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Full text of "Montaigne the essayist. A biography"

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The right of Translatuni it reserved. 



JUNE 1. 1923 


Printed by G. Barclay, Castle St. Leicester Sq. 








LIBRARY ..... 



RATION .... 









§ 8. MORALS . 


EVENTS OF Montaigne's life during the 














MANY 140 



XVII. Montaigne's residence at rome . . 1 82 
XVIII. Montaigne's pilgrimage to loretto 209 

XIX; the baths OF DELLA VILLA . . .216 




XXIII. THE PLAGUE OF 1585 . . . .262 . 


PARIS 268 

XXV. A PLEA FOR THE FLESH . . . .276 j 



DEKCE AT BLOIS 293 \ Pagi 



FOURTH . . . . . ' 305 



INTERIOR OF montaigne's LIBRARY . Frontispiece 


montaigne's house AT BORDEAUX . . . .313 









Page 13, line 22, ybr uncle's husband read husband's uncle. 

Page 181, line 13, read: — Where they found comedians the per- 
formances did not begin until six o'clock, at the lighting of the 
torches : they lasted two or three hours and then made way for 

petually leading men into pools and ditches, iiut 
the world got tired at last of the monotony of this 
complaint, and reverted to romance — in France, at 
least — under the auspices of that gross gallant^ FrauciEs 
the First. The satirical attack^ at any rate, was sus- 
pended for many years. Nothing was talked of but 
Delias and Cassandras in the most high-flown language. 
But at last the wrath of Genius turned again in its 
former direction ; and not long before Montaigne sat 




down to write the war had recommenced against that 
inconstant^ coquettish^ impertinent sex, that, leaving 
domestic duties, and letting their households go adrift, 
were invading society with their half-learning and 
incapacity for reason. He was quite in the spirit 
of his times, therefore, when he spread through his 
Essays a number of the sharpest sayings he could 
invent or remember against women. 

I have already separated from these sayings what 
seemed to me allusions to Montaigne's own experiences 
of love. I find that one biographer has collected 
many others, referring to what is vulgarly called "the 
aggravating character" of married women, their ten- 
dency to cross and contradict their husbands, to 
answer "before their anger cools," in order to prove 
that Demoiselle Fran9oise de la Chassagne was a 
sad shrew, who made our philosopher's life unhappy. 
There seems to me, however, no reason to be melan- 
choly over his matrimonial mischances. We have seen 
how he married ; and it is not serious to talk of " the 
violence done to his inclinations." But there is really 
no ground for supposing that in any way Fran5oise 
was the plague of Montaigne's life. In the Essays, it 
is true, there are allusions to scenes of domestic wrath ; 
but these will astonish no one who has seen the 
interior of any family. He was accustomed, he says, 
to warn those who had a right to be angry in his 
house, " first, to be chary of their anger, and not to let 
it loose without reason : if you always scream no one 
will attend to you, and 'tis absurd to scold a servant in 



the same tone for having badly rinsed a glass or ill set 
a chair as for committing a theft ; — secondly, not to be 
angry to no purpose, and to take care that their 
scolding should hit the mark; for usually women 
scream before the culprit has appeared, and continue 
screaming a century after he has gone away/^ This 
humorous observation was no doubt derived from 
experience in Montaigne^s household, but proves 
nothing against Frangoise except that she had a rapid 

^' I have known hundreds of women — and Gascony 
is famous for such examples — whom you could have 
sooner forced to bite at red-hot iron than made 
give up an opinion conceived in anger; and I quite 
believe the story of the woman who, when she called 
her husband 'lousy,^ and was ducked in the pond on 
that account, after having lost all power of speech, 
being brought to the surface made the sign of scratch- 
ing her head in order to show that she did not mean to 
give in. . . . Those who have had to treat with obstinate 
women must have noticed into what fury they fly when 
silence and coldness are opposed to their agitation, and 
when we disdain to feed their anger.^^ These allusions 
we know to have been derived from home experience, 
for a note has been found written in Montaigne^s own 
handwriting, admitting that for once he has based an 
Essay on his wife; "an excellent virtuous woman,^^ 
he says, " but who will not always listen to my advice. 
The sin is committed, God forgive it to me ! ^^ Those 
wljo derive inferences from such facts to prove that 


Montaigne was unhappy with Frangoise, must have a 
singularly exalted idea of the person he might have' 
married. What woman would have furnished an 
1 observer of hia character with fewer caustic remarks ? 
I conceive, then, that all that has been said about 
Montaigne^s ennui in his home is ill-founded — at least, 
if we make Frangoise responsible for it. It was after 
six years of experience of marriage that he determined 
to shut himself up in his chateau, with this " frequent 
storm if not continual tempest of his life/^ If, 
after some ten years of solitude, he again felt an 
inclination to ^^rub his brain against other brains,^^ 
if he became morose, discontented, uneasy, we can find 
ample reason for all this in the approach of old age, in 
the attacks of disease, in the uncertainty to which his 
speculations had brought him, the contrast of the 
stoical maxims he was so fond of parading with his 
own pettinesses and puerilities; in a word, in the 
approach of death, for which a man with hia tempera- 
ment, without religion, vainly endeavours to prepare 
himself. Half the attacks on women which his book 
contains were aimed in various directions, not all point- 
blank across the court at Frangoise. But if this 
were not so, what then? What if Montaigne really 
persuaded himself that he was made miserable by this 
stormy wife of his ? Slight must be the experience of 
human nature which does not warn us, that nearly all 
our complaints of others, our accusations of interference 
with the comfort of our lives, — are the mere unjust 
exhalations of spleen. 


I acquit Frangoise de la Chassagne, and send her 
out of court without a stain on her character. 

There is one passage in the Essays which^ better 
than any other, seems to me illustrative of the home- 
manners of Montaigne — I mean, the one in which he 
describes himself as playing at cards with his wife and 
daughter for small sums, as seriously and earnestly as 
if double doubloons were at stake. Montaigne, though 
he gave up gambling, seems always to have remained 
fond of cards. Chess he avoided, because it excited him, 
and called into play too many passions and faculties, 
which he preferred reserving for other occasions. He 
had 'Observed, however, that games of hazard develope 
also the ferocious part of our nature ; and says it was 
quite common to see people gnaw and swallow cards, 
and thrust dice down their throats, as a sort of 
revenge for the loss of their money. But the ex- 
citement he found in playing against his wife and 
daughter, could have in no way resembled this ; and 
we may be quite sure of the fact, that his playing at all 
shows that he was tolerably comfortable and happy. 
Dr. Payen seems to believe that Montaigne's wife some- 
times acted as his secretary. 

At an early period of his man'iage Montaigne 
wrote a letter to his wife, dedicating to her Plutarch's 
" Letter of Consolation,'' which was among the works 
translated by La Boetie. This letter, it is true, was 
intended for publication, but its tone is quite na- 
tural, and reveals anything but a dissatisfied state of 
mind : — 


" To Mademoiselle de Montaigne, my wife. 

"My Wife, you are aware that it will not seem 
proper for me, as a gentleman, according to the rules 
of this age, to court and caress you still ; for they say 
that a clever man may take a wife, but to marry her is a 
fool^s act. Let them talk as they please. I stick, for 
my part, to the simple fashion of the olden time — to 
which my hair begins to show I belong; — and, in truth, 
novelty, up to this hour, hath cost so dear to this poor 
state (and I know not whether the highest bidding has 
yet taken place), that in everything and everywhere I 
cease to have anything to do with it. Let us live, you 
and I, my wife, in the old French way. Now, you 
may remember how the late Monsieur de la Boetie, that 
dear brother and inviolable companion of mine, left me, 
when he was dying, his papers and his books, which 
I have counted since then as my most favourite pieces 
of furniture. I will not stingily make use of them for 
myself alone, not being deserving of this : so I have 
desired to communicate them to my friends. And 
because I have, I think, no more intimate friend than 
you, I send you the ' Letter of Consolation^ of 
Plutarch to his wife, translated by La Boetie into 
French : being much grieved that Fortune has rendered 
this present so appropriate, as having no child but a 
daughter, long-expected, after four years of marriage, 
you have lost it in the second year (or month) of its 
life. But I leave to Plutarch the task of consoling 


you^ and of pointing out your duty in this case^ begging 
you to believe him for the love of me; for he will 
declare my intentions^ and what can be said on this 
subject^ much better than I. And now^ my wife^ I 
recommend myself much to your good graces^ and 
pray God to keep you. 

^'From Paris, this tenth day of September^ 1570. 
"Your good husband, 

"Michel de Montaigne.^' 




By his wife Montaigne had several children^ besides 
the one mentioned in the letter just quoted ; but only 
one of them passed the period of infancy. He says 
somewhere^ having wound himself up to a pitch of 
stoical resolution on paper, speaking of the loss of 
children : ^' I once said jokingly of some one, that he 
had cheated Divine Justice, for the violent death of 
three grown-up children having been sent to him in 
one day, we must believe as a sharp lash, — he almost 
received it as a singular favour of Heaven. My cha- 
racter is not so eccentric : but I have lost two or three 
children at nurse, if not without regret, at least without 
repining ; yet there is scarcely any accident that touches 
men more to the quick.^^ The expression, ^^two or 
three," seems to one critic ^' odious;^' but there is 
really nothing odious in it. Montaigne is stimu- 
lating himself to face the disasters of life. Among 
these is the loss of children ; and, grateful for the one 
left him, he does not shrink from admitting or boasting 


that he had been deprived of two or three very young 
children without any great despair. His tone is influ- 
enced^ also^ by the comparative lightness of his loss 
with that to which he refers, and which is elsewhere 
recorded by him thus : '^ The Comte de Gurson, the 

^ Comte de Fleix, and the Chevalier, three' brothers, 

my good lords and friends of the house of Foix, were 
killed at Moncrabeau, in the Agenois, in a very fierce 
conflict in the service of the King of Navarre.'' These 
three gentlemen were sons of the Marquis de Trans, 
whom I have already mentioned. 

Whilst defending Montaigne from the absurd 
charge of barbarity, it would leave a very incomplete 
conception of his character if we omitted to notice 
that he expressly disclaims all share in that mysterious 

^ affection, that yearning of parent for child, which seems 

to be the real link of the great chain of humanity, y 
We must not be surprised at this : Montaigne had toy 
do work essentially opposed to what is " supernatural 
and divine in our nature.'' He could not " receive " 
that passion, which makes people embrace children 
scarcely bom, without any movement in their soul, nor 
recognisable form in their body, by which they may 
render themselves amiable, and " always objected to let 
them be nursed in the house." This is probably the 

r reason why they nearly all died. We have the record 

of each successive disaster. In Montaigne's journal of 
family events, which was evidently fabricated for him- 
self at a late period of his life, — perhaps all at one 


sitting — and is full of the strangest mistakes as to 
dates^ we find the following entries : — 

^^ June 28, 1570, was born of Frangoise la Chas- 
sagne and me a daughter, whom my mother and the 
President La Ghassagne, father of my wife, named 
Toinette. * This is the first child of my marriage. She 
died two months after/^ The same child, in the 
dedication of La Boetie^s " Letter of Consolation,^^ is 
said, according to Dr. Payen by a misprint, to have 
lived two years. 

" September 9, 1571. About two hours after mid- 
day, Frangoise la Chassagne, my wife, brought forth at 
Montaigne my daughter Leonore, second child of bur 
marriage ; which Pierre Eyquem de Montaigne, Sieur 
de Gaviac, my uncle, and Leonore my sister, baptized.*' 

" July 5, J 573. About five o'clock in the morning 
was born at Montaigne my third child. M. FAbb^ de 
Verteil, my wife's uncle, and Mademoiselle de Mons, 
held her over the font, in the chapel of my house, and 
named her Anne. She only lived seven weeks.*' 

'^December 27, 1574, my fourth daughter was 
born, and died about three hours afterwards ; having 
been baptized hurriedly, necessity pressing.*' 

^" May, 1557, was bom my fifth child, who died a 
month afterwards. My brother, the Sieur de Matte- 
coulon, and my sister Mary, baptized her without 

^' February 21, 1583, we had another daughter, 
who was named Marie, and baptized by the Sieur de 


Jauvillac^ conseiller in the Court of Parliament^ her 
uncle, and my daughter L^onore, She died a few days 

Elsewhere, writing upon education and against the 
practice of beating, Montaigne says : — ^^AU my children 
die at nurse ; but Leonore, our only daughter, who has 
escaped this misfortune, has reached the age of six and 
more without having been punished, the indulgence of 
her mother aiding, except in words, and those very 
gentle ones." 

Although Montaigne had little of real parental love, 
he was just the man to be accessible to the influence of 
qualities by which children, as they grow up, '* render 
themselves amiable.^' He gradually became fond of 
Leonore, as he might have grown fond of the amiable 
child of any other person, — just as he became fond of 
the Demoiselle de Goumay, whom he adopted as a sort 
of intellectual daughter in his after-life. Like Henry 
the Fourth, he always, made her call him papa ; and he 
often patiently sat and listened to her reading to her 
governess, when she was of a marriageable age/' 

• The occasion on which he mentions this is charac- 
teristic. He is complaining that women are brought 
up to think only of love from their very childhood ; 
their grace, their decking out, their science, their con- 
versation, — all their instruction, has that only in view. 
Their governesses make no other impression on them, 
even by continually warning them against it. ^^My 
daughter, my only child, is of a marriageable age; 
but she is of a tardy complexion, slight and soft, and 


has been brought up by her mother in a very private 
and reserved way, so that she is only just beginning 
to lose the nai*vet6 of childhood. She was reading the 
other day a French book before me : a word capable of 
a coarse, double meaning, occurred ; her governess 
instantly stopped her short, rather roughly, and made 
her skip the passage. I let her alone, not to interfere 
with their rules, for I don^t meddle in that business. 
Feminine police works in a mysterious way, which we 
must let alone ; but I am very much mistaken if inter- 
course with twenty lackeys would have been able to 
impress upon the girl's fancy in six months the intel- 
ligence, the use, and all the consequences of the sound 
of those rascally syllables so completely as did this good 
old woman by her reprimand and her interdiction ! '^ 

Montaigne then goes on to make revelations, which 
of course apply only to women of his age and country, 
declaring that the female mind produces coarse and 
licentious ideas as naturally as trees do fruit ; so that 
he almost accepts Plato's idea, that in a former state 
of existence they must have been debauched boys. 
" I once happened,'^ he says, " to overhear them talk 

without suspicion, and say Oh, that I dared to 

repeat what they said ! By Our Lady ! thought I, we 
go and study phrases in Amadis and facts in Boc- 
caccio and Aretino, and fancy we can teach these crea- 
tures anything ! " 

Montaigne professes not only not to regret that he 
had but one child, but denies that he possessed the 
common tie which is said to bind men to the future by 


the children which bear their name and their honour. 
To be without offspring seemed to him no defect ; yet 
elsewhere he expresses himself desirous to find a son- 
in-law who would take care of his affairs and relieve 
him of their weight. *' But we live/^ he adds, " in a 
world where loyalty in one^s own children even is un- 
known.^' We find that he at last met with a son-in- 
law to suit him, and the history of the marriage is 
contained in the following four entries in his journal : — 

" May 27) 1590, Sunday. Leonore, my only 
daughter, married Frangois de la Tour, in presence of 
Bertrand her father, of me and my wife, in this house. 

^' June 23, Saturday. At the point of day, the heat 
being extreme, Madame de la Tour, my daughter, left 
here to be taken to her new home. 

"September 5, Wednesday. At nine o^clock at 
night, died at La Tour the Seigneur de la Tour, 
father of my son-in-law, aged, as he had told me, 
seventy-one years. 

" March 31, 1591, was bom to Madame de la Tour, 
my daughter, her first child, a daughter, baptized by 
the Sieur de Saint Michel, her nucleus husband, and 
by my wife, who named her Frangoise de la Tour.*' 




We have seen by the negative way in which Montaigne 
represents himself as interfering in his daughter's 
education, how likely a man he was to hold the reins 
of his household lightly. He seems to imply, however, 
that he was obliged to interfere more than he felt in- 
clined, because his wife was not a good woman of 
business. It was his theory, that women should be 
educated to look after all household affairs, instead of 
wasting their time in thoughts of toilette and society. 
When he was away from home, spending money on 
travel, he did not find that the expense was in any way 
diminished. He makes a great virtue of not letting 
his affairs go to the dogs ; tells us that it is as trouble- 
some to govern a family as to govern a kingdom ; that 
as small type wearies the eyes more than large type, 
so petty cares fatigue the mind more than great cares : 
but I think he meddled a great deal more in household 
matters than he will acknowledge. " I cannot avoid,'' 
he says, ^^ running up against something at home every 


hour that displeases me," How often must he, have 
laid down his pen^ with which he was making a pish 
at chance and sufferance^ to look out of the window of 
his tower and trouble himself to know what was going 
wrong, what vessel was broken, what pilfering had been 
discovered! "The pilferings they think they conceal 
best from me," he notes with a sort of chuckle at his 
own sagacity, "I know best." He admits that he 
used to feign to be in a passion in order to govern his 
house, and probably imitated the vociferations of the 
voluble Fran§oise. When he says " feign,^^ those who 
know the proportions of consciousness and unconscious- 
ness in anger, will understand what he means. It is 
certain that the multiplicity of petty concerns at home 
kept this fidgetty philosopher in a continual state of 
annoyance. The tiles blown off his tower by the wind 
made him melancholy* He breathed freely when on a 
visit to a strange house, and was happy there ; except^ 
perhaps, when he thought of the disorder that might 
fie in his own. 

Montaigne entered late in life on the management 
of a household, and evidently had little real delight in 
it, though his love of order made him interfere. " I 
wish," he says, '* that instead of some other piece of 
his succession my father had left me that passionate 
love which, in his old age, he had for household affairs." 
As for himself, during the eighteen years he had been 
the head of a house, he had never had courage to 
examine the title-deeds of his estate. His father had 
prognosticated that he would ruin his fortune, being 


too fond of wandering ; but^ in spite of his easy mode 
of proceedings he had rather improved it than other* 
wise. The fact is, that during the first few years that 
he was the master of his fortune^ he seems to have 
/ developed in himself, like Alfieri, a sort of artificial 
avarice. Afterwards he became much easier and looser 
in his money transactions. 

Montaigne employed about a hundred men upon 
his estate; and his household seems to have been 
numerous for a mere country gentleman. In one 
place he says he could not remember their names, but 
only those of their oflSces. His character is developed 
in his account of the rules he observed in choosing his 
servants. His choice fell, he says, not on the chaste 
valet) or on the cook that did not swear, but on the 
diligent valet and the clever cook. He tells of his 
gardener, his groom, his valets, and his page. " What 
the deuce do we care to be informed whether he had 
a page or not?^^ cries one of his surly critics. The 
fact is, that Montaigne mentions this circumstance in 
the account of an adventure he once met with when 
he was attacked, and lost men and horses. " Among 
others,*^ he says, "they miserably killed a page of 
mine, an Italian gentleman, whom I was carefully 
bringing up. In him was extinguished a youth of 
very fine promise/' The critics, leaving aside the 
pathetic part of this reminiscence, hang all their re- 
marks on the word '^ page.'* I suppose the same class of 
writers is indiflFerent about the information that Mon- 
taigne, so severe on his wife's noisy anger, used to fly 


iuto a passion with his people, halloo at them, and 
call them "calves;^' but his anger soon passed. His 
wrath was oftener roused, pedant that he was, by the 
bad reasons than by the bad actions of his household. 
That he was not a comfortable master, is proved by the 
admission that he kne^y many servants who would 
rather beg their bread than serve him. He makes the 
observation which was, no doubt, the origin of Catinat^s 
bon-mot : ^^ Few men have been admired by their 
valets-de-chambre.^^ He always speaks of the people 
he employed as " belonging to him^^ for the time. " I 
have a painter,^* he says; and elsewhere, "I have a 
good fellow of a tailor, who never uttered a truth in 
his life, even when it would have been serviceable to 
him.^^ One of his valets acted as his secretary, and 
stole a number of pieces chosen out of the Essays. 
Elsewhere he mentions having in his service a man who 
had travelled in America, and was suflSciently intelli- 
gent to give him much information on the manners of 
the savages. He talks of a Swiss iapothecary kept by 
his father, a quiet, respectable man, who told droll 
stories of the efiFect of imagination on a former master. 
All these little detached hints give us the idea that his 
chateau was very populous, and help to paint the pe- 
culiar state of society in those days when civilisation 
was dispersed, as it were, over the country in little 
shining globules, not collected in one great 'central 





As the whole valley of the Dordogne was studded with 
mansions such as Montaigne^s^ with here and there a 
vast chateau belonging to the great lords of the country, 
he had many neighbours of his own rank in life. His 
most frequent relations seem to have been with the 
ch&teau De Gurson, belonging to Gaston de Foix, 
Marquis de; Trans, which rises, as I have said, upon a 
hill in sight of his house to the north. The Essay on 
the education of children is dedicated to the daughter- 
in-law of the Marquis, Madame Diane de Foix, Comtesse 
de Gurson. Her husband was afterwards killed at 
Moncrabeau. Montaigne had had much to do with 
bringing about her marriage ; and relates that her 
husband, his intimate friend, came to him on the wed- 
ding-day, and said that a rival was present who would 
certainly cast a charm upon him. An old lady, also a 
relation, felt much interest in this matter; was in a 
state of great excitement, and whispered her delicate 
fears to Montaigne. We know all the details of this 


marvellous adventure : how the wedding folks, according 
to usual custom, entered the bridal chamber some time 
after the happy pair had retired, in order to bring them 
the cup of spiced wine ; how Jacques Pelletier's amulet 
was brought into play, and how the enchantments 
which really took place were defeated. In due time, 
Montaigne^s advice on the bringing up of the first 
child became necessary. In his Essay, he tells us 
this Diana was of a lettered race ; for there existed 
books by the ancient Counts of Foix ; and Francois de 
Candale, her uncle, was still distinguishing himself as 
a writer. This De Candale was^the great patron of 
science and literature in Guienne. He possessed many 
ch&teaux on the banks of the Garonne, and in one of 
them had laboratories, workshops, and forges set up, 
in order to indulge his taste for mechanics. He was 
very fond of relating an ascent he once made of the 
Jumelles, in the Pyrenees, for the purpose of measuring 
its height ; and he and other learned men seem to have 
considered it one of the loftiest mountains in the world. 
As an instance of his sagacity, we are told that, before 
setting out, he provided himself with a furred gown, 
whilst the young gentlemen who accompanied him were 
so ignorant that they started with simple blouses. 
They did not believe that they could find it too cold 
anywhere in the month of May. We have already seen 
that Montaigne dedicated one of La Boetie's works to 
another member of this great family, Paul de Foix. 
He moved, indeed, as a gentleman remarkable for 
learning and talent, and well-looked upon at court, in 


the highest society in the province. When he was 
conseiller he was intimate with M. d'Escars^ the king's 
lieutenant. He always kept up relations with Montluc, 
and relates bow that able general and vigorous writer^ 
having lost his son in an expedition against the island 
of Madeira^ was seized with remorse for the severity 
and reserve he had always shown towards him. " He 
came to me" says Montaigne^ "and expressed his 
sorrow that the poor lad had only seen a stern and 
contemptuous expression on his countenance — an ex- 
pression merely assumed^ from a mistaken notion of 
the dignity it was necessary for a father to keep up" 
The Essay in which this anecdote is related is addressed 
to Madame d'Estissac^ a widow lady of Gascony, who 
had been left by lier husband at the head of a large 
fortune, which she had to take care of for her son. 
Montaigne praises her for having refused many honour- 
able offers of marriage, in order to attend entirely to 
her maternal duties. Young M. d'Estissac afterwards 
accompanied Montaigne to Italy. 

To enumerate all Montaigne's distinguished friends 
would, however, be to enumerate the most distinguished 
persons of the day. I refer here principally to his 
countrymen and neighbours. Among these we must 
reckon Monsieur de Pibrac, " of agreeable mind, whole- 
some opinions, and gentle manners,'' whose death he 
mentions respectfully ; forgetting, of course, to note 
that this gentle man had apologised for the St. Bar- 
tholomew; and refraining from any allusion to his 
unfortunate, and somewhat humiliating passion, when 


the fire of passion should have been quenched, for 
Marguerite de Valois. 

Montaigne had opportunities at court of seeing < 
this Marguerite de Valois, about the time of her mar- t/ 
riage with Henry the Fourth ; and when she became 
his neighbour at Nerac, in 1579, determined to dedicate 
to her his famous " Apology for Raymond de Sebonde/^ 
He received " permission so to do from the learned 
princess; who allowed him also to quote as much 
Latin as he pleased. Something, however, seems to 
have occurred at the last moment to make him deem 
it advisable to withdraw her name from the head of 
the Essay ; but here and there the epistolary form is 
still preserved. Compliments to her beauty are not 
spared. In another place Montaigne, alluding to the 
time when he knew her at court, calls her '^a maiden, 
the first of our princesses ;'' and quotes something she 
said to him, to the e£Pect that too much learning must 
stifle the judgment. 

Montaigne was constantly visited by learned and 
literary men in their voyages in Guienne, and received 
them as hospitably as his character would allow. On 
one occasion he deliberately omitted the compliment of 
riding out on the road to meet his guests ; jtnd this 
seems to have given great offence. He retired to his 
tower and wrote an Essay against the ceremonial part 
of politeness. He was never a great favourite with the 
learned class of his time, who did not like the airs of 
gentility he gave himself. Scaliger called him "a 
bold ignoramus,'^ and said impertinent things about 


him. Tradition explains this by the compliments Mon- 
/ taigne paid to Lipsius^ whom he called the most learned 
/ man that remained after the death of Turnebus. Lip- 
sius^ in return^ though usually despising the French 
writers, called Montaigne the French Thales. But we 
have better opinions than that of this weak-minded 
peripatetic philosopher, who changed his religion as 
often as his abode, and was little worthy of the praise 
given him. Scaliger, a neighbour of Montaigne's, 
whose father had admired the verses of La Bo'etie, may 
have been hurt by so misplaced a compliment ; but it 
is more likely that his ire was roused by the affectation 
of contempt with which Montaigne spoke of the learned 
class of his day, whom he describes as issuing greasy, 
filthy, and morveux, from a garret where they had not 
been searching how to make themselves better and 
wiser, but seeking to discover the measure of the verses 
of Plautus, or the true orthography of a Latin word — 
that is, labouring to render study more easy for Mon- 
taigne and other ungrateful fine gentlemen. 

It is easy to collect ludicrous facts about learned 
men, much easier and more amusing, than to describe 
their general simplicity and exemplary behaviour. 
Montaigne is very strong in such instances. Some of 
his anecdotes are quite comic. Many of his acquaint- 
ances, he says, kept .their learning in their libraries ; 
and he knew a man who, when he asked him what he 
knew, fetched a book to show him, and did not dare to 
say he had a pimple on his nose without going to his 
lexicon to study what was a nose and what a pimple. 


On one occasion^ a friend of his^ meeting at Montaigne 
one of the same kidney^ a man of letters and reputa- 
tion^ with a fine flowing gown^ opened a dispute with 
him^ and kept it up the whole day in an extempore 
jargon^ interlarded with a few words and phrases that 
had some reference to the matter supposed to be under 
examination. This is a touch that recalls the gesticu- 
lating dispute carried on between Master Thaumaste, 
the learned Englishman^ and the inimitable Fanurge. - 
Elsewhere Montaigne tells an anecdote of a man who 
launched forth into a Philippic against the vices of 
the world in talk — and wrote about kitchen and law- 

We have traces of the visits, however, of many 
really learned men to the chateau de Montaigne. 
Turnebus seems to have made one call. Jacques 
Pelletier, a, famous mathematician, poet, and gram- ^' 
marian of those days, used often to come there; and 
once, taking advantage perhaps of his host^s inexact 
knowledge, boasted that he had found in geometry 
inevitable demonstrations that subvert the truth of 
experience : as, for example, that two lines may ap- 
proach one another which yet to all eternity, however 
prolonged, could never touch. On another occasion 
the same wag made him an odd present, namely, a flat 
piece of gold with some celestial figures engraved on it, 
intended as an amulet against sun-strokes. It was 
necessary to fasten it on the top of the head by a 
ribbon that passed under the chin. Montaigne kept it 


by him^ and afterwards^ as we have seeD^ turned it to a 
droll use. 

Thus all the meetings of Montaigne with remark- 
able persons left their trace in his writings. But his 
Essays are full of anecdotes of his most insignificant 
friends and neighbours. He intimates that most of 
the people about him were ignorant and boorish. But 
from the most ignorant he could learn somethings if 
not by questioning, at any rate by observing them. 
He has left us a portrait gallery of his country neigh- 
bours, which show that some of them were oddities 
indeed. The humour of the old gentleman who was 
so attentive to his food and its results, too nearly 
resembles that described in Matthew Bramble's famous 
letter from Bath to enable me to quote it. Here is 
another, which is droll enough : — One of our gentle- 
men used to wipe his nose with his fingers, " an act 
very contrary to our custom ;'' but he obstinately justi- 
fied his practice. He used to say : " What privilege 
has this filthy excrement that we should prepare a fine 
delicate piece of linen to receive it, and then wrap it 
up carefully and put it in our pocket ? It is much 
more absurd to do so than to throw it away.'' — 
Another man, a Dean of St. Hilary, had come through 
melancholy to love solitude so much, that on Mon- 
taigne's first visit he learned that for twenty-two years 
he had never gone out of his room, and only allowed 
people to visit him once a- week. Every day a servant 
brought him his food. He spent his time in reading 


and walking about^ and thas obstinately remained shut 
up till he died. Another of Montaigne's friends^ a 
gentleman of good family^ was born blind^ but bad got 
so accustomed to speak as other people spoke^ that 
when one of his godchildren was presented to him he 
would say^ " Good heavens^ what a handsome child I 
How pleasant it is to see him I What an agreeable 
countenance ! '^ He would also commonly exclaim : 
"This is a fine light room ; this is a fine sunny day/' In 
that part of the country the common amusements were 
huntings tennis^ sl^ooting at a mark with the arquebus, 
and so this poor blind gentleman thought it necessary 
to interest himself much in these matters. His people 
used to cry out to him, " A hare ! a hare ! '^ and he 
would give chase, and presently afterwards would say, 
*'Here it -is;*' and was as proud of bis capture as any 
one else. He must needs play at tennis, too, and fired 
at the mark with the others, and believed all that was 
told him of his excellent aim. 

Another gentleman in the neighbourhood being 
marvellously subject to the gout, was pressed by the 
doctors to leave off altogether the use of salt meat, 
but always replied pleasantly that he wanted to keep 
the power of complaining of something, and that by 
crying out and damning, now the sausage, now the 
tongue, and then the ham, he felt himself relieved. 
Thus we see that Montaigne kept a register of the 
oddities of all his friends, and introduces them to us 
whenever he can. *^ I know a lady of very high 
rank/' he says, " who believes that it gives a person a 


disagreeable appearance to be seen in the act of 
chewing, and for this .reason will scarceljrever eat in 
public." This lady would have met with the approval 
of Byron. 

Although Montaigne had many noblemen and gen- 
tlemen among his neighbours^ we must not suppose 
that he was, therefore, wrong in saying that he had 
little intellectual intercourse. The nobles of his day 
were almost all ignorant ; and it was, indeed, considered 
80 essential to the sword to be ignorant, that Montaigne 
throughout his book, even when he most eloquently 
insists on education, affects a sort of gentlemanly 
contempt for learning. We have seen, however, from 
what we have said of his conversation, that he must 
have been always rather out of place among the rustics 
and squires of his neighbourhood. Their chief subject 
of talk was genealogy. " Yesterday," says Montaigne, 
in his strange journal, " I saw a man of understanding 
making fun pleasantly and justly of the absurd habit 
of another, who bored every one with the register of 
his genealogies and alliances, more than half false; 
and yet this very man, if he had observed himself, 
would have found that he was not less intemperate 
and troublesome in constantly talking of the high 
lineage of his wife." 

Another time there was a meeting of gentlemen to 
decide the quarrel of one lord with another, who had, 
indeed, some prerogatives above the common nobility. 
'^Apropos of these prerogatives, every one, trying to 
equal him, alleged, some one origin, some another, 


some the resemblance of a name; others that of a 
coat of arms^ others an old private parchment^ so that 
it turned out that the least of them was descended 
from some outlandish king. As they were about to 
sit down to dinner^ one of my friends^ instead of 
taking his place, withdrew with profound reverences, 
begging all present to excuse him if from rashness he 
had until then lived with them as a companion, assur- 
ing them that, now that he had learned all their old 
qualities, he should begin to honour them according to 
their rank, and that it was not proper for him to sit 
down among so many princes. After carrying on his 
joke for some time he abused them soundly, saying, 
' Let us be content, in God^s name, with what con- 
tented our fathers, and with what we really are. We 
are good enough if we know how to maintain our 
position. Let us not disown the fortune and condition 
of our ancestors ; and away with these stupid imagina- 
tions, which every one can bring forward who has only 
the impudence to do so I ' " 

But it would be impossible to extract from the 
Essays all instances of observation on the characters 
of neighbours and friends, for a principal part of them 
is composed of such material. Nor need we classify all 
Montaigne tells us as to his method of conversation with 
them. No doubt when he did speak he spoke some- 
thing in the manner of the Essays, where he does not 
brace himself up and imitate the classical step. He 
tells us he was not fitted, like some of his friends, 
to entertain the ears of princes with chat, or a 


company with tales ; but in animated conversation he 
prodaced a powerful effect. Malebranche complains of 
the contagious influence of his imagination. This 
was^ no doubt^ observable as much in his conversation 
as it is in his writings. He spoke loud and in an 
eager manner when interested, otherwise he was cold 
and reserved. He rather made speeches than con- 
versed. He ridiculed the learned language usually 
employed in conversation, even by women, whom he 
recommends to eschew it. When he argued he was 
obstinate and persevering, but he was also full of 
anecdote and advice, and sentences and sayings. He 
lays a great deal of stress on his method of argumenta- 
tion, and, whatever he may say to the contrary, must 
have been not only a good talker, but a great talker, 
and, no doubt, had a reputation as such. 





In describing the present state of Montaigne^s chateau, 
I have sketched the great tower overlooking the en- 




trance to the court-yard, which he reserved entirely 
for his own use, and which was the chief scene of his 
meditations, his studies, and his writings. It is im- 
possible to dissociate the Essays from that tower. 
Whoever reads them is at first disposed — overlooking 
the fact that in every page there is, as it were, a thread 
connecting it with the busy world — to conceive them 
as the work of a solitary philosopher, who has pur- 
posely isolated himself in order to indulge in fan- 
tastical speculations, and make havoc with his own 
ideas, fancies, prejudices, and hopes. Their popularity 
arises chiefly perhaps from the impression produced 
of separation from the times in which they were 
written. What seems to appeal to no particular time, 
seems to appeal to all time ; and there is, indeed, a 
universal element in Montaigne^s book — the painting 
of human nature in its most unclothed, unartificial 
state — which makes it to be appreciated by the man 
of this day as it was by the man of that. It would 
have been appreciated thousands of years ago, at the 
outset of the intellectual development of which it con- 
tinues the tradition. Plato would have loved and 
understood it, aye, and Confucius; for, as it belongs 
in this respect to no time, so it belongs to no country. 
It is the least French of all books. It begins by an 
anecdote of the Black Prince, and ends by a quotation 
from Horace; and there is not a trace of nationality 
from beginning to end. For, in his tower, Montaigne 
looked upon all men as his kin. From that look-out 
the map of the world became a skeleton map, not 



blotched with distinctive colours. Costume^ hats 
and turbans^ boots and sandals^ and breeches and 
stomachers^ were all torn away and thrown aside^ and 
the great infant Man gambolled before his fancy. But 
his was not the mind to think much of the primitive 
or the ideal state. The naked man he saw bore the 
marks of the girths he had worn, and the burdens he 
had carried. 

In order to reach this centre^ Montaigne, advanced 
by two distinct paths that must inevitably intersect. 
His philosophy was as much the result of reading as of 
experience. He did not belong to the school which 
affects to separate the study of men from the study of 
books^ — as if books did not contain the most intimate 
and completest revelations of man ! Montaigne looked 
at the stage from the slips as well as from the boxes. 
He knew that the vast and populous spectacle of the 
Present, with all its colours^ its lights and shades^ its 
bustle and confusion^ could teach absolutely nothing to 
him who was too idle or contemptuous to look back 
and see of what materials similar pictures were made 
in past times. Every man has experienced^ every man 
sees as much of the world as another; and this is why 
all pretend to have " a knowledge of human nature.^' 
But the world is a pantomime, which cannot be under- 
stood without some previous knowledge of what is 
going on. We must, at least, have a playbill in our 

Montaigne was perfectly aware, from the outset, 
of the importance, for the man who intends to write. 



of knowing what has been written before him^ and of 
taking advantage of all previous discoveries and studies; 
and instead of depending for originality on ignorance^ 
so apt to deal in pompous truisms and commonplaces^ 
sought for new truths and ideas beyond the limits 
of the known. Learning furnished him with an 
indispensable ballast^ without which he would have 
rolled about and gone to pieces in the sea of specula- 
tion. It is true that^ according to the mood he was in, 
giving in this an instance of how " diverse and undu- 
lating^^ a thing man is, he now affected to work without 
books, and now pretended that his Essays were a mere 
patchwork from all sides. Of course neither de- 
scription is correct. He carried erudition very far, 
and stopped only just short of pedantry, if he did stop 
short; and at the same time gave the reins to his 
imagination to such an extent that we frequently fancy 
he is playing with his subject and his reader. 

We shall, then, acquire a new insight into Mon- 
taigne^s character, and better understand the Essays, 
by penetrating once more into the upper story of his 
tower, and taking a more accurate view of its contents. 
We already know its plan and present state. In 
Montaigne^s time it was, no doubt, well furnished, 
according to the fashion of the day. On the rafters 
were carefully inscribed in black letters verses from the 
Bible, with Greek and Latin sentences. In Greek there 
were written the following maxims : — 

*' It is not so much things that torment man, as the 
opinions that he has of things,'^ '^ Evert/ reasoning has 


its contrary" " Wind swelU bladders ; opinion swells 
men." * 

The Latin inscriptions are : — 

" Micd and ashes, what have you to be proud of?" 
*' Our understanding wanders blind amidst darkness, and 
cannot seize on truth" In large letters on the central 
rafter is seen this device: **I no not understand. 
I PAUSE. I EXAMINE.^' But the chicf ornaments of 
this chamber were the books. The nucleus of the 
collection was the library of La Bo'etie, which he left 
by will to his friend. Montaigne tells us somewhere 
that he possessed above a thousand volumes — a great 
many for those days of folios; and elsewhere, re- 
turning to the charge, he says, '' My library is one of 
the finest in any village.'^ 

" The form of the room^^ — he goes on — "is circu- 
lar, and the only straight* piece of wall is where I place 
my table and my chair. As I sit I can take in at one 
glance round <the curve all my books, ranged on shelves, 
five ranges one above the other. Three windows give 
me three wide and rich views over the country. .The 
room is sixteen paces in diameter. In winter I am 
less continually there, for my house is perched on 
a hill, as its name imports, and none of its rooms 
is so exposed to the wind as this one. Yet it pleases 
me because it is somewhat difficult of access, and retired,^ 
as much on account of the utility of the exercise, as 
because I there avoid the crowd. Here is my seat, my 
place, my rest. I try to make it purely my own, and 
to free this single corner from conjugal, filial, and 



civil community. Elsewhere I have but a verbal 
authority, merely essential and confused. Wretched is 
he, who in his own home has really no home of his own, 
where he can pay court to himself and hide himself 
when he pleases ! Ambition must recompense its 
followers well to induce them to remain ever in view," 
like the statue in a market-place. Magna servitus est 
magna fortuna ! They have not even their wardrobe 
for retreat. Verily, I would rather be ever alone than 
nevfer alone.^^ 

We must observe, however, that. when Montaigne 
retired to his Library, he was not always necessarily 
alone. ^^I turn over the leaves now of one book,^^ 
he says, "now of another, without order or design, 
disconnectedly. Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I 
sit down, or dictate as I walk about these dreams^' 
(his Essays). As we have already seen, Montaigne 
employed one of his servants as secretary. -It is 
difficult, however, to understand how any part of the 
Essays could have been dictated. They are so personal ! 
Elsewhere Montaigne says, that though he wrote, an 
insupportably bad hand, he preferred writing his 
private letters to dictating them. 

Montaigne made it, as it were, a business to think 
at his castle. He was ever on the look-out for ideas 
and images. A thought would suddenly strike him in 
the family part of his house, and he would often, not 
having his tablets at hand, hurry across the court and 
climb his tower, in order to set it down. Experience, 
however, had taught him that the thought might be 


lost on the way^ whisked out of sight, by some 
sudden gust of sensation; so he used to take care 
before setting out to tell it to his wife, his daughter, or 
anybody else who might happen to be at hand. 
Imagine a gaping servant-girl of Perigord being en- 
trusted with such valuable deposits ! What an amusing 
revelation is there in all this of Montaigne in his 
literary character — Montaigne the maker of books. 
His Essays were never out of his mind ! He seems 
ever to have been employed in meditating and carefully 
inscribing his thoughts in his brain, so that his manner 
of speaking to others was constrained, dry, and brief. 
He hastened back, as it were, to his own thoughts, for 
fear he should lose sight of them. 

Montaigne sometimes passed the night in his tower, 
sleeping in the room on the first floor just under his 
library. He mentions that he was often annoyed as 
he wrote by the falling of slates, and says that he 
would feel less the fall of a tower absent. We can 
imagine him awakening from his philosophical specu- 
lations, laying down his pen, throwing away a half- 
finished Essay, and beginning to fret and fume about 
the dilapidated state of his house, calculating the cost 
of repairs, cursing the expense, and regretting that he 
had not inherited the constructive mania of his father. 
Perhaps, for a day after, he would be in a state of 
nervous excitement ; as when the bridle of his horse 
got out of order, or a small strap flapped insolently 
against his leg. Another time the chimney would 
smoke, or a drain stink, in spite of the care he had 


taken to have them set to rights as soon as he became 
master of Montaigne. At other times, the horrible 
bowlings of a tempest made him shiver with terror at 
the idea of being exposed out in the country. He 
evidently kept his imagination in an excited state, the 
peculiar advantages of which none perhaps but a literary 
man can appreciate. 




We have not got a complete list of all the thousand 
volumes which filled Montaigne^s shelves. If we had, 
the collection would probably appear strange enough. 
But we must remember, in order to understand his 
choice and his preferences, that, with the exception of 
Italy, no country, whatever antiquarians and enthu- 
siasts may say, had produced what could be called a 
literature in modem times. At any rate, the master- 
pieces of France, England, and Germany, existing in 
1571, when Montaigne retired to his tower, may be 
counted on the fingers of one hand : — Rabelais, Calvin, 
Luther, Sir Thomas More, Chaucer. What more ? \ 
How few of the names which come trippingly to the 
tongue when we talk of the genius of modem times ! 
The joints of the printing-press had indeed, so to 
speak, only just begun to move easily. In the six- 
teenth century, printing, instead of being merely a 
trade, was so new and wonderful as to be considered 
a learned and most responsible profession. Some of 


the ablest minds attended to it. The " Great Tame- 
bus/' and the Estiennes of illustrious origin^ took to it 
with enthusiasm. The Estiennes^ known^ lifter the 
manner of kings^ as Henry the First, Henry the Second, 
and so forth, made an immense reputation. The first 
began to print before the eddies of classical revival had 
reached France. Within twenty years, however, he 
brought out above one hundred and twenty works. 
By degrees, the duties of the printer became more im- 
portant and more dangerous. As soon as the Reform 
spread, new editions of the Scriptures began to be 
demanded, and printers were at the same time theolo- 
gians and critics. Their adventures and tribulations 
form some of the most moving and interesting episodes 
of the history of those times. 

It is probable that Montaigne bought ' almost all 
the good editions of classical works that appeared. He 
was an indefatigable reader, or rather skimmer through 
of books. We are accustomed to hear him spoken of, 
on the hint given by himself, as a compileir from Plutarch 
and Seneca — an improver on their maxims; but he 
ransacked all classical literature for gems of thought, 
and generally used them in so new and startling a 
manner, that the original owners would no more have 
thought of claiming them than so many separate words. 
In Montaigne they become words of vast extent and 
complete meaning, in which he clothes his speculations. 
In his first book alone there are quotations from above 
sixty Greek and Latin writers. Sometimes mere quo- 
tations are concealed in the text, though they may be 


discovered^ as Montaigne too modestly says^ by any one 
of judgment, as " flowers too rich for such a field." 
To the general reader he offers them as traps, or rather 
as checks "on the temerity of those hasty judgments 
which are passed on all sorts of writings, especially of 
living persons who^ use the vernacular/^ He warns 
people that they may give a fillip to Plutarch on Mon- 
taigne^s pose ; and in that time, to speak ill of an ancient 
was almost sacrilege ; at any rate, great ingratitude : 
for the ancients had taught them all they knew, waked 
them up, set them on their feet, and prepared them for 
fresh discoveries. As for order, Montaigne pretends 
to have none. Chance decides the arrangement of his 
ideas: they sometimes come in crowds, sometimes one 
by one* As they come, he sets them down. For his 
object is to paint himself under his various aspects ; 
and he is too tender of his reputation to endeavour, 
like some more modern Essayists, always to be epi- 
grammatic and startling. 

In reading books, Montaigne says that if he met 
any difficulty he did not bite his nails over it, but 
after one or two attempts passed on. If one book 
wearied him, he threw it aside. He never obstinately 
fixed his attention when it was disposed to wander. 
He only read at hours when the weariness of doing 
nothing seized him. "I rarely use modern books," 
he says, ^^ because the ancients seem to me fuller and 
loftier; nor Greek books, because I never sufficiently 
mastered the language." His principal reading, then, 
was of Latin, and of some few translations of the best 


Greeks. His dear Plutarch he principally read in 
Amyot ; and it is curious to notice that the date of the 
publication of the " Moral Works "(1572), from which he 
chiefly drew, coincided almost exactly with the com- 
mencement of the Essays. " The books I chiefly use 
to form my opinions/' he says, '^are Plutarch, since 
he has become French, and Seneca/^ He considered 
Amyot best among the writers of his day. 

But it will be interesting to examine Montaigne 
more closely as a literary man, forming and expressing 
a judgment on the works of others. We shall thus 
make better acquaintance with his library, and be able 
to trace his speculations to their origin. In his ^^ Essay 
on Books," which is a criticism of the contents of his 
shelves, he begins by speaking of productions '^ simply 
agreeable;" and oddly enough mentions, among the 
moderns, only the "Decameron'^ of Boccaccio; Rabelais, 
and the " Kisses" of Johannes Secundus ! Montaigne, 
though a contemporary of Rabelais, had no suspicion 
of his character ; perhaps regarded him not, with Car- 
lyle, as " a fervid Genius in the mask of a Buffoon ;" 
but, with Verdier, as " the great Mocker of God and of 
the World." Elsewhere Montaigne mentions the ".Hep- 
tameron" of the Queen of Navarre; and alludes also 
to the works of Aretino, severely blaming the Italians 
for applying the title of Divine to such a writer, who, 
except for the ingenious but fantastical and far-fetched 
points with which he was filled, had no pre-eminence 
over the authors of his age. It is to be observed, that 
Aretino was the first man in modern times who printed 


his letters. He set the fashion in Italy; and Mon- 
taigne had^ he says^ about a hundred different volumes 
of works of that kind. He preferred those of Anni- 
balo Caro, first published in 1572, and still considered 
models of Italian prose. Montaigne evidently read all 
his contemporaries whose works made any noise; but 
seems to have had a very contemptuous opinion, not ill- 
founded, of the prose writers of France. He describes 
how he looked through one book, and the startling 
effect which a fine but stolen passage had on him. 
When he came to it and left it, it was like going up 
and down a precipice. 

We have already seen that, even in his youth, 
Montaigne had an aversion to the Amadis, and that 
sort of writing ; in other words, to sentimental romance ; 
and he notes that this distaste ever continued. When 
he wrote the Essays, however, this annex of modem 
literature had gone for a moment out of fashion. 
People cared more about pamphlets. For his part, as 
he grew old he grew more fastidious in poetry. Not 
only Ariosto but Ovid ceased to please him. It is ^ 
worth noting, however, that he had a partiality for 
the Centos, so popular in his day, — ^poems composed of 
lines and phrases of other poems twisted from their 
original meaning, as had been the verses of Virgil by 
Ausonius; and mentions with approval the efforts in 
this line of Le;llius Capilupus, whose cento on the / 
monks is said by Bayle to be inimitable. But he speaks ^ 
with contempt of poets who wrote whole works, every 
line of which began with the same letter ,-* and actually 


ventures to disdain those Greeks, who, by shortening or 
lengthening their verses, made their poems represent 
eggs, balls, wings, or hatchets I 

In poetry Montaigne gave the first rank to Virgil, 
Lucretius, Catullus, and Horace. He considered the 
" Georgics " of Virgil the* most accomplished work of 
poetry, and regretted that the author had not had 
leisure to brush up some of the passages of the "iEneid." 
The fifth book of the "^neid^' seemed to him the most 
perfect. In the times neighbouring to VirgiPs, people 
complained of the comparison of Lucretius with him. 
"What would they have said,'^ exclaims Montaigne, 
" to the absurdity and barbarous stupidity of those 
wKo now compare Ariosto with Virgil ? What would 
Ariosto himself have said ? Compare the ^ Mneii' and 
the ' Orlando Furioso: ^ — the former wings rapidly along 
with a lofty and firm flight, straight to its object ; the 
latter flutters and hops from story to story, as from 
branch to branch, trusting to its wings for only a short 
space, alighting at every moment for fear that breath 
and strength may fail.^^ I register these opinions of 
Montaigne without discussing them. 

