the end his men might rather seem to follow their captain than to fly from the enemy; which was to abandon his own reputation in order to cover the shame of others. When Charles V. came into Provence in the year 1537, ‘tis said that Antonio de Leva, seeing the emperor positively resolved upon this expedition, and believing it would redound very much to his honour, did, nevertheless, very stiffly oppose it in the council, to the end that the entire glory of that resolution should be attributed to his master, and that it might be said his own wisdom and foresight had been such as that, contrary to the opinion of all, he had brought about so great an enterprise; which was to do him honour at his own expense. The Thracian ambassadors coming to comfort Archileonida, the mother of Brasidas, upon the death of her son, and commending him to that height as to say he had not left his like behind him, she rejected this private and particular commendation to attribute it to the public: “Tell me not that,” said she; “I know the city of Sparta has many citizens both greater and of greater worth than he.” In the battle of Crecy, the Prince of Wales, being then very young, had the vanguard committed to him: the main stress of the battle happened to be in that place, which made the lords who were with him, finding themselves overmatched, send to King Edward to advance to their relief. He inquired of the condition his son was in, and being answered that he was alive and on horseback: “I should, then, do him wrong,” said the king, “now to go and deprive him of the honour of winning this battle he has so long and so bravely sustained; what hazard soever he runs, that shall be entirely his own”; and, accordingly, would neither go nor send, knowing that if he went, it would be said all had been lost without his succour, and that the honour of the victory would be wholly attributed to him.

              “Semper enim quod postremum adjectum est,
               id rem totam videtur traxisse.”

     [“For always that which is last added, seems to have accomplished
     the whole affair.”—Livy, xxvii. 45.]

Many at Rome thought, and would usually say, that the greatest of Scipio’s acts were in part due to Laelius, whose constant practice it was still to advance and support Scipio’s grandeur and renown, without any care of his own. And Theopompus, king of Sparta, to him who told him the republic could not miscarry since he knew so well how to command, “Tis rather,” answered he, “because the people know so well how to obey.” As women succeeding to peerages had, notwithstanding their sex, the privilege to attend and give their votes in the trials that appertained to the jurisdiction of peers; so the ecclesiastical peers, notwithstanding their profession, were obliged to attend our kings in their wars, not only with their friends and servants, but in their own persons. As the Bishop of Beauvais did, who being with Philip Augustus at the battle of Bouvines, had a notable share in that action; but he did not think it fit for him to participate in the fruit and glory of that violent and bloody trade. He with his own hand reduced several of the enemy that day to his mercy, whom he delivered to the first gentleman he met either to kill or receive them to quarter, referring the whole execution to this other hand; and he did this with regard to William, Earl of Salisbury, whom he gave up to Messire Jehan de Nesle. With a like subtlety of conscience to that I have just named, he would kill but not wound, and for that reason ever fought with a mace. And a certain person of my time, being reproached by the king that he had laid hands on a priest, stiffly and positively denied he had done any such thing: the meaning of which was, he had cudgelled and kicked him.






CHAPTER XLII——OF THE INEQUALITY AMOUNGST US.

Plutarch says somewhere that he does not find so great a difference betwixt beast and beast as he does betwixt man and man; which he says in reference to the internal qualities and perfections of the soul. And, in truth, I find so vast a distance betwixt Epaminondas, according to my judgment of him, and some that I know, who are yet men of good sense, that I could willingly enhance upon Plutarch, and say that there is more difference betwixt such and such a man than there is betwixt such a man and such a beast:

          [“Ah! how much may one man surpass another!”
           —Terence, Eunuchus, ii. 2.]

and that there are as many and innumerable degrees of mind as there are cubits betwixt this and heaven. But as touching the estimate of men, ‘tis strange that, ourselves excepted, no other creature is esteemed beyond its proper qualities; we commend a horse for his strength and sureness of foot,

                              “Volucrem
               Sic laudamus equum, facili cui plurima palma
               Fervet, et exsultat rauco victoria circo,”

     [“So we praise the swift horse, for whose easy mastery many a hand
     glows in applause, and victory exults in the hoarse circus.
     —“Juvenal, viii. 57.]

and not for his rich caparison; a greyhound for his speed of heels, not for his fine collar; a hawk for her wing, not for her gesses and bells. Why, in like manner, do we not value a man for what is properly his own? He has a great train, a beautiful palace, so much credit, so many thousand pounds a year: all these are about him, but not in him. You will not buy a pig in a poke: if you cheapen a horse, you will see him stripped of his housing-cloths, you will see him naked and open to your eye; or if he be clothed, as they anciently were wont to present them to princes to sell, ‘tis only on the less important parts, that you may not so much consider the beauty of his colour or the breadth of his crupper, as principally to examine his legs, eyes, and feet, which are the members of greatest use:

         “Regibus hic mos est: ubi equos mercantur, opertos
          Inspiciunt; ne, si facies, ut saepe, decora
          Molli fulta pede est, emptorem inducat hiantem”

     [“This is the custom of kings: when they buy horses, they have open
     inspection, lest, if a fair head, as often chances, is supported by
     a weak foot, it should tempt the gaping purchaser.”
      —Horace, Sat., i. 2, 86.]

why, in giving your estimate of a man, do you prize him wrapped and muffled up in clothes? He then discovers nothing to you but such parts as are not in the least his own, and conceals those by which alone one may rightly judge of his value. ‘Tis the price of the blade that you inquire into, not of the scabbard: you would not peradventure bid a farthing for him, if you saw him stripped. You are to judge him by himself and not by what he wears; and, as one of the ancients very pleasantly said: “Do you know why you repute him tall? You reckon withal the height of his pattens.”—[Seneca, Ep. 76.]—The pedestal is no part of the statue. Measure him without his stilts; let him lay aside his revenues and his titles; let him present himself in his shirt. Then examine if his body be sound and sprightly, active and disposed to perform its functions. What soul has he? Is she beautiful, capable, and happily provided of all her faculties? Is she rich of what is her own, or of what she has borrowed? Has fortune no hand in the affair? Can she, without winking, stand the lightning of swords? is she indifferent whether her life expire by the mouth or through the throat? Is she settled, even and content? This is what is to be examined, and by that you are to judge of the vast differences betwixt man and man. Is he:

          “Sapiens, sibique imperiosus,
          Quern neque pauperies, neque mors, neque vincula terrent;
          Responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores
          Fortis; et in seipso totus teres atque rotundus,
          Externi ne quid valeat per laeve morari;
          In quem manca ruit semper fortuna?”
 
     [“The wise man, self-governed, whom neither poverty, nor death,
     nor chains affright: who has the strength to resist his appetites
     and to contemn honours: who is wholly self-contained: whom no
     external objects affect: whom fortune assails in vain.”
      —Horace, Sat., ii. 7,]

such a man is five hundred cubits above kingdoms and duchies; he is an absolute monarch in and to himself:

          “Sapiens, .  .  .  Pol!  ipse fingit fortunam sibi;”

          [“The wise man is the master of his own fortune,”
           —Plautus, Trin., ii. 2, 84.]

what remains for him to covet or desire?

                         “Nonne videmus,
          Nil aliud sibi naturam latrare, nisi ut, quoi
          Corpore sejunctus dolor absit, mente fruatur,
          Jucundo sensu, cura semotu’ metuque?”

     [“Do we not see that human nature asks no more for itself than
     that, free from bodily pain, it may exercise its mind agreeably,
     exempt from care and fear.”—Lucretius, ii. 16.]

Compare with such a one the common rabble of mankind, stupid and mean-spirited, servile, instable, and continually floating with the tempest of various passions, that tosses and tumbles them to and fro, and all depending upon others, and you will find a greater distance than betwixt heaven and earth; and yet the blindness of common usage is such that we make little or no account of it; whereas if we consider a peasant and a king, a nobleman and a vassal, a magistrate and a private man, a rich man and a poor, there appears a vast disparity, though they differ no more, as a man may say, than in their breeches.

