The Essays of Montaigne/Book III/Chapter V

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The Essays of Montaigne
by Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton
Chapter V. Upon Some verses of Virgil.
214129The Essays of Montaigne — Chapter V. Upon Some verses of Virgil.Charles CottonMichel de Montaigne

Chapter V. Upon Some verses of Virgil.[edit]

By how much profitable thoughts are more full and solid, by so much are
they also more cumbersome and heavy: vice, death, poverty, diseases, are
grave and grievous subjects. A man should have his soul instructed in
the means to sustain and to contend with evils, and in the rules of
living and believing well: and often rouse it up, and exercise it in this
noble study; but in an ordinary soul it must be by intervals and with
moderation; it will otherwise grow besotted if continually intent upon
it. I found it necessary, when I was young, to put myself in mind and
solicit myself to keep me to my duty; gaiety and health do not, they say,
so well agree with those grave and serious meditations: I am at present
in another state: the conditions of age but too much put me in mind, urge
me to wisdom, and preach to me. From the excess of sprightliness I am
fallen into that of severity, which is much more troublesome; and for
that reason I now and then suffer myself purposely a little to run into
disorder, and occupy my mind in wanton and youthful thoughts, wherewith
it diverts itself. I am of late but too reserved, too heavy, and too
ripe; years every day read to me lectures of coldness and temperance.
This body of mine avoids disorder and dreads it; 'tis now my body's turn
to guide my mind towards reformation; it governs, in turn, and more
rudely and imperiously than the other; it lets me not an hour alone,
sleeping or waking, but is always preaching to me death, patience, and
repentance. I now defend myself from temperance, as I have formerly done
from pleasure; it draws me too much back, and even to stupidity. Now I
will be master of myself, to all intents and purposes; wisdom has its
excesses, and has no less need of moderation than folly. Therefore, lest
I should wither, dry up, and overcharge myself with prudence, in the
intervals and truces my infirmities allow me:

               "Mens intenta suis ne seit usque malis."

     ["That my mind may not eternally be intent upon my ills."
     —Ovid., Trist., iv. i, 4.]

I gently turn aside, and avert my eyes from the stormy and cloudy sky I
have before me, which, thanks be to God, I regard without fear, but not
without meditation and study, and amuse myself in the remembrance of my
better years:

                          "Animus quo perdidit, optat,
               Atque in praeterita se totus imagine versat."

     ["The mind wishes to have what it has lost, and throws itself
     wholly into memories of the past."—Petronius, c. 128.]

Let childhood look forward and age backward; was not this the
signification of Janus' double face? Let years draw me along if they
will, but it shall be backward; as long as my eyes can discern the
pleasant season expired, I shall now and then turn them that way; though
it escape from my blood and veins, I shall not, however, root the image
of it out of my memory:

                                        "Hoc est
                    Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui."

     ["'Tis to live twice to be able to enjoy one's former life again."
     —Martial, x. 23, 7.]

Plato ordains that old men should be present at the exercises, dances,
and sports of young people, that they may rejoice in others for the
activity and beauty of body which is no more in themselves, and call to
mind the grace and comeliness of that flourishing age; and wills that in
these recreations the honour of the prize should be given to that young
man who has most diverted the company. I was formerly wont to mark
cloudy and gloomy days as extraordinary; these are now my ordinary days;
the extraordinary are the clear and bright; I am ready to leap for joy,
as for an unwonted favour, when nothing happens me. Let me tickle
myself, I cannot force a poor smile from this wretched body of mine;
I am only merry in conceit and in dreaming, by artifice to divert the
melancholy of age; but, in faith, it requires another remedy than a
dream. A weak contest of art against nature. 'Tis great folly to
lengthen and anticipate human incommodities, as every one does; I had
rather be a less while old than be old before I am really so.' I seize on
even the least occasions of pleasure I can meet. I know very well, by
hearsay, several sorts of prudent pleasures, effectually so, and glorious
to boot; but opinion has not power enough over me to give me an appetite
to them. I covet not so much to have them magnanimous, magnificent, and
pompous, as I do to have them sweet, facile, and ready:

               "A natura discedimus; populo nos damus,
               nullius rei bono auctori."

     ["We depart from nature and give ourselves to the people, who
     understand nothing."—Seneca, Ep., 99.]

My philosophy is in action, in natural and present practice, very little
in fancy: what if I should take pleasure in playing at cob-nut or to whip
a top!

               "Non ponebat enim rumores ante salutem."

     ["He did not sacrifice his health even to rumours." Ennius, apud
     Cicero, De Offic., i. 24]

Pleasure is a quality of very little ambition; it thinks itself rich
enough of itself without any addition of repute; and is best pleased
where most retired. A young man should be whipped who pretends to a
taste in wine and sauces; there was nothing which, at that age, I less
valued or knew: now I begin to learn; I am very much ashamed on't; but
what should I do? I am more ashamed and vexed at the occasions that put
me upon't. 'Tis for us to dote and trifle away the time, and for young
men to stand upon their reputation and nice punctilios; they are going
towards the world and the world's opinion; we are retiring from it:

     "Sibi arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam, sibi pilam,
     sibi natationes, et cursus habeant: nobis senibus, ex lusionibus
     multis, talos relinquant et tesseras;"

     ["Let them reserve to themselves arms, horses, spears, clubs,
     tennis, swimming, and races; and of all the sports leave to us old
     men cards and dice."—Cicero, De Senec., c. 16.]

the laws themselves send us home. I can do no less in favour of this
wretched condition into which my age has thrown me than furnish it with
toys to play withal, as they do children; and, in truth, we become such.
Both wisdom and folly will have enough to do to support and relieve me by
alternate services in this calamity of age:

               "Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem."

          ["Mingle with counsels a brief interval of folly."
          —Horace, Od., iv. 12, 27.]

I accordingly avoid the lightest punctures; and those that formerly would
not have rippled the skin, now pierce me through and through: my habit of
body is now so naturally declining to ill:

          "In fragili corpore odiosa omnis offensio est;"

          ["In a fragile body every shock is obnoxious."
          —Cicero, De Senec., c. 18.]

          "Mensque pati durum sustinet aegra nihil."

     ["And the infirm mind can bear no difficult exertion."
     —Ovid, De Ponto., i. 5, 18.]

I have ever been very susceptibly tender as to offences: I am much more
tender now, and open throughout.

               "Et minimae vires frangere quassa valent."

     ["And little force suffices to break what was cracked before."
     —Ovid, De Tris., iii. 11, 22.]

My judgment restrains me from kicking against and murmuring at the
inconveniences that nature orders me to endure, but it does not take away
my feeling them: I, who have no other thing in my aim but to live and be
merry, would run from one end of the world to the other to seek out one
good year of pleasant and jocund tranquillity. A melancholic and dull
tranquillity may be enough for me, but it benumbs and stupefies me; I am
not contented with it. If there be any person, any knot of good company
in country or city, in France or elsewhere, resident or in motion, who
can like my humour, and whose humours I can like, let them but whistle
and I will run and furnish them with essays in flesh and bone:

Seeing it is the privilege of the mind to rescue itself from old age, I
advise mine to it with all the power I have; let it meanwhile continue
green, and flourish if it can, like mistletoe upon a dead tree. But I
fear 'tis a traitor; it has contracted so strict a fraternity with the
body that it leaves me at every turn, to follow that in its need. I
wheedle and deal with it apart in vain; I try in vain to wean it from
this correspondence, to no effect; quote to it Seneca and Catullus, and
ladies and royal masques; if its companion have the stone, it seems to
have it too; even the faculties that are most peculiarly and properly its
own cannot then perform their functions, but manifestly appear stupefied
and asleep; there is no sprightliness in its productions, if there be not
at the same time an equal proportion in the body too.

Our masters are to blame, that in searching out the causes of the
extraordinary emotions of the soul, besides attributing it to a divine
ecstasy, love, martial fierceness, poesy, wine, they have not also
attributed a part to health: a boiling, vigorous, full, and lazy health,
such as formerly the verdure of youth and security, by fits, supplied me
withal; that fire of sprightliness and gaiety darts into the mind flashes
that are lively and bright beyond our natural light, and of all
enthusiasms the most jovial, if not the most extravagant.

It is, then, no wonder if a contrary state stupefy and clog my spirit,
and produce a contrary effect:

          "Ad nullum consurgit opus, cum corpore languet;"

     ["When the mind is languishing, the body is good for nothing."
     (Or:) "It rises to no effort; it languishes with the body."
     —Pseudo Gallus, i. 125.]

and yet would have me obliged to it for giving, as it wants to make out,
much less consent to this stupidity than is the ordinary case with men of
my age. Let us, at least, whilst we have truce, drive away incommodities
and difficulties from our commerce:

          "Dum licet, obducta solvatur fronte senectus:"

     ["Whilst we can, let us banish old age from the brow."
     —Herod., Ep., xiii. 7.]

               "Tetrica sunt amcenanda jocularibus."

     ["Sour things are to be sweetened with those that are pleasant."
     —Sidonius Apollin., Ep., i. 9.]

I love a gay and civil wisdom, and fly from all sourness and austerity of
manners, all repellent, mien being suspected by me:

               "Tristemque vultus tetrici arrogantiam:"

          ["The arrogant sadness of a crabbed face."—Auctor Incert.]

               "Et habet tristis quoque turba cinaedos."

          ["And the dull crowd also has its voluptuaries." (Or:)
          "An austere countenance sometimes covers a debauched mind."

I am very much of Plato's opinion, who says that facile or harsh humours
are great indications of the good or ill disposition of the mind.
Socrates had a constant countenance, but serene and smiling, not sourly
austere, like the elder Crassus, whom no one ever saw laugh. Virtue is a
pleasant and gay quality.

I know very well that few will quarrel with the licence of my writings,
who have not more to quarrel with in the licence of their own thoughts:
I conform myself well enough to their inclinations, but I offend their
eyes. 'Tis a fine humour to strain the writings of Plato, to wrest his
pretended intercourses with Phaedo, Dion, Stella, and Archeanassa:

               "Non pudeat dicere, quod non pudet sentire."

     ["Let us not be ashamed to speak what we are not ashamed to think."]

I hate a froward and dismal spirit, that slips over all the pleasures of
life and seizes and feeds upon misfortunes; like flies, that cannot stick
to a smooth and polished body, but fix and repose themselves upon craggy
and rough places, and like cupping-glasses, that only suck and attract
bad blood.

As to the rest, I have enjoined myself to dare to say all that I dare to
do; even thoughts that are not to be published, displease me; the worst
of my actions and qualities do not appear to me so evil as I find it evil
and base not to dare to own them. Every one is wary and discreet in
confession, but men ought to be so in action; the boldness of doing ill
is in some sort compensated and restrained by the boldness of confessing
it. Whoever will oblige himself to tell all, should oblige himself to do
nothing that he must be forced to conceal. I wish that this excessive
licence of mine may draw men to freedom, above these timorous and mincing
virtues sprung from our imperfections, and that at the expense of my
immoderation I may reduce them to reason. A man must see and study his
vice to correct it; they who conceal it from others, commonly conceal it
from themselves; and do not think it close enough, if they themselves see
it: they withdraw and disguise it from their own consciences:

     "Quare vitia sua nemo confitetur? Quia etiam nunc in
     illia est; somnium narrare vigilantis est."

     ["Why does no man confess his vices? because he is yet in them;
     'tis for a waking man to tell his dream."—Seneca, Ep., 53.]

The diseases of the body explain themselves by their increase; we find
that to be the gout which we called a rheum or a strain; the diseases of
the soul, the greater they are, keep, themselves the most obscure;
the most sick are the least sensible; therefore it is that with an
unrelenting hand they most often, in full day, be taken to task, opened,
and torn from the hollow of the heart. As in doing well, so in doing
ill, the mere confession is sometimes satisfaction. Is there any
deformity in doing amiss, that can excuse us from confessing ourselves?
It is so great a pain to me to dissemble, that I evade the trust of
another's secrets, wanting the courage to disavow my knowledge. I can
keep silent, but deny I cannot without the greatest trouble and violence
to myself imaginable to be very secret, a man must be so by nature, not
by obligation. 'Tis little worth, in the service of a prince, to be
secret, if a man be not a liar to boot. If he who asked Thales the
Milesian whether he ought solemnly to deny that he had committed
adultery, had applied himself to me, I should have told him that he ought
not to do it; for I look upon lying as a worse fault than the other.
Thales advised him quite contrary, bidding him swear to shield the
greater fault by the less;

     [Montaigne's memory here serves him ill, for the question being put
     to Thales, his answer was: "But is not perjury worse than
     adultery?"—Diogenes Laertius, in vita, i. 36.]

nevertheless, this counsel was not so much an election as a
multiplication of vice. Upon which let us say this in passing, that we
deal liberally with a man of conscience when we propose to him some
difficulty in counterpoise of vice; but when we shut him up betwixt two
vices, he is put to a hard choice as Origen was either to idolatrise or
to suffer himself to be carnally abused by a great Ethiopian slave they
brought to him. He submitted to the first condition, and wrongly, people
say. Yet those women of our times are not much out, according to their
error, who protest they had rather burden their consciences with ten men
than one mass.

If it be indiscretion so to publish one's errors, yet there is no great
danger that it pass into example and custom; for Ariston said, that the
winds men most fear are those that lay them open. We must tuck up this
ridiculous rag that hides our manners: they send their consciences to the
stews, and keep a starched countenance: even traitors and assassins
espouse the laws of ceremony, and there fix their duty. So that neither
can injustice complain of incivility, nor malice of indiscretion. 'Tis
pity but a bad man should be a fool to boot, and that outward decency
should palliate his vice: this rough-cast only appertains to a good and
sound wall, that deserves to be preserved and whited.

In favour of the Huguenots, who condemn our auricular and private
confession, I confess myself in public, religiously and purely: St.
Augustin, Origeti, and Hippocrates have published the errors of their
opinions; I, moreover, of my manners. I am greedy of making myself
known, and I care not to how many, provided it be truly; or to say
better, I hunger for nothing; but I mortally hate to be mistaken by those
who happen to learn my name. He who does all things for honour and
glory, what can he think to gain by shewing himself to the world in a
vizor, and by concealing his true being from the people? Praise a
humpback for his stature, he has reason to take it for an affront:
if you are a coward, and men commend you for your valour, is it of you
they speak? They take you for another. I should like him as well who
glorifies himself in the compliments and congees that are made him as if
he were master of the company, when he is one of the least of the train.
Archelaus, king of Macedon, walking along the street, somebody threw
water on his head, which they who were with him said he ought to punish:
"Aye, but," said he, "whoever it was, he did not throw the water upon me,
but upon him whom he took me to be." Socrates being told that people
spoke ill of him, "Not at all," said he, "there is nothing, in me of what
they say."

