Page:Essays Vol 1 (Ives, 1925).pdf/26

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other’s ills.” It is not in praise of himself that Montaigne speaks of this quality in himself; it is only one of the touches of that Selbst-Porträt which he painted in in the Essays, and in painting it, depicted human nature.

This apparent reminiscence of Seneca is only the first of hundreds. The Essays are more or less permeated throughout by his thoughts. In the earlier ones Montaigne repeatedly expresses his deep admiration for him personally and for his writings. Plutarch and Seneca, he says in the Essay “Of Books,” are the books qui me servent plus ordinairement. Of all the works of Seneca, he best likes his Letters. Later, his admiration diminishes; he finds in him a certain artificiality, and comparing him (for a second time) to Plutarch, he says that the one touches more the reader's esprit, the other his entendement, a phrase difficult of translation.

THE most usual way to soften the hearts of those we have offended, when, having vengeance in their hand, they hold us at their mercy, is to move them (c) by submission (a) to commiseration and pity; defiance, courage, and resolution — means altogether different — have sometimes served the same purpose. Edward, Prince of Wales,[1] who so long governed our Guienne, a personage whose qualities and whose fortune show many notable characteristics of greatness, having been much harmed by the Limousins and having taken their city by force, could not be stayed by the outcries of the people and of the women and children given over to slaughter, crying for mercy and throwing themselves at his feet; until, as he went on through the city, he became aware of three French gentlemen who, with incredible valour, withstood alone the power of his victorious army. The sight of such notable courage and the respect that it aroused primarily blunted the edge of his wrath, and beginning with those three, he shewed mercy to all the other inhabitants of the city.[2] Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus,[3] pursuing one of his own soldiers, to put him to death, this soldier, having tried by every sort

  1. The “Black Prince,” son of Edward III. See Froissart, ed. of 1559, I, 289.
  2. Froissart, on the contrary, says that he showed mercy only to the three gentlemen.
  3. Scanderbeg [Iskander Beg, i. e., Prince Alexander] was an Albanian hero (1404-1466). Montaigne probably had in mind a passage in a work of Paulus Jovius, Commentarii ... e la vita di Scanderberg, translated into French in 1544.