Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
Michel de Montaigne
  Ambition sufficiently plagues her proselytes by keeping them always in show, like the statue of a public place.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  Custom is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress. She, by little and little, slyly and unperceived, slips in the foot of her authority, but having by this gentle and humble beginning, with the benefit of time fixed and established it, she then unmasks a furious and tyrannic countenance, against which we have no more the courage or the power so much as to lift up our eyes.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear, and with good reason; that passion alone in the trouble of it exceeding all other accidents.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  Fortune, to show us her power in all things, and to abate our presumption, seeing she could not make fools wise, she has made them fortunate.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  Many persons after once they become learned cease to be good: all other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of honesty and good-nature.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  The estimate and valour of a man consists in the heart and in the will; there his true honour lies. Valour is stability, not of arms and of legs, but of courage and the soul; it does not lie in the valour of our horse, nor of our arms, but in ourselves. He that falls obstinately in his courage, if his legs fail him, fights upon his knees.
Michel de Montaigne.    
  And indeed the violence and impression of an excessive grief must of necessity astonish the soul, and wholly deprive her of her ordinary functions: as it happens to every one of us, who upon any sudden alarm of very ill news, find our selves surpriz’d, stupified, and in a manner depriv’d of all power of motion, till the soul beginning to vent itself in sighs and tears, seems a little to free and disingage itself from the sudden oppression, and to have obtained some room to work itself out at greater liberty.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, ch. ii., Cotton’s 3d ed., 1700.    
  Every one is acquainted with the story of King Crœsus to this purpose, who being taken prisoner by Cyrus, and by him condemn’d to die, as he was going to execution cry’d out, O Solon, Solon! which being presently reported to Cyrus, and he sending to enquire what it meant, Crœsus gave him to understand that he now found the advertisement Solon had formerly given him true to his cost, which was, “That men, however fortune may smile upon them, could never be said to be happy till they had been seen to pass over the last day of their lives, by reason of the uncertainty and mutability of human things, which upon very light and trivial occasions are subject to be totally changed into a quite contrary condition.”
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, chap, xviii., Cotton’s 3d ed.    
  There are some physiognomies that are favourable, so that in a crowd of victorious enemies you shall presently chuse, amongst men you never saw before, one rather than another to whom to surrender, and with whom to intrust your life, and yet not properly upon the consideration of beauty. A man’s look is but a feeble warranty, and yet is something considerable too: and if I were to lash them I would most severely scourge the wicked ones who belye and betray the promises that nature has planted in their foreheads. I should with great severity punish malice in a mild and gentle aspect. It seems as if there were some happy and some unhappy faces; and I believe there is some art in distinguishing affable from simple faces, severe from rude, malicious from pensive, scornful from melancholick, and such other bordering qualities. There are beauties which are not only fair but sour; and others that are not only sweet, but more than that, faint. To prognosticate future adventures is a thing that I shall leave undecided.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. cvi.    
  Whoever shall call to memory how many and how many times he has been mistaken in his own judgment, is he not a great fool if he does not ever after suspect it? When I find myself convinc’d by the reason of another of a false opinion, I do not so much learn what he has said to me that is new, and my own particular ignorance, that would be no great purchase, as I do in general my own debility, and the treachery of my understanding, from whence I extract the reformation of the whole mass. In all my other errors I do the same, and find from this rule great utility to life. I regard not the species and individual, as a stone that I have stumbled at; I learn to suspect my steps throughout, and am careful to place them right. To learn that a man has said or done a foolish thing, is a thing of nothing. A man must learn that he is nothing but fool;—a much more ample and important instruction.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. cvii.    
  We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade. Our life, like the harmony of the world, is compos’d of contrary things, of several notes, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, spritely and solemn; and the musician who should only affect one of these, what would he be able to do? He must know how to make use of them all, and to mix them; and we, likewise, the goods and evils which are consubstantial with life: our being cannot subsist without this mixture, and the one are no less necessary to it than the other. To attempt to kick against natural necessity is to represent the folly of Ctesiphon, who undertook to kick with his mule.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. cvii.    
  Our contest is verbal. I demand what nature is, what pleasure, circle, and substition are? The question is about words, and is answer’d accordingly. A stone is a body, but if a man should further urge, and what is body? Substance; and what is substance? and so on, he would drive the respondent to the end of his calepin. We exchange one word for another, and oft times for one less understood. I better know what man is, than I know what animal is, or mortal, or rational. To satisfie one doubt, they pop me in the mouth with three: ’tis the Hydra’s head.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. cvii.    
  To these we have the examples of the Roman lady who died for joy to see her son safe returned from the defeat of Cannæ; and of Sophocles, and Dionysius the tyrant, who died of joy; and of Talva, who died in Corsica, reading news of the honours the Roman senate had decreed in his favour. We have moreover one, in the time of Pope Leo the tenth, who upon news of the taking of Milan, a thing he had so ardently and passionately desir’d, was rapt with so sudden an excess of joy that he immediately fell into a fever and died.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. ii.    
  We find this great precept often repeated in Plato, do thine own work, and know thyself. Of which two parts both the one and the other generally comprehend our whole duty, and consequently do each of them complicate and involve the other; for who will do his own work aright will find that his first lesson is to know himself: and who rightly understands himself will never mistake another man’s work for his own, but will love and improve himself above all other things, will refuse superfluous employments, and reject all unprofitable thoughts and propositions.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. iii.    
  In plain truth, lying is a hateful and accursed vice. We are not men, nor have other tye upon one another, but our word. If we did but discover the horror and ill consequences of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and more justly than other crimes. I see that parents commonly, and with indiscretion enough, correct their children for little innocent faults, and torment them for wanton childish tricks, that have neither impression nor tend to any consequence: whereas, in my opinion, lying only, and (what is something a lower form) stomach, are the faults which are to be severely whip’d out of them, both in the infancy and progress of the vices, which will otherwise grow up and increase with them: and after a tongue has once got the knack of lying, ’tis not to be imagined how impossible almost it is to reclaim it.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. ix.    
  In my country when they would decypher a man that has no sense, they say, such a one has no memory; and when I complain of mine, they seem not to believe I am in earnest, and presently reprove me, as tho I accus’d myself for a fool, not discerning the difference between memory and understanding; wherein they are very wide of my intention, and do me wrong: experience rather daily shewing us the contrary, that a strong memory is commonly coupled with infirm judgment.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. ix.    
  ’Tis a great imperfection, and what I have observed in several of my intimate friends, who, as their memories supply them with a present and entire review of things, derive their narratives from so remote a fountain, and crowd them with so many important circumstances, that though the story be good in itself, they make a shift to spoil it; and if otherwise, you are either to curse the strength of their memory, or the weakness of their judgment…. But above all, old men, who yet retain the memory of things past, and forget how often they have told them, are the most dangerous company for this fault; and I have known stories from the mouth of a man of very great quality, otherwise very pleasant in themselves, becoming very troublesome by being a hundred times repeated over and over again.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. ix.    
  The republicks that have maintained themselves in a regular and well modell’d government, such as those of Lacedæmon and Crete, had orators in no very great esteem. Aristo did wisely define Rhetorick to be a science to perswade the people; Socrates and Plato, an art to flatter and deceive. And those who deny it in the general description, verifie it throughout in their precepts. The Mahometans will not suffer their children to be instructed in it, as being useless; and the Athenians perceiving of how pernicious consequence the practice of it was, being in their city of universal esteem, order’d the principal part, which is to move affections with their exordiums and perorations, to be taken away. ’Tis an engine invented to manage and govern a disorderly and tumultuous rabble, and that never is made use of but like physick to the sick, in the paroxisms of a discompos’d estate. In those, where the vulgar, or the ignorant, or both together, have been all powerful, and able to give the law, as in those of Athens, Rhodes and Rome, and where the publick affairs have been in a continual tempest of commotion, to such places have the orators always repair’d. And in truth, we shall find few persons in those republicks, who have push’d their fortunes to any great degree of eminence, without the assistance of elocution: Pompey, Cæsar, Crassus, Lucullus, Lentulus and Metellus, have thence taken their chiefest spring to mount to that degree of authority to which they did at last arrive: making it of greater use to them than arms, contrary to the opinion of better times.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. li.    
  If we would sometimes bestow a little consideration upon ourselves, and employ the time we spend in prying into other men’s actions and discovering things without us, in examining our own abilities, we should soon perceive of how infirm and decaying materials this fabrick of ours is composed. Is it not a singular testimony of imperfection that we cannot establish our satisfaction in any one thing, and that even our own fancy and desire should deprive us of the power to choose what is most proper and useful for us? A very good proof of this, is the great dispute that has ever been amongst the philosophers, of finding out a man’s principal and sovereign good, that continues yet, and will eternally continue, without resolution or accord.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lii.    
  Now, amongst the rest, drunkenness seems to me to be a gross and brutish vice. The soul has the greatest interest in all 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 cunning: this is totally corporal and earthly, and the thickest-skulled nation this day in Europe is that where it is the most in fashion; other vices discompose the understanding, this totally overthrows it, and renders the body stupid.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lix.    
  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 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 can ever be. But to join constancy to it is her utmost perfection: I mean though nothing should jostle and discompose her, which a thousand accidents may do.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lix.    
  I know not if, or no, I am deceiv’d; but since by a particular favour of the divine bounty a certain form of prayer has been prescrib’d and dictated to us, word by word, from the mouth of God himself, I have ever been of opinion that we ought to have it in more frequent use than we yet have; and if I were worthy to advise, at the sitting down to and rising from our tables, at our rising and going to bed, and in every particular action wherein prayer is requir’d, I would that Christians always make use of the Lord’s Prayer, if not alone, yet at least always.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lvi.    
  We are not to pray that all things may go on as we would have them, but as most conducing to the good of the world; and we are not in our prayers to obey our wills, but prudence. We seem, in truth, to make use of our prayers as of a kind of gibberish, and as those do who employ holy words about sorceries and magical operations: and as if we made account the benefit we are to reap from them depended upon the contexture, sound and gingle of words, or upon the composing of the countenance. For having the soul contaminated with concupiscence, not touch’d with repentance, or comforted by any late reconciliation with almighty God, we go to present him with such words as the memory suggests to the tongue, and hope from thence to obtain the remission of our sins.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lvi.    
  Of all the great human actions I ever heard, or read of, I have observed, both in former ages and our own, more perform’d before the age of thirty than after: and oft-times in the very lives of the same men. May I not confidently instance in those of Hannibal and his great concurrent Scipio? The better half of their lives they liv’d upon the glory they had acquir’d in their youth; great men after, ’tis true, in comparison of others, but by no means in comparison of themselves. As to my own particular, I do certainly believe that since that age both my understanding and my constitution have rather decay’d than improv’d, and retir’d rather than advanc’d. ’Tis possible that with those who make the best use of their time, knowledge, and experience may grow up and increase with their years; but the vivacity, quickness, and steadiness, and other pieces of us, of much greater importance, and much more essentially our own, languish and decay.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lvii.    
  I fancy vertue to be something else, and something more noble, than good nature, and the meer propension to goodness, that we are born into the world withal. Well dispos’d, and well descended souls pursue, indeed, the same methods, and represent the same face, that vertue it self does: but the word vertues imports, I know not what, more great and active than meerly 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 receiv’d, would, doubtless, do a very and a very laudable thing; but he who, provoked and nettled to the quick by an offence, should fortifie himself with the arms of reason against the furious appetite of revenge, and, after a great conflict, master his own passion, would, doubtless, do a great deal more. The first would do well; and the latter vertuously: one action might be called bounty, and the other vertue; for, methinks, the very name of vertue presupposes difficulty and contention; and ’tis for this reason, perhaps, that we call God good, mighty, liberal and just; but we do not give him the attribute of vertuous, being that all his operations are natural, and without endeavour.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lviii.    
  Nothing can be added to the nicety of the death of the wife of Fulvius, a familiar favourite of Augustus. Augustus having discover’d that he had vented an important secret he had intrusted him withal, one morning that he came to make his court, receiv’d him very coldly, and lookt frowningly upon him. He returns home full of despair, where he sorrowfully told his wife, that being fall’n into this misfortune, he was resolv’d to kill himself: to which she soundly replied, “’tis but reason you should, seeing that having so often experimented the inconsistency of my tongue you should not learn nor take warning: but let me kill myself first,” and without any more dispute ran herself through the body with a sword.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lx.    
  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 license: 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. Or if these fail to take cognizance of the fact, we are punished in the other world, as deserters of our duty…. There is more constancy in suffering the chain we are tied in, than in breaking it, and more pregnant evidence of fortitude in Regulus than in Cato. ’Tis indiscretion and impatience that pushes 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lx.    
  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, being it deprives us of attraction and sense, were it not that by it nature instructs us that she has equally made us to die, as to live, and from life presents us the eternal estate 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 some 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 fear’d that it brings with it any pain, or displeasure, for as much as we can have no feeling without leisure: our sufferings require time, which in death is so short and precipitous, that it must necessarily be insensible.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxiii.    
  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 lye, and for free-men to speak truth.” ’Tis the chief and fundamental part of vertue, we must love it for it self. He that speaks truth because he is oblig’d so to do, and because he serves, and that is not afraid to lye when it signifies nothing to any body, is not sufficiently true. My soul naturally abominates lying, and hates the thought of it. I have an inward bashfulness, and a sharp remorse, if sometimes a lye escape me, as sometimes it does, being surpriz’d 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 conterfeiting and dissembling, if not, never to be believ’d when they speak the truth.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxiii.    