For my part, if any one should recommend me as a good pilot, as being
very modest or very chaste, I should owe him no thanks; and so, whoever
should call me traitor, robber, or drunkard, I should be as little
concerned. They who do not rightly know themselves, may feed themselves
with false approbations; not I, who see myself, and who examine myself
even to my very bowels, and who very well know what is my due. I am
content to be less commended, provided I am better known. I may be
reputed a wise man in such a sort of wisdom as I take to be folly.
I am vexed that my Essays only serve the ladies for a common piece of
furniture, and a piece for the hall; this chapter will make me part of
the water-closet. I love to traffic with them a little in private;
public conversation is without favour and without savour. In farewells,
we oftener than not heat our affections towards the things we take leave
of; I take my last leave of the pleasures of this world: these are our
last embraces.

But let us come to my subject: what has the act of generation, so
natural, so necessary, and so just, done to men, to be a thing not to
be spoken of without blushing, and to be excluded from all serious and
moderate discourse? We boldly pronounce kill, rob, betray, and that we
dare only to do betwixt the teeth. Is it to say, the less we expend in
words, we may pay so much the more in thinking? For it is certain that
the words least in use, most seldom written, and best kept in, are the
best and most generally known: no age, no manners, are ignorant of them,
no more than the word bread they imprint themselves in every one without
being, expressed, without voice, and without figure; and the sex that
most practises it is bound to say least of it. 'Tis an act that we have
placed in the franchise of silence, from which to take it is a crime even
to accuse and judge it; neither dare we reprehend it but by periphrasis
and picture. A great favour to a criminal to be so execrable that
justice thinks it unjust to touch and see him; free, and safe by the
benefit of the severity of his condemnation. Is it not here as in matter
of books, that sell better and become more public for being suppressed?
For my part, I will take Aristotle at his word, who says, that
"bashfulness is an ornament to youth, but a reproach to old age." These
verses are preached in the ancient school, a school that I much more
adhere to than the modern: its virtues appear to me to be greater, and
the vices less:

              "Ceux qui par trop fuyant Venus estrivent,
               Faillent autant que ceulx qui trop la suyvent."

     ["They err as much who too much forbear Venus, as they who are too
     frequent in her rites."—A translation by Amyot from Plutarch, A
     philosopher should converse with princes.]

              "Tu, dea, rerum naturam sola gubernas,
               Nec sine to quicquam dias in luminis oras
               Exoritur, neque fit laetum, nec amabile quidquam."

     ["Goddess, still thou alone governest nature, nor without thee
     anything comes into light; nothing is pleasant, nothing joyful."
     —Lucretius, i. 22.]

I know not who could set Pallas and the Muses at variance with Venus, and
make them cold towards Love; but I see no deities so well met, or that
are more indebted to one another. Who will deprive the Muses of amorous
imaginations, will rob them of the best entertainment they have, and of
the noblest matter of their work: and who will make Love lose the
communication and service of poesy, will disarm him of his best weapons:
by this means they charge the god of familiarity and good will, and the
protecting goddesses of humanity and justice, with the vice of
ingratitude and unthankfulness. I have not been so long cashiered from
the state and service of this god, that my memory is not still perfect in
his force and value:

               "Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae;"

     ["I recognise vestiges of my old flame."—AEneid., iv. 23.]

There are yet some remains of heat and emotion after the fever:

          "Nec mihi deficiat calor hic, hiemantibus annis!"

     ["Nor let this heat of youth fail me in my winter years."]

Withered and drooping as I am, I feel yet some remains of the past

              "Qual l'alto Egeo, per the Aquilone o Noto
               Cessi, the tutto prima il volse et scosse,
               Non 's accheta ei pero; ma'l suono e'l moto
               Ritien del l'onde anco agitate e grosse:"

          ["As Aegean seas, when storms be calmed again,
          That rolled their tumbling waves with troublous blasts,
          Do yet of tempests passed some show retain,
          And here and there their swelling billows cast."—Fairfax.]

but from what I understand of it, the force and power of this god are
more lively and animated in the picture of poesy than in their own

                    "Et versus digitos habet:"

          ["Verse has fingers."—Altered from Juvenal, iv. 196.]

it has I know not what kind of air, more amorous than love itself. Venus
is not so beautiful, naked, alive, and panting, as she is here in Virgil:

         "Dixerat; et niveis hinc atque hinc Diva lacertis
          Cunctantem amplexu molli fovet. Ille repente
          Accepit solitam flammam; notusque medullas
          Intravit calor, et labefacta per ossa cucurrit
          Non secus atque olim tonitru, cum rupta corusco
          Ignea rima micans percurrit lumine nimbos.
          . . . . . . Ea verba loquutus,
          Optatos dedit amplexus; placidumque petivit
          Conjugis infusus gremio per membra soporem."

     ["The goddess spoke, and throwing round him her snowy arms in soft
     embraces, caresses him hesitating. Suddenly he caught the wonted
     flame, and the well-known warmth pierced his marrow, and ran
     thrilling through his shaken bones: just as when at times, with
     thunder, a stream of fire in lightning flashes shoots across the
     skies. Having spoken these words, he gave her the wished embrace,
     and in the bosom of his spouse sought placid sleep."
     —AEneid, viii. 387 and 392.]

All that I find fault with in considering it is, that he has represented
her a little too passionate for a married Venus; in this discreet kind of
coupling, the appetite is not usually so wanton, but more grave and dull.
Love hates that people should hold of any but itself, and goes but
faintly to work in familiarities derived from any other title, as
marriage is: alliance, dowry, therein sway by reason, as much or more
than grace and beauty. Men do not marry for themselves, let them say
what they will; they marry as much or more for their posterity and
family; the custom and interest of marriage concern our race much more
than us; and therefore it is, that I like to have a match carried on by a
third hand rather than a man's own, and by another man's liking than that
of the party himself; and how much is all this opposite to the
conventions of love? And also it is a kind of incest to employ in this
venerable and sacred alliance the heat and extravagance of amorous
licence, as I think I have said elsewhere. A man, says Aristotle, must
approach his wife with prudence and temperance, lest in dealing too
lasciviously with her, the extreme pleasure make her exceed the bounds of
reason. What he says upon the account of conscience, the physicians say
upon the account of health: "that a pleasure excessively lascivious,
voluptuous, and frequent, makes the seed too hot, and hinders
conception": 'tis said, elsewhere, that to a languishing intercourse, as
this naturally is, to supply it with a due and fruitful heat, a man must
do it but seldom and at appreciable intervals:

          "Quo rapiat sitiens Venerem, interiusque recondat."

     ["But let him thirstily snatch the joys of love and enclose them in
     his bosom."—Virg., Georg., iii. 137.]

I see no marriages where the conjugal compatibility sooner fails than
those that we contract upon the account of beauty and amorous desires;
there should be more solid and constant foundation, and they should
proceed with greater circumspection; this furious ardour is worth

They who think they honour marriage by joining love to it, do, methinks,
like those who, to favour virtue, hold that nobility is nothing else but
virtue. They are indeed things that have some relation to one another,
but there is a great deal of difference; we should not so mix their names
and titles; 'tis a wrong to them both so to confound them. Nobility is a
brave quality, and with good reason introduced; but forasmuch as 'tis a
quality depending upon others, and may happen in a vicious person, in
himself nothing, 'tis in estimate infinitely below virtue';

     ["If nobility be virtue, it loses its quality in all things wherein
     not virtuous: and if it be not virtue, 'tis a small matter."
     —La Byuyere.]

'tis a virtue, if it be one, that is artificial and apparent, depending
upon time and fortune: various in form, according to the country; living
and mortal; without birth, as the river Nile; genealogical and common;
of succession and similitude; drawn by consequence, and a very weak one.
Knowledge, strength, goodness, beauty, riches, and all other qualities,
fall into communication and commerce, but this is consummated in itself,
and of no use to the service of others. There was proposed to one of our
kings the choice of two candidates for the same command, of whom one was
a gentleman, the other not; he ordered that, without respect to quality,
they should choose him who had the most merit; but where the worth of the
competitors should appear to be entirely equal, they should have respect
to birth: this was justly to give it its rank. A young man unknown,
coming to Antigonus to make suit for his father's command, a valiant man
lately dead: "Friend," said he, "in such preferments as these, I have not
so much regard to the nobility of my soldiers as to their prowess."
And, indeed, it ought not to go as it did with the officers of the kings
of Sparta, trumpeters, fiddlers, cooks, the children of whom always
succeeded to their places, how ignorant soever, and were preferred before
the most experienced in the trade. They of Calicut make of nobles a sort
of superhuman persons: they are interdicted marriage and all but warlike
employments: they may have of concubines their fill, and the women as
many lovers, without being jealous of one another; but 'tis a capital and
irremissible crime to couple with a person of meaner conditions than
themselves; and they think themselves polluted, if they have but touched
one in walking along; and supposing their nobility to be marvellously
interested and injured in it, kill such as only approach a little too
near them: insomuch that the ignoble are obliged to cry out as they walk,
like the gondoliers of Venice, at the turnings of streets for fear of
jostling; and the nobles command them to step aside to what part they
please: by that means these avoid what they repute a perpetual ignominy,
those certain death. No time, no favour of the prince, no office, or
virtue, or riches, can ever prevail to make a plebeian become noble: to
which this custom contributes, that marriages are interdicted betwixt
different trades; the daughter of one of the cordwainers' gild is not
permitted to marry a carpenter; and parents are obliged to train up their
children precisely in their own callings, and not put them to any other
trade; by which means the distinction and continuance of their fortunes
are maintained.

A good marriage, if there be any such, 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 services and mutual obligations; which any woman who has
a right taste:

                    "Optato quam junxit lumine taeda"—

     ["Whom the marriage torch has joined with the desired light."
     —Catullus, lxiv. 79.]

would be loth to serve her husband in quality of a mistress. If she be
lodged in his affection as a wife, she is more honourably and securely
placed. When he purports to be in love with another, and works all he
can to obtain his desire, let any one but ask him, on which he had rather
a disgrace should fall, his wife or his mistress, which of their
misfortunes would most afflict him, and to which of them he wishes the
most grandeur, the answer to these questions is out of dispute in a sound

And that so few are observed to be happy, is a token of its price and
value. If well formed and rightly taken, 'tis 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 asked, whether it was more
commodious to take a wife or not, "Let a man take which course he will,"
said he; "he will repent." 'Tis a contract to which the common

                    "Homo homini aut deus aut lupus,"

          ["Man to man is either a god or a wolf."—Erasmus, Adag.]

may very fitly be applied; there must be a concurrence of many qualities
in the construction. It is found nowadays more convenient for simple and
plebeian souls, where delights, curiosity, and idleness do not so much
disturb it; but extravagant humours, such as mine, that hate all sorts of
obligation and restraint, are not so proper for it:

               "Et mihi dulce magis resoluto vivere collo."

          ["And it is sweet to me to live with a loosened neck."
          —Pseudo Gallus, i. 61.]

Might I have had my own will, I would not have married Wisdom herself, 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. The most of my actions are
guided by example, not by choice, and yet I did not go to it of my own
voluntary motion; I was led and drawn to it by extrinsic occasions; for
not only things that are incommodious in themselves, but also things
however ugly, vicious, and to be avoided, may be rendered acceptable by
some condition or accident; so unsteady and vain is all human resolution!
and I was persuaded to it, when worse prepared and less tractable than I
am at present, that I have tried what it is: and as great a libertine as
I am taken to be, I have in truth more strictly observed the laws of
marriage, than I either promised or expected. 'Tis in vain to kick, when
a man has once put on his fetters: a man must prudently manage his
liberty; but having once submitted to obligation, he must confine himself
within the laws of common duty, at least, do what he can towards it.
They who engage in this contract, with a design to carry themselves in it
with hatred and contempt, do an unjust and inconvenient thing; and the
fine rule that I hear pass from hand to hand amongst the women, as a
sacred oracle:

     ["Serve thy husband as thy master, but guard thyself against him as
     from a traitor."]

which is to say, comport thyself towards him with a dissembled, inimical,
and distrustful reverence (a cry of war and defiance), is equally
injurious and hard. I am too mild for such rugged designs: to say the
truth, I am not arrived to that perfection of ability and refinement of
wit, to confound reason with injustice, and to laugh at all rule and
order that does not please my palate; because I hate superstition, I do
not presently run into the contrary extreme of irreligion.

     (If a man hate superstition he cannot love religion. D.W.)

If a man does not always perform his duty, he ought at least to love and
acknowledge it; 'tis treachery to marry without espousing.

Let us proceed.

Our poet represents a marriage happy in a good accord wherein
nevertheless there is not much loyalty. Does he mean, that it is not
impossible but a woman may give the reins to her own passion, and yield
to the importunities of love, and yet reserve some duty toward marriage,
and that it may be hurt, without being totally broken? A serving man may
cheat his master, whom nevertheless he does not hate. Beauty,
opportunity, and destiny (for destiny has also a hand in't),

                         "Fatum est in partibus illis
          Quas sinus abscondit; nam, si tibi sidera cessent,
          Nil faciet longi mensura incognita nervi;"

     ["There is a fatality about the hidden parts: let nature have
     endowed you however liberally, 'tis of no use, if your good star
     fails you in the nick of time."—Juvenal, ix. 32.]

have attached her to a stranger; though not so wholly, peradventure, but
that she may have some remains of kindness for her husband. They are two
designs, that have several paths leading to them, without being
confounded with one another; a woman may yield to a man she would by no
means have married, not only for the condition of his fortune, but for
those also of his person. Few men have made a wife of a mistress, who
have not repented it. And even in the other world, what an unhappy life
does Jupiter lead with his, whom he had first enjoyed as a mistress!
'Tis, as the proverb runs, to befoul a basket and then put it upon one's
head. I have in my time, in a good family, seen love shamefully and
dishonestly cured by marriage: the considerations are widely different.
We love at once, without any tie, two things contrary in themselves.

Socrates was wont to say, that the city of Athens pleased, as ladies do
whom men court for love; every one loved to come thither to take a turn,
and pass away his time; but no one liked it so well as to espouse it,
that is, to inhabit there, and to make it his constant residence. I have
been vexed to see husbands hate their wives only because they themselves
do them wrong; we should not, at all events, methinks, love them the less
for our own faults; they should at least, upon the account of repentance
and compassion, be dearer to us.

They are different ends, he says, and yet in some sort compatible;
marriage has utility, justice, honour, and constancy for its share;
a flat, but more universal pleasure: love founds itself wholly upon
pleasure, and, indeed, has it more full, lively, and sharp; a pleasure
inflamed by difficulty; there must be in it sting and smart: 'tis no
longer love, if without darts and fire. The bounty of ladies is too
profuse in marriage, and dulls the point of affection and desire: to
evade which inconvenience, do but observe what pains Lycurgus and Plato
take in their laws.