He liked Lucan more for his opinions than his 
style ; and was charmed with the good Terence, whom 
he could never read without discovering some new 
beauty and grace. He notices, by the way, that in his 
time those who meddled with comedy-writing — as, for 
example, the Italians, who w^re pretty successful — 
employed three or four plots of Terence or Plautus to 
make one ; or in a single comedy heaped up five or six 


stories of Boccaccio. ''They have nothing of their 
own to say, and so try to amuse us with the intrigue. 
But in my author (Terence) it is just the contrary: 
the perfection and beauties of his style check our appe- 
tite for the story. His sweetness and elegance make 
ns linger everywhere." Montaigne notes that the good 
ancient poets avoided affectation and research, not only 
after the fantastical Spanish and Petrarchal elevations, 
but even gentler and more moderate points, such as 
are the ornament of later poetical writings. He com- 
pares the equal polish, the perpetual sweetness, and 
flowing beauty of Catullus, with the stings stuck in the 
tails of Martians ^' Epigrams." His comparisons illus- 
trate the manners of his time. *' The best writers," he 
says, '* can laugh without tickling themselves; but others, 
as soul fails them, make up for its want by body." 
They reminded him of the balls of humbler people, 
where the dancers, unable to imitate the carriage and 
decency of the nobility, sought to attract notice by 
furious leaps and mountebank contortions. He had 
seen excellent actors in their every-day dress, and with 
their ordinary countenance, give all the pleasure that 
their art could afford ; whilst beginners and men of 
less talent were obliged to put flour on their faces, 
disguise themselves, and make savage grimaces to raise 

Monsieur Yillemain, noticing the ''Essay on Books," 
has already spoken with admiration of Montaigne, as 
the great critic of the sixteenth century. It would be 
worth while, therefore, to group his opinions on literary 


matters^ even if^ by so doing, we did not in some 
respect become acquainted with the growth of his mind. 
He always laid great stress on poetry, and makes many 
just remarks thereon ; as have many other critics who 
have failed as poets. ^' Just as the voice constrained 
in the narrow channel of a trumpet bursts forth more 
sharply and strongly, so it seems to me that a sentence 
pressed down by the numerous feet of poetry leaps 
forward more suddenly, and strikes with a more lively 
shock.^' — " I am not of those who think that good 
rhythm makes good poetry. Let him (the poet) 
lengthen a short syllable if he pleases — we are in 
^Liberty Hall;^ if his invention smiles, if wit and 
judgment have done their duty, he is a good poet, 
I will say, but a bad versifier,^' From Montaigne^s 
earUest youth, poetry had the power to pierce and trans* 
port^him; but his taste had varied from the best of 
one class to the best of another. First, he liked a 
gay and ingenious fluidity; then a sharp and elevated 
subtlety ; then a ripe and constant force : — ^first Ovid, 
then Lucan, then Virgil. He notes, indeed, with 
surprise, that in his manhood he no longer cared for 
Ariosto and Ovid; but preserved always a certain 
respect for the "Fables" of Esop. 

We see, then, that Montaigne^s judgment was 
sure when he criticised the ancient poets. It was 
naturally less so when he came to speak of the 
moderns. But his opinion is worth having. " I 
think,^^ he says, " that Latin poetry has had its vogue 
in this age. We have abundance of good artisans in 


that trade^ — D'Aurat, Beze^ Buchanan^ L'Hospital, 
Montdore^ Turnebus. As to French poetry, 1 think 
we have carried it to as high a degree as it will ever 
reach ; and in the parts in which Bonsard and Du 
Bellay excel, I find them little removed from ancient 

Perhaps Montaigne was not far wrong in thinking 
that French poetry, in as far as 'language was con- 
cerned — I mean, in as far as poetry depends on the 
assistance of a special vocabulary — could not be 
carried, further than it was carried in his day. For 
my part, I conceive that the great service rendered by 
Malherbe and his successors to French literature was 
to prove that the language was really incitpable of 
cadenced and verbal poetry, and to warn men of genius 
that if they attempted to produce anything save rhymed 
prose, they would lose their time, Montaigne, by the 
way, " wishes to God'' that the printers and publishers 
of his age would write over their doors a warning to 
mediocre poets not to approach ; ^' because," as he 
says, ^^ a man is free to be a fool anywhere else, but 
not in poetry." He knew a poet to whom the clever 
and the weak, in crowds and in private, nay, to 
whom heaven and earth, cried out that he had no 
vocation. Not for all this would he abate one jot of 
his self-approval. He ever recommenced, ever con- 
sulted his friends, ever persisted; and passed his 
wretched days in producing wretched rhymes. Mon- 
tai^e had no real tenderness, or he would not have 
brushed by this man without a kind word. There 


is nothing so hateful as the ferocious criticism^ in 
which some indulge^ of singing-birds^ young or old. 
Every man who writes poetry must be capable of 
appreciating poetry. If he endeavour to do what he 
admires^ why should he be broken on a wheel ? 

However, Montaigne was a greater reader of 
poetry, and derived much literary fruit therefrom. 
He was the first, "it is said, to use the expression 
*' popular poetry,^' and to point out the simplicity and 
the graces by which it resembled the principal beauty 
of poetry, perfect according to art. He quotes as an 
example the Villanelles of Gascony, and the songs, 
specimens of which had been brought from nations 
who knew no science, and were ignorant even of the 
art of writing. Montaigne gives specimens of these 
songs, which he had obtained from his servant, who 
had been in America, and whose information he used 
in preference to that contained in the cosmographies. 

Montaigne^s constant and special studies of poetry 
explain, in a great measure, the figured style of the 
Essays. It is customary to admit that he collected 
. sentences and facts with great care, but to imply that, 
so far as expression goes, he had as it were a well- 
spring of them within himself, from which they rose 
with inexhaustible abundance. This is not the case 
with Montaigne, as it has not been the case with any 
great writer. We have the note-books of some that 
seem the most spontaneous; and it has always been 
found that a large proportion of thoughts, and ideas, 
and forms, have been either laboriously worked out 


from some obscure hint^ derived from observation or 
found by anxious meditation, or more frequently im- 
proved from the less perfect expressions of others. 
Montaigne^ like Shakspeare, and Butler, and Milton, 
owed debts, even in matters that appear most personal, 
on every side. Not only classical, but Italian and French 
poetry, furnished him with colours, which he used 
without scruple. There have been earnest, self-sacri- 
ficing men, who have disdained this process, fancying 
that they were bound to get their silk out of their own 
entrails, and that mulberry-trees were made for nothing. 
But it has been followed by all great national writers, 
and it is necessary to point out that it was followed 
especially by Montaigne. 

The Essayist read poetry, he says, for pleasure 
only^ but other books for intellectual profit, too, as 
Plutarch and Seneca. Both these Moralists had.that 
notable convenience for him, that they wrote in a 
broken manner, and did not require any obstinate read- 
ing. The "' Opuscules " of Plutarch, and the « Epistles '' J 
of Seneca, he considered the finest and most profitable 
part of their writings. Their instruction is the cream 
of philosophy, and is presented in a simple and per- 
tinent fashion. Plutarch is more uniform and con- 
stant ; Seneca more undulating and diverse. This one 
troubles himself, and makes violent efforts, to arm 
virtue against weakness, fear, and the vicious appetites. 
The other seems not to estimate the danger so greatly, 
and disdains to hurry his step and take up a posture of 
defence. Plutarch has Platonic opinions, gentle and 


accommodated to Civil Society ; the other has Stoical 
and Epicurean opinions^ farther removed from common 
use^ but in Montaigne's opinion more adapted to 
private use^ and firmer. ^^ It appears in Seneca^ that 
he gives way a Uttle to the tyranny of the emperors of 
his time (for I hold it as certain that it was by a 
forced judgment that he condemned the cause of those 
generous murderers of Caesar), whilst Plutarch is free 
everywhere. Seneca is full of points and sallies; 
Plutarch of things. The former warms us and moves 
us more ; the latter gives more content^ and repays us 
best. He leads^ whilst the other pushes.^' Elsewhere 
Montaigne says that his Essays are built up with the 
spoils of Plutarch and Seneca. Never was author so 
scrupulous in acknowledging his general obligations 
to others as Montaigne. Indeed he far exaggerates 
them. He rarely, however, gives references, and 
sometimes melts extracts so completely into his own 
speculations that we are not aware they are not 
original. Writers have been accused of plagiarising 
the Essays, who have merely imitated the ancients. 

Cicero^s philosophic works pleased Montaigne best, 
but he was bold enough to say — and in that age of 
classical superstition this was bold indeed — '' Cicero's 
style of writing seems to me tiresome; his. matter is 
stifled by his long rhetorical preparations. I know 
what death and volupty are, and do not want him to 
anatomise them. What I want is reasons by which I 
may sustain their attack. What is the use of crying 
'Oyez, Oyez/ fifty times, like our heralds?" Even 


Plato's '' Dialogues/' to Montaigne, who could not ap- 
preciate their Attic style, and was always impatient, 
looking only, as it were, for the facts of philosophy, 
appeared very wearisome. We need not be surprised, 
therefore, that the preparatory flourishes of the Roman 
orator were unpleasant. The letters to Atticus being, 
to a certain extent, biographical, were agreeable to 
Montaigne, " who had a singular curiosity to know the 
minds and the spontaneous judgments of his authors/' 

It may be imagined that history was a favourite 
reading of Montaigne. In it "man in general, of 
whom he sought the knowledge, appeared more living 
and complete than elsewhere." But the part of 
history which he preferred was biography. Plutarch 
was his man ; and he would have liked a dozen such 
writers as Laertius. He was as anxious to know the 
lives and fortunes of philosophers, those great preceptors 
of the world, as "the diversity of their dogmas and 
phantasies." In this department of study, he thought 
that all authors, ancient and modem, whatever jargon 
they used, ought to be consulted. He expected 
historians either to be very simple or very excellent — 
very simple, like Froissart, who related without criticism, 
was not ashamed to correct in one place what he had 
misstated in another, and thus even represented the 
diversity of the reports current, and the diverse inter- 
pretations made; — or very excellent, by men capable 
of judging the events related, and of penetrating by 
the force of their intellect through the outward crust 
of events, finding out the springs of action, and laying 

vou II. E 



them bare : but these he thought were very few. He 
mentions Macchiavelli, but rather as the author of the 
"Prince^^ than of the history of Florence ; and evidently 
assumes the common opinion as to the intention of that 
writer. Reasonably so. The astute Florentine may 
have meant the '^Prince^' as a satire; but his work was 
at once adopted as the handbook of tyrants, and repro- 
bated by all friends of liberty. If he was misunder- 
stood/ it was his own fault; and he was guilty of one 
of the greatest literary blunders ever committed. 

Montaigne, in his Third Book, tells us that, against 
his custom when younger of sitting scarcely an hour at 
each book, he had just read right through, at once, 
the ^'History" of Tacitus, at the recommendation of a 
gentleman "whom France esteemed greatly, as much 
for his own value as for that of his brothers.^^ He calls 
Tacitus a nursery of ethical and political discourses; 
and it was natural to expect him to admire so sen- 
tentious a writer. " His lessons/^ says Montaigne, 
*^ are good for troubled and diseased states like ours ; 
it seems that he paints us and pinches us/^ Mon- 
taigne blames Tacitus for not speaking more boldly of 
himself. His whole criticism is acute and striking. 
But Ccesar^s ^^ Commentaries,'^ the favourite book of 
Strozzi, was the Latin history which Montaigne placed 
highest, an opinion in which I discern the traces of 
some military pedantry. However, his admiration of 
the literary merits of Csesar does not prevent him from 
calling him " a brigand,'^ for having trampled the 
liberties of his country underfoot. " I have read in 


Titus Livius/' says Montaigne, ^'a hundred things 
that others have not read; and Plutarch probably read 
a hundred things more — even more than the author 

Montaigne used often to take up as new a book 
which he had some years before covered with notes. 
He absolutely forgot its contents, he says, and what he 
had thought of them. On this account he adopted a 
plan of writfng at the end of each book he read, without 
intending to do so again, the date at which he finished 
it, and the opinion he had formed. Some of these 
criticisms he has preserved ; as for example, those on 
Guicciardini, Philippe de Commines, and Du Bellay the 
memoir- writer. Specimens of autograph notes of this 
kind exist in the possession of the Due d'Aumale. 

As I have said, Montaigne read the literature of his 
day constantly, though he admired little save the pro- 
ductions of the new erudite school of poets. He read 
in order to keep pace with opinion and doctrine — the 
chief matter of his criticisms. '^I was turning over 
two Scotch books, for and against monarchy,^' says he 
in one place. He read Bodin, quotes him, and evi- 
dently held him in unusual respect. Whilst refuting 
some of his criticisms on Plutarch, he calls him '^a 
good author of our time, accompanied with much more 
judgment than the rabble of scribblers of bis age, a 
man meriting to be judged and considered.^' Bodin 
was a type of the class of writers, always so popular, 
which makes general statements of contemporary facts 
and admissions of contemporary necessities, and fancies 



it has prodaced a theory. Montaigne^s references to 
contemporaries^ however, are generally disrespectful. 
He ridicules certain writers who exercise their ingenuity 
in discovering petty causes for the .great actions of 
antiquity, and, indeed, of all time. Voltaire's system 
of writing history would have heen inexpressibly dis- 
tasteful to him. He mentions a learned writer of his 
day, a Parisian, to boot, who wrote to advise women 
who had been outraged to refrain from committing 
suicide; and regrets that he had not had an oppor- 
tunity of telling him a bon-mot of a Toulouse woman, 
which he had heard, and which, by the way, Brantome 
afterwards appropriated. 

The truth is, that when Montaigne formed his 
literary tastes, French literature, despite the innu- 
merable titles of books that can be disinterred, was 
composed almost entirely of memoirs, commentaries, 
pamphlets, and bad poetry. The only remarkable 
literary fact — except the appearance of Rabelais, who 
was scarcely recognised, and Calvin, whose reputation 
as a writer has been made- since — was the foundation 
of the school of Erudites, so interesting from their 
furious studies of antiquity, and their determination to 
know what the human mind had produced already, 
before producing again at the risk of gratuitous labour. 
Naturally, erudition led to its exaggeration pedantry at 
first. Young writers always overwhelm us with the 
knowledge they are acquiring as they write ; and every 
new book they read leaves deposits in the interstices of 
their style. Montaigne, in literary taste, was far in 


advance of his age ; and though he extravagantly 
admired Ronsard^ in reality began the reaction in the 
whole field of literature^ afterwards carried out in part 
by Malherbe^ — then a young gentleman writing epi- 
grams, about the time of the appearance of the Essays, 
with so many other pedants, on the Flea that invaded 
Mademoiselle Desroches^ bosom. 

Montaigne, however, was unjust to the pedants. 
When he wrote, for some half a century France had 
been occupied in studying the newly- discovered classical 
literature, and learning that the ancients were not 
answerable for that crabbed doctrine which, under the 
name of Aristotelism, had formed their intellectual food 
for ages. In the absence of grammars, dictionaries, 
translations, or correct copies of the ancients, whom 
people had a fierce eagerness to read, — because, with 
few exceptions, native books were mere rubbish, — all 
men with literary taste and appreciation passed their 
time in studying and commenting the ancients. They 
mistook often their own intense pleasure and ad- 
miration for genius, and wrote ; but they wrote gener- 
ally about the objects of their love, and with a sort of 
unconscious modesty, preferring quoting to criticising. 
Thus they made books that are unreadable now ; and 
were unreadable by fastidious scholars s6ch as Mon- 
taigne even then. But it was they civilized Europe. 




Without referring to Montaigne's self-alleged want of 
memory^ M. Villemain somewhere says, " His in- 
exhaustible memory placed at his disposal all that men 
ever thought.^^ This is, perhaps, an exaggeration; 
but we may certainly reject much of what Montaigne 
states as to the failures of his memory, without accusing 
him of want of sincerity. Whenever he happened to 
forget .anything^ especially towards the latter part of 
his life, he complained, as old men will, that he 
remembered nothing. He sometimes forgot where he 
had l\idden his purse^ and at once began to fear that 
he was tiring his readers by repeating himself. -The 
people of his neighbourhood identified memory with 
judgment ; and he himself says, that to lose memory 
would be to lose all the faculties of the mind. In 
reality, a vast memory is an essential part of the 
definition of a wide capacity of mind. What is a vast 
mind with nothing in it ? Nothing. The size of the 


mind is determined by what it contains. Very likely 
these constant references to want of memory in Mon- 
taigne were a sort of coquetry, intended to suggest 
originality to vulgar readers. 

I may as well here describe what may be called the 
material nature of the Essays, into the construction of 
which, and their tendency, we are now about to examine. 
The Essays consist, in their present state, of three 
books, each containing a certain number of chapters, 
entirely disconnected one with the other. The most 
important in length is the tweKth chapter of the Second 
Book, known as the "Apology for Raymond de Se- 
bonde;'^ but, in general, the longer Essays are to be 
found towards the end. The first book contains fifty- 
seven, the second thirty-seven, and the third only 
thirteen Essays. Montaigne explains somewhere why 
he lengthened his chapters as he went on. The real 
reason, however, was probably that he wrote them with 
more preparation, and constructed their plan before- 
hand; although he never desisted from his habit of 
digression, apparently without cause. Many of the 
Essays consist simply of an anecdote, or two or three 
anecdotes, from ancient or modern history ; but princi- 
pally from ancient history, with consequences deduced 
more or less directly therefrom. At other times, but 
rarely, Montaigne treats a subject completely; as in 
the "Apology,^^ the '^ Essay on Friendship,'^ and the 
''Essay on Education.'^ Sometimes he professes to 
treat of one subject, and treats of another. His attack 



on miracles is contained in an " Essay on Lame 
People/' and so on. In the first edition of the 
Essays^ comprising only two books^ there was much 
more sequence than now appears. Montaigne added 
and added sentences and paragraphs without number^ 
but scarcely ever altered what he had already printed. 
Nearly all the quotations from Latin poets were added 
after the first edition. It cannot be denied that this 
process has often obscured his meaning and injured his 
literary fame. 

As we know with what kind of books Montaigne's 
library was furnished, we may imagine him, if we 
please, — with the piece of glass he talks of laid, accord- 
ing to his habit, on the page to deaden its whiteness ; 
but "never with spectacles'' — engaged in the search 
after knowledge. As poetry furnished him with forms 
and expressions which he unhesitatingly adopted, so the 
philosophers, moralists, and historians, all the mute 
teachers who surrounded him, furnished him with ideas 
which he used as postulates or principles, and by means 
of which he carried on the work of speculation. He 
rarely read a book from beginning to end, but pre- 
ferred fluttering the leaves under his Hand and allowing 
his attention to rest here and there. He cared not 
where he got his quotations — at first or second-hand 
— and with pleasant self-sufl5ciency says : " I have but 
to stretch out my hand and take down a dozen books, 
consisting of extracts strung together, if I want to give 
an appearance of reading to this ' Essay on Physio-^ 


gnomy/ A single Grennan preface would supply me 
with a store of learning/' The Germans had the same 
reputation then as now. 

Afterwards Montaigne laughs at the book-wrights 
who in his days made up their works of little quota- 
tions ; and tells us that authors used to beg for refer- 
ences and extracts amongst their learned friends, and 
make a fagot of them and be satisfied. ^^The ink 
and paper at any rate are theirs.^' In this way they 
taught the public^ ^' not that they knew how to make 
a book^ but that they did not know.'' Montaigne 
finishes this little picture of the compilers of his day 
by mentioning that he once heard a President boast 
that he had made above two hundred citations in a 
single decree. For his part he rarely failed^ he says, 
to give a new turn to what he quoted. *^ We Natural- 
ists^^' as he singularly continues^ '' believe that there 
is an incomparable distance between the honou^ of 
invention and the honour of allegation." By Natural- 
ist^ he means learned in human nature ; and perhaps^ 
from his avoidance of scientific terms^ he was supposed 
by his friends not to merit this title. He begins his 
" Essay on Fear " thus : '^ I am not a good Naturalist, 
they say ; and indeed scarcely know by what springs 
fear acts in us." 

There seems no subject connected with pure lite^^ 
ratore on which so much variety of opinion exists as 
on this of invention. The paradox that there is 
nothing in the mind but what is introduced there 
from without, and yet that, do what you will, you never 


can add to a man's power and capacity^ is difficult of 
digestion by most. Few persons agree even on the 
definition of invention, — perhaps because few bring to 
the discussion of critical questions any philosophical 
knowledge of the relations of man to the world of fact. 
Does invention consist in finding out truths and forms^ 
or in creating something that never existed before? 
Is there such a thing as spontaneous birth, or fruc- 
tification without seed? Many decide the question 
peremptorily, and are all for spontaneous production 
and creation ; have no mercy on any man who, as 
they express it, " steals a thought ;^' read poetry in 
the spirit of a detective, and think that critics should 
be a sort of literary thief-takers, ever on the watch for 
plagiarism. This shows that they believe each thought 
is a separate entity, like a pearl or a guinea in a purse, 
— not part of one great whole ; not a colour, or form, 
or flash of light, or vibration communicated from the 
moral universe. These are they who overwhelm book- 
men with their compassionate contempt, and reserve 
their chief admiration for people who seem to say 
things that have never been said before. Montaigne 
was not of this class. No man had more contempt 
for compilers, for men who were proud of " alleging 
the thoughts of others;'^ but no man more than he 
made use of the labours of his predecessors. He was 
afraid, if he did not read, that with infinite labour and 
thought he might contrive at last to say just what 
another had said before him. He absorbed all past 
knowledge, and when he knew what had been done 


and said^ tried to say and do something more^ — that 
is^ carried on the work of human reasoning. In 
order to do this^ he felt it to be necessary to avoids 
above all things^ the persevering search after origin- 
ality. Having conceived hi& general plan^ the theory 
he wanted to establish^ or the duty to enforce, he 
tried, not to say something of his own, in his own 
way, but to say something apt, whether it was an old 
idea in a new dress, or a new idea in an old dress. 
All great national writers have followed the same 
method, and it' is idle to discuss whether they are 
more commendable for what they have created or for 
what they have borrowed. If they had not borrowed 
they would never have had leisure to create. With 
the exception, too, of a few fierce minds, working in 
narrow limits, and spinning out, as it were, their own 
entrails, all writers who seek originality in the avoid- 
ance of models clearly and honestly placed before them, 
arrive at commonplace by imitating their own vague 
reminiscences, and solemnly repeating the truisms that 
are floating about in society. See how surely Mon- 
taigne proceeds when he undertakes to develope some 
moral idea ! He knows who have said the best things 
on the subject. He turns to their pages, reads them 
over and over again, and, perfectly certain that his 
mind is not enslaved by theirs, makes use of their 
knowledge as they had made use of the knowledge of 
their predecessors; ^ves, perhaps, a touch here, and 
adds a tint there, and sometimes, having done no 
more than this, appeals' to the judgment of the judi- 


cious whether be has not worked well; and cares 
nothing for the minute critic who follows him with a 
cry of "Stop thief I'' 

Montaigne^ then, was essentially a reader; and 
this is why I have thought it necessary to describe his 
library so carefully before coming to the history of the 
composition of the Essays. The idea of those Essays 
did not occur to him at first. He was wealthy^ and in 
as high a position as he chose to aim at^ and therefore 
really studied to improve his mind without at first any 
intention to address the world. He was led to write 
partly by the love of fame, which he affected so much 
to despise; partly by the mere superabundance of 
thoughts, that filled his mind as soon as it was with- 
drawn from the bustle of the world ; and partly, perhaps, 
in truth, as he once pretends, by sheer melancholy — 
though this, I suspect, was a special cause of industry 
at particular moments, not a primary cause. The 
silence of his ch&teau was so great, contrasting with 
the noise of the Court, that he heard his own heart 
beat, and listened to it, and was led to study ^^ how 
strangely and wonderfully we are made." 

'• Recently," he says in an early Essay, " when I 
retired to my house, resolved, as far as I could, to 
meddle with nothing, and seek only to pass in repose 
and apart the little that remained to me of life, I 
thought I could not do a greater favour to my mind 
than leave it in complete idleness, to stay at home and 
converse with itself — the which I hoped it would for 
the future be able more easily to do, inasmuch as with 


time it had become weightier and riper; but I find 
that^ on the contrary^ hke a runaway horse^ it works 
a hundred times faster on its own account than it did 
for others^ and gives birth to so many chimeras and fan- 
tastical monsters^ one after the other^ without sequence 
or purpose, that, in order to contemplate at my ease 
their absurdity and strangeness, I have begun to set 
them down, hoping that in time my said mind will be 
ashamed of its folly /^ 

This little narrative, of course, must be accepted 
with some restriction, and, indeed, may be taken rather 
as a precautionary excuse for the boldness of certain 
ideas. But we may easily suppose that the first rough 
note of an Essay was thrown upon paper some evening 
when Montaigne, finding his worldly prejudices settling 
down, as it were, discovered that there was something 
else in his mind. The first time he exercised his 
critical power independently, and laid aside the for- 
mula with which all minds were so plentifully furnished 
in that age, must have been, as it were, a revelation to 
him. We have no reason to suppose that the first 
Essay now published was the first Essay written. 
Who knows ? Montaigne, looking over his dedications 
of La Boetie, may have been struck by the tyrannical 
manner in which he had himself defended the love of 
posthumous fame, a sentiment entirely of Pagan origin ; 
and observing that, in spite of his efforts to thrust it 
aside, the veil of forgetfulness was inexorably descend- 
ing over the head of his friend, and threatening to 
mufEle it for ever, may, half in earnest, half in sport, 


have sought for reasons of consolation. This would 
account for the " Essay on Glory/' in the First Book in 
which Tasso is quoted describing Fame as — 

« Un' eco, nn sogno, anzi del sogno un' ombra." 

What may be called the official explanation of the 
origin of the Essays may be found in the address of the 
author to the reader^ published at the beginning of 
the first edition. " This book/' he says, " has a 
domestic and private object. It is intended for the 
use of my relations and friends; so that when they 
have lost me, which they will soon do, they may find 
in it some features of my condition and humours, and 
by this means keep up more completely and in a more 
lively manner the knowledge they have of me.'' We 
have here the origin of the famous traditionary preface, 
according to which all bad books profess to have been 
originally intended for a few friends ; but we shall see 
from the care which Montaigne took in publication, 
how much stress we may lay upon this assertion. 
Elsewhere he better expresses the truth, when he says 
that he wrote ^^ to be read in the corner of a library to 
amuse a neighbour, a relative, or a friend." 

But this refers to a time when he had clearly a 
literary object in view. The student would like to be 
present in spirit, if it were possible, when the seed within 
him was first quickened. He appears to have been 
always successful in writing letters ; and, indeed, first 
used his genius, as we have seen, in the service of 
love. Perhaps his power was originally revealed to 


himself by that admirable letter on the death of La 
"Boetie^ which I deliberately compare^ on account of 
its constrained but evident emotion^ its philosophical 
tone, its lofty way of relating the minute incidents of 
the deathbed of a great and good man, to the " Phsedo'' 
of Plato. " If I were a book-maker,^^ he says, think- 
ing of the success of his letter, " I would write a com- 
mented register of various deaths/' The influence of 
La Boetie is as evident in the earlier Essays as the 
influence of the classics. It is there we find most of 
those lofty and stoical maxims, those defiances ad- 
dressed to death, those professions of insensibility, 
which make Montaigne so much resemble a classical 
writer of the sonorous and declamatory school. He 
wears a buskin at first, and treads loftily ; but as he 
goes on forgets that he is playing a part, and soon 
moves with all the ductility of nature. He imitates 
Seneca because La Boetie admired him. It is in 
the earlier Essays that we find the declaration that 
popular government seems to him the most natural 
and equitable ; and indeed in them, especially as 
originally written, we find little that is characteristic 
of our Conservative moralist, who in some later moods 
would have had all the world, aye, and nature itself, 
stand still and be hushed, that he might be able to 
overthrow his own religious belief, and that of others, 
in peace. 

Some one who had read and admired the letters of 
Montaigne, both private and published, advised him 
to adopt the epistolary form, in order to pour out 


his thoughts. We have already seen how fashionable 
letter-writings for the sake of publishing^ had become 
in that age. But it was the custom to address either 
imaginary persons^ or indi£ferent persons^ or strangers. 
There was no real necessity or object in writing. This 
sham displeased Montaigne. If he had still possessed^ 
as he once did — he here again refers to La Bo'etie — a 
friend to sustain and stimulate him^ well and good. 
He would have been more attentive and sure of himself, 
addressing a single strong and friendly man^ than with 
the diverse countenances of a crowd before him. But 
be would not create a sham correspondence for the 
sake of publishing it. 

Montaigne was probably diligently engaged in read- 
ing and making notes, and may not have definitively 
adopted the form of Essays^ when Amyot published his 
translation of Plutarch's Moral Works in 1572. "We 
were lost but for them/' said he, and I have no, doubt 
he partly refers to his own case. He determined at once 
to select a form midway between Seneca and Plutarch, 
and at once set to work to arrange and co-ordinate his 
materials. " Fifteen days ago/' says he in the nine- 
teenth chapter of the first book, I passed my thirty- 
ninth year." This must have been in March 1572. 
It would be impossible, as I have said, with any cer- 
tainty^ to establish what he wrote first ; for he always, 
before publication and after, went on adding here and 
there. He seems to have intended at the outset to 
make a sort of gathering of stoical maxims, by the help 
of which he might struggle against his own too easy 


and pliant and feminine nature. But the calm charac- 
ter of his mind is indicated by the very title of the first 
Essay. *'By diverse means we arrive at the same 
end.'' And soon the sceptical tone comes on, and then 
the humane tone. The man who sets out with God- 
like maxims on contempt of death, ends by recording 
all the petty experiences of a valetudinarian lover of 
existence. His factitious fierceness melted by degrees ; 
and only after speculating for twenty years does he 
seem perfectly to comprehend the nature of unsophis- 
ticated man, and see that it is not wise, even if possible, 
to stilt him on maxims. By recognising this as the 
development of his mind any one will be able, as far as 
is necessary, to chronologise his Essays, considered as 
moral revelations and studies, irrespective of a tem- 
porary object. 



-'■ /■ : 



§ 1. Montaigne s object was to promote Toleration, 

Montaigne had opinions^ but no doctrine, properly 
so called. He did not come forward with any new 
theory, religious, moral, or political. In physical 
science — except when, guided by humanity, he saw 
through such absurdities as sorcery and witchcraft — he 
was rather behind his age than before ; and he scarcely 
troubled himself about metaphysics. A considerable 
knowledge of history, especially the anecdotical part of it, 
but history in its largest sense, including the sequence, 
ramifications, and influences of laws, manners, opinions, 
and ideas; a complete and scholar-like acquaintance 
with ancient, at least Latin, literature; a large ex- 
perience of society, and the method of transacting its 
affairs, public and private ; fruitful intercourse with all 
classes of men, learned and unlearned — even the 
high tone given to his mind by friendship with La 
Bo'etie, formed the qualifications rather of a moralist 



of the observing and picturesque class, than of a philo- 
sopher destined to influence the creed of his own or 
future generations. 

There have been endless discussions throughout 
Europe asrtb the real intentions ""or^jSTaccMavelli, y 
whether he desired to serve or dis-serve tyranny; 
there have been discussions as numerous in France as 
to the intentions of Montaigne, whether he wrote to 
strengthen or overthrow Cath olicism . I have already 
pomted'outsome of the obscurities and contradictions 
which will probably render this debate interminable, 
and shall have occasion to do so elsewhere. But, if we 
escape from the influence of particular passages and 
circumstances, alleged as proofs on one side or the 
other, and take into consideration the general verdict of 
Europe, which has never troubled itself about this 
controversy between the Church and Free-thought in 
France, we shall come to the conclusion that Montaigne 
was a S ceptic in the tru e modern sense. He had not, 
like Voltaire and his accomplices, a secret, unac- 
knowle dged end in vi ew. To have engaged in a 
conspiracy against Christianity, and committed all the 
unscrupulous acts which a conspiracy implies, would 
have seemed shocking to this honest Gascon gentleman 
— let us venture to say "honest," despite a certain 
tendency to casuistry, a certain proneness to compro- 
mise and concession : a man may be honest in this in- 
complete world, and not rigid. 

But Montaigne was no Believer, in the proper 
sense of the word, nor inclined to call for help to 



his unbelief. In his time, religion had usurped too 
great a control over humanity — extended its authority 
too far, and in the wrong direction. He felt inclined 
to shake it off, in order to be more free in his acts and 
thoughts. His objection was not so much to Catholi- 
cism, with its mysteries' and contempt of the human 
understanding, as to spiritualism in general, with its 
en thusiasm and cqntenipt oi human flesh. Pr otestan t- 
ism to him was no promise;, it was an additional 
element of dis order an d discomfort. The martyrs who 
would rather be burned ^tertr' recant, who set their 
souls, the existence of which might be made doubtful 
by a syllogism, above their bodies, (unmistakeable 
tenements of pain and pleasure) — these men, who went 
singing to the stake, and fixed sorrowful but forgiving 
eyes on their persecutors, were almost more detest- 
able to Montaigne than the persecutors themselves. 
He pitied their sufferings, but was angry with the 
unreasonable strength of their convictions. Why 
could they not have quietly doubted the dogmas of 
the Catholic Church, without making all this fuss 
about their doubts ? After all they might be mistaken 
— blank nonentity might be behind the door towards 
which they so resolutely advanced. They were far 
too earnest in their way of seeking le grand peutetre^— 
as if they had special news from those regions ; and 
were therefore entitled to disturb the peace of the 
world, and put in peril the lives and fortunes of their 
fellow-citizens, among others of Michel de Montaigne, 
who had two thousand ecus per annum, a comfortable 


ch^teau^ an agreeable if somewhat shrewish wife, 
altogether a respectable position^ and who wished to 
spend his days in sunshine and his nights on down. 
This mode of viewing things might have led Montaigne 
to join the bigots and the persecutors, but for the ten- 
derness and the humanity which formed so marked an 
element in his composition » His opinions on men and 
things were the combined result of the egotism on 
which so much stress has been laid, and of a sympathy 
with human kind, which has sometimes been lost sight 
of. When he published, it was with the definite idea 
of checking fanaticism and enthusiasm, of leaving man's 
body io be dealt with only by the civil law, and of 
confining the Church to the use of spiritual weapons ; 
of enabling, in fact, Catholicism and Protestantism to 
live side by side together, just as he himself lived with 
his brother Beauregard. 

Naturally, at first, Montaigne had not full con- 
sciousness of his mission. Like most persons who 
have influenced their age, he be^an his march blindfold 
and uncertain, amidst clouds and vapour, through 
unmarked paths; and the air cleared around him, 
and his step became firmer as he advanced. We may 
im agine his joy when the sun first struck on the 
shining goal in the far distance: it was like seeing 
the sparkle of that white tomb that marked the well in 
the desert. Whilst seeking merely to put a drag on 
the rapidity of enthusiasm, to fashion some of his 
contemporaries to his own indifference of thought and 
action, the idea of toleration rose in his mind; not 


merely religious toleration, but universal tenderness 
and mansuetude, the necessity of gentleness of man 
towards man, the greater value of your neighbour's 
little finger than your own most deep-rooted con- 
victions, which may be absurdities. He was not 
the fi^rst to conceive this idea in the sixteenth century. 
^Biabelaisbad preached it in bis jovial way ; but without 
any other result than admiration ; for immediately after 
his death the rack, the gibbet, and the stake set to work, 
not to rest for thirty years. 

The discovery of the idea of toleration was easier to 
Montaigne than to any other. He is usually rebuked 
for his egotism and scepticism ; but it was to a certain 
extent because he was an egotist and a sceptic that 
the truth became apparent to him. We rightly 
admire the heroes of self-sacrifice, the servants of 
faith : they are, perhaps, the highest product of 
humanity. But we should be very much mistaken 
if we expected the idea of toleration to come from them. 
He who sacrifices himself expects others to sacrifice 
themselves, and is disposed to kill when he cannot 
convince. When the Revival of Letters and Arts, and 
the Reformation, came — let us be bold enough to ac- 
knowledge so much — our world had been producing 
saints and martyrs, in crowds, for some fifteen centuries. 
We need not accept the Romish Calendar, but it does 
not include all saints. ^Joan of Arc, the type of self- 
sacrifice, patriotism, heroism, faith, has never been 
canonised. But every age, every country, every city, 
every village, every monastery, in those dark times, 


when reason was clouded^ produced as a contrast to 
the general mass of lordly^ peasant^ and monkish 
brutality, miracles of constancy and virtue. They 
enlightened the world by their example, and incited 
others to follow in the same path. But they, like 
their admirers — often sottish and stupid — never 
dreamed that it was not good to force humanity 
to enter amidst the thorns and rough stones that 
frightened its unprotected feet. Tread on : why should 
you be more timid than I ? Still less did they conceive 
the possibility that the emotions which produced in 
them such ineffable delight, and led to such mag- 
nificent actions, were doubtful in their principle, subject 
to examination, unacceptable by many. Blasphemy 
was . . . opposition to their ideas — which they identi- 
fied with God's ideas. How could they think of 
toleration ? Toleration was impiety ; and he who 
suffered impiety here, took the responsibility of it 
hereafter. It cannot be denied that Faith is dangerous 
and intolerable when unaccompanied by Charity; and 
is, in fact, the least divine part of the Christian 
religion, the one in which it resembles all other 
religions: whereas Charity, so formally insisted upon 
by Christ, was rejected with unanimous enthusiasm 
by the world, as inhuman and supernatural, as soon 
as He had gone. If the case had been otherwise, 
we should have never stood in need of the toleration 
of Montaigne, which is essentially of temporary use, 
and is based on indifference to high truth, on doubt, 


and on contempt of human nature — contempt mitigated 
by affection of a prudent and decent character. 

§ 2. Immediate Infltience of the Essays. 

But it little matters how low Montaigne stooped in 
order to pick up this pearl of great price, the idea of 
toleration^ which is the capital one of his book, but 
which he conceals under various forms^ and mixes with a 
thousand different ingredients, in order to make it suit 
the palate of his times. It would not be important^ 
biographically speaking, to trace its origin^ if we did 
not know its immediate practical influence, and that, 
though trial drew it bias and thwart^ it led within the 
lifetime of its preacher to a very definite and appreciable 
historical result* 

Montaigne, indeed^ much by his writings and 
something by his personal influence^ was one of 
the chief agents in forming that party of mild and 
tolerant men, who prepared the advent of Henry the 
Fourth — that is, the only termination possible, at the 
time, of civil war and religious discord — the com- 
promise of indifference and bigotry. Every party must 
have its man of doctrine, as well as its historians, its 
pamphleteers, its libellers, and its songsters. The 
moderates, who were allowed to save France because a 
few remained uncorrupted, had De Thou, Pasquier, 
D^Aubigne, and the authors of the Satire Menippie, 
Montaigne supplied its philosophy, and accommodated 


himself as well to its licentiousness and indifference^ as 
to its humanity and love of peace. France was guided^ 
by him and his friends^ from fanaticism^ mingled with 
the most horrible debauchery on one side and repulsive 
sternness on the other^ into a sort of half-way house^ 
where toleration could lead an easy life with Henry the 
Pourth and the Belle Corisande^ and not be too much 
shocked when the Belle Corisande made way for the 
Belle Gabrielle. I subscribe to M. Peyrat^s admirable 
critiq^sm of the victim of Ravaillac, Similar reading 
has led me to a similar result. But he will not deny 
that the advent of Henry was, under the circumstances, 
the best thing that could have happened for France ; 
nor that the part played by Montaigne, in pre* 
paring public opinion for it, was meritorious. We 
need not, perhaps, make our Essayist responsible for 
the exceptionally base act of abjuration, by which, to a 
certain extent, the labours of the Politic party were 
nullified. If every man were made responsible for all 
the consequences contained in his principles, the burden 
would be too great. Scepticism, of course, prepares 
for abjuration, when there is a prize in view. Mon- 
taigne might have been of the party of Sancy, who, 
though a tolerably worthy man, changed his religion to 
get a place, and maintained, before Hobbes, under 
Henry the Fourth, that a good subject was always 
of the religion of his prince. Not caring for place, 
the Essayist might have abjured, to set the example of 
obedience — just for the same reason that, whilst 
labouring to unsettle the base of Catholicism, he made 


profession of its doctrines — with a servility that is 
almost hypocrisy. 

§ 3. Mantaign^s method of arguing from Eaeperience, 

I have thus endeavoured to point out what was the 
main object of Montaigne ; and as it would be out of 
place here to analyse the Essays, nothing now remains 
to do but to say something of his way of working, 
his method of argument, and his individual opinions 
on certain important topics. 

The subject of the Essays is ostensibly Montaigne 
himself; but this is because the writer regarded each 
man as an epitome of human nature. As a biographer, 
I have used the Essays as if they had been Memoirs, 
almost a journal. But they were not intended as 
such. They are a series of sketches of the attitudes, 
physical, moral, and intellectual, of the man with 
whom Montaigne was always in company. His great 
difficulty was to find the proper limit for his con- 
fessions. He did not at first profess, like Rousseau, 
to tell all. He only revealed as much as he dared, 
but the older he grew the bolder he grew. At last, 
I suspect, he keeps very little in the background. 
He told things, he says, in print which he would not 
confess to friends, and sent those who wanted to know 
his most secret thoughts to a bookseller's shop. It is 
true that he afterwards pretends, that if any one 
wanted to learn his inclinations he would most wil- 
lingly reveal them by word of mouth. "But still,'* 


he goes on, " in these Memoirs, if you look closely, 
you will find that I have said all, or indicated all. 
What I cannot express I point at. I leave nothing to 
desire or guess. I would willingly come back from 
the other world to contradict any one who should 
paint me as other than I am.'* Elsewhere he says, — 
" This book is consubstantial with myself.'' Once or 
twice he seems troubled by fear of the charge of 
egotism, and abuses himself for speaking of himself, 
in order to take the words out of people's mouths. 
" How often, and, mayhap, how foolishly, have I 
stretched out this book, by speaking of myself!'' 

This is the theme that has chiefly beea insisted 
upon by the critics, from Du Puy and Scaliger down 
to the present day. All accuse him, more or less 
earnestly, of twaddling ; all quote as crimes certain 
comical instances of communicativeness. But they 
utterly lose sight of the method of the Essays, of the 
peculiar dialectical system, as original as the Socratic, 
invented by Montaigne. This system, of course, is 
matter of criticism ; but it is absurd to squabble about 
the value of certain isolated observations on white or 
red wine, on a page, on certain personal defects, and 
not notice the general reason of their existence. Mon- 
taigne determines to set down all his thoughts, in 
order that for once he and posterity may be able to 
contemplate the inside of a man's mind, in its most 
lofty aspirations as in all its meannesses. He does 
not determine beforehand to give so much space to 
grand ideas, so much to mean ideas; but lets the 


importance assumed in bis mind by wbatever ideas are 
there^ the stress he lays on them for a tiine^ be the 
measure of what length they shall occupy. All the rest 
of literature, moreover, was full enough of grand and 
pretentious maxims. Men usually showed but one 
portion of themselves — that which they thought fine; 
as the courtesans of Rome showed the feature or limb 
which was most attractive. But Montaigne deter- 
mined to exhibit himself as a changeful, erring being 
— never absolutely good or absolutely badj never 
entitled to be certain of anything, and, therefore, 
logically bound to be humble, to spare others, to 
remain in doubt as to his rights, if not as to his 

Montaigne admitted that there was something 
'^ supernatural and divine^' in man, which was called 
into play on great occasions, and formed, as it were, 
his essence and differential character. But these 
depths of our nature had been too much stirred, too 
much groped in by inquirers incapable of understand- 
ing even the surface. They had brought back nothing 
but maxims that served as manacles for mankind. 
We all have souls, and an interest in their fate ; but 
we are not all equally qualified to discuss their qualities 
and destiny. Yet theologians, and men who borrowed 
their language, talked then, as now also they do, with 
flippant familiarity, of the inner mysteries of Being 
and the ways of God, as if they were dealing with 
their own especial property, and knew more about 
them than about their pantry or their till. Mon-* 


taigne saw the immense and fatal consequences of this 
arrogance. Its direct product is bigotry, intolerance, 
and persecution : under its influence, interference with 
the occupations, pleasures, and general conduct of 
your neighbour, becomes the first duty of religion. 
The Essayist — more by instinct at first than delibera- 
tion — determined to combat it by an appeal to ex- 
perience. Having looked around him, and found that 
the horizon is distant, and every object on it vague — 
to say nothing of what is beyond — he looks at his 
feet, and at things within reach of his hand. It is, 
indeed, in a sort of ironical spirit that he gravely 
directs attention to the most ludicrously minute par- 
ticulars. When he tells you that experience teaches 
him that he likes to scratch his ears, and that the 
reason thereof is that they itch, he is thinking that 
profound philosophers can rarely connect cause with 
eflfect so certainly ; and, yet, what are not their pre- 
tensions ? 

§ 4. The Essays reflect the Spirit of the Times. 

Montaigne's speculations on man and society were, 
in a great measure, determined by his moral and ma- 
terial position at the time at which he wrote. He 
was no mere litterateur, imprisoning ideas more or less 
useful or agreeable in forms of art. His mind was 
tormented, not only by the common accidents of 
humanity, but by the peculiar dangers and miseries of 
that time ; and he reveals his torments chiefly in the 



hope of finding a remedy. This is the reason that a 
knowledge of his biography and contemporary history 
is so essential to comprehension of the Essays. Speak- 
ing only of myself, not more than a third appealed 
merely to my unlearned sympathies; but every new 
fact I noted down for this work enabled me to open 
Montaigne with increased pleasure^ and find an earnest 
meaning under what appeared before to be vague 

The real introduction of the Reformation into 
France dates from about the time of the birth of 
Montaigne. As soon as he began to understand any- 
thing^ he must have heard the conflicting arguments 
of the rival sects. Soon afterwards, the burning of 
heretics began in his own neighbourhood. Then he 
was obliged at least to be present at their condemna- 
tion himself, if not to witness their torments. Next 
he saw the whole of France, with but few intervals of 
uncertain peace, disturbed by a most ferocious and 
bloody Civil War for ten years. There is no document 
to prove an hypothesis which I entertain, and, there- 
fore, I have not alluded to it in the previous narrative. 
But I believe that Montaigne's intercession between 
princes and parties, so often alluded to, and referred 
now to one time, now to another, preceded his retire- 
ment to his chateau, and that this retirement was the 
result of sudden disgust, produced by the discovery 
that among the chiefs on both sides ambition was the 
prime motive, religion a pretext. The friend of La 
Boetie may have hoped to play the part of mediat6r. 


which was only suited to that great man. He dis- 
covered that all the fine arguments he had prepared to 
reconcile conflicting beliefs were impotent to reconcile 
conflicting interests. You will find throughout the 
Essays the profoundest distrust of all leaders in quest 
of place -and power, and contempt for enthusiastic 
followers, civil and military, who kill or die, as they 
imagine, for ideas. 

It was, then, as a gentleman and a man of pro- 
perty, somewhat galled by his want of influence, and a 
little uneasy about his own safety, with very little 
belief himself, and a conviction, seemingly based on 
experience, that belief diminished in an equal ratio 
with the increase of knowledge, that Montaigne began 
to speculate. However varied may be the topics which 
he treats, they are all contemporary topics; and 
though his conclusions sometimes appear contradictory, 
and he often comes to no conclusion at all, he is 
always evidently labouring to release man from being 
governed by combinations of words supposed to re- 
present duties, instead of by his own natural instincts, 
enlightened by conscience. 

§ 5, Politics. 

In the sixteenth century almost every man was a 
politician. Scarcely any one ever took up a pen except 
to discuss some question connected with Church or 
State. There never was such a swarm of projects and 
theories. Above them all soared, eagle-like, the ter- 


lible manifesto of La Boetie. But Montaigne was 
not sufficiently active^ or sufficiently interested in man- 
kind^ or sufficiently enthusiastic^ to engage in such 
work. His absence from the contest^ the death of his 
friend, the corruption of some intellects^ the cowardice 
of others^ may^ in part^ explain the failure of one of 
the most active political movements on record — a 
movement even more active and radical than that 
which took place in England in the next century. 
France is subject to these paroxysms^ that remind one 
of the mountain in the fable. All those books^ those 
pamphlets^ those satires — to say nothing of those con- 
spiracies and those battles for reform in politics — ended 
in the substitution of a Bourbon for a Valois, by here- 
ditary succession^ on condition of perjury — in the ad- 
journment of Liberalism for exactly two centuries ! 

The only writer of Montaigne's time who has pre- ' 
served any reputation as a politician is Jean Bodin, 
to whom even Bayle accords '^a great genius^ vast 
knowledge^ and prodigious reading.'^ Bodin was^ in- 
deed^ an able man, but a pedant and a time-server^ 
who saw that France was settling down into absojute 
monarchy, and constructed his theories accordingly. 
He was in favour of religious liberty, and of all sorts of 
excellent reforms, like L' Hospital : but he could see no 
means of bringing them about, save "a pure and 
absolute monarchy .'' It may be curious, therefore, to 
study Bodin as the expression of his age ; but to bring 
him forward as a predecessor of Montesquieu, and lavish 
praises on his penetration and superiority to his con- 


temporaries is puerile. In every age and every country 
we have these official philosophers, who pretend to 
stand apart and speculate independently; and who 
construct theories and utter maxims which can be 
adapted exactly to the government existing, and to no 
other. Bodin wrote his ^^ Republic ^^ when he was a 
favourite of Henry the Third ; but the praises lavished 
on his work induced him to believe himself one of the 
pillars of the State. On one occasion he actually op- 
posed the king's wishes ; for which piece of pedantry, 
into which an absolutist in theory is very liable to fall, 
he incurred immediate disgrace. He then attached 
himself to the Due d'Alengon, who headed a sort of 
government opposition; he next allied himself with the 
Ligue j and died in the service of Henry the Fourth. 

Montaigne's political career — if such an expression 
may be used with reference to the sequence of his 
opinions on State affairs and his connexion with parties 
— very much resembled that of Jean Bodin, whom he 
knew and admired. But he did not attempt to form any 
theory of his own. When young, he probably shared 
the opinions of La Boetie, who had evidently the power 
of communication in a high degree ; but as soon as he 
got beyond that great man's influence, he adopted 
opinions more in harmony with his court life. He 
professes in his earlier Essays, at any rate, to admire 
popular government; says it was "the most natural 
and equitable;" but when he talks of monarchy, goes 
no further than a condemnation of evil princes and 
of those who treat them with the same respect as good 

VOL. II. o 


princes. "That rascal Nero/^ and other such expresi 
sions, are mere reminiscences of the "Treatise on 
Voluntary Servitude.^^ As to the admission that an 
emperor, if seen behind the curtain, may be viler than 
the least of his subjects, it is but the unanimous ad^ 
mission of courtiers, the only persons who see kings 
as they are. " The souls of emperors and cobblers are 
cast in the same mould,^' may be of Christian or clas- 
sical origin, but has nothing to do with anti-monarchic 
cal feeling. It is the familiarity of the honest valet 
with his master, whose vices he ventures to rate and 
his pride to take down, but whom he cannot conceive 
otherwise than as his master. He describes "em- 
perors and philosophers, aye, and ladies too,^' as he 
wickedly adds, under the most humiliating circum- 
stances, and draws our attention to them, and laughs 
at them, and covers them with confusion. " The heart 
of a great and triumphant emperor is but the breakfast 
of a little worm,^^ says he elsewhere, in the true Hamlet 

But the fact is that Montaigne, whatever may have 
been his secret convictions, makes profession of the most 
degrading passive obedience, unrelieved- even by any 
theoretical preference. He not only congratulates 
himself that the laws have chosen a master for him 
individually, and thus saved him a great deal of trouble, 
but elsewhere, alluding to the discussions of his time, 
distinctly says, " To desire to be governed by a few or 
in a popular manner, or to wish for any change in a 
monarchy, is vice and foUy.^^ He quotes his friend 



Pibrac, who, in a quatraiUy maintains the same thing \ 
adding the reason, very proper in the mouth of a 
sincere Catholic, ludicrous in that of Montaigne : '^ For 
God has caused us to be born in that condition/^ 
Elsewhere our indolent philosopher, exalting the hap- 
piness of passive obedience, is absolutely enthusiastic: 
" Happy the people which does what it is commanded 
to do better than they who command, without tor- 
menting itself about causes, which allows itselij quietly 
to roll on like stars in their celestial order ! Obedience 
is never pure and tranquil in him who reasons and 
pleads/^ All these fine phrases, we must remember; 
were written at a time when France was deluged with 
blood, in consequence of the refusal of its best citizens, 
who would " reason and plead,^' to square the pattern 
of their religion to the orders of Francis the First and 
bis insane and sanguinary i)rood ; and are intended, 
we must regretfully admit, as a justification of the 
monarchy, which was struggling to oppress the con- 
sciences of n^finuntil it chose, from caprice or judg- 
ment, to lay down other rules. Elsewhere, it is true, 
Montaigne pleads for mercy; but in doing so, accord- 
ing to his own theory, he departs from pure and tran- 
quil obedience. What he would have liked would have 
been a sort of Paraguay immobility, the people brigaded 
and kept in respectable ease, whilst he had full liberty 
to play with his own hopes and shake the hopes of 

A considerable portion of the Essays deals, how- 
ever, with the practical part of politics, on which Mon- 


taigne expresses his opinions very freely. Here and 
there we may find very good Whig wisdom. He 
discusses the conduct of princes and of parties with 
the idea of compromise ever in his mind ; but this 
part of his writings, together with his strictures on 
military and diplomatic matters, is comparatively un- 

§ 6. News from America. 

