In Montaigne retired to his estates in order to devote himself to leisure, reading and reflection. He discusses subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But, above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women in general.
The Essays are among the most idiosyncratic and personal works in all literature and provide an engaging insight into a wise Renaissance mind, continuing to give pleasure and enlightenment to modern readers. With its extensive introduction and notes, M. Michel de Montaigne studied law and spent a number of years working as a counsellor before devoting his life to reading, writing and reflection. He was brought up to speak Latin as his mother tongue and always retained… More about Michel de Montaigne.
We reach the same end by discrepant means 2. On sadness 3. Our emotions get carried away beyond us 4. How the soul discharges its emotions against false objects when lacking real ones 5. Whether the governor of a besieged fortress should go out and parley 6. The hour of parleying is dangerous 7. That our deeds are judged by the intention 8. On idleness 9. On liars On a ready or hesitant delivery On prognostications On constancy Ceremonial at the meeting of kings That the taste of good and evil things depends in large part on the opinion we have of them One is punished for stubbornly defending a fort without good reason On punishing cowardice The doings of certain ambassadors On fear That we should not be deemed happy till after our death To philosophize is to learn how to die On the power of the imagination On habit: and on never easily changing a traditional law Same design: differing outcomes On educating children That it is madness to judge the true and the false from our own capacities On affectionate relationships On moderation On the Cannibals Something lacking in our civil administrations On the custom of wearing clothing On Cato the Younger How we weep and laugh at the same thing On solitude Reflections upon Cicero On the inequality there is between us How quickly can you read this book?
Enter your reading speed here: Estimate To find your reading speed you can take one of our WPM tests. Author Michel de Montaigne. Word Count 3, words Estimate based on audiobook length. Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential figures of the Renaissance, singlehandedly responsible for popularising the essay as a literary form. Bouillhonnas, his uncle.
Early on the following morning, however, I had intelligence from Madame de la Boetie, that in the night he had fresh and violent attack of dysentery. She had called in physician and apothecary, and prayed me to lose no time coming, which after dinner I did. He was delighted to see me; and when I was going away, under promise to turn the following day, he begged me more importunately and affectionately than he was wont to do, to give him as such of my company as possible.
I was a little affected; yet was about to leave, when Madame de la Boetie, as if she foresaw something about to happen, implored me with tears to stay the night. When I consented, he seemed to grow more cheerful. I returned home the next day, and on the Thursday I paid him another visit. He had become worse; and his loss of blood from the dysentery, which reduced his strength very much, was largely on the increase.
I quitted his side on Friday, but on Saturday I went to him, and found him very weak. He then gave me to understand that his complaint was infectious, and, moreover, disagreeable and depressing; and that he, knowing thoroughly my constitution, desired that I should content myself with coming to see him now and then.
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On the contrary, after that I never left his side. It was only on the Sunday that he began to converse with me on any subject beyond the immediate one of his illness, and what the ancient doctors thought of it: we had not touched on public affairs, for I found at the very outset that he had a dislike to them. But, on the Sunday, he had a fainting fit; and when he came to himself, he told me that everything seemed to him confused, as if in a mist and in disorder, and that, nevertheless, this visitation was not unpleasing to him.
He had had no regular sleep since the beginning of his illness; and as he became worse and worse, he began to turn his attention to questions which men commonly occupy themselves with in the last extremity, despairing now of getting better, and intimating as much to me. On that day, as he appeared in tolerably good spirits, I took occasion to say to him that, in consideration of the singular love I bore him, it would become me to take care that his affairs, which he had conducted with such rare prudence in his life, should not be neglected at present; and that I should regret it if, from want of proper counsel, he should leave anything unsettled, not only on account of the loss to his family, but also to his good name.
He thanked me for my kindness; and after a little reflection, as if he was resolving certain doubts in his own mind, he desired me to summon his uncle and his wife by themselves, in order that he might acquaint them with his testamentary dispositions. I told him that this would shock them. I replied, that it was of no importance, being incidental to the complaint from which he suffered. I should also regret it on account of such as have, in my lifetime, valued me, and whose conversation I should like to have enjoyed a little longer; and I beseech you, my brother, if I leave the world, to carry to them for me an assurance of the esteem I entertained for them to the last moment of my existence.
