Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Literary and Philosophical Essays
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
   Literary and Philosophical Essays.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Of Bookes
 
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
 
 
I MAKE no doubt but it shall often befall me to speake of things which are better, and with more truth, handled by such as are their crafts-masters. Here is simply an essay of my natural faculties, and no whit of those I have acquired. And he that shall tax me with ignorance shall have no great victory at my hands; for hardly could I give others reasons for my discourses that give none unto my selfe, and am not well satisfied with them. He that shall make sear after knowledge, let him seek it where it is: there is nothing I professe lesse. These are but my fantasies by which I endevour not to make things known, but my selfe. They may haply one day be knowne unto me, or have bin at other times, according as fortune hath brought me where they were declared or manifested. But I remember them no more. And if I be a man of some reading, yet I am a man of no remembering, I conceive no certainty, except it bee to give notice how farre the knowledge I have of it doth now reach. Let no man busie himselfe about the matters, but on the fashion I give them. Let that which I borrow be survaied, and then tell me whether I have made good choice of ornaments to beautifie and set foorth the invention which ever comes from mee. For I make others to relate (not after mine owne fantasie but as it best falleth out) what I cannot so well expresse, either through unskill of language or want of judgement. I number not my borrowings, but I weigh them. And if I would have made their number to prevail, I would have had twice as many. They are all, or almost all, of so famous and ancient names, that me thinks they sufficiently name themselves without mee. If in reasons, comparisons, and arguments, I transplant any into my soile, or confound them with mine owne, I purposely conceale the author, thereby to bridle the rashnesse of these hastie censures that are so headlong cast upon all manner of compositions, namely young writings of men yet living; and in vulgare that admit all the world to talke of them, and which seemeth to convince the conception and publike designe alike. I will have them to give Plutarch a bob 1 upon mine own lips, and vex themselves in wronging Seneca in mee. My weaknesse must be hidden under such great credits. I will love him that shall trace or unfeather me; I meane through clearenesse of judgement, and by the only distinction of the force and beautie of my discourses. For my selfe, who for want of memorie am ever to seeke how to trie and refine them by the knowledge of their country, knowe perfectly, by measuring mine owne strength, that my soyle is no way capable of some over-pretious flowers that therein I find set, and that all the fruits of my increase could not make it amends. This am I bound to answer for if I hinder my selfe, if there be either vanitie or fault in my discourses that I perceive not or am not able to discerne if they be showed me. For many faults do often escape our eyes; but the infirmitie of judgement consisteth in not being able to perceive them when another discovereth them unto us. Knowledge and truth may be in us without judgement, and we may have judgement without them: yea, the acknowledgment of ignorance is one of the best and surest testimonies of judgement that I can finde. I have no other sergeant of band to marshall my rapsodies than fortune. And looke how my humours or conceites present themselves, so I shuffle them up. Sometimes they prease out thicke and three fold, and other times they come out languishing one by one. I will have my naturall and ordinarie pace seene as loose and as shuffling as it is. As I am, so I goe on plodding. And besides, these are matters that a man may not be ignorant of, and rashly and casually to speake of them. I would wish to have a more perfect understanding of things, but I will not purchase it so deare as it cost. My intention is to passe the remainder of my life quietly and not laboriously, in rest and not in care. There is nothing I will trouble or vex myselfe about, no not for science it selfe, what esteeme soever it be of. I doe not search and tosse over books but for an honester recreation to please, and pastime to delight my selfe: or if I studie, I only endevour to find out the knowledge that teacheth or handleth the knowledge of my selfe, and which may instruct me how to die well and how to live well.
        Has meus ad metas sudet oportet equus. 2
My horse must sweating runne,
That this goale may be wonne.
  1
  If in reading I fortune to meet with any difficult points, I fret not my selfe about them, but after I have given them a charge or two, I leave them as I found them. Should I earnestly plod upon them, I should loose both time and my selfe, for I have a skipping wit. What I see not at the first view, I shall lesse see it if I opinionate my selfe upon it. I doe nothing without blithnesse; and an over obstinate continuation and plodding contention doth dazle, dul, and wearie the same: my sight is thereby confounded and diminished. I must therefore withdraw it, and at fittes goe to it againe. Even as to judge well of the lustre of scarlet we are taught to cast our eyes over it, in running over by divers glances, sodaine glimpses and reiterated reprisings. 3 If one booke seeme tedious unto me I take another, which I follow not with any earnestnesse, except it be at such houres as I am idle, or that I am weary with doing nothing. I am not greatly affected to new books, because ancient Authors are, in my judgement, more full and pithy: nor am I much addicted to Greeke books, forasmuch as my understanding cannot well rid 4 his worke with a childish and apprentise intelligence. Amongst moderne bookes meerly pleasant, I esteeme Bocace his Decameron, Rabelais, and the kisses of John the second (if they may be placed under this title), worth the paines-taking to reade them. As for Amadis and such like trash of writings, they had never the credit so much as to allure my youth to delight in them. This I will say more, either boldly or rashly, that this old and heavie-pased minde of mine will no more be pleased with Aristotle, or tickled with good Ovid: his facility and quaint inventions, which heretofore have so ravished me, they can now a days scarcely entertaine me. I speake my minde freely of all things, yea, of such as peradventure exceed my sufficiencie, and that no way I hold to be of my jurisdiction. What my conceit is of them is told also to manifest the proportion of my insight, and not the measure of things. If at any time I finde my selfe distasted of Platoes Axiochus, as of a forceles worke, due regard had to such an Author, my judgement doth nothing beleeve it selfe: It is not so fond-hardy, or selfe-conceited, as it durst dare to oppose it selfe against the authority of so many other famous ancient judgements, which he reputeth his regents and masters, and with whom hee had rather erre. He chafeth with, and condemneth himselfe, either to rely on the superficiall sense, being unable to pierce into the centre, or to view the thing by some false lustre. He is pleased only to warrant himselfe from trouble and unrulinesse: As for weaknesse, he acknowledgeth and ingeniously avoweth the same. He thinks to give a just interpretation to the apparences which his conception presents unto him, but they are shallow and imperfect. Most of Æsopes fables have divers senses, and severall interpretations: Those which Mythologize them, chuse some kinde of colour well suting with the fable; but for the most part, it is no other than the first and superficiall glosse: There are others more quicke, more sinnowie, more essentiall, and more internall, into which they could never penetrate; and thus thinke I with them. But to follow my course, I have ever deemed that in Poesie, Virgil, Lucretius, Catullus, and Horace, doe doubtles by far hold the first ranke: and especially Virgil in his Georgiks, which I esteeme to be the most accomplished peece of worke of Poesie: In comparison of which one may easily discerne, that there are some passages in the Æneidos to which the Author (had he lived) would no doubt have given some review or correction: The fifth booke whereof is (in my mind) the most absolutely perfect. I also love Lucan, and willingly read him, not so much for his stile, as for his owne worth and truth of his opinion and judgement. As for good Terence, I allow the quaintnesse and grace of his Latine tongue, and judge him wonderfull conceited and apt, lively to represent the motions and passions of the minde, and the condition of our manners: our actions make me often remember him. I can never reade him so often but still I discover some new grace and beautie in him. Those that lived about Virgil’s time, complained that some would compare Lucretius unto him. I am of opinion that verily it is an unequall comparison; yet can I hardly assure my selfe in this opinion whensoever I finde my selfe entangled in some notable passage of Lucretius. If they were moved at this comparison, what would they say now of the fond, hardy and barbarous stupiditie of those which now adayes compare Ariosto unto him? Nay, what would Ariosto say of it himselfe?
        O seclum insipiens et infacetum. 5
 
O age that hath no wit,
And small conceit in it.