In Thrace the king was distinguished from his people after a very pleasant and especial manner; he had a religion by himself, a god all his own, and which his subjects were not to presume to adore, which was Mercury, whilst, on the other hand, he disdained to have anything to do with theirs, Mars, Bacchus, and Diana. And yet they are no other than pictures that make no essential dissimilitude; for as you see actors in a play representing the person of a duke or an emperor upon the stage, and immediately after return to their true and original condition of valets and porters, so the emperor, whose pomp and lustre so dazzle you in public:

               “Scilicet grandes viridi cum luce smaragdi
               Auto includuntur, teriturque thalassina vestis
               Assidue, et Veneris sudorem exercita potat;”

     [“Because he wears great emeralds richly set in gold, darting green
     lustre; and the sea-blue silken robe, worn with pressure, and moist
     with illicit love (and absorbs the sweat of Venus).”
      —Lucretius, iv. 1123.]

do but peep behind the curtain, and you will see no thing more than an ordinary man, and peradventure more contemptible than the meanest of his subjects:

     “Ille beatus introrsum est, istius bracteata felicitas est;”

     [“The one is happy in himself; the happiness of the other is
     counterfeit.”—Seneca, Ep., 115.]

cowardice, irresolution, ambition, spite, and envy agitate him as much as another:

              “Non enim gazae, neque consularis
               Submovet lictor miseros tumultus
               Mentis, et curas laqueata circum
               Tecta volantes.”

     [“For not treasures, nor the consular lictor, can remove the
     miserable tumults of the mind, nor cares that fly about panelled
     ceilings.”—Horace, Od., ii. 16, 9.]

Care and fear attack him even in the centre of his battalions:

               “Re veraque metus hominum curaeque sequaces
               Nec metuunt sonitus armorum, nee fera tela;
               Audacterque inter reges, rerumque potentes
               Versantur, neque fulgorem reverentur ab auro.”

     [“And in truth the fears and haunting cares of men fear not the
     clash of arms nor points of darts, and mingle boldly with great
     kings and men in authority, nor respect the glitter of gold.”
      —Lucretius, ii. 47.]

Do fevers, gout, and apoplexies spare him any more than one of us? When old age hangs heavy upon his shoulders, can the yeomen of his guard ease him of the burden? When he is astounded with the apprehension of death, can the gentlemen of his bedchamber comfort and assure him? When jealousy or any other caprice swims in his brain, can our compliments and ceremonies restore him to his good-humour? The canopy embroidered with pearl and gold he lies under has no virtue against a violent fit of the colic:

               “Nee calidae citius decedunt corpore febres
               Textilibus si in picturis, ostroque rubenti
               Jactaris, quam si plebeia in veste cubandum est.”

     [“Nor do burning fevers quit you sooner if you are stretched on a
     couch of rich tapestry and in a vest of purple dye, than if you be
     in a coarse blanket.”—Idem, ii. 34.]

The flatterers of Alexander the Great possessed him that he was the son of Jupiter; but being one day wounded, and observing the blood stream from his wound: “What say you now, my masters,” said he, “is not this blood of a crimson colour and purely human? This is not of the complexion of that which Homer makes to issue from the wounded gods.” The poet Hermodorus had written a poem in honour of Antigonus, wherein he called him the son of the sun: “He who has the emptying of my close-stool,” said Antigonus, “knows to the contrary.” He is but a man at best, and if he be deformed or ill-qualified from his birth, the empire of the universe cannot set him to rights:

                                   “Puellae
          Hunc rapiant; quidquid calcaverit hic, rosa fiat,”

     [“Let girls carry him off; wherever he steps let there spring up a
     rose!”—Persius, Sat., ii. 38.]

what of all that, if he be a fool? even pleasure and good fortune are not relished without vigour and understanding:

          “Haec perinde sunt, ut ilius animus; qui ea possidet
          Qui uti scit, ei bona; illi, qui non uritur recte, mala.”

     [“Things are, as is the mind of their possessor; who knows how to
     use them, to him they are good; to him who abuses them, ill.”
      —Terence, Heart., i.  3, 21.]

Whatever the benefits of fortune are, they yet require a palate to relish them. ‘Tis fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy:

     [“‘Tis not lands, or a heap of brass and gold, that has removed
     fevers from the ailing body of the owner, or cares from his mind.
     The possessor must be healthy, if he thinks to make good use of his
     realised wealth.  To him who is covetous or timorous his house and
     estate are as a picture to a blind man, or a fomentation to a
     gouty.”—Horace, Ep., i. 2, 47.]