  Is it possible that Homer could design to say all that we make him: and that he design’d 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 oppositely however, should indifferently quote him, and support their arguments by his authority as the sovereign lord and master of all offices, works, and artizans, and counsellor general of all enterprizes? 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 yet he is as well acquainted with this author as any man whatever of his time. And what he has found out in favour of ours, very many anciently have found out in favour of theirs.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Of what is the most subtile folly made, but of the most subtile wisdom? As great friendships spring from great enmities, and vigorous healths from mortal diseases, so from the rare and quick agitations of our souls proceed the most wonderful and most deprav’d frenzies; ’tis but a half turn of the toe from the one to the other. In the actions of mad men 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 elevations of a spritely soul, and the effects of a supream and extraordinary vertue? Plato says that melancholick persons are the most capable of discipline, and the most excellent, nor indeed is there any so great a propension to madness. Great wits are ruin’d by their own proper force and quickness.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  I have known in my time a hundred artizans, and 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 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 emmets do in theirs. And yet we see that they carry themselves very regularly, and without erudition. If man was wise, he would take the true value of every thing according as it was more 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 the learned: I say, in all son of vertue.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Laws derive their authority from possession and usance: ’Tis dangerous to trace them backward to their beginning; they grow great, and ennoble themselves like our rivers by running: but follow them upward to their source, ’tis but a little spring, scarce discernible, 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 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 very remote and differing from those of the publick. 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Learning is, in truth, a very great and a very considerable quality; and such as despise it sufficiently discover their own want of understanding: but yet I do not prize it at the excessive rate 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 vertue, and that all vice proceeds from ignorance, which, if it be true, is subject to a very long interpretation.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Let us then for once consider a man alone, without foreign assistance, arm’d 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 what certainty he has in his fine equipage. Let him make me understand by the force of his reason upon what foundation he has built those great advantages he thinks he has over creatures: who has made him believe that this admirable motion of the celestial arch, the eternal light of those tapers that roll over his head, the wonderful motions of that infinite ocean, should be established, and continue so many ages, for his service and convenience? Can anything 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 this privilege which he attributes to himself of being the only creature in this vast fabrick that has the understanding to discover the beauty and the parts of it; the only one who can return thanks, and keep account of the revenues and disbursements of the world; who, I wonder, seal’d 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?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Solon being importun’d 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 his 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 justly execute me?”
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  All philosophy is divided into three kinds. All her design is to seek out “Truth, knowledge, and certainty.” The peripateticks, epicureans, stoicks, and others, have thought they have found it. These have established the sciences, and have treated of them as of certain knowledges. Clitomachus, Carneades, and the Academicks, have despaired in their quest, and concluded the truth could not be conceiv’d by our understandings. The result of these are weakness and human ignorance. This sect has had the most, and most noble followers. Pyrrho and other scepticks, whose doctrines were held by many of the ancients, taken from Homer, the seven sages, Archilochus, Euripides, Zeno, Democritus, and Xenophon, say that they are yet upon the search of truth. These conclude that the other, who think they have found it out, are infinitely deceiv’d; 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 extream knowledge, of which they doubt whether or no man can be capable.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  A soul clear from prejudice has a marvellous advance towards tranquility and repose. Men that judge and controul their judges, do never duly submit to them. How much more docile and easie to be govern’d, both in 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 shew of likelyhood and utility as this.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  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 mankind, and the way by which he precipitated himself into eternal damnation. Pride was his ruin and corruption; ’tis pride that diverts from the common path, and makes him embrace novelties, and rather chuse to be head of a troop, lost and wandering in the path of error, to be regent and a teacher of lyes, 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  If we laid hold upon God by the mediation of a lively faith; if we laid hold upon God by him, and not by us; if we had a divine basis and foundation, human accidents would not have the power to shake us as they do, our fortress were not to render 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 novel argument, nor abandon it to all the rhetorick in the world: we should withstand the fury of these waves with an immote and unyielding constancy…. 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Of all human and ancient opinions concerning religion, that seems to me the most likely, and most excusable, that acknowledg’d God an incomprehensible power; the original and preserver of all things, all bounty, all perfection, receiving and taking in good part the honour and reverence that man paid unto him, under what method, name, or ceremonies soever.
        Jupiter omnipotens rerum, regumque deumque,
Progenitor, genitrixque—
  This zeal has universally been look’d upon from heaven with a gracious eye. All governments have reap’d fruit from their devotion: men and impious actions have everywhere had suitable events. Pagan histories acknowledge dignity, order, justice, prodigies, and oracles, employ’d for their profit and instruction in their fabulous religions.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  All other signs are common to all religions: hope, trust, events, ceremonies, penance, and martyrs. The peculiar mark of our truth ought to be our vertue, 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, when the king of the Tartars, who was become Christian, designed to come to Lyons to kiss the Pope’s feet, and there to be an eyewitness of the sanctity he hoped to find in our manners, immediately to divert him from his purpose; for fear lest our inordinate way of living should on the contrary put him out of conceit with so holy a belief. And yet it hapned quite otherwise since to this other, who going to Rome to the same end, and there seeing the dissolution of the Prelates, and people of that time, setled 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 amongst so much corruption, and in so vicious hands.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  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 musick, and of the voice, it would cause an imaginable confusion in all the rest of our science. For, besides what appertains 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 produc’d 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 depriv’d, would be. We have form’d a truth by the consultation and concurrence of our five senses, but peradventure we should have the consent and contribution of eight or ten to make a certain discovery of our own being. The sects that controvert the knowledge of man, do it principally by the incertainty and weakness of our senses.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  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 awaking is never so spritely that it does rightly, and as it should, purge and dissipate those ravings and whimsies which are waking dreams, and worse than dreams. Our reason and soul receiving those fancies and opinions that like come in dreams, and authorizing the actions of our dreams with the approbation that they do those of the day, wherefore do we not doubt whether our thought and action is another sort of dreaming, and our waking a certain kind of sleep?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  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 anything 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  If the atomes have by chance form’d so many sorts of figures, why did it never fall out that they made a house or a shooe? Why at the same rate should we not believe that an infinite number of Greek letters strow’d all over a certain place might possibly fall into the contexture of the Iliad?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  But the question is, whether, if Ptolemy was therein formerly deceiv’d, upon the foundations of his reason, it were not very foolish to trust now in what these people say: and whether it is not more like 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 (and they shew’d him the effigies of all their kings in statues taken by the life) the sun had four times alter’d his course: that the sea and the earth did alternately change into one another. Aristotle and Cicero both say that the beginning of the world is undetermin’d.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  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 vertuous disposition prompts us to it, we stir neither hand nor foot. Our religion is intended to extirpate vices: whereas it skreens, nourishes, and incites them. We must not mock God. If we believe 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 did believe 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 into our affections, with riches, pleasures, glory and our friends. The best of us is not so much afraid to injure him as he is afraid to injure his neighbour, his kinsman, or his master.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.    
  Alexander, the most adventurous captain that ever was, very seldom wore arms, and such amongst us as slight them, do not by that much harm the main concern; for if we see some killed for want of them, there are few less whom the lumber of arms help 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 those we have now in use, it seems as if we only pretend to defend ourselves, and that we are rather loaded than secured by them. We have enough to do to support their 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.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxvi.    
  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 the counsels, and attribute to them words proper for the occasion; and such have title to assume the authority of regulating our belief to what they themselves believe; but certainly this privilege belongs not to every one. 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 liking: for if the judgment partially lean to one side, a man cannot avoid wrestling and writhing his narrative to that byass. They undertake to chuse things worthy to be known, and yet very oft 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 them well in good French or Latin. Let them … display their eloquence, 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…. The only good histories are those that have been writ by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write, or who have participated in the conduct of them, or, at least, who have had the conduct of others of the same nature. Such almost are all the Greek and Roman; for several eye-witnesses having writ of the same subject (in the time when grandeur and learning frequently met in the same person), if there happen to be an errour, it must of necessity be a very slight one, and upon a very doubtful accident. What can a man expect from a physician who will undertake to write of war; or from a meer scholar treating upon the designs of princes?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxvii.    