We have already seen that La Boetie's imagination 
was struck by the news that daily arrived of the won- 
ders of America, and that he conceived a project of 
colonisation. When Montaigne came to write on the 
same subject, he recovered all his natural sagacity. 
" Our world,^^ he says, " has just discovered another ; 
and who knows whether this will be the last of its 
brothers, since its existence was concealed until now 
from the Daemons, from the Sybils, and from us? ... . 
If we argue well, that other world will enter the light 
just as we are about to leave it.^' He exaggerates the 
simplicity of the Americans, and exalts their good faith 
and virtues above those of their conquerors. If the 
Greeks or Romans had discovered those vast regions, 
how diflferently would they have dealt with them ! 
The cruelty of the Spaniards excites his wrath. " Who- 
ever set at so high a price the service of trade and 
traffic ? So many cities razed to the ground, so many 
nations exterminated, so many millions of people put 
to the sword, and the richest and most beautiful part 


of the world desolated^ to favour dealings in pearls and 
pepper ! Mechanical victories 1 Never did ambition, 
never did public enmity^ urge men to inflict on each 
other such horrible hostilities^ calamities so wretched/^ 

The fortunes of America interested Montaigne so 
much, that he took into his service a man who had 
travelled there, and who constantly supplied him with 
information. He had lived ten or twelve years in the 
country where Villegaignon landed in 1557, — at that 
time called Antarctic France, now the Brazils. He 
resided long at the chateau, whither he brought from 
time to time sailors and traders whom he had known 
daring his voyage. Montaigne resolved to be satisfied 
with his information, without inquiring what the Cos- 
mographers said. 

The Essay " On Cannibals," in which Montaigne 
relates all this, may be said to contain his Utopia. 
Here we find the hint of Eousseau^s paradox against 
civilisation ; as well as the first sketch of Gonzalo's 
Commonwealth in the '' Tempest." — " It is a nation," 
to use the words of Florio's translation, from which 
Shakspeare copied many whole phrases, ^^ that hath no 
kind of trafficke, no knowledge' of letters, no intelligence 
of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politic siipe^ 
rioritie ; no use of service, of riches, or of povertie ; no 
contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation, 
but idle; no respect of kindred, but common; no 
apparel, but natural ; no use of wine, come, or metal* 
The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, 
dissimulations, covetousness, enyie, detraction and par- 


don, were never heard amongst them/' This passage 
had long ago been used by Commentators on Shak- 
speare ; but recently, with one or two other less direct 
examples, has been made the foundation of an elaborate 
theory on the influence of Montaigne on our dramatist. 
It is needless to point out how exaggerated this theory 
is. Many other writers were used more copiously by 
Shakspeare than was Montaigne. On the other hand, 
it would be interesting to trace in a moderate spirit 
the influence of the Essayist on the writers, not only of 
the age of Queen Elizabeth in England, but up to the 
reign of Queen Anne, when more modern French 
literature began to have its day. "Epitomes,'^ says 
Bacon, " are the moths and corruptions of learning.^' 
..." Every abridgment of a good book," says Mon- 
taigne, "is a stupid abridgment.^' Examples of this 
kind might be collected to make a volume. 

§ 7. Religion. 

When Protestantism was first introduced into 
France, the nobility* little serious in anything, adopted 
the new doctrines as they might have adopted a new 
fashion. At the court of Francis the First, despite that 
monarch's unenlightened bigotry, it was a mark of 
good taste and cultivation to be Protestant. The Re- 
form appeared only as a kind of witty and moral protest 
ag&inst the absurdities of the Church and the vices of 
the clergy. No one suspected the terrible earnestness, 
so opposed to the ordinary French character, that there 


was at the bottom of it. Even the court ladies piqued 
themselves on being Calvinistic, until it was found that 
in the new religion adultery was not only blamed, but 

But by degrees all this changed. The Church, 
taken by surprise at first — a fact well expressed in 
Bandello's story of the praises lavished on Luther by J 
Leo the Tenth — and then, for a time, puzzled how to 
r^ain lost ground, soon collected its forces and came 
back furious to the charge. If we look towards the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, we shall see a 
bright ray of sunshine resting on the earth ; but pre- 
sently a heavy black cloud comes and overshadows it. 
A long and sanguinary reaction, with many pauses, 
during which new strength was gathered, began. 
Never was the violent and MacchiaveUian character of 
the Catholic Church more completely exhibited than in 
France during the sixteenth century. The Albigeois 
were killed by men who, to a certain extent, believed. 
The Catholic Church in the sixteenth century believed 
in little save its temporal goods. To defend these, it 
lashed up itself and its ignorant adherents to fury. 
The Historian of the Jesuits calls Luther ^^ The Hog of 
Epicurus V* Let. us note that the Noyades were intro- 
duced into France by the Catholics, as punishments of 
a defeated party. They were first used, singularly 
enough, in the Loire, after the conspiracy of Amboise ; 
but the Protestants did not find the secret, as did later 
the Boyalists of France, of iterating their maledictions 
until their enemies were overwhelmed by public hatred. 


It is true^ this mode of proceeding was in harmony 
with that age. One of the Strozzis, happening to ob- 
serve that a number of loose women followed his army 
despite his repeated orders^ adopted the Turkish 
method^ and ordered eight hundred of them to be 
drowned. We must remember such examples when 
we estimate the cruelty of the Church, lest we be 
carried too far. Its crime was that it used force at all, 
without the stimulus of profound belief: the extent to 
which it used it was, of course, determined by the 
character of the age. 

It was about 1552 that all attempts at reconciliation 
between the Protestants and Catholics seem to have 
failed : none repeated them afterwards, save dupes or 
hypocrites. Montaigne was then a youth, and made 
his choice between the two doctrines; deciding in 
favour of the established religion with his friend La 
Boetie. A younger brother became a Protestant; and, 
as we have seen, maintained his new opinions with 
much zeal and heat. Pierre Eyquem remained a Ca- 
tholic^ and rather superstitious ; but, even in 1563, does 
not seem to have been very much hurt at the conversion 
of Beauregard. No doubt the latter had warm dis- 
cussions with Montaigne on religion. Perhaps it was 
he who used to hold that ^^ fantastical opinion,'^ accord- 
ing to which, all who showed much intelligence and 
professed Catholicism were hypocrites. At any rate, 
the Essayist had evidently been suspected of dishonesty 
in this respect. He, therefore, tells the story of a man 
who confessed to him that all his life long he had pro- 


fessed a religion which he thought damnable^ in ordei* 
not to lose his credit and position ; and severely blames 
such conduct. 

Montaigne takes up the extremest views of the 
Catholic Churchy and laughs at the people who thought 
to render the Bible more accessible by having it trans- 
lated into the vernacular. He will not even allow the 
words of Scripture to be quoted to appease debate^ 
depending entirely on the interpretations of authority. 
This is so like the language of a staunch Oatholic that 
I am not surprised simple men have been led astray ; 
have not perceived the sly innuendo of the Essayist ; and 
have written whole books to claim him as a faithful 
servant of Mother Church. Montaigne, by inclination^ 
by prudence, by indifference to religion generally, was 
averse to Protestantism, which he calls a '^contem- 
plative and immaterial religion ;" and this aversion 
alone made him two-thirds a Catholic. But he was 
not incapable of seeing the advantage which the com- 
petition of the new sect had proved of to the Church. 
From this point of view, he says, '^I know not if 
the utility does not surpass the damage ;^^ — a hint 
on which no true believer in that age would have 

But Montaigne in reality disliked Protestantism 
because it was new, and not victorious ; because it bored 
and frightened him. He never knew how much of his 
own speculations was derived from that source. All 
his life he professed dutiful submission to the Catholic 


Gburch. He went to chapel in his own house; and 
when he travelled^ took every occasion to attend mass. 
We shall presently see him on the road to Loretto, and 
kissing the Fope^s toe. He prayed and used the Lord's 
prayer, the more frequent repetition of which he recom- 
mended. He would have had it repeated at sitting 
down to table and at rising, on getting up in the 
morning and on going to bed. I suspect he took this 
bint, without acknowledgment, from the Protestants. 
But, at any rate, the whole "Essay on Prayer" breathes 
a true spirit of devotion, though rather such as might 
actuate a philosophical Christian or mere Deist, than a 
good Catholic. However, he had the habit of crossing 
himself on all occasions of peril, even when he yawned ; 
though he thought it wrong to use so sacred a sign so 
lightly. Elsewhere, defending the pomps and cere- 
monies of the Church against the Protestants, he says : 
'^ It will be hard to make me believe that the sight o£ 
our crucifixes and the painting of that pitiable death, 
that the ornaments and ceremonious movements of our 
churches, that the voices adapted to the devotion of 
our thoughts, and that emotion of our senses, do not 
warm the soul of the people with a religious passion of 
very useful effect.'^ Again : " There is no mind," be 
says, "so obstinate that it is not touched with some 
reverence at beholding the sombre vastness of our 
churches, the diversity of the ornaments, the order of our 
ceremonies ; at hearing the devout sound of our organs,' 
the harmony, ao measured and religious, of our voices^ 


Even they who enter with contempt feel a certain thrill 
in the hearty and a certain terror which makes them 
suspect their own opinion." 

('* And those who came to scoff remained to pray/') 

In fact, all through Montaigne^s writings we see 
traces that he was a professing Catholic — and the pro» 
fessor comes often to believe from habit — who, for 
good reasons of his own, wished equally to disculpate 
himself from the charge of being a Leaguer or a heretic, 
which had been brought against him : " I much dis- 
like that vicious form of expressing one's self, 'he 
belongs to the Ligue, for he admires the grace of 
M. de Guise ; — the activity of the King of Navarre 
astonishes him: therefore he is a Huguenot/ '^ 

Some one had condemned him for putting a heretic 
among the best poets of the age : ^' May I not say of 
a thief,'' he asks, rather unpolitely for Theodore de 
B^ze, "that he has a well-made leg?" 

It is not, however, so important for the estimation 
of Montaigne's character and doctrine as may at first 
sight appear, to decide what were the dogmas h& held 
in his ordinary life and moods. His distinctive 
characteristic is the internal boldness, encouraged by 
indifference, with which he grapples with his own 
opinions, as well as those of others, and shakes them, 
as if to see that they are solid, but without much care 
whether he does not leave them ever after unsteady 
and tottering. 

Though Reimmann classes Montaigne, with the 


suitors of Penelope and every one whom he dislikes, 
in his catalogue of Atheists^ it is certain that he 
believed in God, of whom he speaks with devout 
enthusiasm. He adopts the declamatory Ciceronian 
proofs of the existence of a Divine Being ; and, against 
his usual custom, suggests no doubts. 

Montaigne attacks idolatry, and, perhaps covertly, 
the Catholic worship of images, which he openly 
approved: "We cheat ourselves with our inventions, 
as children are frightened by their companion's face 
which they have blackened. We are very far from 
honouring Him who made us when we honour what we 
have made. Man is mad : he can't make a monkey ,- 
he makes gods by dozens ;'' and so forth. 

§ 8. Morals, 

The most considerable part of Montaigne's Essays 
is that which treats of Morals \ but of this I shall say 
the least. It is by his maxims and developments of 
the duties of man that he has gained his world-wide 
reputation; and nothing can be more beautiful than 
his method of saying the best-known truths over and 
over again, striking his reader each time with some new 
turn, some new figure, some new application. He 
admired and imitated the Stoicsi and Epicureans in their 
loftiest demands on human nature ; but it is impossible 
. to disguise that he was himself, to a certain extent, an 
Epicurean in the modern and now proper sense of the 
word. Thus there is a constant war between the 


sentences which so thickly stud the Essays^ especially 
towards the outset^ and the confessions that accompany 
and drolly nullify them, chiefly towards the end. In 
a word, Montaigne, though a good, and by no means 
licentious man, if compared with his age, made larger 
concessions, in theory and practice, to appetite, than 
any ethical writer would now venture to approve of. 
This was partly matter of temperament, but in part 
flowed from his system. Like Babelais, he was dis- 
gusted with the enormous contrast between the divine 
maxims of the " Imitation,^' and the practice of those 
who read and professed to admire them. "Let us 
aim at less and pretend less/* he cried ; " and perhaps 
our professions and our actions may be less far apart.^' 
Many men, of very pure manners, have sometimes felt 
a wicked delight in calling things by their right names 
in the presence of piety that suggests the idea of 
hypocrisy. A great deal of Montaigne^s obscenity is 
of this kind. But some is evidently introduced to 
make the Essays "a book for a parlour window ^^ — 
even to bring them within that class the diflSculty of 
reading which, in quarto days, a lady of the eighteenth 
century once deplored. Perhaps every heroic saying is 
counterbalanced by a little filth. 

A wonderful book of maxims and moral thoughts 
might be made out of the Essays — at the risk, some- 
times, of ascribing to Montaigne what had been said 
three thousand years before him — sometimes of ap- 
pearing to borrow from the world's general stock of 
proverbial wisdom ; — " Our minds are never at home. 


but ever beyond home/^ — " I will take care, if possible^ 
that my death shall say nothing that my life has not 
said.^' — " Life in itself is neither good nor bad : it is the 
place of what is good or bad/^ — "Knowledge should not 
be stuck on to the mind, but incorporated in it." — " Ir- 
resolution seems to me the most common and apparent 
vice of our nature." — "Age wrinkles the mind more 
than the face." — "Habit is a second nature," said 
Montaigne for the first time, we are told. — " Hunger 
cures love." — " It is easier to get money than to keep 
it." — "Anger has often been the vehicle of courage."-^ 
" It is more difficult to command than to obey." — " A 
liar should have a good memory." — " The world seems 
tnade only for brutal or divine minds." — " Ambition is 
the daughter of presumption." — "Reason is a pot with 
two handles, that you may take hold of right or left." — 
" To serve a prince you must be discreet and a liar." — 
"We learn to live when life has passed.^^ — " The mind is 
ill at ease when its companion has the colic." — " We are 
all richer than we think ; but we are brought up to go 
a-begging." — " The greatest masterpiece of man is . . • 
to be born at the right time I " 

§ 9. Scepticism. 

Montaigne once says : " We are, I know not how, 
of a double nature, so that what we believe we do not 

This sentence well expresses the state of uncertainty 
in which he himself seems to have remained on the 


most important subjects that occupy human specu- 
lation. In most men^ perhaps^ there is something 
of the sceptic, and of the believer at the same time; 
aad the opposition of these two characters may be the 
struggle of our animal and spiritual natures ; but in 
Montaigne the co-existence of two apparently inter- 
destructive principles was, in general, most remarkably 
evident. This appears to me, at any rate, a sounder, at 
least a more humane view, than that which makes him 
to have been a mere hypocrite when he went to mass or 
uttered devout sentiments, and more sensible than that 
which represents him as a good Catholic, anxious to 
fortify the Church by confounding and humiliating the 
reason of man. 

Montaigne's earnest desire to submit to the Church 
was nullified by his irresistible tendency to free 
examination. Naturally of an inquiring, doubting, 
balancing mind, he was forced to think, by the very 
Protestantism which he feared. When his father 
entrusted to him the task of translating and improving 
the arguments of Raymond de Sebonde, it is probable 
that some slight and fleeting hesitations on the great 
metaphysical facts which form the basis of religion 
— as the existence of an overruling Providence, and 
the immortality of the soul — had already disturbed 
him. These hesitations must have returned whilst 
the work was progressing ; and we may be quite sure, 
that whilst the study of the '* Natural Theology '^ gave 
to his mind and language a pietist hue which they 


never afterwards quite lost^ it left him in a state of 
uncertainty from which he never recovered. 

If we could helieve that Montaigne was capable 
of absolute hypocrisy, it would be after reading the 
famous *' Apologie*' from beginning to end. He sets 
out with the profession that he intends to take down 
the pride of human reason, in order to leave no rival 
to faith ; and yet, throughout that Essay, he employs 
now the most subtle argument, now the most audacious 
sophistry, in order to disturb the basis of faith. I 
shall not here attempt to analyse his sceptical reason- 
ings, my object being to describe the nature of the 
Essays, not to criticise them philosophically. These 
reasonings are not to be found only in the " Apologie,^' 
but are artfully scattered here and there, especially 
where you would not expect to find them; for the 
attack on miracles is introduced in an '^ Essay on Lame 
People.^' Now-a-days they are no longer new and 
surprising to the popular, as they were neither new 
nor surprising to the learned in the sixteenth century. 
Sextus Empiricus had embodied them long before, and 
the ancient schools were familiar with them. Bat 
they had not been circulated among the general public. 
For the last thtee hundred years, however, a class of 
literary men, chiefly in France, have become the pedlars 
of these old-fashioned wares, amidst which from time 
to time, at long intervals, a new article, or a newly- 
adorned one, takes its place. Every one is more or 
less prepared to be a customer. The faith which caa 


move mountains is as absent now as of yore from the 
world. But Montaigne did not expect^ as some of his 
less sagacious followers seem to have expected, to 
overthrow doctrines which are coeval with humanity, 
or even the creed against which he more particularly 
directed his attacks. Taking, as usual, his image of 
human nature from himself, and assuming a duality, 
according to which belief and disbelief necessarily exist 
side by side, he endeavoured to extend the dominions 
of the latter — partly because the former had too long 
reigned nominally supreme, and was tormenting the 
world ; partly from mere love of intellectual mischief. 
I have endeavoured already to show how Montaigne's 
scepticism was enlisted in the service of toleration, 
and that what he chiefly objected to was the ferocious 
earnestness of people who ^^ set their opinions at so 
high a rate that they were ready to burn those who 
differed from thera.'^ Most of his anti-Christian ar- 
guments, therefore, were used for the Christian purpose 
of appeasing the rage of man against man. I suspect 
he has never made a single unbeliever, and cannot 
imagine any one but a very serious bigot indeed being 
offended by his speculations. They come in, as it 
were, as part of the picture of man, always so liable to 
doubt and uncertainty. 

§ 10. Attack on Spiritualism. 

Whilst attacking dogmatism of all kinds, Mon- 
taigne was helping to carry out the great work of the 



sixteenth century^ which I shall call the Naturalisation 
of Man ; in other words, a return towards the avowed 
dominion of the natural instincts, which had heen 
theoretically too much suppressed and despised by the 
scholastic philosophy. This also was apparently an 
attack on Christianity ; but in reality only a pedantic 
and sham Christianity was concerned. There are far 
more concessions to the body in Scripture than theo- 
logians will allow; and exaggerated interpretation in 
this sense, but not mere delusion, was the origin of 
some of the extraordinary sects which sprung up as 
soon as the Scriptures were placed in the hands of the 

But Montaigne was not only an adversary of the 
theologians and metaphysicians of the middle ages; 
he laboured also — sometimes using popular prejudices 
and the most absurd fables as weapons — to deliver 
man from the horrible positiveness of science — 
science based chiefly on d priori reasoning, or on 
tradition. His now humorous, now fervid, attack on 
the doctors, was part of this work. Like Rabelais, he 
had dwelt so much on the arrogance of the men who 
professed to have a special call to take care of our 
bodies and our souls, that be almost hated them. At 
any rate, he was in perpetual insurrection against 
them, as he was against legislators and judges. There 
were more laws, he said, in France than would have 
sufficed to govern all the worlds of Epicurus. He 
dared to disbelieve in sorcery, and wrote with rare 
indignation against torture. Everywhere we find 


Montaigne meeting the solemn affirmative with an 
almost ironical negative. He wished to bring us 
down into the middle region ; but^ had not his influence 
been counteracted^ would have weighed us consider- 
ably below it. His pleadings for the body sometimes 
forget what is " supernatural and divine^' in us. 

§ 11. Ideas on Education, 

To Montaigne we owe the first rational system of 
education propounded in modern times. It is needless 
to insist on the beauty and simplicity of his theory^ t 
or on the exquisite language in which it is conveyed. 
There is, probably, no Essay better known than that 
addressed to Madame Diane de Foix, on the '^ Institu- 
tion^' of the little Count who was soon to be in her 
arms. Every sentence almost is pregnant with wis- 
dom ; and if we take into consideration the difference 
between these times and those, and are confined in 
our object to the education of a young gentleman of 
property, there really is nothing to add or to subtract. 
The rash and indolent students, who will not study 
for fear of stifling their originality, may learn the 
whole theory of reading by 'reflecting on the following 
figure : " The bees fly here and there rifling the flowers, 
but of them they make honey which is all their own ,* 
it is no longer thyme nor marjoram.*' 

Montaigne reminds the teacher of his duty» " It 
is not a soul, nor is it a body, you have to train, but a 
Man.'' He is indignant against corporal punishment 


Inflicted on children, and, indeed, forestalls most of 
the reasonable ideas of Bousseau. Lodke, too, was 
indebted to him for many hints. Indeed^ not only 
on this topic, but on most others, Montaigne^s Essays, 
being, from their form and substance, peculiarly sus- 
ceptible of such treatment, have been used as a store- 
house both of expressions and ideas — as often without 
as with acknowledgment. Thus he fell under the law 
of retaliation, but I am sure it is a libel to represent 
him as indignant thereat. 

§ 13. Concluding Observation, 

An endeavour to sketch some of the chief features 
of the Essays in a way suited to the undidactic cha- 
racter of this work has led me into a desultory chapter. 
It would, however, be difficult to describe so varied 
and complicated a work in a manner more connected. 
If my account be incomplete, it suggests at any rate 
the idea of incompleteness; and if an apparent con- 
tradiction sometimes occurs, it is because Montaigne 
is full of contradictions, which can be explained in 
only one way. " If I paint myself diversely,'' he says, 
" it is because I see myself diversely.'' How imprison 
a judgment of such a man's productions in a few even 
and consistent sentences ? Those who have endea- 
voured to do so, have generally been content to take a 
portion of Montaigne for Montaigne himself. For my 
part, I feel an uncertainty about some of his doctrines, 
which I should with regret see displaced by absolute con- 


viction. When a definite critical conviction is formed^ it 
is often put aside and allowed to grow rusty. Doubt 
keeps the mind active. — ^Was, then, the Essayist an 
absolute unbeliever, hiding behind the mask of false 
piety; or was he half a Christian, half a Pagan — an 
admirer sometimes of the Apostate Julian, sometimes a 
worshipper of "Truth itself?'^ Both opinions, as the 
Jesuits say, are probable; and I often feel inclined 
to lean towards the one, often towards the other. 
Morally and philosophically, however, it is a venture- 
some task to judge any man in the last resort; i^nd, 
after some years^ communion with a professed doubter, 
I have learned to doubt my infallibility as a critic. 

We must remember, finally, that Montaigne would 
not say ''I am ignorant,^' or " I doubt -/' fop this was 
affirmation; but adopted as his device the interroga- 
tion. Que sgAY-jE ? 

And with this perpetual question on his lips he 
passed through life. 


EVENTS OF Montaigne's life during the writing 


I BELIEVE the ordinary accouDt^ which makes Mon- 
taigne spend about eight years^ chiefly in Perigord^ 
after his retirement in 1571, to be the correct one. 
We cannot otherwise understand the production of the 
Essays. Tlie attempt to diminish the length and the 
intensity of Montaigne's seclusion, and to transmute 
him into a sort of small diplomatist and second-rate 
politician, who jotted down his thoughts on such trifles 
as morality and religion in odd moments, has not been 
successful. Luckily so. Posterity, indeed, cannot do 
otherwise than regret that, after his twenty years of 
experience of the court and public, life in a small way, 
Montaigne was not able to spend the whole remainder 
of his time in recording the results of that experience, 
and comparing outward facts with revelations of his 
inner life. ^' Every man is a fool or a physician at 
forty.'' What more has Montaigne to learn fi'om con- 
tact with men ? Too long experience of active life 


deadens th^ moral sense, and makes us love the world 
and it alone. There are millions of " observers^* who 
have nothing to tell us. If we were to find out that 
Montaigne^ as soon as he had set up his iuscription^ 
did really flinch and go perpetually hankering back 
for office and employment, or even the society of great 
people, we should be disposed to suspiect his value. 
He had no call to meddle in politics. He did not 
understand them. There were advocates enough of 
passive obedience; and it is already sufficiently dis- 
agreeable to find the friend of Estienne de la Boetie 
appearing, even at wide intervals, as a valet and a 

But although we may be quite sure that the two 
books of Essays first published — I mean the prepara- 
tory reading for them as well as the execution — were 
sufficient to occupy Montaigne the chief part of the 
eight years which Dom de Yienne says he spent in his 
chateau, it is not necessary to suppose that he abso- 
lutely shut himself up there and never on any occasion 
went forth. This would be too romantic a fact to be 
accepted, even if there were no positive proofs to the 
contrary ; as, for example, where he says that he wrote 
bit by bit, and was sometimes interrupted by absences 
of several months. He accounts in this way for the 
disconnexion of the Essays, their jerks and transitions. 
" I am no artist,^' he says, ** but write as I feel the 
impulse.^' In one place he attributes the origin of 
the Essays to a melancholy humour, produced by the 
chagrin of the solitude into which he had cast himself 


for some years ; but we know that he began to write 
at once in 1571, and dashed down the sketches of 
nineteen Essays in the first year. There is every ap- 
pearance that he made arrangements for his retirement 
with the deliberate intention of writing. But, as I 
have said, he never meant to imitate his friend the 
Dean of St. Hilary, and put himself in perpetual 

In order to prove Montaigne^s presence in Paris in 
1573, we are told that Charles the Ninth held then 
a chapter of the Order of St. Michel, in order to give 
a sort of sanction to the St. Bartholomew ; and as all 
the members were invited, it is supposed that our 
Essayist could not have failed to come. But we like 
to believe that Montaigne was not in Paris during that 
horrible year. At any rate, better proofs are required. 
Until they appear, let us imagine him studying quietly 
in his chllteau, and receiving from some chance pas- 
senger the news of the massacre. 

Until the Paris Matins, an unusual quiet had 
brooded over France, resembling the silence of nature 
about to give birth to an earthquake. When the 
shock took place, its vibrations were rapidly felt all 
tKrough France. Petty massacres took place here, 
fierce resistance rose there. In Guienne, the chief 
Protestants seized as many fortified towns as they could 
by surprise and escalade, and prepared to sell their 
lives dearly. Many little posts in the neighbourhood 
of Montaigne's ch&teau were occupied by rival parties, 
but there was little fighting. The Catholics were al- 


most ashamed of their victory. The Protestants were 
stunned; and many^ indeed, began to doubt whether 
those doctrines could be true which brought upon the 
country such terrible disasters. We need not be sur- 
prised^ therefore, if Montaigne complained of them as 
introducers of novelties. 

In 1573, the passage of the Dordogne was once 
vigorously disputed, and the whole country on its 
banks was overrun by small armed parties. But the 
great struggle was elsewhere, at La Bochelle — heroine / 
among cities. But another lull was preparing. De- 
spite the Republican pamphlets that were in circulation, 
there was no chance left of a modification in the form 
of government. The wretched Charles the Ninth 
died, and was succeeded by the equally wretched Henry 
the Third. The only palliation that took place was 
the formation of the party of Politicals, the basis of 
which had been laid before his death by L'HospitaL 
The chiefs of this party were Ouillaume de Montmo- ,y 
rency and Henri de la Tour, Vicomte de Turennes. 

Our Essayist was too cautious to join it at first. 
Indeed he seems to have been a member of the Ligue 
until that association openly broke with Henry the 
Third : afterwards he gradually veered toward the party 
of Henry of Navarre, without going further than loyalty 
allowed until the throne became vacant. 

We know that, in 1574, Montaigne was employed 
by the Duke of Montpensier, commanding one of the 
king's armies in Poitou about the time of Charles the 
Ninth's death, on a mission to the Parliament of 


Bordeaux. The secret registers of the Parliament con- 
tain^ indeed^ a statement to the effect that in May^ 
1574, it was announced that ^'the Sieur de Montaigne, 
a chevalier of the Order of the King, and formerly 
conseiller in the court, was in the hall of audience 
asking to speak to the said court, and that it was 
resolved that he should be admitted and allowed to 
take his place in the middle of the bureau of the 
Grand Chambre.. When the said Montaigne entered, 
he presented the letters of the Sieur de Montpensier 
addressed to the court. After they had been read, the 
said Montaigne made a long speech/^ 

The ''long speech ^^ has not been preserved, and 
we do not know on what business Montaigne was en- 
gaged. It is pretty evident, however, that being a 
distinguished member of the Boyalist and Catholic 
party, on whom distinctions had recently been be- 
stowed, be was employed to carry a message of some 
importance to a Parliament in which he had many 
friends. That his mission, however, had little influence 
on the course of public affairs, we may infer from the 
fact that De Thou, who got all his information on the 
history of Giiienne from Montaigne, never alludes to it. 
It is not necessary to suppose that this episode was of 
long duration, or distracted him very much from his 
studies. Whenever he sallied forth from his chateau, 
he must have seen new reasons, in the deplorable state 
of the country, to regret the absence from the world of 
the simple principle, '' live and let live,*' which he was 
employing himself in illustrating and enforcing. 


M. Oriin has some very ingenious and almost 
conclusive reasonings to prove that Montaigne was at 
court about this time, employed in his famous nego- 
ciation between the Guises and Henry of Navarre. 
He cleverly argues, also, that Montaigne was at court 
during the early part of the reign of Henry the Third> 
from an observation of his to the effect that formerly 
gentlemen remained covered in presence of the king, 
but that when he wrote the forty-third chapter of the 
First Book he said : '' we are now compelled to remain 
uncovered/^ This innovation was introduced by Henry 
the Third, it is true, but it is not proved that the 
practice was discontinued during his reign. The old 
custom was, however, revived afterwards, and is allu- 
ded to by Webster in '' The Duchess of Malfi /'— 

" I've heard you say that the French courtiers 
Wear their hats on 'fore the king." 

At any rate we must necessarily suppose a journey 
to court to account for the title of Gentilhomme ordinaire 
de la Chambre du Roi, which we find Montaigne bearing 
in 1580. But this journey took place probably just 
before the publication of the Essays. The Gentlemeii 
of the Bedchamber were then no longer called valets, 
and wore a gold key attached to their girdles. They 
were in every respect servants of the king. They 
became so numerous under Henry the Third, that, like 
the members of the Order of St. Michel, they ceased to 
be respected ; and we can only regret that Montaigne 
who, by the by, never received a title while it was worth 



havings consented, or was compelled, to take such an 
office. A debate has been opened as to whether he 
received any emoluments, but he himself boasts that 
he never got anything from a king; and as officers 
nominally entitled to a salary, unless Mignons, were 
scarcely ever paid by Henry the Third, it is possible 
that Montaigne gained nothing but a very equivocal 

It seems, at any rate, certain, that Montaigne's 
estate and chateau, being situated somewhat out of the 
way, suflFered little or nothing during the various wars 
that took place between the Saint Bartholomew and 
the publication of the Essays. This may partly have 
arisen from his not coming forward in an obnoxious 
manner, although he was universally known to belong 
decidedly to the Catholic interest. The identification 
of Montaigne with a party has not been sufficiently 
noticed. He always most clearly ranges himself under 
a particular banner. His *^Essay on Conscience" begins 
as follows : " As my brother, the Sieur de la Brousse, 
and I, were travelling one day during our civil wars, it 
fell out that we met a gentleman of good appearance. 
He was of a contrary party to ours ; but I knew nothing 
of it ; for he pretended to be what he was not. The 
worst of these wars is, that the pack is so beaten, 
your enemy is distinguished from you by no apparent 
mark, neither of language nor carriage. He has been 
brought up under the same laws, with the same 
manners, and in the same air, so that it is difficult to 
avoid confusion and disorder. This made me, myself. 


fear- to meet our troops in a place where 1 was unknown, 
lest I should be obliged to tell my name, or meet with 
worse annoyance. The poor gentleman whom we 
met was in such a dreadful fright, that he seemed 
ready to die every time we crossed a horseman, or 
passed through a town which held for the king. In 
this way I divined that his conscience was troubled. 
It seemed to him, that through his mask and the 
crosses on his cassock I could read in his heart his 
secret intentions.'' 

We have curious details on the state of Montaigne's 
bouse, and his way of life during this eventful period. 
He says, that in order to avoid attacks, he made a 
great show of not defending himself. He opened his 
doors, so that no one could have the excuse of being 
incited by the love of glory to attack him. Whoever 
knocked was admitted. The only defence was a porter, 
according' to ancient use and ceremony, who served not 
to forbid his door but to offer admission more decently 
and graciously. No one mounted guard or was sentinel 
for him, save the stars over his head. He objected to 
the system of semi-fortification adopted by his neigh- 
bours. " Unless you are well fortified, it is best not to 
be fortified at all." He notices the increase of facilities 
for attack, and says that his house was considered 
strong in old times, but that he had not gone on 
fortifying it. He knew that when peace came he 
should be obliged to destroy his works. Besides, in 
civil wars, your valet may be of the opposite party, and 
even your relations. To be always ready for defence 


would ruin any private finances^ and the only way 
would be to do as so many others did — to live on unpro- 
tected neighbours. Montaigne had seen many well- 
guarded houses provoke assault and be taken. "As 
for me/' he says, " let danger come, I will not call it. 
This is the retreat in which I rest from the wars. 
I try to relieve this comer from the public tempest as 
I do another corner in my soul. Our war may change 
its forms and multiply our parties if it pleases. I 
will not budge. Among so many armed houses I am 
the only man that I know in France, of my condition, 
who has confided purely to Heaven the protection of 
mine. I have never sent to a place of safety neither 
vessel of silver, nor title-deed, nor tapestry .'' 

We shall see, however, further on, what happened 
as times became worse and the country more de- 
moralised. During the whole of his first retirement 
Montaigne was almost unmolested. Several important 
events occurred in the neighbourhood. At the Paix 
de Monsieur, in 1576, so favourably to the Protestants, 
Perigueux was given to them, as one of their places of 
surety. In 1577 conferences took place between the 
representatives of Henry the Third and the King of 
Navarre, at Bergerac, and a treaty was signed. These 
treaties, however, were rarely adhered to by chiefs or 
partizans. In 1579 another conference was thought 
necessary at Nerac, and a new confirmatory edict. It 
was in 1579 that the Lovers' War broke out. Then 
Catherine was at Agen with Marguerite. In 1580 a 
conference was held at Fleix, between the Duke of 


Anjou and the Protestant delegates. Fleix belonged 
to the Marquis de Trans. The terms of the article of 
Nerae were reverted to. 

Buty unless some new documents are produced 
— and this is not likely — we may safely consider 
Montaigne to have been almost exclusively occupied 
from 1571 to 1580 with his Essays. 




At length the reward of Montaigne's exertions came. 
His manuscript was in a fit state to be delivered to the 
printer. It must have been curious to look at. 
Montaigne dictated a part of the Essays ; and probably 
had all copied. This is why he says, with gentlemanly 
ease : " My secretaries must answer for orthography 
and punctuation." He very probably, indeed, at first, 
did leave this care entirely to others. With good 
reason ; for, in spite of his elaborate education, the 
specimens we have of his own writing show that he 
generally spelt like an ignorant soldier. Afterwards, 
finding himself forced to attend to these things, he 
drew up a list of directions for the printer, which 
shows that he had good common-sense notions about 
orthography, mingled with some crotchets. 

We have very few facts to record with reference to 
the preparations made for publication. Sterne has 
said, that Montaigne feared his Essays would become 
" a book for a parlour-window." Montaigne had. 


certainly, the ladies much more in view when he wrote 
than any other author of the day, except the poets and 
romancers. And this although he pretends, with 
Moliere, that he would confine women to the wardrobe 
and the kitchen ! The influence of the sex on style in 
France began in the sixteenth century. Montaigfie felt 
it, tried to resist it, said coarse things in order to show 
his independence, but yielded, nevertheless, in a great 
measure. Mr. Emerson, in his " Representative Men,^' ^ 
curiously enough remarks, that the coarseness of Mon- 
taigne is explained by the fact that such writings were 
never intended to be read by ladies. This was so 
little the case, that not one of the Essays is dedicated 
to a man. Montaigne seems to have forgotten the 
cluster of noble friends to whom he inscribed the works 
of La Boetie. This is an observation that has not been 
made, and yet is particularly illustrative of his character. 
He tells us himself that the translation of Raymond de 
Sebonde had been much read by ladies, who had been 
puzzled by the meaning, and had come to him for 
enlightenment. He therefore wrote the *' Apology,'' 
addressing it to Marguerite of Navarre. The ^'Essay 
on the love of Fathers to their Children'' is addressed 
to Madame d'Estissac; the collection of La Boetie's 
" Sonnets" to Madame de Grammont ; the "Essay on 
Education" to the Gomtesse de Gurson ; and now, in the 
midst of the last Essay of the Second Book — that is, of 
the last Essay published in the first edition — we find 
intercalated a dedication to, Madame de Duras, another 
lady belonging to the Grammont family. That lady 




had recently paid hii^ a visits and had spent some time 
at his house. Her husband, Jean de Durfort, seigneur 
de Duras^ had just fought a duel, supported by Rosans, a 
relative, against the Vicomtes de Turennes and Salignac. I 

They fought on the banks of the Garonne, and the ; 

Duras obtained the victory. But they were accused of | 

foul play, and were compelled to hide at the house of 
some friend. As the residence of Madame de Duras at 
Montaigne coincides in date with this incident, it was 
probably to Montaigne that they retired. I may as well 
add that this Madame de Duras was the confidante, 
the female minister, of Marguerite of Navarre. When 
the latter left Paris, in 1 583, to return to the court 
of Nerac, whither news had been sent of her disorders, 
Henry the Third, her brother, caused her to be searched; 
and arrested Mesdames de Duras and Bethune. M. de 
Duras was afterwards her representative at Agen, whilst 
she was carrying on the war against her husband 
and her brother in the name of the Ligue; and so 
tyrannous over the inhabitants was he as nearly to 
drive them to insurrection. 

All the external incidents of this part of the life of 
Montaigne are but very obscurely known. The first 
edition of the Essays was printed and published at 
Bordeaux; but we have no statement as to the kind of 
success it met with. Fhilarete Chasles observes that 
the works of Tabourot, *^who never wrote six pages 
exempt from madness and bad taste,^^ had a greater 
vogue in that day than the Essays. This is possible. 


Montaigne himself has said that his book was not 
fitted for the loftiest or the humblest minds^ being too 
learned for the one and not enough for the other; but 
was made to live in a humble way in the middle region. 
I believe his popularity among the best intellects was 
immediate^ although we have no trace of criticism 
at first. The people of Gascony, who knew him 
personally^ thought it droll^ he says^ to see him in 
print. But as his book went further off it was better 
appreciated : he had to pay printers and publishers in 
Guienne; elsewhere they were eager to buy him. 
However^ it is evident the book sold and was read. 
The favourable reception of the first edition it was 
that encouraged him to go on^ though he feared to tire 
the public^ as a learned man of his age had done. He 
set to work at once to improve and polish what he had 
already published. 

As to the opinions of his personal friends^ he seems 
to have cared little about them ; for in his case^ as in 
most others, personal friends were the last to perceive 
his value. *' Really very clever for an illiterate country 
gentleman/' was at first the judgment of Pasquier and 
his learned colleagues. This was partly because of the 
absence of quotations from the classical authors. In 
subsequent editions Montaigne determined to repair 
this defect^ and sometimes inconveniently crowded his 
margin^ whence the notes ultimately were merged into 
the text. The irregular, fragmentary, but pregnant 
work thus created, is, or should be, in the hands of all 
serious readers. 




One of the most amusing and characteristic parts of 
the Essays is the persevering attack carried on against 
the Doctors. It was stimulated partly, as we have 
seen, by an old tradition in the family, and conducted 
in a humoristic way ; but it was connected also with 
Montaigne^s general scepticism, and his opposition to 
the formularism of his age. The great objection of 
literary men and thinkers to medicine has always been 
the arrogance of the doctors, their assumption of learn- 
ing, their absoluteness, their determination to apply 
rules at all hazard in a manner which our studies of 
'' the divers and undulating'^ nature of man, and our 
consideration of the fugitive circumstances which now 
envelope him and now disappear, teach us to be 
against reason in all departments. Montaigne did not 
understand Paracelsus, and was alarmed by Vesalius. 
The practice of anatomy may have appeared impious 
to him in some Catholic mood. He had read of the 
horrible dissections of live criminals, condemned by 


Gelsus^ but practised at Bome^ in the vain hope of 
discovering the mystery of life. Montaigne's way of 
speaking of the great revolutionist in medicine is 
remarkable, *^ They say/' he writes, ^' that a new- 
comer, named Paracelsus, changes and overthrows all 
the order of the ancient rules of medicine, and main- 
tains that up to this time it has only served to kill 
men. * I think he will easily be able to prove this; 
but as to putting my life in his hands, I don't think 
it would be a mark of wisdom." The movement of 
Paracelsus was contemporary with Montaigne's child- 
hood; and he must have been better known than this 
phrase would imply. But Montaigne was not the 
man to understand a reformer, who with the en- 
thusiasm of faith united the manners of an impostor. 
Indeed this strange being has not been understood 
until our own day, when he is at last admitted to have 
been the first man who did in medicine what Babelais 
and Montaigne did in morals, — the first to go direct 
to nature, without having anything whatever to do 
with the conventional maxims of the day. 

About the year 1579, immediately before the pub- 
lication of the first edition of the Essays, at the age 
of forty-seven, Montaigne wrote in substance : — " I am 
now seven or eight years older than when I com- 
menced writing, not without gaining something new, 
for I have now got the colic (he means the nephritic 
colic, produced by the stone) from the liberality of 
years. It is difficult to have much to do with them 
without some such fruit. But I wish they had given 



me anything else. This was the disease which from 
early childhood I most feared. However, during about 
eighteen months which I have suffered, I have already 
begun to get used to the pain, and even find grounds 
of consolation and hope ; so apt are men to cling, under 
no matter what circumstances, to this Wretched life. 
What a stupid humanity was that of Tamerlane, who 
killed all beggars he met, thinking he did them a 
favour by delivering them from life ! The sufferings 
which simply touch the soul afflict me much less than 
they afflict most men, partly because the world thinks 
many things horrible, to be avoided even at the price 
of life, which are nearly indifferent to me; partly 
because my complexion is stupid and insensible, not 
moved except by what concerns myself: which com- 
plexion I consider one of the best pieces of my natural 
condition. But essential and corporal sufferings I 
feel more keenly. Yet, when I looked forward to 
them from the midst of that long and happy health 
which God gave me during the best part of my time, 
they seemed to me more insupportable than I find 
them. In truth, my fear was greater than the pain. 
This strengthens in me every day the belief that most 
of the faculties of our souls, as we employ them, rather 
interfere with than assist the repose of life!'' 

'* I am seized by the worst of all diseases, — the 
most sudden, the most painful, the most mortal, and 
the most irremediable. I have already gone through 
five or six very long and painful attacks. However, 
either I flatter myself, or it is possible to sustain this 


state, for him whose soul is freed from the fear of 
death ; and freed also from the menaces^ coDclusions, 
and consequences with which medicine troubles us. 
But pain itself is not so keen that a solid man should 
be driven by it into rage and despair. This colic 
will do what remained to do in preparing me for death. 
It will detach me completely from this life, to which I 
hold by the love of life alone. God grant that it may 
not drive me to the other extreme, and make me wish 
for death ! '^ Montaigne then apologises for those 
who by sighs, groans, and cries, and violent gestures, 
testify their struggle with pain. '' What matters it 
if we wring our hands, so that we do not distort our 
minds ?^' For his part, however, he had met his 
disease with a better countenance than this, and was 
content to groan, but did not cry out. Either his 
pain^ he says, was not so excessive^ after all, or he 
had more firmness than common people. He com- 
plained when he was sharply pricked, but never went 
so far as despair. In the midst of his sufferings he 
was fond of examining himself, and he always found 
that he was capable of speaking, thinking, and an- 
swering as clearly as at any other hour, but not so 
constantly. " When they suppose me to be most 
cast down and spare me, I often try my strength, and 
start subjects of conversation quite foreign to my 
state. I can do everything by a sudden effort, but oh, 
take away duration. As soon as the pain passes I can 
return to my ordinary posture, for my soul is no other- 
wise affected than by the influence of the body ; and 



this I certainly owe to the care which I have always 
taken to prepare myself by reason for such accidents. 
It is true that I am tried somewhat severely, for I 
have suddenly passed from a very sweet and very 
happy condition of life to the most painful that can be 
imagined. The attacks come on so frequently that I 
am now scarcely ever in good health ; yet up to this 
hour I keep my mind in such a state that, provided 
I can go on this way, I shall consider myself in a 
better condition of life than a thousand others, who 
have neither fever nor pain except what they give 
to themselves by the fault of their reason." 

We have no ground for thinking that Montaigne 
gives other than a true account of the way in which 
he met the first attacks of the disease which troubled 
him all his life afterwards. It would, indeed, have 
been surprising if, after studying so long how to 
receive pain, and preparing himself for death so 
diligently, he had shown less fortitude than this. 

Montaigne^s father died of the stone, which seized 
him a few years before his death. The Essayist takes 
for granted that the disease was hereditary, though 
none of his brothers bad it, and does not note that 
it attacked him when he went to live at Montaigne 
under the same circumstances as his father. He was 
not sufficient of an experimentalist for that. I have 
read in Coray's " Commentary on Hippocrates" that 
the stone is very frequent in some parts of France, 
where it is caused by not drinking sufficient water. 

'^ My aversion to medicine," says Montaigne, " is 


hereditary^ like my disease. My ancestors detested 
medicine by some occult and natural inclination. The 
very sight of drugs was horrible to my father. How- 
ever, if this had not been the case I should have tried 
to cultivate this antipathy. My reason confirms my 
instinct. But I do not refuse medicine because of its 
bad taste. Health is worth being bought at the price 
of all possible cauteries and incisions; but there are 
other appearances which make me suspect physic. I 
do not, however, deny that there may be an art of 
medicine, nor that among all the works of nature 
there are things proper for the preservation of our 
health. There are simples that have specific effects, 
as I knovt' by experience ; just as I know that mutton 
nourishes, and that wine warms. Solon said that food 
was, like other drugs, a medicine against a disease of 
himger. [^' Iqi ongutrit la faim et la soif" in our days, 
says a French village cabaret.] I do not disavow the 
usage which we may derive from the world, nor doubt the 
power and fertility of nature, nor its application to our 
wants. I see that pike and sparrows find her treatment 
excellent, but I mistrust the inventions of our mind, 
of our science and art, for which we have abandoned 
nature and her rules, and which we wot not how 
to moderate. I know the glorious name of medicine 
and its promises to human nature, but its practice 
I neither honour nor esteem.'^ Montaigne then goes 
on to say that experience made him doubt of phy- 
sicians. None were so easily ill or cured with so much 
difficulty as those who were under their direction. 


He had often been ill^ and had always got through 
without their assistance. For this reason he cared not 
where he was, with or without aid, for he trusted to 
nothing but his own constitution. He accumulates 
instances of nations that lived without medicines, or 
with merely popular remedies. The villagers round 
about him whenever ill, no matter of what disease, 
always drank the strongest wine they could find, 
mixed with saffron and spices, and their system suc- 
ceeded as well as any other. In fact, all the general 
arguments directed by homoeopathy against positive 
medical science are to be found in Montaigne. 