  2
  I thinke our ancestors had also more reason to cry out against those that blushed not to equall Plautus unto Terence (who makes more show to be a Gentleman) than Lucretius unto Virgil. This one thing doth greatly advantage the estimation and preferring of Terence, that the father of the Roman eloquence, of men of his quality doth so often make mention of him; and the censure 6 which the chiefe Judge of the Roman Poets giveth of his companion. It hath often come unto my minde, how such as in our dayes give themselves to composing of comedies (as the Italians who are very happy in them) employ three or foure arguments of Terence and Plautus to make up one of theirs. In one onely comedy they will huddle up five or six of Bocaces tales. That which makes them so to charge themselves with matter, is the distrust they have of their owne sufficiency, and that they are not able to undergoe so heavie a burthen with their owne strength. They are forced to finde a body on which they may rely and leane themselves: and wanting matter of their owne wherewith to please us, they will have the story or tale to busie and ammuse us: where as in my Authors it is cleane contrary: The elegancies, the perfections and ornaments of his manner of speech, make us neglect and lose the longing for his subject. His quaintnesse and grace doe still retaine us to him. He is every where pleasantly conceited, 7
        Liquidus puroque simillimus amni, 8
 
So clearely-neate, so neately-cleare,
As he a fine-pure River were,
and doth so replenish our minde with his graces that we forget those of the fable. The same consideration drawes me somewhat further. I perceive that good and ancient Poets have shunned the affectation and enquest, not only of fantasticall, new fangled, Spagniolized, and Petrarchisticall elevations, but also of more sweet and sparing inventions, which are the ornament of all the Poeticall workes of succeeding ages. Yet is there no competent Judge that findeth them wanting in those Ancient ones, and that doth not much more admire that smoothly equall neatnesse, continued sweetnesse, and flourishing comelinesse of Catullus his Epigrams, than all the sharpe quips and witty girds wherewith Martiall doth whet and embellish the conclusions of his. It is the same reason I spake of erewhile, as Martiall of himselfe. Minus illi ingenio laborandum fuit, in cuius locum materia successerat. 9 “He needed the lesse worke with his wit, in place whereof matter came in supply.” The former without being moved or pricked cause themselves to be heard lowd enough: they have matter to laugh at every where, and need not tickle themselves: where as these must have foraine helpe: according as they have lesse spirit, they must have more body. They leape on horsebacke, because they are not sufficiently strong in their legs to march on foot. Even as in our dances, those base conditioned men that keepe dancing-schooles, because they are unfit to represent the port and decencie of our nobilitie, endevour to get commendation by dangerous lofty trickes, and other strange tumbler-like friskes and motions. And some Ladies make a better shew of their countenances in those dances, wherein our divers changes, cuttings, turnings, and agitations of the body, than in some dances of state and gravity, where they need but simply to tread a naturall measure, represent an unaffected carriage, and their ordinary grace; And as I have also seene some excellent Lourdans, or Clownes, attired in their ordinary worky-day clothes, and with a common homely countenance, affoord us all the pleasure that may be had from their art: but prentises and learners that are not of so high a forme, besmeare their faces, to disguise themselves, and in motions counterfeit strange visages and antickes, to enduce us to laughter. This my conception is no where better discerned than in the comparison betweene Virgils Æneidos and Orlando Furioso. The first is seene to soare aloft with fullspread wings, and with so high and strong a pitch, ever following his point; the other faintly to hover and flutter from tale to tale, and as it were skipping from bough to bough, always distrusting his owne wings, except it be for some short fight, and for feare his strength and breath should faile him, to sit downe at every fields-end;
        Excursusque breves tentat. 10
 
Out-lopes 11 sometimes he doth assay,
But very short, and as he may.
  3
  Loe here then, concerning this kinde of subjects, what Authors please me best: As for my other lesson, which somewhat more mixeth profit with pleasure, whereby I learne to range my opinions and addresse my conditions, the Bookes that serve me thereunto are Plutarke (since he spake 12 French) and Seneca; both have this excellent commodity for my humour, that the knowledge I seeke in them is there so scatteringly and loosely handled, that whosoever readeth them is not tied to plod long upon them, whereof I am uncapable. And so are Plutarkes little workes and Senecas Epistles, which are the best and most profitable parts of their writings. It is no greate matter to draw mee to them, and I leave them where I list. For they succeed not and depend not one of another. Both jumpe 13 and suit together, in most true and profitable opinions: And fortune brought them both into the world in one age. Both were Tutors unto two Roman Emperours: Both were strangers, and came from farre Countries; both