  For me, who only desire to become more wise, not more learned or eloquent, these logical or Aristotelian dispositions of parts are of no use. I would have a man begin with the main proposition; and that wherein the force of the argument lies: I know well enough what death and pleasure are, let no man give himself the trouble to anatomize them to me: I look for good and solid reasons at the first dash to instruct me how to stand the shock, and resist them; to which purpose, neither grammatical subtilties, nor the queint 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 doubt: his [Cicero’s] languish about his subjects, and delay our expectation.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxvii.    
  But, to pursue the business of this essay, I have always thought that in poesie, Virgil, Lucretius, Catullus and Horace do many degrees excel the rest; and signally, Virgil in his Georgicks, which I look upon for the most accomplished piece of poetry; and, in comparison of which, a man may easily discern that there are some places in his Æneids to which the author would have given a little more of the file had he had leisure: and the fifth book of his Æneid 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 Terence, I find the queintness and eloquencies of the Latin tongue so admirable lively to represent our manners, and the movements of the soul, that our actions throw me at every turn, upon him; and I cannot read him so oft that I do not still discover some new grace and beauty. Such as lived near Virgil’s time were scandaliz’d that some should compare him with Lucretius. I am, I confess, of opinion that the comparison is, in truth, very unequal: a belief that, nevertheless, I have much ado to assure myself in when I meet with some excellent passages in Lucretius…. I think the ancients had more reason to be angry with those who compar’d Plautus with Terence, than Lucretius with Virgil.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxvii.    
  I could wish to have a more perfect knowledge of things, but I will not buy it so dear as it will cost. 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 knowledge, of what price soever I seek in the reading of my books only to please myself by an irreproachable diversion: or if I study, it is for no other science than what treats of the knowledge of my self, and instructs me how to die, and live well.
        “Has meus ad metas sudet oportet equus.”
                “I to this only course
Train up, and in it only breathe my horse.”
I do not bite my nails about the difficulties I meet with in my reading; after a charge or two, I give them over.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxvii.    
  Of so many thousands of valiant men that have died within these fifteen 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 hod unknown events in my possession, I should think with great ease to outdo those that are recorded in all sorts of examples. Is it not strange that even of the Greeks and Romans, amongst so many writers and witnesses, and so many rare and noble exploits, so few are arriv’d at our knowledge?… It will be much if a hundred years hence it be remembered in gross that in our times there were civil wars in France.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxxiii.    
  I would rather see all affairs go to wrack and ruine than falsifie my faith to secure them. For as to this vertue of dissimulation, which is now in so great request, I mortally hate it; and of all vices, find none that does evidence so much baseness and meanness of spirit. ’Tis a cowardly and servile humour to hide and disguise a man’s self under a vizor, and not to dare to shew himself what he is. By that our followers are train’d up to treachery. Being brought up to speak what is not true, they make no conscience of a lye. A generous heart ought not to belye its own thoughts, but will make it self seen within, all there is good, or at least manly.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxxiv.    
  Among our other controversies that of Fatum is also crept in, and to tye things to come, and even our own wills to a certain and inevitable necessity,—we are yet upon this argument of time past: “Since God forsees that all things shall so fall out, as doubtless he does, it must then necessarily follow that they must so fall out.” To which our masters reply, “that the seeing anything come to pass, as we do, and as God himself does (for all things being present with him, he rather sees, than forsees) is not to compel an event: that is, we see because things do fall out, but things do not fall out because we see. Events cause knowledge, but knowledge does not cause events. That which we see happen, does happen; but it might have hapned otherwise: and God, in the catalogue of the causes of events which he has in his prescience, has also those which we call accidental and unvoluntary, which depend upon the liberty he has given our free will, and knows that we do amiss because we would do so.”
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxxxi.    
  If I were worthy to advise, the slow speaker, methinks, should be more proper for the pulpit, and the other for the bar; and that because the employment of the first does naturally allow him all the leisure he can desire to prepare himself, and besides his career is perform’d in an even and unintermitted line, without stop or interruption; whereas the pleader’s business and interest compells him to enter the lists upon all occasions, and the unexpected objections and replies of his adverse party justle him out of his course, and put him upon the instant to pump for new and extempore answers and defences.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. x.    
  ’Tis said of many great leaders that they have had certain books in particular esteem, as Alexander the Great, Homer, Scipio Africanus, Xenophon, Marcus Brutus, Polybius, Charles the Fifth, Philip de Comines; and ’tis said that in our times Machiavil is elsewhere in repute: but the late Mareschal Strossy, who took Cæsar for his man, doubtless made the best choice, being that that book in truth ought to be the breviary of every great soldier, as being the true and most excellent pattern of all military art. And moreover … with what grace and beauty he has embellish’d that rich matter, with so pure, delicate, and perfect expression, that, in my opinion, there are no writings in the world comparable to his: as to that, I will set down some rare and particular passages of his wars that remain in my memory.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xci.    
  If there be any honour in lamenting a husband, it only appertains to those who smil’d upon them whilst they had them: let those who wept during their lives laugh at their deaths, as well outwardly as within. Moreover, never regard those blubber’d eyes, and that pitiful voice; but consider her deportments, her complexion, and the plumpness of her cheeks under all those formal veils: ’tis there the discovery is to be made. There are few who do not mend upon’t, and health is a quality that cannot lye: that starch’d and ceremonious countenance looks not so much back as forward, and is rather intended to get a new one than to lament the old.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xcii.    
  In our age women commonly preserve the publication of their good offices, and their vehement affection towards their husbands, until they have lost them, or at least, till then defer the testimonies of their good will. A too slow testimony, and that comes too late; by which they rather manifest that they never loved them till dead. Their life is nothing but trouble, their death full of love and courtesie. As fathers conceal their affection from their children, women likewise conceal theirs from their husbands to maintain a modest respect. This mystery is not for my pallate; ’tis to much purpose that they scratch themselves and tear their hair. I whisper in a waiting-woman or a secretary’s ear. “How were they? How did they live together?” I always have that good saying in my head, “Juctantias mœrent quiæ minus dolent.” “They make the most ado who are least concerned.” Their whimpering is offensive to the living and vain to the dead: we should willingly give them leave to laugh after we are dead provided they will smile upon us whilst we are alive. Is it not to make a man revive in spite, that she who spit in my face whilst I was shall come to kiss my feet when I am no more?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xcii.    
  There is a certain sort of crafty humility that springs from presumption: as this, for example, that we confess our ignorance in many things, and are so courteous as to acknowledge that there are in works of nature some qualities and conditions that are imperceptible to us, and of which our understanding cannot discover the means and causes; by this honest declaration we hope to obtain that people shall also believe us of those that we say we do understand.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xciv.    