Montaigne criticises the manners of the doctors of 
his day, and grimly complains that in such disorders 
as his, for example, disdainfully taking advantage of 
human misery, they administered rats' dung and other 
such filth. He alludes to ^'bim who had the throats 
of children cut in order to use their blood;" meaning, 
probably, Francis the Second, accused by the people of 
using this expedient, under the direction of his mother, 
to prolong his wretched life. I believe it was she who 
was said to have used a child^s blood "to make a 
wash." In fact, Montaigne found that all the pre- 
judices and superstitions of the ancients continued in 
practice up to his own time, with the addition of many 
others. Medicine, indeed, had become so confused and 
arbitrary, that it was rather a magical art than a 
science. He notices the recent introduction of gayac, 
sarsaparilla, and other drugs ; but, as I have said, the 
revolutions attempted in his time — equivalent to the 


revolutions in religion^ philosophy^ literature^ and the 
arts, — by Paracelsus^ Fioravanti, and Argenterius, he J 
did not appreciate. As might have been expected^ he 
takes a malicious pleasure in enumerating the mistakes 
of doctors. A kind of plague had ravaged the country 
in his neighbourhood shortly before^ and carried away 
an infinite number of men. As soon as the storm was 
passed^ a famous doctor published a pamphlet on the 
subject, and confessed that the chief cause of the 
mortality that took place was that the disease was met 
by bleeding, instead of some other remedy. Recently 
also, at Paris, a gentleman was cut for the stone, who 
had no such disease ; and a bishop, a great friend of 
Montaigne, called him once to come and advise him 
whether he should comply with the wishes of the 
doctors, and consent to be cut. Montaigne, on' the 
faith of others, persuaded him. When he was dead 
and opened they found his disease had some other seat. 
These and other accidents made Montaigne determine, 
whatever might happen, never to consent to the opera- 
tion. " These doctors,^^ he says, " don't know anything 
about the police of this little world. Because they 
would not stop a dysentery for fear of bringing on 
fever, they killed me a friend, who was worth more 
than them all put together ! " 

Among Montaigne's friends was the Baron de 
Caup^ne en Ghalosse,- son of the Marechal Montluc. 
They enjoyed in common the right of patronage over 
a benefice of great extent, at the foot of the mountains 
(of Perigord) called Lahontan. ^^The inhabitants of 


this corner, like those of the valley of Angrogna/' saysr 
Montaigne, '^had a life apart, ways, costumes, and 
manners apart. They were governed by certain private 
laws and customs, handed down from father to son, 
which they obey without any other constraint than their 
own reverence. This little state had continued from 
the most ancient times in a condition so happy, that 
no neighbouring judge had been called in to meddle 
with their affairs, no lawyer had been employed to 
give them advice, no stranger invited to settle their 
quarrels, and none of them had ever been reduced to 
beggary. They fled the alliances and commerce of the 
outer world, in order not to corrupt the purity of their 
government, until, as they say, one of them, (remem- 
bered by their fathers), having his mind pricked by a 
noble ambition, and desirous of bringing his name into 
credit and reputation, took it into his head to make one 
of his children, Maistre Jean, or Maistre Pierre ; and 
having caused him to learn to write in some neighbour- 
ing city, turned him out at last as a fine village notary. 
This gentleman began to disdain the ancient customs of 
the place, and to suggest the pomp of the outward 
regions. The first of his compeers who lost a goat was 
counselled by him to appeal to the royal judges of the 
neighbourhood, and so on till all was bastardised. • After 
this corruption, they say, there was introduced inconti- 
nently another still worse, by means of a doctor, who 
took a fancy to marry one of their girls and establish 
himself among them^ He began to teach them first the 
names of fevers, rheums, tumours, the situation of the 


hearty of the liver, and the intestiDes, of which they had 
no previous knowledge ; and instead of garlic, with which 
they had learned to expel all sorts of ills, he taught them 
for a cough or for a chill to take strange mixtures, and 
dealt not only in their health, but also in their death. 
They swear that it is only since then that they have 
perceived that the night-air made their heads heavy, that 
drinking hot hurt them, that the winds of autumn 
were more injurious than those of spring; and that 
since the use of this medicine they have found them- 
selves overwhelmed with a legion of unaccustomed 
diseases, perceive in general a falling off in their ancient 
vigour, and find their lives shortened by one half/^ [ 

As Montaigne had mauy doctors among his friends, 
he thinks it necessary to say that he has seen many 
honest men in the medical profession worthy of being 
loved. It is not them he attacks, but their art ; and 
he does not think them very wrong for taking advan- 
tage of human stupidity, for on these principles the 
greater part of the world was governed. He even 
called them in when he was ill, if they happened to be 
near, talked to them, and paid them like other people. 
But he never complied with their directions, unless 
they agreed exactly with his own common sense. 

It is in the midst of this Essay on his disease that 
Montaigne introduces the dedication to Madame de 
Duras, of which I have already spoken. Writing to 
her he says that the doctors, when they despair of their 
patients, send them on a pilgrimage, or advise them to 
go to a watering-place. " Do not be angry, madame,'* 



he adds ; '^ this does not allude to the watering-places 
in this country, which are all under the protection of 
your hquse — all Graoimontoises." Montaigne him- 
self waiB, to a great extent, a believer in medicinal 
baths. Many of his absences from his chateau, between 
the years 1571 and 1580, supposed by some to have 
been caused by political motives, were really employed 
in visiting the various watering-places in the Pyrenees. 
He preferred going to the baths where much com- 
pany assembled, which were prettily situated and com- 
fortably arranged for visitors, and mentions among 
these Bagn^res. But he seems to have tried them all; 
as Aigues Caudes, on the mountain of Ossan, in Beam ; 
Barbotan, in the county of Armagnac ; and Fressac, 
near Acques, in Gascony. It was partly because he felt 
no relief from these baths, though chiefly, perhaps, 
because he wished to see the effect of his Essays in 
Italy, that in the year 1580, immediately after he had 
done printing, he began to make preparations for the 
longest journey he had yet undertaken. He was a 
traveller, however, by nature; and, as we have seen, 
must have spent a great part of his time in moving to 
and fro. We must now, therefore, before accompany- 
ing him to Italy, make acquaintance with his manners 
on the road. 




In Montaigne^s days^ despite the want of our modern 
means of communication^ there was much moving to 
and fro ; and France^ although by no means equal to 
Germany in that respect, was tolerably well furnished 
with that essential thing to wayfarers — good hotels. 
Great care was taken with the government of these 
establishments. All aubergistes, cabaretiers^ and ta- 
verniers were obliged to be provided with royal letters 
or licenses; and all places of rest for travellers had 
written over them in large characters, "Hostelerie, 
Cabaret, or Taverne, by permission of the king." 
There were auberges for foot-travellers and auberges 
for horse-travellers, each with tixed prices, written in a 
conspicuous manner outside; as "Dinner for a foot- 
traveller, six sols; bed for a foot-traveller, eight sols ;" 
or else '' Dinner for a horse-traveller, twelve sols ; bed 
for a horse-traveller, twenty sols." A man travelling 
on horseback could not dine for six sols, and a foot- 
traveller was not allowed to be so extravagant as to 



spend twelve. It is woHh mentioning^ as we sliall 
principally have to deal with Montaigne on horseback^ 
that when such a traveller could not pay his bill^ the 
host had the alternative of sending him to prison or 
seizing his horse. In 1563, an ordonnance of the 
Parliament of Paris decreed that the hotel-keepers should 
disarm their hosts as soon as they entered, in order to 
check the sanguinary brawls that took place between 
parties of rival opinions. 

In the sixteenth century there were a good many 
excellent roads in France, constructed principally by 
means of forced labour, in true Egyptian style, though 
sometimes out of the revenues of the provinces. But, 
once these high roads abandoned, the country was 
traversed by means of tracks. We learn a good deal 
from the Itineraries of the day, which tell you where 
on such a road the pavement commences or finishes, 
and where there is no road at all. In the latter case 
they become very communicative, advising you to 
'' turn to the right," to " turn to the left,'' to '' go 
above the village," or " below it,'' to " cross such a 
field," or '^ follow the ditches in such a direction," and 
so forth. They also tell what roads deserve the name 
of Chemins du Diable, or Rues d'Enfer ; where brigand- 
ages have been committed, what passages are dan- 
gerous ; and now and then significantly say, " Pass 
quickly." They do not forget to note what are the 
best hotels — the White House, or the Red House;, 
where are to be found good beds, good wine, and good 
landlords ; and even point out occasionally the curio- 


sities of the country. " See the Leap of Begnault de 
Montanban/^ says one. 

The great difficulty in travelling was the passSge of 
rivers. There were comparatively few bridges — one 
of the most noted in France was at Bergerac^ near 
Montaigne — and even ferries were not always found. 
A traveller often had to ford, or even swim a river. 
Montaigne mentions that he had swam rivers on horse- 
back, and thought it not dangerous when the horse 
could get easily into the water, and there was a good 
landing-place. He did not like boat-travelling, con- 
sidered the most luxurious in his days. He was very 
subject to sickness, but could stand a rough tossing 
about better than the slight jerk produced by the oars 
in calm weather. He was frequently, however, forced 
to travel in this way, and alludes often to sailing across 
streams, floating down, or ascending by means of the 
towing-rope. When he moved about with his family, 
he was often compelled to use what was called a coche 
d^eauj sometimes decked out in those days with flowers, 
in order to attract passengers. When he wished 
to go down to Blaye from Bordeaux, there was the 
gabarre, called " The Eel/' which plied every mornings 
weather permitting. 

Montaigne's Essays, from the very beginning, are 
full of allusions to his travels, and the benefit he 
derived from them. He tells us that when on the 
road, in order to profit by communication with others 
— one of the best schools possible — he always took 
care to bring those whom he met to talk about the 



things with which they were best acquainted, about 
their trade and occupation, not about general subjects. 
Blsewhere he ridicules the travelling of the nobility 
of his days. "Our French nobility/' he says, "come 
back and tell us how many paces broad is the Sancta 
Botonda, and what a beautiful pair of drawers the 
Signora Li via wore, and that the face of a Nero iu 
such a ruin is longer or broader than in such a medal ; 
but they never think of studying the manners of 
the nations they pass through.^' There is no point 
upon which Montaigne so much insists as on the 
advantage of travelling. He seems to think that 
there was no school so good; but admits that one 
of his own reasons for leaving his home was . a vague 
and unquenchable desire of the unknown. As he 
grew old, indeed, he became restless and uneasy; 
and even persuaded himself that he should have liked 
to start away and travel all his life over the world, 
seeking a place of repose, but without feeling the 
obligation to return to his ch&teau. If any one 
asked him the reason of his voyages, he always replied : 
"I know well what I am, but I do not know what 
I seek.'' It appears that his friends, perhaps incited 
by Fran^oise de la Chassagne, thought him wrong after 
he was married, and when he began to get old, to 
continue to travel. But their reasonings had no eflfect 
upon him. Nothing could restrain him from riding 
out in search of intellectual adventures, — for material 
ones he always avoided. Though he never composed 
Essays except at home, he was always on the watch for 


anecdote and illustration. He remembered, when he 
wrote^ incidents that happened before he became a 
writer. " I was one day going to Orleans/' he says, 
" and met on the plain this side of Clery, two Regents, 
on their way to Bordeaux, about fifty paces one before 
the other. Further behind I saw a large company, with 
a master at their head, who was no other than the late 
Count de la Rochefoucauld, [murdered at the Saint 
Bartholomew]. One of my people inquired of the 
first of these Regents (university professors) ^ who 
was that gentleman who came behind?' He had not 
turned round to see the troop I mention, and 
thinking his companion was alluded to, answered 
drolly, ' He is not a gentleman ; he is a grammarian, 
and I am a logician.' " Elsewhere Montaigne notices, 
as a vicious custom of his nation, that of stopping 
people on the road, and asking them who they 
were, and being offended by their refusal to answer. 

Montaigne, as I have said, always travelled on 
horseback. He liked to have a considerable suite, 
and did not care much for expense. He entrusted, 
indeed, all money-matters to a servant, in whose 
honesty he had confidence — apparently the same who 
acted as his secretary. When be started for Italy 
he admits that he felt some pain at separating from 
his family; but he did not *fiinch, for he had not 
only to struggle for life but to enjoy his fame. 

There is some obscurity, about his firg(t movements. 
He left his ch&teau on June 22, 1580 ; and seems to 
have gone straight to Paris. Probably he there 


learned that his Essays were likely to give great 
offence to bigoted Catholic partisans^ and in order 
to conciliate them he actually went and joined the 
army of Mar^ehal Matignon^ which was besieging 
La F^re. On this occasion^ at any rate^ he acted 
as a soldier of the Ligae. He found many of his 
friends in the camp — among others the husband of 
the famous Corisande d'Andouins, the Count of 
Grammont. This gentleman was killed by a cannon- 
shot on the sixth of August^ and Montaigne and 
many other persons set out for Soissons to accompany 
his body. The Essayist notes that the pomp and 
solemnity of their procession moved the people of 
the places through which they passed even to tears, 
although no one knew the name of the deceased. 

After having shown his good will to the cause, 
Montaigne, exercising the privilege which gentlemen 
arrogated to themselves in those days of joining and 
quitting an army when they pleased, returned to Paris ; 
and determined at once to set out for Germany and 




The Journal of Montaigne's Travels was in part kept 
by a confidential servant, who noted down, sometimes 
in his own language, but generally under dictation, all 
the incidents that occurred, and all observations made. 
It is somewhat uncouth reading; and full of most 
minute details on the progress and symptoms of the 
traveller's disease. But it is very remarkable for its 
tone — so different from that adopted now-a-days, even 
by the most liberal and enlightened Frenchman as soon 
as he passes his frontier. There is no assumption of 
superiority, no vulgar contempt aroused by difference 
of manners — contempt analogous to that of the clown 
who sees a well-dressed stranger pass through his 
hamlet — no boasting, no impertinence; but a calm, 
equable, almost indifferent way of setting down facts, 
as if they referred to beings different in nature from 
him. Montaigne's philosophical meditations have 
borne good fruit. He sees his brother in the German, 
the Swiss, and the Italian, before he sees the German, 


the Swiss, or the Italian. Even the Memoir-writers of 
that age have, it is true, something of this cosmopolite 
feeling, which has at last utterly disappeared ; being 
forced out, as it were, by a series of prejudices cast 
into the French mind — as if you were to cast stones 
into a well and fill it to its brink, causing the water to 
overflow and be lost. Sut Montaigne's impartiality 
was so great, that his ignorant secretary absolutely 
mistook it for hatred towards his own country I 

I shall rapidly sketch this journey, pausing every 
now and then to give specimens of the kind of ob- 
servations Montaigne thought it important to record. 
We shall thus at the same time make farther acquaint- 
ance with the character of his mind, and obtain some 
insight into the manners of the generation which was 
called upon to read and relish the Essays. Montaigne's 
fame, we may infer, had already preceded him in 
many places. His work was published in the spring 
of 1580, and had had four or five months to circulate. 
In those days of eager^ learned correspondence, this 
was more than sufficient, even in the absence of adver- 
tisements and reviews, to allow all choice spirits to 
learn the news. 

We left Montaigne at the siege of La Fere. The 
Journal takes him up at Beaumont, whence he had 
just sent his brother, Mattecoulon, to inquire after the 
health of a certain Count, who had been wounded; 
but, as it appeared, not mortally. Here M. d'Estissac 
joined the party, accompanied by '^a gentleman, a 
valet-de-chambre, a mule, a muleteer on foot, and also 


two valets/' The gentleman appears to have been M. 
de Hautoy. Montaigne had the same suite^ and it was 
agreed to share expenses. Leaving Beaumont on the 
fifth of September, 1580, they went to sup at Meaux ; 
where, among other curiosities, they visited the Abbey 
of St. Faron, and the tomb of Ogier the Dane, and 
another of his Paladins. ''In the treasury are the 
bones of those knights. The upper bone of the arm is 
about the length of the whole arm of an ordinary man 
in these days, and a little longer than that of M. de 

The traveller made a point of visiting all learned 
men who lived by the way. At Meaux he called on 
Juste Terrelle, and examined his library and garden. 
Two or three days afterwards he was at Espernai, 
seeking, in the church of Notre Dame, for the tomb of 
Strozzi, whom he had seen killed when young at the 
siege of Thionville. "It was the custom,'^ however, 
of Montaigne and D'Estissac to go to mass at every 
opportunity: the former, indeed, could not by any 
means afford to neglect that duty. After the service 
Montaigne went up to Maldonat, a famous Jesuit, and 
talked learnedly with him both there and after dinner, 
to which he invited him at the hotel. The baths of 
Spa formed also a subject of copious conversation. 
The Jesuit brought with him a maistre d'h6tel of M. 
de Nevers, who gave to Montaigne a printed statement 
on the difference between his master and the Duke of 
Montpensier, as to the Baillee des Roses in the Parlia- 
ment, '' in order that he might know the facts, and be 




able to instruct gentlemen who were inquisitive on the 

At Vitri le Frangois Montaigne learned three 
memorable histories : — firsts that Antoinette de Bour- 
bon^ mother of the Great Ouise^ was still livings aged 
eighty-seven, and able to walk a quarter of a league a 
day ; second, that a girl had just been hung for dis- 
guising herself with several companions in male 
costume, and carrying the joke so far as to marry a 
damsel of the neighbourhood; third, the odd story, to 
be found in the Essays, of Marie Germain, who was 
changed suddenly from a female to a male, and re- 
baptized by the Cardinal of Lenoncourt. Ambroise 
Pare believed this story ; and the girls of Vitri 
hummed about the streets a song, warning one an- 
other to be careful how they trod, for fear of meta- 
morphosis I 

After passing Bar, ^^ where M. de Montaigne had 
formerly been,'* the traveller suffered a good deal, and 
determined to hasten to the Baths of Plombi^res. At 
Donremy they learned that " the descendants of Joan 
of Arc " had received letters of nobility : the front of 
the house where she was born was covered with paint- 
ings, representing her high deeds, but much damaged 
by time. Further on a visit was paid to the nuns of 
Foussay, of an order established for the education of 
daughters of great families. Children at nurse were 
received. The nuns were not bound to celibacy ; and 
gentlemen who wished to marry them could go and 
court them if they pleased. In general, however, they 


were too satisfied with their condition to desire a 
change. / 

At Plombidres Montaigne resolved to stay some / 
time^ drinking the waters and taking baths. His 
secretary everywhere describes most minutely bis regi- 
men and its effect. But I shall rarely allude to this 
subject, it being sufficient to remember that Montaigne 
was a valetudinarian in search of health, believing not 
in doctors, but a good deal, in spite of affected incre- 
dulity, in the virtues of mineral waters. The baths 
were usually deserted after August, but the weather 
was so fine that year that some company still remained. 
Among others whose acquaintance Montaigne made in 
the bath-room was the Seigneur d'Andelot, formerly 
in the service of Charles the Fifth, and governor for 
him of St. Quentin. One side of his beard and one 
eyebrow were white; and he related that this change 
came to him in an instant one day as he was sitting at 
home, with his head leaning on his hand, in profound 
grief at the loss of a brother, executed by the Duke of \/ 
Alba as accomplice of Counts Egmont and Home, x^ 
When he looked up and uncovered the part which he 
had clutched in his agony, the people present thought 
that flour had been sprinkled over him. 

Montaigne lodged at the sign of the "Angel/' 
which was near the two baths; and commends the 
good cookery, the comparative cheapness, and the com- 
fort of the place. He liked the fashion of rooms com- 
municating not through the partition walls, but by 
means of an outside gallery. " The wine and bread 


are bad/' he says ; " but 'tis a good nation^ free, sen- 
sible, and serviceable. All the laws of the country 
(Lorraine) are religiously observed.'^ Montaigne gives 
in full a quaint series of bye-laws for the regulation of 
the watering-place. According to its provisions, the 
repression of minor offences was left in the hands of 
the Protestant Germans, "as of old;'' but they were 
enjoined to be impartial, and to avoid " uttering blas- 
phemy and irreverent words against the Catholic 
Church and its traditions :" no one was to carry arms, 
to use insulting words, or give the lie to any one ; no 
public women were to come within five hundred yards 
of the baths under penalty of the whip ; no dames, 
demoiselles, women, or girls, were to be insulted by 
men, verbally or otherwise, in the water, (where men 
were in drawers and women in chemises) ; at night 
modesty and silence were enjoined, without noise, 
scandal, or derision — such was the will and pleasure 
of Claude de Bynach, Bailly des Vosges, representing 
the Duke of Lorraine. 

Montaigne remained ten days at Flombi^res. On 
departing, he commanded his secretary to leave an 
escutcheon of his arms in wood, — which a painter of 
the place had executed for an 6cu — in the charge of 
the hostess, who undertook to have it fixed carefully to 
the wall of the bath outside. This was " according to 
the humour of the nation" — not, of course, to satisfy 
Montaigne^s vanity. At Bemiremont was found good 
treatment at the *' Unicorn." Here was a famous 
convent of nuns, of the same order as those of Foussay. 


The abbesses pretended to the sovereignty of Remire- 
mont. MM. d'Estissac and Montaigne visited them 
at once. They were in the midst of the excitement of 
an election : Renee d'lnteville^ the abbess^ had just died ; 
and Barbe de Salme was a claimant for the post. Her 
ambition was successful^ and she held her place for more 
than twenty years. 

The oldest nun of the convent was of the house of 
Ludre. Hearing that Montaigne was at Flombieres 
she sent her compliments to him, with some artichokes, 
partridges, and a barrel of wine. He made a call in 
return for this civility ; and learned in conversation that 
certain neighbouring villages were bound to pay the 
convent as rent, on every day of Pentecost, two basins of 
snow, or a cart with a yoke of four white oxen : the 
snow had never yet failed. Next day the party was 
already in the saddle, when the same old lady asked for 
another interview with Montaigne. Having learned 
that he was going to Rome, the nuns had talked over 
the matter, and requested him to take charge of their 
affairs and act as their attorney ! 

At Bossan Montaigne and d'Estissac, dressed in 
linen garments lent to them for the purpose, visited 
some deep silver mines belonging to the Duke ; and 
afterwards, having been shown the eyries of the vultures 
on inaccessible rocks, and passed the sources of the 
Moselle, entered Germany at Than. 





The extent of the vineyards was the first thing that 
struck the Gascon travellers on their way to Mulhouse. 
At that city Montaigne made haste to visit the church, 
"for the people were not Catholics/^ and found it but 
little changed. He took infinite delight at beholding 
the liberty and good police of that nation ; and was 
interested to see his " host of the Grape " return from 
presiding at the Town Council, held* in a magnificent 
gilded palace, to serve him at table. At Bale, the 
government showed that they knew how to appreciate 
the distinguished strangers who had come among them. 
An officer was sent with a present of wine, and made a 
long speech to them as they sat at table ; to which 
Montaigne replied also, in a very long speech, in 
presence of many Germans and Frenchmen who hap- 
pened to be there. The landlord acted as interpreter ! 
This must have been an amusing scene. 

Montaigne visited the house of Dr. Felix Platerus, 
deliciously painted h la Franqoise^ and found that he 


had invented a system of preserving plants glued upon 
paper — the herbarium. He saw also many other 
learned people, as Grynceus, the author of some well- 
known Theatrum, and Francis Hottoman, who had 
escaped from the Saint Bartholomew. The people did 
not seem to agree in their religious opinions, some 
calling themselves Zuinglians, others Calvinists, others 
Martinists (or Lutherans). Montaigne made queries 
on all sides, ^^and thought that many were still Catho- 
lics at heart.^^ The question of the Sacrament was not 
discussed by the ministers, as likely to lead to dis- 
sension. Outside the churches the images were left 
entire, and even the old tombs, ''jthough covered with 
prayers for the dead.^' 

Montaigne is particular in noticing the progress of 
what we may call material civilisation. From Espemay 
to B^le, even the meanest village house had glass panes 
to the windows. Iron was abundant; so were good 
workmen in that article. "They surpass us in this 
by much,'^ says Montaigne. " The smallest church, 
moreover, has a magnificent clock.'' He admired the 
tiles with which the roofs and floors were covered ; and 
the delicate stoves covered with porcelain. But they 
cared "more for their dinners than for anything else/' 
for whereas their dining-rooms were superb, their 
chambers were mean ; no curtains to the beds, three 
or four beds side by side in the same room ; no chim- 
neys; no means of making a fire except in the public 
room ; no wooden shutters over the glass ; dirty sheets, 
— all these things are made the subject of complaint. 




But the cookery^ especially of fish^ is praised. The 
wines were delicate^ but ^'the gentlemen found them 
weaker without water than those of Gascony with.'' 
The servants ate at the table with their masters ; and 
the service was altogether conducted in a novel manner. 
Horse-radish was eaten with roast meat. Fresh-water 
lobsters were in great request. People washed their 
hands at a little spout in the corner of the room^ as in 
French monasteries. The plates were almost always of 
wood — from custom^ not poverty ; for by their side were 
great silver tankards in profusion. All wooden articles 
of furniture, even the ceilings, were furbished and kept 
bright. Montaigne here, for the first time, saw smoke- 
jacks in use. People sat for hours at table ; " and in 
truth, he observes, they eat less hastily than we do, 
and in a more wholesome manner.'' The cost of living 
was about the same as in France about Paris. 

Montaigne went afterwards to Baden, where he 
found magnificent hotels. There w^re three hundred 
mouths to feed daily in the one where he lodged. The 
town seemed to him very handsome ; for, besides that 
the streets were broader and opener than in France, the 
squares vaster, and the windows richly furnished with 
glass, they were accustomed to paint the outside of the 
houses and load them with very agreeable devices. No 
town, moreover, was richer in fountains. The baths 
were well arranged ; and Montaigne says that ladies 
could with propriety be taken there, as t!iey could have 
a room to themselves. The people of the country sat 
all day long in the water eating and drinking. 


At Baden Montaigne made acquaintance with a 
Swiss gentleman, who was in the French service. He 
talked with him for a whole day on Swiss politics ; 
and was shown a letter from Harlay de Sanci, the 
French Ambassador, naming this gentleman as his 
substitute whilst he went to meet Catherine de Medici / 
at Lyons. The Secretary describes the departure of 
this political agent with four horses, one for himself, 
one for his valet, one for his son, and one for his 
daughter, a tall, beautiful girl, who had a cloth housing, 
a French stirrup, with a porte-manteau behind, a band- 
box at the saddle-bow, and no woman servant, though 
she had two long days' journey before her. " I think," 
says Montaigne, '' that the dress of the women about 
here is as clean and nice as ours : their own hair hangs 
down in braids behind ; and if you playfully knock off 
their caps they are not offended V^ He had tried that 
game, I suppose. " The younger girls, instead of caps, 
wear nothing but garlands of flowers on their heads. 
... In saluting them you must kiss your hand, and 
offer to touch theirs. If you take off your hat, or bow 
ever so, they don't understand it ; and remain for the 
most part bolt upright : some bend their heads a little. 
They are in general beautiful women, tall and fair.'* 

Montaigne observed that they were a good sort of 
people to those who knew how to adapt themselves to 
their manners. For his part, '^in order to experience 
to their full extent the diversity' of manners and 
usages,'' he always got himself served according to the 
custom of the country he was in, however inconvenient 



it might be. In Switzerland^ the only things that 
annoyed him were the napkins, half-a-foot square ; but 
then every man had a wooden spoon with a silver 
handle, and always carried a knife about with him. 
"A Swiss/^ he observes, " rarely puts his fingers in the 
dish.^^ This reminds us of the primitive ways of 
France in those times, when forks were not. Mon« 
taigne was delighted with the rooms warmed with 
stoves, and at last came to sleep in one. Stoves he 
preferred to fires : " At any rate, we don't bum our 
faces and our boots before them, and are quit from the 
smoke that torments us in France.^' 

Among the more important observations made here 
was this : such Catholic towns as remained in Protestant 
countries, or near Protestant towns, were much more 
strict and devout, in consequence of the neighbourhood 
of the contrary opinion. The secretary quotes Mon- 
taigne's observation that such would always be the case ; 
whereas when divisions took place in the same town 
nothing but confusion could arise. He talked to a 
minister from Zurich, who told him that the people in 
his parts were originally Zuinglians, but that they had 
recently inclined towards Calvinism, a gentler sect. 
As to predestination, they remained midway between 
Geneva and Augsburg ; but did not bother their people 
with this discussion. For his own part, he remained 
a Zuinglian, because that sect seemed to him to be 
nearer primitive Christianity, We shall often find the 
traces of these studies of contemporary doctrine in the 


On leaving Baden, Montaigne observes : '* the natives 
are a little tyrannical in exacting payment ; as, indeed, 
are all nations — among others the French — towards 
strangers/' He is very particular in noticing all regu- 
lations that affected the comfort of life, or indicated the 
development or otherwise of material civilisation. The 
watchmen of Baden patrolled about, not only on the 
look-out for thieves, but for fire and other dangers, 
and called the hours at night one to the other. The 
women washed by the river-side, and furbished plate 
much better than in French hotels. But I shall not 
mention all th6 traits of manners, the engines and ar- 
rangements of various kinds that Montaigne describes, 
it being sufficient to characterise him to say that such 
things attracted his attention. He complains of the 
stupidity of the people of the country, who did not 
know their own curiosities. When I went first to 
Bordeaux to study this matter, the hdtel-guide did not 
know the existence of the public library for which I 

Continuing his journey, Montaigne noticed the 
cataracts of the Rhine, which he compared to those of 
the Nile ; avoided Zurich because the plague was 
reported to be there ; and came to Schaffhausen, where 
he invited the burgomaster to dinner. " The time 
passed not without many ceremonious harangues on both 
sides/' A learned man of the country told Montaigne, 
that though some of the rich were much in the French 
interest, the people were violently opposed. 

" The Bhine spreads out to a marvellous widths like 

VOL. II. * L 


our Garonne at Blaye, and then narrows until we 
reach Constance/' Montaigne scarcely ever comes 
to a place without noticing what religion was pre- 
dominant there; and remarks when the stone crosses 
increased or decreased by the wayside. This novel 
spectacle of two rival developments of one creed, — 
which he sometimes felt convinced, until scepticism of 
reason brought him back to doubt, was a delusion, — 
particularly interested him. The work of his life, in as 
far as he cared to influence the world, was, not to 
reconcile these two hostile sects, but to persuade them 
to live quietly side by side, without seeking to tear 
each other to pieces. We need not wonder, therefore, 
if he was anxious for practical experience of a state 
which was thought impossible in France. 

" Constance,^' he says, " is Catholic, though it was 
held for thirty years by the Lutherans, who were dis- 
lodged forcibly by Charles the Fifth. The images in 
the churches still bear traces of this. The Bishop, 
who is a gentleman of the country and a Cardinal, 
resides at Rome, and derives at least fifty thousand 
ecus of revenue. There are canonries in the church 
of Notre Dame worth at least five thousand florins, 
which are occupied by gentlemen. I saw one on horse- 
back coming in from the country, dressed very freely 
like a man of war. It is true there are many Lu- 
therans in the city.'' " We noticed that we 

were quitting the Swiss country, because a little before 
reaching the city we saw many gentlemen's houses, 
of which there are few in Switzerland. But as to 


private houses^ both in town and country, they are, 
without comparison, handsomer than in France." 
Montaigne notices often the simplicity of the Swiss, 
who, not from poverty but choice, thatched their 
dwellings, and mixed wooden plates with silver goblets. 

Montaigne was lodged " very badly" at the "Eagle," 
whose landlord gave them a specimen of " German 
freedom and barbarian pride," on occasion of a quarrel 
of one of his foot- valets with the guide from Baden. 
The matter was carried before the judges, to whom the 
traveller, accustomed, no doubt, to absolute servility 
ia France, went and complained. The Provost was an 
Italian gentleman, who, when Montaigne asked if his 
own servants would be allowed to witness in his favour, 
replied " Yes," if he discharged them for the moment, 
and took them into his service immediately afterwards. 
" This was a remarkable subtlety," he writes. Next 
day he .removed to the sign of the " Pike," where he 
was well treated. 

Having passed Smardorff, '^ a little Catholic town," 
on the 10th of October, the traveller was induced, by 
the beauty of the weather, to change his design of going 
to Bavensberg that day, and turn aside to Lindau. 
The party started early. " M. de Montaigne never 
breakfasted, but they always brought him a piece of 
dry bread, which he ate by the way, adding sometimes 
a bunch of grapes, for the vintage was then going on, 
the country being full of vines. They trail them on 
poles, which make beautiful green alleys, very agreeable 
to see." 


At Lindau two religions were followed, and Mon^- 
taigne visited the Catholic and Protestant places of 
worship, both of which he calls churches. All Imperial 
towns, if the people willed it, could, he says, exercise 
Catholicism or Lutheranism, according to the will of 
the inhabitants. " They apply themselves, more or less, 
to the one they favour. At Lindau were only two or 
three Catholics, as the Cur^ told M. de Montaigne. 
Yet the priests are allowed their revenue free, and do 
their oflSce, as do likewise the Nuns who are there. 
The said Sieur de Montaigne spoke also to the Mi« 
nister, from whom he learned nothing save that he 
shared the common hatred against the Zuinglians and 
Calvinists. It seems, in truth, that there are few 
cities which have not something peculiar in their 
belief; and under the authority of Martin, whom they 
receive as their chief, they carry on many disputes oii 
the interpretation of the sense of Martinis writings ! '' 

At the "Crown," Montaigne tried, as an experiment, 
a coiie, or bag of eider-down, as a covering for his 
bed, and highly approved of the custom. He enters 
into details, highly illustrative by their length of his 
character, on the way in which the table was supplied, 
•—enumerates the sauces, the kinds of bread, the 
game, the roast and the boiled, and then adds a regret 
that he had forgotten three things in preparing for his 
journey : first and foremost, to bring a cook with him, 
to teach him foreign cookery, and be able to introduce 
new dishes at home; second, to engage a German 
valet, or seek the acquaintance of a gentleman of the 


country (for it was very inconvenient to be at the 
mercy of a rascal of a guide) ; and thirds to look at the 
books which gave information on the rare and remark- 
able things to be seen in each place. " He should, at 
leasts have brought a Munster^ or some such book^ in 
his coffers/^ .... '^ He mingled with his judgment, it is 
true,'' says his secretary, referring, apparently, to some 
depreciatory remarks his master had made on French 
cookery, '' a little passion, from contempt of his 
country, which he hated, and turned his heart from 
for other considerations; but yet, it is true that he 
preferred the commodities of that country, without 
comparison, to those of France, and conformed to them 
so far as actually to drink his wine without water. In 
a regular drinking bout, however, he never joined, 
and was only invited to do so courteously/' The 
Germans, apparently, did not imitate the " Let him 
drink and die !" of the Polish bibbers. Among them- 
selves it was a crime to leave a goblet empty an 
instant ; tind no water was served, even to those who 
asked for it, *' unless they were very much respected." 
'' These people are proud, passionate, and drunken ; 
but they are not," said M. de Montaigne, ^^ traitors or 

The party now turned direct towards Trent, and 
passed through Isne, where Montaigne, "according 
to his custom," immediately called on a doctor of 
theology, and invited him to dinner. They appear to 
have had a very subtle discourse on the sacrament, of 
which it is unnecessary to repeat even the outline. 


Montaigne dived into his mind, and found him to be 
actually guilty of leaning towards the Ubiquists. 

Kempten, the Essayist compares to Sainte-Foi. 
This name makes his thoughts revert quite home, and 
he pays a tacit compliment to his wife; for he says 
that the pewter plates were "as well scoured as at 
Montaigne !'*...." In this part of the country/* says 
the secretary, '' we have now plenty of linen. . I have 
always been able to hang up curtains to his bed ; and 
if one towel has not been sufficient, I have been able 
to get him many." 

Montaigne went to the Lutheran church, fitted up 
much as usual. During the sermon he noticed, that 
whenever the name of Jesus Christ was mentioned, 
both preacher and people took oflF their hats. There 
was a marriage very simply conducted. The minister 
stood against the altar with a book in his hand. A 
young woman, with her hair flowing loosely, came up 
and made a little curtsey, and remained standing alone : 
a little time after came a lad, with a sword by his side, 
a sort 0/ artisan, and stood at her elbow. The minister 
whispered a few words in 'their ear, then made each 
say the Lord's Prayer, and then began to read out of 
the book certain rules for people who were going to 
n^arry. Then he joined their hands, without allowing 
them to kiss. 

Having settled this matter, Johannes Tillianus, for 
such was his name, came and talked long with Mon- 
taigne, and took him to his house. As they were going- 
out of the church they heard the violins and tam- 


bourines prececling the new-married couple. Montaigne 
asked if dancing were permitted by them ; alluding, no 
doubt, to the extreme rigidity of the Calvinists, which 
so repelled French taste ! 

" Why not V exclaimed the good Johannes. 

*'And how comes it,'' continued our Essayist, 
" that I see fresh-painted pictures of Jesus Christ, and 
other personages?'' 

''We do not forbid images that serve to remind 
men," was the answer ; " but we only forbid the ador- 
ation of them." 

''Why, then, have the old pictures been removed?" 

" They were not removed by us, but by the Zuing- 
lians," — " incited by the Evil Spirit," adds the secretary, 
who also notes : " We had been given the same answer 
before ; and the doctor at Isne, when my master asked 
if he hated the figure and effigy of the cross, exclaimed, 
suddenly, ' How could I be such an atheist as to hate 
that figure, so happy and glorious for Christians?' 
These be devilish opinions." 

Johannes Tillianus said very cavalierly, in the midst 
of his dinner, that he would rather hear a hundred 
masses than participate in the communion of Calvin. 
"Here," adds the secretary to Montaigne, in his 
jumbled way, " they served us white hares at table ! " 
Further on he says they were always quarrelling with 
their hosts, who, in a country " where ten thousand 
pine-trees were not worth fifty sous," would never 
iallow them to light a fire to air their linen morning 
and evening. 



Montaigne turned away once more from the direct 
road to Trent at Frienten^ and determined to make 
a circuit and see some other German towns. He con- 
tinues to note chiefly things that concerned the tahle and 
the Church. At Lanspergs^ belonging to the Duke of 
Bavaria^ '' if any one thought of any other religion than 
the Boman^ he was obliged to hold his peace.^' The 
country of toleration was now past. 

As if for their reception^ all the towns had just been 
newly painted I 

Augsburg was reached by a broad plain, like that 
of the Beauce. It was esteemed the handsomest city 
in Germany. The first thing noticed was a sort of 
stair-carpet put down to protect from the dirt the 
steps of the winding staircase, which had just been 
washed. There was actually not a spider to be seen, 
and no dirt ; and people who chose, had curtains to 
their windows ! Cloths were hung by the side against 
the walls, that they might not be spit upon, and so 
spoiled. Everything showed cleanliness. The windows 
were not fixed as in France, but moveable. 

Montaigne went to a Lutheran church "without 
images, or organs, or crosses ; *' and minutely describes 
the service and the ceremony of baptism. The crowd 
was great ; but they " saw no beautiful women.'' After 
dinner they went to a fencing-exhibition, and had to 
pay on entry. Here it was, as I have observed in 
speaking of an earlier period of Montaigne's life, that 
" for certain reasons,'' he determined to appear other 
than h'e was, forbade that their rank should be revealed, 


and walked alone all day through the city. " He be- 
lieved," says his secretary, " that this served to make 
him honoured all the more. When he passed by the 
church of Notre Dhme, being very cold (for the cold 
bad begun to be sharp ever since leaving Kempten), he 
held, without thinking of it, his handkerchief up to his 
face — believing that, being thus alone and very poorly 
dressed, no one would notice him/' This is a very 
confused account, and I cannot doubt that something 
is concealed from us. The hiding of the face by the 
handkerchief is first stated to be accidental, or meant 
as a protection from the cold, and then it is admitted 
Montaigne wanted to avoid notice. I have already 
mentioned the explanation that once occurred to me 
of this. The secretary goes on : " When they became 
more familiar with him, he was told that the people 
of the church had thought this behaviour odd. In 
fine, he was guilty of what he always especially avoided 
— rendered himself remarkable by ways contrary to 
the taste of those who saw him ; for inasmuch as in 
him lies he conforms himself to the manners of the 
place he happens be in, and wore at Augsburg a 
padded cap on his head in the streets." 

When the presence of Montaigne and D'Estissac 
became known the corporation sent to them, for their 
supper, fourteen great vessels full of wine. These 
were carried by seven sergeants in livery and an honour- 
able officer, who was invtted to supper, as was the 
custom. '' It is also the custom,"' says the journal, " to 
give the porters something : he gave them an ecu.'' 


The officer who supped with them said to M. de Mon- 
taigne^ that when strangers arrived^ care was taken to 
ascertain their qaalities, and presents were given ac- 
cordingly. ''They took us for barons and knights/' 
is the naiVe comment. Montaigne's spirits seem now 
to have been reviving. He was looking out for 
pretty women at the churches ! Here comes another 
note on their absence : '' We saw not a single beautiful 
face;" and this class of observation henceforth be- 
comes more frequent. Frangoise was far away; for, 
despite the boasts in the Essays, perhaps sometimes 
intended to "vex'' her, I very much doubt whether 
Montaigne would have ventured on infidelity, even in 
thought, near home. A young girl, rich and '' ugly," 
was married in the church. Montaigne went to the 
ball and received the courtesies and kisses of the 
dancers. Then he turns his attention once more to 
mechanical contrivances ; and after dwelling with plea- 
sure on an elaborate practical joke prepared against 
ladies in the shape of secret fountains' in a floor, quells 
the tumult of sensation by talking of aviaries, glass 
houses, and other matters of the kind. He visited a 
postern gate, so curious and so renowned, that Queen 
Elizabeth had sent to have it examined, but her envoy 
had been refused admission. 

At the church of Sainte-Croix, Montaigne went 
and saw, under a glass case, a little piece of red sub- 
stance, stated to be a consebrated wafer changed into 
real flesh by a miracle : " of which many testimonies 
were alleged." Close by was the Lutheran Church. 


" Here, as elsewhere, these people have lodged them- 
selves, and erected dwellings, as it were, in the cloisters 
of the Catholic churches.'' Montaigne visited the 
Jesuits, and found some of them to he very learned. 

Winter was now rapidly coming on, and it became 
necessary to think of passing into Italy. Montaigne 
would have gone, however, to see the Danube at Ulm, 
but that he should have been obliged to retrace his 
steps a portion of the way. '' He always avoided, if 
possible, treading the same road twice.'' The secretary 
left an escutcheon of the arms of Montaigne at the 
door of the room where he lodged : cost two ecus for 
the painter, and twenty sous the carpenter. Of course 
this was again to comply with the customs of the place. 

The party stayed a day at Munich, and proceeded 
on their journey. " The Jesuits, who chiefly govern 
this country," says Montaigne, "have made a great 
stir and have got into odium with the people, for 
having forced the priests to drive away their con- 
cubines under heavy penalties; and to hear them 
complain, it would seem that formerly the practice 
had been so completely tolerated as to be considered 
legitimate: they are still making remonstrances on 
the subject to the Duke." A lady, near whose house 
Montaigne lodged, sent him some of her wine. 

After having passed over the Yser, the party began 
to ascend; and at last "penetrated into the very 
entrails of theriCl^s by ati easy road, excellently kept. 
The weather was fine and clear." A beautiful little 
mountain-lake attracted their attention. Here and 


there, amidst the rocks, were pleasant fields with 
chMets. Thus they entered the Tyrol, 

Montaigne was much struck by the aspect of this 
province. The Valley of the Inn appeared to him 
"the most agreeable passage he had ever seen — 
sometimes narrowing, the mountains almost touching* 
and then widening, now on the left of the river where 
the road was, now on the other, so that there were 
slopes, more or less steep, to cultivate. In many 
places there were two or three stories of plains, one 
above the other, all full of fine gentlemen's houses and 
churches. On one side, on a rock, inaccessible except 
by means of ropes, was raised a crucifix.^' In due time 
Montaigne, reached Innspruck, where he finds little to 
note the first day, except the bed-curtains, the sheets, 
and the price of fish. 

One of the palaces of Ferdinand, archduke of 
Austria, was in the neighbourhood, and Montaigne, 
who had missed seeing the Duke of Bavaria at Munich, 
like a true courtier, resolved to "kiss his hands/' But 
when he presented himself, a certain Count told him 
the Archduke was busy in the council-chamber. 
Not rebutted, Montaigne returned to the charge after 
dinner, and found him in a garden — "at least,'* says the 
journal, " we thought we caught a glimpse of him ; yet 
those who went towards him to tell him the gentlemen 
were there, and what for, brought back word that he 
wished to be excused, but that next day would be more 
convenient. If, however, they wanted anything, let 
them speak to a certain Milanese Count. This coldness. 


added to the fact that they were not permitted to see 
the castle, offended M. de Montaigne a little ; and as 
he complained of this the same day to an ofScer of the 
house, he was told that the said' Prince had observed 
that he did not care to see Frenchmen, and that the 
House of France was inimical to him/' 

Proceeding on his way, Montaigne insists again 
on the picturesqueness of the scenery, and records 
the minute physical incidents of the journey. The 
women were dressed so like the men, that the Essayist, 
pretending to make a mistake, went up to a beautiful 
young wench in a church and asked her if she could 
speak Latin ! The secretary gravely sets down : " He 
took her for a student /' but- let us be sure, that had 
she been ugly the mistake, though more natural, 
would not have been made. At the same place he 
invited to the inn the Magister of the place, "but 
found him," he says, "to be such an ass, that he 
could get nothing from him.'' During this part of 
the journey he suffered much from his disease, and 
we have the record of his colics. 

At Brixen the country is described. ''The plain 
around is not broad, but the mountains on all sides rise 
with such a gentle slope that they can be brusfied 
and combed (is this a valet's expression ?) to the very 
top. ^Everywhere we see steeples and villages far up ; 
and near the city are many fine houses, well built and 
pleasantly situated. M. de Montaigne said, 'that all 
his life he had mistrusted the judgment of others as 
to the conveniences of foreign parts, for usually people 


only relish what they are accustomed to in their own 
villages; and he therefore cared little for information 
given by travellers. But in this place he still more 
marvelled at their stupidity ; for he bad heard it said, 
even during the present journey, that the passage of 
the Alps at this point is full of difficulties, that the 
manners of the people would be found strange, the 
roads inaccessible, the lodgings wretched, the air in- 
supportable. As to the air, he thanked God it had 
proved so mild ; for it was rather inclined to be warm 
than cold ; and during all this journey, until now, we 
have only had three days of cold, and about one hour of 
rain. For the rest, if he wished to take about his 
daughter, who is now only eight years old, he would 
as soon have charge of her on this road as in the 
alley of bis garden. As to the lodgings, he had never 
seen a country in which they were handsomer and 
more thickly strewn : for we had every day found 
handsome towns, well supplied with provisions and 
wine, even cheaper than elsewhere.'^' 

Montaigne's description of the Tyrol is excellent. 
He constantly recurs to the peculiarity of mountainous 
countries, which most strikes a dweller in plains — 
the ledges of cultivation one above the other, all 
inhabited ; and mentions a castle on a lofty mountain, 
which belonged to a baron who had a fine estate 
and hunting-ground aloft. From Bolzan, an ugly, 
ill-built town, "which showed they .were beginning 
to leave Germany/' Montaigne wrote to Francis 
Hottoman, whom he had seen at Basle. He said that 


'^he had taken great pleasure in visiting Germany, 
that he abandoned it with great regret, thoagh it was 
to Italy he was going; that strangers had to suffer 
there, as elsewhere, from the exactions of landlords: 
but he thought this might be cured by the traveller, 
who should take care not to put himself in the power 
of guides and interpreters, who betray them. In every 
other respect he found all kinds of convenience and 
courtesy/' If we would understand Montaigne the 
Essayist and Montaigne the Man — not always the 
same person — we must compare this fragment of a 
letter with his assertion that he never interfered with 
money matters in travelling, and left all, in a lordly 
manner, to his secretary. He was sincere in his 
theory, but too meddlesome by nature always to carry 
it out. Whilst writing to a learned friend, we see that 
he is actually still smarting from the heavy bills he 
has had to pay. Yet put his Essay-pen in his hand, 
and hQ will be at once convinced that such petty 
concerns do not occupy him. Is this absurd or 
unusual? When a party of travellers has passed 
an uneasy night, the only one who has snored from 
eve till morn sometimes honestly professes not to have 
slept a wink; and a terrible chatterer frequently passes 
through life with the conviction that he is eminently a 
silent man. Biographers of Montaigne have not 
sufficiently remembered this unconsciousness of men 
to their own defects; and have registered all the 
statements of Montaigne, who meant to be impartial, 
as if he was really so. 




On leaving the Tyrol, Montaigne entered Italy at Trent 
As might have been foreseen, there is no trace in his 
journal of the enthusiasm, real or affected, which most 
travellers bring with them to that land ; and which is 
oftener the echo of modem romantic literature than 
connected with classical reminiscences. The Essayist 
looked upon the country beyond the Alps as somewhat 
common-place — said that every valet could discourse of 
Florence and Ferrara — and affected even to restraia 
the little anxiety he might have felt to behold the 
scenes where the ancients, whom he admired so genu* 
inely, lived and acted. I shall note his chief observa- 
tions, and the reader who knows the Italy of the 
' handbooks will be surprised to find how much it 
resembles the Italy of the sixteenth century. 

The first thing that attracted remark was the differ- 
ence in the aspect of the towns. "Trent,^' says the 
journal, ^Ms a little larger than Agen, but is not 
pleasant, and has narrow and tortuous streets; indeed, it 


bears no comparison with the beauty of the German 
cities. Two leagues before reaching it the Italian 
language had begun; but at Trent both languages 
were spoken, and there was a quarter of the city entirely 
German, with a church and preacher of its own. As 
to " the new religions/* nothing more had been heard 
of them since Augsburg. 

The party which lodged at ''the Rose," ''a good 
hotel," visited the new church of Our Lady, where the 
famous Council had recently been held ; and admired a 
marvellous organ adorned with automata. The church 
had been built in 1520 by GsOfdinal Clesio, a native of 
the place. ''M. de Montaigne," says the secretary, 
^' remarked that on this journey he had observed more 
than one instance of citizens benefiting the place of 
their birth." The same Cardinal had built also a new 
wing to the chateau, adorned very richly in the interior 
with statues and paintings ; among others, a nocturnal 
fSte with torches, which Montaigne admired very much. 
And yet, in spite of this generosity to the public, and 
many other instances, no respect had been paid to him 
aflber his death, and he was very wretchedly buried. 

On leaving Trent, the party followed the widening 
▼alley between lofty uninhabited mountains, with the 
Adige on its right hand ; and continued travelling until 
late at night. Up to this time Montaigne had arranged 
the journey so methodically, that he and his companions 
were out on this occasion after dark for the first time. 

At Rovero they found Grerman neatness in rooms and 
furniture ; and not only German windows, but German 

YOL. n. M 


«to?eB also. The beds were adorned with eurtains in 
festoons^ very comfortably ; but/ unfortunately, without 
those coites which were used as a covering in Germany. 
Freshwater lobsters failed, however, here; which M. 
de Montaigne noticed, because, since Plombieres, for 
nearly two hundred leagues they had never seen a meal 
served up without them. Instead were served snails, 
^nd a salad of truffles sliced, with — for the taste of our 
fastidious traveller — oranges, citrons, and olives. 

Montaigne seems here to have given a singular 
instance of the uncertainty of his resolutions, unless we 
suppose the working of some secret feeling — perhaps 
of fear, lest the -reception of the audacious sceptic in 
the stronghold of Catholicism might not be agreeable. 
On the very threshold of Italy he talked of going back 
towards Cracow, or turning aside to visit Greece! 
Here the secretary, no doubt setting down the sub- 
stance of what his master spoke, says, that if Mon« 
taigne had been alone with his suite, he would certainly 
have undertaken some such bold journey. ''But he 
could never communicate to any other of the company 
the pleasure which he found in visiting unknown coun- 
tries, and which was so great as to make him forget 
his age and the weakness of his health. All the others 
talked rather of going back. As for Montaigne, he 
was accustomed to say, that after having passed a rest- 
less night, the mere remembrance in the morning that 
he had a new city or country to see made him start out 
of bed full of desire and joy. I never saw him less 
weary or complain less of his sufferings : his mind, on 


the road or in the hotels^ was always strained towards 
novelty ; and he sought every opportunity to converse 
with strangers: which^ I think^ beguiled his pain. 
When the others complained that he often led them by 
divers roads and across country^ returning often towards 
the starting-point — which he used to do when he ob- 
tained information of something worth seeing, or when 
for some reason he changed his opinion — he would 
answer that, for his part, the place where he was was 
the object of his journey ; that he could not mistake or 
lose his way, for his only object was to wander through 
unknown places ; and that, provided he did not twice 
go over the same road, or visit twice the same place, 
his design was accomplished. As for Rame, which was 
the aim of the others, he by so much the less desired 
to see it, that it was already known to every one ; and 
there was never a lackey who could not give them news 
of Florence or Ferrara. He used also to compare him- 
self to one who might be reading a fine book, or a very 
pleasant story, and be seized with fear lest it should 
soon come to an end: for he took such delight in 
travelling, that he hated the neighbourhood of the 
place which promised him repose. He often planned 
how he would travel at his ease if he could contrive to 
J)e alone.'' 