Women are not to blame at all, when they refuse the rules of life that
are introduced into the world, forasmuch as the men make them without
their help. There is naturally contention and brawling betwixt them and
us; and the strictest friendship we have with them is yet mixed with
tumult and tempest. In the opinion of our author, we deal
inconsiderately with them in this: after we have discovered that they
are, without comparison, more able and ardent in the practice of love
than we, and that the old priest testified as much, who had been one
while a man, and then a woman:

                    "Venus huic erat utraque nota:"

               ["Both aspects of love were known to him,"
               —Tiresias. Ovid. Metam., iii. 323.]

and moreover, that we have learned from their own mouths the proof that,
in several ages, was made by an Emperor and Empress of Rome,—[Proclus.]
—both famous for ability in that affair! for he in one night deflowered
ten Sarmatian virgins who were his captives: but she had five-and-twenty
bouts in one night, changing her man according to her need and liking;

                    "Adhuc ardens rigidae tentigine vulvae
               Et lassata viris, nondum satiata, recessit:"

          ["Ardent still, she retired, fatigued, but not satisfied."
          —Juvenal, vi. 128.]

and that upon the dispute which happened in Cataluna, wherein a wife
complaining of her husband's too frequent addresses to her, not so much,
as I conceive, that she was incommodated by it (for I believe no miracles
out of religion) as under this pretence, to curtail and curb in this,
which is the fundamental act of marriage, the authority of husbands over
their wives, and to shew that their frowardness and malignity go beyond
the nuptial bed, and spurn under foot even the graces and sweets of
Venus; the husband, a man truly brutish and unnatural, replied, that even
on fasting days he could not subsist with less than ten courses:
whereupon came out that notable sentence of the Queen of Arragon, by
which, after mature deliberation of her council, this good queen, to give
a rule and example to all succeeding ages of the moderation required in
a just marriage, set down six times a day as a legitimate and necessary
stint; surrendering and quitting a great deal of the needs and desires of
her sex, that she might, she said, establish an easy, and consequently, a
permanent and immutable rule. Hereupon the doctors cry out: what must
the female appetite and concupiscence be, when their reason, their
reformation and virtue, are taxed at such a rate, considering the divers
judgments of our appetites? for Solon, master of the law school, taxes
us but at three a month,—that men may not fail in point of conjugal
frequentation: after having, I say, believed and preached all this, we go
and enjoin them continency for their particular share, and upon the last
and extreme penalties.

There is no passion so hard to contend with as this, which we would have
them only resist, not simply as an ordinary vice, but as an execrable
abomination, worse than irreligion and parricide; whilst we, at the same
time, go to't without offence or reproach. Even those amongst us who
have tried the experiment have sufficiently confessed what difficulty, or
rather impossibility, they have found by material remedies to subdue,
weaken, and cool the body. We, on the contrary, would have them at once
sound, vigorous plump, high-fed, and chaste; that is to say, both hot and
cold; for the marriage, which we tell them is to keep them from burning,
is but small refreshment to them, as we order the matter. If they take
one whose vigorous age is yet boiling, he will be proud to make it known

                   "Sit tandem pudor; aut eamus in jus;
                    Multis mentula millibus redempta,
                    Non est haec tua, Basse; vendidisti;"

     ["Let there be some shame, or we shall go to law: your vigour,
     bought by your wife with many thousands, is no longer yours: thou
     hast sold it.—"Martial, xii. 90.]

Polemon the philosopher was justly by his wife brought before the judge
for sowing in a barren field the seed that was due to one that was
fruitful: if, on the other hand, they take a decayed fellow, they are in
a worse condition in marriage than either maids or widows. We think them
well provided for, because they have a man to lie with, as the Romans
concluded Clodia Laeta, a vestal nun, violated, because Caligula had
approached her, though it was declared he did no more but approach her:
but, on the contrary, we by that increase their necessity, forasmuch as
the touch and company of any man whatever rouses their desires, that in
solitude would be more quiet. And to the end, 'tis likely, that they
might render their chastity more meritorious by this circumstance and
consideration, Boleslas and Kinge his wife, kings of Poland, vowed it by
mutual consent, being in bed together, on their very wedding day, and
kept their vow in spite of all matrimonial conveniences.

We train them up from their infancy to the traffic of love; their grace,
dressing, knowledge, language, and whole instruction tend that way: their
governesses imprint nothing in them but the idea of love, if for nothing
else but by continually representing it to them, to give them a distaste
for it. My daughter, the only child I have, is now of an age that
forward young women are allowed to be married at; she is of a slow, thin,
and tender complexion, and has accordingly been brought up by her mother
after a retired and particular manner, so that she but now begins to be
weaned from her childish simplicity. She was reading before me in a
French book where the word 'fouteau', the name of a tree very well known,
occurred;—[The beech-tree; the name resembles in sound an obscene
French word.]—the woman, to whose conduct she is committed, stopped her
short a little roughly, and made her skip over that dangerous step. I
let her alone, not to trouble their rules, for I never concern myself in
that sort of government; feminine polity has a mysterious procedure; we
must leave it to them; but if I am not mistaken the commerce of twenty
lacquies could not, in six months' time, have so imprinted in her memory
the meaning, usage, and all the consequence of the sound of these wicked
syllables, as this good old woman did by reprimand and interdiction.

                   "Motus doceri gaudet Ionicos
                    Matura virgo, et frangitur artibus;
                    Jam nunc et incestos amores
                    De tenero, meditatur ungui."

     ["The maid ripe for marriage delights to learn Ionic dances, and to
     imitate those lascivious movements. Nay, already from her infancy
     she meditates criminal amours."—Horace, Od., iii. 6, 21., the text
     has 'fingitur'.]

Let them but give themselves the rein a little, let them but enter into
liberty of discourse, we are but children to them in this science. Hear
them but describe our pursuits and conversation, they will very well make
you understand that we bring them nothing they have not known before, and
digested without our help.

     [This sentence refers to a conversation between some young women in
     his immediate neighbourhood, which the Essayist just below informs
     us that he overheard, and which was too shocking for him to repeat.
     It must have been tolerably bad.—Remark by the editor of a later

Is it, perhaps, as Plato says, that they have formerly been debauched
young fellows? I happened one day to be in a place where I could hear
some of their talk without suspicion; I am sorry I cannot repeat it.
By'rlady, said I, we had need go study the phrases of Amadis, and the
tales of Boccaccio and Aretin, to be able to discourse with them: we
employ our time to much purpose indeed. There is neither word, example,
nor step they are not more perfect in than our books; 'tis a discipline
that springs with their blood,

                    "Et mentem ipsa Venus dedit,"

               ["Venus herself made them what they are,"
               —Virg., Georg., iii. 267.]

which these good instructors, nature, youth, and health, are continually
inspiring them with; they need not learn, they breed it:

              "Nec tantum niveo gavisa est ulla columbo,
               Compar, vel si quid dicitur improbius,
               Oscula mordenti semper decerpere rostro,
               Quantum praecipue multivola est mulier."

     ["No milk-white dove, or if there be a thing more lascivious,
     takes so much delight in kissing as woman, wishful for every man
     she sees."—Catullus, lxvi. 125.]

So that if the natural violence of their desire were not a little
restrained by fear and honour, which were wisely contrived for them, we
should be all shamed. All the motions in the world resolve into and tend
to this conjunction; 'tis a matter infused throughout: 'tis a centre to
which all things are directed. We yet see the edicts of the old and wise
Rome made for the service of love, and the precepts of Socrates for the
instruction of courtezans:

                   "Noncon libelli Stoici inter sericos
                    Jacere pulvillos amant:"

          ["There are writings of the Stoics which we find lying upon
          silken cushions."—Horace, Epod., viii. 15.]

Zeno, amongst his laws, also regulated the motions to be observed in
getting a maidenhead. What was the philosopher Strato's book Of Carnal
Conjunction?—[ Diogenes Laertius, v. 59.]—And what did Theophrastus
treat of in those he intituled, the one 'The Lover', and the other 'Of
Love?' Of what Aristippus in his 'Of Former Delights'? What do the so
long and lively descriptions in Plato of the loves of his time pretend
to? and the book called 'The Lover', of Demetrius Phalereus? and
'Clinias', or the 'Ravished Lover', of Heraclides; and that of
Antisthenes, 'Of Getting Children', or, 'Of Weddings', and the other,
'Of the Master or the Lover'? And that of Aristo: 'Of Amorous Exercises'
What those of Cleanthes: one, 'Of Love', the other, 'Of the Art of
Loving'? The amorous dialogues of Sphaereus? and the fable of Jupiter
and Juno, of Chrysippus, impudent beyond all toleration? And his fifty
so lascivious epistles? I will let alone the writings of the
philosophers of the Epicurean sect, protectress of voluptuousness. Fifty
deities were, in time past, assigned to this office; and there have been
nations where, to assuage the lust of those who came to their devotion,
they kept men and women in their temples for the worshippers to lie with;
and it was an act of ceremony to do this before they went to prayers:

     "Nimirum propter continentiam incontinentia necessaria est;
     incendium ignibus extinguitur."

     ["Forsooth incontinency is necessary for continency's sake; a
     conflagration is extinguished by fire."]

In the greatest part of the world, that member of our body was deified;
in the same province, some flayed off the skin to offer and consecrate a
piece; others offered and consecrated their seed. In another, the young
men publicly cut through betwixt the skin and the flesh of that part in
several places, and thrust pieces of wood into the openings as long and
thick as they would receive, and of these pieces of wood afterwards made
a fire as an offering to their gods; and were reputed neither vigorous
nor chaste, if by the force of that cruel pain they seemed to be at all
dismayed. Elsewhere the most sacred magistrate was reverenced and
acknowledged by that member and in several ceremonies the effigy of it
was carried in pomp to the honour of various divinities. The Egyptian
ladies, in their Bacchanalia, each carried one finely-carved of wood
about their necks, as large and heavy as she could so carry it; besides
which, the statue of their god presented one, which in greatness
surpassed all the rest of his body.—[Herodotus, ii. 48, says "nearly
as large as the body itself."]—The married women, near the place where
I live, make of their kerchiefs the figure of one upon their foreheads,
to glorify themselves in the enjoyment they have of it; and coming to be
widows, they throw it behind, and cover it with their headcloths. The
most modest matrons of Rome thought it an honour to offer flowers and
garlands to the god Priapus; and they made the virgins, at the time of
their espousals, sit upon his shameful parts. And I know not whether I
have not in my time seen some air of like devotion. What was the meaning
of that ridiculous piece of the chaussuye of our forefathers, and that is
still worn by our Swiss? ["Cod-pieces worn"—Cotton]—To what end do we
make a show of our implements in figure under our breeches, and often,
which is worse, above their natural size, by falsehood and imposture?
I have half a mind to believe that this sort of vestment was invented in
the better and more conscientious ages, that the world might not be
deceived, and that every one should give a public account of his
proportions: the simple nations wear them yet, and near about the real
size. In those days, the tailor took measure of it, as the shoemaker
does now of a man's foot. That good man, who, when I was young, gelded
so many noble and ancient statues in his great city, that they might not
corrupt the sight of the ladies, according to the advice of this other
ancient worthy:

          "Flagitii principium est, nudare inter gives corpora,"

     ["'Tis the beginning of wickedness to expose their persons among the
     citizens"—Ennius, ap. Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iv. 33.]

should have called to mind, that, as in the mysteries of the Bona Dea,
all masculine appearance was excluded, he did nothing, if he did not geld
horses and asses, in short, all nature:

         "Omne adeo genus in terris, hominumque, ferarumque,
          Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres,
          In furias ignemque ruunt."

          ["So that all living things, men and animals, wild or tame,
          and fish and gaudy fowl, rush to this flame of love."
          —Virgil, Georg., iii. 244.]

The gods, says Plato, have given us one disobedient and unruly member
that, like a furious animal, attempts, by the violence of its appetite,
to subject all things to it; and so they have given to women one like a
greedy and ravenous animal, which, if it be refused food in season, grows
wild, impatient of delay, and infusing its rage into their bodies, stops
the passages, and hinders respiration, causing a thousand ills, till,
having imbibed the fruit of the common thirst, it has plentifully bedewed
the bottom of their matrix. Now my legislator—[The Pope who, as
Montaigne has told us, took it into his head to geld the statues.]—
should also have considered that, peradventure, it were a chaster and
more fruitful usage to let them know the fact as it is betimes, than
permit them to guess according to the liberty and heat of their own
fancy; instead of the real parts they substitute, through hope and
desire, others that are three times more extravagant; and a certain
friend of mine lost himself by producing his in place and time when the
opportunity was not present to put them to their more serious use. What
mischief do not those pictures of prodigious dimension do that the boys
make upon the staircases and galleries of the royal houses? they give the
ladies a cruel contempt of our natural furniture. And what do we know
but that Plato, after other well-instituted republics, ordered that the
men and women, old and young, should expose themselves naked to the view
of one another, in his gymnastic exercises, upon that very account? The
Indian women who see the men in their natural state, have at least cooled
the sense of seeing. And let the women of the kingdom of Pegu say what
they will, who below the waist have nothing to cover them but a cloth
slit before, and so strait, that what decency and modesty soever they
pretend by it, at every step all is to be seen, that it is an invention
to allure the men to them, and to divert them from boys, to whom that
nation is generally inclined; yet, peradventure they lose more by it than
they get, and one may venture to say, that an entire appetite is more
sharp than one already half-glutted by the eyes. Livia was wont to say,
that to a virtuous woman a naked man was but a statue. The Lacedaemonian
women, more virgins when wives than our daughters are, saw every day the
young men of their city stripped naked in their exercises, themselves
little heeding to cover their thighs in walking, believing themselves,
says Plato, sufficiently covered by their virtue without any other robe.
But those, of whom St. Augustin speaks, have given nudity a wonderful
power of temptation, who have made it a doubt, whether women at the day
of judgment shall rise again in their own sex, and not rather in ours,
for fear of tempting us again in that holy state. In brief, we allure
and flesh them by all sorts of ways: we incessantly heat and stir up
their imagination, and then we find fault. Let us confess the truth;
there is scarce one of us who does not more apprehend the shame that
accrues to him by the vices of his wife than by his own, and that is not
more solicitous (a wonderful charity) of the conscience of his virtuous
wife than of his own; who had not rather commit theft and sacrilege, and
that his wife was a murderess and a heretic, than that she should not be
more chaste than her husband: an unjust estimate of vices. Both we and
they are capable of a thousand corruptions more prejudicial and unnatural
than lust: but we weigh vices, not according to nature, but according to
our interest; by which means they take so many unequal forms.

The austerity of our decrees renders the application of women to this
vice more violent and vicious than its own condition needs, and engages
it in consequences worse than their cause: they will readily offer to go
to the law courts to seek for gain, and to the wars to get reputation,
rather than in the midst of ease and delights, to have to keep so
difficult a guard. Do not they very well see that there is neither
merchant nor soldier who will not leave his business to run after this
sport, or the porter or cobbler, toiled and tired out as they are with
labour and hunger?

                   "Num tu, qux tenuit dives Achaemenes,
                    Aut pinguis Phrygiae Mygdonias opes,
                    Permutare velis crine Licymnim?
                    Plenas aut Arabum domos,
                    Dum fragrantia detorquet ad oscula
                    Cervicem, aut facili sxvitia negat,
                    Quae poscente magis gaudeat eripi,
                    Interdum rapere occupet?"