  Let the physicians a little excuse the liberty I take, for by this same infusion and insinuation it is that I have received a hatred and contempt of their doctrine. The antipathy I have against their art is hereditary. My father lived threescore and fourteen years, my grandfather sixty-nine, my great-grandfather almost fourscore years, without ever tasting any sort of physick; and with them whatever was not ordinary diet was instead of a drugg. Physick is grounded upon experience and examples, so is my opinion. And is not this an express and very advantageous experience? I do not know that they can find me in all their records three that were born, bred, and died under the same roof who have lived so long by their own conduct. They must here of necessity confess, that if reason be not, fortune at least is on my side; and with physicians fortune goes a great deal further than reason: let them not take me now at a disadvantage; let them not threaten me in the subdued condition I now am, for that were treachery. And to say truth, I have got enough the better of them by these domestick examples, that they should rest satisfied. Human things are not usually so constant: it has been two hundred years save eighteen that this trial has lasted, for the first of them was born in the year 1402.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xciv.    
  Order a purge for your brain: it will there be much better employ’d than upon your stomach. One asking a Lacedæmonian, who had made him live so long, he made answer, the ignorance of physick. And the emperor Adrian continually exclaim’d as he was dying, that the crowd of physicians had kill’d him. An ill wrestler turn’d physician. “Courage,” says Diogenes to him, “thou hast done well, for now thou wilt throw those who have formerly thrown thee.” But they have this advantage, according to Nicocles, that the sun gives light to their success, and the earth covers their failures: and, besides, they have a very advantageous way of making use of all sorts of events: for what fortune, nature, or any other causes (of which the number is infinite) produce of good and healthful in us, it is the privilege of physic to attribute to itself. All the happy successes that happen to the patient must be deriv’d from thence. The occasions that have cur’d me, and thousands others, physicians usurp to themselves, and their own skill: and as to ill accidents they either absolutely disown them, in laying the fault upon the patient, by such frivolous and idle reasons as they can never be to seek for…. Or, if they so please, they yet make use of their growing worse, and do their business that way which can never fail them: which is by buzzing us in the ears, when the disease is more inflam’d by their medicaments, that it had been much worse but for those remedies…. Plato said very well, “that physicians were the only men that might lye at pleasure, since our health depends upon the vanity and falsity of their promises.”
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xciv.    
  A good marriage, it be really so, rejects the company and conditions of love, and tries to represent those of friendship. ’Tis a sweet society of life, full of constancy, trust, and an infinite number of useful and solid offices and mutual obligations; which any woman enjoys that has a right taste; and if rightly taken, marriage is the best of all human societies. We cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it. It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out. Socrates being ask’d whether it was more commodious to take a wife, or not? “Let a man take which course he will,” said he, “he will be sure to repent.” ’Tis a contract to which the common saying, “Homo homini, aut Deus, aut Lupus,” Erasm. Adag., “Man to man is either a god or a woolf,” may very fitly be applied. There must be a concurrence of many qualities to the erecting it. It is found now a days more convenient for innocent and plebeian souls, where delights, curiosity, and idleness do not so much disturb it; but extravagant humours, that hate all sorts of obligation and restraint, are not proper for it.  65
  Might I have had my own will, I would not have married wisdom her self, if she would have had me. But ’tis to much purpose to evade it: the common custom and usance of life will have it so.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xcix.    
  There is no vice which is absolutely so, which does not offend, and that a sound judgment does not accuse; for there is in it so manifest a deformity and inconvenience, that peradventure they are in the right who say that it is chiefly begot by ignorance: so hard it is to imagine that a man can know without abhorring it.  67
  Malice sucks up the greatest part of her own venom, and poysons herself. Vice leaves repentance in the soul, like an ulcer in the flesh, which is always scratching and lacerating itself: for reason effaces all other griefs and sorrows, but it begets that of repentance, which is so much the more grievous by reason it springs within, as the cold or hot of fevers are more sharp than those that only strike upon the outward skin.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xcvi.    
  I never travel without books, either in peace or war; and yet sometimes I pass over several days, and sometimes months, without looking on them: I will read by and by, say I to my self, or to-morrow, or when I please, and in the interim time steals away without any inconvenience. For it is not to be imagin’d to what degree I please my self, and rest content in this consideration, that I have them by me, to divert my self with them when I am so dispos’d, and to call to mind what an ease and refreshment they are to my life. ’Tis the best viaticum I have yet found out for this human journey, and very much lament those men of understanding who are unprovided of them. And yet I rather accept of any other sort of diversion, how light soever, because this can never fail me.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xcvii.    
  If you have made your profit of life, you have had enough of it, go your way satisfied…. If you have not known how to make the best use of it, and if it was unprofitable for you, what need you care to lose it, to what end would you desire longer to keep it?… Life in itself is neither good nor evil; it is the scene of good or evil, as you make it; and if you have lived a day, you have seen all: one day is equal, and like to all other days; there is no other light, no other shade; this very sun, this moon, these very stars, this very order and revolution of things, is the same your ancestors enjoyed, and that shall also entertain your posterity.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xix.    
  Cicero says, “that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare a man’s self to die.” The reason of which is, because study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us and deprive us of our souls, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of learning to die, and a resemblance of death; or else because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world does in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die. And to say the truth, either our reason does grossly abuse us, or it ought to have no other aim but our contentment only, nor to endeavour any thing but in turn to make us live well, and as the holy Scripture says, at our ease. All the opinions of the world agree in this.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xix.    
  Let the philosophers all say what they will, the main thing at which we all aim, even in virtue itself, is pleasure. It pleases me to rattle in their ears this word which they so nauseate to hear; and if it signifie some supream pleasure and excessive delight, it is more due to the assistance of virtue than to any other assistance whatever.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xix.    
  Wherever your life ends it is all there; neither does the utility of living consist in the length of days, but in the well husbanding and improving of time, and such an one may have been who has longer continued in the world than the ordinary age of man, that has yet liv’d but a little while. Make use of time while it is present with you. It depends upon your will, and not upon the number of days, to have a sufficient length of life. Is it possible you can imagine ever to arrive at the place towards which you are continually going? and yet there is no journey but hath its end. But if company will make it more pleasant, or more easie to you, does not all the world go the self same way?… Does not all the world dance the same brawl that you do? Is there any thing that does not grow old as well as you? A thousand men, a thousand animals, and a thousand other creatures, die at the same moment that you expire.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xix.    
  The felicity and beatitude that glitters in vertue shines throughout all her apartments and avenues, even to the first entry, and utmost pale and limits. Now of all the benefits that vertue confers upon us the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accomodates human life with a soft and easie tranquility, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct; which is the reason why all the rules by which we are to live, centre and concur in this one article.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xix.    
  Men (says an ancient Greek sentence) are tormented with the opinions they have of things, and not by the things themselves. It were a great victory obtain’d for the relief of our miserable human condition could this proposition be established for certain, and true throughout. For if evils have no admission into us but by the judgment we ourselves make of them, it should seem that it is then in our power to despise them, or to turn them to good. If things surrender themselves to our mercy, why do we not convert and accommodate them to our advantage?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xl.    