My birth was, moreover, scarcely to so little purpose but that, had I lived, I might have done some service to the public; but, however this may be, I am prepared to submit to the will of God, when it shall please Him to call me, being confident of enjoying the tranquillity which you have foretold for me. As for you, my friend, I feel sure that you are so wise, that you will control your emotions, and submit to His divine ordinance regarding me; and I beg of you to see that that good man and woman do not mourn for my departure unnecessarily.
When they were near him he assumed an appearance of gaiety, and flattered them with hopes. I then went to call them. They came, wearing as composed an air as possible; and when we four were together, he addressed us, with an untroubled countenance, as follows: "Uncle and wife, rest assured that no new attack of my disease, or fresh doubt that I have as to my recovery, has led me to take this step of communicating to you my intentions, for, thank God, I feel very well and hopeful; but taught by observation and experience the instability of all human things, and even of the life to which we are so much attached, and which is, nevertheless, a mere bubble; and knowing, moreover, that my state of health brings me more within the danger of death, I have thought proper to settle my worldly affairs, having the benefit of your advice.
Let me only say that, wherever I have been, and with whomsoever I have conversed, I have represented you as doing for me all that a father could do for a son; both in the care with which you tended my education, and in the zeal with which you pushed me forward into public life, so that my whole existence is a testimony of your good offices towards me. In short, I am indebted for all that I have to you, who have been to me as a parent; and therefore I have no right to part with anything, unless it be with your approval.
At last he said that whatever he thought for the best would be agreeable to him; and as he intended to make him his heir, he was at liberty to dispose of what would be his. Then he turned to his wife. I beg you to accept such portion of my estate as I bequeath to you, and be satisfied with it, though it is very inadequate to your desert.
It will be a memorial of your old companion. He blessed God that in his extremity he had the happiness to be surrounded by those whom he held dearest in the world, and he looked upon it as a fine spectacle, where four persons were together, so unanimous in their feelings, and loving each other for each other's sake. He commended us one to the other; and proceeded thus: "My worldly matters being arranged, I must now think of the welfare of my soul. I am a Christian; I am a Catholic. I have lived one, and I shall die one. Send for a priest; for I wish to conform to this last Christian obligation.
I felt my heart so oppressed at this moment, that I had not the power to make him any answer; but in the course of two or three hours, solicitous to keep up his courage, and, likewise, out of the tenderness which I had had all my life for his honour and fame, wishing a larger number of witnesses to his admirable fortitude, I said to him, how much I was ashamed to think that I lacked courage to listen to what he, so great a sufferer, had the courage to deliver; that down to the present time I had scarcely conceived that God granted us such command over human infirmities, and had found a difficulty in crediting the examples I had read in histories; but that with such evidence of the thing before my eyes, I gave praise to God that it had shown itself in one so excessively dear to me, and who loved me so entirely, and that his example would help me to act in a similar manner when my turn came.
Interrupting me, he begged that it might happen so, and that the conversation which had passed between us might not be mere words, but might be impressed deeply on our minds, to be put in exercise at the first occasion; and that this was the real object and aim of all philosophy. He then took my hand, and continued: "Brother, friend, there are many acts of my life, I think, which have cost me as much difficulty as this one is likely to do; and, after all, I have been long prepared for it, and have my lesson by heart.
Have I not lived long enough? I am just upon thirty-three. By the grace of God, my days so far have known nothing but health and happiness; but in the ordinary course of our unstable human affairs, this could not have lasted much longer; it would have become time for me to enter on graver avocations, and I should thus have involved myself in numberless vexations, and, among them, the troubles of old age, from which I shall now be exempt.
Moreover, it is probable that hitherto my life has been spent more simply, and with less of evil, than if God had spared me, and I had survived to feel the thirst for riches and worldly prosperity. I am sure, for my part, that I now go to God and the place of the blessed. Had I any, whom would it become so much as yourself to remove them?
The notary was called, and he dictated his will there and then with such speed that the man could scarcely keep up with him; and when he had done, he asked me to read it out, saying to me, "What a good thing it is to look after what are called our riches. As soon as the will was signed, the chamber being full, he asked me if it would hurt him to talk. I answered, that it would not, if he did not speak too loud. He then summoned Mademoiselle de Saint Quentin, his niece, to him, and addressed her thus: "Dear niece, since my earliest acquaintance with thee, I have observed the marks of, great natural goodness in thee; but the services which thou rendered to me, with so much affectionate diligence, in my present and last necessity, inspire me with high hopes of thee; and I am under great obligations to thee, and give thee most affectionate thanks.