rich and mighty in the common-wealth, and in credit with their masters. Their instruction is the prime and creame of Philosophy, and presented with a plaine, unaffected, and pertinent fashion. Plutarke is more uniforme and constant; Seneca more waving and diverse. This doth labour, force, and extend himselfe, to arme and strengthen vertue against weaknesse, feare, and vitious desires; the other seemeth nothing so much to feare their force or attempt, and in a manner scorneth to hasten or change his pace about them, and to put himselfe upon his guard. Plutarkes opinions are Platonicall, gentle and accommodable unto civil societie: Senecæs Stoicall and Epicurian, further from common use, but in my conceit 14 more proper, particular, and more solid. It appeareth in Seneca that he somewhat inclineth and yeeldeth to the tyrannie of the Emperors which were in his daies; for I verily believe, it is with a forced judgement he condemneth the cause of those noblie-minded murtherers of Cæsar; Plutarke is every where free and open hearted; Seneca full-fraught with points and sallies: Plutarke stuft with matters. The former doth move and enflame you more: the latter content, please, and pay you better: This doth guide you, the other drive you on. As for Cicero, of all his works, those that treat of Philosophie (namely morall) are they which best serve my turne, and square with my intent. But boldly to confess the truth (for, since the bars of impudencie were broken downe, all curbing is taken away), his manner of writing seemeth verie tedious unto me, as doth all such like stuffe. For his prefaces, definitions, divisions, and Etymologies consume the greatest part of his works; whatsoever quick, wittie, and pithie conceit is in him is surcharged and confounded by those his long and far-fetcht preambles. If I bestow but one hour in reading them, which is much for me, and let me call to minde what substance or juice I have drawne from him, for the most part I find nothing but wind and ostentation in him; for he is not yet come to the arguments which make for his purpose, and reasons that properly concerne the knot or pith I seek after. These Logicall and Aristotelian ordinaces are not availfull for me, who onely endeavour to become more wise and sufficient, and not more wittie or eloquent. I would have one begin with the last point: I understand sufficiently what death and voluptuousnesse are: let not a man busie himselfe to anatomize them. At the first reading of a booke I seeke for good and solid reasons that may instruct me how to sustaine their assaults. It is neither grammaticall subtilties nor logicall quiddities, nor the wittie contexture of choice words or arguments and syllogismes, that will serve my turne. I like those discourses that give the first charge to the strongest part of the doubt; his are but flourishes, and languish everywhere. They are good for schooles, at the barre, or for Orators and Preachers, where we may slumber: and though we wake a quarter of an houre after, we may finde and trace him soone enough. Such a manner of speech is fit for those judges that a man would corrupt by hooke or crooke, by right or wrong, or for children and the common people, unto whom a man must tell all, and see what the event would be. I would not have a man go about and labour by circhmlocutions to induce and winne me to attention, and that (as our Heralds or Criers do) they shall ring out their words: Now heare me, now listen, or ho-yes. 15 The Romanes in their religion were wont to say, “Hoc age;” 16 which in ours we say, “Sursum corda.” 17 There are so many lost words for me. I come readie prepared from my house. I neede no allurement nor sawce, my stomacke is good enough to digest raw meat: And whereas with these preparatives and flourishes, or preambles, they thinke to sharpen my taste or stir my stomacke, they cloy and make it wallowish. 18 Shall the privilege of times excuse me from this sacrilegious boldnesse, to deem Platoes Dialogismes to be as languishing, by over-filling and stuffing his matter? And to bewaile the time that a man who had so many thousands of things to utter, spends about so many, so long, so vaine, and idle interloqutions, and preparatives? My ignorance shall better excuse me, in that I see nothing in the beautie of his language. I generally enquire after bookes that use sciences, and not after such as institute them. The two first, and Plinie, with others of their ranke, have no Hoc age in them, they will have to doe with men that have forewarned themselves; or if they have, it is a materiall and substantiall Hoc age, and that hath his bodie apart. I likewise love to read the Epistles and ad Atticum, not onely because they containe a most ample instruction of the historie and affaires of his times, but much more because in them I descrie his private humours. For (as I have said elsewhere) I am wonderfull curious to discover and know the minde, the soul, the genuine disposition and naturall judgement of my authors. A man ought to judge their sufficiencie and not their customes, nor them by the shew of their writings, which they set forth on this world’s theatre. I have sorrowed a thousand times that ever we lost the booke that Brutus writ of Vertue. Oh it is a goodly thing to learne the Theorike of such as understand the practice well. But forsomuch as the Sermon is one thing and the Preacher an other, I love as much to see Brutus in Plutarke as in himself: I would rather make choice to know certainly what talk he had in his tent with some of his familiar friends, the night fore-going the battell, than the speech he made the morrow after to his Armie; and what he did in his chamber or closet, than what in the senate or market place. As for Cicero, I am of the common judgement, that besides learning there was no exquisite 19 eloquence in him: He was a good citizen, of an honest, gentle nature, as are commonly fat and burly men: for so was he: But to speake truly of him, full of ambitious vanity and remisse niceness. 