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to ke«p its Prerogative: 'Tis all the Reason in the World
Hie velutsidis ar cam sodalibus dim
Vita fenis *
His Secrets to his Books he did commend,
He committed to Paper his Actions and Thoughts, and there pourtrayed himself such as he found himself to o be. be. * Nec id Ruti'io, et Scauro citra fidem, aut obtreftationi suit: 1 Nor were Rutilius or Scaurus misbelieved or con
7 Hor. lib. ii. Sat. 1. v. 30, &V.
* demned for so doing.'
I remember then, that, from my Infancy, there was Montaio-ne'j observed in me I know not what kind of particular Ges- Carriage and Gesture, that seemed to relish tufe a plain of foolish Pride. I will say this, in the first
^"tpnde" ^ace> tnat 11 1S noc unlikely, that there are
* » n' Qualities and Propensions so proper and incorporated into us, that we have not the Means to feel and know them: And of such natural Inclinations the Body is apt to retain a certain Bent, without our Knowledge or Consent. It was quaint Affectation, Confederate of Beauty, that made Alexander carry his Head on one Side, and Alcibiades to lisp ; Julius " Casar scratched his Head with one Finger, which is the Mark of a Man possessed with uneasy Thoughts; and Cicero, as I remember, was wont to turn up his Nose, a Sign of a Man given to Scoffing: Such Motions, as these, may, imperceptibly, happen in us. There are other artificial ones, which I meddle not with; as Salutations and Congees, by which Men, for the most part, unjustly acquire the Reputation of being humble and courteous j or, perhaps, humble out of Pride. I am prodigal enough of my Hat, especially in. Summer, and never am so saluted, but I pay it again, from Persons of what Quality soever, unless they be in my Pay. I should be glad, that some Princes, whom I know, would be more sparing of that Ceremony, and bestow that Courtesy where it is more due; for, being so indiscreetly profuse of it, *tis thrown away to no Purpose, if it be without Respect of Persons: Amongst irregular Countenances, let us not forget that severe one c of the Emperor Constantius, who always, in Public, held his Head upright and straight, without bending or turning it on either Side, not so much as to look upon those who saluted him on one Side, planting his Body in a stiff immoveable Posture, without suffering it to yield to the Motion of his Coach; not daring so much as to spit, blow his Nose, or wipe his
• Tacit, in Vita Agricolæ, c. I. b Plutarch in the Life of Ctrsart
C. i. 'Ammian. Marcell. lib. xxi. c. 14.
Face before People. I know not whether the Gestures that were observed in me, were of this first Quality, and whether I had really any secret Propension to this Vice, as it might well be; and I cannot be responsible for the Swing os the Body.
But, as to the Motions of the Soul, I must here confess what I am sensible of there. This Va- Presumption nity consists of two Parts, the setting too di-vided into great a Value upon ourselves, and too little t<w0 PartSm a Value upon others.
