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cere volunt, auctoritas eorum, qui docent." 2 It is good
to make him, like a young horse, trot before him that he
may judge of his going and how much he is to abate of his
own speed, to accommodate himself to the vigor and capa-
city of the other. For want of which due proportion we
spoil all; which also to know how to adjust, and to keep
within an exact and due measure, is one of the hardest
things I know, and 'tis the effect of a high and well-tem-
pered soul to know how to condescend to such puerile
motions and to govern and direct them. I walk firmer and
more secure up hill than down.

Such as, according to our common way of teaching, un-

1 Diogenes Laertius, iv. 36.

2 " The authority of those who teach, is very often an impediment to

those who desire to learn." CICERO, De Natura Dear., i. 5.



206 MONTAIGNE

dertake, with one and the same lesson, and the same measure
of direction, to instruct several boys of differing and un-
equal capacities, are infinitely mistaken ; and 'tis no wonder,
if in a whole multitude of scholars, there are not found
above two or three who bring away any good account of
their time and discipline. Let the master not only ex-
amine him about the grammatical construction of the bare
words of his lesson, but about the sense and substance of
them, and let him judge of the profit he has made, not by
the testimony of his memory, but by that of his life. Let
him make him put what he has learned into a hundred
several forms, and accommodate it to so many several sub-
jects, to see if he yet rightly comprehends it, and has made
it his own, taking instruction of his progress by the peda-
gogic institutions of Plato. 'Tis a sign of crudity and
indigestion to disgorge what we eat in the same condition
it was swallowed; the stomach has not performed its office
unless it have altered the form and condition of what was
committed to it to concoct. Our minds work only upon
trust, when bound and compelled to follow the appetite of
another's fancy, enslaved and captivated under the author-
ity of another's instruction; we have been so subjected to
the trammel, that we have no free, nor natural pace of our
own; our own vigor and liberty are extinct and gone:
" Nunquam tutelce sues Hunt." x

Let him make him examine and thoroughly sift every-
thing he reads, and lodge nothing in his fancy upon simple
authority and upon trust. Aristotle's principles will then
be no mQre principles to him, than those of Epicurus and
the Stoics: let this diversity of opinions be propounded to,
and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able;
if not, he will remain in doubt.

1 " They are ever in wardship."-H5ENECA, Ep., 33.



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" Che, non men che saper, dubbiar m' aggrata," 1

for, if he embrace the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by
his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his
own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing,
nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege;
sibi quisque se vindicet." 2 Let him at least, know that he
knows. It will be necessary that he imbibe their knowl-
edge, not that he be corrupted with their precepts ; and no
matter if he forgot where he had his learning, provided he
know how to apply it to his own use. Truth and reason are
common to everyone, and are no more his who spake them
first, than his who speaks them after: 'tis no more accord-
ing to Plato, than according to me, since both he and I
equally see and understand them. Bees cull their several
sweets from this flower and that blossom, here and there
where they find them, but themselves afterward make the
honey, which is all and purely their own, and no more
thyme and marjoram: so the several fragments he borrows
from others, he will transform and shuffle together to com-
pile a work that shall be absolutely his own ; that is to say,
his judgment: his instruction, labor and study, tend to
nothing else but to form that. . . . The advantages of
our study are to become better and more wise. " 'Tis," says
Epicharmus, " the understanding that sees and hears, 'tis the
understanding that improves everything, that orders every-
thing, and that acts, rules, and reigns: all other faculties
are blind, and deaf, and without soul." And certainly
we render it timorous and servile, in not allowing
it the liberty and privilege to do anything of itself. Who-
ever asked his pupil what he thought of grammar or rhetoric,
and of such and such a sentence of Cicero? Our masters



1 " I love to doubt, as well to know." DANTE, Inferno, xi. 93.

2 " We are under no king; let each look to himself." SENECA, Ep., 33.



