So much as I trust to it, so much do I put myself out of my own power, even to the finding it difficult to keep my own countenance; and have been sometimes very much put to it to conceal the slavery wherein I was engaged; whereas my design is to manifest, in speaking, a perfect calmness both of face and accent, and casual and unpremeditated motions, as rising from present occasions, choosing rather to say nothing to purpose than to show that I came prepared to speak well, a thing especially unbecoming a man of my profession, and of too great obligation on him who cannot retain much. Yet so it is, that whoever would fairly assail me, I think I so sufficiently assist his purpose in my known and avowed imperfections, that he may that way satisfy his ill-nature without fighting with the wind. I content myself with enjoying the world without bustle; only-to live an excusable life, and such as may neither be a burden to myself nor to any other. There are pieces in Plutarch where he forgets his theme; where the proposition of his argument is only found by incidence, stuffed and half stifled in foreign matter. Thieves and robbers, of their special favour, have no particular spite at me; no more have I to them: My memory grows cruelly worse every day:
Were it not possible for us to imitate this resolution after a more decent manner? But this one covers so many topics, so many internal and external subjects, that it truly does live up to its title, but renders itself nearly useless in the process. I have seen some who have taken it ill when they have been told that they looked well, and that their pulse was good; restrain their smiles, because they betrayed a recovery, and be angry, at their health because it was not to be lamented: To which may be added that I have, peradventure, some particular obligation to speak only by halves, to speak confusedly and discordantly. Here, but not so nauseous, are the excrements of an old mind, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, and always indigested.
Joseph Glanvill – – [Brighton]the Harvester Press.
What I have not settled of my affairs when I was in health, let no one expect I should do it when I am sick. I see often that we have theories of life set before us which neither the proposer nor those who hear him have any hope, nor, which is more, any inclination to follow. When I am away at Rome, I keep and govern my house, and the conveniences I there left; see my walls rise, my trees shoot, and my revenue increase or decrease, very near as well as when I am there:. What a mean and ridiculous thing it is for a man to study his money, to delight in handling and telling it over and over again!
Of the vanity of words
Of such dealers nothing should be bought till after they are dead. The titles of my chapters do not always comprehend the whole matter; they often denote it by some mark only, as these others, Andria, Eunuchus; or these, Sylla, Cicero, Toyquatus.
Moreover, it is not rightly to go to work, to examine only the flank and the foss, to judge of the security of a place; we must observe which way approaches can be made to it, and in what condition the assailant is: I have learned to travel after the Spanish fashion, and to make but one stage of a great many miles; and in excessive heats I always travel by night, from sun set to sunrise.
Which learned lecture of my man brought this of Terence into my memory: I know very well that, to take it by the letter, this pleasure of travelling is a testimony of uneasiness and irresolution, and, in sooth, these two are our governing and predominating qualities.
And how is style. Whilst growing more and more perplexed, whilst struggling with his memory, and trying to recollect what he had to say, the soldiers nearest to him charged their pikes against him and killed him, looking upon him as convict; his confusion and silence served them for a confession; for having had so much leisure to prepare himself in prison, they concluded that it was not his memory that failed him, but that his conscience tied up his tongue and stopped his mouth. And yet they are phrases that come near to the babble of my chambermaid.
I raise my courage, well enough against inconveniences: I here set down nothing new. I leave nothing to be desired or to be guessed at concerning me. At the worst, this difform liberty of presenting ourselves two several ways, the actions after one manner and the reasoning after another, may be allowed to those who only speak of things; but it cannot be allowed to those who speak of themselves, as I do: It is not disdain; it is folly, and rather stupidity than glory; I had rather be a good horseman than a good logician:.
My style and my mine alike go roaming. A Reading of Kneller. As natural conveniences fail, let us supply them with those that are artificial.
Virginia Marie Green, Reflections of Vanity in Montaigne’s “Essais” – PhilPapers
After having established the uncertainty, to go about to establish the certainty of human opinions, was it not to establish doubt, and not certainty, and to promise, that had he had yet another age to live, he would be always upon terms of altering his judgment, not so much for the better, as for something else?
This also afflicts me, that the mischief which nearest threatens us, is not an alteration in the entire mlntaignes solid mass, but its dissipation and divulsion, which is the most extreme of our fears.
If there be any convenience in so many standers-by, it brings an hundred inconveniences along with it. The worst of her forms was the most fortunate; one can hardly discern any image of government under the first emperors; it is the most horrible and tumultuous confusion that can be imagined; it endured it, notwithstanding, and therein continued, preserving not a monarchy limited within its own bounds, but so many nations so differing, so remote, so disaffected, so confusedly commanded, and so unjustly conquered:.
The Vanity of Dogmatizing: I hate the morsels that necessity carves me; any commodity upon which I had only to depend would have me by the throat. As to the rest, most of the accidental company a man falls into upon the road beget him more trouble than pleasure; I waive them as much as I civilly can, especially now that age seems in some sort to privilege and sequester me from the common forms.
The sentence that I pass upon myself is more severe than that of a judge, who only considers the common obligation; but my conscience looks upon it with a more severe and penetrating eye.
For my part, I return my thanks to those good-natured men who are pleased to take my weak endeavours in good part; the faults of the workmanship are nowhere so apparent as in a matter which of itself has no recommendation. By how much domestic thorns are numerous and slight, by so much they prick deeper and without warning, easily surprising us when least we suspect them.
I can give no account of my life by my actions; fortune has placed them too low: If people must be talking of me, I would have it to be justly and truly; I would come again, with all my heart, from the other world to give any one the lie who should report me other than I was, though he did it to honour me.
I will not, after all, as I often hear dead men spoken of, that men should say of me: I have a constitution of body as free, and a palate as indifferent, as any man living: