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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Of Repentance
By Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)
 
From the ‘Essays’: Translation of William Carew Hazlitt

OTHERS form man: I only report him; and represent a particular one, ill fashioned enough, and whom, if I had to model him anew, I should certainly make something else than what he is: but that’s past recalling. Now, though the features of my picture alter and change, ’tis not, however, unlike: the world eternally turns round; all things therein are incessantly moving,—the earth, the rocks of Caucasus, and the Pyramids of Egypt, both by the public motion and their own. Even constancy itself is no other but a slower and more languishing motion…. I must accommodate my history to the hour: I may presently change, not only by fortune, but also by intention…. Could my soul once take footing, I would not essay but resolve; but it is always learning and making trial.  1
  I propose a life ordinary and without lustre; ’tis all one: all moral philosophy may as well be applied to a common and private life, as to one of richer composition; every man carries the entire form of human condition. Authors communicate themselves to the people by some especial and extrinsic mark: I, the first of any, by my universal being; as Michel de Montaigne, not as a grammarian, a poet, or a lawyer. If the world find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not so much as think of themselves…. I have this, at least, according to discipline, that never any man treated of a subject he better understood and knew, than I what I have undertaken, and that in this I am the most understanding man alive: secondly, that never any man penetrated farther into his matter, nor better and more distinctly sifted the parts and sequences of it, nor ever more exactly and fully arrived at the end he proposed to himself. To perfect it; I need bring nothing but fidelity to the work; and that is there, and the most pure and sincere that is anywhere to be found. I speak truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare: and I dare a little the more, as I grow older; for methinks custom allows to age more liberty of prating, and more indiscretion of talking of a man’s self…. My book and I go hand in hand together. Elsewhere men may commend or censure the work, without reference to the workman; here they cannot: who touches the one, touches the other…. I shall be happy beyond my desert, if I can obtain only thus much from the public approbation, as to make men of understanding perceive that I was capable of profiting by knowledge, had I had it; and that I deserved to have been assisted by a better memory.  2
  Be pleased here to excuse what I often repeat, that I very rarely repent, and that my conscience is satisfied with itself, not as the conscience of an angel, or that of a horse, but as the conscience of a man; always adding this clause,—not one of ceremony, but a true and real submission,—that I speak inquiring and doubting, purely and simply referring myself to the common and accepted beliefs for the resolution. I do not teach, I only relate.  3
 
 
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