208 MONTAIGNE

stick them, full feathered, in our memories, and there estab-
lish them like oracles, of which the letters and syllables are
of the substance of the thing. To know by rote, is no
knowledge, and signifies no more but only to retain what
one has intrusted to our memory. That which a man rightly
knows and understands, he is the free disposer of at his own
full liberty, without any regard to the author from whence
he had it or fumbling over the leaves of his book. A mere
bookish learning is a poor, paltry learning; it may serve
for ornament, but there is yet no foundation for any super-
structure to be built upon it, according to the opinion of
Plato, who says that constancy, faith, and sincerity, are the
true philosophy, and the other sciences, that are directed to
other ends, mere adulterate paint. I could wish that Paluel
or Pompey, those two noted dancers of my time, could have
taught us to cut capers, by only seeing them do it, without
stirring from our places, as these men pretend to inform
the understanding, without ever setting it to work; or that
we could learn to ride, handle a pike, touch a lute, or sing,
without the trouble of practice, as these attempt to make
us judge and speak well, without exercising us in judging
or speaking. Now in this initiation of our studies and in
their progress, whatsoever presents itself before us is book
sufficient ; a roguish trick of a page, a sottish mistake of a
servant, a jest at the table, are so many new subjects.

And for this reason, conversation with men is of very
great use and travel into foreign countries; not to bring
back (as most of our young monsieurs do) an account only
of how many paces Santa Rotonda 1 is in circuit ; or of the
richness of Signora Livia's petticoats; or, as some others,
how much Nero's face, in a statue in such an old ruin, is
longer and broader than that made for him on some medal;
but to be able chiefly to give an account of the humors,

1 The Pantheon of Agrippa.



SELECTION FROM MONTAIGNE 209

manners, customs and laws of those nations where he has
been, and that we may whet and sharpen our wits by rub-
bing them against those of others. I would that a boy
should be sent abroad very young, and first, so as to kill
two birds with one stone, into those neighboring nations
whose language is most differing from our' own, and to
which, if it be not formed betimes, the tongue will grow
too stiff to bend.

And also 'tis the general opinion of all, that a child
should not be brought up in his mother's lap. Mothers
are too tender, and their natural affection is apt to make the
most discreet of them all so overfond, that they can neither
find in their hearts to give them due correction for the
faults they commit, nor suffer them to be inured to hard-
ships and hazards, as they ought to be. They will not
endure to see them return all dust and sweat from their
exercise, to drink cold drink when they are hot, nor see them
mount an unruly horse, nor take a foil in hand against a
rude fencer, or so much as to discharge a carbine. And
yet there is no remedy; whoever will breed a boy to be
good for anything when he comes to be a man, must by no
means spare him when young, and must very often trans-
gress the rules of physic :

" Vitamque sub dio et trepidis agat
In rebus." x

It is not enough to fortify his soui: you are also to make
his sinews strong; for the soul will be oppressed if not
assisted by the members, and would have too hard a task to
discharge two offices alone. . . .

And yet, even in this conversing with men I spoke of
but now, I have observed this vice, that instead of gather-

1 " Let him live in the open air, and ever in movement about something."
HORACE, Od., ii. 3, 5.
PAINTER FED. Ess. 14



2 io MONTAIGNE

ing observations from others, we make it our whole busi-
ness to lay ourselves upon them, and are more concerned
how to expose and set out our own commodities, than how
to increase our stock by acquiring new. Silence, therefore,
and modesty are very advantageous qualities in conversa-
tion. One should, therefore, train up this boy to be spar-
ing and a husband of his knowledge when he has acquired
it; and to forbear taking exceptions at or reproving every
idle saying or ridiculous story that is said or told in his
presence; for it is a very unbecoming rudeness to carp at
everything that is not agreeable to our own palate. Let
him be satisfied with correcting himself, and not seem to
condemn everything in another he would not do himself,
nor dispute it as against common customs. "Licet sapere
sine pompa, sine invidia." * Let him avoid these vain and
uncivil images of authority, this childish ambition of covet-
ing to appear better bred and more accomplished, than he
really will, by such carriage, discover himself to be. And,
as if opportunities of interrupting and reprehending were
not to be omitted, to desire thence to derive the reputation
of something more than ordinary. For as it becomes none
but great poets to make use of the poetical license, so it is
intolerable for any but men of great and illustrious souls to
assume privilege above the authority of custom; "si quid
Socrates aut Aristippus contra morem et consuetudinem
fecerunt, idem sibi ne arbitretur licere: magnis enim illi
et divinis bonis hanc licentiam assequebantur." 2 Let him
be instructed not to engage in discourse or dispute but
with a champion worthy of him, and, even then, not to

1 " Let him be wise without ostentation, without envy." SENECA,
Ep., 103.

z " If Socrates and Aristippus have transgressed the rules of good conduct
or custom, let him not imagine that he is licensed to do the same; for it was
by great and sovereign virtues that they obtained this privilege." CICERO,
De Offic., i. 4i.



SELECTION FROM MONTAIGNE 211

make use of all the little subtleties that may seem pat for
his purpose, but only such arguments as may best serve
him. Let him be taught to be curious in the election and
choice of his reasons, to abominate impertinence, and, con-
sequently, to affect brevity; but, above all, let him be les-
soned to acquiescence and submit to truth so soon as ever he
shall discover it, whether in his opponent's argument, or
upon better consideration of his own; for he shall never be
preferred to the chair for a mere clatter of words and
syllogisms, and is no further engaged to any argument
whatever, than as he shall in his own judgment approve
it : nor yet is arguing a trade, where the liberty of recanta-
tion and getting off upon better thoughts, are to be sold
for ready money : " Neque, ut omnia, qua prcescripta et
imperata sint, defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur"' x
*****

Let his conscience and virtue be eminently manifest in
his speaking, and have only reason for their guide. Make
him understand, that to acknowledge the error he shall dis-
cover in his own argument, though only found out by him-
self, is an effect of judgment and sincerity, which are the
principal things he is to seek after; that obstinacy and
contention are common qualities, most appearing in mean
souls ; that to revise and correct himself, to forsake an un-
just argument in the height and heat of dispute, are rare,
great, and philosophical qualities. Let him be advised;
being in company, to have his eye and ear in every corner,
for I find that the places of greatest honor are commonly
seized upon by men that have least in them, and that the
greatest fortunes are seldom accompanied with the ablest
parts. I have been present when, while they at the upper
end of the chamber have only been commending the beauty

1 " Neither is there any necessity upon him, that he should defend all
tilings that are recommended to and enjoined him." CICERO, Acad., ii. 3.



212 MONTAIGNE

of the arras, or the flavor of the wine, many things that
have been very finely said at the lower end of the table
have been lost or thrown away. Let him examine every
man's talent; a peasant, a bricklayer, a passenger: one
may learn something from every one of these in their
several capacities, and something will be picked out of
their discourse whereof some use may be made at one time
or another; nay, even the folly and impertinence of others
will contribute to his instruction. By observing the graces
and manners of all he sees, he will create to himself an
emulation of the good, and a contempt of the bad.

Let an honest curiosity be suggested to his fancy of being
inquisitive after everything; whatever there is singular and
rare near the place where he is, let him go and see it ; a fine
house, a noble fountain, an eminent man, the place where
a battle has been anciently fought, the passages of Caesar
and Charlemagne:

" Quse tellus sit lenta gelu, quae putris ab sestu,
Ventus in Italiam quis bene vela ferat." 1

Let him inquire into the manners, revenues and alliances
of princes, things in themselves very pleasant to learn, and
very useful to know.

In this conversing with men, I mean also and principally,
those who only live in the records of history; he shall, by
reading those books, converse with the great and heroic
souls of the best ages. 'Tis an idle and vain study to those
who make it by so doing it after a negligent manner, but to
those who do it with care and observation, 'tis a study of
inestimable fruit and value; and the only study, as Plato
reports, that the Lacedaemonians reserved to themselves. 2

1 " What country is bound in frost, what land is friable with heat, what
wind serves fairest for Italy." PROPERTIUS, iv. 3, 39.
* Hippias Major.



SELECTION FROM MONTAIGNE 213

What profit shall he not reap as to the business of men, by
reading the lives of Plutarch ? But, withal, let my governor
remember to what end his instructions are principally di-
rected, and that he do not so much imprint in his pupil's
memory the date of the ruin of Carthage, as the manners of
Hannibal and Scipio; nor so much where Marcellus died,
as why it was unworthy of his duty that he died there. Let
him not teach him so much the narrative parts of history
as to judge them ; the reading of them, in my opinion, is a
thing that of all others we apply ourselves unto with the
most differing measure. I have read a hundred things in
Livy that another has not, or not taken notice of at least ;
and Plutarch has read a hundred more there than ever I
could find, or than, peradventure, that author ever wrote ;
to some it is merely a grammar study, to others the very
anatomy of philosophy, by which the most abstruse parts of
our human nature penetrate.