     ["Wouldst thou not exchange all that the wealthy Arhaemenes had,
     or the Mygdonian riches of fertile Phrygia, for one ringlet of
     Licymnia's hair? or the treasures of the Arabians, when she turns
     her head to you for fragrant kisses, or with easily assuaged anger
     denies them, which she would rather by far you took by force, and
     sometimes herself snatches one!"—Horace, Od., ii. 12, 21.]

I do not know whether the exploits of Alexander and Caesar really surpass
the resolution of a beautiful young woman, bred up after our fashion, in
the light and commerce of the world, assailed by so many contrary
examples, and yet keeping herself entire in the midst of a thousand
continual and powerful solicitations. There is no doing more difficult
than that not doing, nor more active:

I hold it more easy to carry a suit of armour all the days of one's life
than a maidenhead; and the vow of virginity of all others is the most
noble, as being the hardest to keep:

               "Diaboli virtus in lumbis est,"

says St. Jerome. We have, doubtless, resigned to the ladies the most
difficult and most vigorous of all human endeavours, and let us resign to
them the glory too. This ought to encourage them to be obstinate in it;
'tis a brave thing for them to defy us, and to spurn under foot that vain
pre-eminence of valour and virtue that we pretend to have over them; they
will find if they do but observe it, that they will not only be much more
esteemed for it, but also much more beloved. A gallant man does not give
over his pursuit for being refused, provided it be a refusal of chastity,
and not of choice; we may swear, threaten, and complain to much purpose;
we therein do but lie, for we love them all the better: there is no
allurement like modesty, if it be not rude and crabbed. 'Tis stupidity
and meanness to be obstinate against hatred and disdain; but against a
virtuous and constant resolution, mixed with goodwill, 'tis the exercise
of a noble and generous soul. They may acknowledge our service to a
certain degree, and give us civilly to understand that they disdain us
not; for the law that enjoins them to abominate us because we adore them,
and to hate us because we love them, is certainly very cruel, if but for
the difficulty of it. Why should they not give ear to our offers and
requests, so long as they are kept within the bounds of modesty?
wherefore should we fancy them to have other thoughts within, and to be
worse than they seem? A queen of our time said with spirit, "that to
refuse these courtesies is a testimony of weakness in women and a
self-accusation of facility, and that a lady could not boast of her
chastity who was never tempted."

The limits of honour are not cut so short; they may give themselves a
little rein, and relax a little without being faulty: there lies on the
frontier some space free, indifferent, and neuter. He that has beaten
and pursued her into her fort is a strange fellow if he be not satisfied
with his fortune: the price of the conquest is considered by the
difficulty. Would you know what impression your service and merit have
made in her heart? Judge of it by her behaviour. Such an one may grant
more, who does not grant so much. The obligation of a benefit wholly
relates to the good will of those who confer it: the other coincident
circumstances are dumb, dead, and casual; it costs her dearer to grant
you that little, than it would do her companion to grant all. If in
anything rarity give estimation, it ought especially in this: do not
consider how little it is that is given, but how few have it to give;
the value of money alters according to the coinage and stamp of the
place. Whatever the spite and indiscretion of some may make them say in
the excess of their discontent, virtue and truth will in time recover all
the advantage. I have known some whose reputation has for a great while
suffered under slander, who have afterwards been restored to the world's
universal approbation by their mere constancy without care or artifice;
every one repents, and gives himself the lie for what he has believed and
said; and from girls a little suspected they have been afterward advanced
to the first rank amongst the ladies of honour. Somebody told Plato that
all the world spoke ill of him. "Let them talk," said he; "I will live
so as to make them change their note." Besides the fear of God, and the
value of so rare a glory, which ought to make them look to themselves,
the corruption of the age we live in compels them to it; and if I were
they, there is nothing I would not rather do than intrust my reputation
in so dangerous hands. In my time the pleasure of telling (a pleasure
little inferior to that of doing) was not permitted but to those who had
some faithful and only friend; but now the ordinary discourse and common
table-talk is nothing but boasts of favours received and the secret
liberality of ladies. In earnest, 'tis too abject, too much meanness of
spirit, in men to suffer such ungrateful, indiscreet, and giddy-headed
people so to persecute, forage, and rifle those tender and charming

This our immoderate and illegitimate exasperation against this vice
springs from the most vain and turbulent disease that afflicts human
minds, which is jealousy:

              "Quis vetat apposito lumen de lumine sumi?
               Dent licet assidue, nil tamen inde perit;"

     ["Who says that one light should not be lighted from another light?
     Let them give ever so much, as much ever remains to lose."—Ovid, De
     Arte Amandi, iii. 93. The measure of the last line is not good;
     but the words are taken from the epigram in the Catalecta entitled

she, and envy, her sister, seem to me to be the most foolish of the whole
troop. As to the last, I can say little about it; 'tis a passion that,
though said to be so mighty and powerful, had never to do with me. As to
the other, I know it by sight, and that's all. Beasts feel it; the
shepherd Cratis, having fallen in love with a she-goat, the he-goat, out
of jealousy, came, as he lay asleep, to butt the head of the female, and
crushed it. We have raised this fever to a greater excess by the
examples of some barbarous nations; the best disciplined have been
touched with it, and 'tis reason, but not transported:

              "Ense maritali nemo confossus adulter
               Purpureo Stygias sanguine tinxit aquas."

               ["Never did adulterer slain by a husband
               stain with purple blood the Stygian waters."]

Lucullus, Caesar, Pompey, Antony, Cato, and other brave men were
cuckolds, and knew it, without making any bustle about it; there was in
those days but one coxcomb, Lepidus, that died for grief that his wife
had used him so.

              "Ah! tum te miserum malique fati,
               Quem attractis pedibus, patente porta,
               Percurrent raphanique mugilesque:"

     ["Wretched man! when, taken in the fact, thou wilt be
     dragged out of doors by the heels, and suffer the punishment
     of thy adultery."—Catullus, xv. 17.]

and the god of our poet, when he surprised one of his companions with his
wife, satisfied himself by putting them to shame only,

               "Atque aliquis de dis non tristibus optat
               Sic fieri turpis:"

          ["And one of the merry gods wishes that he should himself
          like to be so disgraced."—Ovid, Metam., iv. 187.]

and nevertheless took anger at the lukewarm embraces she gave him;
complaining that upon that account she was grown jealous of his

               "Quid causas petis ex alto? fiducia cessit
               Quo tibi, diva, mei?"

     ["Dost thou seek causes from above? Why, goddess, has your
     confidence in me ceased?"—Virgil, AEneid, viii. 395.]

nay, she entreats arms for a bastard of hers,

                    "Arena rogo genitrix nato."

          ["I, a mother, ask armour for a son."—Idem, ibid., 383.]

which are freely granted; and Vulcan speaks honourably of AEneas,

                    "Arma acri facienda viro,"

     ["Arms are to be made for a valiant hero."—AEneid, viii. 441.]

with, in truth, a more than human humanity. And I am willing to leave
this excess of kindness to the gods:

               "Nec divis homines componier aequum est."

          ["Nor is it fit to compare men with gods."
          —Catullus, lxviii. 141.]

As to the confusion of children, besides that the gravest legislators
ordain and affect it in their republics, it touches not the women, where
this passion is, I know not how, much better seated:

               "Saepe etiam Juno, maxima coelicolam,
               Conjugis in culpa flagravit quotidiana."

     ["Often was Juno, greatest of the heaven-dwellers, enraged by her
     husband's daily infidelities."—Idem, ibid.]

When jealousy seizes these poor souls, weak and incapable of resistance,
'tis pity to see how miserably it torments and tyrannises over them; it
insinuates itself into them under the title of friendship, but after it
has once possessed them, the same causes that served for a foundation of
good-will serve them for a foundation of mortal hatred. 'Tis, of all the
diseases of the mind, that which the most things serve for aliment and
the fewest for remedy: the virtue, health, merit, reputation of the
husband are incendiaries of their fury and ill-will:

          "Nullae sunt inimicitiae, nisi amoris, acerbae."

          ["No enmities are bitter, save that of love."
          (Or:) "No hate is implacable except the hatred of love"
          —Propertius, ii. 8, 3.]

This fever defaces and corrupts all they have of beautiful and good
besides; and there is no action of a jealous woman, let her be how chaste
and how good a housewife soever, that does not relish of anger and
wrangling; 'tis a furious agitation, that rebounds them to an extremity
quite contrary to its cause. This held good with one Octavius at Rome.
Having lain with Pontia Posthumia, he augmented love with fruition, and
solicited with all importunity to marry her: unable to persuade her, this
excessive affection precipitated him to the effects of the most cruel and
mortal hatred: he killed her. In like manner, the ordinary symptoms of
this other amorous disease are intestine hatreds, private conspiracies,
and cabals:

               "Notumque furens quid faemina possit,"

     ["And it is known what an angry woman is capable of doing."
     —AEneid, V. 21.]

and a rage which so much the more frets itself, as it is compelled to
excuse itself by a pretence of good-will.

Now, the duty of chastity is of a vast extent; is it the will that we
would have them restrain? This is a very supple and active thing; a
thing very nimble, to be stayed. How? if dreams sometimes engage them so
far that they cannot deny them: it is not in them, nor, peradventure, in
chastity itself, seeing that is a female, to defend itself from lust and
desire. If we are only to trust to their will, what a case are we in,
then? Do but imagine what crowding there would be amongst men in
pursuance of the privilege to run full speed, without tongue or eyes,
into every woman's arms who would accept them. The Scythian women put
out the eyes of all their slaves and prisoners of war, that they might
have their pleasure of them, and they never the wiser. O, the furious
advantage of opportunity! Should any one ask me, what was the first
thing to be considered in love matters, I should answer that it was how
to take a fitting time; and so the second; and so the third—'tis a point
that can do everything. I have sometimes wanted fortune, but I have also
sometimes been wanting to myself in matters of attempt. God help him,
who yet makes light of this! There is greater temerity required in this
age of ours, which our young men excuse under the name of heat; but
should women examine it more strictly, they would find that it rather
proceeds from contempt. I was always superstitiously afraid of giving
offence, and have ever had a great respect for her I loved: besides, he
who in this traffic takes away the reverence, defaces at the same time
the lustre. I would in this affair have a man a little play the child,
the timorous, and the servant. If not this, I have in other bashfulness
whereof altogether in things some air of the foolish Plutarch makes
mention; and the course of my life has been divers ways hurt and
blemished with it; a quality very ill suiting my universal form: and,
indeed, what are we but sedition and discrepancy? I am as much out of
countenance to be denied as I am to deny; and it so much troubles me to
be troublesome to others that on occasion when duty compels me to try the
good-will of any one in a thing that is doubtful and that will be
chargeable to him, I do it very faintly, and very much against my will:
but if it be for my own particular (whatever Homer truly says, that
modesty is a foolish virtue in an indigent person), I commonly commit it
to a third person to blush for me, and deny those who employ me with the
same difficulty: so that it has sometimes befallen me to have had a mind
to deny, when I had not the power to do it.

'Tis folly, then, to attempt to bridle in women a desire that is so
powerful in them, and so natural to them. And when I hear them brag of
having so maidenly and so temperate a will, I laugh at them: they retire
too far back. If it be an old toothless trot, or a young dry consumptive
thing, though it be not altogether to be believed, at least they say it
with more similitude of truth. But they who still move and breathe, talk
at that ridiculous rate to their own prejudice, by reason that
inconsiderate excuses are a kind of self-accusation; like a gentleman, a
neighbour of mine, suspected to be insufficient:

              "Languidior tenera cui pendens sicula beta,
               Numquam se mediam sustulit ad tunicam,"

          [Catullus, lxvii. 2, i.—The sense is in the context.]

who three or four days after he was married, to justify himself, went
about boldly swearing that he had ridden twenty stages the night before:
an oath that was afterwards made use of to convict him of his ignorance
in that affair, and to divorce him from his wife. Besides, it signifies
nothing, for there is neither continency nor virtue where there are no
opposing desires. It is true, they may say, but we will not yield;
saints themselves speak after that manner. I mean those who boast in
good gravity of their coldness and insensibility, and who expect to be
believed with a serious countenance; for when 'tis spoken with an
affected look, when their eyes give the lie to their tongue, and when
they talk in the cant of their profession, which always goes against the
hair, 'tis good sport. I am a great servant of liberty and plainness;
but there is no remedy; if it be not wholly simple or childish, 'tis
silly, and unbecoming ladies in this commerce, and presently runs into
impudence. Their disguises and figures only serve to cosen fools; lying
is there in its seat of honour; 'tis a by-way, that by a back-door leads
us to truth. If we cannot curb their imagination, what would we have
from them. Effects? There are enough of them that evade all foreign
communication, by which chastity may be corrupted:

               "Illud saepe facit, quod sine teste facit;"

          ["He often does that which he does without a witness."
          —Martial, vii. 62, 6.]

and those which we fear the least are, peradventure, most to be feared;
their sins that make the least noise are the worst:

               "Offendor maecha simpliciore minus."

          ["I am less offended with a more professed strumpet."
          —Idem, vi. 7,6.]

There are ways by which they may lose their virginity without
prostitution, and, which is more, without their knowledge:

     "Obsterix, virginis cujusdam integritatem manu velut explorans, sive
     malevolentia, sive inscitia, sive casu, dum inspicit, perdidit."

     ["By malevolence, or unskilfulness, or accident, the midwife,
     seeking with the hand to test some maiden's virginity, has sometimes
     destroyed it."—St. Augustine, De Civit. Dei, i. 18.]

Such a one, by seeking her maidenhead, has lost it; another by playing
with it has destroyed it. We cannot precisely circumscribe the actions,
we interdict them; they must guess at our meaning under general and
doubtful terms; the very idea we invent for their chastity is ridiculous:
for, amongst the greatest patterns that I have is Fatua, the wife of
Faunus: who never, after her marriage, suffered herself to be seen by any
man whatever; and the wife of Hiero, who never perceived her husband's
stinking breath, imagining that it was common to all men. They must
become insensible and invisible to satisfy us.

Now let us confess that the knot of this judgment of duty principally
lies in the will; there have been husbands who have suffered cuckoldom,
not only without reproach or taking offence at their wives, but with
singular obligation to them and great commendation of their virtue.
Such a woman has been, who prized her honour above her life, and yet has
prostituted it to the furious lust of a mortal enemy, to save her
husband's life, and who, in so doing, did that for him she would not have
done for herself! This is not the place wherein we are to multiply these
examples; they are too high and rich to be set off with so poor a foil as
I can give them here; let us reserve them for a nobler place; but for
examples of ordinary lustre, do we not every day see women amongst us who
surrender themselves for their husbands sole benefit, and by their
express order and mediation? and, of old, Phaulius the Argian, who
offered his to King Philip out of ambition; as Galba did it out of
civility, who, having entertained Maecenas at supper, and observing that
his wife and he began to cast glances at one another and to make eyes and
signs, let himself sink down upon his cushion, like one in a profound
sleep, to give opportunity to their desires: which he handsomely
confessed, for thereupon a servant having made bold to lay hands on the
plate upon the table, he frankly cried, "What, you rogue? do you not see
that I only sleep for Maecenas?" Such there may be, whose manners may be
lewd enough, whose will may be more reformed than another, who outwardly
carries herself after a more regular manner. As we see some who complain
of having vowed chastity before they knew what they did; and I have also
known others really, complain of having been given up to debauchery
before they were of the years of discretion. The vice of the parents or
the impulse of nature, which is a rough counsellor, may be the cause.