  Possidonius being extremely troubled with a sharp and painful disease, Pompeius came to visit him, excusing himself that he had taken so unseasonable a time to come to hear him discourse of philosophy: “God forbid,” said Possidonius to him again, “that pain should ever have the power to hinder me from talking;” and thereupon fell immediately upon a discourse of the contempt of pain: but in the meantime his own infirmity was playing its part, and plagu’d him to the purpose; to which he cry’d out, “thou may’st work thy will, pain, and torment me with all the power thou hast, but thou shall never make me say that thou art an evil.” This story that they make such a clatter withal, what is there in it, I fain would know, to the contempt of pain? It only fights it with words, and in the meantime, if the shootings and dolours he felt did not move him, why did he interrupt his discourse? Why did he fancy he did so great a thing in forbearing to confess it an evil? All does not here consist in the imagination: our fancies may work upon other things; but this here is a certain science that is playing its part, of which our senses themselves are judge.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xl.    
  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 wak’d to death; but Pliny instances such as have liv’d long without sleep. Herodotus speaks of nations where the men sleep and wake by half years: and they who write the life of the wise Epimenides affirm that he slept seven and fifty years together.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xliv.    
  For my part, I think of physick as much good or ill as any one would have me: for, thanks be to God, we have no great traffick together. I am of a quite contrary humour to other men, for I always despise it: but when I am sick, instead of recanting, or entring into composition with it, I begin yet more to hate, nauseate, and fear it, telling them who importune me to enter into a course of physick, that they must give me time to recover my strength and health, that I may be the better able to support and encounter the violence and danger of the potion: so that I still let nature work, supposing her to be sufficiently arm’d with teeth and claws to defend herself from the assaults of infirmity, and to uphold that contexture the dissolution of which she flies and abhors: for I am afraid lest, instead of assisting her when grappled, and struggling with the disease, I should assist her adversary, and procure new work, and new accidents to encounter. Now I say that, not in physick only, but in other more certain arts, fortune has a very great interest and share.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiii.    
  It is not for knowledge to enlighten a soul that is dark of itself; nor to make a blind man to see. Her business is not to find a man eyes, but to guide, govern, and direct his steps, provided he have sound feet and straight legs to go upon. Knowledge is an excellent drug, but no drug has virtue enough to preserve itself from corruption and decay if the vessel be tainted and impure wherein it is put to keep. Such a one may have a sight clear and good enough, who looks asquint, and consequently sees what is good, but does not follow it, and sees knowledge, but makes no use of it.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiv.    
  ’Tis a thing worthy of very great consideration that, in that excellent and, in truth, for its perfection, prodigious form and civil regiment set down by Lycurgus, though sollicitous of the education of children, as a thing of the greatest concern, and even in the very seat of the muses, he should make so little mention of learning: as if their generous youth, disdaining all other subjection but that of vertue only, ought to be supply’d, instead of tutors to read to them arts and sciences, with such masters as should only instruct them in valour, prudence, and justice. An example that Plato has followed in his laws; the manner of whose discipline was to propound to them questions upon the judgment of men, and of their actions: and if they commended or condemned this or that person, or fact, they were to give a reason for so doing: by which means they at once sharpen’d their understanding, and became skillful in the laws.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiv.    
  Examples have demonstrated to us, that in military affairs, and all others of the like active nature, the study of science does more soften and untemper the courages of men, than any way fortify and incite them. The most potent empire that at this day appears to be in the whole world is that of the Turks, a people equally inclined to the estimation of the arms and the contempt of letters. I find Rome was more valiant before she grew so learned; and the most warlike nations at this time in being are the most ignorant: of which the Scythians, Parthians, and the great Tamerlane, may serve for sufficient proof. When the Goths over-ran Greece, the only thing that preserved all the libraries from fire was that some one possessed them with an opinion that they were to leave this kind of furniture entire to the enemy, as being most proper to divert them from the exercise of arms, and to fix them to a lazy and sedentary life. When our King Charles the Eighth, almost without striking a blow, saw himself possessed of the kingdom of Naples, and a considerable part of Tuscany, the nobility about him attributed this unexpected facility of conquest to this, that the princes and nobles of Italy more studied to render themselves ingenious and learned than vigorous and warlike.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiv.    
  We can say, Cicero says thus; that these were the manners of Plato: but what do we say ourselves that is our own? What do we do? What do we judge? A parrot would say as much as that. And this kind of talking puts me in mind of that rich gentleman of Rome, who had been sollicitous, with very great expense, to procure men that were excellent in all sorts of science, which he had always attending his person, to the end that when amongst his friends any occasion fell out of speaking of any subject whatsoever, they might supply his place, and be ready to prompt him, one with a sentence of Seneca, another with a verse of Homer, and so forth, every one according to his talent; and he fancied this knowledge to be his own, because in the heads of those who lived upon his bounty. As they do also whose learning consists in having noble libraries. I know one who, when I question him about his reading, he presently calls for a book to show me, and dare not venture to tell me so much; which is an idle and superficial learning: we must make it our own.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiv.    
  In plain truth, the cares and expence our parents are at in our education point at nothing but to furnish our heads with knowledge; but not a word of judgment or vertue. Cry out of one that passes by, to the people, “O, what a learned!” and of another, “O what a good man goes there!” they will not fail to turn their eyes, and address their respect to the former. There should then be a third cryer, “O the puppies and coxcombs!” Men are apt presently to enquire, Does such a one understand Greek? Is he a critick in Latine? Is he a poet? Or does he pretend to prose? But whether he be grown better or more discreet, which are qualities of more value and concern, those are never enquir’d into: whereas, we should rather examine who is better learned than who is more learned. We only toil and labour to stuff the memory, and in the mean time leave the conscience and the understanding unfurnish’d and void…. All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of honesty and good nature. But the reason I glanc’d upon but now, may it not also proceed from hence, that our study having almost no other aim but profit, fewer of those who by nature are born to offices and employments, rather of glory than gain, addict themselves to letters; or for so little a while (being taken from their studies before they can come to have any taste of them, to a profession that has nothing to do with books), that there ordinarily remain no other to apply themselves wholly to learning but people of mean condition, who in that study only to live, and have preferment only in their prospect; and by such people, whose souls are both by nature, and education, and domestick example, of the basest metal and alloy, the fruits of knowledge are both immaturely gathered, ill-digested, and deliver’d to their pupils quite another thing.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxiv.    
  Human wisdom makes as ill use of her talent when she exercises it in rescinding from the number and sweetness of those pleasures that are naturally our due, as she employs it favourably, and well, in artificially disguising and tricking out the ills of life, to alleviate the sense of them.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxix.    