From Rovero the whole party, leaving all their 
servants, started with hired horses to visit the Lake of 
Grarda. They slept at Torbole, and next day crossed 
in a boat to Biva, where they saw nothing but an old 
tower and, by accident, the lord of the place. Signer 


Hortimato Madruccio, brother of the Cardinal of Trent* 
On retaming, they talked much of the wonderful pros- 
pect of the lake, shut in by the aridest mountains they 
had yet seen. Next day all their baggage was put 
upon rafts, to float down the Adige to Verona ; and 
Master Secretary had charge thereof, so that he parted 
company with Montaigne, His master, however, gave 
him afterwards a summary account of what took place 
during their ride to Verona. Among other things 
Montaigne asked somebody if the Tyrol were anything 
else besides the valley they had descended, and the moun* 
tains on either side. They told him there were many 
yalleys, all containing large and handsome cities ; and 
compared the country to a drapery gathered up in 
folds. '^ If it was spread out, the Tyrol would be a 
very extensive country.'' All the places on the way to 
Verona were small, and the inns wretched. At Volamo 
a maiden lady, sister of the absent lord, sent some 
wine to M. de Montaigne. Had she already heard of 
the Essays ? The secretary remarks, .that except the 
southern extremity of the lake of Garda which belonged 
to the Signoria of Venice, and was full of parks of olives, 
oranges, and such-like fruit-trees, all this extent of 
country was sterile. On nearing Verona, it is true, 
there was more fertility, and vines festooned from tree 
to tree. 

The travellers had been obliged, on leaving Trent, 
to take '' bills of health,'' without which they would 
not have been allowed to enter Verona, Yet there was 
no danger of plague. The thing was done in obedience 


to custom or to swindle travellers. The secretary does 
not allude to the plague that ravaged Trent after the 
breaking up of the Council^ seventeen years before^ and 
which was no doubt the origin of this precaution. 

At the Duomo of Verona, Montaigne was struck by V 
the irreverent behaviour of the men during grand mass. 
They chatted in the centre of the churchy standing with 
their hats on^ their backs turned towards the altar^ and 
making no sign of attending to the service except at the 
elevation of the host. The Italy of the sixteenth cen- 
tury was like the Italy of to-day : devotion reigned 
supreme, but over the smallest possible province of 
human nature. Organs and fiddles accompanied the 
singing. Montaigne went to other churches; and, 
pagan that he was, complained of the absence of re- 
markable ornaments and beautiful women ! 

At the church of St. George, singularly enough, he 
noticed many traces of the former presence of the Ger*- 
mans at Verona ! He tells us that there was an in- 
scription stating that one of the offerings on the altar 
was made by some German gentlemen, who accompanied 
the Emperor Maximilian when he took the city from 
the Venetians; and that these noble-minded signors 
had not removed this testimony to former humiliation 
when their supremacy was restored. 

At Verona there was at that time a monkish order^ 
called the Jesuits of Saint Jerdme. They were very 
ignorant, and lived by distilling citron*flower-water, and 
such-like liqueurs, there and elsewhere. They were 
dressed in white, with little white caps and brown 


.cloaks : very fine young men. Their church was well 
fitted up ; and so was their refectory^ where supper was 
laid out when the party arrived. The monks perfumed 
their cloisters in honour of the visitors, whom they also 
took into a little cabinet full of phials and earthen pots, 
und sprinkled with scented waters. Montaigne was 
here shown the remnants of an amphitheatre, different 
from the famous Arena. The latter edifice was very 
nearly entire, says the secretary, and the Signoria of 
Verona was employing some of the fines it levied on 
criminals to restore it ; but the funds were insufficient, 
and it then appeared doubtful whether the whole value 
of the city would pay for the work ; which has, however, 
since been completed. The gentlemen of Verona used 
the place for tournaments, and other public pleasures ; 
just as the Arenas of Aries, Nismes, and other places in 
the south of France, are at present used for bull-baiting, 
in imitation of the Spaniards. 

All this journal is full of curious notes. Bat it is 
impossible to refer to them all. Montaigne visited the 
Jews of Verona, and conversed with them long upon 
their ceremonies. The whole country was covered with 
inscriptions ; for it was the custom in those days never 
to mend even a gutter without inscribing the name of 
the Fodesta by whose order, and the workman by whose 
hand, the task was executed. This was the offspring 
of true Republicanism, in which due respect was paid 
to the state and to the individual. How different from 
(the horrible absorption of the productions of Genius 
,and Labour into the reputation of a monarch ! Like 


the Germans^ all Italian families, merchant or noble^ 
had their arms. 

Neither Montaigne nor the secretary suggests any 
reason for turning aside here from the road to Borne ; 
but I have no doubt that the memory of La Boetie's 
partiality for Venice influenced Montaigne. *^ He 
hungered exceedingly to see that city.'' The road led 
them through Vicenza, where the fair was being held. 
There was another monastery of Jesuits of St. Jerome 
there, who dealt in perfumed waters. They whipped 
themselves, they said, every day. 

Here we are told, " The old wines are failing, which 
^ieves me very much, on account of his (Montaigne's) 
colic. These troubled new wines are not good for 
him. We regret those of Germany, although they are 
aromatic, some having a flavour of sage; which is not 
bad when one is accustomed." 

'^A level, broad, straight road, with a ditch on 
either side, and somewhat raised above a very fertile 
plain, the mountains being still visible in the distance/' 
took the travellers to Padua. Padua was at least as 
large as Bordeaux ; but the streets were long and ugly, 
and had few fine houses. There were many fencing*, 
dancing, and riding-schools, where Montaigne counted 
more than a hundred French gentlemen. It seemed 
to him very unwise in his young countrymen who 
travelled there to consort together, and so, instead of 
acquiring knowledge of foreign customs and language, 
become more inveterate in their own. Students lived 


at Padua for seven ^ens a-month for the master, and 
six for the servant, in the best boarding-houses. 

Montaigne noticed also with pleasure! ^^ the church 
of St. Antony, the portrait of Cardinal Bembo, which 
expressed the amenity of his manners, and even some- 
thing of the elegance of his mind. In the vast hall of 
justice was the head of Livy, of ancient workmanship, 
representing a meagre, studious, and melancholy man, 
so excellently that it seemed to lack no quality but 
speech 1 

Leaving Padua, the travellers proceeded along a 
handsome raised road by the river-side. On all 
hands spread fertile fields of wheati shaded with trees, 
regularly planted and festooned with vines. Beautiful 
country-houses bordered the road : among others, the 
villa of the Contarini family, over the door of which was 
an inscription recording that the then reigning King of 
France had lodged there on his way back from Poland. 
People were proud in those days, as in these, of such 




At the '' Chaffonsine/' a solitary hotels the travellers 
embarked for Venice in a gondola^ and arrived at last in 
that island city. Next day, Sunday^ M. de Montaigne 
waited on M. de Ferrier^ the French ambassador^ who 
Beems to have made a particular impression on his 
mind ; for he adds to his secretary's MS. in his own 
hand^ ''This old man^ who has passed seventy-five 
yearsj as he says^ enjoys a healthy and lively old age. 
His ways and his discourses have I know not what that 
is scholastic, with little vivacity and point. His opinions 
bear evidently, in what concerns our affairs, towards the 
Calvinistic innovations/' M. de Ferrier received Mon- 
taigne hospitably^ took him to mass^ despite his sup- 
posed Calvinism, and made him stop to dinner. Among 
other things he said, what seemed most strange to Mon- 
taigne, was^ that he held communion with no person of 
the town, for the people were so suspicious by nature, 
that if one of their gentlemen had spoken twice to the 
French ambassador, he would have been mistrusted* 


It is worth noticing that this M. de Ferrier after- 
wards made public profession of the Calvinistic 
religion^ and entered the service of the King of 
Navarre. ''M. de Montaigne/' observes Duplessis 
Momay^ " used often to say to me^ that we had gained 
a battle from them (the Catholics) by winning over 
this personage^ honouriug the virtue which they had 
despised/' " Virtue,'' here probably stands for ability. 
At any rate this M. de Ferrier, returning from Italy 
at the age of seventy-three^ delayed his recantation, 
which he had promised, in the hope of catching " an 
assignation of fourteen thousand crowns from the 
.Court." But this not coming, he accepted Henry's 
seals and made public profession of the Reformed re- 
ligion. Montaigne mentions in bis Essays that an 
aged man had confessed to him, that, though a Pro- 
testant in heart, he had all his life professed another 
creed in order to enjoy wealth and power. This was, 
no doubt, M. de Ferrier. 

Montaigne found Venice somewhat different from 
what he had expected, — even a little less admirable. 
He examined it thoroughly with the greatest diligence : 
liiring a gondola for his use night and day. Its police, 
its site, the Arsenal, the Piazza San Marco, and the 
throng of foreigners, seemed to him the most re- 
markable things. La Signora Veronica Franca, a 
noble Venetian lady, sent him one day, whilst he 
was at supper, a little volume of letters which she 
had composed. Montaigne gave the messeuger two 
6cus, says the secretary; perhaps a little annoyed at 


this ostentatious liberality. The volume of letters, 
DO doubt, went to join the hundred others of that 
class which his library contained* 

Montaigne was disappointed in the beauty of the 
Venetian ladies — although he saw "the most noble 
of those who trafficked in their beauty.'' The word 
"noble'' here is not a slip of the scribe: but a 
translatidn of the title granted to these mercenary 
angels by the Italian writers. The most wonderful 
thing to Montaigne was to see so many of them, 
perhaps a hundred and fifty, spending money in furni- 
ture and dress like princesses : without any other 
source of revenue but one. Many of the nobility 
entertained them at their cost, to the knowledge of 
«very one. But in those days the courtezans were 
a brilliant and often not the least estimable part of 
society. Men of letters vied in celebrating their 
naagnificence, and even their generosity. Ninon dt 
I'Endos was but a pale reflex of the celebrated Imperia^ 
•whose house was so brilliant that the Spanish am- 
bassador, on entering it, repeated the coarse joke of 
Diogenes, and spat in the face of one of the servants^ 
saying that there was no other spot where he could do so 
with propriety. Mingled with her lutes and her music 
were richly-bound books in Latin and Italian. When 
she di^d a public monument was raised in the church 
of St. Gregory, recording not only her beauty but 
her profession. 

The secretary notes that food was as dear at 
Venice as at Paris: but still, that to live there was 



cheapj there being no necessity for a crowd of valets^ 
every one going alone ; and no use for horses. Mon- 
taigne was not satisfied with this brief stay at Venice 
and its surrounding country, and intended to visit 
it once more. But he felt unable to go further 
without having a relish of this city of his dreams* 
He could not, be said, have remained quiet at Bome^ 
or in any other place in Italy, until he had glanced 
at Venice. After a stay of eight days, the party 
left that city and returned to Padua by water, although 
Montaigne usually avoided a boat when he could use 
the saddle. At Padua, M. de Caselis left the party 
and took lodgings in a boarding-house, one of the best 
in the place. There was good company there j among 
others, the Sieur de Millau, son of M. de Salignac 
It was the custom of most students and residents 
to have no valets, but to be served by the waiter 
of the house or by women. Every one had his own 
room, very clean; and supplied his own fire and 
candles. The board was excellent ; and being cheap, 
accounted for the residence of a great number of 
strangers who were not students. It was not the 
custom to ride about the town, or to have many 
followers. In Germany, all men, even of the working 
classes, wore a sword by their side : but no one went 
armed in the territories of Venice. At Padua, Mon- 
taigne left in the hands of one Fran9ois Bourges, a 
Frenchman, the works of Cardinal de Cusa, whicJi 
he had bought at Venice, intending to take them 
In his way back. 


Having yisited the Baths of Aborao^ where the 
sulphureous waters filled the air with vapour; and 
passed by San Pietro, where the water was purposely 
neglected by the Signoria, who cared not much for 
the visits of foreign gentry; and seen the villa of 
Signor Fic^ where the gouty Cardinal d'Este was 
residing, partly for the sake of the water, but more 
on account of the neighbourhood of the Venetian 
ladies; the party arrived at Bataglia, near which 
were other baths which Montaigne visited. 

All the natural and artificial wonders of the 
country are described : the roads, aqueducts, bridges, 
ruins, marshes which had been attempted to be 
dfained, fields, and especially the vines trained on 
trees. The large grey cattle were so common, that 
those of the Archduke Ferdinand appeared no longer 
curious. As usual, the secretary notices the differences 
of cookery — the non-larding of meat as in France—* 
the want of glass windows — the high-piled beds with 
dirty linen : single travellers, or humble ones, had none 
at all : the customs at ferries are also carefully noted. 

On arriving at Ferrara, there was the usual fass 
about passports and bills of health. Over the door 
of every room in the hotel, moreover, was written : 
^'Bricordati della Boletta/' As soon as a traveller 
arrived, his name, with the number of his servants, 
was sent to the magistrates, who decides whether he 
is to be received or not. They were '^ paternal," 
then, in those days, likewise: and yet we travellers 
continue to complain as if of a new evil I 


The city is described to be large as Tours, situated 
in a plain, with many palaces, broad straight streets^ 
and few people. Next day after arriving, MM. d'Es- 
tissac and de Montaigne went to ''kiss the hands ^' 
of the Duke, Alfonso d*Este, so famous in the melan- 
choly history of Tasso. The whole formalities of the 
visit are described. A messenger was first despatched 
to the Duke, to request permission to wait on him. 
He immediately sent a lord of his court to meet them 
and lead them to his cabinet, where he was witb 
two or three persons. *' We passed,^' says the journal, 
''through several closed chambers, where were many 
well-dressed gentlemen. We were ushered in. We 
found him standing near a table, waiting for his 
visitors. He put his hand to his cap when they 
entered; and uncovered his head during the whole 
time that M. de Montaigne spoke to him, which 
was pretty long. His first question was whether 
he (Montaigne) understood Italian; and being an- 
swered ' Yes^ he said, very eloquently, that he saw 
with pleasure gentlemen of the French nation, for he 
was the servant and the obliged of the Very Christian 
King.'* They had some other conversation together, 
and " they then withdrew, the lord Duke having never 
once covered his head.^' 

The secretary, who is thus particular in recording 
this interview ; and who mentions that the party went 
to see in a church the bust of Ariosto, "who died 
aged fifty-nine, on June 6, 1538" — which bust they 
found fuller in the face than the portraits prefixed. 


to the poems; — forgets utterly to note that his master^ 
not unmindful of unfortunate genius^ went also to 
visit Tasso in his prison. There has been a great 
discussion as to where the poet was confined in 1580. 
Vulgar tradition points out a dark^ damp hole, in 
which the gigantic Tasso would scarcely have had / 
space to turn* But the erudite have combated this 
statement, without, however, alleging any probable 
counter-statement. It is, therefore, only safe to say 
that Tasso, who was sent to the Hospital of St. Ann 
as a madman, in March 1579, wits still there in 
November 1580, when Montaigne came to Ferrara. 
That was a strange madness which allowed him to 
revise his poems and compose philosophical dialogues I 
Montaigne, however, never doubting that his reason 
had given way, and making no allusion to his loves, 
his austerity, his persecution, in a well-known passage 
of the Essays, explains everything by the excess of 
genius. But our Essayist, admitted to Court, would 
naturally take the courtly view of the case. Alfonso 
d'Este ^outlived him; and he was not the man to 
meddle with the domestic concerns of a reigning 
sovereign. The secretary, in a manuscript not in- 
tended for publication, observes, that his master went 
to see the Bucentaur which the Duke had made, in v 
imitation of that of Venice, for his new wife — 
"beautiful, and too young for him.'' 

The journal mentions the porticoes of Padua, the 
churches, palaces, and private gardens, and notes that 
at the Jesuits'^ convent there was a rose-tree which 


flowered once a-month all the year round. They gave 
one that happened to be in bloom to M. de Montaigne* 
They saw people walking on stilts^ as in the Landes 
of Grascony^ on the way to Bologna — a great and 
populous city, where they met the young Seigneur de 
Montluc, just arrived from France to study arms and 
horsemanship there, Montaigne was thus led to go to 
a famous Venetian fencing-master's school, and records 
with pride that his most proficient pupil was a young 
man of Bordeaux, named Binet. Another time he 
went to the play, where he was so much amused that he 
came away with a headache, ^* which went away in 
the night/' The city was less peaceable than Ferrara ; 
for there were old feuds between two parts of the 
population, and one side was espoused by the French 
residents, another by the Spaniards, 

A German having reported that he had been robbed 
by the Banished Men, or brigands of the duchy of 
Spoleto, Montaigne, instead of now going straight on 
to Rome, turned aside to Florence. The secretary, in 
the name of his master, makes long lamentations of the 
extortionate treatment of the hotel-keepers of Loiano. 
Beyond was the first really difficult road they had 
met on their journey, which led them to Scarperia, 
where Montaigne was mightily amused by the eloquence 
of rival inn-keepers, or rather "touters/' The custom 
in that country was to send to meet strangers seven or 
eight leagues on the roa4> to beg them to choose their 
hotel. The host himself sometimes came out on 
horseback; and well-dressed men watched at every 


comer. They joined travellers^ and entertained tbem 
as they went along with offers of all manner of services, 
some of which the secretary^ more delicate than his 
master usnally was, expresses in Italian. One offered 
a hare, as a gift to induce Montaigne to choose his 
house. They disputed also one with the other; but all 
this noise ceased at the gates of the town. Montaigne 
glistened to what was said, but sent one of his people to 
examine every hotel before he would get off his horse. 
Yet it was impossible to avx>id being cheated ! 

The party turned aside to visit the magnificent 
palace of the Pratellino, its galleries, gardens, and 
grottoes, of which a minute description is given, full of 
interesting details ; and afterwards crossed the hills to 
Florence, which was then without a moat. Curiously 
enough, Montaigne^s first visit was to the Duke's 
stables; he then examined a menagerie; then went 
to the church of San Lorenzo, and saw the French 
standards which Pierre Strozzi lost at the battle of 
Marciano, as well as *^ some excellent statues by 
Michael Angelo/' M. de Montaigne seems to have 
been in an ill-humour that day; and it is set down 
that '^he said he had never seen a country where 
there were so few pretty women as in Italy;'' that 
he found the lodgings and the cooking much inferior 
to those of Germany and France; complained of the 
wodden shutters, that shut out light as well as cold ; 
noted the hard beds, the want of linen, the bad wines, 
the absence of pewter, the dirtiness of the earthenware ; 
and approved of nothing but the comparative cheap- 



ness. Yet Florence was considered the dearest town 
in Italy. They lodged at the sign of the ^'Angel.'^ 
On the whole^ Florence did not please Montaigne. 
*' He cannot tell/' he says^ ^' why it is called Beautiful 
above all others. It is not superior to Bologna^ not 
much to Ferrara^ and immeasurably inferior to Venice.^' 
Montaigne^ as in all other places^ in order to judge 
of the conveniences of life, visited the rooms that he 
saw to let, and examined the boarding-houses. They 
all seemed dirty, and dearer than at Paris, and even 
Venice. There were no schools worth anything of 
arms, horsemanship, or letters. 

They visited a palace of the Grand Duke, where 
he was fond of working and imitating precious stones; 
for he was great in alchemy, as well as the mechanical 
arts and architecture. The Duooao, the palace of 
the Strozzi and the Gondis ; the palace of the Duke, 
where Cosmo his father had caused the siege of 
Sienna, which Montluc defended, to be painted ; and 
the Pitti palace, ''where the Queen-Mother (Catherine 
de Medici) was bom,'' next engaged the attention 
of the travellers. 

Messrs. d'Estissac and de Montaigne were invited 
to dinner by the Grand Duke. In the place of 
honour sat his wife, the famous Bianca Capello ; next 
to lier the Duke ; then the sister-in-law of the Duchess ; 
then her brother. Montaigne knew the infamous 
story of Bianca and the Grand DukCj, but his allusion 
is very slight. ''This Duchess is beautiful in the 
Italian style, with an agreeable and imperious face, a 


powerful bust, and well-developed bosom/' Montaigne 
thought it easy to understand how she had cajoled 
this prince, and kept him devoted to her so long. 
'^ The Duke himself is a short, dark man, about my 
height, big in limb, with a countenance full of courtesy. 
Whenever he passes amidst the crowd of his gentlemen 
it is always with uncovered head. He seems healthy, 
and is above forty. On the opposite side of the table 
was the Cardinal de Medici, and a young man about 
eighteen, one of the Duke's brothers. When the 
Duke or his wife drinks, a valet brings to them in 
a basin a glassful of wine uncovered, and a decanter 
of water : they empty out as much wine as they please 
into the basin, and fill the rest with water. The Duke 
put in a good deal of water, Bianca hardly any!^ 

Montaigne visited the country-house of the Gastello, 
where, as in many other places, he saw extraordinary 
fountains, like those that were afterwards constructed 
at Versailles: he describes them most minutely, as 
he does all curious contrivances he noticed. Nothing 
seems to interest him more than these mechanical 

The party left Florence on Nov. 24, and went 
in one day to Sienna, which Montaigne examined 
carefully because of the fine defence of his friend 
Montluc. He found that the Duke of Florence treated 
very courteously the nobles who had formerly favoured 
the French, and had Silrio Piccolomini always about 
his person. He also allowed still to subsist the 
ancient '^ marks and devices'' of the city, which con- 


stantly spoke of liberty; but the tombs and epitaphs 
of the French had been removed to some obscure 
place^ under pretence of some reparation. At Monte- 
Alcino the same thing was observed : there, too^ the 
French tombs had disappeared. But the people " kept 
the memory of the French in so great veneration, 
that any allusion to them brought tears into their 
eyes! War even seemed to them more agreeable 
with some form of liberty, than the peace they CDJoyed 
under tyranny/' No doubt it was the thought of 
liberty, and not of the French, that brought tears 
to the eyes of the Siennese : for the French were only 
accidentally engaged on the right side, and their 
ferocity and barbarism had even then done more harm 
to Italy than the gallantry of a few noble knights and 
adventurers could compensate for. From the time of 
Montaigne downwards, this strange people have yearned 
for the affection, the esteem, and the admiration of 
other nations — with the passion of lovers, and all the 
egotism of love — never sacrificing their appetites or 
desires to earn the thing they so ardently seek — 
loading the people they protect and die for with 
gay contumely and amiable insult — talking of heroism 
and sympathy, and making out a debtor-and-creditor 
account, in which all their material services are set 
down on one hand, and none of the moral humiliations 
they impose on their friends on the other; — and from 
that time to this, too, they have wandered, self-satisfied, 
smirking, impertinently condescending, over the coun* 
tries they have cursed with their friendship, gathering 


testimonials of affection from the venal mouths of 
ciceroni ! 

After passing La Faglia the travellers crossed a 
bridge built by Gregory the Thirteenth^ the then 
reigning pope, and entered upon the States of the 
Church. The beauty of Montefiascone so struck Mon- 
taigne that he would have stopped, had not the baggage- 
mule been far ahead. The manners of the Pontifical 
States pleased him altogether — I suspect he had a secret 
dislike for the Medicean form of government. He 
much approved of their custom of dining and supping 
late; for in good houses nobody dined before two 
o'clock, or supped before nine. Where they found 
comedians did not begin the performances until six 
o'clock, at the lighting of the torches, which lasted 
two or three hours, and then made way for supper. 
Montaigne said this was a good country for idle people : 
everybody— enlightened, no doubt, by experience — 
got up late. 


Montaigne's kesidence at boms. 

The party started next day^ three hours before light; 
''so great was Montaigne's desire to see the walls of 
Rome/' The nature and source of his enthusiasm 
is not described, but we may suppose that the country 
of Seneca had more of his sympathy than the country 
of the Papacy, The secretary carefully avoids all 
idlusion to opinions or doctrinesi and confines himself 
to recording the physical sensations of his master, 
and the material objects that struck him. Montaigne 
found the morning air as disagreeable as the evening 
air, and was ill until daylight. The city of Rome 
was visible once fifteen miles ofi*, but disappeared 
again for a long time. There were a few villages 
and hotels on the road. Here and there were some 
pieces of road that seemed of ancient workmanship; 
and near the city fragments of building, evidently 
very ancient, and some monuments which the popes 
had caused to be restored for the honour of antiquity. 
Most of the ruins were of small bricks, much smaller 


than those found in the old antiquities and ruins ya 
France and elsewhere. Borne did not appear very 
striking from this approach. Far on the left of the 
road rose the Apennines^ but the aspect of the country 
was unpleasant^ covered with eminences^ full of deep 
crevices^ and ^' quite unfit for regular military move- 
ments.^' This observation, in the spirit of a soldier, 
is amusing. Montaigne had already noticed that the 
fort of Monte-Alcino was inconveniently commanded 
by a near hill. The territory in the neighbourhood of 
Rome was naked, without trees, in great part sterile, 
all the country open, and for more than ten miles 
aroimd all alike, and very little furnished with houses. 
This contrast with the populous neighbourhood of 
Florence sounds still more strange when related by 
a writer of the sixteenth century, who has every reason 
not to allude to the blighting influence of the Church. 
At the gates of Rome the travellers were delayed 
some time, on account of a plague reported at Genoa. 
This difficulty over, they went to lodge at the sign of 
the ''Bear;'' but on the 2d of December they took 
private lodgings in the house of a Spaniard, opposite 
Santa Lucia della Tinta. The house possibly still 
remains, and I recommend it to the attention of cice- 
roni. The travellers had three handsome bed-rooms, 
with a sitting-room, pantry, stable, and kitchen, for 
twenty ^cus a month, firing and cook included; and 
by exception, linen in the French style. At Bome, 
lodgings were commonly a little better furnished than 
at Paris, and were often lined with gilded leather. They 


were shown one at the '' Golden Vase/' not far off, at 
the same price ; but Montaigne did not like this mag- 
nificence, and objected also that the rooms led one into 
the other, and had no private entrances. 

Montaigne noticed with displeasure the great num- 
ber of Frenchmen at Rome ; he scarcely met any one 
in the streets who did not salute him in his own lan- 
guage* But there was great novelty to him in the 
sight of so grand a court, so crowded with prelates and 
churchmen ; and the place seemed more peopled with 
wealthy men, with carriages and horses, than any other 
he had ever seen. The appearance of the streets in 
many particulars, and especially the multitude that 
filled them, reminded Montaigne of Paris, that city 
of his predilections. 

The city of Rome, says the secretary, generally 
using the third person, but writiug under dictation, 
is situated on both sides of the Tiber. The steep 
quarter, which was the seat of the ancient city, and 
through which Montaigne made innumerable excur- 
sions every day, was cut up by some churches and a 
few houses and gardens of cardinals. The traveller 
judged, by very clear appearances, that the form and 
slope of the mountains were different from what they 
were in ancient times, and believed that in many places 
the ground was raised over the roofs of entire houses. 
On all sides the rain, and the deep ruts made by 
coaches, laid bare the summits of ancient walls. With 
reference to the extent of Rome, M. de Montaigne 
^d| '' that the space which the walls embraced, at that 


time two-thirds empty^ comprehending old and new 
Home, might equal an enclosare that should be made 
round all Paris^ including all the faubourgs. But that 
if the number and density of the houses were to be 
considered, he thought that Rome would fall short 
of Paris by a third. In multitude and splendour of 
public places, and beauty of streets and houses, 
Rome surpassed Paris by mnch/^ 

At first sight, Montaigne judged the government of 
the city to be inferior to that of Venice. His list of 
grievances is curious enough. First, the houses were 
insecure against theft, and people who arrived with a 
large sum were obliged to deposit it at a banker's; 
second, to walk out at night was not safe; third, a 
General of the Cordeliers had just been removed and 
imprisoned for preaching in a very vague manner, in 
presence of the Pope and his cardinals, against the 
idleness and pomp of the prelates of the Church; 
fourth, that his trunk had been minutely searched at 
the Customs, whereas in other Italian cities this was 
a mere formality ; fifth, that all books found in his 
baggage were taken away to be examined, which was 
done so slowly that a man in a hurry might consider 
them lost ; and that, moreover, they were so exclusive, 
that a Prayer-book of Paris, not of Rome, seemed 
suspicious, as did some German books written against 
heresy, because the errors combated were mentioned 
in them. Montaigne notes that in all Germany he 
found no book in his possession forbidden. 

References to the travellers disease begin now to be 


frequent ; and we find him at last, despite his theories, 
conquered by pain and consenting to put himself in 
the hands of a doctor and take medicine — cassia and 
turpentine ! When he continued his onslaught on the 
healing art, he should have had the ingenuousness to 
confess this weakness ; but the mind gets accustomed to 
attack, and often continues the forms of hostility after 
a compromise has been agreed upon. 

On Christmas -day the party went to hear the 
Pope's mass at St. Peter's, where Montaigne had a 
convenient place assigned him. His Holiness ad- 
ministered the sacrament, with due precaution ugainst 
being poisoned in the wine. Beside him sat the Car- 
dinals Farnese, Medici, Caraffa, and Gonzaga, with 
other prelates. They all sat with their heads covered 
during the ceremony, and chatted and talked, which 
seemed ''new'' to Montaigne. "These ceremonies," 
he adds, " appear more magnificent than devout." By 
the way, he noticed no particularity in the beauty of 
the women, worthy of that pre-excellence which repu- 
tation gives to this city above all others in the world ; 
and moreover, that, as at Paris, the most remarkable 
beauty is found among those who o£Fer it for sale. 

" On the 29th of December, M. d*Abein, at that 
time ambassador, a studious gentleman, who had long 
been a friend of M. de Montaigne, was of opinion that 
he should go and kiss the Pope's foot. M. d'Estissac 
and he got into the carriage of the said ambassador, 
who went in to see the Pope, and had them called in 
by his Cameriere. They found the Pope, and with him 


the ambassador, all alone, as is the fashion. Near 
him is a Uttle bell, which he rings when he wants any 
one to cooie. The ambassador sits on his left, un- 
covered ; for the Pope never takes off his cap to any 
one, and no' ambassador remains covered in his pre- 
sence. M. d'Estissac entered first, and after him M. 
de Montaigne ; and after them M. de Mattecoulon and 
M. du Hautoi. Having taken a step or two in the 
chamber, at the corner of which the said Pope is sitting, 
those who enter, whoever they may be, put one knee 
to the ground, and wait until the Pope gives them his 
blessing, which he does. After that they rise and ap- 
proach about half-way across ; but most do not walk 
straight towards him, but move a little along the wall 
at first, and then advance in a direct line. At mid- 
chamber they kneel a second time, and receive a second 
blessing. This done, they draw near him until they 
reach a large shaggy carpet spread at his feet, seven 
or eight feet in front of him. On the edge of this 
carpet the gentlemen knelt on both knees. Then the 
ambassador who presented them — [can we repress a 
smile as we follow the Essayist through all these evolu- 
tions 7] — put one knee to the ground, and lifted the 
Pope's gown o£f his right foot, which had on a red slip- 
per marked with a white cross. Those who were on their 
knees worked their way in that position towards his 
foot, and stooped down to kiss it M. de Montaigne 
said that he raised his foot a little for him. They made 
way one for the other to kiss, turning on one side, but 
still kneeling. The ambassador, this being done. 


eovered up the Pope's foot^ and rising up^ said what 
he thought proper to recommend M. d'Estissac and 
M. de Montaigne. The Pope, with a courteous coun- 
tenancCj admonished M. d^Estissac to study and virtue; 
and exhorted M. de Montaigne to continue in the de- 
votion which he had always home to the Church and to 
the service of his very Christian majesty ; and addedj 
that he would serve them both as much as he could. 
These be Italian phrases. They did not speak, but 
having received another blessing before rising, which 
is to signify dismissal, returned by the way they had 
come with similar manoeuvres. 

" The Pope (Gregory XIII.) is an Italian, with a 
Bolognese accent, the worst of Italy ; and, moreover, by 
nature he speaks with difficulty. He is a fine old man, 
of middling stature ; upright, with a countenance fall 
of majesty, and a long white beard, more than eighty 
years of age, extremely healthy, of a gentle nature, 
little caring for the affairs of the world, but a great 
builder, (for which Rome will remember him with 
honour,) and charitable even to extravagance. He is 
indolent in private affairs, loving to throw them on the 
shoulders of others. But he gives as many audiences 
as are asked. His answers are brief and resolute, and 
it is loss of time to endeavour to return to the charge 
with new arguments. When he thinks a thiiig just he 
believes himself; and even for his son, whom he loves 
furiously, he will not depart from this justice. He 
advances his relatives, but without prejudice to the 
laws of the Church ; and, in truth, in life and manners is 


nothing very extraordinary onewayortheotherj though 
rather inclining to the good/^ This character^ which 
shows much discrimination, and is highly favourable 
in an age when a cardinal was refused the Papacy be* 
cause of his morality, was first dictated by Montaigne ; 
but afterwards improved, as the manuscript shows, by 
his own hand. 

Then follows in the journal an elaborate account 
of a dinner given to Montaigne by the Cardinal de 
Sens, and the ceremonies observed thereat. All 
little circumstances that showed special respect for the 
traveller are carefully noted. On the 3d of January, 
1581, the Pope, having on a red hat, a white dress, 
with a cape of red velvet, and mounting a white 
nag, with red velvet trappings and gold trim- 
mings, passed in great pomp before his window. On 
the 11th, in the morning, as Montaigne was riding 
out of the town, on his way to the banker's, he met, 
coming from prison. Catena, a famous captain of 
brigands, whom all Italy had feared, and of whom 
were related enormous murders, especially of the 
Capuchins, whom he forced to deny God under pro- 
mise of safety, and then massacred them without any 
reason of utility or vengeance. The traveller stopped 
to witness this spectacle. In addition to the forms 
of France, the Bomans carried before the criminal 
a great crucifix, covered with a black veil. Around, too, 
on foot, wiere a number of masked men, said to be 
great people of the city, who devoted themselves to this 
service of accompanying condemned wretches to the 


scaffold. Two of them sat by him in the cart^ and 
continually held before his face and presented to him 
a picture with the image of our Saviour. This pre* 
vented his face from being seen. At the gallows — a 
beam supported by two uprights — this picture was 
still held before him until he was flung off. Catena 
— a dark man about thirty years of age — died in an 
ordinary manner, without, moveraentj and without 
speaking. When he was hanged they cut him in 
four quarters. '' At Rome they rarely inflict on men 
more than simple deaths and reserve their roughness 
until afterwards/' Montaigne remarked what he had 
elsewhere observed (in the Essays), how the people are 
affected by rough treatment of dead bodies; for the 
crowd, which felt nothing at the hanging, groaned when- 
ever the hatchet descended on the lifeless corpse. As 
soon as the criminal was dead, one or more Jesuits, or 
others, got up on some scaffolding or barrel and 
preached. Next day, however, Montaigne's secretary 
saw a sight which must have somewhat modified the 
opinion of his master on the absence of cruelty from 
Boman executions : — Two brothers, who had killed 
the governor of the city in the house of the Pope's son, 
were torn with red-hot pincers, had their hands cut off, 
were otherwise tortured, then beaten with clubs, and, 
finally, had their throats cut. 

Montaigne makes a singular remark, that there 
were few paintings in the churches, and those very 
recent. Some old ones had none at all. Yet where 
could paintings have been found towards the end 


of the sixteenth century, if not in the churches of 

After having paid his visits of ceremony and 
business, Montaigne began '^ to amuse himself by 
studying Rome/^ At first he had taken a French 
guide; but this man, from some fantastical humour, 
gave up the job, and so the traveller was piqued, and 
determined to get through himself. For this purpose 
he studied maps, and had books read out to him in 
the evening. The next morning he went and applied 
what he had learned, so that in a few days he says 
'^ he could easily have guided his guide.'' 

" He said,'' writes his secretary, " that we could 
now see nothing of Rome save the sky under which 
it had been built, and the plan of its site ; that the 
knowledge he had of it was an abstract and contem- 
plative science, of which nothing fell under the senses ; 
that those who said that at least the ruins of Rome 
could be seen said too much, for the ruins of such 
a fearful fabric would impress the beholder with more 
honour and awe; that we could only see its tomb. 
The world, inimical to its long domination, had first 
broken and shattered all the pieces of this admirable 
body; and then, as even dead, overthrown and dis- 
figured, it created terror, had buried the ruin itself. 
These little shows of its fragments that appear above 
the bier had been preserved by fortune as witnesses 
of that infinite greatness which so many ages, so many 
conflagrations, the conspiracy of the whole world 
against it, repeated over and over again, had not been 


able entirely to suppress. But it was probable these 
disfigured members that remained were the least 
worthy, and that the fury of the enemies of that 
immortal glory had incited them first to destroy what 
Was finest. The buildings of that bastard Rome, 
which are now being added to those ancient piles, 
though fit to ravish with admiration the present age, 
reminded him of the nests which sparrows and black- 
birds hang in France to the vaults and walls of the 
churches which the Huguenots have just demolished. 
He even feared, considering the little space which the 
tomb occupied, that it was not all recognised, and that 
a great part of the tomb was already buried.^' In this 
strain did Montaigne speculate on those ruins, *^ deep 
into the antipodes,'' as he expresses it in the Essays ; 
and going on, he endeavours to reconstruct for himself 
a picture of that wonderful city when in its might and 
its majesty. His observations may be read with fruit 
by moralists and antiquaries even now. 

On January 80th, Montaigne went to see '•^the 
most ancient religioud ceremony known among men'' 
— the Circumcision of the Jews. He had already 
visited the Synagogue, and noticed that they sung in 
a disorderly manner, like the Calvinists, children and 
all, and paid as little attention to their prayers as the 
Catholics, talking business all the time. Montaigne 
describes the ceremony he went to see most minutely. 
Nothing interested him more than this strange 
diversity of customs. 

Gieat liberty was granted that year for the amuse- 


ments at the CarSme-prenant. Children^ and Jews^ 
and naked old men^ raced in the streets on foot ; and 
children only^ upon horses^ asses, and buffaloes. Mon- 
taigne had a scaffolding built^ at the expense of three 
^cus^ to see the sight-^ of which he did not think 
much. The only thing that interested him was the 
sight of the ladies^ who were not masked as at Paris. 
As for perfect and rare beauty he saw none, except in 
three or four cases; but commonly the women were 
more agreeable^ and fewer were downright ugly, than in 
France. The Roman head-dress was far better than 
the French ; so was the costume below the waist. But 
Montaigne was so accustomed to the tight waists of 
his own country that the easiness of these ladies made 
him think them all in an interesting situation. '^ Their 
countenance^ however/' he says, " has more majesty, 
gentleness, and meekness. There is no comparison 
in the richness of their dress and ours, — they are all 
over pearls and precious stones. Wherever they 
appear in public— whether in carriages, at festivals^ or 
in theatres — they are apart from the men. Never- 
theless, they have tolerably free interlaced dances, 
during which opportunities of whispering and hand- 
touching occur. The men are very simply dressed on 
all occasions, in black and serge of Florence; and 
because they are a little darker than we, I know not 
how it happens, but they do not appear like dukes, 
counts, and marquises, which they are, but seem 
rather common. Yet they are courteous and extremely 
amiable, whatever may be said by the vulgar among 

VOL. II. o 


the French^ who will not call amiable those who do not 
easily endure their licentiousness and insolence. We 
endeavour^ in all ways, to do all we can to make our^ 
selves decried. Nevertheless, these Romans have an 
ancient affection and reverence for France, which 
makes such amongst us much respected and welcomed 
who in the least deserve to be so, and who just 
restrain themselves sufficiently not to be offensive.^' 
Is this outspoken language on national characteristics 
the reason why the " Travels'' have never been popular 
in France ? I once asked a bookseller if they were to 
be reprinted, and he answered with some indigna- 
tion, using, I believe, the words of the ^' Manuel du 
Libraire/' — " No, sir; they are of very little value.*' 

After some descriptions of banqueting and fes- 
tivals, the journal kept by the secretary here comes 
abruptly to a close, and the remainder is entirely 
written by Montaigne himself. *^ Having dismissed/' 
he says, ^* the servant who conducted this fine piece of 
work, and seeing it is far advanced, however inconve- 
nient it may be, I must continue it myself.'' 

He begins by an elaborate description of the 
exorcism of a devil, who had taken possession of the 
body of a Notary. The scene occurred in. a little 
chapel, and was elaborately ridiculous; but the narrator 
manages to preserve his gravity. He was told, that 
the day before a devil had been made to jump out of a 
woman's mouth, bringing with him nails, pins, ^and 
leaving behind a tuft of his hair ! A new spirit 
entered into her next day; ''but," said the priest to 


Montaigne, '' this second kind (for he knew the names 
of them, their divisions, and most particular distinctions) 
was easy to expel/^ This was all he saw. The Notary 
answered when he was adjured, and punched with the 
fist, and spit upon, and ground his teeth and twisted his 
mouth, and when the Corpus Domini was offered him 
muttered Si fata volent, for he knew a little Latin. 

The common people seemed to Montaigne less 
devout than in the good cities of France, but more 
ceremonious, being extremely so. " I write here in 
all liberty of conscience,^' he says, " and shall give 
examples. A certain person^ being alone with a lady 
of free manners, heard the clock strike twenty-four, 
and the Ave Maria sound ; she instantly sprang away 
from him, and fell on her knees to pray. Another 
time he was similarly accompanied, when suddenly an 
old duenna burst open the door, rushed in, and with 
anger and fury snatched off the girPs neck a little 
image of the Virgin, which she had forgotten to 
remove. The young one appeared very contrite at her 
omission.^' We see by this that Montaigne^s ex- 
perience at Rome ranged very widely. 

On March 1, Montaigne saw the ambassador of 
the Muscovite, clothed with a scarlet mantle and a 
dress of cloth of gold, with a hat shaped like a night- 
cap, of cloth of gold furred, and beneath a skull-cap of 
silver cloth. This was the second Muscovite ambas- 
sador sent to the Pope, another having come in the time 
of Paul the Third. The object of the negociation seems 
now singular, — it was to move the Pope to interfere in 


the war which the King of Poland was waging against 
his master. For it was his (the Muscovite's) place to 
withstand the shock of the Turk ; and if his neighbour 
weakened him he would be incapable of the other wary 
which would be a great window opened for the Turk 
to get at us by. The Czar (Ivan the Terrible) oflfered, 
as a further inducement to his Holiness to protect him 
against Poland, to efface certain differences of religion 
that existed between him and the Romish Church, — 
in which he has since been imitated by Peter the 
Great. How different were the relations of Turkey 
with Europe in those days ! Montaigne, in his Essays, 
recommends young French gentlemen to go and join 
the armies of the Sultan, and study discipline and the 
art of war. 

The Muscovite ambassador was well received at 
Rome. At first he refused to kiss the Pope's foot, 
and only gave in when it was proved to him that even 
the Emperor was subject to this ceremony ; for the 
example of kings did not suffice for him. He could 
speak no language but his own, and had come without 
an interpreter. He had only three or four men in 
his suite, and said he had passed with great danger 
disguised through Poland. " His nation,'' says Mon- 
taigne, " is so ignorant of the affairs of this part of the 
world, that he brought to Venice letters from his master 
addressed to 'the great Governor of the Signoria.' 
Being asked what was meant by this, he replied that he 
thought that Venice was part of the Pope's territories, 
and that a governor was sent there as to Bologna and 


elsewhere. God knows how those magnificent gentle- 
men (of Venice) received this ignorance. He brought 
with him rich and rare furs as presents/' This bar- 
barian was taken to see a Passover procession^ at 
which he was disappointed, saying that when there was 
a gathering in his country there were always twenty- 
five or thirty thousand horses. He made fun of the 
whole affair^ according to the person appointed as his 
interpreter^ who told this to Montaigne. 

The Essayist visited the library of the Vatican, J 
and describes its curious contents. Few travellers have 
been more industrious in seeing everything, or more 
judicious in mentioning the most remarkable things. 
Among the curiosities exhibited was the original of the 
book composed by Henry the Eighth of England against 
Luther, sent to Leo the Tenth. Montaigne read the ^ 
two prefaces, and praises ^the Latin. Apropos of this 
manuscript, he says it was shown him without diffi- 
culty, whereas the French ambassador, his friend^ 
could never get a sight of it, although he much wished 
to do so. " All things are thus,'' observes he, *'easy to 
some — inaccessible to others. Opportunity has its 
privileges, and ofiers often to the people what it refuses 
to kings. Courage often hinders itself, as do greatness 
and power." Montaigne examined a manuscript of 
Virgil, which confirmed him in the opinion that four 
lines, then usually printed at the beginning, were spu- 
rious. He was deeply interested in these learned points. 

Since his arrival at Rome he had made acquaintance 
with an old Patriarch of Antioch, an Arab, strong in 


Oriental languages^ who now made him a present of 
a mixture for the gravel, and wrote a receipt for its 
use; which Montaigne transcribes in his journal, lest 
he should forget it. Here we find him accepting a 
mysterious drug, and determining to use it, after 
having scofied at the most reasonable medical as- 

Montaigne's old master, Muretus, was at that time 
living in Rome; and we have the record of a dis- 
cussion at M. d'Abein's table between these two and 
other learned men on Amyot's translation of Plutarch. 
Montaigne warmly undertook the defence of Amyot, 
and maintained that when he had missed the true 
sense of Plutarch he had substituted another probable 
one, quite consistent with the context But examples 
were brought forward which convinced him that he 
was too partial. 

In the porch of St Peter's were shown flags said to 
have been taken by the King of France from the 
Huguenots ; " but it is not specified/^ notes Montaigne, 
" where or when.'' In a chapel he saw a wretched 
picture of the battle of Moncontour. " There are 
also, in two places, representations in which the wound 
of M. I'Amiral de Chatillon is painted, and his death, 
Very authentically.'' This enigmatic reference to the 
St. Bartholomew, the only one in all Montaigne's 
writings, is most characteristic. 

On March 15th the young Montluc called, accord- 
ing to appointment, at Montaigne's lodgings, and they 
started together for Ostia. On the way they came to a 


place where it was necessary to cross the Tiber in 
a ferry ; but there was no boat for horses^ and they 
were about to return^ when the Sieurs du Bellai^ 
Baron de Chasai^ and Marivau^ rode down to the 
opposite bank. An exchange of animals was effected^ 
and the journey was continued* Montaigne's observa- 
tions on this trip are curious^ but it would be too long 
to repeat them. 

" Rome/' says the traveller, " is a city of courtiers 
and nobility ; everybody takes his share of ecclesiastical 
idleness. There are no trading streets, or less than in 
a small town; there are only palaces and gardens. 
There is no street like the Rue de la Harpe, or de 
St. Denis. I always fancy I am in the Rue de Seine 
or on the Quai des Augustins at Paris. The city 
scarcely changes its appearance on work -days andf 
festival days. All through Lent there are Stations; 
they are not les^ followed on work-days than on others. 
At that time nothing is to be seen but carriages, 
prelates, and ladies.'^ 

Montaigne went to the hot baths to be scrubbed, 
and rather makes a merit that he did not take a 
'^ady-friend '' with him, as was the custom of the 
city. On the 17th of March there were roses and 
artichokes to be had in Rome ; but the traveller did 
not suffer from the heat. He went about every day 
visiting churches and observing curious customs, and 
has succeeded in producing the best picture I know 
of Rome under Gregory the Thirteenth. Yet how 
rarely, if ever, is his testimony referred to by historians ! 


It is worth while quoting his opinion of the Jesuits. 
*' How marvellous is the place their College holds in 
Christendom ! I think there never was a brother- 
hood or body among us which held such a rank^ 
nor which has produced such fruits as these will do 
if their designs continue. They now occupy nearly 
all Christendom. They are a nursery of great men, of 
all sorts of greatness. They form the greatest menace 
for the heretics of our time ! " 

The Romans were fond of strolling through the 
streets without any particular object, except to see the 
ladies at the windows; and especially the Hetairae, 
who showed themselves with such a treacherous art 
that they deceived the beholder^ and made him fancy 
them more beautiful than they were. *^ I have often/' 
says Montaigne, confidentially, "got oflf my horse at 
once and obtained admission, and have been surprised 
to find how much I have been deceived. They know 
how to turn their most agreeable part to you ; some- 
times the top of the face, or the lower part, or the 
side — so thj^t at the windows not one seems ugly. 
Every . one is there taking off his hat, making low 
bows, and receiving glances. The last favoured lover 
acquires the right to make this public deuionstration 1 
Now and then a lady of quality shows herself, but it is 
easy to distinguish her. On horseback, little men like 
me see best.'' 