This great world which some do yet multiply as several
species under one genus, is the mirror wherein we are to
behold ourselves, to be able to know ourselves as we ought
to do in the true bias. In short, I would have this to be
the book my young gentleman should study with the most
attention. So many humors, so many sects, so many
judgments, opinions, laws and customs, teach us to judge
aright of our own, and inform our understanding to dis-
cover its imperfection and natural infirmity, which is no
trivial speculation. So many mutations of states and king-
doms, and so many turns and revolutions of public for-
tune, will made us wise enough to make no great wonder
of our own. So many great names, so many famous vic-
tories and conquests drowned and swallowed in oblivion,
render our hopes ridiculous of eternizing our names by the
taking of half-a-score of light horse, or a henroost, which
only derives its memory from its ruin. The pride and ar-



2:4

rogance of so many foreign pomps and ceremonies, the
tumorous majesty of so many courts and grandeurs,
accustom and fortify our sight without astonishment or
winking to behold the lustre of our own ; so many millions
of men, buried before us, encourage us not to fear to go
seek such good company in the other world: and so of all
the rest. Pythagoras was wont to say, 1 that our life re-
sembles the great and populous assembly of the Olympic
games, wherein some exercise the body, that they may
carry away the glory of the prize; others bring merchan-
dise to sell for profit; there are, also, some (and those none
of the worst sort) who pursue no other advantage than
only to look on, and consider how and why everything is
done, and to be spectators of the lives of other men, thereby
the better to judge of and regulate their own.

To examples may fitly be applied all the profitable dis-
courses of philosophy, to which all human actions, as to
their best rule, ought to be especially directed: a scholar
shall be taught to know

" Quid fas optare, quid asper
Utjle nummus habet ; patrise carisque propinquis
Quantum elargiri deceat ; quem te Deus esse
Jussit, et humana qua parte locatus es in re ;
Quid sumus, aut quidnam victuri gignimur," 2

what it is to know, and what to be ignorant; what ought
to be the end and design of study ; what valor, temperance
and justice are; the difference between ambition and avarice,
servitude and subjection, license and liberty; by what token

1 Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 3.

2 " Learn what it is right to wish; what is the true use of coined money;
how much it becomes us to give in liberality to our country and our dear
relations; whom and what the Deity commanded thee to be; and in what part
of the human system thou art placed; what we are and to what purpose
engendered." PERSIUS, iii. 69.



SELECTION FROM MONTAIGNE 215

a man may know true and solid contentment ; how far death,
affliction, and disgrace are to be apprehended:

" Et quo quemque modo f ugiatque feratque laborem ; " *

by what secret springs we move, and the reason of our
various agitations and irresolutions ; for, methinks, the first
doctrine with which one should season his understanding,
ought to be that which regulates his manners and his sense ;
that teaches him to know himself, and how both well to
die and well to live. Among the liberal sciences, let us be-
gin with that which makes us free ; not that they do not all
serve in some measure to the instruction and use of life,
as all other things in some sort also do ; but let us make
choice of that which directly and professedly serves to that
end. If we are once able to restrain the offices of human
life within their just and natural limits, we shall find that
most of the sciences in use are of no great use to us, and
even in those that are, that there are many very unnecessary
cavities and dilatations which we had better let alone, and
follow Socrates' direction, limit the course of our studies
to those things only where is a true and real utility.

After having taught him what will make him more wise
and good, you may then entertain him with the elements
of logic, physics, geometry, rhetoric, and the science which
he shall then himself most incline to, his judgment being
beforehand formed and fit to choose, he will quickly make
his own. The way of instructing him ought to be some-
times by discourse, and sometimes by reading, sometimes
his governor shall put the author himself, which he shall
think most proper for him, into his hands, and sometimes
only the marrow and substance of it; and if himself be

1 " And how you may shun or sustain every hardship." VIRGIL, JEneid,
iii. 459-



216 MONTAIGNE

not conversant enough in books to turn to all the fine dis-
courses the books contain for his purpose, there may some
man of learning be joined to him, that upon every occasion
shall supply him with what he stands in need of, to furnish
it to his pupil. And who can doubt, but that this way of
teaching is much more easy and natural than that of Gaza,
in which the precepts are so intricate, and so harsh, and the
words so vain, lean, and insignificant, that there is no hold
to be taken of them, nothing that quickens and elevates the
wit and fancy, whereas here the mind has what to feed
upon and to digest This fruit, therefore, is not only with-
out comparison, much more fair and beautiful ; but will also
be much more early ripe.

The soul that lodges philosophy, ought to be of such a
constitution of health, as to render the body in like manner
healthful too; she ought to make her tranquillity and satis-
faction shine so as to appear without, and her contentment
ought to fashion the outward behavior to her own mold,
and consequently to fortify it with a graceful confidence,
an active and joyous carriage, and a serene and contented
countenance. The most manifest sign of wisdom is a con-
tinual cheerfulness; her state is like that of things in the
regions above the moon, always clear and serene. 'Tis
Baroco and Baralipton 1 that render their disciples so dirty
and ill-favored, and not she; they do not so much as know
her but by hearsay. What! It is she that calms and
appeases the storms and tempests of the soul, and who
teaches famine and fevers to laugh and sing; and that, not
by certain imaginary epicycles, but by natural and manifest
reasons. She has virtue for her end; which is not, as the
schoolmen say, situate upon the summit of a perpendicular,
rugged, inaccessible precipice: such as have approached

1 Two terms of the ancient scholastic logic.



SELECTION FROM MONTAIGNE 217

her find her, quite on the contrary, to be seated in a fair,
fruitful, and flourishing plain, from whence she easily dis-
covers all things below ; to which place any one may, how-
ever, arrive, if he know but the way, through shady, green,
and sweetly flourishing avenues, by a pleasant, easy, and
smooth descent, like that of the celestial vault. Tis for
not having frequented this supreme, this beautiful, tri-
umphant, and amiable, this equally delicious and courageous
virtue, this so professed and implacable enemy to anxiety,
sorrow, fear, and constraint, who, having nature for her
guide, has fortune and pleasure for her companions, that
they have gone, according to their own weak imaginations
and created this ridiculous, this sorrowful, querulous,
despiteful, threatening, terrible image of it to themselves
and others, and placed it upon a rock apart, among thorns
and brambles, and made of it a hobgoblin to affright people.
Such a tutor will make a pupil digest this new lesson,
that the height and value of true virtue consist in the
facility, utility, and pleasure of its exercise ; so far from
difficulty, that boys, as well as men, and the innocent as
well as the subtle, may make it their own: it is by order,
and not by force, that it is to be acquired. Socrates, her
first minion, is so averse to all manner of violence, as totally
to throw it aside, to slip into the more natural facility of
her own progress: 'tis the nursing mother of all human
pleasures, who in rendering them just, renders them also
pure and permanent ; in moderating them, keeps them in
breath and appetite; in interdicting those which she herself
refuses, whets our desire to those that she allows ; and, like
a kind and liberal mother, abundantly allows all that nature
requires, even to satiety, if not to lassitude : unless we mean
to' say, that the regimen which stops the toper before he
has drunk himself drunk, the glutton before he has eaten
to a surfeit, . . . is an enemy to pleasure. If the



2i8 MONTAIGNE

ordinary fortune fail, she does without it, and forms another,
wholly her own, not so fickle and unsteady as the other.
She can be rich, be potent and wise, and knows how to lie
upon soft perfumed beds : she loves life, beauty, glory, and
health; but her proper and peculiar office is to know how to
regulate the use of all these good things, and how to lose
them without concern : an office much more noble than
troublesome, and without which the whole course of life is
unnatural, turbulent, and deformed, and there it is indeed,
that men may justly represent those monsters upon rocks
and precipices.

If this pupil shall happen to be of so contrary a disposi-
tion, that he had rather hear a tale of a tub than the true
narrative of some noble expedition or some wise and learned



Online LibraryF. V. N. (Franklin Verzelius Newton) PainterGreat pedagogical essays; Plato to Spencer → online text (page 16 of 33)