  But withall, let my governour remember to what end his instructions are principally directed, and that he do not so much imprint in his pupil’s memory the date of the ruins of Carthage, as the manners of Hannibal and Scipio; nor so much where Marcellus dy’d, as why it was unworthy of his duty that he die’d there. That he do not teach him so much the narrative part, as the business of history. The reading of which, in my opinion, is a thing that of all others we apply ourselves unto with the most differing and uncertain measures. I have read an hundred things in Livy that another has not, or not taken notice of at least, and Plutarch has read an hundred more than ever I could find, or than peradventure that author ever wrote. To some it is merely a grammar study, to others the very anatomy of philosophy, by which the most secret and abstruse parts of our human nature are penetrated into.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  When the vines of our village are nip’d with the frost, the parish priest presently concludes that the indignation of God is gone out against all the human race, and that the cannibals have already got the pip. Who is it, that seeing the bloudy havock of these civil wars of ours, does not cry out that the machine of the world is near dissolution, and that the day of judgment is at hand; without considering that many worse revolutions have been seen, and that, in the mean time, people are very merry in a thousand other parts of the earth for all this?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  I would first understand my own language, and that of my neighbours with whom most of my business and conversation lies. No doubt but Greek and Latin are very great ornaments, and of very great use, but we buy them too dear…. My father having made the most precise enquiry that any man could possibly make amongst men of the greatest learning and judgment, of an exact method of education, was by them cautioned of the inconvenience then in use, and made to believe that the tedious time we applied to the learning of the tongues of them who had them for nothing was the sole cause we could not arrive to that grandeur of soul, and perfection of knowledge, with the ancient Greeks and Romans. I do not however believe that to be the only cause.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Pythagoras was wont to say, “that our life retires to the great and populous assembly of the Olympick games, wherein some exercise the body, that they may carry away the glory of the prize in those contentions, and others carry merchandise to sell for profit.” There are also some (and those none of the worst sort) who pursue no other advantage than only to look on, and consider how, and why, everything is done, and to be unactive spectators of the lives of other men, thereby the better to judge of, and to regulate their own; and, indeed, from examples all the instruction couched in philosophical discourses may naturally flow, to which all human actions, as to their best rule, ought to be especially directed.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Silence, therefore, and modesty are very advantageous qualities in conversation; and one should train up this boy to be sparing, and a good husband of his talent of understanding, when once acquired; and to forbear taking exceptions at, or reproving, every idle saying, or ridiculous story, is spoke or told in his presence: for it is a rudeness to controvert everything that is not agreeable to our own palate. Let him be satisfied with correcting himself, and not seem to condemn everything in another he would not do himself, nor dispute against common customs. Let him be wise without arrogancy, without envy. Let him avoid these vain and uncivil images of authority, this childish ambition of coveting to appear better bred, and more accomplished, than he really will by such carriage discover himself to be, and, as if opportunities of interrupting and reprehending were not to be omitted, to desire from thence to derive the reputation of being something more than ordinary.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  A mere bookish learning is both troublesome and ungraceful; and though it may serve for some kind of ornament, there is yet no foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it, according to the opinion of Plato, who says that constancy, faith, and sincerity are the true philosophy, and the other sciences, that are directed to other ends, to be adulterate and false.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  But whoever shall represent to his fancy, as in a picture, that great image of our mother nature, pourtrayed in her full majesty and lustre; whoever in her face shall read so general and so constant a variety; whoever shall observe himself in that figure, and not himself, but a whole kingdom, no bigger than the least touch or prick of a pencil in comparison of the whole; that man alone is able to value things according to their true estimate and grandeur.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  The soul that entertains philosophy ought to be of such a constitution of health as to render the body in like manner healthfull to; she ought to make her tranquillity and satisfaction shine so as to appear without, and her contentment ought to fashion the outward behaviour to her own mould, and consequently to fortifie it with a graceful confidence, an active carriage, and with a serene and contented countenance. The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual chearfulness; her estate is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene! ’Tis Baraco and Baralipton that render their disciples so dirty and ill favour’d, and not she: they do not so much as know her but by hear-say. It is she that calms and appeases the storms and tempests of the soul, and who teaches famine and fevers to laugh and sing; and that, not by certain imaginary epicycles, but by natural and manifest reasons. She has vertue for her end; which is not, as the schoolmen say, situate upon the summit of a perpendicular rock, and an inaccessible precipice. Such as have approach’d her find it quite contrary, to be seated in a fair, fruitful, and flourishing plain, from whence she easily discovers all things subjected to her: to which place any one may however arrive, if he knows but the easiest and the nearest way, through shady, green, and sweetly flourishing walks and avenues, by a pleasant, easie, and smooth descent, like that of the cœlestial arches.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Let him enquire into the manners, revenues, and alliances of princes, things in themselves very pleasant to learn, and very useful to know. In this conversing with men, I mean, and principally those who only live in the records of history, he shall by reading those books converse with those great and heroick souls of former and better ages. ’Tis an idle and vain study, I confess, to those who make it so, by doing it after a negligent manner, but to those who do it with care and observation ’tis a study of inestimable fruit and value; and the only one, as Plato reports, the Lacedæmonians reserved to themselves. What profit shall he not reap as to the business of men by reading the lives of Plutarch?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  The indiscreet scriblers of our times, who amongst their laborious nothings insert whole sections, paragraphs, and pages, out of ancient authors, with a design by that means to illustrate their own writings, do quite contrary; for this infinite dissimilitude of ornaments renders the complexions of their own compositions so pale, sallow, and deform’d, that they lose much more than they get. The philosophers Chrysippus and Epicurus were in this of two quite contrary humours; for the first did not only in his books mix the passages and sayings of other authors, but entire pieces, and in one the whole Medea of Euripides; which gave Apollodorus occasion to say, “that should a man pick out of his writings all that was none of his, he would leave him nothing but blank paper;” whereas the latter, quite contrary, in three hundred volumes that he left behind him, has not so much as any one quotation.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Let his conscience and vertue be eminent by manifest in his speaking, and have only reason for their guide. Make him understand that to acknowledge the errour he shall discover in his own argument, though only found out by himself, is an effect of judgment and sincerity, which are the principal things he is to seek after. That obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in, and best becoming, a mean and illiterate soul. That to recollect and to correct himself, and to foresee an unjust argument in the height and heat of dispute, are great and philosophical qualities.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  ’Tis to our prejudice that men of understanding should so immoderately affect brevity: no doubt but their reputation is the better for it: but in the mean time we are the worse. Plutarch had rather we should applaud his judgment than commend his knowledge, and had rather leave us with an appetite to read more, than glutted with that we have already read. He knew very well that a man may say too much even upon the best subjects, and that Alexandrides did justly reproach him who made very eloquent, but too long, speeches to the Ephori, when he said, “O stranger! thou speakest the things thou oughtest to speak, but not after the manner that thou should’st speak them.” Such as have lean and spare bodies stuff themselves out with cloaths; so they who are defective in matter endeavour to make amends with words.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  ’Tis the custom of school-masters to be eternally thundering in their pupils ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst their business is only to repeat what the other have said before; now I would have a tutor to correct this error, and that, at the very first, he should according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test; permitting his pupil himself to taste and relish things, and of himself to choose and discern them; sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes making him to break the ice himself: that is, I would not have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn. Socrates, and since him Arcesilaus, made first their scholars speak, and then they spoke to them. “Obest plerumque iis que discere volunt, authoritas eorum qui docent.” Cic. de Nat. Deor. l. 1. “The authority of those who teach is very oft an impediment to those who desire to learn.” It is good to make him, like a young horse, trot before him that he may judge of his going and how much he is to abate of his own speed, to accommodate himself to the vigour and capacity of the other.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  After having taught him what will make him more wise and good, you may then entertain him with the elements of logick, physick, geometry, and rhetorick, and the science which he shall then himself most incline to, his judgment being beforehand form’d and fit to choose, he will quickly make his own. The way of instructing him ought to be sometimes by discourse, and sometimes by reading, sometimes his governor shall put the author himself, which he shall think most proper for him, into his hands, and sometimes only the marrow and substance of it; and if himself be not conversant enough in books to turn to all the fine discourses the book contains, there may some man of learning be joyn’d to him, that upon every occasion shall supply him with what he desires, and stands in need of, to recommend to his pupil.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Conversation with men is of very great use, and travel into foreign countries of singular advantage: not to bring back (as most of our young Monsieurs do) an account only of how many paces Santa Rotonda is in circuit; or of the richness of Signiora Livia’s attire; or, as some others, how much Nero’s face in a statue in such an old ruine is longer and broader than that made for him at such another place: but to be able chiefly to give an account of the humours, manners, customs, and laws of those nations where he has been, and that we may whet and sharpen our wits by rubbing them upon those of others. I would that a boy should be sent abroad very young (and principally to kill two birds with one stone) into those neighb’ring nations whose language is most differing from our own, and to which, if it be not form’d betimes, the tongue will be grown too stiff to bend.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  Let him be taught to be curious in the election and choice of his reasons, to abominate impertinence, and consequently to affect brevity; but above all, let him be lesson’d to acquiesce and submit to truth so soon as ever he shall discover it, whether in his opponent’s argument, or upon better consideration of his own; for he shall never be preferr’d to the chair for a mere clatter of words and syllogisms, and is no further engag’d to any argument whatever than as he shall in his own judgment approve it: nor yet is arguing a trade, where the liberty of recantation, and getting off upon better thoughts, are to be sold for ready money. “Neque ut omnia, quæ præscripta et imperata sint, defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur.” Cic. Acad. i. 4. “Neither is there any necessity or obligation upon him at all, that he should defend all things that are recommended to and enjoyn’d him.”