In the East Indies, though chastity is of singular reputation, yet custom
permitted a married woman to prostitute herself to any one who presented
her with an elephant, and that with glory, to have been valued at so high
a rate. Phaedo the philosopher, a man of birth, after the taking of his
country Elis, made it his trade to prostitute the beauty of his youth, so
long as it lasted, to any one that would, for money thereby to gain his
living: and Solon was the first in Greece, 'tis said, who by his laws
gave liberty to women, at the expense of their chastity, to provide for
the necessities of life; a custom that Herodotus says had been received
in many governments before his time. And besides, what fruit is there of
this painful solicitude? For what justice soever there is in this
passion, we are yet to consider whether it turns to account or no: does
any one think to curb them, with all his industry?

         "Pone seram; cohibe: sed quis custodiet ipsos
          Custodes? cauta est, et ab illis incipit uxor."

     ["Put on a lock; shut them up under a guard; but who shall guard
     the guard? she knows what she is about, and begins with them."
     —Juvenal, vi. 346.]

What commodity will not serve their turn, in so knowing an age?

Curiosity is vicious throughout; but 'tis pernicious here. 'Tis folly to
examine into a disease for which there is no physic that does not inflame
and make it worse; of which the shame grows still greater and more public
by jealousy, and of which the revenge more wounds our children than it
heals us. You wither and die in the search of so obscure a proof. How
miserably have they of my time arrived at that knowledge who have been so
unhappy as to have found it out? If the informer does not at the same
time apply a remedy and bring relief, 'tis an injurious information, and
that better deserves a stab than the lie. We no less laugh at him who
takes pains to prevent it, than at him who is a cuckold and knows it not.
The character of cuckold is indelible: who once has it carries it to his
grave; the punishment proclaims it more than the fault. It is to much
purpose to drag out of obscurity and doubt our private misfortunes,
thence to expose them on tragic scaffolds; and misfortunes that only hurt
us by being known; for we say a good wife or a happy marriage, not that
they are really so, but because no one says to the contrary. Men should
be so discreet as to evade this tormenting and unprofitable knowledge:
and the Romans had a custom, when returning from any expedition, to send
home before to acquaint their wives with their coming, that they might
not surprise them; and to this purpose it is that a certain nation has
introduced a custom, that the priest shall on the wedding-day open the
way to the bride, to free the husband from the doubt and curiosity of
examining in the first assault, whether she comes a virgin to his bed, or
has been at the trade before.

But the world will be talking. I know, a hundred honest men cuckolds,
honestly and not unbeseemingly; a worthy man is pitied, not disesteemed
for it. Order it so that your virtue may conquer your misfortune; that
good men may curse the occasion, and that he who wrongs you may tremble
but to think on't. And, moreover, who escapes being talked of at the
same rate, from the least even to the greatest?

                    "Tot qui legionibus imperitivit
          Et melior quam to multis fuit, improbe, rebus."

     ["Many who have commanded legions, many a man much better far than
     you, you rascal."—Lucretius, iii. 1039, 1041.]

Seest thou how many honest men are reproached with this in thy presence;
believe that thou art no more spared elsewhere. But, the very ladies
will be laughing too; and what are they so apt to laugh at in this
virtuous age of ours as at a peaceable and well-composed marriage? Each
amongst you has made somebody cuckold; and nature runs much in parallel,
in compensation, and turn for turn. The frequency of this accident ought
long since to have made it more easy; 'tis now passed into custom.

Miserable passion! which has this also, that it is incommunicable,

          "Fors etiam nostris invidit questibus aures;"

          ["Fortune also refuses ear to our complaints."
          —Catullus, lxvii.]

for to what friend dare you intrust your griefs, who, if he does not
laugh at them, will not make use of the occasion to get a share of the
quarry? The sharps, as well as the sweets of marriage, are kept secret
by the wise; and amongst its other troublesome conditions this to a
prating fellow, as I am, is one of the chief, that custom has rendered it
indecent and prejudicial to communicate to any one all that a man knows
and all that a man feels. To give women the same counsel against
jealousy would be so much time lost; their very being is so made up of
suspicion, vanity, and curiosity, that to cure them by any legitimate way
is not to be hoped. They often recover of this infirmity by a form of
health much more to be feared than the disease itself; for as there are
enchantments that cannot take away the evil but by throwing it upon
another, they also willingly transfer this ever to their husbands, when
they shake it off themselves. And yet I know not, to speak truth,
whether a man can suffer worse from them than their jealousy; 'tis the
most dangerous of all their conditions, as the head is of all their
members. Pittacus used to say,—[Plutarch, On Contentment, c. II.]—
that every one had his trouble, and that his was the jealous head of his
wife; but for which he should think himself perfectly happy. A mighty
inconvenience, sure, which could poison the whole life of so just, so
wise, and so valiant a man; what must we other little fellows do? The
senate of Marseilles had reason to grant him his request who begged leave
to kill himself that he might be delivered from the clamour of his wife;
for 'tis a mischief that is never removed but by removing the whole
piece; and that has no remedy but flight or patience, though both of them
very hard. He was, methinks, an understanding fellow who said, 'twas a
happy marriage betwixt a blind wife and a deaf husband.

Let us also consider whether the great and violent severity of obligation
we enjoin them does not produce two effects contrary to our design
namely, whether it does not render the pursuants more eager to attack,
and the women more easy to yield. For as to the first, by raising the
value of the place, we raise the value and the desire of the conquest.
Might it not be Venus herself, who so cunningly enhanced the price of her
merchandise, by making the laws her bawds; knowing how insipid a delight
it would be that was not heightened by fancy and hardness to achieve?
In short, 'tis all swine's flesh, varied by sauces, as Flaminius' host
said. Cupid is a roguish god, who makes it his sport to contend with
devotion and justice: 'tis his glory that his power mates all powers, and
that all other rules give place to his:

               "Materiam culpae prosequiturque suae."

               ["And seeks out a matter (motive) for his crimes."
               —Ovid, Trist., iv. I. 34.]

As to the second point; should we not be less cuckolds, if we less feared
to be so? according to the humour of women whom interdiction incites, and
who are more eager, being forbidden:

              "Ubi velis, nolunt; ubi nolis, volunt ultro;
               Concessa pudet ire via."

     ["Where thou wilt, they won't; where thou wilt not, they
     spontaneously agree; they are ashamed to go in the permitted path."
     —Terence, Eunuchus, act iv., sc. 8, v 43]

What better interpretation can we make of Messalina's behaviour? She,
at first, made her husband a cuckold in private, as is the common use;
but, bringing her business about with too much ease, by reason of her
husband's stupidity, she soon scorned that way, and presently fell to
making open love, to own her lovers, and to favour and entertain them in
the sight of all: she would make him know and see how she used him. This
animal, not to be roused with all this, and rendering her pleasures dull
and flat by his too stupid facility, by which he seemed to authorise and
make them lawful; what does she? Being the wife of a living and
healthful emperor, and at Rome, the theatre of the world, in the face of
the sun, and with solemn ceremony, and to Silius, who had long before
enjoyed her, she publicly marries herself one day that her husband was
gone out of the city. Does it not seem as if she was going to become
chaste by her husband's negligence? or that she sought another husband
who might sharpen her appetite by his jealousy, and who by watching
should incite her? But the first difficulty she met with was also the
last: this beast suddenly roused these sleepy, sluggish sort of men are
often the most dangerous: I have found by experience that this extreme
toleration, when it comes to dissolve, produces the most severe revenge;
for taking fire on a sudden, anger and fury being combined in one,
discharge their utmost force at the first onset,

               "Irarumque omnes effundit habenas:"

          ["He let loose his whole fury."—AEneid, xii. 499.]

he put her to death, and with her a great number of those with whom she
had intelligence, and even one of them who could not help it, and whom
she had caused to be forced to her bed with scourges.

What Virgil says of Venus and Vulcan, Lucretius had better expressed of a
stolen enjoyment betwixt her and Mars:

              "Belli fera moenera Mavors
               Armipotens regit, ingremium qui saepe tuum se
               Rejictt, aeterno devinctus vulnere amoris
               Pascit amore avidos inhians in te, Dea, visus,
               Eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore
               Hunc tu, Diva, tuo recubantem corpore sancto
               Circumfusa super, suaveis ex ore loquelas

     ["Mars, the god of wars, who controls the cruel tasks of war, often
     reclines on thy bosom, and greedily drinks love at both his eyes,
     vanquished by the eternal wound of love: and his breath, as he
     reclines, hangs on thy lips; bending thy head over him as he lies
     upon thy sacred person, pour forth sweet and persuasive words."
     —Lucretius, i. 23.]

When I consider this rejicit, fiascit, inhians, ynolli, fovet, medullas,
labefacta, pendet, percurrit, and that noble circumfusa, mother of the
pretty infuses; I disdain those little quibbles and verbal allusions that
have since sprung up. Those worthy people stood in need of no subtlety
to disguise their meaning; their language is downright, and full of
natural and continued vigour; they are all epigram; not only the tail,
but the head, body, and feet. There is nothing forced, nothing
languishing, but everything keeps the same pace:

     "Contextus totes virilis est; non sunt circa flosculos occupati."

     ["The whole contexture is manly; they don't occupy themselves with
     little flowers of rhetoric."—Seneca, Ep., 33.]

'Tis not a soft eloquence, and without offence only; 'tis nervous and
solid, that does not so much please, as it fills and ravishes the
greatest minds. When I see these brave forms of expression, so lively,
so profound, I do not say that 'tis well said, but well thought. 'Tis
the sprightliness of the imagination that swells and elevates the words:

                    "Pectus est quod disertum Tacit."

          ["The heart makes the man eloquent."—Quintilian, x. 7.]

Our people call language, judgment, and fine words, full conceptions.
This painting is not so much carried on by dexterity of hand as by having
the object more vividly imprinted in the soul. Gallus speaks simply
because he conceives simply: Horace does not content himself with a
superficial expression; that would betray him; he sees farther and more
clearly into things; his mind breaks into and rummages all the magazine
of words and figures wherewith to express himself, and he must have them
more than ordinary, because his conception is so. Plutarch says' that he
sees the Latin tongue by the things: 'tis here the same: the sense
illuminates and produces the words, no more words of air, but of flesh
and bone; they signify more than they say. Moreover, those who are not
well skilled in a language present some image of this; for in Italy I
said whatever I had a mind to in common discourse, but in more serious
talk, I durst not have trusted myself with an idiom that I could not wind
and turn out of its ordinary pace; I would have a power of introducing
something of my own.

The handling and utterance of fine wits is that which sets off language;
not so much by innovating it, as by putting it to more vigorous and
various services, and by straining, bending, and adapting it to them.
They do not create words, but they enrich their own, and give them weight
and signification by the uses they put them to, and teach them unwonted
motions, but withal ingeniously and discreetly. And how little this
talent is given to all is manifest by the many French scribblers of this
age: they are bold and proud enough not to follow the common road, but
want of invention and discretion ruins them; there is nothing seen in
their writings but a wretched affectation of a strange new style, with
cold and absurd disguises, which, instead of elevating, depress the
matter: provided they can but trick themselves out with new words, they
care not what they signify; and to bring in a new word by the head and
shoulders, they leave the old one, very often more sinewy and significant
than the other.

There is stuff enough in our language, but there is a defect in cutting
out: for there is nothing that might not be made out of our terms of
hunting and war, which is a fruitful soil to borrow from; and forms of
speaking, like herbs, improve and grow stronger by being transplanted.
I find it sufficiently abundant, but not sufficiently pliable and
vigorous; it commonly quails under a powerful conception; if you would
maintain the dignity of your style, you will often perceive it to flag
and languish under you, and there Latin steps in to its relief, as Greek
does to others. Of some of these words I have just picked out we do not
so easily discern the energy, by reason that the frequent use of them has
in some sort abased their beauty, and rendered it common; as in our
ordinary language there are many excellent phrases and metaphors to be
met with, of which the beauty is withered by age, and the colour is
sullied by too common handling; but that nothing lessens the relish to an
understanding man, nor does it derogate from the glory of those ancient
authors who, 'tis likely, first brought those words into that lustre.

The sciences treat of things too refinedly, after an artificial, very
different from the common and natural, way. My page makes love, and
understands it; but read to him Leo Hebraeus—[Leo the Jew, Ficinus,
Cardinal Bembo, and Mario Equicola all wrote Treatises on Love.]—
and Ficinus, where they speak of love, its thoughts and actions, he
understands it not. I do not find in Aristotle most of my ordinary
motions; they are there covered and disguised in another robe for the use
of the schools. Good speed them! were I of the trade, I would as much
naturalise art as they artificialise nature. Let us let Bembo and
Equicola alone.

When I write, I can very well spare both the company and the remembrance
of books, lest they should interrupt my progress; and also, in truth, the
best authors too much humble and discourage me: I am very much of the
painter's mind, who, having represented cocks most wretchedly ill,
charged all his boys not to suffer any natural cock to come into his
shop; and had rather need to give myself a little lustre, of the
invention of Antigenides the musician, who, when he was asked to sing or
play, took care beforehand that the auditory should, either before or
after, be satiated with some other ill musicians. But I can hardly be
without Plutarch; he is so universal and so full, that upon all
occasions, and what extravagant subject soever you take in hand, he will
still be at your elbow, and hold out to you a liberal and not to be
exhausted hand of riches and embellishments. It vexes me that he is so
exposed to be the spoil of those who are conversant with him: I can
scarce cast an eye upon him but I purloin either a leg or a wing.

And also for this design of mine 'tis convenient for me for me to write
at home, in a wild country, where I have nobody to assist or relieve me;
where I hardly see a man who understands the Latin of his Paternoster,
and of French a little less. I might have made it better elsewhere, but
then the work would have been less my own; and its principal end and
perfection is to be exactly mine. I readily correct an accidental error,
of which I am full, as I run carelessly on; but for my ordinary and
constant imperfections, it were a kind of treason to put them out. When
another tells me, or that I say to myself, "Thou art too thick of
figures: this is a word of rough Gascon: that is a dangerous phrase (I do
not reject any of those that are used in the common streets of France;
they who would fight custom with grammar are triflers): this is an
ignorant discourse: this is a paradoxical discourse: that is going too
far: thou makest thyself too merry at times: men will think thou sayest a
thing in good earnest which thou only speakest in jest."—"Yes, I know,
but I correct the faults of inadvertence, not those of custom. Do I not
talk at the same rate throughout? Do I not represent myself to the life?
'Tis enough that I have done what I designed; all the world knows me in
my book, and my book in me."

Now I have an apish, imitative quality: when I used to write verses (and
I never made any but Latin), they evidently discovered the poet I had
last read, and some of my first essays have a little exotic taste: I
speak something another kind of language at Paris than I do at Montaigne.
Whoever I steadfastly look upon easily leaves some impression of his upon
me; whatever I consider I usurp, whether a foolish countenance, a
disagreeable look, or a ridiculous way of speaking; and vices most of
all, because they seize and stick to me, and will not leave hold without
shaking. I swear more by imitation than by complexion: a murderous
imitation, like that of the apes so terrible both in stature and
strength, that Alexander met with in a certain country of the Indies, and
which he would have had much ado any other way to have subdued; but they
afforded him the means by that inclination of theirs to imitate whatever
they saw done; for by that the hunters were taught to put on shoes in
their sight, and to tie them fast with many knots, and to muffle up their
heads in caps all composed of running nooses, and to seem to anoint their
eyes with glue; so did those poor beasts employ their imitation to their
own ruin they glued up their own eyes, haltered and bound themselves.
The other faculty of playing the mimic, and ingeniously acting the words
and gestures of another, purposely to make people merry and to raise
their admiration, is no more in me than in a stock. When I swear my own
oath, 'tis only, by God! of all oaths the most direct. They say that
Socrates swore by the dog; Zeno had for his oath the same interjection at
this time in use amongst the Italians, Cappari! Pythagoras swore By
water and air. I am so apt, without thinking of it, to receive these
superficial impressions, that if I have Majesty or Highness in my mouth
three days together, they come out instead of Excellency and Lordship
eight days after; and what I say to-day in sport and fooling I shall say
the same to-morrow seriously. Wherefore, in writing, I more unwillingly
undertake beaten arguments, lest I should handle them at another's
expense. Every subject is equally fertile to me: a fly will serve the
purpose, and 'tis well if this I have in hand has not been undertaken at
the recommendation of as flighty a will. I may begin, with that which
pleases me best, for the subjects are all linked to one another.

But my soul displeases me, in that it ordinarily produces its deepest and
most airy conceits and which please me best, when I least expect or study
for them, and which suddenly vanish, having at the instant, nothing to
apply them to; on horseback, at table, and in bed: but most on horseback,
where I am most given to think. My speaking is a little nicely jealous
of silence and attention: if I am talking my best, whoever interrupts me,
stops me. In travelling, the necessity of the way will often put a stop
to discourse; besides which I, for the most part, travel without company
fit for regular discourses, by which means I have all the leisure I would
to entertain myself. It falls out as it does in my dreams; whilst
dreaming I recommend them to my memory (for I am apt to dream that I
dream), but, the next morning, I may represent to myself of what
complexion they were, whether gay, or sad, or strange, but what they
were, as to the rest, the more I endeavour to retrieve them, the deeper I
plunge them in oblivion. So of thoughts that come accidentally into my
head, I have no more but a vain image remaining in my memory; only enough
to make me torment myself in their quest to no purpose.

Well, then, laying books aside, and more simply and materially speaking,
I find, after all, that Love is nothing else but the thirst of enjoying
the object desired, or Venus any other thing than the pleasure of
discharging one's vessels, just as the pleasure nature gives in
discharging other parts, that either by immoderation or indiscretion
become vicious. According to Socrates, love is the appetite of
generation by the mediation of beauty. And when I consider the
ridiculous titillation of this pleasure, the absurd, crack-brained, wild
motions with which it inspires Zeno and Cratippus, the indiscreet rage,
the countenance inflamed with fury and cruelty in the sweetest effects of
love, and then that austere air, so grave, severe, ecstatic, in so wanton
an action; that our delights and our excrements are promiscuously
shuffled together; and that the supreme pleasure brings along with it, as
in pain, fainting and complaining; I believe it to be true, as Plato
says, that the gods made man for their sport:

                        "Quaenam ista jocandi

     ["With a sportive cruelty" (Or:) "What an unkindness there is in
     jesting!"—Claudian in Eutrop. i. 24.]

and that it was in mockery that nature has ordered the most agitative of
actions and the most common, to make us equal, and to put fools and wise
men, beasts and us, on a level. Even the most contemplative and prudent
man, when I imagine him in this posture, I hold him an impudent fellow to
pretend to be prudent and contemplative; they are the peacocks' feet that
abate his pride:

                         "Ridentem dicere verum
                         Quid vetat?"

          ["What prevents us from speaking truth with a smile?"
          —Horace, Sat., i. I, 24.]

They who banish serious imaginations from their sports, do, says one,
like him who dares not adore the statue of a saint, if not covered with a
veil. We eat and drink, indeed, as beasts do; but these are not actions
that obstruct the functions of the soul, in these we maintain our
advantage over them; this other action subjects all other thought,
and by its imperious authority makes an ass of all Plato's divinity and
philosophy; and yet there is no complaint of it. In everything else a
man may keep some decorum, all other operations submit to the rules of
decency; this cannot so much as in imagination appear other than vicious
or ridiculous: find out, if you can, therein any serious and discreet
procedure. Alexander said, that he chiefly knew himself to be mortal by
this act and sleeping; sleep suffocates and suppresses the faculties of
the soul; the familiarity with women likewise dissipates and exhausts
them: doubtless 'tis a mark, not only of our original corruption, but
also of our vanity and deformity.

On the one side, nature pushes us on to it, having fixed the most noble,
useful, and pleasant of all her functions to this desire: and, on the
other side, leaves us to accuse and avoid it, as insolent and indecent,
to blush at it, and to recommend abstinence. Are we not brutes to call
that work brutish which begets us? People of so many differing religions
have concurred in several proprieties, as sacrifices, lamps, burning
incense, fasts, and offerings; and amongst others, in the condemning this
act: all opinions tend that way, besides the widespread custom of
circumcision, which may be regarded as a punishment. We have,
peradventure, reason to blame ourselves for being guilty of so foolish
a production as man, and to call the act, and the parts that are employed
in the act, shameful (mine, truly, are now shameful and pitiful). The
Essenians, of whom Pliny speaks, kept up their country for several ages
without either nurse or baby-clouts, by the arrival of strangers who,
following this pretty humour, came continually to them: a whole nation
being resolute, rather to hazard a total extermination, than to engage
themselves in female embraces, and rather to lose the succession of men,
than to beget one. 'Tis said, that Zeno never had to do with a woman but
once in his life, and then out of civility, that he might not seem too
obstinately to disdain the sex.

     [Diogenes Laertius, vii. 13.—What is there said, however, is that
     Zeno seldom had commerce with boys, lest he should be deemed a very

Every one avoids seeing a man born, every one runs to see him die; to
destroy him a spacious field is sought out in the face of the sun, but,
to make him, we creep into as dark and private a corner as we can: 'tis a
man's duty to withdraw himself bashfully from the light to create; but
'tis glory and the fountain of many virtues to know how to destroy what
we have made: the one is injury, the other favour: for Aristotle says
that to do any one a kindness, in a certain phrase of his country, is to
kill him. The Athenians, to couple the disgrace of these two actions,
having to purge the Isle of Delos, and to justify themselves to Apollo,
interdicted at once all births and burials in the precincts thereof:

                         "Nostri nosmet paenitet."

          ["We are ashamed of ourselves."—Terence, Phormio, i. 3, 20.]

There are some nations that will not be seen to eat. I know a lady, and
of the best quality, who has the same opinion, that chewing disfigures
the face, and takes away much from the ladies' grace and beauty; and
therefore unwillingly appears at a public table with an appetite; and I
know a man also, who cannot endure to see another eat, nor himself to be
seen eating, and who is more shy of company when putting in than when
putting out. In the Turkish empire, there are a great number of men who,
to excel others, never suffer themselves to be seen when they make their
repast: who never have any more than one a week; who cut and mangle their
faces and limbs; who never speak to any one: fanatic people who think to
honour their nature by disnaturing themselves; who value themselves upon
their contempt of themselves, and purport to grow better by being worse.
What monstrous animal is this, that is a horror to himself, to whom his
delights are grievous, and who weds himself to misfortune? There are
people who conceal their life:

               "Exilioque domos et dulcia limina mutant,"

     ["And change for exile their homes and pleasant abodes."
     —Virgil, Georg., ii. 511.]

and withdraw them from the sight of other men; who avoid health and
cheerfulness, as dangerous and prejudicial qualities. Not only many
sects, but many peoples, curse their birth, and bless their death; and
there is a place where the sun is abominated and darkness adored. We are
only ingenious in using ourselves ill: 'tis the real quarry our
intellects fly at; and intellect, when misapplied, is a dangerous tool!

               "O miseri! quorum gaudia crimen habent!"

          ["O wretched men, whose pleasures are a crime!"
          —Pseudo Gallus, i. 180.]

Alas, poor man! thou hast enough inconveniences that are inevitable,
without increasing them by throe own invention; and art miserable enough
by nature, without being so by art; thou hast real and essential
deformities enough, without forging those that are imaginary. Dost thou
think thou art too much at ease unless half thy ease is uneasy? dost
thou find that thou hast not performed all the necessary offices that
nature has enjoined thee, and that she is idle in thee, if thou dost not
oblige thyself to other and new offices? Thou dost not stick to infringe
her universal and undoubted laws; but stickest to thy own special and
fantastic rules, and by how much more particular, uncertain, and
contradictory they are, by so much thou employest thy whole endeavour in
them: the laws of thy parish occupy and bind thee: those of God and the
world concern thee not. Run but a little over the examples of this kind;
thy life is full of them.

Whilst the verses of these two poets, treat so reservedly and discreetly
of wantonness as they do, methinks they discover it much more openly.
Ladies cover their necks with network, priests cover several sacred
things, and painters shadow their pictures to give them greater lustre:
and 'tis said that the sun and wind strike more violently by reflection
than in a direct line. The Egyptian wisely answered him who asked him
what he had under his cloak, "It is hid under my cloak," said he, "that
thou mayest not know what it is:" but there are certain other things that
people hide only to show them. Hear that one, who speaks plainer,

               "Et nudum pressi corpus ad usque meum:"

          ["And pressed her naked body to mine" (Or:) "My body
          I applied even to her naked side"—Ovid, Amor., i. 5, 24.]

methinks that he emasculates me. Let Martial turn up Venus as high as he
may, he cannot shew her so naked: he who says all that is to be said
gluts and disgusts us. He who is afraid to express himself, draws us on
to guess at more than is meant; there is treachery in this sort of
modesty, and specially when they half open, as these do, so fair a path
to imagination. Both the action and description should relish of theft.

The more respectful, more timorous, more coy, and secret love of the
Spaniards and Italians pleases me. I know not who of old wished his
throat as long as that of a crane, that he might the longer taste what he
swallowed; it had been better wished as to this quick and precipitous
pleasure, especially in such natures as mine that have the fault of being
too prompt. To stay its flight and delay it with preambles: all things
—a glance, a bow, a word, a sign, stand for favour and recompense betwixt
them. Were it not an excellent piece of thrift in him who could dine on
the steam of the roast? 'Tis a passion that mixes with very little solid
essence, far more vanity and feverish raving; and we should serve and pay
it accordingly. Let us teach the ladies to set a better value and esteem
upon themselves, to amuse and fool us: we give the last charge at the
first onset; the French impetuosity will still show itself; by spinning
out their favours, and exposing them in small parcels, even miserable old
age itself will find some little share of reward, according to its worth
and merit. He who has no fruition but in fruition, who wins nothing
unless he sweeps the stakes, who takes no pleasure in the chase but in
the quarry, ought not to introduce himself in our school: the more steps
and degrees there are, so much higher and more honourable is the
uppermost seat: we should take a pleasure in being conducted to it, as in
magnificent palaces, by various porticoes and passages, long and pleasant
galleries, and many windings. This disposition of things would turn to
our advantage; we should there longer stay and longer love; without hope
and without desire we proceed not worth a pin. Our conquest and entire
possession is what they ought infinitely to dread: when they wholly
surrender themselves up to the mercy of our fidelity and constancy they
run a mighty hazard; they are virtues very rare and hard to be found; the
ladies are no sooner ours, than we are no more theirs:

              "Postquam cupidae mentis satiata libido est,
               Verba nihil metuere, nihil perjuria curant;"

          ["When our desires are once satisfied, we care little
          for oaths and promises."—Catullus, lxiv. 147.]

And Thrasonides, a young man of Greece, was so in love with his passion
that, having, gained a mistress's consent, he refused to enjoy her, that
he might not by fruition quench and stupefy the unquiet ardour of which
he was so proud, and with which he so fed himself. Dearness is a good
sauce to meat: do but observe how much the manner of salutation,
particular to our nation, has, by its facilities, made kisses, which
Socrates says are so powerful and dangerous for the stealing of hearts,
of no esteem. It is a displeasing custom and injurious for the ladies,
that they must be obliged to lend their lips to every fellow who has
three footmen at his heels, however ill-favoured he may be in himself:

                   "Cujus livida naribus caninis
                    Dependet glacies, rigetque barba . . .
                    Centum occurrere malo culilingis:"
                    Martial, vii. 94.

and we ourselves barely gain by it; for as the world is divided, for
three beautiful women we must kiss fifty ugly ones; and to a tender
stomach, like those of my age, an ill kiss overpays a good one.

In Italy they passionately court even their common women who sell
themselves for money, and justify the doing so by saying, "that there are
degrees of fruition, and that by such service they would procure for
themselves that which is most entire; the women sell nothing but their
bodies; the will is too free and too much of its own to be exposed to
sale." So that these say, 'tis the will they undertake and they have
reason. 'Tis indeed the will that we are to serve and gain by wooing.
I abhor to imagine mine, a body without affection: and this madness is,
methinks, cousin-german to that of the boy who would needs pollute the
beautiful statue of Venus made by Praxiteles; or that of the furious
Egyptian, who violated the dead carcase of a woman he was embalming:
which was the occasion of the law then made in Egypt, that the corpses of
beautiful young women, of those of good quality, should be kept three
days before they should be delivered to those whose office it was to take
care for the interment. Periander did more wonderfully, who extended his
conjugal affection (more regular and legitimate) to the enjoyment of his
wife Melissa after she was dead. Does it not seem a lunatic humour in
the Moon, seeing she could no otherwise enjoy her darling Endymion, to
lay-him for several months asleep, and to please herself with the
fruition of a boy who stirred not but in his sleep? I likewise say that
we love a body without a soul or sentiment when we love a body without
its consent and desire. All enjoyments are not alike: there are some
that are hectic and languishing: a thousand other causes besides
good-will may procure us this favour from the ladies; this is not a
sufficient testimony of affection: treachery may lurk there, as well as
elsewhere: they sometimes go to't by halves:

              "Tanquam thura merumque parent
               Absentem marmoreamve putes:"

     ["As if they are preparing frankincense and wine . . . you might
     think her absent or marble."—Martial, xi. 103, 12, and 59, 8.]

I know some who had rather lend that than their coach, and who only
impart themselves that way. You are to examine whether your company
pleases them upon any other account, or, as some strong-chined groom,
for that only; in what degree of favour and esteem you are with them:

                              "Tibi si datur uni,
                    Quem lapide illa diem candidiore notat."

     ["Wherefore that is enough, if that day alone is given us which she
     marks with a whiter stone."—Catullus, lxviii. 147.]

What if they eat your bread with the sauce of a more pleasing

               "Te tenet, absentes alios suspirat amores."

               ["She has you in her arms; her thoughts are with
               other absent lovers."—Tibullus, i. 6, 35.]

What? have we not seen one in these days of ours who made use of this act
for the purpose of a most horrid revenge, by that means to kill and
poison, as he did, a worthy lady?

Such as know Italy will not think it strange if, for this subject, I seek
not elsewhere for examples; for that nation may be called the regent of
the world in this. They have more generally handsome and fewer ugly
women than we; but for rare and excellent beauties we have as many as
they. I think the same of their intellects: of those of the common sort,
they have evidently far more brutishness is immeasurably rarer there;
but in individual characters of the highest form, we are nothing indebted
to them. If I should carry on the comparison, I might say, as touching
valour, that, on the contrary, it is, to what it is with them, common and
natural with us; but sometimes we see them possessed of it to such a
degree as surpasses the greatest examples we can produce: The marriages
of that country are defective in this; their custom commonly imposes so
rude and so slavish a law upon the women, that the most distant
acquaintance with a stranger is as capital an offence as the most
intimate; so that all approaches being rendered necessarily substantial,
and seeing that all comes to one account, they have no hard choice to
make; and when they have broken down the fence, we may safely presume
they get on fire:

          "Luxuria ipsis vinculis, sicut fera bestia,
          irritata, deinde emissa."

     ["Lust, like a wild beast, being more excited by being bound,
     breaks from his chains with greater wildness."—Livy, xxxiv. 4.]

They must give them a little more rein:

         "Vidi ego nuper equum, contra sua frena tenacem,
          Ore reluctanti fulminis ire modo":

     ["I saw, the other day, a horse struggling against his bit,
     rush like a thunderbolt."—Ovid, Amor., iii. 4, 13.]

the desire of company is allayed by giving it a little liberty. We are
pretty much in the same case they are extreme in constraint, we in
licence. 'Tis a good custom we have in France that our sons are received
into the best families, there to be entertained and bred up pages, as in
a school of nobility; and 'tis looked upon as a discourtesy and an
affront to refuse this to a gentleman. I have taken notice (for, so many
families, so many differing forms) that the ladies who have been
strictest with their maids have had no better luck than those who allowed
them a greater liberty. There should be moderation in these things; one
must leave a great deal of their conduct to their own discretion; for,
when all comes to all, no discipline can curb them throughout. But it is
true withal that she who comes off with flying colours from a school of
liberty, brings with her whereon to repose more confidence than she who
comes away sound from a severe and strict school.

Our fathers dressed up their daughters' looks in bashfulness and fear
(their courage and desires being the same); we ours in confidence and
assurance; we understand nothing of the matter; we must leave it to the
Sarmatian women, who may not lie with a man till with their own hands
they have first killed another in battle. For me, who have no other
title left me to these things but by the ears, 'tis sufficient if,
according to the privilege of my age, they retain me for one of their
counsel. I advise them then, and us men too, to abstinence; but if the
age we live in will not endure it, at least modesty and discretion. For,
as in the story of Aristippus, who, speaking to some young men who
blushed to see him go into a scandalous house, said "the vice is in not
coming out, not in going in," let her who has no care of her conscience
have yet some regard to her reputation; and though she be rotten within,
let her carry a fair outside at least.

I commend a gradation and delay in bestowing their favours: Plato
'declares that, in all sorts of love, facility and promptness are
forbidden to the defendant. 'Tis a sign of eagerness which they
ought to disguise with all the art they have, so rashly, wholly, and
hand-over-hand to surrender themselves. In carrying themselves orderly
and measuredly in the granting their last favours, they much more allure
our desires and hide their own. Let them still fly before us, even those
who have most mind to be overtaken: they better conquer us by flying, as
the Scythians did. To say the truth, according to the law that nature
has imposed upon them, it is not properly for them either to will or
desire; their part is to suffer, obey, and consent and for this it is
that nature has given them a perpetual capacity, which in us is but at
times and uncertain; they are always fit for the encounter, that they may
be always ready when we are so "Pati natee."-["Born to suffer."-Seneca,
Ep., 95.]—And whereas she has ordered that our appetites shall be
manifest by a prominent demonstration, she would have theirs to be hidden
and concealed within, and has furnished them with parts improper for
ostentation, and simply defensive. Such proceedings as this that follows
must be left to the Amazonian licence: Alexander marching his army
through Hyrcania, Thalestris, Queen of the Amazons, came with three
hundred light horse of her own-sex, well mounted, and armed, having left
the remainder of a very great, army that followed her behind the
neighbouring mountains to give him a visit; where she publicly and in
plain terms told him that the fame of his valour and victories had
brought her thither to see him, and to make him an offer of her forces to
assist him in the pursuit of his enterprises; and that, finding him so
handsome, young, and vigorous, she, who was also perfect in all those
qualities, advised that they might lie together, to the end that from the
most valiant woman of the world and the bravest man then living, there
might spring some great and wonderful issue for the time to come.
Alexander returned her thanks for all the rest; but, to give leisure for
the accomplishment of her last demand, he detained her thirteen days in
that place, which were spent in royal feasting and jollity, for the
welcome of so courageous a princess.

We are, almost throughout, unjust judges of their actions, as they are of
ours. I confess the truth when it makes against me, as well as when 'tis
on my side. 'Tis an abominable intemperance that pushes them on so often
to change, and that will not let them limit their affection to any one
person whatever; as is evident in that goddess to whom are attributed so
many changes and so many lovers. But 'tis true withal that 'tis contrary
to the nature of love if it be, not violent; and contrary to the nature
of violence if it be constant. And they who wonder, exclaim, and keep
such a clutter to find out the causes of this frailty of theirs, as
unnatural and not to be believed, how comes it to pass they do not
discern how often they are themselves guilty of the same, without any
astonishment or miracle at all? It would, peradventure, be more strange
to see the passion fixed; 'tis not a simply corporeal passion. If there
be no end to avarice and ambition, there is doubtless no more in desire;
it still lives after satiety; and 'tis impossible to prescribe either
constant satisfaction or end; it ever goes beyond its possession. And by
that means inconstancy, peradventure, is in some sort more pardonable in
them than in us: they may plead, as well as we, the inclination to
variety and novelty common to us both; and secondly, without us, that
they buy a cat in a sack: Joanna, queen of Naples, caused her first
husband, Andrews, to be hanged at the bars of her window in a halter of
gold and silk woven with her own hand, because in matrimonial
performances she neither found his parts nor abilities answer the
expectation she had conceived from his stature, beauty, youth, and
activity, by which she had been caught and deceived. They may say there
is more pains required in doing than in suffering; and so they are on
their part always at least provided for necessity, whereas on our part it
may fall out otherwise. For this reason it was, that Plato wisely made a
law that before marriage, to determine of the fitness of persons, the
judges should see the young men who pretended to it stripped stark naked,
and the women but to the girdle only. When they come to try us they do
not, perhaps, find us worthy of their choice:

              "Experta latus, madidoque simillima loro
               Inguina, nec lassa stare coacta manu,
               Deserit imbelles thalamos."

          ["After using every endeavour to arouse him to action,
          she quits the barren couch."—Martial, vii. 58.]

'Tis not enough that a man's will be good; weakness and insufficiency
lawfully break a marriage,

               "Et quaerendum aliunde foret nervosius illud,
               Quod posset zonam solvere virgineam:"

     ["And seeks a more vigorous lover to undo her virgin zone."
     —Catullus, lxvii. 27.]

why not? and according to her own standard, an amorous intelligence,
more licentious and active,

               "Si blando nequeat superesse labori."

          ["If his strength be unequal to the pleasant task."
          —Virgil, Georg., iii. 127.]

But is it not great impudence to offer our imperfections and
imbecilities, where we desire to please and leave a good opinion and
esteem of ourselves? For the little that I am able to do now:

                                   "Ad unum
                         Mollis opus."

          ["Fit but for once."—Horace, Epod., xii. 15.]

I would not trouble a woman, that I am to reverence and fear:

                              "Fuge suspicari,
                    Cujus undenum trepidavit aetas
                              Claudere lustrum."

          ["Fear not him whose eleventh lustrum is closed."
          —Horace, Od., ii. 4, 12, limits it to the eighth.]

Nature should satisfy herself in having rendered this age miserable,
without rendering it ridiculous too. I hate to see it, for one poor inch
of pitiful vigour which comes upon it but thrice a week, to strut and set
itself out with as much eagerness as if it could do mighty feats; a true
flame of flax; and laugh to see it so boil and bubble and then in a
moment so congealed and extinguished. This appetite ought to appertain
only to the flower of beautiful youth: trust not to its seconding that
indefatigable, full, constant, magnanimous ardour you think in you, for
it will certainly leave you in a pretty corner; but rather transfer it to
some tender, bashful, and ignorant boy, who yet trembles at the rod, and

              "Indum sanguineo veluti violaverit ostro
               Si quis ebur, vel mista rubent ubi lilia multa
               Alba rosa."

     ["As Indian ivory streaked with crimson, or white lilies mixed
     with the damask rose."—AEneid, xii. 67.]

Who can stay till the morning without dying for shame to behold the
disdain of the fair eyes of her who knows so well his fumbling

               "Et taciti fecere tamen convicia vultus,"

          ["Though she nothing say, her looks betray her anger."
          —Ovid, Amor., i. 7, 21.]

has never had the satisfaction and the glory of having cudgelled them
till they were weary, with the vigorous performance of one heroic night.
When I have observed any one to be vexed with me, I have not presently
accused her levity, but have been in doubt, if I had not reason rather to
complain of nature; she has doubtless used me very uncivilly and

         "Si non longa satis, si non bene mentula crassa
          Nimirum sapiunt, videntque parvam
          Matronae quoque mentulam illibenter:"

     [The first of these verses is the commencement of an epigram of the
     Veterum Poetayurra Catalecta, and the two others are from an epigram
     in the same collection (Ad Matrones). They describe untranslatably
     Montaigne's charge against nature, indicated in the previous

and done me a most enormous injury. Every member I have, as much one as
another, is equally my own, and no other more properly makes me a man
than this.

I universally owe my entire picture to the public. The wisdom of my
instruction consists in liberty, in truth, in essence: disdaining to
introduce those little, feigned, common, and provincial rules into the
catalogue of its real duties; all natural, general, and constant,
of which civility and ceremony are daughters indeed, but illegitimate.
We are sure to have the vices of appearance, when we shall have had those
of essence: when we have done with these, we run full drive upon the
others, if we find it must be so; for there is danger that we shall fancy
new offices, to excuse our negligence towards the natural ones, and to
confound them: and to manifest this, is it not seen that in places where
faults are crimes, crimes are but faults; that in nations where the laws
of decency are most rare and most remiss, the primitive laws of common
reason are better observed: the innumerable multitude of so many duties
stifling and dissipating our care. The application of ourselves to light
and trivial things diverts us from those that are necessary and just.
Oh, how these superficial men take an easy and plausible way in
comparison of ours! These are shadows wherewith we palliate and pay one
another; but we do not pay, but inflame the reckoning towards that great
judge, who tucks up our rags and tatters above our shameful parts, and
suckles not to view us all over, even to our inmost and most secret
ordures: it were a useful decency of our maidenly modesty, could it keep
him from this discovery. In fine, whoever could reclaim man from so
scrupulous a verbal superstition, would do the world no great disservice.
Our life is divided betwixt folly and prudence: whoever will write of it
but what is reverend and canonical, will leave above the one-half behind.
I do not excuse myself to myself; and if I did, it should rather be for
my excuses that I would excuse myself than for any other fault; I excuse
myself of certain humours, which I think more strong in number than those
that are on my side. In consideration of which, I will further say this
(for I desire to please every one, though it will be hard to do):

          "Esse unum hominem accommodatum ad tantam morum
          ac sermonum et voluntatum varietatem,"

     ["For a man to conform to such a variety of manners,
     discourses, and will."—Q. Cicero, De Pet. Consul, c. 14.]

that they ought not to condemn me for what I make authorities, received
and approved by so many ages, to utter: and that there is no reason that
for want of rhyme they should refuse me the liberty they allow even to
churchmen of our nation and time, and these amongst the most notable, of
which here are two of their brisk verses:

          "Rimula, dispeream, ni monogramma tua est."

          "Un vit d'amy la contente et bien traicte:"

     [St. Gelais, (Euvres Poetiques), p. 99, ed. of Lyons, 1574.]

besides how many others. I love modesty; and 'tis not out of judgment
that I have chosen this scandalous way of speaking; 'tis nature that has
chosen it for me. I commend it not, no more than other forms that are
contrary to common use: but I excuse it, and by circumstances both
general and particular, alleviate its accusation.

But to proceed. Whence, too, can proceed that usurpation of sovereign
authority you take upon you over the women, who favour you at their own

               "Si furtiva dedit mira munuscula nocte,"

     ["If, in the stealthy night, she has made strange gifts."
     —Catullus, lxviii. 145.]

so that you presently assume the interest, coldness, and authority of a
husband? 'Tis a free contract why do you not then keep to it, as you
would have them do? there is no prescription upon voluntary things.
'Tis against the form, but it is true withal, that I in my time have
conducted this bargain as much as the nature of it would permit, as
conscientiously and with as much colour of justice, as any other
contract; and that I never pretended other affection than what I really
had, and have truly acquainted them with its birth, vigour, and
declination, its fits and intermissions: a man does not always hold on
at the same rate. I have been so sparing of my promises, that I think
I have been better than my word. They have found me faithful even to
service of their inconstancy, a confessed and sometimes multiplied
inconstancy. I never broke with them, whilst I had any hold at all, and
what occasion soever they have given me, never broke with them to hatred
or contempt; for such privacies, though obtained upon never so scandalous
terms, do yet oblige to some good will: I have sometimes, upon their
tricks and evasions, discovered a little indiscreet anger and impatience;
for I am naturally subject to rash emotions, which, though light and
short, often spoil my market. At any time they have consulted my
judgment, I never stuck to give them sharp and paternal counsels, and to
pinch them to the quick. If I have left them any cause to complain of
me, 'tis rather to have found in me, in comparison of the modern use, a
love foolishly conscientious than anything else. I have kept my, word in
things wherein I might easily have been dispensed; they sometimes
surrendered themselves with reputation, and upon articles that they were
willing enough should be broken by the conqueror: I have, more than once,
made pleasure in its greatest effort strike to the interest of their
honour; and where reason importuned me, have armed them against myself;
so that they ordered themselves more decorously and securely by my rules,
when they frankly referred themselves to them, than they would have done
by their own. I have ever, as much as I could, wholly taken upon myself
alone the hazard of our assignations, to acquit them; and have always
contrived our meetings after the hardest and most unusual manner, as less
suspected, and, moreover, in my opinion, more accessible. They are
chiefly more open, where they think they are most securely shut; things
least feared are least interdicted and observed; one may more boldly dare
what nobody thinks you dare, which by its difficulty becomes easy. Never
had any man his approaches more impertinently generative; this way of
loving is more according to discipline but how ridiculous it is to our
people, and how ineffectual, who better knows than I? yet I shall not
repent me of it; I have nothing there more to lose:

                        "Me tabula sacer
                         Votiva paries, indicat uvida
                         Suspendisse potenti
                         Vestimenta maris deo:"

     ["The holy wall, by my votive table, shows that I have hanged up my
     wet clothes in honour of the powerful god of the sea."
     —Horace, Od., i. 5, 13.]