20 And I know not well how to excuse him, in that he deemed his Poesie worthy to be published. It is no great imperfection to make bad verses, but it is a imperfection in him that he never perceived how unworthy they were of the glorie of his name. Concerning his eloquence, it is beyond all comparison, and I verily beleeve that none shall ever equall it. Cicero the younger, who resembled his father in nothing but in name, commanding in Asia, chanced one day to have many strangers at his board, and amongst others, one Cæstius sitting at the lower end, as the manner is to thrust in at great mens tables: Cicero inquired of one of his men what he was, who told him his name, but he dreaming on other matters, and having forgotten what answere his man made him, asked him his name twice or thrice more: the servant, because he would not be troubled to tell him one thing so often, and by some circumstance to make him to know him better, “It is,” said he, “the same Cæstius of whom some have told you that, in respect of his owne, maketh no accompt of your fathers eloquence:” Cicero being suddainly mooved, commanded the said poore Cæstius to be presently taken from the table, and well whipt in his presence: Lo heere an uncivill and barbarous host. Even amongst those which (all things considered) have deemed his eloquence matchlesse and incomparable, others there have been who have not spared to note some faults in it. As great Brutus said, that it was an eloquence broken, halting, and disjoynted, fractam et elumbem: “Incoherent and sinnowlesse.” Those Orators that lived about his age, reproved also in him the curious care he had of a certaine long cadence at the end of his clauses, and noted these words, esse videatur, which he so often useth. As for me, I rather like a cadence that falleth shorter, cut like Iambikes: yet doth he sometimes confounde his numbers, 21 but it is seldome: I have especially observed this one place: “Ego vero me minus diu senem esse mallem, quam esse senem, antequam essem.” 22 “But I had rather not be an old man, so long as I might be, than to be old before I should be.” Historians are my right hand, for they are pleasant and easie; and therewithall the man with whom I desire generally to be acquainted may more lively and perfectly be discovered in them than in any other composition: the varietie and truth of his inward conditions, in grosse and by retale: the diversitie of the meanes of his collection and composing, and of the accidents that threaten him. Now those that write of mens lives, forasmuch as they ammuse and busie themselves more about counsels than events, more about that which commeth from within than that which appeareth outward; they are fittest for me: And that’s the reason why Plutarke above all in that kind doth best please me. Indeed I am not a little grieved that we have not a dozen of Lærtius, or that he is not more knowne, or better understood; for I am no lesse curious to know the fortunes and lives of these great masters of the world than to understand the diversitie of their decrees and conceits. In this kind of studie of historie a man must, without distinction, tosse and turne over all sorts of Authors, both old and new, both French and others, if he will learne the things they so diversly treat of. But me thinkes that Cæsar above all doth singularly deserve to be studied, not onely for the understanding of the historie as of himselfe; so much perfection and excellencie is there in him more than in others, although Salust be reckoned one of the number. Verily I read that author with a little more reverence and respects than commonly men reade profane and humane Workes: sometimes considering him by his actions and wonders of his greatnesse, and other times waighing the puritie and inimitable polishing and elegancie of his tongue, which (as Cicero saith) hath not onely exceeded all historians, but haply Cicero himselfe: with such sinceritie in his judgement, speaking of his enemies, that except the false colours wherewith he goeth about to cloake his bad cause, and the corruption and filthinesse of his pestilent ambition, I am perswaded there is nothing in him to be found fault with: and that he hath been over-sparing to speake of himselfe; for so many notable and great things could never be executed by him, unlesse he had put more of his owne into them than he setteth downe. I love those Historians that are either very simple or most excellent. The simple who have nothing of their owne to adde unto the storie and have but the care and diligence to collect whatsoever come to their knowledge, and sincerely and faithfully to register all things, without choice or culling, by the naked truth leave our judgment more entire and better satisfied.  4