On Holy Thursday the Pope, in his pontifical robes^ 
appeared in the portico of St. Peter, whilst a Canon 
read a bull " excommunicating an infinity of people^ 


among others the Huguenots (by that name)^ and all 
princes who detained any of the lands of the Church ; 
at which article the Cardinals de Medici and Caraffa, 
who tot near the Pope^ held their sides with laughs 
ing!'' After this the Pope threw down a lighted 
taper among the crowds which fought with fists and 
sticks for pieces of it 

The Veronica was shown during these days — '^a 
face of a sombre and obscure colour^ in a square like 
a great mirror/' A priest with red gloves held it up 
from a pulpit^ assisted by others. The people pros- 
trated themselves on the earth, mostly with tears in 
their eyes, and with cries of commiseration. A woman, 
said to be possessed, stormed at seeing this face, cried, 
shrieked, and wrung her arms. The priests moved 
round the pulpit, turning the Veronica now here now 
there, and wherever it was turned the people shouted. 
At the same time was exhibited the *Mance-head '' in 
a crystal bottle. Many times a day this ceremony 
was performed, with so great an assemblage of people, 
that the crowd stretched far out of the gates, wherever 
the most distant glimpse of the pulpit could be gained. 
'^ It is fine,'' says Montaigne, in a passage too charac- 
teristic and picturesque to be passed over, ^^to see the 
fine ardour of so vast an assemblage for religion on such 
days. They have a hundred brotherhoods and more; and 
there is scarcely, a man of quality but is attached to 
some one of these. . . . They traverse the streets in 
troops, dressed in Unen garments ; each company has its 
fashion — some white, others red, blue, green, or black; 


and generally their faces are veiled. The most noble 
and magnificent thing I have seen, liere or elsewhere^ 
is the incredible number of people spread through the 
city this day engaged in devotion, especially these 
brotherhoods. For, besides a great number of others 
whom we had seen in the daytime, and who had 
come to St. Peter^s, when night began the whole city 
seemed on fire — the companies marching in order 
towards the church, each bearing a light, generally a 
taper of white wax. I think there passed before me 
twelve thousand torches at least; for from eight 
o'clock in the evening to midnight the street was 
always full of this pomp, conducted with order so 
good and so measured, that although the processions 
came from different directions there was no breach 
or interruption. Each body was accompanied with 
music, and they sang as they moved. In the midst 
of the ranks was a file of Penitents, who scourged 
themselves with cords; of whom there were five hun- 
dred at least, their backs all skinned and bleeding 
in a piteous fashion. This is an enigma I do not 
yet quite understand: the penitents are hurt and 
cruelly wounded, and torment and beat themselves 
incessantly; but if we look at their countenances, 
the assurance of their step, the firmness of their 
words (for I heard several speak), and their counte- 
nances (for many were uncovered in the street), it 
does not seem even that they are doing a painful 
or serious action : yet there were some young ones 
of twelve or thirteen years of age. Close by me 


there was quite a youth^ with an agreeable counte- 
nance : a young woman pitied him to see him thus hurt^ 
he turned towards us^ and said laughing: ^Bastal disse 
che fo questo per It lui peccati, nonper U mieiJ Not only 
do they show no distress^ or seem to be constrained^ 
but they act with joy, or at least, with such indiffe- 
rence that you see them talking of other things, laughing, 
hallooing, running, leaping, as in a great crowd when 
the ranks are broken. Among them are men with wine, 
who give them to drink, or wet the ends of their whips, 
or blow the wine on their wounds. From their shoes 
and stockings they seem to be poor people, who sell 
themselves for this work ; at least most of them. They 
told me their shoulders were greased : but I saw the 
wounds so raw and the sufferings so prolonged, that 
no medicament could have taken away feeling. More- 
over, why do people praise them, if all this is mere 

The sly naivete of this question seems to suggest 
that, despite the evidence of his senses, Montaigne 
thought the whole scene a gross comedy; but the 
effects of enthusiasm, and even artificial excitement, in 
rendering the body insensible to pain, had not then been 
studied. The writer of these pages has seen in the 
East, hundreds of men and boys submit to the train- 
pling of a heavy horse, heavily mounted, on a similar 

On Holy Thursday, although the ladies had more 
liberty than usual, there was a cessation of all oglings 
and amorous intercourse. Montaigne's journal, though 


desultory^ is fuller of fact and obseryation than most 
descriptions of the Holy Week at Rome. He saw the 
heads of St. Paul and St. Peter, with flesh on, and 
beards, and complexion, *' just as if they were living ;^^ 
and describes minutely their appearance and the for- 
malities with which they were shown: adding, how- 
ever, that they were placed rather high, and seen 
through iron bars. " They light around, outside, 
many tapers ; but it is difficult to discover very clearly 
all particularities. I saw them two or three times. 
The polish of their faces has some resemblance to our 
masks ! '^ 

By this time Maldonat, the Jesuit whom Mon- 
taigne had met at Espernay, had come to Rome : in 
conversation they both agreed that the poor people 
were, without comparison, more devout in France than 
there ; but the rich and courtiers a little less. Mal- 
donat maintained against some Spaniards that " there 
were more men truly religious in Paris than in the 
whole of Spain .^' 

" I know not,'' says Montaigne, ^^ how others 
find the air of Rome : I find it very pleasant and 
healthy. The Seigneur de Yialart said he had lost 
there his liability to the megrims ; which agrees with 
the opinion of the people, who maintain the climate to 
be bad for the feet and good for the head. Nothing 
is so opposed to my health as ennui and idleness : here 
I have always some occupation, if not so pleasant as I 
could desire, at least sufficient to occupy me : as 
visiting the antiquities, and the vineyards, which are 


gardens and pleasure- places of singular beauty, in which 
art has made rough steep places far superior in grace 
to our level pieces of ground. Here you may go and 
wander alone, or sleep, or fulfil assignations. . . . 
Sometimes I went to hear sermons, which are always 
going on, or disputes of theology ; and sometimes to 
the Hetairae, who make you pay a high price for their 
conversation : which was all I wanted, as my object was 
to listen to their chat and participate in their subtleties. 
All these amusements occupy me sufficiently. Of 
melancholy, which is my death, and of ennui, I have 
no opportunity, neither within the house nor without. 
Rome is therefore a pleasant residence, and I can infer, 
if I had known it more intimately, how it would have 
pleased me:. for, in truth, although I have employed 
art and nature, I have seen only its public face, and 
what it offers to the meanest stranger.^' 

Montaigne was very anxious to obtain the citizen- 
ship of Rome ; and bestirred himself for the purpose 
among his Italian friends, avoiding to use the influence 
of the embassy. The authority of the Pope was 
brought into play, by means of Filippo Masotti, his 
major-domo, who had conceived a singular affection for 
the Essayist, and took great pains to have his wishes 
accomplished. The letters of citizenship, full of com- 
plimentary phrases — the same which had just been 
applied to the Buke of Sero, the Pope's son — were 
delivered finally on the 5th of April, and are given at 
length in the Essays. 

After a visit to Tivoli, Montaigne prepared for his 


depairture from Rome. It is necessary here to repeat^ 
that on his arrival all his books had been seized ; among 
others, a copy of the Essays. Some time after, his 
work was returned to him with the observations of the 
monkish doctors. The Maestro of the Sacred Palace 
had only been able to judge of it by. the report of a 
certain French brother^ as he did not understand the 
language. He had an interview with Montaigne^ and 
showed himself very lenient^ contenting himself so well 
with the excuses put forward in answer to each article 
of the animadversions written by the said French monk, 
that he left it to the Essayist^s conscience " to re- 
write what he should see to be in bad taste !'^ . . . 
^' I begged him/' says Montaigne, '' on the other hand, 
to follow the opinion of him who had made the judg- 
ment, acknowledging some things — as that I had used 
the word Fortune, that I had mentioned heretic poets, 
that I had excused Julian the Apostate, that I had 
said that he who prayed should be exempt from 
vicious inclinations at the time; item, that I considered 
anything beyond simple death, cruelty; item, that a 
child should be brought up to do everything; and 
other such things, stating that such were my opinions, 
and that I had expressed them without knowing them 
to be errors. In other cases I denied that the cor- 
rector had understood my conception.^' 

What a strange farrago must the criticism of this 
stupid monk have been ! The Maestro, who was an 
able man, took the part of Montaigne^ and did his best 
to impress on him that he did not much agree with the 


proposed alterations^ by pleading very ingeniously for 
him in his presence against another Italian who took 
the opposite view. The really dangerous parts of the 
Essays escaped them altogether. It is curious to re- 
mark that that dutiful and exemplary daughter of the 
Churchy Catherine de Medici, often uses the proscribed 
word " Fortune,^' or Chance, in her letters. 

The Romans seized a French version of a Catholic 
book because the translator was a heretic ; but, on the 
whole, they seem to have been very lenient with 
Montaigne. When he went to take leave of the 
Maestro and his companion, they begged him to pay no 
attention to the censure of his book, in which censure 
some other Frenchmen had warned them there were 
many absurdities ; and assured him that they honoured 
his intentions, and his affection towards the Church ; 
also his talent; and had so high an opinion of his 
frankness and conscientiousness, that they left it to him 
to take out of his book, when he wished to reprint it, 
whatever he thought too free-spoken, and, among other 
things, the word Chance ! " They seemed very satisfied 
with me,^' says Montaigne ; " and, in order to excuse 
themselves for having thus minutely examined my 
book and condemned some parts of it, alleged many 
books of our time, by Cardinals, and others of good 
reputation, which were censured for such imperfections, 
which touched in no wise the reputation of the author 
or the book. They begged me to help the Church by 
my eloquence (such were their words of courtesy), and 


to remain in this peaceable city, free from trouble, with 
them. They are persons of great authority, and 

With such golden opinions did this great Free- 
thinker depart from Borne; and proceed in a devout 
spirit to the miraculous shrine of Loretto. 




Montaigne left Rome in the afternoon^ and was 
accompanied as far as Ponte-Mole by Messieurs de 
Marmouties^ de la Tremouille^ da Bellay^ and other 
gentlemen. Nothing worthy of remark occurred as far 
as Spoleto^ where the party had to show their bills of 
health ; not for fear of the plague^ which was then no- 
where reported, but of Petrino, a citizen of that place, 
the most noble bandit of Italy, of whom the most 
famous exploits were related, and by whom that and 
all neighbouring cities feared to be surprised. 

" This country," says Montaigne, " is strewed with 
many taverns; and where there are no houses they 
make green arbours of branches, and lay out on ta- 
bles under them hard eggs, cheese, and wine/^< He 
was delighted with the beauty of the country, the 
broad valleys and cultivated hills — olive-grown to the 
summit. All his comparisons are derived from his 
own district, and may reveal the existence of un- 



acknowledged nostalgia. Foligno reminded him of 

Here and there under the road-side trees^ as the 
travellers advanced^ they beheld monks stationed, 
giving holy-water in exchange for alms; and little 
children with bewildering heads of hair crowded round, 
holding up chaplets, and promising prayers for money. 

Leaving the plain, Montaigne began to enter the 
mountains, and crossed a series of level valleys and 
lofty table-lands. " But early in the morning/^ he says, 
^'we had, for some time, a brief view of a thousand 
different hills, clothed every where with the fine shadows 
of all sorts of fruit-trees, and the finest wheat possible, 
often growing on such steep and precipitous places 
that it seemed a miracle how horses could have ever 
reached there. Most beautiful valleys, — ^infinite number 
of streams, — throngs of houses and villages everywhere. 
I am reminded of the avenues of Florence, save that 
here there are no palaces or mansions of mark ; and there 
the ground is dry and sterile, for the most part, — whilst 
here, not an inch on the hills is useless. It is true 
that spring time had now come. Often, far above our 
heads, we saw a fine village ; then beneath our feet, as 
if at the antipodes, another — each with various and 
diverse commodities. Nor is the lustre of the scene 
spoiled by the uprising amidst these so fertile hills 
of the frowning and inaccessible Apennines, rolling 
forth many torrents, which, having spent their first 
fury, become very sweet and very pleasant streams in 
the valleys. Amidst the eminences, now aloft, now 


below^ many rich plains open^ which sometimes bend 
away out of sight. It seems to me^ that no painting 
could represent so rich a landscape.^' 

After passing La Muccia^ Montaigne showed that 
philosophy bad not quite repressed in him the over- 
bearing manners of the French gentleman^ of which he 
elsewhere complains. " I gave a box on the ear to a 
vetturino/^ he says. ^^ This is a great excess^ according 
to the usage of the country — witness the vetturino who 
killed the Prince of Tresignano — and as I saw that he 
remained behind, and was a little uncomfortable lest 
he should make a complaint or do something else^ in- 
stead of going on to Tolentino I stopped and supped 
at Valchimara/' 

Next day, this adventure having no sequel, the 
party proceeded to Macerata. It was easy now to see 
that they were on the way to Loretto, so full were the 
roads of comers and goers : many, who were not mere 
private individuals, but rich persons with followers, 
travelled on foot dressed as pilgrims; some with a 
standard and then a crucifix preceding them, they 
themselves being dressed in a suitable livery. 

They reached Loretto in the evening. It was a 
little village, fortified against the incursions of the 
Turks, on a slight elevation, overlooking on one side a 
beautiful plain, on the other the Adriatic sea. The 
natives said, that in fine weather the mountains of 
Sclavonia could be descried on the eastern horizon. 

Loretto had few inhabitants, save those in the ser- 
vice of the shrine, directly or indirectly ; as for example, 


hotel-keepers^ who supplied very dirty lodgings; and 
dealers in wax-work images^ Pater-nosters, Agnas Dei, 
Salvators, and " such-like wares ;'' for which there was 
a great number of fine shops, richly furnished. '^ I 
hid out for my part fifty ffood crowm" says Montaigne, 
who seemed determined to exhaust every possible con- 
tradiction, and prove that the Sceptic who comes oat 
of the Catholic Church, makes light of revelation, and 
sneers at the immortality of the soul, may not only 
look on Protestantism with almost priestly jealousy 
and dislike, but wear a cross over his coat and a holy 
relic under his shirt. These are the facts that explain 
why Montaigne has rarely been repulsed, except by 
rigid Jansenists. He trifled with Christian doctrines, 
but he did not form any new opinion about them ; he 
laboured sometimes to reduce us to the level of beasts; 
but he practically acknowledged the efficacy of bits of 
consecrated wax, and freely spent his money at the 
stalls of relic-mongers. 

At Loretto, all the priests, the churchmen, and the 
College of Jesuits, resided in a great modern palace, 
where also lodged a Governor, an ecclesiastic under the 
authority of the Legate and the Pope. The place of devo- 
tion — the Santa Casa — was a very old and mean little 
oblong house, built of brick. About a fifth was divided 
off, as especially holy. The image of Our Lady 
hung against one part of the wall was in wood: all 
the rest was covered with rich ex-votos; so that not 
one inch was there that did not shine with gold and 
silver. In the great church outside were many orna- 


ments^ but less than Montaigne expected. " I think/' 
he says, " they melt the old ones and use them for 
other purposes. With great trouble/^ he continued, 
" and much favour, I could scarely find a place to lodge 
a framed tablet with four silver figures attached, repre- 
senting Our Lady, myself, my wife, and my daughter. 
At the foot of mine there is inscribed on the silver : 
' Michael Montanus, Gallus Vasco, Eques Regii Ordinis, 
1581 / under that of my wife, ^ Francisca Cassaniana, 
uxor;' under that of my daughter, ^Leonora Montana, 
filia unica.' All these are in a row kneeling before Our 

For the benefit of future pilgrims, Montaigne 
minutely describes the situation of his ex-voto; and 
mentions, that instead of hanging it on a nail by a 
silver chain he had provided, they fastened it quite to 
the wall. It is useless to comment on the naivete of 
this extraordinary narrative, which has somewhat con- 
firmed me in the supposition, on which, however, I 
would lightly insist, that to a certain extent Montaigne 
in his Essays played the part of the audacious infidel of 
our tea-parties, who directs his scorn against Moses to 
alarm the ladies, but goes quietly to chapel, and con- 
descends to give a public hint that he is not quite a 
son of perdition — ready to mate with any strong- 
minded woman who worships reason — by admitting 
that he would never put up with ''an irreligious 

Among the rarities noted by Montaigne at Loretto 
was an ex-voto sent by a Turk, who, in some extreme 


danger^ " determined to try all expedients/' had pro- 
mised this compliment to the Virgin. 

In the retired part of the chapel^ to which no light 
of day penetrated, there was no ornament^ no bench, 
no painting, no tapestry on the walls : no arms were 
allowed to be worn by those who entered; and no 
respect was paid to rank or persons : '^ We kept our 
Easter in that chapel, a privilege not allowed to all. 
It is necessary to bespeak places before-hand. A 
German Jesuit said mass to me, and gave me the com- 
munion/' To this passage M. de Querlon appends a 
triumphant note : " Such acts of piety allow no doubt 
to subsist on the religion of Montaigne ; therefore the 
incredulous and the sceptics, who have often claimed 
him, may scratch him out of their catalogue !'' 

" This place,'' proceeds Montaigne, ^' is full of 
miracles, concerning which I refer to the books. 
But there are many very recent instances of mischances 
happening to those who, from devotion, have carried 
away any portion of this building, even by per- 
mission of the Pope ; and a little piece of brick, which 
was removed at the time of the Council of Trent, has 
been returned. ... I was much pleased with this 
place, and will relate an experience of it. There was at 
the same time with me, Michel Marteau, Seigneur de 
la Chapelle, a young Parisian, very rich, with a great 
suite. I caused to be related to me, very particularly 
and curiously, the event of the cure of a leg which he 
said had just taken place : it is not possible to con- 
ceive anything more exactly like a miracle. All the 


surgeons of Fah's and Italy had failed. He had spent 
more than three thousand 6c\xs ; his knee was swelled^ 
useless^ very painful^ and for three years had heen 
getting worse, redder, more inflamed, and larger. At 
last, having abandoned all medical aid for some days, 
as he was soundly sleeping, he dreamed that he was 
cured, and he seemed to see a flash of lightning. He 
awoke, cried out that he was cured, called his people^ 
rose up, and walked. In this state of perfect health 
he returned to Loretto ; for it was in consequence of a 
previous voyage he had been cured, since which he had 
been with us at R6me. This was alt that could be 
learned for certain from him and his people.'^ 

It is just possible that Montaigne inserted many 
such passages in his journal, under the idea that it 
might fall under the eye of some frontier censor ; but 
we can scarcely adopt such an explanation without 
some evidence. He goes on to talk of the miraculous 
removal of the House of Loretto from Nazareth to 
Sclavonia, and then to Italy ; and tells how the people 
came from over the water, from the opposite coast, in 
troops, shouting out from afar off in their boats, 
prayers to the Virgin to return and inhabit with them. 
He insists a good deal on the disinterestedness of the 
priests, and even the workmen of the place ; but with 
circumstances that suggest the idea of art in them and 
incredulity in him. 




Having performed his religious daties^ Montaigne 
determined to attend to his body^ and to proceed to the 
baths of Delia Villa. Leaving Loretto, he went first to 
Ancona. His faith at the shrine seems not to have 
been strong enough to entitle him to a cure ; for he 
was suffering in one of his eyes, into which he had 
thrust his thumb at Rome one day in his hurry to 
salute a gentleman as he was walking with the cele- 
brated d^Ossat. He was also in general ill health. 

By way of Fano and Urbino, he returned hastily 
into Tuscany and reached Florence. But here he stayed 
only a night, and proceeded on his way. The roads 
were full of processions : women and monks alike wore 
straw hats. Neither Orleans, nor Tours, nor Paris was 
so populous in its environs as Florence. When they 
had passed Fistoia they found the cherries ripening; 
and villagers came and offered them bunches of straw- 
berries for sale. 

By way of Lucca the Essayist at length reached 


Delia Villa, where he proposed to make a considerable 
stay. " The country is hilly/' says he. '^ By the river 
side there is a plain of some two or three hundred 
paces, beyond which, along the slope of the mountain, 
rises the bath. There are thirty or forty houses fitted 
up for the service; the chambers are handsome and 
private. I visited them nearly all before making a 
bargain, and chose the handsomest, especially as to the 
view, which included the valley, the river, and the moun- 
tains around, all cultivated and green to the very 
summits ; covered here with chestnut and olive-trees, 
there with vines planted upon the mountains, as it were 
in circular steps. From my chamber I could hear all 
night the gentle murmur of the river. Between the 
houses is a clear place for walking, open on one side 
like a terrace, with trees that form arches through 
which you can see the little plain I have mentioned ; 
and some two hundred paces beneath you a pretty little 
village, also used by the bathers when there are many.'' 
Montaigne lodged with a Captain Faulini; and 
was supplied with a parlour, three rooms, a kitchen, 
and a sort of attic for his servants. His host allowed 
him, as he minutely records, " salt, a napkin every day, 
a table-cloth every three days, all iron utensils for the 
kitchen, with candlesticks, — the whole for eleven ecus, 
which made some sous more than ten pistoles, or fifty 
francs, for a fortnight." Does not this confirm the 
view that Michel de Montaigne was likely to meddle in 
household matters at his chateau far more than he 
chooses to confess ? He proceeds : " Pots, dishes, and 


plates of earthenware^ we had to buy, also glasses and 
knives ;'* and so on. 

Let us lightly pass over this residence at Delia 
Villa, which occupies nearly all the rest of the journal. 
It is chiefly devoted to records of the taking of 
medicine and the waters, of their effects, and of the 
poignant physical safferings of the writer. Many of 
the notes have all the effect, for a time, of humour ; 
but at last become pathetic from sheer naivete and 

Here and there are memoranda that may be re- 
ferred to; as, for example, the constant comparisons 
instituted between the baths of Delia Villa and those 
Montaigne had visited in France : also, what he says to 
the effect, that those waters took away blotches from 
the face: "a fact which he noted curiously for the 
service he owed to a very virtuous French lady.'* Then 
he tells a story : — An inhabitant of the place, a 
soldier named Giuseppe, being at sea in the wars was 
taken by the Turks. In order to gain his liberty he 
became a Turk, as maby of the people of those parts 
in the mountains had done ; and married in his new 
country. Following the trade of piracy he came to 
devastate these coasts, and advancing with a small 
party too far inland, was surrounded and made prisoner 
by the peasantry. Then he exclaimed that he had 
given himself up purposely, for he was a Christian; 
and so obtained his pardon. Some days afterwards he 
came to Delia Villa, to the house opposite where Mon- 
taigne lodged, and entering, met his mother. She 


asked him gruffly who he was, and what he wanted; 
for he still wore his sailor^s dress^ and it was strange 
to see him there, as he had been absent ten or twelve 
years. At last he revealed himself, and embraced his 
mother. She uttered a cry, fell down in a swoon, and 
remained so until next day. Though she came to her 
senses that time, her life was shortened, and she soon 
died. Meanwhile, Giuseppe was well received by all, 
abjured his errors in the church, and received the sa- 
crament : but all this was mere deceit. He remained 
a Turk in heart; and at last slipped away, went 
to Venice, rejoined his old friends, and continued his 
cruises. But he fell once more into Christian hands, and 
being a man of extraordinary strength, and very skilful 
in sea matters, was kept in chains by the Genoese as 
leader of a gang in one of their galleys. — This narra- 
tive reminds us of the very insecure state of the Italian 
coasts at that time, constantly exposed to surprisal by 
Muslim buccaneers. Montaigne mentions several in- 
stances that occurred whilst he was there by the landing 
of pirates, and carrying away of fishermen and shep- 
herds into slavery. 

Montaigne patiently took the waters, and one day 
after describing their operation, says : " I was this 
morning writing to M. d^Ossat, when I fell into such 
painful thoughts of M. de la Boetie, and remained 
immersed in them so long, without coming to myself, 
that it did me much harm.'' 

It is an amusing illustration of Montaigne's charac- 
ter, that about this time he determined to cease writing 


his journal in French^ and to try the Italian. The 
least said about his proficiency in that language the 
better. However^ his meaning is always tolerably clear. 
For some time he has little to say except about his 
drugs^ his baths^ and his regimen. I shall extract the 
few passages which may be called auto-biographical, 
or which in any way exhibit the Essayist as a noter of 
facts by the way-side : — 

"I never saw so many serpents and toads. The 
children scarcely dare to go and gather strawberries on 
the mountain and in the brushwood for fear of being 
stung. . . . Living is cheap here: good veal costs 
three French sous a pound. The country is very up- 
and-down, and there are few level roads ; yet some are 
agreeable and even ; most of the paths among the hills 
are paved (with large pebbles). ... I gave in the 
afternoon a ball to the peasant-girls, and danced in it 
myself, not to appear too reserved. In certain parts of 
Italy the women salute in the French style, by bending 
the knees. . . . The people here are divided into two 
parties, one French, the other Spanish. This division 
often leads to serious quarrels, which burst out even in 
public. The men and women of onp party wear 
bunches of flowers over their right ear, and jaunt over 
their caps, and gather their ringlets on that side : the 
Spaniards do exactly the reverse. ... I once got 
into a scrape with my friends by sticking a flower be- 
hind my left or Spanish ear. . . . Here the peasants 
and their wives are dressed like the gentlefolks. No 
peasant-girl is without white shoes^ fine linen stockings, 


and a light- coloured silk apron. They dance very 
well. ... I think these baths clear my compleidon. 
. . • My brother Mattecoulon felt the effect of the 
waters. . .'. 

*' On Sunday afternoon I gave a ball with public 
prizes, as is the custom at these baths ; and I was glad 
to be able to do this civility at the commencement 
of the year. Five or six days before, I caused the fes- 
tival to be announced in all the neighbouring places: 
on the eve I had particular invitations sent to all the 
gentlemen and ladies present at the two baths; the prizes 
all came from Lucca. The custom is to give many, in 
order not to appear to favour one more than the others. 
In order to avoid all jealousy and suspicion, there are 
always eight or ten prizes for the women, and two or 
three for the men. I was solicited by many persons, 
who begged me not to forget, some themselves, some 
their nieces, others their daughters. Some days before, 
Messer Giovanni da Vincenzo Serminiati, my particular 
friend, sent me from Lucca, according to my request 
by letter, a leather girdle and a cap of black cloth for, 
the men ; and for the women, two aprons of taffetas, 
one green and one violet (for it is worth knowing that 
there are always some prizes more considerable than 
the others, to enable one to favour one or two women at 
one^s choice); two other aprons of a lighter stuff; four 
cards of pins ; four pairs of pumps, one of which I gave to 
a pretty girl outside the ball; a pair of slippers, to which 
I added a pair of pumps, to make one prize; three head- 
dresses of gauze, and three nets, which made three 


prizes ; and four little pearl necklaces^ — makings in all^ 
nineteen prizes for the women. The whole cost me a 
little more than six ecus. Besides this I had five fife* 
players^ whom I fed all day^ and gave an. 6cu in ad« 
dition for them all; in which I was fortunate^ for they 
are not always to be got so cheap.^^ If Montaigne 
called this contempt of money-matters^ what was his 
idea of order and prudence ? 

''The prizes were hung upon a gaily-decked-out 
hoop, in sight of everybody. We began the ball with 
the women of the neighbourhood ; and I feared^ at firsts 
we s|iould have no other company. But soon visitors 
came flocking in from all sides ; and especially many 
ladies and gentlemen of the Signoria^ whom I received 
and entertained as well as I could^ so that they seemed 
satisfied with me. As it was rather hot, we went into 
the hall of the Palazzo Buonvisi, very suited to the pur- 
pose. When twilight came on, about twenty-two o'clock, 
I addressed myself to the most distinguished ladies 
present, and said that, being neither worthy nor bold 
enough to appreciate the beauty, the grace, and the 
amiability of all these young girls, I begged them to 
undertake the duty and distribute the prizes to the 
company as they were merited. We remained some 
time exchanging compliments, they refusing this deU- 
cate employment, and taking what I said for mere 
civility. At last I proposed a condition, namely, that 
I should be admitted to their councils, and I" would 
give my opinion. Accordingly 1 went about, looking 
now at one and now at the other ; and I always gave 


weight to beauty and prettiness^ observing that the 
pleasure of a ball depended not solely on the movement 
of the feet, but also on the countenance^ the air^ the good 
demeanour^ and the grace of the whole person. The 
presents were then distributed^ to some more^ to others 
less^ but properly. The lady who distributed them gave 
them in my name to the girls ; and I^ on the other 
hand^ standing by, referred all the obligation to her. 
The whole afifair passed off well^ except that one of these 
damsels refused the prize offered her^ and sent to me 
begging -that, for the love of her, I would give it to 
another : which I did not think proper to do^ because 
the one she selected was not one of the most agreeable.^^ 
[Why not, Montaigne, have rewarded this act of friend- 
ship — you, who loved so much an ugly friend ?] 

" The mode of distributing these prizes [this long- 
drawn narrative is eminently characteristic] was as 
follows: the girls who had most distinguished them- 
selves were called forth : each came in her turn and 
stood before the lady and me, who were sitting side by 
side. I presented the prize which seemed to me appro- 
priate, after having kissed it, to the lady, who took it 
from my hand, gave it to the winner, and said, with an 
agreeable air, 'This present is* given you by this gentle- 
man : thank him I* 'Not at alV said Ij 'you owe the 
obligation entirely to this lady, who has judged you 
worthy, among so many others, of this little reward. I 
am only sorry that it is not more worthy of such and 
such qualities; adding words adapted to each case. Im- 
mediately after, the men were treated in the same way. 


*' I do not here mention the ladies and gentlemen^ 
although they all took part in the dance. "Tis, in truths 
an agreeable and rare spectacle for a Frenchman to 
see so many peasant-girls^ so pretty and dressed like 
ladies^ dancing so well^ that the best dancers could 
not surpass them^ except that their figures and steps 
are different. I invited every one to supper^ because in 
Italy a banquet is equivalent only to one of our lightest 
repasts in France. I was quit for several pieces of veal, 
and some pairs of chickens. I had at supper with 
me the Colonel of this Vicariate, M. Francesco Gram- 
barini, a gentleman of Bologna and my friend, with a 
French gentleman, and no others. But I gave a place 
at table to Divizia, a poor peasant woman, who lives 
about two miles from the baths. This woman^ with 
her husband, lives by the labour of her hands. She is 
ugly, thirty-seven years of age, with a goitre in her 
throat, and can neither read nor write. But from 
her tenderest years there lived in the house of her 
father an uncle, who was always reading i out in her 
4 presence Ariosto and some other poets ; and her mind 
proved so adapted to poesy, that not only does she 
compose verses with extraordinary rapidity, but inserts 
in them the ancient fables, the names of the gods, of 
different countries, of sciences, and illustrious men, 
as if she had made a regular study thereof. She has 
made many verses for me. 'Tis true they are nothing 
but verses and rhymes; but the style is elegant and 
easy. There were at this ball more than a hundred 
strangers, although the season was not favourable^ 


because it was harvest-time. For then all the country 
people labour, without regard to fast or festival, pick- 
ing morning and evening mulberry-leaves for their 
silk-worms; and the young girls are much occupied 
with this wQrk." ^^I saw with pain the mulberry- 
trees stripped of their leaves, which represented winter 
in the midst of summer/' 

Montaigne, ever vain, introduced at Delia Villa 
the custom that ^' persons of any rank '' should leave 
their arms fixed up at the baths ; but from this time 
forward his journal becomes almost exclusively a record 
of his ailments, and the measures he took to counteract 
them* In one place he says, with pleasant egotism : 
''Until now, on account of the little intercourse and 
familiarity I have had with these people, I had not 
very well sustained the reputation of wit and clever- 
ness spread for me. Nobody had seen in me any very 
extraordinary faculty to marvel at and make much 
of me for/' Yet he was asked to attend a consulta- 
tion of doctors, the patient having resolved not to act 
on their prescription, except under Montaigne's advice. 
" I laughed to myself," says he, " but the thing had 
often happened to me before." Elsewhere he com- 
plains that ''the working of the imagination" increased 
his sufferings in the head. 

'* We do not see," he observes, " among free nations 
the same distinction of rank as with us. Here the 
very humblest have something lordly in their manner. 
Even in asking alms they use, as it were, words of 
authority : as, ' Give me charity, will you ?' or ' Give me 



charityi do you hear?' The common expression at 
Rome is, * Do me good for your own sake.' '' 

Getting tired of the baths, Montaigne made a trip 
to Florence, and saw some chariot races which pleased 
him, *• because they reminded him of. the ancient 
games/^ Again he notices the absence of beautiful 
girls at these public assemblies. In a conversation 
with Silvio Piccolomini he was delighted to find that 
that nobleman despised artillery, and adopted the 
opinions of Machiavelli on the subject. It is neces- 
sary to notice, that he went to the quarter where 
venal beauties were to be found, but was disappointed 
in what he saw. Still restless and ill, he determined 
to return to Delia Villa. On his way he passed 
through Pisa, and visited the cathedral, where it is 
interesting to reflect that he may have elbowed Galileo, 
at that time aged eighteen, and preluding to his great 
discoveries by watching the regular oscillation of a lamp 
swinging from the roof. He formed an acqiiaintance 
with the actresses, and made them a present of fish. 
One of the actors put his kit into a raffle, and Mon- 
taigne risked an ecu. There was a great fight between 
priests and monks in the Church of St. Francesco; 
fisticuff's were freely exchanged, and sticks, candlesticks, 
and tapers were hurled at one another by the combat- 
ants. A learned doctor maintained, in true Sangrado 
fashion, that with the exception of bleeding no other 
remedy for any disease was allowable save bathing ; he 
drank a hundred times a-day, and went to sleep after 
dinner. Offers of service and money were freely made 


to Montaigne, although the inhabitants had the re- 
putation of churlishness; " but polite men always make 
others polite/' 

The stone began now to trouble him more than 
ever. " God knows what is the matter/' says Mon- 
taigne ; *' His will be done/' On reaching Lucca, he 
reflects on the agreeable life he had led in all his 
stations in Italy. '^ My chamber here/' he goes on, 
" was very retired. I wanted for nothing : there was 
no inconvenience of any kind. Politeness is often 
wearisome, and becomes a bore. But I was rarely visited 
by the inhabitants. I slept ; I studied when I pleased ; 
and Mhen the fancy took me, I went out and found 
everywhere companies of men and women, with whom 
I could converse and amuse myself for hours. Then 
there were the shops, the public places, the churches ; 
all these things supplied me with means to satisfy my 
curiosity. Amidst these dissipations my mind was 
as tranquil as my infirmities and the approaches 
of old age allowed; and very few external causes of 
trouble presented themselves. I only felt a little the 
want of society such as I should have desired, being 
forced to enjoy the pleasures I tasted, alone and with- 
out communication." 

The studies Montaigne alludes to were of the Tuscan 
language; in which, however, he found he made little 
progress. Leaving Pisa at length he returned to Delia 
Villa, where he was received with infinite caresses ; and 
resumed his baths at once. The increase of his suf- 
ferings is developed before us in many pages of familiar 


writing. At one time he seems to have been on the 
point of death. A dreadful toothache coming in addition 
to his other ills^ he was not able to support the pain^ 
and took to his bed. Then^ his peculiar disease kept 
him in a fierce state of suffering for some days ; and at 
last, having obtained a temporary relief, he wrote as 
follows : " It would be too great weakness and cowar- 
dice in me if, being certain that I am always in danger 
of perishing in this way, and knowing, moreover, that 
death is gradually drawing nigh, I did not use every 
exertion, before reaching that point, to be ready to bear 
it, without grief, when the moment shall have arrived. 
For, in fine, reason recommends us to receive gladly the 
good that God is pleased to send to us. Now the only 
remedy, the only rule, the only science, to avoid all the 
ills which besiege man from all sides and at all hours, 
whatever they may be, is to be resolved to suffer them as 
necessary conditions of existence, or to terminate them 
courageously and promptly. '^ We thus see, that for a 
moment at least, Montaigne, by his intense sufferings, 
was once brought to contemplate suicide, at any rate as 
a possible alternative. 




At last Montaigne was wearied of the baths of Delia 
Villa, and thought of going to finish his cure elsewhere. 
Early in September (1581) the toothache and neuralgia 
returned, with such fury, that ''he passed the cruellest 
night he ever remembered: he was almost mad.'^ 
Srandy held in the mouth allayed the pain. All the 
gentlemen at the baths paid him visits of condolence 
in his bed. The world was on the point of losing the 
Third Book of the Essays, the crowning part of the 

But on the 7th of the same month news came that 
seems to have helped to effect a cure, by occupying 
Montaigne^s imagination. By letters from M. de 
Tausin, dated Bordeaux, August 2d, he learned that 
** the preceding day he had been elected by unanimous 
consent to be Mayor of Bordeaux.'^ His correspondent 
begged him to accept the post for love of his country. 



Although he seems to have hesitated^ yet he set off at 
once for Rome to receive the official letters^ the despatch 
of which was announced to him^ and packed up on his 
way, at Lucca, two great cases of goods for France. 

Montaigne reached Rome on October 1st, and re- 
ceived there the despatches from the Jurats of Bor- 
deaux. He had now^ at any rate, made up his mind 
to return immediately to France. He sent off a heavy 
trunk to Milan, containing many precious things: 
" among others, a magnificent chaplet ot Agnus Dei, the 
finest in Rome. It had been made expressly for the 
Ambassador of the Empress, and one of his gentlemen 
had got the Pope to bless it.^^ 

Mattecoulon, Montaigne's brother, obtained per- 
mission to remain behind at Rome for five months, in 
order to study arms ; and received forty-three golden 
crowns for his expenses. Soon after he got into a 
difficulty. Being requested to act as second to a French 
gentleman, whom he scarcely knew, he fought, as was 
the custom in those days, with the second of the opposite 
party; and having disposed of his man, went and 
delivered his principal. The adversary appears to have 
been killed; and Mattecoulon, accused of unfair play, was 
put in prison, whence he was delivered by "a sudden 
and solemn recommendation from Henry the Third.'' 
Montaigne apologises for his brother's conduct in one of 
his Essays ; but cannot help exclaiming : " Indiscreet 
nation that we are ! We are not satisfied with letting 
the world know our vices and follies by report : we 
travel in order to publish them. Put three Frenchmen 


in the deserts of Libya, and in a month they will be 
squabbling and scratching each other P^ 

Montaigne left Borne on the 15th of October, being 
accompanied as far as the iSrst post'by MM. d'fistissac, 
de Morens, and many other gentlemen. Others, as MM. 
du Bellay, d'Ambres, d'Allegres, wished to. go forth, 
and had hired horses; but Montaigne made haste 
in order to save them the trouble. He evidently 
enjoyed all this worldly respect, paid in part to the 
Essayist, in part to the new '^ Mayor and Governor of 

The return-journey was performed with comparative 
rapidity. Yet the traveller, although he gave up seeing 
Genoa, turned aside to visit the field of Pavia, where 
Francis the First was defeated; and went to Milan, 
"the most populous city of Italy,^^ which he compares 
to Paris. Thence proceeding by way of Turin, he 
passed the Mont Cenis (where only he ceased to write 
Italian), reached Cbambery, crossed the Mont du Chat 
which overhangs the western bank of Lake Bourget, and 
having paid a visit to Madame de la Fayette, arrived at 
Montaigne on the last day of November, " having l^een 
absent seventeen months and eight days.'' 

Montaigne alleges that he at first positively refused 
the honour voted him by his fellow-citizens who elected 
him as their Mayor, being sure, he says, that he was 
only chosen on account of the memory of his father's 
mayordom ; but remonstrances being made to him, he 
accepted. .Soon after arriving at Montaigne, indeed, 
he received the following letter from the king : — 


'^ Monsieur de Montaigne^ — As I hold in great 
esteem your jSdelity and zealous devotion to my service^ 
I have been much pleased to hear of your election as 
mayor of my city 6f Bordeaux. I have confirmed the 
more willingly this election, because it was brought 
about without intrigue in your absence. Therefore I 
order and enjoin you expressly^ without delay or excuse^ 
to return as soon as you receive these presents^ and 
exercise the oflSce to which you have been so legiti- 
mately called. By so doing you will be very agreeable 
to me, and the contrary will displease me greatly. I 
pray God, M. de Montaigne, to have you in his sacred 
keeping. '^ Henry. 

" Paris, Nov. 25, 1581." 

The mayorship of Bordeaux was a high dignity in 
the sixteenth century. None but gentlemen following 
the profession of arms could legally exercise it. Bor- 
deaux, in fact, was the third city in importance of all 
France, and had many peculiar privileges. The mayor 
took precedence, not only of all nobles in the province, 
but, with few exceptions, of all nobles in the kingdom. 
His office was military, and he often commanded 
armies. There was no other city where the magistrates 
held so great a state. When they went forth, forty 
archers, with scarlet casques, marched before them and 
the officers of the town. The mayor, dressed in a robe 
of white and red velvet, with ornaments of brocade, 
moved two or three paces in front of the Jurats, who 
were dressed in white and red damask. 


Montaigne gives his own account of this high 
dignity. The office, which was merely honoarable, with« 
out any emolament whatever, was held for two years; 
but a magistrate who made himself popular could be 
continued for two other years. This happened rarely. 
It happened to M. de Lansac and M. de Biron, and 
it happened to Montaigne. In a tone of grave irony, 
which some critics have mistaken for puerile boasting, 
the Essayist compares his own conduct, in first refusing 
then accepting the appointment, with the conduct of 
Alexander, who refused at the outset the freedom of the 
city of Corinth ; but when he was informed that Bac- 
chus and Hercules had formerly been citizens, ac- 
cepted ! 

Before the revolution of Bordeaux in 1548, the 
mayors were appointed by the king; but in 1550, 
when the privileges of the city were restored, the mayors 
were made elective. Since that time the city of Bor- 
deaux, though it sometimes struggled against the ap- 
parent toleration of the Court, had increased in favour. 
It* was only in 1561, however, that it was allowed to 
replace the great bell in its tower. In 1566 the keys 
were returned to the city ; so that, at the time of Mon- 
taigne's election, the office of mayor was as dignified 
and important as ever. 

When Montaigne reached his chSiteau on the last 
day of November, 1581, despite the reception of the 
king's letter, he exhibited no hurry to go and take the 
oaths and inhabit the splendid mairie of Bordeaux. 
When he did so at last, he seized every opportunity to 


be back at his chateau, where he had to write more 
Essays and prepare a new edition of the first two 

There is a letter extant, dated May 21, 1582, from 
Montaigne, in which he excuses his absence. The 
Jurats, it appears, had been obliged to send one of 
their number to court on some important business, and 
wrote to Montaigne, asking him to come back. He 
replies : — 

" Gentlemen, — I hope that the journey of M. de 
Cursol will prove of some advantage to the city, the 
cause which he has to plead being so just. You have 
put all the order possible in the affairs which had to 
be transacted ; and as things are going on so well, I 
beg you will excuse for some time my absence, which 
I will, without doubt, shorten as much as the pressure 
of my affairs will permit me. I hope not to be long ; 
meanwhile, I beg you will keep me in your good graces, 
and will command me, if the opportunity presents 
itself of my being employed for the public service ahd 
yours. M. de Cursol has also written to me and told 
me of his voyage. I recommend myself very humbly 
to you, and hope God will grant you a long and happy 

"From Montaigne, this 2l8t of May, 1582. 
" Your humble friend and servant, 





Montaigne, however, entered on his functions as 
mayor early in .1582 ; and though he did not profess 
any great zeal, gave great satisfaction. *' As soon as I 
arrived/^ he says, " I told them what they had to expect 
of me, — no memory, no vigilance, no experience, no 
vigour; but also no hatred, no ambition, no avarice, 
and no violence/' A magistrate with these qualities, 
and the quiet wisdom of Montaigne, was well suited 
for the time in which he had to serve at first. It was 
quite calm. There was nothing to attend to but mu- 
nicipal duties. 

At that period Guienne was governed for the King 
Henry the Third by the Marechal de Matignon, who 
bore the title of Lieutenant-general; the King of 
Navarre, generally at war with Henry, bearing the title 
of Governor. The Marechal had formerly been a 
zealous Catholic, though he had shown sojie humanity 
at the St. Bartholomew. In political and religious 
opinions, at the time of his appointment to represent 


the king, he seems to have agreed with Montaigne; 
that is, with a Catholic cherishing philosophical doubts, 
and inclined to toleration from humanity, but holding 
very strict notions on obedience to royalty. He was 
never, however, on good terms with the King, of Na- 
varre, even in time of peace. He had distinguished 
himself by the taking of La F^re, at the siege of which 
Montaigne probably had some relations with him pre- 
vious to his departure for Italy. Those who do not 
care much for the Essayist's political reputation, will 
readily assent to Dom de Yienne^s assertion, which has 
aroused the ire of indiscriminate admirers, that he did 
little but obey the directions of the Marechal. The 
latter was sent in place of Biron into Guienne, in order 
to carry out the treaty of Fleix, which Henry the Third, 
delivered from disquietude by the departure of the Due 
d'Alen§on, his brother, and therefore his enemy — such 
is the rule among kings — for the Low Countries had at 
length resolved to execute. He came to pacify, but 
found the task not easy. One of the first acts com- 
mitted under his government was the unlawful seizure 
of the city of Perigueux by the Catholic lords and 
gentlemen of Perigord. 

The early part of Montaigne^s mayorship was quiet 
enough, however. Although the Ligue existed, it had 
not yet commenced its abominable public career. 
There seemed a chance that discord might cease. 
Among the articles agreed to at the Conference of 
Fleix was the sending of what was called a Chamber of 
Justice into Guienne-^that is, a number of judges 



selected from the Parliament of Paris, in order to 
replace a chamber chosen half by one party half by 
another, from the Catholic Parliament of Bordeaux, 
which had shown itself unjust and partial in its 
decisions. This commission was presided over by 
Antoine Seguier, and contained among others Claude 
du Puy and Jacques de Thou : the latter gives us the 
history of its movements. Its advocate was Loysel, 
and its Procureur-General Pithou. 

The Commissioners intended iSrst to establish their 
court at Libourne, but reflecting on the poverty of 
the lawyers who would have had to come thither from 
Bordeaux, — the pleaders did not occur to them — they 
made up their minds to go to the capital. It was on 
Jan. 26, 1582, that they held their first sitting at the 
Convent of the Jacobins. Montaigne was present as 
mayor. A vast crowd had collected to welcome the new 
judges — a way of expressing hatred of the old ones. 
The first sitting was occupied with a discourse or remon- 
strance by Loysel, who displayed so much eloquence 
that Montaigne paid him a special compliment. He 
spoke of equal justice in a manner that caused some 
excitement at Court. The session of Bordeaux lasted 
six months, during which time the members of the 
commission spent their time in the society of the 
principal men of the province; and formed friendships 
that in many cases were lasting » It was then that 
De Thou made the acquaintance of Montaigne, who 
appears to have received hospitably at his splendid 
*' Mairie" all these strangers. "The Mayor/^ says De 


Thou^ '^was a man of great frankness^ disliking all 
constraint, who entered into no cabal. He was very 
learned in our contemporary history^ but especially in 
that of Guienne^ his country, which he knew perfectly/' 

De Thou tells us a good deal about the state of 
society and learning at Bordeaux, during the period at 
which it was governed by Montaigne. At that time 
the Rector of the College was Elie Vinet, who was 
occupied in retouching his ^^ Ausonius.^' He was old^ 
and talked much of his friends Tumebus, Muretus^ 
Grouchy, Guerente, and Buchanan. De Thou saw the 
last letters which Buchanan managed to send him by 
the Scotch merchants who came to fetch wine from 
Bordeaux. They were written with a trembling hand, 
it is true, but in a firm style that showed nothing of 
the weakness of old age. Buchanan complained, 
indeed, rather of the length of life, said that he had 
quitted the Court, and had retired to Stirling ; and 
added the following words, which De Thou says he 
always remembered: '^ I now think only of withdrawing 
without noise and dying quietly. As I look upon 
myself already as a dead man, intercourse with the 
living is no longer proper for me.^' 

Elie Vinet^s college had formerly been very flou- 
rishing ; but it had fallen into disrepute by means of 
the new College of Jesuits established in the city. He 
used to say that of one good college two bad ones had 
been made. Montaigne, an admirer of the Jesuits, 
would not have subscribed to this opinion ; and 
probably patronised the order. Perhaps some of the 


many vehement and ill-judged attempts to prove his 
ultra-orthodoxy are exhalations of the gratitude of 
that society^ which forgets neither its friends nor 
its enemies. 

Claude du Puy also at this time made the acquaint- 
ance of Montaigne. It is to him that Scaliger at- 
tributes the saying: "What the devil do we care to 
know whether Montaigne liked white wine 'or red?^' 
and he seems to have been a strange personage. He 
got information once that there were some curious 
MSS. in an Abbey; and went there with several friends^ 
who talked to the' guardian whilst he threw the manu- 
scripts out of window to his people, who carried them 
off. He possessed all known books — sent for every 
new publication in Italy — never showed his library to 
any one, saying it was all confusion. He lost many 
books during the Ligue. He was very fond of Agen; 
so fond, that he quarrelled furiously with P. Pithou, a 
native of that place, for wishing to leave it. Whilst at 
Bordeaux he seems to have been on good terms with 
Montaigne, of whom we have a letter written to him 
afterwards, in 1584. 

I shall give it, merely premising that nothing 
further is known of the circumstance to which it 
alludes, though we may infer that M. de Verres had 
committed some one of those atrocities which were 
so common in the civil wars, and which Montaigne, 
seeing that he was an old friend or dependant, wished 
to be dealt leniently with. Dupuy was at that^time 
Conseiller in the Parliament of Paris, but deputed 


as a jadge to Saintes : Montaigne had gone on a visit 
to Castera^ an estate belonging to his brother Thomas^ 
married to Jaquette d'Arsac, step-daughter of La 

*' Sir, — The action of the Sieur de Verres, the 
prisoner, who is very well known to me, deserves 
that in judging him you should give way to your 
natural gentleness, if that can ever be exercised in 
such a case. He has done a thing not only excusable 
according to the military laws of this age, but ne- 
cessary, and, as we judge, praiseworthy : he did it, 
doubtless, in a hurry, and against his will. The 
remainder of the course of his life is irreproachable. 
I beg you, sir, to direct your attention to this: you 
will find the character of this act to be such as I 
represent, and that punishment is sought in a way 
more malicious than the act itself. If it be of any 
service, I will add that he is a man who has been 
brought up in my house, is related to many respect- 
able families, has always lived honourably, and is very 
much my friend. By serving him you will lay me 
under a great obligation. I beg you very humbly 
to consider him as recommended by me. 

*^ Montaigne.^' 

Dr. Payen calls this a " fine missive \^* it certainly 
informs us of a kind action, but is full of manifest 
special pleading, and is, in fact, a, solicitation to a 


judge to allow a criminal to escape from reasons of 
private friendship. 

Pierre Pithou, one of the most distinguished men 
of his times^ formed one of the learned society collected 
at Bordeaux during Montaigne^s administration, by 
the visit of the Commission. We have a curious 
collection of the sayings of his brother Fran9ois, which 
will give a fair idea of the kind of conversation intro« 
duced at the meetings of such men. ^^ Monsieur de 
Thou is not learned, except in poetry and eloquence. . , 
My brother (Pierre) was jealous that Cujas mentioned 
me in his testament. • . M. Cujas used to get drunk. 
. . . The four great men of our age are Cujas, Ran- 
gonnet, Scaliger, Turnebus : all the rest are sellers of 
shells. . . Rangonnet was poor. The Dictionary of 
Charles Estienne is by him. His daughter died on a 
dunghill ; his son was executed ; his wife was struck 
by lightning; and he ended his days in a prison. . . I 
am now seventy years old ; I never heard of the miracles 
of Loyola till after the Jesuits were established. . , I 
said to the king, at the Conference of Fontainbleau, 
that images, after all, were not very ancient: he 
answered, * Would to God there were none V . ^ When 
Jodelle was dying, he exclaimed, * Open the windows^ 
that I may once more see that beautiful sun/ He was 
somewhat of a natural philosopher.'^ This may be the 
origin of one of the legends of the death of Rousseau* 
Pithou goes on: ^^M. de Thou escaped from Paris 
during the Ligue, disguised as a Cordelier. . • Turne- 
bus was a gentleman, Ba'if was mad, and Cujas' first 




wife was a Jewess. . . Cujas used to say that he never 
read a book which taught him nothings save Arnobius 
on the Psalms. . . I heard Cahier preach that the 
Virgin came to save women. . . When I had nothing 
to do at Paris^ I used to go and see Thevet ; and I did 
so never that on entering he did not cry out, ' I am 
working at that ass of a Ptolemy again.^ . . Monsieur 
Loysel was a good man, but not learned. . . Passerat 
believes that Cicero knew nothing. . . Jean Bodin was 
a sorcerer, as M. le President Fauchet related to me. 
One day they were talking of going somewhere, when a 
stool moved. Bodin said, ' That is my good angel, who 
tells me it would not be prudent to do so.' " . . There 
was, indeed, a common report in the sixteenth century 
that Bodin was inclined to Judaism, or much worse: 
and that he had a demon or familiar spirit, like that 
of Socrates, who always restrained him from going when 
it was not expedient, but never urged him. ''When,*' 
says M. Antoine AUou, "he used to be talking to his 
friends of his affairs, and advising the undertaking of 
something, all at once they heard some of the furniture 
of his room, as a stool, or such-like article, make a noise 
as if shaken : then he would say, ' My genius does not 
advise me to do so.'^' M. Baudrillart, in his laborious 
life of Bodin, omits to mention this tradition, which 
would have thrown great light on that extraordinary 
work of the superstitious and narrow-minded advocate 
of monarchy, " The Demonomanie.^' I shall only add 
here, that it is curious to find these allusions to spirit- 
rapping in the sixteenth century. 


De Thou, as I have said, gives a very complete 
account of the residence of the Commission in Guienne, 
which lets us into the state of things there. In 
February they took a holiday j and some of them went 
to visit Medoc. Loysel, Pithou, and De Thou were 
of the party. The last describes the Landes and the 
pine-trees on the borders of the sea. These Landes 
were full of bees and tortoises, and covered with vil- 
lages, large but wide apart : the peasantry were rich by 
industry, in spite of the poverty of land. They went, 
among other places, to the Teste de Buch, celebrated 
for its oysters, alluded to by Rabelais: '^I wager a 
hundred oysters of Buch,^' says the dealer in the 
famous bargain for the sleep with Panurge. De Thou 
writes : '^ The table was laid out on the beach : as the 
tide was down, oysters were brought in baskets : 
we chose the best, and swallowed them as fast as 
they were opened ; they had an agreeable violet taste, 
and are so wholesome that one of our valets ate a 
hundred without coming to any harm. As we sat, in 
the freedom of this repast, we talked of the beauty of 
the place sometimes; sometimes of affairs of state; 
then of the famous Captal de Buch ; and sometimes of 
those great men to whom Cicero alludes in a passage of 
his works, who did not disdain to employ a decent and 
necessary repose in resting their minds from great 
occupations, or in picking up shells on the sea-shore.'^ 
This naive confession, that all these legal gentlemen 
thought themselves great, is very amusing. The 
celebrities of that age, whom posterity has forgotten 


most completely^ are the men who bad the greatest 
confidence in their immortality. No one really be- 
lieved in, or understood Montaigne ; and we have read 
Fithou's list of great men ! 

From the Teste de Buch tbe party was lured on, by 
the weather, to visit the rest of the country of Medoc, 
and the castle of M. de Candale at Castelnau. They 
found that learned and scientific nobleman there, ex- 
amined his laboratories, and talked with him of his 
voyage of discovery in the Pyrenees. 

De Thou gives an account of several trips of this 
kind. In one of them he says, " I wtis walking with 
Chartier towards evening along a Uttle path between 
two steep banks. Suddenly a peasant, armed as they 
nearly all are in this country, appeared, and called 
out to me, asking me if that was not Chartier who 
went before. I asked him the reason of his question ; 
he answered, ' I shall be glad to know it is Chartier, 
for the report goes he has been hanged/ I called out 
to Chartier to stop and hear the peasant^ who, however, 
disappeared. This meeting was of ill omen, for shortly 
afterwards Chartier was, indeed, hanged.'^ 

On returning to Bordeaux, De Thou found the 
Chamber occupied in examining criminal causes, and 
had to proceed to the examination of Bostaing, a gen- 
tleman guilty of great crimes, who was condemned with 
much rigour, which caused it to be said throughout the 
city that for thirty years no example of such severity 
against a gentleman had been seen. 

De Thou tells a curious story illustrative of the state 


of Guienne at that time. A certain Captain Guillard, 
a brave and determined man, was the declared enemy 
of a neighbour^ pretending that the said neighbour 
had assassinated his brother in a cowardly manner. 
Collecting a band of scoundrels^ he came at night and 
attacked hid enemy^s house^ broke open the door with 
a petard^ killed the owner, who appeared sword in hand 
to defend himself, massacred his wife, his brother, and 
servants. The crime was soon followed by punishment. 
His people, pillaging the house, accidentally set fire to a 
barrel of powder, which blew up, and disabled them so 
that they were unable to escape. They were all seized 
and carried in to Bordeaux, horribly mutiiated, on a 
cart. The scene, as they traversed the streets, all 
burned and bloody, is described as being terrific. The 
minor criminals were interrogated in the cart, and at 
once transferred to the wheel. Guillard, wrapped up in 
a sheet, according to the custom of Bordeaux, was led 
before the judges ; and as he admitted his crime with 
effrontery, he was speedily condemned to death. 

The Session of the Court lasted six months. At 
its conclusion, Loysel made a second long speech, in 
which he alluded to the illustrious lawyiers who had 
practised in Guienne, particularly mentioning among 
others, Fommier, La Chassagne, La Boetie, and 
Montaigne, with great praise. The Court then trans- 
ferred its sittings to Agen, whence Ijoysel sent a 
copy of his second speech to Montaigne, with a letter, 
in which he called him ''one of the principal oma* 
ments, not only of Guienne, but of aU France.'' This 


letter, which was, in fact, a dedication, called forth a 
present of a copy of the first edition of the Essays 
in quarto, which still esdsts with the autograph of 

Montaigne was not present to hear Loysel's second 
Bemonstrance. The fact is, that in August he had 
been sent to Court " for the affairs of the city, with 
ample Memoirs and Instructions/^ What were these 
affairs, however, has not been noted. We merely 
know that his mission was important, and was quite 
successful. We may refer to this visit to Faris^ 
Montaigne's chief experience of the absurd and li- 
centious devotion of Henry the Third, to which he 
more than once refers, and which was then in its 
full paroxysm. 




Montaigne seems to have been quite satisfied with 
his own conduct during the period that elapsed between 
his first election and August 1^ 1583 ; and most of the 
people of Bordeaux evidently agreed with him, for he 
was re-elected. " They did more for me in giving me 
the office again/^ he says^ " than when they gave it me 
at first/^ He does not mention, however, that at the 
second election there was great opposition. The vali- 
dity of the proceedings, indeed, was attacked before 
the Parliament of Bordeaux; and this move proving 
unsuccessful, an appeal was made to the Council of 
State, on the plea that the renewal of Montaigne's 
term of office was contrary to the ordonnance of 1550. 
The election was confirmed ; but in the Registers of the 
Council of State it was expressly stated, that this was 
done on the understanding that it should not be taken 
as a precedent. Montaigne and the Jurats, however, 
sent up a strong protest against this minute; (it is 


preserved^ dated March 5^ 1584) ; and they appear to 
have gained their point. 

In 1583 a rather carious incident^ illustrative of 
the state of communications in France at that period^ 
occurred. The chief trade of Bordeaux was carried on 
by the rivers, and it was very important to it that they 
should be free. But in this year the inhabitants of 
Mas de Verdun threatened to stop the loaded boats 
that plied between Bordeaux and Toulouse, in con- 
sequence of which Montaigne was sent to remonstrate 
with the King of Navarre ; and his instructions have 
been preserved. 

A remonstrance was addressed in 1583 by Mon- 
taigne, as mayor of Bordeaux, and the Jurats of the 
city, to Henry the Third, full of humane and wise 
suggestions. It set forth, that according to ordonnances 
" conform to reason, all taxes should bear equally on 
all persons, the strong supporting the weak ; it being 
reasonable that those who had large means should pay 
more than those who lived on chance and by the sweat 
of their brows;'* and then went on to complain, that 
even the sons of Presidents and Conseillers were de- 
clared by the Parliament exempt from taxation, so that 
the whole burden fell upon the poor. Further, it had 
been the privilege of the city of Bordeaux to appoint 
sworn Taverniers and Cabaretiers to sell wine, "the 
only source of revenue of the inhabitants ;'* but now 
edicts haa been passed, making these posts venal in 
order to obtain money for the Court. " Moreover, 
in consequence of the misery of the time, so great since 


the misfortune of the civil wars^ many persons of all 
sexes and qualities are reduced to mendicity^ and no- 
thing is to be seen in the cities and the fields but an 
unlimited multitude of poor. This would not happen/' 
says Montaigne, " if the edict issued by the late King 
Charles of good memory, whom God absolve, were 
executed, — to the effect, that every parish should be 
obliged to support its poor, and not allow them to 
wander elsewhere/' This edict was equivalent to the 
Poor Law of Queen Elizabeth; but edicts in France 
were seldom executed for long, if at all. Montaigne 
also complains that the city was infested by crowds of 
pilgrims to St. Jacques of Compostello, and other shrines ; 
who begged, to the great scandal of the public ; whilst 
the priors and administrators of hospitals, mostly of 
royal foundation, neglected or refused to feed them,: the 
remedy proposed for this latter grievance is a threat, 
that if the pilgrims were not properly attended to by 
the charities instituted for that purpose, their property 
would be seized. We are left to conjecture the success 
of this remonstrance. / 

• In 1583, Henry the Third drove away Marguerite ^ 
of Navarre from his court ; her coach was stopped and 
searched at Bourg la Heine, and Madame de Bethune 
and Montaigne^s friend, Madame de Duras, were 
arrested " on account of their scandalous lives.*' This 
violent scene caused, of course, great soreness between 
the two Courts, although Marguerite had long ceased 
to have anything to do with the affections of her 


A little while after another disagreeable incident 
took place. Henry of Navarre had long claimed the 
surrender of Mont^de-Marsan^ a portion of his patri- 
mony : but the Marechal de Matignon, knowing the 
intentions of the Courts had put off complying for years. 
At length force was resorted to, and Mont-de-Marsan 
was taken. One of the first persons to whom the King 
of Navarre wrote to explain these proceedings was to 
Montaigne, in his official character as Mayor of Bor- 
deaux; and the correspondence, afterwards entrusted 
to Duplessis Morny, was long continued. Duplessis, 
writing on November 25, says, " The King of Navarre 
has written to you to explain how he entered into his 
town of Mont-de-Marsan, — to you who, in your tran- 
quillity of mind, are neither stirring nor to be stirred by 
little. We wrote to you that you may be a witness, if 
needs be, with those who judge ill of us/^ £lsewhere 
the same correspondent says, '^ Our councils depend 
on what goes on where you are : for we only ward off 
the blows aimed against us. ... I know you are doing 
us all the good you can.*^ 

These letters contain nothing else to extract illus- 
trative of Montaigne's biography. They are merely 
an additional proof that, occupying one of the highest 
positions in the province, he was necessarily mixed up 
with all important transactions. 

But the aspect of the times was now changing, 
The comparative tranquillity which enabled Montaigne 
to gain so good a reputation as a magistrate was be« 
ginning to be disturbed ; and it was evident that his 


post would not much longer be a sinecure. The first 
year of his office had scarcely passed away, indeed^ 
before he seems to have been disgusted with his dignity. 
He tried afterwards to persuade himself that he had 
never heartily entered into his work : " The Mayor and 
Montaigne were always two persons.^' This is in a 
passage which may have suggested the famous "All 
the World^s a Stage/^ . . . . " Most of our occupations 
are farcical : Mundus universus exercet histrionum:" — 

<< Le monde universel sans jQn jone une farce/' 

to use the words of Mademoiselle de Gournay^s trans- 

Towards the end of 1584 Montaigne, wearied of 
the city and its busy life, started oflF for his ch&teau, 
where he seems to have passed the winter, not expect- 
ing, doubtless, to be honoured by a royal visit. I 
have alluded more than once to the connexion, more 
or less intimate, that existed between Montaigne and 
the Court of Navarre. It began, possibly, by his 
acquaintance with Marguerite, which was of early 
date — before her marriage and before the St. Bar- 
tholomew. But the Court of Navarre, held now at 
Pau, now at Nerac, now at Agen, now shifting ovex 
the country, was so completely neighbouring Mon- 
taigne and the places where our philosopher was 
accustomed to be, that we may suppose the connexion 
to have existed from a very early period. Our Essayist^ 
however, was a strict royalist ; and not only in time 
of war publicly declared against Henry of Navarre, 


but actually fought against him on many occasions. 
All these facts are singularly obscure^ and cannot be 
understood if we do not remember the peculiar nature of 
a civil contest^ in which the combatants were sometimes 
not divided even by animosity^ and were with difficulty 
kept from stopping in the midst of a battle to talk of 
their private affairs with their enemies for the day. 

By his acquaintance with Corisande d'Andoins^ 
who at last had become the declared mistress of Henry 
the Fourth^ Montaigne could get at the private key to 
favour, whenever he chose to use it. Henry was, 
politically speaking, a favourite with him, though 
judged calmly and without passion. Having men- 
tioned a gentleman, a friend of his, who became nearly 
mad from excessive attention to his master's business, 
he says : — ^^ That master has himself described his 
character to me, saying that ^ he sees the weight of 
accidents, like any other man; but when they are 
without remedy, he makes up his mind at once to 
endure them.' In other cases, after having ordered 
the necessary precautions, which he can do rapidly on 
account of the vivacity of his mind, he waits in repose 
what may follow* In truth, I have seen him thus, 
maintaining a great nonchalance and liberty of action 
and countenance in the midst of the most difficult 
affairs. I found him to be greater and more capable 
in evil than in good fortune: his losses seem more 
glorious than his victories — his mournings than his 
triumph.'' tllsewhere :— " I know a great prince who 
makes a happy use of the doctrine of destiny, whether 


he believes in it^ or merely takes it as an excuse for 
running great risks. May Fortune not be too soon 
weary of backing him I'' This must have been written 
when there was a fair chance that Henry could reach 
the throne. And again : '^ I know a man who would 
rather be beaten than sleep whilst others are fighting 
for him, and who never saw without jealousy even his 
own people do anything great in his absence.^^ 

Our Essayist^ now negociator, had, in May 1584, 
been on a mission from M. Marechal de Matignon to 
Henry the Fourth at Nerac, and brought back a letter 
of compUment, ending with the words, ^^ M. de Mon- 
taigne will tell you the rest/^ We do not know the 
subject of these negociations ; but the king and the 
philosopher were on excellent terms. Perhaps it was 
then that Montaigne received the honorary title of 
Gentleman in Ordinary to the King of Navarre's Bed- 
chamber, so that thenceforth he served two masters. 

At any rate, in December of the same year, the 
truant mayor, occupied with his beloved Essays at his 
castle, received news that Henry of Navarre was about 
to visit him. Writing to the Jurats of Bordeaux, he 
said, two days before : ^^ All the Court of Sainte-Foi 
are on my hands, and have appointed to come and see 
me.'' Henry made a detour through the country, and 
having dined at Gurson, came to sup and sleep at 
Montaigne. This event was very pleasing to its owner's 
vanity. He is defending his love of travel, and argues 
with his friends : — •" What," exclaim they, "is not your 
house situated well, in good air, well supplied with all 


things^ and more than sufficiently large ? Royal ma- 
jesty has more than once lodged there in its pomp/' 
In his journal we find the following more than usually 
elaborate entry : — 

'^ December 19, 1584. — The King of Navarre came 
to see me at Montaigne, where he had never been 
before. He remained there two days, served by my 
people, without any of his officers: he allowed no 
assay (against poison), and slept in my bed. He had 
with him Messieurs the Prince de Conde, de Rohan, 
de Tarenne, de Rieux, de Bethune, and his brother, 
de la Boulaie, d'Esternay, de Haraucourt, de Mont- 
martin, de Montaterre, de Lesdiguiere, de Poe, de 
Blacon, de Lusignan, de Clervau, Savignac, Ruat, 
Sallebeuf, La Rocque, Laroche, de Roux, d^Ajucourt, 
de Luns, Frontenac, de Fabas, de Vivant and his 
son. La Burie, Forget, Bissouse, de Saint Sevrin, 
d^Auberville, and the lieutenant of the company of 
Monsieur le Prince, his Escuyer, who, with about ten 
other lords, slept here, besides the valets de chambres, 
the pages, and the soldiers of his guard. About as 
many went and slept in the villages. At the king's 
departure I had a stag started for him in my forest 
(the forest of Saint Claud, or Bretanord), which led 
him a chace of two days/^ 

This residence of King Henry of Navarre at Mon- 
taigne, and the two days passed *' in the fields^^ after- 
wards, are mentioned in the itinerary of Berger de 

Early in February, 1585, Montaigne wrote to wish 


a happy new year to the Jurats of Bordeaux^ and 
vaguely hints that as soon as it is convenient he will 
return to his duties ! 

We cannot now expect to meet with public events 
that much influenced Montaigne intellectually. The 
formation of his mind and opinions has been seen. 
We have, therefore, only to trace his personal move- 
ments^ and observe his conduct in the position to 
which — in part his literary reputation, in part the 
respect entertained for his family — had raised him. 
I have not thought it necessary to insist much on the 
negociations carried on between the King of Navarre 
and the Marechal de Matignon, although the name of 
Montaigne, as mayor, now and then occurs in the 
correspondence ; and even the long despatches of 
Duplessis-Morny, addressed to the mayor on the 
subject of the capture of Mont-de-Marsan, seem to 
me, as I have said, scarcely to add anything to Mon- 
taigne's biography. M, Griin, whose researches have 
been so indefatigable and meritorious, almost entirely 
disfigures his hero by insisting, with disproportionate 
emphasis, on his comings and his goings between 
Bordeaux and the wandering court of Henry of 
Navarre. Doubtless in these transactions he was 
not a mere cipher; but if he had assumed any 
individual attitude more traces would have remained 
in history. We may suppose him supplying to both 
parties the suggestions of his common sense and 
deep knowledge of human nature. 

Montaigne returned to Bordeaux in the spring, 


and found it in a state of great excitement. The Duke 
of Guise had already begun his famous enterprise^ and 
was raising an army for the Ligue. A " newsletter/* 
which the mayor writes (and the original of which^ by 
the way^ was discovered in England)^ will sufficiently 
paint the troubled colour of the times^ and show 
that though Montaigne was ready to do his duty, 
it made him very nervous, and that he was anxious 
to be relieved from responsibility. 


*' Monseigneur, — I this morning received your 
letter, which I have communicated to M. de Gourgues, 
and we ditied together at the house of Monseigneur de 
Bordeaux (the Archbishop). As to the inconvenience 
attending the transport of money alluded to in your 
memoir, you see how difficult it is to provide against 
it: however, we will keep an eye on this matter as 
much as we can. I diligently set about seeking the 
man of whom you spoke to me. He has not been 
here, but Monseigneur de Bordeaux showed me a 
letter, in which he says he cannot come as he meant, 
as he has been warned you are suspicious of him. 
The letter is dated the day before yesterday. If I 
had found him I should, perhaps, have made use of 
gentle means, being uncertain as to your resolution; 
but I beg you, nevertheless, not to doubt that I 
shall decline nothing on which you are resolved, and 
that I have neither choice nor distinction concerning 


any business or person respecting which you give 
your commands. I trust you may find in Guienne 
many whose will is as much at your service as mine. 
There is great talk of the galleys of Nantes coming 
towards Brouage. M. le Mar^chal de Biron has not 
yet dislodged. Those who were ordered to warn M. 
d'Usee say that they cannot find him ; and 1 believe 
he is no longer here^ if he has been at all. We are 
careful of our gates and our watch^ and are a little 
more attentive to them in your absence^ which gives 
me fear, not only for the preservation of this city, but 
also for your own, knowing that the enemies of the 
king^s service are well aware how necessary you are to 
it, and how badly oflF we should be without you. I 
fear that business will surprise you from all sides in 
the quarter where you are, so that you will be long in 
providing for everything, and that there will be many 
difficulties. If any new and important event happen 
I will send you an express, and you may infer that 
nothing stirs if you don^t hear from me. I beg you 
also to consider, that these kind of movements are 
accustomed to be so unforeseen that, if they are to 
happen, I shall be seized by the throat without warn- 
ing. I will do what I can to obtain news from all 
sides, and with this object Will visit and study the 
tastes of all sorts of men. Up to this hour nothing 
has stirred. M. du Londel saw me this morning, and 
we discussed certain arrangements for the place, which 
I will visit to-morrow early. 

'^ Since I began this letter^ I have learned at the 
VOL. H. s 


Chartreux that two gentlemen^ professing to belong to 
M. de Guise, have passed near this city ; they came from 
Agen, but I have not been able to learn whither they 
have gone. At Agen they are expecting you to go 
there. The Sieur de Mauvesin went out as far as 
Canteloup, and returned after having learned some 
news. I am looking for a certain Captain Rous, to 
whom * *. * * has written, to draw him over with 
many promises. The news of the two galleys of 
Nantes ready to land in the Brouage, with two com- 
panies of foot, is certain. The Sieur de la Courbe has 
told M. le President Nesmon that M. d^Elbeuf is on 
this side of Angers, and has lodged at his father's 
house, and is advancing towards Lower Poitou with 
four thousand foot and four or five hundred horse, j 

having rallied the forces of M. de Brissac and others, I 

and that M. de Mercure is to join him. There is a 
report that Monsieur da Maine is coming to take the 
command of the forces assembled in Auvergne, and 
that by the county of Forest he will advance upon the 
Bouergue and towards us ; that is to say, against the 
King of Navarre, against whom all this is directed. M. 
de Lansac is at Bourg, followed by two armed vessels. 
His command is naval. I tell you what I learn, and 
I mix the town reports that seem probable with truths, 
in order that you may know all. Begging you very 
humbly to return as soon as business will permit you, 
and assuring you that we shall meanwhile spare neither i 

our care, nor, if necessary, our life, to preserve all in | 

obedience to the king, — 


" Monseigneur, I very humbly kiss your hands, 
and beg God to preserve you. 

" From Bordeaux, Wednesday, at night. May 22. 
^' Your very humble servant, 

" Montaigne/' 
" I have seen nobody from the King of Navarre ; 
they say that M. de Biron has seen him/' 

We see from this hurriedly- written report that Mon- 
taigne was waking and watching over the safety of the 
city committed to his charge; but how anxiously he 
begs the Marechal to come and relieve his anxiety ! 
True lovers of the Essayist will not be sorry to find 
him shrinking from the repulsive duties of a sub- 
ordinate oflSce during a civil war, which compels him 
to apologise for having mediteted "gentle measures,'' 
instead of proceeding to the summary execution of 
some suspected person. We can never feel so com- 
fortable in his society when serving the despicable 
Henry the Third, no matter from what motives, as 
when meditating new sentences in his tower, or jogging 
along the highways of France and Italy in search 
of health and experience. The picture, however, would 
not be complete if due importance were not given 
to what is known of "the public life" of Montaigne. 

The Chateau Trompette had beem in danger of 
being betrayed to the Liguers, and Montaigne as- 
sisted Matignon in his vigorous measures to preserve 
it for the king. M. Griin conjectures, that about this 
time it was that it was thought necessary to make 


the great display of troops which is mentioned in 
one of the Essays. There was some fear that the 
troops would mutiny and murder their officers. On 
this account it had been proposed to restrict them 
from firing a salute, but Montaigne advised that no 
suspicion should be shown^ and the whole a£Pair in 
consequence passed off well. 

In Aprils the Mayor had been on another mission 
to the King of Navarre, who was at war with the 
partisans of the Ligue, but not exactly with Henry the 
Third ; and in June we find him on a similar service : 
but all we know of these journeys is that Henry placed 

s as much confidence in the ambassador as did those 
who sent him, and that he naturally assumed the 
character of a mediator. 

One of Henry of Navarre's letters is worth quot- 

' ing :— 

" To MY Cousin, M. le Mar^chal db Matignon. 

"My Cousin, — I was very glad to hear such 
particular news of you by M. de Montaigne. I have 
charged him to give you news of me, and to assure 
you more and more of my entire friendship. Trusting 
entirely to him, I beg you to believe him as you 
would myself. * I also pray the Creator to keep you, 
my Cousin, in his very holy protection. 
" From Bergerac, April 23, 1585.'' 

There is a postscript to iterate Henry's wish that 


Matignon should accept Montaigne's statements im- 
plicitly : '^ My Cousin, I beseech you to believe M. de 

Many other letters have been published, some 
known to have been addressed about this time to 
Montaigtie, others supposed to have 1been so ; but as 
no additional fact or inference can be derived from 
them, it seems useless here to reproduce them. 




About this time the whole province of Guienne was 
in a state of frightful disorder, and Perigord especially. 
The King of Navarre and his partisans occupied many 
strong places, whence they made incursions for sub- 
sistence on every side, whilst the Catholic bands in the 
service of the Ligue also overran the country. From 
March to August, says Palma Cayet, the soldier 
lived upon the peasant; but there was no fighting, 
only pillage. To this Montaigne alludes, where he 
writes : " An increased weight of our troubles during 
several months fell right upon me. I had, on the one 
hand, the enemy at my gates; on the other the Picoreurs, 
or Marauders, a worse enemy ; and suffered all military 
outrages at once.'' That was a time of absolute 
anarchy, in which plunder was carried to such an 
extent that Montaigne feared complete ruin. ^' The 
people,'' he continues, " suffered largely then ; not 
present danger alone, but future also. The living 
had their share ; so had those yet unborn. They 

THE PLAGUE OF 1585. 263 

robbed the people, (and me also, consequently,) even of 
hope, snatching from it what it had laid by for the 
years to come. Moreover, I suflFered all the incon- 
venience which comes from moderation in such cases. 
I was spoiled on all hands. To the Ghibeline I was a 
Guelf, and to the Guelf a Ghibeline. The situation of 
my house, and the acquaintance of the men of my 
neighbourhood, gave me one face: my life and my 
actions another. There were no formal accusations, 
for I gave no. hold ; but silent suspicions were rife.'' 
Matters went so far; that Montaigne began to look out 
among his friends for one with whom he could find 
shelter for his " needy and dishonoured old age.'' But 
he cast his eyes around in vain. "To fall from so 
high you must have the arms of a solid aflFection to 
receive you." At last he perceived that the only sure 
way was to depend upon himself. The weapon he 
found most useful was patience; and he doubts 
"whether he can decently acknowledge" how patiently 
he bore the sufferings of others as well as his own. 

Montaigne appears suddenly to have abandoned his 
official duties to go and take care of his family and 
property. At that time a terrible plague burst out 
in Bordeaux, supposed to have been engendered in 
a filthy bog to the west of the city; and some bio* 
graphers seem to believe that he fled away in alarm, 
with so many other of the healthy inhabitants. But 
he very clearly implies that he was engaged in pro- 
tecting his estate, as well as he could, when the 
pestilence reached that district and entered his very 


castle. Never was there so vehement an attack. 
Contagion had often approached, but^ such was the 
salubrity of the air round his castle^ had never before 
reached it. Now it did so, and strange eflfects were 
produced. The sight of his house became frightful to 
him. No further guard was kept; everything was 
abandoned. '^ I, usually so hospitable/^ he says, 
** was obliged, painfully, to seek out a retreat for my 
family. We were a wandering family, fearful to our 
friends and to ourselves, creating horror wherever we 
went. Whenever one of us felt a pain, even in the 
little finger, we were obliged to decamp ; for at such 
time every disease is supposed to be plague. All this 
would have touched me much less if I had not had to 
suffer the sufferings of others, and to serve wretchedly 
for six months as a guide to this caravan. Not a 
hundredth part of the people of the neighbourhood 
escaped. My revenue there depends on labour. The 
land a hundred men cultivated for me has long been 
lying idle. What an example of resolution was given 
by the common sort ! Generally, every one abandoned 
all care of life : the grapes — principal produce of 
the country — remained hanging from the vines. All 
with indifference prepared to meet death, that evening 
or next day, with a countenance and a voice so little 
troubled that it seemed as if it was a universal and 
inevitable condemnation. How the company we are 
in acts differently in the way we meet death 1 But 
these poor creatures — sinc^ they all were dying in 
the same month, children, youths, old men — they 

THE PLAGUE OF 1585. 263 

seemed no longer to wonder^ neither did they weep. 
I saw some who feared to remain behind^ looking on 
the world as a horrible solitude. No one appeared to 
care for aught save sepulture. It grieved them to 
see corpses strewing the fields, at the mercy of the 
wild beasts that flocked thither at once. Healthy men 
dug their graves in time ; others got into them living. 
One of my workmen, with his hands and feet/drew 
the earth over him as he was dying.^^ 

In the year 1854 the cholera, and another disease 
called the suette, made similar ravages in those dis- 
tricts. I heard some strange stories as I passed 
through the town and village, filled with refugees from 
Bordeaux. On arriving there the place seemed half 
deserted. Later^ as I crossed the chestnut forests 
towards Mu9idan, they told me of a village where 
all had perished save one miserable man, and he had 
gone mad. The pathetic narrative of Montaigne never 
appeared to me so full of meaning. 

The " caravan '' of which Montaigne speaks was 
composed of his mother, then aged seventy-seven, his 
wife, his daughter, and his servants. One of the first 
places he took it to was Libourne. He wished to be 
^ as near as possible to Bordeaux, whither, however, he 
declined proceeding, for the plague continued to rage 
there with terrible intensity. The Mar^chal de Ma- 
tignon, expressing the wishes of the Jurats, wrote to 
him, with the request that he would come and preside 
over the election of his successor. This was in July. 
Montaigne at once made up his mind not to go. He 


knew the terrible state of the city. No one who could 
go elsewhere remained within the walls. An attempt 
had been made to raise money to send away the poor 
people, but it failed. There was a general panic ; no 
one would subscribe or pay a tax, or buy property 
advertised for sale. The mortality was so great, that 
according to the Registers of the Parliament, eighteen 
thousand persons out of less than forty thousand died. 
*' They die like flies,'' says a Jurat^ in a report. The 
College was closed. " The city was a vast hospital.*' 
Some of these circumstances are accumulated by Dr. 
Payen, in answer to a charge of egotism and cowardice 
lightly made, and immediately attenuated by M. Griin. 
All we need add is, that there was nothing either heroic 
or bad in the act of Montaigne. It was exactly in 
accordance with his easy character, that moved in the 
middle region. The period of his ofiSce was to expire 
the next day. What was asked of him was a. mere 
formality. Very naturally, therefore, he answers : — 

" Gentlemen, — I have just received here by accident 
the message sent from you to me by M. le Marechal. 
I would spare neither life nor any other thing for your 
service; but I will leave you to judge of what use my 
presence would be at the approaching election before 
venturing to come into the city, considering the bad 
state in which it is, especially dangerous to people who 
come from such good air as I do. I will approach on 
Wednesday, as near as I can, to Feuillasse, if the disease 
does not reach there; and at that place^ as I have 

THE PLAGUE OF 1585. 267 

written to M. de la Mothe, I shall be very glad to have 
the honour of seeing some one of you to receive your 
commands, and those of M. le Marechal. I recom- 
mend myself very humbly to your good graces, and 
pray God to give you, Messieurs, a long and happy 
life. From Liboume, this 30th of July, 1855. 
" Your very humble servant and brother, 

^' Montaigne.^' 
The election took place in the absence of the 
Essayist, and M. de Matignon was named as his suc- 
cessor. Great must have been his joy at finding 
himself once more free at length from the burden of 
public employment. Despite some short-comings, he 
retired with honour, and the period of his administra- 
tion was always referred to with respect, although it 
was generally, felt that a more vigorous hand was re- 
quired to replace his cautious one. 




As soon as the pestilence had ceased its ravages^ Mon- 
taigne returned to his ch&teau and spent his time in 
concluding the Third Book of the Essays, in preparing 
a new edition^ and in endeavouring to restore order to 
his a£Pairs. That was one of the most difficult periods 
through which he had to pass. The civil war was 
never more fierce, nor carried on in a more cruel and 
irregular maimer. Up to that time Montaigne^s re- 
sidence, though undefended except by his reputation, 
had remained unmolested. As we have seen, he had 
boasted of the absence of all precaution, and its excel- 
lent results ; but the times were past when such security 
could be indulged in. 

A certain person — un quidam — -laid a plan for sur- 
prising Montaigne and his house. He arrived alone at 
the gate, an d impatiently begged admission. Montaigne 
knew him by name, and had reason to confide in him 
as a neighbour, and something even of a relative. He 
ordered the gate to be opened, as he did to all. The 


man entered all affrighted^ his horse blown and much 
harassed. The story he told was^ that he had just been 
met^ about half a league off^.by one of his enemies — 
Montaigne knew this other also^ and was aware of their 
quarrel — that this enemy had given him hot chace ; 
that he had been surprised^ and beiug with a party 
inferior in number, had been obliged to seek shelter ; 
that he was very much troubled about his people, who 
must be eithet* killed or prisoners. Montaigne very 
simply comforted, reassured him, and gave him to 
drink. Soon after, four or five of his soldiers pre- 
sented themselves to enter ; and then others, and others 
besides, all well-equipped and armed ; so that at last 
there were twenty-five or thirty, all pretending to have 
the enemy at their heels. 

This mystery began to excite Montaigne's sus- 
picions. He was not ignorant in what kind of age he 
lived, and how his house might be envied. Many 
examples presented themselves of such adventures. 
However, thinking it to be of no use to have begun to 
be civil if he did not go on, he continued his former 
behaviour, and received all hospitably. The party re- 
mained in their saddles, forming a menacing group 
in the court. No doubt Fran^oise and Leonore, and 
the frightened servants, peered at them from the win- 
dows. The chief was in the house with Montaigne. 
He had refused to have his horse sent to the stable, 
saying that he must go further. He had now nothing 
more to do but to murder his host, and take posses- 
sion of the ch&teau. Suddenly he rose, went forth. 


and putting himself at the head of his nien^ who looked 
wonderingly at him^ galloped away across the court, 
passed the little triangular space between the tower 
and the out-buildings, and had soon disappeared. 
Some time after he boldly related the story, and ac- 
knowledged that Montaigne^s confiding countenance 
and frank manner had restrained him. 

During all this period Montaigne occasionally, 
despite his age and infirmities, sallied forth, as all 
loyal gentlemen were bound to do, and joined in the 
partisan warfare carried on in Perigord against the 
Protestant lords. The allusions to these adventures, 
scattered through the Essays, especially towards the 
end, leave no doubt on the matter. We have here an 
additional touch to Montaigne^s portrait, quite neg- 
lected by most of his critics. He lays down the pen 
from time to time, puts on the cuirass, girds on the 
sword, mounts his horse and sallies forth, not actuated 
by any enthusiasm, but partly from a sense of duty, 
partly from a love of that kind of life, its freedom, its 
excitement, its very danger : even the sound of warlike 
music was an attraction to him. That he continued 
these episodes in his old age is certain. " Of late,'' he 
says in one place, '*in the labours of war, when the 
whole night is occupied, as commonly happens, after 
five or six hours my stomach begins to be troubled, a 
vehement headache comes on, and I never reach day- 
light without vomiting. When others go to breakfast, 
I go to sleep ; and after that I am as gay as before.'' 
He says he often forgot the watchword which he had 


''given or received" a few hours before; mentions 
being present at the storming of little forts ; and, in 
fact, leaves no doubt that he did not wear the sword as 
a mere ornament. All attempts, however, to discover 
in what "affairs" Montaigne engaged have failed. 
They were probably insignificant skirmishes and ob- 
scure sieges, undertaken in the irregular warfare 
carried on between the royal partisans and those of 
Henry of Navarre, in the years 1586 and 1587. It is 
singularly illustrative of the character of the times that 
Montaigne, (who publicly boasts of the part he took 
in this war against the Protestants,) on the 24th of 
October, 1587, three days after the battle of Coutras, 
again received and entertained at dinner in his chateau 
the victorious Henry on his way to Sainte-Foi. 

It may easily be imagined, that amidst such cir- 
cumstances it was an effort of philosophy in Montaigne 
to continue the preparation of his Essays. He worked 
on, however, and at length completed the thirteen g^- 

additional Essays which form the Third Book, all very 
important for their length and matter, and determined 
to go to Paris to superintend their publication. This 
was early in 1588. 

On the way he met with another adventure, of a 
similar kind to the one already related. There had 
been a truce published, but the country remained in 
a most insecure state. Montaigne was advancing by 
way of the Limousin towards Orleans. His being 
abroad became known, and at once two or three 
"cavalcades" from various points set out to catch 



him. One of these joined him on the third day ; and 
he was charged at once by fifteen or twenty masked 
gentlemen, followed by a wave of argoulets. He seems 
to have resisted a little and then surrendered. They 
led him into the depths of a neighbouring forest, 
dismounted him, robbed him, searched his coffers, took 
his money-box, shared his horses and baggage. Then 
began a discussion as to ransom, which they placed so 
high that he saw they did not understand his worldly 
position. There was a moment when they were on the 
point of putting him to death. But Montaigne did 
not flinch, and appealed to the truce; saying, more- 
over, they ought to be satisfied with what they had 
got; and would promise no ransom. After two or 
three hours, they put him on a horse incapable of 
running away, and set a guard of fifteen or twenty 
arquebus-men over him. . His people were given to 
others in charge ; and the party started off with their 
prisoners, by different roads, through the forest. But 
Montaigne had not ridden three shots^ distance when 
the chief came back to him with gentler words, stopped 
the troop, searched for his property, and restored it all 
to him, even his money-box. He. could never quite 
understand the reason of this sudden change — for his 
enemies were of an opposite party, and he had boldly 
admitted his opinions. The chief, taking off his mask, 
told his name; and said the good countenance and 
firmness of language of Montaigne had influenced him : 
but it is probable that his reputation as author of the 
Essays may have had something to do with saving him. 


However, he was set at liberty, and warned that 
further on he would be again attacked. But he 
escaped these other dangers with his life, although he 
appears to have been again robbed of his money, this 
time definitively — unless we suppose the return of his 
" box,^^ mentioned in the Essays, to have been one of 
those little ornaments which we know he was some- 
times fond of adding to his stories. However this may 
be, after many escapes he arrived penniless at Orleans, 
where he stopped, fearinjg to go further. A letter has 
recently been found, written by him from that city. I 
do not know to whom it was addressed, but it suggests 
that he afterwards exaggerated the magnanimity of his 
enemies : — 

" Monseigneur, — You have heard that our baggage 
was taken in the forest of Yillebois, in our sight; 
since then, after much circumlocution and scribbling, 
the act has been considered unjust by M. le Prince 
(de Conti ?)• We do not dare, however, to go further, 
on account of uncertainty as to the safety of our 
persons, of which we should be assured on our pass- 
ports. The Liguers have done this thing, M. de 
Barraut and M. de la Rochefoucault : the tempest fell 
upon me, who had my money in my box. I got back 
none of it, and most of my papers and things remained 
in their hands. We did not see M. le Prince. M. de 
Thorigny has lost money, a silver spoon, and some 
things of little value. He has taken post, and turned 
aside from his road to see the mourning ladies at 




Montresor, where still are the bodies of the two brothers 
and the grandmother^ and joined us yesterday in this 
town, whence we are soon to depart. The journey 
to Normandy is put off. The King has sent MM. de 
Belli^vre and De la Quiche to Monsieur de Guise, to 
summon him to come to court : we shall be there on 

'"From Orleans, this 16th of February, in the 
morning. Your very humble servant, 


It is useful to observe how the lofty, indifferent 
tone, with regard to worldly accidents, assumed in the 
Essays, disappears in these communications written on 
the spur of the moment. 




We have been obliged to follow Montaigne for some 
time so closely through the active scenes of life^ that 
we have almost forgotten the valetudinarian speciilator. 
During all this time, whither were his speculations 
tending? More and more towards doubt and un- 
certainty. Vanity of vanities — such was his estimation 
of the world. Having scoffed at Reason, he scoffs at 
Experience. Man was made to seek, but not to find 
knowledge. " There is no quality so universal, in this 
image of things, as diversity.'' He casts another rapid 
glance over the objects of all researches, and is 
astonished, more than ever, at their infinite variety. 
What hope was there of any definite conclusion ? 
" Nothing but our weakness,'' he says, " leads us to be 
content with what others, or we ourselves, find in this 
hutnt after knowledge. . . There is no end to our in- 
quisitions : our end is in the other world. No 
generous mind stays at home : it pretends ever, and 
goes beyond its strength : it has impulses incommen- 


surate with its effects: when it does not advance^ 
hurry, retreat, straggle, and whirl, ^tis but half alive : 
its pursuits are without term and without form: its 
food is admiration, chace, ambiguity. . . What a 
swarm of commentators ! how few authors ! . . Our 
opinions are grafted one on the other ; the first serves 
as a stalk for the second, the second for the third : we 
mount thus step by step, so that the highest has often 
more honour than merit, and is but raised an inch 
above the shoulders of the penultimate!'* 

"I have seen in Germany,^' he says further on, 
generalising from the experience of his travels, "that 
Luther has left as many divisions and altercations 
about the meaning of his works, ay, and more, than 
there exist about the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. 
Our contestation is verbal : I ask, what is Nature, 
Volupty, Circle, and Substitution? the question is 
in words and is answered in words. A stone is a 
body ; but what is a body ? A substance. And what 
is substance ? So on to the end of the chapter. They 
exchange one word for another, often less known. I 
know better what a Man is than what is Animal, 
Mortal, or Reasonable. To appease one doubt they 
give me three." 

These discussions, and others more directly bearing 
on practical life, annoyed Montaigne. The "hunt 
after knowledge" began to seem wearisome to him. 
"The wisest plan is to follow nature as simply as 
possible. Oh, what a soft and delicious pillow, and 
how healthy, are ignorance and incuriosity, for the 


repose of a well-formed head ! '' This is the last result 
of Montaigne^s philosophy. 

Partly in a spirit of raillery against the magnificent 
doctors who "rode cockhorse on the epicycle of Mer- 
cury/' and treated our body as a rag in their discourses, 
partly in the indulgence of a playful licentiousness 
which had nothing to do with his manners, Montaigne 
sat down one day to comment the famous Virgilian 
passage: — 

** Dixerat; et niveis hinc atque hinc diva lacertis 
Cunctantem amplezu molli fovet," ». r. X. 

The Essays would not haveT)een complete without this 
extraordinary lucubration, which has raised the ire of 
monks and* puritans ever since. How many must 
have thrilled with dangerous fear as they read — fear 
followed, we must suppose, by anger ; for great is the 
number of copies found in public and private libraries 
with these hundred leaves or so torn out by some con- 
vulsive hand! One is disposed to imagine, at first, 
that this mutilation is the punishment of one or two 
coarse passages,* and some few very daring Anacreontic 
notes here and there sounded. But such cannot be 
the case ; for many as audacious flights are allowed 
to pass untouched elsewhere. 

The truth is that Montaigne, having arrived at 
an age when he can no longer be suspected — especially 
considering the known gravity of his manners — of 
desiring to apologise for personal excesses, took plea- 


sure^ whilst indalging his wanton imaginations, in 
making one more assaiilt on asceticism^ which would 
convert this world into a hospital^ filled with emaciated 
patients^ lying racked on narrow beds, or wandering 
drearily about the wards in expectation of a discharge, 
instead of one vast source of delicious sensation. As 
usual, he went too far, did this moderate man. What 
horrified the anchorites or the hypocrites who expur- 
gated him was the utter disregard of moral obligation 
which this Essay in certain parts affects, the utter 
forgetfdness that we are not so many animals placed 
here to devour so much pleasure and have done with 
existence. We must reflect, however, that Montaigne 
is travelling over that boundless region Man, and 
describing it province by province. The real charge 
is, that he lingered somewhat too long here. 

After all, what does he say ? Old age is coming 
on: he finds himself growing heavier and thicker 
every day. On all sides, lessons of patience and hints 
to prepare for death crowd. His mind is ever at work, 
and some of the functions of the body are ceasing. 
He is afraid the balance will be destroyed, so he 
ventures to say : " I defend myself from temperance as 
of yore I defended myself against volupty : it is drawing 
me too far back, <iven to stupidity. Now, I want to be 
master of myself in every respect : wisdom has its 
excesses, and is not less in need of moderation than 
madness. Therefore, for fear I should dry, shrivel up, 
and become ponderous by prudence, in the intervab 
which my sufferings grant me, I gently turn aside and 


escape from the sight of that stormy and cloudy sky 
which spreads before me ; which, thank God, I consider 
without affright, but not without application and study ; 
and so I amuse myself with the memory of past 

This was the crime Montaigne committed : beyond 
the grave was " a stormy and cloudy sky/* from which 
he sometimes averted his glance; and sent it back, 
trembling with emotion, towards his early days and 
early loves, which were not all pure and recommendable. 
He pretends that he did this purposely, " to escape by a 
trick the chagrin of old age. But, verily," he adds, 
"other remedies than dreams are required. Feeble is 
the struggle of art against nature. . . . My philosophy 
lies in action, for natural and present use, little in 
fantasy. . . . Oh, that I could take pleasure in playing 
at chuck-farthing, or with a top V^ The ingenuity of 
pious indignation discovers in this passage a desire, in 
despite of Frangoise, to renew the fond adventures of 
the court of Henry the Second. At worst he may be 
regretting his Italian peccadilloes. 

" A sombre and stupid tranquillity suffices for me ; 
but it lulls me to sleep, and makes my head heavy; 
and I am not quite content with it. If there be any 
persons, any good company in town or country, in 
France or elsewhere, stationary or wayfarings to whom 
my humours seem good, they have but to whistle, and 
I will come and supply them with Essays in flesh and 
bone ! " I wonder this appeal was not attended to by 
Pierre Van Veen, who appears to have been one of the 


most ardent contemporary admirers of Montaigne. He 
was the brother of Otto the painter, and Gilbert the 
engraver ; and himself studied the arts when a youth, 
and showed considerable talent. In his manuscript 
autobiographical sketch he says : ^' Residing in France, 
in my youth, at the age of twenty-four, and being in 
the service of the Seigneur de Fargis, Governor of the 
country of Maine, in the year 1589, the works of 
Montaigne fell into my hands. At that time I much 
esteemed them, principally because I had heard that 
Lipsius had ventured to call their author ' the French 
Thales.^ Youth jwillingly clings to authority. In my 
adolescence I had heard the said Lipsius at Leyden, 
and held him to be one of the greatest personages of 
the day, and I was 'one of his clients. Therefore I 
could not cease from reading and re-reading these 
Essays; and now, in my riper years, I continue to 
admire them from my independent judgment.^' Pierre 
then goes on to describe how Montaigne^s way of 
thinking was in conformity with his ; and is thus led 
to narrate his own adventurous life, his search at Rome 
for his brother Gilbert, who had began his artistic 
travels at the age of fourteen, his experiences at the 
Estats de Blois, where he might have met Montaigne, 
and his subsequent course of life at Leyden. This 
curious document is appended to an edition of the 
Essays of 1602. The fly-leaves are covered with notes 
by another hand, e.y. " Mezeray called Montaigne the 
Christian Seneca ;'' and the margin contains not only 
illustrative anecdotes and remarks in Van Veen's own 


hand^ but a profusion of very clever pen-and-ink 
sketches suggested by the text. Here we see Thracians 
shooting at the heavens^ gamblers exhibiting their 
fury, lovers fondling, drunkards reeling, and even Mon- 
taigne " playing with his cat/^ Our Essayist was so 
ardently hungering for a new friend, that we must blame 
Master Pierre Van Veen, who could wander whither 
he pleased, for not calling at the Castle, before return- 
ing to his native city and taking to the study of the 
law. With his ardent appreciation of the Essays he 
would have been more welcome than the most lovely 
visitation of beauty, whatever may have been Mon- 
taigne's affected yearnings : at his age, Archeanassa is 
always eclipsed by a disciple. 

'' Few people will object to the license of my writ- 
ings,^* says Montaigne, " who ought not to have more 
to object to in the license of their thoughts : I agree 
with their courage, but offend their eyes. ... At any 
rate, I have ordered myself to dare to say what I dare 
to do ; and thoughts that cannot be published displease 
me. The worst of my actions and conditions does not 
seem to me so ugly as the cowardice of not daring to 

confess it He who should undertake to tell all, 

would undertake to do nothing -which would not bear 

telling If it be indiscretion thus to publish one^s 

errors, there is no great danger that it should pass into 
an example and custom ; for Aristo used to say, that 
the winds men fear most are those that uncover them. 
Up with this stupid rag that hides our manners ! I 
am weary of seeing my Essays used by ladies merely 


as a common piece of furniture in their parlours : this 
chapter will introduce me to their private society.'* 
We expect great confessions; but, setting aside the 
vague sentimental reminiscences of early loves I have 
given, there is nothing to reward the curiosity of 
scandal-mongers, and nothing worthy the indignation 
of those who can tolerate Marguerite of Navarre. 

The " Essay on Experience," the last published by 
Montaigne, is one of the most pregnant of all, and 
one of the most varied. Here we have some of the 
sharpest sayings by the side of some of the most 
familiar revelations. He runs over his whole life, and 
epitomises all his doctrines. Here we find a last fling 
at the doctors; a last glance of regret towards the 
Court — where he might have been of some use as a 
councillor; — a curious expression of fondness for war- 
fare — "There is no occupation so pleasant as the 
military*' — all manner of communications on the pro- 
gress of his habits, his crotchets, his diseases, — and 
some more fond allusions to his loves in early life, few 
but steady. 

'* Sex me yix memini sustinuisse vices. '' 

He does not, however, endeavour to make himself 
appear in any romantic light. ^' What an indecent 
fellow I am to eat so gluttonously as I do ! I often 
bite my tongue, and sometimes my fingers, in my 
haste.'* It is useless to disguise it : Montaigne had 
become a ban vivant, and lived for the pleasures of the 
stomach as well as of the imagination. No matter. 


Who does not wish he had given us some particulars 
of the three dinners he remembered with such delight - 
as having occurred in his happy time ? Everything in 
its place, he says : " Shall we seek the quadrature of 
the circle whilst we are kissing our wives ? I hate to 
be ordered to have my soul in the clouds whilst my 
body is at table. I don't want the mind to be nailed 
down there^ nor to wallow in the dishes ; but I want 
it to apply itself to them — to sit before them^ not lie 
in them.*' 

In reality, the whole of this Essay is an apology for 
his moderate way of viewing things — very sensible 
and reasonable — but showing in its details somewhat 
too great a relish for material enjoyments. When he 
comes to state his doctrine, this " sickly Egotist/* who 
has been described as weary of his existence — he 
sometimes pretends that he was — begins one of his 
concluding paragraphs thus: ^^For my part, then, 
I love life, and cultivate it, such as God has been 
pleased to grant it to us. I don't regret the necessity 
of eating and drinking, and should think myself 
wrong in desiring that necessity to be less.'' He 
regretted nothing, he goes on to say in somewhat too 
plain language, that gave pleasure. " It is ungrateful 
and iniquitous to complain of the desires and capacity 
of enjoyment given to our body. . . . We wrong the 
great Giver in refusing his gift, in annulling and dis- 
figuring it.'' Nothing stronger was ever said against 
the exaggerations of Asceticism and Puritanism. 