He is a sot, his taste is palled and flat; he no more enjoys what he has than one that has a cold relishes the flavour of canary, or than a horse is sensible of his rich caparison. Plato is in the right when he tells us that health, beauty, vigour, and riches, and all the other things called goods, are equally evil to the unjust as good to the just, and the evil on the contrary the same. And therefore where the body and the mind are in disorder, to what use serve these external conveniences: considering that the least prick with a pin, or the least passion of the soul, is sufficient to deprive one of the pleasure of being sole monarch of the world. At the first twitch of the gout it signifies much to be called Sir and Your Majesty!

               “Totus et argento conflatus, totus et auro;”

     [“Wholly made up of silver and gold.”—Tibullus, i. 2, 70.]

does he not forget his palaces and girandeurs? If he be angry, can his being a prince keep him from looking red and looking pale, and grinding his teeth like a madman? Now, if he be a man of parts and of right nature, royalty adds very little to his happiness;

          “Si ventri bene, si lateri est, pedibusque tuffs, nil
          Divitix poterunt regales addere majus;”

     [“If it is well with thy belly, thy side and thy feet, regal wealth
     will be able to add nothing.”—Horace, Ep., i. 12, 5.]

he discerns ‘tis nothing but counterfeit and gullery. Nay, perhaps he would be of King Seleucus’ opinion, that he who knew the weight of a sceptre would not stoop to pick it up, if he saw it lying before him, so great and painful are the duties incumbent upon a good king.—[Plutarch, If a Sage should Meddle with Affairs of Stale, c. 12.]—Assuredly it can be no easy task to rule others, when we find it so hard a matter to govern ourselves; and as to dominion, that seems so charming, the frailty of human judgment and the difficulty of choice in things that are new and doubtful considered, I am very much of opinion that it is far more easy and pleasant to follow than to lead; and that it is a great settlement and satisfaction of mind to have only one path to walk in, and to have none to answer for but a man’s self;

               “Ut satius multo jam sit parere quietum,
               Quam regere imperio res velle.”

     [“‘Tis much better quietly to obey than wish to rule.”
      —Lucretius, V, 1126.]

To which we may add that saying of Cyrus, that no man was fit to rule but he who in his own worth was of greater value than those he was to govern; but King Hiero in Xenophon says further, that in the fruition even of pleasure itself they are in a worse condition than private men; forasmuch as the opportunities and facility they have of commanding those things at will takes off from the delight that ordinary folks enjoy:

          “Pinguis amor, nimiumque patens, in taedia nobis
          Vertitur, et, stomacho dulcis ut esca, nocet.”

     [“Love in excess and too palpable turns to weariness, and, like
     sweetmeats to the stomach, is injurious.”—Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 25.]

Can we think that the singing boys of the choir take any great delight in music? the satiety rather renders it troublesome and tedious to them. Feasts, balls, masquerades and tiltings delight such as but rarely see, and desire to see, them; but having been frequently at such entertainments, the relish of them grows flat and insipid. Nor do women so much delight those who make a common practice of the sport. He who will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true pleasure of drinking. Farces and tumbling tricks are pleasant to the spectators, but a wearisome toil to those by whom they are performed. And that this is so, we see that princes divert themselves sometimes in disguising their quality, awhile to depose themselves, and to stoop to the poor and ordinary way of living of the meanest of their people.

              “Plerumque gratae divitibus vices
               Mundaeque parvo sub lare pauperum
               Coenae, sine aulaeis et ostro,
               Soliicitam explicuere frontem.”

     [“The rich are often pleased with variety; and the plain supper in a
     poor cottage, without tapestry and purple, has relaxed the anxious
     brow.”—Horace, Od., iii.  29, 13.]

Nothing is so distasteful and clogging as abundance. What appetite would not be baffled to see three hundred women at its mercy, as the grand signor has in his seraglio? And, of his ancestors what fruition or taste of sport did he reserve to himself, who never went hawking without seven thousand falconers? And besides all this, I fancy that this lustre of grandeur brings with it no little disturbance and uneasiness upon the enjoyment of the most tempting pleasures; the great are too conspicuous and lie too open to every one’s view. Neither do I know to what end a man should more require of them to conceal their errors, since what is only reputed indiscretion in us, the people in them brand with the names of tyranny and contempt of the laws, and, besides their proclivity to vice, are apt to hold that it is a heightening of pleasure to them, to insult over and to trample upon public observances. Plato, indeed, in his Goygias, defines a tyrant to be one who in a city has licence to do whatever his own will leads him to do; and by reason of this impunity, the display and publication of their vices do ofttimes more mischief than the vice itself. Every one fears to be pried into and overlooked; but princes are so, even to their very gestures, looks and thoughts, the people conceiving they have right and title to be judges of them besides that the blemishes of the great naturally appear greater by reason of the eminence and lustre of the place where they are seated, and that a mole or a wart appears greater in them than a wide gash in others. And this is the reason why the poets feign the amours of Jupiter to be performed in the disguises of so many borrowed shapes, and that amongst the many amorous practices they lay to his charge, there is only one, as I remember, where he appears in his own majesty and grandeur.