'tis now time to speak out. But as I might, per adventure, say to
another, "Thou talkest idly, my friend; the love of thy time has little
commerce with faith and integrity;"

              "Haec si tu postules
               Ratione certa facere, nihilo plus agas,
               Quam si des operam, ut cum ratione insanias:"

     ["If you seek to make these things certain by reason, you will do no
     more than if you should seek to be mad in your senses."
     —Terence, Eun., act i., sc. i, v. 16.]

on the contrary, also, if it were for me to begin again, certainly it
should be by the same method and the same progress, how fruitless soever
it might be to me; folly and insufficiency are commendable in an
incommendable action: the farther I go from their humour in this, I
approach so much nearer to my own. As to the rest, in this traffic, I
did not suffer myself to be totally carried away; I pleased myself in it,
but did not forget myself. I retained the little sense and discretion
that nature has given me, entire for their service and my own: a little
emotion, but no dotage. My conscience, also, was engaged in it, even to
debauch and licentiousness; but, as to ingratitude, treachery, malice,
and cruelty, never. I would not purchase the pleasure of this vice at
any price, but content myself with its proper and simple cost:

                    "Nullum intra se vitium est."

          ["Nothing is a vice in itself."—Seneca, Ep., 95.]

I almost equally hate a stupid and slothful laziness, as I do a toilsome
and painful employment; this pinches, the other lays me asleep. I like
wounds as well as bruises, and cuts as well as dry blows. I found in
this commerce, when I was the most able for it, a just moderation betwixt
these extremes. Love is a sprightly, lively, and gay agitation; I was
neither troubled nor afflicted with it, but heated, and moreover,
disordered; a man must stop there; it hurts nobody but fools. A young
man asked the philosopher Panetius if it were becoming a wise man to be
in love? "Let the wise man look to that," answered he, "but let not thou
and I, who are not so, engage ourselves in so stirring and violent an
affair, that enslaves us to others, and renders us contemptible to
ourselves." He said true that we are not to intrust a thing so
precipitous in itself to a soul that has not wherewithal to withstand its
assaults and disprove practically the saying of Agesilaus, that prudence
and love cannot live together. 'Tis a vain employment, 'tis true,
unbecoming, shameful, and illegitimate; but carried on after this manner,
I look upon it as wholesome, and proper to enliven a drowsy soul and to
rouse up a heavy body; and, as an experienced physician, I would
prescribe it to a man of my form and condition, as soon as any other
recipe whatever, to rouse and keep him in vigour till well advanced in
years, and to defer the approaches of age. Whilst we are but in the
suburbs, and that the pulse yet beats:

         "Dum nova canities, dum prima et recta senectus,
          Dum superest lachesi quod torqueat, et pedibus me
          Porto meis, nullo dextram subeunte bacillo,"

     ["Whilst the white hair is new, whilst old age is still straight
     shouldered, whilst there still remains something for Lachesis to
     spin, whilst I walk on my own legs, and need no staff to lean upon."
     —Juvenal, iii. 26.]

we have need to be solicited and tickled by some such nipping incitation
as this. Do but observe what youth, vigour, and gaiety it inspired the
good Anacreon withal: and Socrates, who was then older than I, speaking
of an amorous object:

"Leaning," said he, "my shoulder to her shoulder, and my head to hers, as
we were reading together in a book, I felt, without dissembling, a sudden
sting in my shoulder like the biting of an insect, which I still felt
above five days after, and a continual itching crept into my heart." So
that merely the accidental touch, and of a shoulder, heated and altered a
soul cooled and enerved by age, and the strictest liver of all mankind.
And, pray, why not? Socrates was a man, and would neither be, nor seem,
any other thing. Philosophy does not contend against natural pleasures,
provided they be moderate, and only preaches moderation, not a total
abstinence; the power of its resistance is employed against those that
are adulterate and strange. Philosophy says that the appetites of the
body ought not to be augmented by the mind, and ingeniously warns us not
to stir up hunger by saturity; not to stuff, instead of merely filling,
the belly; to avoid all enjoyments that may bring us to want; and all
meats and drinks that bring thirst and hunger: as, in the service of
love, she prescribes us to take such an object as may simply satisfy the
body's need, and does not stir the soul, which ought only barely to
follow and assist the body, without mixing in the affair. But have I not
reason to hold that these precepts, which, indeed, in my opinion, are
somewhat over strict, only concern a body in its best plight; and that in
a body broken with age, as in a weak stomach, 'tis excusable to warm and
support it by art, and by the mediation of the fancy to restore the
appetite and cheerfulness it has lost of itself.

May we not say that there is nothing in us, during this earthly prison,
that is purely either corporeal or spiritual; and that we injuriously
break up a man alive; and that it seems but reasonable that we should
carry ourselves as favourably, at least, towards the use of pleasure as
we do towards that of pain! Pain was (for example) vehement even to
perfection in the souls of the saints by penitence: the body had there
naturally a sham by the right of union, and yet might have but little
part in the cause; and yet are they not contented that it should barely
follow and assist the afflicted soul: they have afflicted itself with
grievous and special torments, to the end that by emulation of one
another the soul and body might plunge man into misery by so much more
salutiferous as it is more severe. In like manner, is it not injustice,
in bodily pleasures, to subdue and keep under the soul, and say that it
must therein be dragged along as to some enforced and servile obligation
and necessity? 'Tis rather her part to hatch and cherish them, there to
present herself, and to invite them, the authority of ruling belonging to
her; as it is also her part, in my opinion, in pleasures that are proper
to her, to inspire and infuse into the body all the sentiment it is
capable of, and to study how to make them sweet and useful to it. For it
is good reason, as they say, that the body should not pursue its
appetites to the prejudice of the mind; but why is it not also the reason
that the mind should not pursue hers to the prejudice of the body?

I have no other passion to keep me in breath. What avarice, ambition,
quarrels, lawsuits do for others who, like me, have no particular
vocation, love would much more commodiously do; it would restore to me
vigilance, sobriety, grace, and the care of my person; it would reassure
my countenance, so that the grimaces of old age, those deformed and
dismal looks, might not come to disgrace it; would again put me upon
sound and wise studies, by which I might render myself more loved and
esteemed, clearing my mind of the despair of itself and of its use, and
redintegrating it to itself; would divert me from a thousand troublesome
thoughts, a thousand melancholic humours that idleness and the ill
posture of our health loads us withal at such an age; would warm again,
in dreams at least, the blood that nature is abandoning; would hold up
the chin, and a little stretch out the nerves, the vigour and gaiety of
life of that poor man who is going full drive towards his ruin. But I
very well understand that it is a commodity hard to recover: by weakness
and long experience our taste is become more delicate and nice; we ask
most when we bring least, and are harder to choose when we least deserve
to be accepted: and knowing ourselves for what we are, we are less
confident and more distrustful; nothing can assure us of being beloved,
considering our condition and theirs. I am out of countenance to see
myself in company with those young wanton creatures:

              "Cujus in indomito constantior inguine nervus,
               Quam nova collibus arbor inhaeret."

     ["In whose unbridled reins the vigour is more inherent than in the
     young tree on the hills."—Horace, Epod., xii. 19.]

To what end should we go insinuate our misery amid their gay and
sprightly humour?

                   "Possint ut juvenes visere fervidi.
                    Multo non sine risu,
                    Dilapsam in cineres facem."

     ["As the fervid youths may behold, not without laughter, a burning
     torch worn to ashes."—Horace, Od., iv. 13, 21.]

They have strength and reason on their side; let us give way; we have
nothing to do there: and these blossoms of springing beauty suffer not
themselves to be handled by such benumbed hands nor dealt with by mere
material means, for, as the old philosopher answered one who jeered him
because he could not gain the favour of a young girl he made love to:
"Friend, the hook will not stick in such soft cheese." It is a commerce
that requires relation and correspondence: the other pleasures we receive
may be acknowledged by recompenses of another nature, but this is not to
be paid but with the same kind of coin. In earnest, in this sport, the
pleasure I give more tickles my imagination than that they give me; now,
he has nothing of generosity in him who can receive pleasure where he
confers none—it must needs be a mean soul that will owe all, and can be
content to maintain relations with persons to whom he is a continual
charge; there is no beauty, grace, nor privacy so exquisite that a
gentleman ought to desire at this rate. If they can only be kind to us
out of pity, I had much rather die than live upon charity. I would have
right to ask, in the style wherein I heard them beg in Italy: "Fate ben
per voi,"—["Do good for yourself."]—or after the manner that Cyrus
exhorted his soldiers, "Who loves himself let him follow me."—"Consort
yourself," some one will say to me, "with women of your own condition,
whom like fortune will render more easy to your desire." O ridiculous
and insipid composition!

                    Barbam vellere mortuo leoni."

          ["I would not pluck the beard from a dead lion."—Martial]

Xenophon lays it for an objection and an accusation against Menon, that
he never made love to any but old women. For my part, I take more
pleasure in but seeing the just and sweet mixture of two young beauties,
or only in meditating on it in my fancy, than myself in acting second in
a pitiful and imperfect conjunction;

     [Which Cotton renders, "Than to be myself an actor in the second
     with a deformed creature."]

I leave that fantastic appetite to the Emperor Galba, who was only for
old curried flesh: and to this poor wretch:

              "O ego Di faciant talem to cernere possim,
               Caraque mutatis oscula ferre comis,
               Amplectique meis corpus non pingue lacertis!"

     [Ovid, who (Ex. Ponto, i. 4, 49) writes to his wife, "O would the
     gods arrange that such I might see thee, and bring dear kisses to
     thy changed locks, and embrace thy withered body with my arms"]

Amongst chief deformities I reckon forced and artificial beauties: Hemon,
a young boy of Chios, thinking by fine dressing to acquire the beauty
that nature had denied him, came to the philosopher Arcesilaus and asked
him if it was possible for a wise man to be in love—"Yes," replied he,
"provided it be not with a farded and adulterated beauty like thine."

     [Diogenes Laertius, iv. 36. The question was whether a wise man
     could love him. Cotton has "Emonez, a young courtezan of Chios."]

Ugliness of a confessed antiquity is to me less old and less ugly than
another that is polished and plastered up. Shall I speak it, without the
danger of having my throat cut? love, in my opinion, is not properly and
naturally in its season, but in the age next to childhood,

                   "Quem si puellarum insereres choro,
                    Mille sagaces falleret hospites,
                    Discrimen obscurum, solutis
                    Crinibus ambiguoque vultu:"

     ["Whom if thou shouldst place in a company of girls, it would
     require a thousand experts to distinguish him, with his loose locks
     and ambiguous countenance."—Horace, Od., ii. 5, 21.]

nor beauty neither; for whereas Homer extends it so far as to the budding
of the beard, Plato himself has remarked this as rare: and the reason why
the sophist Bion so pleasantly called the first appearing hairs of
adolescence 'Aristogitons' and 'Harmodiuses'—[Plutarch, On Love, c.34.]—
is sufficiently known. I find it in virility already in some sort a
little out of date, though not so much as in old age;

                   "Importunus enim transvolat aridas

               ["For it uncivilly passes over withered oaks."
               —Horace, Od., iv. 13, 9.]

and Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, like a woman, very far extends the
advantage of women, ordaining that it is time, at thirty years old, to
convert the title of fair into that of good. The shorter authority we
give to love over our lives, 'tis so much the better for us. Do but
observe his port; 'tis a beardless boy. Who knows not how, in his school
they proceed contrary to all order; study, exercise, and usage are their
ways for insufficiency there novices rule:

                         "Amor ordinem nescit."

          ["Love ignores rules." (Or:) "Love knows no rule."
          —St. Jerome, Letter to Chyomatius.]

Doubtless his conduct is much more graceful when mixed with inadvertency
and trouble; miscarriages and ill successes give him point and grace;
provided it be sharp and eager, 'tis no great matter whether it be
prudent or no: do but observe how he goes reeling, tripping, and playing:
you put him in the stocks when you guide him by art and wisdom; and he is
restrained of his divine liberty when put into those hairy and callous

As to the rest, I often hear the women set out this intelligence as
entirely spiritual, and disdain to put the interest the senses there have
into consideration; everything there serves; but I can say that I have
often seen that we have excused the weakness of their understandings in
favour of their outward beauty, but have never yet seen that in favour of
mind, how mature and full soever, any of them would hold out a hand to a
body that was never so little in decadence. Why does not some one of
them take it into her head to make that noble Socratical bargain between
body and soul, purchasing a philosophical and spiritual intelligence and
generation at the price of her thighs, which is the highest price she can
get for them? Plato ordains in his Laws that he who has performed any
signal and advantageous exploit in war may not be refused during the
whole expedition, his age or ugliness notwithstanding, a kiss or any
other amorous favour from any woman whatever. What he thinks to be so
just in recommendation of military valour, why may it not be the same in
recommendation of any other good quality? and why does not some woman
take a fancy to possess over her companions the glory of this chaste
love? I may well say chaste;

                    "Nam si quando ad praelia ventum est,
               Ut quondam in stipulis magnus sine viribus ignis,
               Incassum furit:"

     ["For when they sometimes engage in love's battle,
     his sterile ardour lights up but as the flame of a straw."
     —Virgil, Georg., iii. 98.]

the vices that are stifled in the thought are not the worst.

To conclude this notable commentary, which has escaped from me in a
torrent of babble, a torrent sometimes impetuous and hurtful,

              "Ut missum sponsi furtivo munere malum
               Procurrit casto virginis a gremio,
               Quod miserae oblitae molli sub veste locatuat,
               Dum adventu matris prosilit, excutitur,
               Atque illud prono praeceps agitur decursu
               Huic manat tristi conscius ore rubor."

     ["As when an apple, sent by a lover secretly to his mistress, falls
     from the chaste virgin's bosom, where she had quite forgotten it;
     when, starting at her mother's coming in, it is shaken out and rolls
     over the floor before her eyes, a conscious blush covers her face."
     —Catullus, lxv. 19.]

I say that males and females are cast in the same mould, and that,
education and usage excepted, the difference is not great. Plato
indifferently invites both the one and the other to the society of all
studies, exercises, and vocations, both military and civil, in his
Commonwealth; and the philosopher Antisthenes rejected all distinction
betwixt their virtue and ours. It is much more easy to accuse one sex
than to excuse the other; 'tis according to the saying,

               "Le fourgon se moque de la paele."
                  ["The Pot and the Kettle."]