As to the one, methinks these Considerations ought,
in the first Place, to be of some Weight. I .» „ • r . - ,r .' , , „ °ri Montaigne
reel mylelr importuned by an Error or the apt to undcr
Soul, that displeases me, both as it is unjust, -value his Per. and the more, as it is troublesome: L at- s<>"andPojfcstempt to correct it, but I cannot root it out; •'"""* which is, that I lessen the just Value of Things that I possess, and over-value others, because they are foreign, absent, and none of mine: This Humour spreads very far: As the Prerogative of the Authority makes Husbands to look upon their own Wives with a vicious Disdain, and rrfany Fathers their Children, so do I: And, betwixt two equal Merits, I should always be swayed against my own: Not so much that the Jealousy of my Preferment, and the bettering of my Affairs does trouble my Judgment, and hinders me from satisfying myself, as because Dominion, of itself, begets a Contempt of what is our own, and over which we have an absolute Command. Foreign Governments, Manners, and Languages insinuate themselves into my Esteem; and I am very sensible, that Latin allures me, by the Favour of its Dignity, to value it above its Due, as happens to Children, and the common Sort of People. The GEconomy, House, and Horse of my Neighbour, though no better than my own, I prize above my own, because they are not mine: Besides that, I am very ignorant in my own Affairs •, I admire at the Assurance that every one has of himself: Whereas there is not, almost, any Thing that I am sure I know, or that I dare be responsible to myself that I can Vol. II. E e do: do: I have not my Means of doing any Thing stated and ready, and am only instructed after the Effect, being as doubtful of my own Force, as I am of another's j whence it comes to pass, that, if I happen to do any Thing commendable, l attribute it more to my Fortune than Industry •, forasmuch as I design every Thing by Chance, and in Fear. I have this also in general, that, of all the Opinions Antiquity has held of Men in gross,. I most willingly embrace, and most adhere to those that most contemn, vilify, and annihilate u§, Methinks Philosophy has never so fair a Game to play, as when it falls upon our Vanity and Presumption when it discovers Man's Irresolution, Weakness, and Ignorance. I look upon the too good Opinion, that Man has of himself, to be the Nursing Mother of the falsest Opinions, both public and private. Those People who ride astride upon the Epicycle of Mercury, who see so far into the Heavens, are worse to me than Pickpockets: For, in my Study, the Subject of which is Man, finding so great a Variety of Judgments, so profound a Labyrinth of Diificukies one upon another; so great a Diversity and Uncertainty, even in the School of Wisdom itself; you may judge, seeing those People could not be certain of the Knowledge of themselves, and their own Condition, which is continually before their Eyes, and within them; seeing they do not know, how that moves, which they themselves move, nor how to give us a Description of the Springs they themselves govern and make Use of -y how can I believe them about the Ebbing and Fsowing of the Nile? * The Curio* fity of knowing Things has been given to Man for a S Scourge,' fays the Holy Scripture. But, to return to what concerns myself, I think it very hard, that any ether should have a meaner Opinion of himself; nay, that any other should have a meaner Opinion of me, than I have of myself. I look upon myself as one of the common Sort, saving in what I am obliged for to myself j guilty of the meanest and most popular Defects, but not disowned or excused •, and do not value myself upon any other Account, than because I know my own Value.
by the Treachery of my Constitution, and ..
L n J u T A , „ ,•(• Montajgrte
has no Body that my Judgment can dilcern. ai^aysdis
I am sprinkled, but not dyed: For, in truth, pkajedwth as to the Productions of the Mind, no Part fa«TM» Writof them, be it what it will, ever satified me, "fj *£$£. and the Approbation of others is no Coin for "scJ' Essay" me; my Judgment is tender and nice, especially in my own Concern; I feel myself float and waver by reason of my Weakness. I have nothing of my own that satisfies my Judgment: My Sight is clear and regular enough, but, in opening it, 'tis apt to dazzle, as I most manifestly find in Poesy: I love it infinitely, and am able to give a tolerable Judgment of other Men's Works: But, in good Earnest, when I apply myself to it, 'tis so puerile, that I cannot endure myself. A Man may play the Fool in every Thing else, but not in Poetry.
Mediocribus ejse Poetis
Non hominesy non dii, non concejfere columna d.
i. e. But neither Men, nor Gods, nor Pillars meant To honour Poetry indifferent.
I would to God this Sentence was writ over the Doors of all our Printers, to forbid the Entrance of so many Rhimers.
Nihil fecurius est ma lo Poet a c.
But the Truth is, and all the Critics shew it,
None's more conceited than a sorry Poet.
Have not we such People? Dionyfius, the Father, valued himself so much upon nothing as his The public NoPoetry. At the Olympic Games, with Cha- ticcwbkhtht riots surpassing all others in Magnificence, Pe?Pl"°°\°f he sent also Poets and Musicians to present p^Xj^eLbo his Verses, with Tents and Pavilions royally <-MastL Tyrant gilt, and hung with Tapestry. When his 3s Sicily. < t
E -e 2 Verses
4 Horat. de Au. Poet. v. 372, 373. e Mart. lib. xii. Epig. 64.