But let us return to Hiero, who further complains of the inconveniences he found in his royalty, in that he could not look abroad and travel the world at liberty, being as it were a prisoner in the bounds and limits of his own dominion, and that in all his actions he was evermore surrounded with an importunate crowd. And in truth, to see our kings sit all alone at table, environed with so many people prating about them, and so many strangers staring upon them, as they always are, I have often been moved rather to pity than to envy their condition. King Alfonso was wont to say, that in this asses were in a better condition than kings, their masters permitting them to feed at their own ease and pleasure, a favour that kings cannot obtain of their servants. And it has never come into my fancy that it could be of any great benefit to the life of a man of sense to have twenty people prating about him when he is at stool; or that the services of a man of ten thousand livres a year, or that has taken Casale or defended Siena, should be either more commodious or more acceptable to him, than those of a good groom of the chamber who understands his place. The advantages of sovereignty are in a manner but imaginary: every degree of fortune has in it some image of principality. Caesar calls all the lords of France, having free franchise within their own demesnes, roitelets or petty kings; and in truth, the name of sire excepted, they go pretty far towards kingship; for do but look into the provinces remote from court, as Brittany for example; take notice of the train, the vassals, the officers, the employments, service, ceremony, and state of a lord who lives retired from court in his own house, amongst his own tenants and servants; and observe withal the flight of his imagination; there is nothing more royal; he hears talk of his master once a year, as of a king of Persia, without taking any further recognition of him, than by some remote kindred his secretary keeps in some register. And, to speak the truth, our laws are easy enough, so easy that a gentleman of France scarce feels the weight of sovereignty pinch his shoulders above twice in his life. Real and effectual subjection only concerns such amongst us as voluntarily thrust their necks under the yoke, and who design to get wealth and honours by such services: for a man that loves his own fireside, and can govern his house without falling by the ears with his neighbours or engaging in suits of law, is as free as a Duke of Venice.

               “Paucos servitus, plures servitutem tenent.”

          [“Servitude enchains few, but many enchain themselves to
          servitude.”—Seneca, Ep., 22.]

But that which Hiero is most concerned at is, that he finds himself stripped of all friendship, deprived of all mutual society, wherein the true and most perfect fruition of human life consists. For what testimony of affection and goodwill can I extract from him that owes me, whether he will or no, all that he is able to do? Can I form any assurance of his real respect to me, from his humble way of speaking and submissive behaviour, when these are ceremonies it is not in his choice to deny? The honour we receive from those that fear us is not honour; those respects are due to royalty and not to me:

               “Maximum hoc regni bonum est
               Quod facta domini cogitur populus sui
               Quam ferre, tam laudare.”

     [“‘Tis the greatest benefit of a kingdom that the people is forced
     to commend, as well as to bear the acts of the ruler.”
      —Seneca, Thyestes, ii.  i, 30.]

Do I not see that the wicked and the good king, he that is hated and he that is beloved, have the one as much reverence paid him as the other? My predecessor was, and my successor shall be, served with the same ceremony and state. If my subjects do me no harm, ‘tis no evidence of any good affection; why should I look upon it as such, seeing it is not in their power to do it if they would? No one follows me or obeys my commands upon the account of any friendship, betwixt him and me; there can be no contracting of friendship where there is so little relation and correspondence: my own height has put me out of the familiarity of and intelligence with men; there is too great disparity and disproportion betwixt us. They follow me either upon the account of decency and custom; or rather my fortune, than me, to increase their own. All they say to me or do for me is but outward paint, appearance, their liberty being on all parts restrained by the great power and authority I have over them. I see nothing about me but what is dissembled and disguised.