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  The advantages of our study are to become more and more wise. “’Tis (says Epicharmus) the understanding that sees and hears, ’tis the understanding that improves every thing, that orders every thing, and that acts, rules and reigns:” all other faculties are blind, and deaf, and without soul; and certainly, we render it timorous and servile in not allowing it the liberty and privilege to do any thing of it self. Who ever ask’d his pupil what he thought of grammar and rhetorick, or of such and such a sentence of Cicero? Our masters dart and stick them full feather’d in our memories, and there establish them like oracles, of which the very letters and syllables are of the substance of the thing. To know by rote is no knowledge, and signifies no more but only to retain what one has intrusted to his memory. That which a man rightly knows and understands he is the free disposer of at his own liberty, without any regard to the author from whence he had it, or fumbling over the leaves of his book.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  There are some so ridiculous as to go a mile out of their way to hook in a fine word: “Aut qui non verba rebus aptant, sed res arcessunt, quibus verba conveniant.” Quint. i. 8. “Who do not fit words to the subject, but seek out for things quite from the purpose, to fit those words they are so enamour’d of.” And as another says, “Qui alicujus verbi decore placentis vocentur ad id, quod non proposuerant scribere.” Sen. Ep. 59. “Who by their fondness of some fine sounding word are tempted to something they had no intention to treat of.” I for my part rather bring in a fine sentence by head and shoulders to fit my purpose than divert my designs to hunt after a sentence. On the contrary, words are to serve, and to follow a man’s purpose; and let Gascon come in play where French will not do. I would have things so exceed, and wholly possess, the imagination of him that hears, that he should have something else to do, than to think of words.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  This great world which some do yet multiply as several species under one genus, is the mirror wherein we are to behold our selves, to be able to know our selves as we ought to do. In short, I would have this to be the book my young gentleman should study with the most attention; for so many humours, so many sects, so many judgments, opinions, laws, and customs, teach us a right to judge of our own, and inform our understandings to discover their imperfection and natural infirmity, which is no trivial speculation. So many mutations of states and kingdoms, and so many turns and revolutions of publick fortune, will make us wise enough to make no great wonder of our own. So many great names, so many famous victories and conquests drown’d and swallow’d in oblivion, render our hopes ridiculous of eternizing our names by the taking of half a score light horse, or a paltry turret, which only derives its memory from its ruine.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxv.    
  As concerning marriage, besides that it is a covenant, the entrance into which is only free, but the continuance in it forc’d and compell’d, having another dependance than that of our own free-will, and a bargain commonly contracted to other ends, there almost always happens a thousand intricacies in it, to unravel enough to break the thread, and to divert the current of a lively affection: whereas friendship has no manner of business or traffick with any but itself. Moreover, to say truth, the ordinary talent of women is not such as is sufficient to maintain the conference and communication requir’d to the support of this conjugal tie; nor do they appear to be endu’d with constancy of mind to endure the pinch of so hard and durable a knot.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxvii.    
  ’Tis enough for a Christian to believe that all things come from God, to receive them with acknowledgment of his divine and inscrutable wisdom, and also thankfully to accept and receive them, with what face soever they may present themselves: but I do not approve of what I see in use, that is, to seek to continue and support our religion by the prosperity of our enterprizes. Our belief has other foundation enough, without going about to authorize it by events: for the people accustomed to such arguments as these, and so proper to their own taste, it is to be fear’d, lest when they fail of success, they should also stagger in their faith.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxxi.    
  Solitude seems to me to have the best pretence, in such as have already employed their most active and flourishing age in the world’s service, by the example of Thales. We have lived enough for others, let us at least live out the small remnant of life for ourselves; let us now call in our thoughts and intentions to our selves, and to our own ease and repose; ’tis no light thing to make a sure retreat, it will be enough to do without mixing other enterprises and designs: since God gives us leasure to prepare for, and to order our remove, let us make ready, truss our baggage, take leave betimes of the company; let us disentangle our selves from those violent importunities that engage us elsewhere, and separate us from our selves: we must break the knot of our obligations, how strong soever, and hereafter love this, or that; but espouse nothing but our selves: that is to say, let the remainder be our own, but not so joyn’d and so close as not to be forc’d away without slaying us, or tearing part of the whole piece.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxxviii.    
  Health is a precious thing, and the only one in truth meriting that a man should lay out, not only his time, sweat, labour, and goods, but also his life itself, to obtain it, forasmuch as without it life is injurious to us. Pleasure, wisdom, learning, and vertue without it wither away and vanish; and in the most queint and solid discourses that philosophy would imprint in us to the contrary, we need no more but oppose the image of Plato being struck with an epilepsie or apoplexy; and in this presupposition to defie him to call the rich faculties of his soul to his assistance. All means that conduce to health can neither be too painful not too dear to me.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., chap. xciv.    
  Our judgments are yet sick, and obey the humour of our depraved manners. I observe most of the wits of these times pretend to ingenuity by endeavouring to blemish and to darken the glory of the bravest and most generous actions of former ages, putting one vile interpretation or another upon them, and forging and supposing vain causes and motives for those noble things they did. A mighty subtility indeed! Give me the greatest and most unblemished action that ever the day beheld, and I will contrive a hundred plausible drifts and ends to obscure it.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays. Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xxxvi.    

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.