" They want to emerge from themselves, and 


escape from Man ! Madness. Instead of transform- 
ing themselves into angels^ they transform themselves 
into beasts ; instead of raising, they lower themselves. 
These transcendant humours frighten me, as do lofty 
and inaccessible peaks ; and I find nothing difficult to 
digest in the life of Socrates but his ecstasies and 
demonries ; nothing so human in Plato as that which 
makes him to be called divine." To the last he carries 
on his war with supernaturalism ; and how much mdre 
openly than in the earlier Essays ! It cannot be 
denied that, however humane his object, he was here 
tending to abase and vulgarise us. Not that his inter- 
ference was altogether uncalled for in that age: But 
he should have thought that he wrote for all ages. 
Yet are there not still enthusiasts and bigots who 
require this check ? 

" We may mount upon stilts if we will, for on stilts 
we are still obliged to use our legs ; and on the highest 
throne in the world we place what we place on the 
lowest stool. The finest lives, to my mind, are those 
which agree with the common and human model, with 
order, but without miracle, without extravagance. 
Now, old age has somewhat want of more tender treat- 
ment. Let us recommend it to the gay and social 
God who protects at once health and wisdom: — 

* Frui paratis et valido mihi, 
Latoe, dones, et, precor, integrd 
Cum mente ; nee turpem senectam 
Degere, nee cithara carentem.' " 

Thus cheerfully do the Essays conclude. But, as I 


have said^ amidst all this^ at times we see traces of 
profound melancholy and dissatisfaction. The journey 
to Italy seems to have improved Montaigne's health ; 
his hereditary disease was less violent in its attacks. 
But other sources of personal discomfort were opened. 
The approaches of old age were now unmistakable. 
He thought he was old at forty ; and in the midst of 
his full vigour began to prepare for death whilst enjoy- 
ing life. When death really approached, though we 
see no traces of childish fear, he was evidently less 
pfepared than he expected — less prepared than he 
would have beeti many years before. Some great 
yearning of his life remained unsatisfied. He had 
sought what he wanted by the road-side and in foreign 
lands ; he had sought it at court, in the city, and at 
home amidst his family or his books. But he found it 
not. He was devoured by passion for the Unknown. 




Perhaps Montaigne was made more inclined to com- 
plain^ or^ at any rate^ to sink deeper into melancholy, 
by the idea that his labours were not duly appreciated. 
He had printed at Bordeaux^ and found that no man was 
a prophet in his own country. He went to Paris, in 
order to appeal at once to a wider public. No doubt 
he exaggerated his disappointment ; his book had sold 
well, but he had the weakness — if weakness it be — 
not to be content with the applause of unknown 
readers. He had announced in his Essays that one of 
his objects in publishing was to incite some congenial 
minds to offer themselves to his friendship. He 
scarcely expected the void left by La Boetie to be 
filled up. But he wanted disciples, not to say ad- 
mirers. He was approaching the term of his career, 
and this solace was still denied by fortune. The 
pedantic, patronising approval of such men as Pas- 
quier, did not satisfy him. It was but fair, indeed, 
that the world should depute to him, as it were, a 


representative of the class that was to honour and 
cherish him evermore. Otherwise, he who doubted 
so much might have died doubting his own value. 

A messenger came to him one day in his lodgings 
at Faris^ bearer of high-flown and enthusiastic com- 
pliments from a lady totally unknown to him^ but 
whose name has since been inseparably united with 
his. Mademoiselle le Jars de Gournay was born in 
1566^ at Paris* She was the daughter of a respectable 
Ficard gentleman in the king's service^ and of Jeanne 
de Hacqueville. Her mother had several children, but 
was left early a widow. The family fell into com- 
parative distress, and was compelled to leave Faris and 
return to its native Ficardy. Here, at Gournay-sur- 
Aronde, near Compi^gne, in somewhat penurious style, 
lived Jeanne with her children. Marie, the eldest, 
early showed a taste for learning; and, whilst her 
mother would have had her pay attention only to 
the accomplishments of a housewife, secretly mastered 
the Latin language, and almost succeeded in triumph- 
ing over the last difficulties of the Greek. From the 
latter, indeed, she translated the Life of Socrates by 
Laertius, to please a worthy neighbour desirous of 
knowing something about that Athenian gentleman, 
whose name recurred so often in the enthusiastic talk 
of the erudite. 

Marie de Gournay was not yet twenty when the 
reputation of the Essays of Montaigne reached her. 
The edition of 1580 came into her hands. It decided 
her fate. She was his disciple from that day forward^ 


and yearned for nothing so much as to sec the man 
who could write such wise words. A sort of passion^ 
" a fatal sympathy/' took possessiou of her. 

For three years the mind of the poor girl was 
agitated by this feeling, and no opportunity presented 
itself for satisfying her desire. At length, in 1588, 
she happened to visit Paris with her mother. Mon- 
taigne, as we have seen, was there. No sooner had 
she heard this news, than she despatched the mes- 
senger I have mentioned to declare the esteem she felt 
for his person and his works. — We can imagine what 
emotions fluttered the bosom of the learned virgin whilst 
she waited for a reply. — Montaigne, above all men, 
was accessible to such attentions. He came himself 
on the morrow to thank her for her admiration — there 
is nothing that more excites our gratitude — and at 
once offered her the affection of an adoptive father. 
From that time forward she became his intellectual 
child, and no filial reverence ever surpassed hers. 

Mademoiselle de Gournay was then twenty-two 
years of age; and, although wags have defended her 
virtue at the expense of her charms, must have been of 
agreeable personal appearance. She was of middling 
height, well made ; as to complexion, a clear brunette ; 
with an oval face set off with chestnut hair. Intellect 
gave character to a physiognomy in itself not strictly 
beautiful. It is necessary to insist on these circum- 
stances, for we may be sure that .not even adulation 
could have reconciled Montaigne to a very ugly dis- 
ciple. He would as soon have had an ugly doctor* 


Montaigne was so pleased with his new acquaint- 
ances^ Marie and her mother, that after interchanging 
visits with them for some time at Paris, he accepted 
their invitation to repair to Gournay. Here he re- 
mained a long while in their house — three months in 
all, with the interval of a short journey back to Paris 
on business, — and enjoyed the delights of disinterested 
flattery. Marie de Gournay was at his feet. He could 
not resist the temptation to boast of this intellectual 
conquest ; and when he returned to Paris added the 
following lines to his Essays, then going through the 
press : '^ I have taken pleasure in publishing in many 
places the hopes I entertain of Marie de Gournay le 
Jars, my daughter by adoption ; and, certes, loved by 
me more than paternally, and enveloped by me in my 
retreat and my solitude as one of the best parts of my 
own beiAg. I look to none else in the world but her. 
If adolescence can foretell anything with certainty, 
that mind will one day be capable of the finest things ; 
and among others, of the perfection of that very sacred 
friendship to which we do not read that her sex has 
yet been able to ascend. The sincerity and solidity of 
her manners are already sufficient warrant of this. Her 
affection for me is more than superabundant ; and in 
truth, is such, that there would be nothing to alloy it, 
if the apprehension of my death, on account of my 
being fifty-five years of age when she met me, did less 
cruelly disturb her. The judgment she formed about 
the first Essays, she being a woman, and in this age, 
and so young, and the only one who did so in her 

VOL. II. u 


neighbourhood ; and the famous vehemence with which 
she loved me and desired me, merely on account of the 
esteem she formed for nle, a long time before she saw 
me, are accidents very worthy of consideration/' 

Few, perhaps, will appreciate the triumphant delight 
of Marie de Gournay when she found herself fixed in the 
aflfections of Montaigne. To doubt for a moment the 
purity of their relations would be mere impertinence. 
Marie may have felt her young breast warm with an 
attachment which she did not quite understand ; and 
we know that she never afterwards loved anything but 
letters, her maid Jasmyn, and her cat Piaillon. 
But this passion took the form of literary enthusiasm, 
and was sheltered under maternal care. Moreover, 
although Marie never visited the chateau of Montaigne 
during his lifetime, she went to mingle her grief with 
that of Fran9oise afterwards, and was not repulsed. 

Whilst the Essayist was at Gournay, Marie com- 
posed or began a work which seems to have been the 
first efibrt of her pen. The idea was suggested in a 
manner which shows that in her conversations with 
Montaigne she sometimes trod on dangerous ground. 
They were walking together some evening when the 
sun had ceased to glance between the tall trees on the 
green plains of Picardy — he, no doubt, enjoying the 
devout admiration of this young girl; she, perhaps, 
thrilling with mysterious emotion ; and they began to 
talk of the dangerous results that follow ill-regulated 
passion ! Marie understood thosQ dangers better than 
the philosopher, and the result of her meditations that 


night was the " Pourmenoir de Montaigne/' It is a 
•sentimental romance, dealing with the adventures of 
Alonda the faithful and Leontin the faithless; and 
culminating to a terrible catastrophe — a projected 
murder and a double suicide. It seems to form a link 
between the chivalrous romances, so much in vogue 
towards the middle of the sixteenth century, and the 
sentimental narratives, in a sort of poetical prose, of the 
seventeenth. The book was published, with a dedication 
to Montaigne, in 1589. It achieved a great success; 
and although serious critics, not knowing the secret 
history of the young lady's heart, reproached her with 
choosing so amorous a subject, and dwelling at such 
length and with such elaborate minuteness on the 
miseries of unrequited passion, the public generally 
were pleased. With reason; for the "Pourmenoir'' is 
no contemptible production; and Montaigne's pro- 
phecy concerning the talents of hi^ prote^Se was already 
in. part accomplished. I should add, that the title of 
fille d' alliance was formally bestowed on her, and 
she ever afterwards used it, being "no less proud 
of it," she says, " than if she had been mother of the 
Muses themselves!" This "second father" aided in 
the development of her mind ; and by verbal counsels 
at Paris and Gournay, and no doubt by correspondence 
afterwards, enabled her to wield her pen with more 
confidence. Some old chateau of Picardy may still 
contain letters addressed by the Essayist to his accom- 
plished adopted daughter. 

He at length, however, found it necessary to return 


to Paris definitively. The parting must have been a 
pathetic one. We can imagine the passionate grief of • 
Marie. Perhaps in some unguarded moment she con- 
fessed her most intimate feeUngs, and vowed eternal 
maidenhood in honour of her adored master. At any 
rate, there is a very singular passage iu the Essays. 
It begins in an absurd manner, unless we suppose, as 
I do, that Montaigne wished first to conceal the part 
of France where the incident he mentions happened, 
and then, from inadvertence or vanity, admitted it for 
the benefit of keen posterity. *^ When I came from those 
famous Estates of Blois, I had seen a little while before 
in Picardy a young girl, who, to testify the ardour of 
her promises and also her constancy (or courage), drew 
out a bodkin she wore in her hair and gave herself four 
or five good stabs in her arms, which made her skin 
crack in good earnest." Was it likely that Montaigne 
could have been present at such a scene between two 
strangers ? 




When Montaigne returned to Paris he went to lodge 
in the Faubourg St. Germain, whence no doubt he made 
constant journeys to the printing-office of Abel I'Ange- 
lier, where his Essays were going through the press. 
I have not thought it necessary to say anything about 
his relations with the Court at this period, because 
there are absolutely no facts known. He was still 
" gentleman in ordinary,^^ and, of course, did hb duty 
occasionally as long as the Court was at Paris. He 
alludes frequently with contempt to the absurd conduct 
of Henry the Third and his penitential processions 
through the streets. 

Montaigne^s friend, De Thou, was at that time at 
Paris, and gives an animated account of its condition. 
All was excitement and agitation. The Ligue had at 
length assumed a menacing aspect. The King tem- 
porised, and gave time for the Duke of Guise to arrive. 
Then the sedition began. De Thou went on foot to 


the Louvre, accompanied by two or three persons un- 
armed^ but known. Silence reigned everywhere: the 
solitude was frightful ; and alarm, which had reached 
the cabinet of the king, suggesting a new plan every 
moment, prevented any plan at all from being adopted. 
De Thou next hastened to the Hdtel de Guise, guarded 
by soldiers and surrounded by people; and saw the 
chief of the day with a countenance of wonderful 
serenity, which showed how sure he was of success.* 
Then the historian endeavoured to return home, but 
found the principal streets embarrassed with barrels 
{barriqueSy whence barricades), which were being rolled 
into them from various directions. Every bell in Paris 
was ringing the tocsin. The king soon afterwards fled^ 
never to return. 

Montaigne, who had always been in the Duke of 
Guise's good graces, feared nothing, and remained in 
Paris, or returned thither, although well known to be- 
long to the royal party. He even occasionally paid 
a visitJ;o the Court at Ghartres and Rouen, despite the 
hostility between it and the governors of Paris. His 
confidence, however, was too great. Returning once 
from Rouen, he was seized with an attack of gout, 
which kept him three days in bed. Between three and 
four in the afternoon of July 10th, a crowd came be- 
fore his house, and, as he relates, he was made prisoner 
*' by the captains and the people of Paris,'* and instantly 
taken away on his own horse and lodged in the Bastille. 
When he came to inquire the reason of this violence, 
he found that the Duke of Elbeuf had incited it by 


way of reprisals for the arrest of one of bis relatives, 
a Norman gentleman and Liguer, whom the king 
held prisoner at Rouen. It happened fortunately, how- 
ever, that the report of what had taken place reached 
the Queen-mother whilst she was at the Council with 
the Duke of Guise. M. Pinard, Secretary of State, 
came and told her. She instantly begged the Duke 
to intercede, and sent a mie^sage herself to the Provost 
of the Merchants. M. de Villeroy, another Secretary 
of State, also gave his assistance. Consequently, about 
eight o'clock in the evening, a maitre d'hotel of 
Catherine de Medici came to the Bastille, bearing a 
written order of release from the Duke of Guise and 
the Provost ; and so, by " an unheard-of favour,^' he 
obtained his liberty from '^ the first prison he- bad ever 
known.'' The boast in the Essays that he had never 
seen the inside of a prison was not, however, erased 
after this. I have already remarked^ that the inter- 
cession of the Queen-mother proves the high esteem 
in which Montaigne was held by her and the Court 

Having escaped from the Bastille, the Essayist 
seems to have hastened his departure from Paris, and 
to have joined the Court in its wanderings from Rouen 
to Blois. Here we find him again in company with 
De Thou, who calls him his " particular friend," and 
says that he was pressed by him very much to think 
seriously of the embassy to Venice, which was oficred 
to him. Montaigne himself was meditating another 


journey to Venice, and promised to stay there during 
all the residence of De Thou. 

They talked of the causes of the troubles, and 
Montaigne said that formerly he had acted as mediator 
between the King of Navarre and the Duke of Guise, 
when those princes were at Court ; that the latter had 
made all manner of advances to gain the friendship of 
Navarre, but having discovered that he was played 
with, and that, despite all he had done, the other re- 
mained his implacable enemy, he had recourse to war 
as the last resource to defend the honour of his. house. 
If this report be true, we must necessarily suppose that 
personally Montaigne leaned rather towards the Duke 
than towards Henry, whose duplicity he admitted; 
whilst politically he preferred the triumph of the latter. 
He went on to say, that the private enmity of these 
two men was the origin of the war which was then 
waging ; that only the death of one or the other could 
bring it to an end ; that neither the Duke nor any of 
his house would believe in safety as long as the King 
of Navarre lived ; and that the said Duke, for his 
part, was persuaded that he could never assert his 
right to the crown during the lifetime of the Duke. 
^^ As for religion," Montaigne added, " which both 
put forward, ^tis a fine pretext to get followers ; but reli- 
gion touches neither one nor the other — nothing but 
the fear of being abandoned by the Protestants prevents 
the King of Navarre from returning to the religion 
of his forefathers ; and the Duke would have not much 


repugnance to the Confession of Augsburg, which was 
recommended to him by his uncle the Cardinal de 
Lorraine, if he could follow it without prejudicing his 
interests. Such are the sentiments which I have 
perceived in these princes, when I have had to do with 
their affairs/^ 

These observations prove that few better than Mon- 
taigne understood the characters of the personages 
towards whose acts all attention was then directed. 
He came to Blois with a kind of presentiment of what 
was going to happen. Some have tried to make him out 
to have been a Deputy to the Etats; but it is certain 
that he was there as a mere observer and courtier. 
"It must have been a curious spectacle for hira,^^ says 
a biographer, " to behold that close game in which the 
destinies of France were the stake. What a study for 
the scrutinising eye of the moralist and the politician 
must have been the movement of all the passions which 
agitated the Court and the Ligue ! With what interest 
must Montaigne have watched the audacity of the 
Duke of Guise at the Barricades, his weakness after 
victory, the resentment of the king in his flight, the 
efforts of his government to regain lost ground, the 
dissimulation employed better to ensure vengeance, and 
iSnally, the solemn stage erected at Blois, whereon to 
strike the decisive blow ! 

The assembly of the Three Estates at Blois did not 
open until November. As we have no reason to 
suppose that Montaigne was present, except as a 
spectator, I shall not allude further to this remarkable 


historical event. We have, however, the account of a 
conversation with Pasquier, which I shall give in the 
words of his interlocutor, merely omitting the examples 
of faulty French adduced :— " We were walking/' says 
the self-admiring lawyer, " in the court of the chateau ; 
and I happened to say to him that he had forgotten 
himself in not communicating his work to some of his 
friends before publishing it ; because there were observ- 
able, in many places, certain traces of the Gascon 
dialect, which might have been pointed out to him. 
As he would not believe me, I took him to my room, 
where I had his book, and therein I showed him many 
forms of speech not familiar to the French but only to 
the Gascons. Above all, I pointed out to him -his 
improper use of the word jouir ; with several other 
mistakes. And I thought that at the next edition of 
his book he would order these corrections to be made. 
Nevertheless, not only did he not do so, but also, as if 
he foresaw his death, he prepared it for the press care- 
fully, just as it was. And his daughter by alliance, in 
her preliminary preface, announces that the lady of 
Montaigne gave it her exactly as her husband had 
wished it to be printed. I will add to this, that 
although he pretends to disdain himself, I never read 
an author who esteemed himself so much as he; for if 
you were to erase all the passages he employs in 
speaking of himself, and of his family, his work would 
be reduced by a quarter, good measure, especially in 
his third book, which seems to be a history of his 
manners and actions — a thing which I attribute some- 


what to the freedom of the old age at which he* 
composed it !'^ 

No wonder that Montaigne neither cared for the 
praises, nor noticed the criticisms of such a Pandit as 
this ! Erase all the passages in which he speaks of 
himself! Verily, the age was passing by, and not 
understanding the Essays. I need not proceed and 
copy the laudations by which Pasquier endeavours to 
destroy the idea that he was a "professed enemy ^^ 
of Montaigne ; but we may be quite sure he remained 
a little annoyed at the neglect of his advice. Some 
touches are good, however ; as for example : " He was a 
bold personage, who believed in himself, and as such, 
allowed himself to be carried away by the beauty of 
his mind : so that, in his writings, he took pleasure in 
displeasing pleasantly.'^ It is curious to find Estienne 
Pasquier's son, Nicolas, afterwards defending the purity 
of his father's French against a Jesuit critic, in the 
following manner: "You blame the use of certain 
words: read Montaigne, Du Vair, Charron, Calvin, 
who all spoke good French, and you will see that they 
use those words in the same way as he.'' 

It is the belief of every biographer that Montaigne 
remained at Blois until after the assassination of the 
Duke of Guise. This event is recorded in his Journal 
as follows: "December 23, 1588. — Henry, Duke of 
Guise, in truth one of the first men of his age, was 
killed in the king's chamber." ♦ 




However, in February, 1589, Montaigne returned to 
his chSiteau, where he was present, on the 27th, at the 
marriage in his own chapel of M. de Belcier, Seigneur 
de Bonaquet, with Mademoiselle de Sallebeuf. The 
Essayist had affianced them two days before, in the 
presence of Messieurs de Mothegondrin, father and 
son, de Monreal, de Blancastel, and others. On 
July 16, another marriage took place in the chapel 
between a Captain Rous and Mademoiselle de Sersines. 
This captain formed part of the suite of Henry of 
Navarre when that monarch visited the ch&teau, and 
is mentioned in one of Montaigne^s letters : " I am 
seeking a certain Captain Rous,^^ he says. 

There is another entry worth quoting from Mon- 
taigne^s meagre journal : — 

'^ April 4, 1589. — Died at the chateau of Turenne, 
the Baron de Savignac, from the effects of an arquebus 
shot in the head, which he had received four days before 
at the siege of the house of Du Pechie. He was piy 


relative and friend, and singularly familiar in my 
family ; his sister was brought up by my wife/^ 

According to Mademoiselle de Gournay, it would 
appear that some of Montaigne^s projected expeditions 
— as, for example, his visit to Venice — were prevented 
by political reasons. " When he returned to Guienne/' 
she says, " the war of the Ligue, which then raged over 
all France, tied him there by the command and for the 
service of the king/^ It is not surprising that so wise 
a head on the shoulders of a man of landed property 
should have been considered a useful addition to the royal 
party in Guienne. But we do not know that Mon- 
taigne, during the remainder of the reign of Henry the 
Third, was engaged i£i any very important transactions. 
After remaining some time in his chateau he went to 
Bordeaux, to assist his successor, the Marechal de 
Matignon, mayor, with his advice. His absence from 
home is known, partly from the report of Schomberg, 
an envoy from the king to Germany — compelled to go 
round by way of Guienne to find safe roads — who having 
visited the battlefield of Coutras, stopped at Montaigne. 
" The owner was then at Bordeaux,'* says the nar- 
rator ; " but his wife, (sister of Pressac, who accom- 
panied Schomberg,) received them very politely.'* 

Montaigne, however, never very anxious to display 
zeal in public matters, was kept at Bordeaux for a 
reason similar to that which attracted him to Goumay. 
In the year 1586 there visited him at his chateau 
an Abbe named Charron, who was gaining consider- 
able reputation as a preacher. The national library 


of Paris possesses a copy of a work, entitled " II 
CatechismOy overa Instituiione Christiana, di M, Ber^ 
nardino OchinOy da Siena, in forma di Dialogo : in 
Basilea, 1561/' On the title-page is Montaigne's sig* 
nature, with the words, '* a prohibited book -/' and a 
little below the following words, written by Charron ; 
" The gift to me of the said lord of Montaigne, in his 
castle, July 2, 1586." But the great intimacy of the 
gentleman-philosopher and the philosophical-theolo- 
gian did not begin until the year 1589. Then Charron, 
having preached all through Lent at Angers, came to 
Bordeaux, where he '* formed a friendship and lived 
very familiarly with Montaigne/' 

The relations of these two men were very peculiar. 
Some seem to believe that Charron received from Mon- 
taigne a*confession of his esoteric doctrines, and stated 
plainly in his solemn didactic works what his master 
merely insinuated in his Essays. If this was the case 
I do not understand the Essays, which, despite a little 
piece of disingenuity here, a bold statement provoked 
by timidity there, some few palpable hesitations, appear 
to me on the whole " a book of good faith," as they 
claim to be. Montaigne was not the man to load a 
blunderbuss against Christianity, and leave half-a- 
crown to a beggarly Scotchman to fire it off after his 
death. He had no consistent, obstinate theory on 
matters philosophical. The dogged materialist, who 
pretends to be a sceptic, who is sure and pretends to 
doubt — because the world is sick of the insolent 
paradox it once received with wondering favour — is a 


production of modern times. Montaigne treated spi- 
ritualism as a jealous lover might his mistress. He 
yearned towards it and ^sought it, but found it sur- 
rounded with so many equivocal circumstances and 
companions that he turned away, and endeavoured 
to immerse himself in matter; but was never able to 
forget. The conflict within him was a serious conflict, 
from which he came out scathed and. sufiering. The 
positive philosophers, who are now so certain on matters 
which touched him so near, point to his doubts and 
hesitations as evidences of weakness, — as if any one 
was exempt from doubt save fools and martyrs. 

I shall not here, near the last limits of this study, 
endeavour to develope the doctrines of Charron. Their 
tendency is more material far than the desultory spe- 
culations of Montaigne. We find neither his» passion 
nor his high spiritual flights ; but we find his common 
sense, his pure morality, and especially his language, 
deprived somewhat of its gay step and brilliant orna- 
ments. Charron was Montaigne's disciple, but could 
only receive a portion of his teaching. This depended 
on the construction of his mind, and on its narrower 
capacity ; also on the absence of that amiable, though 
somewhat cautious, sympathy with mankind, which is 
our Essayist's chief characteristic. 

Montaigne returned two or three times to his 
ch&teau during the year 1589, but hastened back to 
enjoy the conversation and respect of Charron. He 
had now found two minds which to a considerable 
extent understood and appreciated him — Charron and 


Marie ; and the declining years of his life were much 
cheered. He set to work with extreme ^diligence to 
polish and improve his Essays from beginning to end, 
but especially to add new observations^ anecdotes^ and 
illustrations, which largely increased the bulk of his 



Montaigne's relations with henry the fourth. 

Henry the Third was murdered by Jacques Clement, 
in July 1589; and from that time forward Montaigne 
considered Henry the Fourth as his lawful king. He 
had given up all connexion with the Ligue as soon 
as that body became disloyal. The state of things 
which he now saw to be possible was that which he 
thought to be best, — Catholicism, the religion of the 
State; Protestantism living unmolested under the 
guardianship of the laws. He would have drawn up 
the Edict of Nantes. 

But Montaigne did not wait for the victory of 
Henry to communicate with him, and assure him of 
his support. He wrote a letter of allegiance at once, 
and received an answer from the king^s secretary on 
the 30th of November, making an appointment to 
meet him at Tours. The rejoinder was not sent until 
the next year, on the plea of a delay on the part of the 
royal courier or secretary. Probably, Montaigne had 
no desire to leave his comfortable chateau in quest of 



new adventures^ and quietly let the appointed time pass 
by. It is unnecessary for me to sketch the political 
state of France in the beginning of 1590. The Valois 
branch had been extinct six months, and Henry the 
Fourth was fighting for his crown with the Ligue. 
Montaigne was at his ch&teau ; and, remembering that 
an answer to the king was due, sat down and wrote^ 
with more care than usual, an epistle which is too 
characteristic of his character and position to be 
omitted : — 

" Sire, — You place yourself above the weight and 
the crowd of your affairs, by knowing how to value and 
attend to the little ones in their turn, according to the 
duty of your royal authority, which exposes you, at all 
hours, to all sorts and degrees of men and occupations. 
However, that your Majesty has deigned to consider 
my letters, and command them to be answered, I would 
rather attribute to the benignity than to the vigour of 
your mind. I have always foreseen whither fortune 
would carry you ; and you may remember that, even 
when I felt bound to confess it as a sin to my cure, I 
could not help looking on your successes with pleasure. 
Now, with more reason and liberty, I embrace them 
with a full affection. They serve you where you are 
by their positive results ; but they do not serve us less 
here by reputation: the report travels as far as the 
blow. We cannot derive arguments so strong to 
restrain and reduce your subjects, from the justice of 
your cause, as from the news of the prosperity of your 


enterprises ; and I can assure your Majesty, that the 
new changes which we see about here to your advan- 
tage have been much assisted by your happy issue 
from Dieppe, seconded by the honest zeal and 
marvellous prudence of. M, le Marechal de Mati- 
gnon ; from whom I persuade myself that you do not 
receive daily so many good and remarkable services 
without remembering my assurances and hopes. I 
expect from the coming summer, not so much the 
ripening of the fruits of the earth, as of those of our 
common tranquillity ; and trust it will pass over our 
affairs with the same even tenor of happiness, dissipating, 
as have the preceding ones, so many great promises 
with which your adversaries have fed the good-will of 
their men. The inclinations of the people always flow 
in masses : if the current once sets in in your favour, 
it will go on, by its own impetus, to the end. I 
should have desired that the private gain of the soldiers 
of your army, and the necessity of satisfying them, had 
not deprived you, especially in the case of that important 
city, of the fine recommendation of having treated, in 
the midst of victory, your rebellious subjects with more 
kindness than their own protectors; and that, setting 
aside a passing and usurped credit, you had shown that 
they were yours, by a paternal and truly royal protec- 
tion. In conducting such affairs as those which you 
have in hand, not common ways must be used : it has 
always been seen that they have been conquered by 
their greatness and their difficulty. Arms and force 


being foand wanting, they have been made perfect by 
clemency and magnificence — excellent baits to draw 
men, especially towards the just and lawful party. 
If rigour and chastisement be necessary, it should be 
postponed until after victory. A great conqueror of 
the past times boasted that he gave his enemies as 
much reason to love him as his friends. And here we 
feel already some effect of the good prognostic of the 
impression received by our disobedient cities, by the 
comparison of their rough treatment with that of those 
under your command. Hoping for your Majesty a 
felicity more pleasant and less hazardous, in that you 
may rather be beloved than feared by your people — 
uniting your interests with theirs — I rejoice that the 
same steps which you make towards victory are steps 
towards easier conditions of peace. 

" Sire, your letter of the last of November has only 
just reached me ; and the time is now passed when 
you prescribe a meeting during your stay at Tours. I 
take it as a singular favour that you have deigned to 
express a wish to see a person so useless, but your own, 
more by affection still than duty. You have very 
praiseworthily adapted your external manners to the 
height of your new fortune ; but the debonnairete and 
faciHty of your internal humours, you are as praise- 
worthy not to change. You have been pleased to 
consider not only my age, but my desire also, in 
inviting me to a place where you will be somewhat at 
rest from your laborious occupations. But will not 


Paris, Sire, sood be that place ? No endeavour of 
mine shall be spared to meet you there. 

'^ Your very humble, and very obedient 

Servant and Subject, 

" Montaigne. 

" At Montaigne, Jan. 1, 1590." 

There are some Machiavellian pieces of advice in 
this letter, — as, to use clemency as a bait, and to 
punish after victory — which we may suppose to have 
been adapted purposely to the duplicit character of the 
chivalrous king. Montaigne knew that Henry, in- 
clined from indolence to be merciful at most times, 
would relish the good actions proposed to him much 
better if they had a savour of deceit and dissimulation 
about them. 

Montaigne was still, we see, ready to seize any 
opportunity of visiting his beloved Paris ; but his 
slight experience of the Bastille prevented him from 
thinking of indulging the desire until the defeat of 
the Ligue, which was then triumphant. One of the 
things he had looked forward to with pleasure was to 
see the opening of the Pont Neuf. " Fortune has done 
me a great displeasure,^^ he says, " in interrupting 
the fine structure of the new bridge of our great 
city, and taking from me the hope, before dying, of 
seeing it in use.^^ 

Later in the same year, Henry the Fourth wrote to 
Montaigne requesting him to do something for his 
service — apparently to influence or encourage Ma- 


tignoD^ — and afterwards to come to Paris; ^nd, it 
would seem^ apologising for not adequately rewarding 
him and offering him money for his expenses. The 
philosopher sturdily replied : — 

*' Sire, — The letter which it pleased your Majesty 
to write to me on the twentieth of July, was only given 
to me this morning, and found me suffering from a 
very violent tertian fever, common in this country 
since a month. Sire, it is a great honour to me to re- 
ceive your commands, and I have not failed to write to 
M. le Marechal de Matignon three times, very ex- 
pressly stating my resolve, and the obUgation I was 
under, to go and meet him. I even set down the road 
which I should take to go to him secretly, if he thought 
fit. But I have received no answer, and I suppose he 
has considered for me the length and danger of the 
roads. I trust your Majesty will be pleased to favour 
me by believing that I shall never complain of my 
purse in a cause in which I should not hesitate to risk 
my life. I have never received anything from the 
liberality of kings — nor have I asked nor deserved any 
present — and have received no payment for the steps 
I have taken in their service, of which your Majesty is 
partly aware. What I have done for your predecessors 
I will do still more willingly for you. I am. Sire, 
as rich as I wish to be. When I have emptied my 
purse in the service of your Majesty at Paris, I will be 
bold enough to say so ; and then, if you think me 
worthy to be kept any longer in your suite, you wiU 


find me a cheaper bargain than the least of your 
officers. ^ 

" I am, &c. 


^ The Essayist never performed his promised journey, ^ 
and never enjoyed the pleasure, for which he so much 
yearned, of seeing Paris once more as he had seen it in 
his youth, — at peace, peopled by a brilliant court, the 
resort of learning and genius, which, if not too rudely 
repelled, are always ready to associate with splendour, 
luxury, and dissipation. Henry the Fourth did not 
purchase his capital with a Mass until subsequently to 
Montaigne's death. 

After writing the above letter, indeed, Montaigne 
lived only two years, during which we have little in- 
formation as to his movements. He appears to have 
spent his time chiefly at his chateau, but occasionally 
went to Bordeaux. In 1591 his daughter, Leonore de 
la Tour, had a daughter, who seems to have been born 
at la Tour. If so, Montaigne and his wife went there 
to the christening. 




This is all we know of the last years of the Essayist's 
life, and we feel that no very important fact is left in 
the background. No doubt he was interested in the 
fortunes of the Bourbon branch of the royal house of 
France, because they were bound up with the interests 
of that mitigated toleration in favour of which he had 
written and laboured. With reason he could claim 
some share in the triumph of moderate ideas. Words 
like his leave traces where they pass ; and if we ex- 
amine the writings, the orations, the sayings, the 
general tone of society under Henry the Fourth, we 
shall be convinced that the Essays had become the 
habitual intellectual food of the best minds. There 
were more violent doctrines abroad, preached some- 
times by sterner and more virtuous men than Mon- 
taigne — men formed and developed in the fiery furnace 
of civil war and persecution, who made the mistake of 
seeking to prolong a struggle which had come to a 
natural end from sheer weariness on either side. When 
a violent quarrel is over, candid views, reasonable sen- 
timents, tendencies to compromise, generally make 
their appearance. France learned to think and speak 
in this strain, in great part, from the Essays. 



But Montaigne, despite his yearnings towards 
Paris, felt that his career was drawing to a close, and 
determined to spend the remainder of his time as 
easily as possible. Occasionally he went and tarried a 
month or so, perhaps during winter, in that quaint, 
quiet, snug little house at Bordeaux, which he had 
inherited from the thrifty and steady Pierre Eyquem ; 



but more frequently he remained at his chateau, 
making the last corrections in his Essays. He seems 
to have concluded his work in a way satisfactory to 
himself, and was ready to print a final edition, when, 
in September 1592, he was suddenly seized .at Mon- 
taigne with a quinsey, which from the first threatened 
to be fatal. He had no La Boetie near him to record 
the minute incidents of this crowning act of his ex- 
istence. We know, however, one or two facts. For 
three whole days he lay perfectly conscious, but unable 
to utter a word. He was compelled to have recourse 
to the pen to express his wishes. The proper arrange- 
ment of his worldly affairs occupied him a good deal. 
He had already made his will ; and one day he got up 
in his shirt, put on his morning gown, opened his 
cabinet, sent for all his valets and others to whom he 
had left legacies, and paid them in ready cash, " fore- 
seeing the difficulties which his heirs would raise.'' 
At last, feeling his end approach, he begged his wife 
on a slip of paper to send for certain gentlemen, his 
neighbours, that he might say farewell to them. When 
they had arrived — just as the priest was elevating the 
host — *^ this poor gentleman," says Pasquier, "leaped 
forward as well as he was able on his bed, with his 
hands clasped; and in this last act gave up his soul to 
God : — which was a fine mirror of the interior of his 
mind.'' It is worth adding, that when Charron 
suddenly died in the streets, he performed a similar 
act of adoration. The exact date of Montaigne's de- 
parture from this life was the 13th of September ; and 


his exact age was fifty-nine years, six montlis, and three 
days. He was huried at first at Montaigne, but his 
ashes were afterwards removed to the chapel of the 
Feuillans at Bordeaux, where they still remain. When 
I went to see the tomb, still in excellent preservation, 
with the effigies and inscription intact, that quarter of 
the city was filled with pestilence, and none not im- 
pelled by necessity would visit it. The narrow streets 
and irregular places were thronged with the heedless or 
pious poor; but the College, which occupies the 
Convent of the Feuillans, was left without a single 
pupil — all having fled. I could not help approving 
the prudence of Montaigne for holding aloof from such 
a dismal quarter. To see the monument you must 
pass under a street through a gloomy tunnel leading 
to the chapel. A hurried glance satisfied me. What 
need is there to describe a tomb, or copy its pompous 
language ? 

I have already mentioned the marriage of Leonore, 
Montaigne^s only daughter, her departure with her 
husband, and the birth of her child. That she was *^ a 
very virtuous lady,^^ as Pasquier says, there can be no 
doubt; but from the suppressed complaints of Mon- 
taigne in his Essays, we must suppose he was not quite 
satisfied with her. He once wished for a son-in-law to 
aid him in managing his estate ; but M. de la Tour 
does not seem to have given him any assistance. The 
reader will not, therefore, follow the fortunes of Leonore 
with much interest. She became a widow after some 
years ; and in 1608 again married *^ at Montaigne, 


Charles de Gamaches^ Vicomte de Raimont." Her 
daughter by her first husband was affianced in 1600, 
being only nine years of age, to a Dusa, and afterwards 
died in childbirth, leaving a son, killed in 1639 at the 
siege of Salse, without leaving any posterity. But in 
1610, Leonore de Gamaches had another daughter, 
Marie, " held over the font,^* as she notes herself, " by 
her grandmother, Madame de Montaigne.^^ Leonore 
died in 1616; but Marie de Gamaches lived until 1683, 
and left three daughters, the youngest of which she made 
her heir. This last, Qlaude Magdeleine de Lur-Saluce, 
was married to M. Isaac de Segur, and her descend- 
ants were lords of Montaigne up to the beginning of 
the present century. I think it unnecessary to trace 
the vicissitudes of the property, and shall only say that, 
as has been ingenuously remarked, "the heritage of 
this hater of law-proceedings gave rise to disputes which 
lasted more than a century .^^ 

As I have had occasion to mention, Antoinette de 
Louppes, wife of Pierre Eyquem, actually survived her 
son nine years. Frangoise de la Chassagne, on the 
other hand, survived her daughter Leonore eleven 
years, and died only in 1627. She seems to have been 
a good, amiable woman, who, though not capable of 
appreciating all the value of Montaigne, did her best 
to do honour to his memory. How diflPerent from 
Leonore, whose husband was the chief heir to the pro- 
perty ! The first thing she did was to give away all 
his books, leaving not a single one at the chateau. 
Forty years afterwards this Ubrary was sold publicly ; 


and a copy of the " History of the Kings of Poland ^^ 
exists with the following note inserted: "Bought at 
Bordeaux from the library of the late Michel de Mon- 
taigne, author of the Essays, June 3, 1633/^ As 
might have been expected, many, perhaps most, of the 
books have been dispersed and lostj but several 
dozen volumes have from time to time appeared, not 
only with Montaigne's signature on the title-page, but 
with manuscript notes by him, and even in one or two 
cases the elaborate judgments which he used some- 
times to insert at the end when he had finished reading. 

Montaigne would not leave to his daughter Leonore 
the right to wear his arms, but transferred that right 
to his faithful friend and disciple Charron. On the 
other hand — and this is a striking instance of how 
firm, though short, was the friendship between these 
two men — when Charron died he bequeathed all his 
property, with the exception of a few legacies, to 
the sister and brother-in-law of Montaigne, — M. and 
Madame de Camein. 

Meanwhile, Mademoiselle de Goumay had been 
left an orphan in 1591, at the age of twenty-five. She 
inherited a very small fortune — some two thousand 
francs a-year — with which she came to reside in Paris, 
determined to devote herself to learned pursuits. Her 
best solace in her loneliness was correspondence with 
Montaigne. That correspondence suddenly ceased ; and 
then a letter arrived from Fran5oise de la Chassagne, 
containing an account of Montaigne's death, and it 
would appear an urgent request, in compliance with 


his last wishes^ that Marie should take charge of his 
literary reputation. He had forgotten to leave his 
books to her ; and all his property was eagerly seized 
by his heirs. But he had pointed out to the good 
Fran^oise two copies of the quarto edition of the 
Essays, 1588, most elaborately prepared for the press, 
almost exact reproductions one of the other, and with 
about one-third additional matter on the margin. 
These he had told her to submit to Marie, the only 
person he knew in whose literary judgment and de- 
votion to his memory he could confide. Pasquier 
would have erased his Gascon phrases, and polished 
his periods ! 

As soon as Marie received this letter, she 
abandoned all her business and occupation in Paris; 
and though war raged over the country, and soldiers 
and marauders infested the roads, resolutely journeyed 
alone nearly across the whole of France to Montaigne. 
Here she found Frangoise and Leonore. She was 
received most hospitably, and appears to have formed 
an attachment at once for "her sister by alliance,^' 
L6onore, whom she represents as somewhat touched 
by love of the Muses. But Marie was ready to be 
charmed with anything that belonged to Montaigne. 
When the first moments of grief had passed, she 
at once set about her duties as literary executrix. 
For fifteen months she remained at Montaigne, ej^- 
amining the materials left for the final edition of 
the Essays, translating the classical quotations, writing 
notes, preparing prefaces. Who can refuse to love 


this delightful young woman engaged in such a work ? 
Her enthusiam is contagious. The Essayist rises in 
our estimation when we see him the object of such 
posthumous worship. "Montaigne wrote this book; 
Apollo conceived it!^^ Such is the learned devise 
which Marie selected to be engraved on the frontis- 
piece of her edition. 

Frangoise de la Chassaigne, who, as I have said, 
if she did not relish the Essays, understood that her 
husband was a great man, and waa resolved to do 
her best for his memory, gave one of the revised copies 
of the Essays to Marie, and deposited the other in 
the library of the Community of the Feuillans at 
Bordeaux. The latter remained unnoticed until the 
last century, when Anisson Duperron endeavoured in 
vain to obtain it from the monks, who would not part 
with it on any account. At the time of the Revolution 
it became the property of the city of Bordeaux, and still 
exists in the public library, where it has often been 
consulted with profit. 

The copy given to Marie de Gournay, though it 
can be traced long after it left her possession, has now 
disappeared; but it was probably reproduced exactly 
in her edition. We may feel quite sure that she never 
wilfully altered a word or a letter that Montaigne had 
written. Immediately on returning to Paris she began 
to print a folio edition, which was not, however, ready 
until 1595. We do not know who defrayed the ex- 
penses, but it seems probable that the enthusiastic 
girl made the venture herself. 


Marie de Gournay lived to be old, and, conse- 
quently, ridiculous. The wits and the debauches of 
another age, neither understanding her nor Montaigne, 
satirised her, slandered her, and played off practical 
jokes upon her. She made the mistakes of remaining 
simple and virtuous, of living with a humble friend 
as a servant, and of having a cat. Consequently, she 
was fit to be a butt. I have not now the heart to 
follow her through her whole career, not merely be- 
cause she was oftf n miserable and sometimes ill-used ; 
but because, whatever may have been her talents, they 
were a little out of season and unsuccessful. She 
failed in her ardent pursuit of a literary reputation, 
although no one now denies that she in some respects 
deserved a better fate. 

But she retains an undeniable claim on the gratP- 
tude of posterity. For more than half a century she 
fought for the reputation of Montaigne, and did much ' 
to establish it. One fervent disciple is worth ten thou- 
sand advertisements. Marie made the Essays known, 
and defended them against all attacks. Almost towards 
the middle of the next century, when any one ventured 
to criticise this work of another age, the indefatigable 
old maid was ready to come forward and say that she 
had seen and conversed with Montaigne, afld, despite 
all changes in taste, considered him the greatest man 
France had produced, and to announce that she was ready 
to defend his reputation at the peril of any hostile critic. 

In 1635, forty years after the appearance of her 
first edition, Marie de Gournay brought out another 


in a magnificent style^ dedicated to the Cardinal de 
Bichelieu^ who deserves more credit than has been 
given him for the protection he afforded to Montaigne's 
daughter by adoption. This was the twenty-fifth repro- 
duction of the Essays, but most of the others had been 
pirated by the printers of Lyons and Paris, and were 
often full of gross errors. Mademoiselle de Gournay had 
been granted the exclusive right to print Montaigne in 
1688, and by disposing of it to the publisher Camuset 
she recovered some of the money she had spent. 
I think this is all that it is necessary for me now to 
say. I have endeavoured to describe the career of 
Montaigne from beginning to end, not in an anti- 
quarian or bibliographical spirit; but in such a way 
as to throw light on the Essays, and prepare the 
student better to relish them. 




In these volumes I have not thought it advisable to 
encumber the foot of the page with notes and refer- 
ences. To have done so .would have been to increase 
their bulk beyond all measure. I believe I may say 
I have neglected no source of information^ and that 
all facts bearing directly or indirectly on the life of 
Montaigne have been^ if not used, at any rate examined 
by me. 

The Essays are, and must remain, the chief au- 
thority. But as they are not professedly autobiogra- 
phical, great caution is required in their use. I have 
endeavoured to steer clear of an error into which all, 
or nearly all, biographers and critics of Montaigne 
have fallen — the error, namely, of accepting his tes- 
timony implicitly with respect to his own moral and 
intellectual qualities, as well as with respect to matters 
of fact. To modify such testimony, however, requires 
so accurate a knowledge of human nature^, that I dare 

NOTB. 823 

not venture to hope I have been always just. But it 
is more glorious to fail in discovering how many 
scruples of self-love entered into every ounce of Mon- 
taigne^s statements, than to cife with unerring ac- 
curacy the Essay and the Book in which he informs us 
that he was "an enemy to falsehood '^ and "a hater 
of calumny/' The Charybdis of this Scylla is the 
temptation to appear profound, by suggesting bad in- 
stead of mixed and moderate motives; but self-love 
has preserved me from the belief that mankind is 
a rascal. Besides, I admit that I have a personal 
affection for Montaigne, so that after all I may have 
erred on the side of tenderness and credulity. 

But I have even ventured sometimes to dispute the 
Essayist's statements of fact, and have endeavoured to 
maintain my views, either by extraneous testimony or 
by comparing passages which had not hitherto been 
placed side by side. In less important cases I have 
not given the process of reasoning by which I have re- 
established what appears to me to be the truth. But I 
have always written with perfect recollection that there 
is a body of men in France who absolutely call them- 
selves '' Montaignologues,'' who have erected the study 
of their hero into a scientific pursuit, and who will 
have no mercy on any blunder or any false infer- 
ence. I fearlessly challenge their criticism, because, 
although they may point out some errors — and so earn 
my gratitude — I am persuaded that this book, in the 
main, is solidly built as far as matter of fact goes. 
In England, no doubt, there are also many who have 

324 NOTE. 

made Montaigne the study of half their lives^ and 
on their ear any false note will grate. I may add, 
that if I had adopted the discussional tone, quoted 
documents, drawn elaborate inferences, piled up in- 
genious doubts in order to overthrow them by irre- 
fragable testimony — published ray notes, in fact — 
I might have produced half-a-dozen volumes and been 
sure of the approval of a dozen erudites, and of the 
deserved neglect of the English public. Mere refer- 
ences would have been unintelligible and bewildering 
without argument. 

Neither in French nor English does there exist, 
properly speaking, a Life of Montaigne. Dr. Payen 
has pronounced that it is as yet impossible to write 
one ; and will, perhaps, think my attempt bold. But 
he undervalues his own labours. What he has dis- 
covered, with what he has provoked others to dis- 
cover, seems to me sufficient. There is a limit at 
which curiosity ceases, even about the greatest men, 
except with enthusiasts. In 1845 I was writing this 
Biography of Montaigne, and published the first 
chapter in "Eraser's Magazine.^' But the materials 
existing were then meagre indeed. In 1846 Dr. 
Payen brought out his first pamphlet, " Documens 
Imdits ou pen Connus sur Montaigne f and since 
that time scarcely a year has passed that he has not 
succeeded in disinterring new materials. His enlight- 
ened industry has been emulated by MM. Gustave 
Brunet, Viel-Castel, Jubinal, and many others ; and 
especially by M. Griin, who has brought out a really 

NOTE. 325 

valuable series of researches on what he calls "The 
Public Life ^' of Montaigne. I have also found much 
useful matter in several little works by M. Leon 
Feug^re, the editor of La Boetie. Indeed, the number of 
studies on the literary heroes of the sixteenth century 
in France is very great ; and if many exhibit a re- 
markable absence of critical power^ and a tendency 
to tread beaten tracks and repeat old errors, they can 
all be consulted with profit. 

MM. Guizot, Villemain, Sainte-Beuve, and Phi- 
larete Chasles, have all written eloquently and authori- 
tatively about Montaigne. I have read their pages 
with admiration and respect. The histories of MM. 
Michelet and Henri Martin have been of great use 
to me. I have also run through a number of purely 
Catholic histories and studies, and have thus been made 
acquainted with an amount of literary dishonesty and 
perverse distortion of facts which would have previously 
appeared to me incredible. 

An enormous list might be made out of eloges and 
appreciations of Montaigne, but they rarely contain 
more than an attempt to characterise, in an absolute 
and definitive manner, a man who seems to me too vast 
to be reflected in the limited mirror they hold up. 
Besides these, there have been a series of ill-judged 
attempts on the part of writers more pious than 
critical, to rescue Montaigne from the condemnation 
of Pascal and Malebranche, and prove him to be an 
excellent Catholic. Few are content with citing the 

326 NOTB. 

Pilgrimage to Loretto. It seems^ no doubt^ more 
fascinating to reproduce the subtle casuistry of the 
Maestro del Sacro Palazzo. 

But when we have read all that has been written 
about Montaigne — a small library in itself — we feel 
that^ though we know multitudes of facts^ the true 
character of the man, as we faintly conceived it when we 
first read the Essays^ has been tampered with somewhat. 
The Montaigne of Pascal and Malebranche is an esprit 
fort of the seventeenth century; the Montaigne of 
Bayle is a gentlemanly sceptic ; the Montaigne of the 
Voltaireans is a scoffer; the Montaigne of the Abb4 
Laborderie is a Capuchin Eriar ; the Montaigne of Mr. 
Emerson is Mr. Emerson himself; the Montaigne of 
Dr. Payen is the property of Dr. Payen ; and the Mon- 
taigne of M. Griin is a Prefet of the Gironde. I have 
endeavoured to escape from the influence of these 
individual conceptions by wide excursions through the 
literature of the sixteenth century ; and in all directions 
I have found materials that might be turned to imme- 
diate use. Rabelais and the Satire Menippee ; Marot 
and Bonsard^ and the whole Pleiad; Francois de 
Sgepeaux and Marguerite of Navarre; Pasquier and 
De Thou, with L'Etoile, Brant6me, d^Aubigne, Du- 
plessis-Mornay, the Memoirs of Guise, Palma Cayet, 
Montluc, du Bellay, Vieilleville, the Dictionary of 
Verdier, the correspondence of Lipsius, the histories 
of Bordeaux, all contain passages more or less illustra- 
tive of the Life and Character and Literary Value of 

NOTE. 327 

Montaigne ; and it is necessary to read all tbese^ and 
many more, in order to be able to live freely in the 
same atmosphere with him. 

A good edition of the works of Montaigne, including 
the Travels, was brought out some years back by Mr. 
Hazlitt, with a sketch of the author^s life — the most 
complete published lip to that time. I have myself 
commenced a translation of the Essays, with the object 
of seeing whether they could be made more acceptable 
to modern readers than they now are. 


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