Let me relieve my conscience by counselling thee to be, in the first place, devout, to God: for this doubtless is our first duty, failing which all others can be of little advantage or grace, but which, duly observed, carries with it necessarily all other virtues. After God, thou shouldest love thy father and mother--thy mother, my sister, whom I regard as one of the best and most intelligent of women, and by whom I beg of thee to let thy own life be regulated. Allow not thyself to be led away by pleasures; shun, like the plague, the foolish familiarities thou seest between some men and women; harmless enough at first, but which by insidious degrees corrupt the heart, and thence lead it to negligence, and then into the vile slough of vice.
Credit me, the greatest safeguard to female chastity is sobriety of demeanour. I beseech and direct that thou often call to mind the friendship which was betwixt us; but I do not wish thee to mourn for me too much--an injunction which, so far as it is in my power, I lay on all my friends, since it might seem that by doing so they felt a jealousy of that blessed condition in which I am about to be placed by death. I assure thee, my dear, that if I had the option now of continuing in life or of completing the voyage on which I have set out, I should find it very hard to choose.
Adieu, dear niece. He said to her: "Daughter, you stand in no great need of advice from me, insomuch as you have a mother, whom I have ever found most sagacious, and entirely in conformity with my own opinions and wishes, and whom I have never found faulty; with such a preceptress, you cannot fail to be properly instructed. Do not account it singular that I, with no tie of blood to you, am interested in you; for, being the child of one who is so closely allied to me, I am necessarily concerned in what concerns you; and consequently the affairs of your brother, M.
You enjoy sufficient store of wealth and beauty; you are a lady of good family; it only remains for you to add to these possessions the cultivation of your mind, in which I exhort you not to fail. I do not think necessary to warn you against vice, a thing so odious in women, for I would not even suppose that you could harbour any inclination for it--nay, I believe that you hold the very name in abhorrence.
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Dear daughter, farewell. But when he had done, he directed us all to leave the room, except the women attendants, whom he styled his garrison. But first, calling to him my brother, M. I have now a thing which I am very anxious indeed to mention to you, and with your permission I will do so. I consider that you were led to it by observing the vicious character of our prelates, which no doubt much requires setting in order, and by imperfections which time has brought into our Church.
It is not my desire at present discourage you from this course, for I would have no one act in opposition to his conscience; but I wish, having regard to the good repute acquired by your family from its enduring concord--a family than which none can be dearer to me; a family, thank God! You perceive what disasters our quarrels have brought upon this kingdom, and I anticipate still worse mischiefs; and in your goodness and wisdom, beware of involving your family in such broils; let it continue to enjoy its former reputation and happiness.
I postponed till now any communication with you on the subject, and perhaps the condition in which you see me address you, may cause my advice and opinion to carry greater authority.
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On the Monday morning he had become so ill that he quite despaired of himself; and he said to me very pitifully: "Brother, do not you feel pain for all the pain I am suffering? Do you not perceive now that the help you give me has no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering? But he soon sank, and when he heard us in lamentation, he murmured, "O God! Why did you break the agreeable repose I was enjoying? I beg of you to leave me. O, how thou robbest me of my repose! I, in order to change the current of his thoughts, put in, "Surely not; water is the best. This morning he confessed, but the priest had omitted to bring with him the necessary apparatus for celebrating Mass.
On the Tuesday, however, M. After the conclusion of Mass, he took the sacrament; when the priest was about to depart, he said to him: "Spiritual father, I implore you humbly, as well as those over whom you are set, to pray to the Almighty on my behalf; that, if it be decreed in heaven that I am now to end my life, He will take compassion on my soul, and pardon me my sins, which are manifold, it not being possible for so weak and poor a creature as I to obey completely the will of such a Master; or, if He think fit to keep me longer here, that it may please Him to release my present extreme anguish, and to direct my footsteps in the right path, that I may become a better man than I have been.