  Such amongst others (for examples sake) plaine and well-meaning Froissard, who in his enterprise hath marched with so free and genuine a puritie, that having committed some oversight, he is neither ashamed to acknowledge nor afraid to correct the same, wheresoever he hath either notice or warning of it: and who representeth unto us the diversitie of the newes then current and the different reports that were made unto him. The subject of an historie should be naked, bare, and formelesse; each man according to his capacitie or understanding may reap commoditie out of it. The curious and most excellent have the sufficiencie to cull and chuse that which is worthie to be knowne and may select of two relations that which is most likely: from the condition of Princes and of their humours, they conclude their counsels and attribute fit words to them: they assume a just authoritie and bind our faith to theirs. But truly that belongs not to many. Such as are betweene both (which is the most common fashion), it is they that spoil all; they will needs chew our meat for us and take upon them a law to judge, and by consequence to square and encline the storie according to their fantasie; for, where the judgement bendeth one way, a man cannot chuse but wrest and turne his narration that way. They undertake to chuse things worthy to bee knowne, and now and then conceal either a word or a secret action from us, which would much better instruct us: omitting such things as they understand not as incredible: and haply such matters as they know not how to declare, either in good Latin or tolerable French. Let them boldly enstall their eloquence and discourse: Let them censure at their pleasure, but let them also give us leave to judge after them: And let them neither alter nor dispense by their abridgements and choice anything belonging to the substance of the matter; but let them rather send it pure and entire with all her dimensions unto us. Most commonly (as chiefly in our age) this charge of writing histories is committed unto base, ignorant, and mechanicall kind of people, only for this consideration that they can speake well; as if we sought to learne the Grammer of them; and they have some reason, being only hired to that end, and publishing nothing but their tittle-tattle to aime at nothing else so much. Thus with store of choice and quaint words, and wyre drawne phrases, they huddle up and make a hodge-pot of a laboured contexture of the reports which they gather in the market places or such other assemblies. The only good histories are those that are written by such as commanded or were imploied themselves in weighty affaires or that were partners in the conduct of them, or that at least have had the fortune to manage others of like qualitie. Such in a manner are all the Græcians and Romans. For many eyewitnesses having written of one same subject (as it hapned in those times when Greatnesse and Knowledge did commonly meet) if any fault or over-sight have past them, it must be deemed exceeding light and upon some doubtful accident. What may a man expect at a Phisitians hand that discourseth of warre, or of a bare Scholler treating of Princes secret designes? If we shall but note the religion which the Romans had in that, wee need no other example: Asinius Pollio found some mistaking or oversight in Cæsars Commentaries, whereinto he was falne, only because he could not possiblie oversee all things with his owne eyes that hapned in his Armie, but was faine to rely on the reports of particular men, who often related untruths unto him: or else because he had not been curiously advertized 23 and distinctly enformed by his Lieutenants and Captaines of such matters as they in his absence had managed or effected. Whereby may be seen that nothing is so hard or so uncertaine to be found out as the certaintie of the truth, sithence 24 no man can put any assured confidence concerning the truth of a battel, neither in the knowledge of him that was Generall or commanded over it, nor in the soldiers that fought, of anything that hath hapned amongst them; except after the manner of a strict point of law, the severall witnesses are brought and examined face to face, and that all matters be nicely and thorowly sifted by the objects and trials of the successe of every accident. Verily the knowledge we have of our owne affaires is much more barren and feeble. But this hath sufficiently been handled by Bodin, and agreeing with my conception. Somewhat to aid the weaknesse of my memorie and to assist her great defects; for it hath often been my chance to light upon bookes which I supposed to be new and never to have read, which I had not understanding diligently read and run over many years before, and all bescribled with my notes; I have a while since accustomed my selfe to note at the end of my booke (I meane such as I purpose to read but once) the time I made an end to read it, and to set downe what censure or judgement I gave of it; that so it may at least at another time represent unto my mind the aire and generall idea I had conceived of the Author in reading him. I will here set downe the Copie of some of my annotations, and especially what I noted upon my Guicciardine about ten years since: (For what language soever my books speake unto me I speake unto them in mine owne.) He is a diligent Historiographer and from whom in my conceit a man may as exactly learne the truth of such affaires