The Emperor Julian being one day applauded by his courtiers for his exact justice: “I should be proud of these praises,” said he, “did they come from persons that durst condemn or disapprove the contrary, in case I should do it.” All the real advantages of princes are common to them with men of meaner condition (‘tis for the gods to mount winged horses and feed upon ambrosia): they have no other sleep, nor other appetite than we; the steel they arm themselves withal is of no better temper than that we also use; their crowns neither defend them from the rain nor the sun.

Diocletian, who wore a crown so fortunate and revered, resigned it to retire to the felicity of a private life; and some time after the necessity of public affairs requiring that he should reassume his charge, he made answer to those who came to court him to it: “You would not offer,” said he, “to persuade me to this, had you seen the fine order of the trees I have planted in my orchard, and the fair melons I have sown in my garden.”

In Anacharsis’ opinion, the happiest state of government would be where, all other things being equal, precedence should be measured out by the virtues, and repulses by the vices of men.

When King Pyrrhus prepared for his expedition into Italy, his wise counsellor Cyneas, to make him sensible of the vanity of his ambition: “Well, sir,” said he, “to what end do you make all this mighty preparation?”—“To make myself master of Italy,” replied the king. “And what after that is done?” said Cyneas. “I will pass over into Gaul and Spain,” said the other. “And what then?”—“I will then go to subdue Africa; and lastly, when I have brought the whole world to my subjection, I will sit down and rest content at my own ease.”

“For God sake, sir,” replied Cyneas, “tell me what hinders that you may not, if you please, be now in the condition you speak of? Why do you not now at this instant settle yourself in the state you seem to aim at, and spare all the labour and hazard you interpose?”

         “Nimirum, quia non cognovit, qux esset habendi
          Finis, et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas.”

     [“Forsooth because he does not know what should be the limit of
     acquisition, and altogether how far real pleasure should increase.”
      —Lucretius, v. 1431]

I will conclude with an old versicle, that I think very apt to the purpose:

               “Mores cuique sui fingunt fortunam.”

               [“Every man frames his own fortune.”
                —Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus]





CHAPTER XLIII——OF SUMPTUARY LAWS

The way by which our laws attempt to regulate idle and vain expenses in meat and clothes, seems to be quite contrary to the end designed. The true way would be to beget in men a contempt of silks and gold, as vain, frivolous, and useless; whereas we augment to them the honours, and enhance the value of such things, which, sure, is a very improper way to create a disgust. For to enact that none but princes shall eat turbot, shall wear velvet or gold lace, and interdict these things to the people, what is it but to bring them into a greater esteem, and to set every one more agog to eat and wear them? Let kings leave off these ensigns of grandeur; they have others enough besides; those excesses are more excusable in any other than a prince. We may learn by the example of several nations better ways of exterior distinction of quality (which, truly, I conceive to be very requisite in a state) enough, without fostering to this purpose such corruption and manifest inconvenience. ‘Tis strange how suddenly and with how much ease custom in these indifferent things establishes itself and becomes authority. We had scarce worn cloth a year, in compliance with the court, for the mourning of Henry II., but that silks were already grown into such contempt with every one, that a man so clad was presently concluded a citizen: silks were divided betwixt the physicians and surgeons, and though all other people almost went in the same habit, there was, notwithstanding, in one thing or other, sufficient distinction of the several conditions of men. How suddenly do greasy chamois and linen doublets become the fashion in our armies, whilst all neatness and richness of habit fall into contempt? Let kings but lead the dance and begin to leave off this expense, and in a month the business will be done throughout the kingdom, without edict or ordinance; we shall all follow. It should be rather proclaimed, on the contrary, that no one should wear scarlet or goldsmiths’ work but courtesans and tumblers.

Zeleucus by the like invention reclaimed the corrupted manners of the Locrians. His laws were, that no free woman should be allowed any more than one maid to follow her, unless she was drunk: nor was to stir out of the city by night, wear jewels of gold about her, or go in an embroidered robe, unless she was a professed and public prostitute; that, bravos excepted, no man was to wear a gold ring, nor be seen in one of those effeminate robes woven in the city of Miletus. By which infamous exceptions he discreetly diverted his citizens from superfluities and pernicious pleasures, and it was a project of great utility to attract then by honour and ambition to their duty and obedience.

Our kings can do what they please in such external reformations; their own inclination stands in this case for a law:

          “Quicquid principes faciunt, praecipere videntur.”

     [“What princes themselves do, they seem to prescribe.”
      —Quintil., Declam., 3.]

Whatever is done at court passes for a rule through the rest of France. Let the courtiers fall out with these abominable breeches, that discover so much of those parts should be concealed; these great bellied doublets, that make us look like I know not what, and are so unfit to admit of arms; these long effeminate locks of hair; this foolish custom of kissing what we present to our equals, and our hands in saluting them, a ceremony in former times only due to princes. Let them not permit that a gentleman shall appear in place of respect without his sword, unbuttoned and untrussed, as though he came from the house of office; and that, contrary to the custom of our forefathers and the particular privilege of the nobles of this kingdom, we stand a long time bare to them in what place soever, and the same to a hundred others, so many tiercelets and quartelets of kings we have got nowadays and other like vicious innovations: they will see them all presently vanish and cried down. These are, ‘tis true, but superficial errors; but they are of ill augury, and enough to inform us that the whole fabric is crazy and tottering, when we see the roughcast of our walls to cleave and split.

Plato in his Laws esteems nothing of more pestiferous consequence to his city than to give young men the liberty of introducing any change in their habits, gestures, dances, songs, and exercises, from one form to another; shifting from this to that, hunting after novelties, and applauding the inventors; by which means manners are corrupted and the old institutions come to be nauseated and despised. In all things, saving only in those that are evil, a change is to be feared; even the change of seasons, winds, viands, and humours. And no laws are in their true credit, but such to which God has given so long a continuance that no one knows their beginning, or that there ever was any other.






CHAPTER XLIV——OF SLEEP

Reason directs that we should always go the same way, but not always at the same pace. And, consequently, though a wise man ought not so much to give the reins to human passions as to let him deviate from the right path, he may, notwithstanding, without prejudice to his duty, leave it to them to hasten or to slacken his speed, and not fix himself like a motionless and insensible Colossus. Could virtue itself put on flesh and blood, I believe the pulse would beat faster going on to assault than in going to dinner: that is to say, there is a necessity she should heat and be moved upon this account. I have taken notice, as of an extraordinary thing, of some great men, who in the highest enterprises and most important affairs have kept themselves in so settled and serene a calm, as not at all to break their sleep. Alexander the Great, on the day assigned for that furious battle betwixt him and Darius, slept so profoundly and so long in the morning, that Parmenio was forced to enter his chamber, and coming to his bedside, to call him several times by his name, the time to go to fight compelling him so to do. The Emperor Otho, having put on a resolution to kill himself that night, after having settled his domestic affairs, divided his money amongst his servants, and set a good edge upon a sword he had made choice of for the purpose, and now staying only to be satisfied whether all his friends had retired in safety, he fell into so sound a sleep that the gentlemen of his chamber heard him snore. The death of this emperor has in it circumstances paralleling that of the great Cato, and particularly this just related for Cato being ready to despatch himself, whilst he only stayed his hand in expectation of the return of a messenger he had sent to bring him news whether the senators he had sent away were put out from the Port of Utica, he fell into so sound a sleep, that they heard him snore in the next room; and the man, whom he had sent to the port, having awakened him to let him know that the tempestuous weather had hindered the senators from putting to sea, he despatched away another messenger, and composing again himself in the bed, settled to sleep, and slept till by the return of the last messenger he had certain intelligence they were gone. We may here further compare him with Alexander in the great and dangerous storm that threatened him by the sedition of the tribune Metellus, who, attempting to publish a decree for the calling in of Pompey with his army into the city at the time of Catiline’s conspiracy, was only and that stoutly opposed by Cato, so that very sharp language and bitter menaces passed betwixt them in the senate about that affair; but it was the next day, in the forenoon, that the controversy was to be decided, where Metellus, besides the favour of the people and of Caesar—at that time of Pompey’s faction—was to appear accompanied with a rabble of slaves and gladiators; and Cato only fortified with his own courage and constancy; so that his relations, domestics, and many virtuous people of his friends were in great apprehensions for him; and to that degree, that some there were who passed over the whole night without sleep, eating, or drinking, for the danger they saw him running into; his wife and sisters did nothing but weep and torment themselves in his house; whereas, he, on the contrary, comforted every one, and after having supped after his usual manner, went to bed, and slept profoundly till morning, when one of his fellow-tribunes roused him to go to the encounter. The knowledge we have of the greatness of this man’s courage by the rest of his life, may warrant us certainly to judge that his indifference proceeded from a soul so much elevated above such accidents, that he disdained to let it take any more hold of his fancy than any ordinary incident.

In the naval engagement that Augustus won of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily, just as they were to begin the fight, he was so fast asleep that his friends were compelled to wake him to give the signal of battle: and this was it that gave Mark Antony afterwards occasion to reproach him that he had not the courage so much as with open eyes to behold the order of his own squadrons, and not to have dared to present himself before the soldiers, till first Agrippa had brought him news of the victory obtained. But as to the young Marius, who did much worse (for the day of his last battle against Sylla, after he had marshalled his army and given the word and signal of battle, he laid him down under the shade of a tree to repose himself, and fell so fast asleep that the rout and flight of his men could hardly waken him, he having seen nothing of the fight), he is said to have been at that time so extremely spent and worn out with labour and want of sleep, that nature could hold out no longer. Now, upon what has been said, the physicians may determine whether sleep be so necessary that our lives depend upon it: for we read that King Perseus of Macedon, being prisoner at Rome, was killed by being kept from sleep; but Pliny instances such as have lived long without sleep. Herodotus speaks of nations where the men sleep and wake by half-years, and they who write the life of the sage Epimenides affirm that he slept seven-and-fifty years together.






CHAPTER XLV——OF THE BATTLE OF DREUX

     [December 19, 1562, in which the Catholics, under the command of the
     Duc de Guise and the Constable de Montmorenci, defeated the
     Protestants, commanded by the Prince de Conde.  See Sismondi, Hist.
     des Francais, vol.  xviii., p. 354.]

Our battle of Dreux is remarkable for several extraordinary incidents; but such as have no great kindness for M. de Guise, nor much favour his reputation, are willing to have him thought to blame, and that his making a halt and delaying time with the forces he commanded, whilst the Constable, who was general of the army, was racked through and through with the enemy’s artillery, his battalion routed, and himself taken prisoner, is not to be excused; and that he had much better have run the hazard of charging the enemy in flank, than staying for the advantage of falling in upon the rear, to suffer so great and so important a loss. But, besides what the event demonstrated, he who will consider it without passion or prejudice will easily be induced to confess that the aim and design, not of a captain only, but of every private soldier, ought to regard the victory in general, and that no particular occurrences, how nearly soever they may concern his own interest, should divert him from that pursuit. Philopoemen, in an encounter with Machanidas, having sent before a good strong party of his archers and slingers to begin the skirmish, and these being routed and hotly pursued by the enemy, who, pushing on the fortune of their arms, and in that pursuit passing by the battalion where Philopoemen was, though his soldiers were impatient to fall on, he did not think fit to stir from his post nor to present himself to the enemy to relieve his men, but having suffered these to be chased and cut in pieces before his face, charged in upon the enemy’s foot when he saw them left unprotected by the horse, and notwithstanding that they were Lacedaemonians, yet taking them in the nick, when thinking themselves secure of the victory, they began to disorder their ranks; he did this business with great facility, and then put himself in pursuit of Machanidas. Which case is very like that of Monsieur de Guise.

In that bloody battle betwixt Agesilaus and the Boeotians, which Xenophon, who was present at it, reports to be the sharpest that he had ever seen, Agesilaus waived the advantage that fortune presented him, to let the Boeotian battalions pass by and then to charge them in the rear, how certain soever he might make himself of the victory, judging it would rather be an effect of conduct than valour, to proceed that way; and therefore, to show his prowess, rather chose with a marvellous ardour of courage to charge them in the front; but he was well beaten and well wounded for his pains, and constrained at last to disengage himself, and to take the course he had at first neglected; opening his battalion to give way to this torrent of Boeotians, and they being passed by, taking notice that they marched in disorder, like men who thought themselves out of danger, he pursued and charged them in flank; yet could not so prevail as to bring it to so general a rout but that they leisurely retreated, still facing about upon him till they had retired to safety.