Then, turning his eyes towards me, he said, "Ingenui est, cui multum debeas, ei plurimum velle debere. A little before, indeed, he had shown a desire to speak to his wife, and had told her, with as gay a countenance as he could contrive to assume, that he had a story to tell her.
And it seemed as if he was making an attempt to gain utterance; but, his strength failing him, he begged a little wine to resuscitate it.
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It was of no avail, for he fainted away suddenly, and was for some time insensible. Having become so near a neighbour to death, and hearing the sobs of Mademoiselle de la Boetie, he called her, and said to her thus: "My own likeness, you grieve yourself beforehand; will you not have pity on me? Assuredly, it costs me more than half the pain I endure, to see you suffer; and reasonably so, because the evils which we ourselves feel we do not actually ourselves suffer, but it certain sentient faculties which God plants in us, that feel them: whereas what we feel on account of others, we feel by consequence of a certain reasoning process which goes on within our minds.
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But I am going away"-- That he said because his strength was failing him; and fearing that he had frightened his wife, he resumed, observing: "I am going to sleep. Good night, my wife; go thy way. After she had left, "My brother," said he to me, "keep near me, if you please;" and then feeling the advance of death more pressing and more acute, or else the effect of some warm draught which they had made him swallow, his voice grew stronger and clearer, and he turned quite with violence in his bed, so that all began again to entertain the hope which we had lost only upon witnessing his extreme prostration.
At this stage he proceeded, among other things, to pray me again and again, in a most affectionate manner, to give him a place; so that I was apprehensive that his reason might be impaired, particularly when, on my pointing out to him that he was doing himself harm, and that these were not of the words of a rational man, he did not yield at first, but redoubled his outcry, saying, "My brother, my brother! At length, he composed himself a little to rest, which strengthened our hopes; so much so, indeed, that I left the room, and went to rejoice thereupon with Mademoiselle de la Boetie.
But, an hour or so afterwards, he called me by name once or twice, and then with a long sigh expired at three o'clock on Wednesday morning, the 18th August , having lived thirty-two years, nine months, and seventeen days. It is perfectly possible that some fastidious persons will detect in the book some trace of Gascon parentage; but it will be so much the more to their discredit, that they allowed the task to devolve on one who is quite a novice in these things. It is only right, Monseigneur, that the work should come before the world under your auspices, since whatever emendations and polish it may have received, are owing to you.
Still I see well that, if you think proper to balance accounts with the author, you will find yourself much his debtor; for against his excellent and religious discourses, his lofty and, so to speak, divine conceptions, you will find that you will have to set nothing but words and phraseology; a sort of merchandise so ordinary and commonplace, that whoever has the most of it, peradventure is the worst off. Monseigneur, I pray God to grant you a very long and happy life. From Paris, this 18th of June This will be an inducement to you to continue to cherish towards his memory, your good opinion and goodwill.
And to be bold with you, Monsieur, do not fear to increase these sentiments somewhat; for, as you had knowledge of his high qualities only in his public capacity, it rests with me to assure you how many endowments he possessed beyond your personal experience of him. He did me the honour, while he lived, and I count it amongst the most fortunate circumstances in my own career, to have with me a friendship so close and so intricately knit, that no movement, impulse, thought, of his mind was kept from me, and if I have not formed a right judgment of him, I must suppose it to be from my own want of scope.
Indeed, without exaggeration, he was so nearly a prodigy, that I am afraid of not being credited when I speak of him, even though I should keep much within the mark of my own actual knowledge. And for this time, Monsieur, I shall content myself with praying you, for the honour and respect we owe to truth, to testify and believe that our Guienne never beheld his peer among the men of his vocation.
Under the hope, therefore, that you will pay him his just due, and in order to refresh him in your memory, I present you this book, which will answer for me that, were it not for the insufficiency of my power, I would offer you as willingly something of my own, as an acknowledgment of the obligations I owe to you, and of the ancient favour and friendship which you have borne towards the members of our house. But, Monsieur, in default of better coin, I offer you in payment the assurance of my desire to do you humble service.
Monsieur, I pray God to have you in His keeping. MONSIEUR,--It is one of the most conspicuous follies committed by men, to employ the strength of their understanding in overturning and destroying those opinions which are commonly received among us, and which afford us satisfaction and content; for while everything beneath heaven employs the ways and means placed at its disposal by nature for the advancement and commodity of its being, these, in order to appear of a more sprightly and enlightened wit, not accepting anything which has not been tried and balanced a thousand times with the most subtle reasoning, sacrifice their peace of mind to doubt, uneasiness, and feverish excitement.
It is not without reason that childhood and simplicity have been recommended by holy writ itself. For my part, I prefer to be quiet rather than clever: give me content, even if I am not to be so wide in my range. This is the reason, Monsieur, why, although persons of an ingenious turn laugh at our care as to what will happen after our own time, for instance, to our souls, which, lodged elsewhere, will lose all consciousness of what goes on here below, yet I consider it to be a great consolation for the frailty and brevity of life, to reflect that we have the power of prolonging it by reputation and fame; and I embrace very readily this pleasant and favourable notion original with our being, without inquiring too critically how or why it is.
Insomuch that having loved, beyond everything, the late M. I believe that he feels something of what I do on his behalf, and that my services touch and rejoice him. In fact, he lives in my heart so vividly and so wholly, that I am loath to believe him committed to the dull ground, or altogether cast off from communication with us. Therefore, Monsieur, since every new light I can shed on him and his name, is so much added to his second period of existence, and, moreover, since his name is ennobled and honoured by the place which receives it, it falls to me not only to extend it as widely as I can, but to confide it to the keeping of persons of honour and virtue; among whom you hold such a rank, that, to afford you the opportunity of receiving this new guest, and giving him good entertainment, I decided on presenting to you this little work, not for any profit you are likely to derive from it, being well aware that you do not need to have Plutarch and his companions interpreted to you--but it is possible that Madame de Roissy, reading in it the order of her household management and of your happy accord painted to the life, will be pleased to see how her own natural inclination has not only reached but surpassed the theories of the wisest philosophers, regarding the duties and laws of the wedded state.
And, at all events, it will be always an honour to me, to be able to do anything which shall be for the pleasure of you and yours, on account of the obligation under which I lie to serve you. Monsieur, I pray God to grant you a long and happy life. From Montaigne, this 30th April Now, in proportion as this is so much to be desired, so it is the more difficult of accomplishment, since you cannot have eyes to embrace a multitude so large and so widely extended, nor to see to the bottom of hearts, in order that you may discover intentions and consciences, matters principally to be considered; so that there has never been any commonwealth so well organised, in which we might not detect often enough defect in such a department or such a choice; and in those systems, where ignorance and malice, favouritism, intrigue, and violence govern, if any selection happens to be made on the ground of merit and regularity, we may doubtless thank Fortune, which, in its capricious movements, has for once taken the path of reason.
This consideration, Monseigneur, often consoled me, when I beheld M. Etienne de la Boetie, one of the fittest men for high office in France, pass his whole life without employment and notice, by his domestic hearth, to the singular detriment of the public; for, so far as he was concerned, I may assure you, Monseigneur, that he was so rich in those treasures which defy fortune, that never was man more satisfied or content. I know, indeed, that he was raised to the dignities connected with his neighbourhood--dignities accounted considerable; and I know also, that no one ever acquitted himself better of them; and when he died at the age of thirty-two, he enjoyed a reputation in that way beyond all who had preceded him.
But for all that, it is no reason that a man should be left a common soldier, who deserves to become a captain; nor to assign mean functions to those who are perfectly equal to the highest. In truth, his powers were badly economised and too sparingly employed; insomuch that, over and above his actual work, there was abundant capacity lying idle which might have been called into service, both to the public advantage and his own private glory.
Therefore, Monseigneur, since he was so indifferent to his own fame for virtue and ambition, unfortunately, seldom lodge together , and since he lived in an age when others were too dull or too jealous to witness to his character, I have it marvellously at heart that his memory, at all events, to which I owe the good offices of a friend, should enjoy the recompense of his brave life; and that it should survive in the good report of men of honour and virtue. On this account, sir, I have been desirous to bring to light, and present to you, such few Latin verses as he left behind.
Different from the builder, who places the most attractive, portion of his house towards the street, and to the draper, who displays in his window his best goods, that which was most precious in my friend, the juice and marrow of his genius, departed with him, and there have remained to us but the bark and the leaves. The exactly regulated movements of his mind, his piety, his virtue, his justice, his vivacity, the solidity and soundness of his judgment, the loftiness of his ideas, raised so far above the common level, his learning, the grace which accompanied his most ordinary actions, the tender affection he had for his miserable country, and his supreme and sworn detestation of all vice, but principally of that villainous traffic which disguises itself under the honourable name of justice, should certainly impress all well-disposed persons with a singular love towards him, and an extraordinary regret for his loss.
But, sir, I am unable to do justice to all these qualities; and of the fruit of his own studies it had not entered into his mind to leave any proof to posterity; all that remains, is the little which, as a pastime, he did at intervals. However this may be, I beg you, sir, to receive it kindly; and as our judgment of great things is many times formed from lesser things, and as even the recreations of illustrious men carry with them, to intelligent observers, some honourable traits of their origin, I would have you form from this, some knowledge of him, and hence lovingly cherish his name and his memory.
In this, sir, you will only reciprocate the high opinion which he had of your virtue, and realise what he infinitely desired in his lifetime; for there was no one in the world in whose acquaintance and friendship he would have been so happy to see himself established, as in your own.
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But if any man is offended by the freedom which I use with the belongings of another, I can tell him that nothing which has been written or been laid down, even in the schools of philosophy, respecting the sacred duties and rights of friendship, could give an adequate idea of the relations which subsisted between this personage and myself. Moreover, sir, this slender gift, to make two throws of one stone at the same time, may likewise serve, if you please, to testify the honour and respect which I entertain for your ability and high qualities; for as to those gifts which are adventitious and accidental, it is not to my taste to take them into account.
Sir, I pray God to grant you a very happy and a very long life. From Montaigne, this 30th of April Moreover, it is well to notice that the custom of praising virtue, even in those who are no longer with us, impalpable as it is to them, serves as a stimulant to the living to imitate their example; just as capital sentences are carried out by the law, more for the sake of warning to others, than in relation to those who suffer. Now, commendation and its opposite being analogous as regards effects, we cannot easily deny the fact, that although the law prohibits one man from slandering the reputation of another, it does not prevent us from bestowing reputation without cause.
This pernicious licence in respect to the distribution of praise, has formerly been confined in its area of operations; and it may be the reason why poetry once lost favour with the more judicious. However this may be, it cannot be concealed that the vice of falsehood is one very unbecoming in gentleman, let it assume what guise it will. As for that personage of whom I am speaking to you, sir he leads me far away indeed from this kind of language; for the danger in his case is not, lest I should lend him anything, but that I might take something from him; and it is his ill-fortune that, while he has supplied me, so far as ever a man could, with just and obvious opportunities for commendation, I find myself unable and unqualified to render it to him-- I, who am his debtor for so many vivid communications, and who alone have it in my power to answer for a million of accomplishments, perfections, and virtues, latent thanks to his unkind stars in so noble a soul.
For the nature of things having I know not how permitted that truth, fair and acceptable--as it may be of itself, is only embraced where there are arts of persuasion, to insinuate it into our minds, I see myself so wanting, both in authority to support my simple testimony, and in the eloquence requisite for lending it value and weight, that I was on the eve of relinquishing the task, having nothing of his which would enable me to exhibit to the world a proof of his genius and knowledge.
In truth, sir, having been overtaken by his fate in the flower of his age, and in the full enjoyment of the most vigorous health, it had been his design to publish some day works which would have demonstrated to posterity what sort of a man he was; and, peradventure, he was indifferent enough to fame, having formed such a plan in his head, to proceed no further in it.
But I have come to the conclusion, that it was far more excusable in him to bury with him all his rare endowments, than it would be on my part to bury also with me the knowledge of them which I had acquired from him; and, therefore, having collected with care all the remains which I found scattered here and there among his papers, I intend to distribute them so as to recommend his memory to as many persons as possible, selecting the most suitable and worthy of my acquaintance, and those whose testimony might do him greatest honour: such as you, sir, who may very possibly have had some knowledge of him during his life, but assuredly too slight to discover the perfect extent of his worth.
Posterity may credit me, if it chooses, when I swear upon my conscience, that I knew and saw him to be such as, all things considered, I could neither desire nor imagine a genius surpassing his. I beg you very humbly, sir, not only to take his name under your general protection, but also these ten or twelve French stanzas, which lay themselves, as of necessity, under shadow of your patronage.
For I will not disguise from you, that their publication was deferred, upon the appearance of his other writings, under the pretext as it was alleged yonder at Paris that they were too crude to come to light. You will judge, sir, how much truth there is in this; and since it is thought that hereabout nothing can be produced in our own dialect but what is barbarous and unpolished, it falls to you, who, besides your rank as the first house in Guienne, indeed down from your ancestors, possess every other sort of qualification, to establish, not merely by your example, but by your authoritative testimony, that such is not always the case: the more so that, though 'tis more natural with the Gascons to act than talk, yet sometimes they employ the tongue more than the arm, and wit in place of valour.
For my own part; sir, it is not in my way to judge of such matters; but I have heard persons who are supposed to understand them, say that these stanzas are not only worthy to be presented in the market-place, but, independently of that, as regards beauty and wealth of invention, they are full of marrow and matter as any compositions of the kind, which have appeared in our language. Naturally each workman feels himself more strong in some special part his art, and those are to be regarded as most fortunate, who lay hands on the noblest, for all the parts essential to the construction of any whole are not equally precious.
We find elsewhere, perhaps, greater delicacy phrase, greater softness and harmony of language; but imaginative grace, and in the store of pointed wit, I do not think he has been surpassed; and we should take the account that he made these things neither his occupation nor his study, and that he scarcely took a pen in his hand more than once a year, as is shown by the very slender quantity of his remains. For you see here, sir, green wood and dry, without any sort of selection, all that has come into my possession; insomuch that there are among the rest efforts even of his boyhood.
In point of fact, he seems to have written them merely to show that he was capable of dealing with all subjects: for otherwise, thousands of times, in the course of ordinary conversation, I have heard things drop from him infinitely more worthy of being admired, infinitely more worthy of being preserved. Such, sir, is what justice and affection, forming in this instance a rare conjunction, oblige me to say of this great and good man; and if I have at all offended by the freedom which I have taken in addressing myself to you on such a subject at such a length, be pleased to recollect that the principal result of greatness and eminence is to lay one open to importunate appeals on behalf of the rest of the world.
Herewith, after desiring you to accept my affectionate devotion to your service, I beseech God to vouchsafe you, sir, a fortunate and prolonged life. From Montaigne, this 1st of September Let them talk; I adhere for my part the custom of the good old days; I also wear my hair as it used to be then; and, in truth, novelty costs this poor country up to the present moment so dear and I do not know whether we have reached the highest pitch yet , that everywhere and in everything I renounce the fashion.
Let us live, my wife, you and I, in the old French method. Now, you may recollect that the late M. I do not wish to keep them niggardly to myself alone, nor do I deserve to have the exclusive use of them; so that I have resolved to communicate them to my friends; and because I have none, I believe, more particularly intimate you, I send you the Consolatory Letter written by Plutarch to his Wife, translated by him into French; regretting much that fortune has made it so suitable a present you, and that, having had but one child, and that a daughter, long looked for, after four years of your married life it was your lot to lose her in the second year of her age.
But I leave to Plutarch the duty of comforting you, acquainting you with your duty herein, begging you to put your faith in him for my sake; for he will reveal to you my own ideas, and will express the matter far better than I should myself. Hereupon, my wife, I commend myself very heartily to your good will, and pray God to have you in His keeping.
From Paris, this 10th September It was perhaps under these circumstances that Montaigne addressed to him the present letter. MONSIEUR,--The business of the Sieur de Verres, a prisoner, who is extremely well known to me, deserves, in the arrival at a decision, the exercise of the clemency natural to you, if, in the public interest, you can fairly call it into play. He has done a thing not only excusable, according to the military laws of this age, but necessary and as we are of opinion commendable.
He committed the act, without doubt, unwillingly and under pressure; there is no other passage of his life which is open to reproach. I beseech you, sir, to lend the matter your attentive consideration; you will find the character of it as I represent it to you. He is persecuted on this crime, in a way which is far worse than the offence itself. If it is likely to be of use to him, I desire to inform you that he is a man brought up in my house, related to several respectable families, and a person who, having led an honourable life, is my particular friend.
By saving him you lay me under an extreme obligation. I beg you very humbly to regard him as recommended by me, and, after kissing your hands, I pray God, sir, to grant you a long and happy life.