as passed in his time, as of any other writer whatsoever: and the rather because himselfe hath been an Actor of most part of them and in verie honourable place. There is no signe or apparence that ever he disguised or coloured any matter, either through hatred, malice, favour, or vanitie; whereof the free and impartiall judgements he giveth of great men, and namely of those by whom he had been advanced or imployed in his important charges, as of Pope Clement the seaventh, beareth undoubted testimony. Concerning the parts wherein he most goeth about to prevaile, which are his digressions and discourses, many of them are verie excellent and enriched with faire ornaments, but he hath too much pleased himselfe in them: for endeavouring to omit nothing that might be spoken, having so full and large a subject, and almost infinite, he proveth somewhat languishing, and giveth a taste of a kind of scholasticall tedious babling. Moreover, I have noted this, that of so severall and divers armes, successes, and effects he judgeth of; of so many and variable motives, alterations, and counsels, that he relateth, he never referreth any one unto vertue, religion or conscience: as if they were all extinguished and banished the world. And of all actions how glorious soever in appearance they be of themselves, he doth ever impute the cause of them to some vicious and blame-worthie occasion, or to some commoditie and profit. It is impossible to imagine that amongst so infinite a number of actions whereof he judgeth, some one have not been produced and compassed by way of reason. No corruption could ever possesse men so universally but that some one must of necessity escape the contagion; which makes me to feare he hath had some distaste or blame in his passion, and it hath haply fortuned that he hath judged or esteemed of others according to himselfe. In my Philip de Comines there is this: In him you shall find a pleasing-sweet and gently-gliding speech, fraught with a purely sincere simplicitie, his narration pure and unaffected, and wherein the Authors unspotted good meaning doth evidently appeare, void of all manner of vanitie or ostentation speaking of himselfe, and free from all affection or envie-speaking of others; his discourses and perswasions accompanied more with a well-meaning zeale and meere 25 veritie than with any laboured and exquisite sufficiencie, and allthrough with gravitie and authoritie, representing a man well-borne and brought up in high negotiations. Upon the Memoires and historie of Monsieur du Bellay: It is ever a well-pleasing thing to see matters written by those that have assaid how and in what manner they ought to be directed and managed: yet can it not be denied but that in both these Lords there will manifestly appeare a great declination from a free libertie of writing, which clearely shineth in ancient writers of their kind: as in the Lord of Iouinille, familiar unto Saint Lewis; Eginard, Chancellor unto Charlemaine; and of more fresh memorie in Philip de Comines. This is rather a declamation or pleading for King Francis against the Emperour Charles the fifth, than an Historie. I will not beleeve they have altered or changed any thing concerning the generalitie of matters, but rather to wrest and turne the judgement of the events many times against reason, to our advantage, and to omit whatsoever they supposed to be doubtful or ticklish in their masters life: they have made a business of it: witnesse the recoylings of the Lords of Momorancy and Byron, which therein are forgotten; and which is more, you shall not so much as find the name of the Ladie of Estampes mentioned at all. A man may sometimes colour and haply hide secret actions, but absolutely to conceal that which all the world knoweth, and especially such things as have drawne-on publike effects, and of such consequence, it is an inexcusable defect, or as I may say unpardonable oversight. To conclude, whatsoever desireth to have perfect information and knowledge of king Francis the first, and of the things hapned in his time, let him addresse himselfe elsewhere if he will give any credit unto me. The profit he may reap here is by the particular description of the battels and exploits of warre wherein these gentlemen were present; some privie conferences, speeches, or secret actions of some princes that then lived, and the practices managed, or negotiations directed by the Lord of Langeay, in which doubtless are verie many things well worthy to be knowne, and diverse discourses not vulgare.  5
 
Note 1. Thrust, taunt. [back]
Note 2. PROPERT. 1. iv. El. i. 70. [back]
Note 3. Repeated observations. [back]
Note 4. Accomplish. [back]
Note 5. CATUL. Epig. xl. 8. [back]
Note 6. Opinion. [back]
Note 7. Full of pleasant notions. [back]
Note 8. HOR. l. ii. Epist. ii. 120. [back]
Note 9. MART. Præf. l. viii. [back]
Note 10. VIRG. Æn. l. iv. 194. [back]
Note 11. Wanderings out. [back]
Note 12. Was translated by Angot. [back]
Note 13. Agree. [back]
Note 14. Opinion. [back]
Note 15. Oyez, hear. [back]
Note 16. Do this. [back]
Note 17. Lift up your hearts. [back]
Note 18. Mawkish. [back]
Note 19. Overelaborate. [back]
Note 20. Ineffectual fastidiousness. [back]
Note 21. Confuse his rhythm. [back]
Note 22. CIC. De Senect. [back]
Note 23. Minutely informed. [back]
Note 24. Since. [back]
Note 25. Pure. [back]
 

CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors