Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924." Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
HEY are not to be had by dozens, as each one knowes, namely, in rights and duties of mariage; for it is a bargaine full of so many thornie circumstances, that it is hard the will of a woman should long keepe her selfe whole and perfect therein. And although men have somewhat a better condition in the same, yet have they much to doe. The touchstone and perfect triall of a goode marriage respects the time that the societie continueth; whether it have constantly beene milde, loyall and commodious. In our age they more commonly reserve to enstall their good offices, and set forth the vehemence of their affections toward their lost husbands: and then seeke they at least to yeeld some testimonie of their good wil. O late testimonie and out of season, whereby they rather shew they never love them but when they are dead! Our life is full of combustion and scolding, but our disease is full of love and of curtesie. As fathers conceale affection toward their children, so they, to maintaine an honest respect, cloake tbeir love toward their husbands. This mystery answereth not my taste. They may long enough scratch and dishevel themselves; let me enquire of a chamber-maide or of a secretarie how they were, how they did, and how they have lived together. I can never forget this good saying: Jactantius mærent, quæ minus dolent: 'They keepe a howling with most ostentation who are less sorrowfull at heart.' Their lowring and puling is hatefull to the living and vaine to the dead. Wee shall easily dispence with them to laugh at us when we are dead, upon condition they smile upon us while wee live. Is not this the way to revive a man with spite; that he who hath spitten in my face when I was living shall come and claw my feet when I am dead? If there be any honour for a woman to weepe for hir husband, it belongs to hir that hath smiled upon him when she had him. Such as have wept when they lived, let them laugh when they are dead, as well outwardly as inwardly. Moreover, regard not those blubbred eyes, nor that pitty moving voice, but view that demeanour, that colour and cheerefull good plight of those cheekes under their great vailes ; thence it is she speaks plaine French. There are few whose health doth not daily grow better and better; a qualitie that cannot lie. This ceremonious countenance looketh not so much backward as forward: it is rather a purchase than a payment. In mine infancie an honest and most faire ladie (who yet liveth) the widdowe of a prince, had somewhat more of I wot not what in her attires then the lawes of widdowhood would well permit. To such as blamed her for it, it is (said shee) I intend no more new acquaintances, and have no mind at all to marry againe. Because I will not altogether dissent from our custome, I have heere made choice of three women who have also employed the, utmost endeavor of their goodnes and affection about their husbands deaths. Yet are they examples somewhat different and so urging that they hardly draw life into consequence. Plinie the yonger had dwelling neere to a house of his in Italie a neighbour wonderfully tormented with certaine ulcers which much troubled him in his secret parts. His wife perceiving him to droope and languish away, entreated him she might leasurely search, and neerely view the quality of his disease, and she would more freely then any other tell him what he was to hope for: which having obtained and curiously considered the same, she found it impossible ever to be cured, and all he might expect was but to lead a long, dolorous, and languishing life: and therefore, for his more safetie and soveraigne remedie, perswaded him to kill himselfe. And finding him somewhat nice and backeward to effect so rude an enterprise: 'Thinke not my deare friend (quoth shee) but that the sorrowes and griefe I see thee feel, touch me as neere and more, if more may be, as thy selfe, and that to be rid of them I will applie the same remedie to my selfe which I prescribe to thee. I will accompany thee in thy cure as I have done in thy sickness: remoove all feare, and assure thy selfe we shall have pleasure in this passage, which shall deliver us from all torments, for we will happily goe together.' That said, and having cheared up hir husbands courage, she determined they should both headlong throw themselves into the sea from out a window of their house that overlooked the same: and to maintaine this loyall, vehement and never to be severed affection to the end, wherewith shee had during his life embraced him, she would also have him die in hir armes: and fearing they might faile her, and through the fall or feare or apprehension her bold-fast might be loosed, shee caused herselfe to be fast bound unto him by the middle: and thus for the ease of her husbands life she was contented to foregoe her owne. She was but of meane place and low fortune, and amidde such condition of people it is not so strange to see some parts of rare vertue and exemplar goodnesse.------ extrema per illosThe other two are noble and rich; where examples of vertue are rarely lodged. Arria, wife unto Cecinna Pætus, a man that had been consul, was mother of another Arria, wife to Thrasea Pætus, whose vertue was so highly renowned during the time of Nero; and by meane of his sonne-in-law, grandmother to Fannia. For the resemblance of these mens and womens names and fortunes hath made diverse to mistake them. 'This first Arria, her husband Cecinna Pætus having been taken Prisoner by the souldiers of Claudius the Emperour, after the overthrow of Scribonianus, whose faction he had followed, entreated those who led him prisoner to Rome, to take her into their ship where for the service of her husband she should be of lesse charge and incommoditie to them then a number of other persons which they must necessarily have, and that she alone might supply and stead him in his chamber, in his kitchen and all other offices; which they utterly refused, and so hoisted sailes, but she leaping into a fishers boate that she immediately hired, followed him aloofe from the further shore of Sclavonia. Being come to Rome one day in the Emperours presence, Junia, the widdow of Scribonianus, by reason of the neerenesse and societie of their fortunes, familiarly accosted her, but she rudely, with these words, thrust her away. What (quoth she ) shall I speake to thee, or shall I listen what thou sayest? 'Thou, in whose lappe Scribonianus thy husband was slaine' and thou yet livest? and thou breathest? These words with divers other signes made her kinsfolkes and friends perceive that she purposed to make herselfe away, as impatient to abide ber husbands fortune. And Thrasea her son in law, taking hold of her speeches, beseeching her that she would not so unheedily spoile her selfe, he thus bespake her: 'What, if I were in Cecinnæs f ortune or the like, would you have my wife your daughter to do so?' 'What else? Make' you a question of it?' answered she. 'Yes, marry would I had she lived so long and in so good-agreeing sort with thee as I have done with my husband.' These and such like answers encreased the care they had of her and made them more heedful to watch and neerely to look unto her. One day after she had uttered these words to her keepers, 'You may looke long enough to me, well may you make me die worse, but you shall never be able to keep me from dying:' and therewith furiously flinging her self out of a chaire (wherein she sate) with all the strength she had, she fiercely ranne her head against the next wall; with which blow having sore hurt her selfe, and falling into a dead swowne, after they had with much adoe brought her to her selfe againe: 'Did I not tell you (quoth she) that if you kept me from an easie death I would choose another how hard and difficult soever?' The end of so admirable a vertue was this. Her husband Pætus wanting the courage to doe himselfe to death, unto which the Emperors cruelty reserved him, one day, having first employed discourses and exhortations befitting the counsell she gave him to make himselfe away, shee tooke a dagger that her husband wore, and holding it right out in her hand for the period of her exhortation: Doe thus, Pætus (said she) and at that instant stabbing her selfe mortally to the heart, and presently pulling the dagger out againe, she reached the same unto her husband and so yeelded up the ghost, uttering this noble, generous, and immortal speech, Pæte non dolet, she had not the leasure to pronounce other than these three wordes, in substance materiall and worthy herselfe, 'Holde Pætus it hath done me no hurt.'
Justitia excedens terris vestigia fecit. Virg. Georg. ii. 473.
Justice departing from the earth did take
Of them her leave, through them last passage make.Casta suo gladium cum traderet Arria Pæto,It is much more lively in his owne naturall and of a richer sense, for both her husbands wound and death, and her owne hurts, she was so farre from grieving to have beene the counselor and motive of them, that shee rejoyced to have performed so haughty and courageous an act, onely for the behoofe of her deere husband; and at the last gasps of her life she only regarded him, and to remove all feare from him to follow her in death, which Pætus beholding, he immediately wounded himself with the same dagger, ashamed, as I suppose, to have had need of so deare an instruction and precious a teaching. Pompea Paulina, an high and noble borne yong Romane ladie, had wedded Seneca, being very aged. Nero, his faire disciple, having sent his satellites or officers toward him to denounce the decree of his death to him, which in those dayes was done after this manner: when the Roman Emperors had condemned any man of quality to death, they were wont to send their officers unto him to chuse what death he pleased, and to take it within such and such a time, which, according to the temper of their choler, they prescribed unto him sometimes shorter and sometimes longer, giving him that time to dispose of his affaires, which also by reason of some short warning they divers times tooke from him: and if the condemned partie seemed in any sort to strive against their will, they would often send men of purpose to execute him, either cutting the veins of his armes and legs, or compelling him to take and swallow poison. But men of Honour stayed not that enforcement, but to that effect used their own Phisit ans or Surgeons, Seneca, with a reposed and undanted countenance, listned attentively to their charge, and presently demaunded for paper and inke to make his last wil and testament, which the captaine refusing him, he turned towards his friends and thus bespoke them: 'Sith, my loving friends, I cannot bequeath you any other thing in remembrance or acknowledgement of what I owe you, I leave you at least the richest and best portion I have, that is, the image of my maners and my life, which I beseech you to keepe in memory; which doing you may acquire the glory and purchase the name of truly sincere and absolutely true friends.' And therewithall, sometimes appeasing the sharpenes of the sorow he saw them endure for his sake, with mild and gentle speeches, sometimes raising his voice to chide them. 'Where are,' said he 'those memorable precepts of Philosophy? What is become of those provisions which for so many yeares together we have laid up against the brunts and accidents of Fortune? Was Neroes innated cruelty unknowne unto us? What might we expect or hope for at his hands, who had murdred his mother and massacred his brother, but that he would also do his tutor and governor that hath fostred and brought him up? Having uttered these words to all the bystanders, he turned him to his wife, as she was ready to sink down, and with the burthen of her grief to faint in heart and strength; he called and embraced her about the necke, and heartil y entreated her, for the love of him, somewhat more patiently to beare this accident; and that his houre was come, wherein be must shew no longer by discourse and disputation, but in earnest effect, declare the fruit he had reaped by his studie; and that undoubtedly he embraced deathe, not only without griefe but with exceeding joy. Wherefore; my deere deere heart, do not dishonour it by thy teares, lest thou seeme to love thyselfe more than my reputation. Asswage thy sorrowes and comfort thy self, in the knowledge thou hast had of me and of my actions, leading the rest of thy life by the honest occupations to which thou art addicted. To whom Paulina, having somewhat rouzed hir drooping spirits, and by a thrice noble affection awakened the magnanimitie of her high-setled courage, answered thus : 'No, Seneca, thinke not that in this necessitie I will leave you without my company. I would not have you imagine that the vertuous examples of your life have not also taught me to die; and when sha ll I be able to do it or better, or more honestly, or more to mine own liking then with your selfe? And be resolved I wil go with you and be partaker of your fortune.' Seneca taking so generous a resolve and glorious a determination of his wife in good part, and to free himselfe from the feare he had to leave her after his death to his enemies mercie and cruelty: 'Oh my deare Paulina, I had,' quoth be, 'perswaded thee what I thought was convenient, to leade thy life more happily, and doest thou then rather choose the honour of a glorious death? Assuredly I will not envy thee. Be the constancie and resolution answerable to our common end, but be the beautie and glory greater on thy side.' That said, the veines of both their armes were cut, to the end they might bleede to death; but because Senecæs were somewhat shrunken up through age and abstinence, and his bloud could have no speedy course, he commanded the veines of his thighes to be launced; and fearing lest the torments he felt might in some sort entender his wifes heart, as also to deliver himselfe from the affliction which greatly yearned him to see her in so pittious plight, after he had most lovingly taken leave of her, he besought her to be pleased she might be carried into the next chamber, which was accordingly performed. But all those incisions being unable to make him die, he willed Statius Anneus his phisitian to give him some poysoned potion which wrought but small effect in him for through the weaknesse and coldenesse of his members, it could not come unto his heart. And therefore they caused a warme hath to be prepared, wherein they layd him, then perceiving his end to approach, so long as he had breath he continued his excellent discourses concerning the subject of the estate wherein he found himself, which his secretaries, so long as they could heare his voice, collected very diligently, whose last words continued long time after in high esteem and honor amongst the better sort of men, as oracles; but they were afterward lost, and great pittie it is they never came unto our handes. But when he once beganne to feele the last pangs of death, taking some of the water wherein he lay bathing, all bloody, he therewith washed his head, saying, 'I vow this water unto Jupiter the Deliverer.' Nero being advertised of all this, fearing lest Paulinæs death (who was one of the best alied ladies in Rome, and to whom he bare no particular grudge) might cause him some reproach, sent in all poste baste to have her incisions closed up againe, and if possible it could be, to save her life, which hir servants by unwrithing her, performed, she being more than halfe dead and voyd of any sense. And that afterward, contrary to her intent, she lived, it was very honourable and as befitted her vertue, shewing by the pale hew and wanne colour of her face how much of her life she had wasted by her incisions. Loe heere three true stories, which in my conceit are as pleasant and as tragicall as any we devise at our pleasures to please the vulgar sort withall; and I wonder that those who invent so many fabulous tales do not rather make choise of infinite, excellent and quaint stories that are found in bookes, wherein they should have lesse trouble to write them, and might doubtlesse proove more pleasing to the hearer and profitable to the reader. And whosoever would undertake to frame a compleate and well-joynted, bodie of them neede neither employe nor adde any thing of his owne unto it except the ligaments, as the soldring of another mettall, and by this meanes might compact sundry events of all kindes, disposing and diversifying them according as the beauty and lustre of the worke should require; and very neere, as Ovid hath showen and contrived his Metamorphosis, with that strange number of diverse fables. In the last couple this is also worthy consideration, that Paulina offreth willingly to leave her life for her husband's sake, and that her husband had also other times quit death for the love of her. There is no great counterpoyze in this exchange for us, but according to his Stoike humour I suppose he perswaded himselfe to have done as much for hir, prolonging his life for her availe as if he had died for hir. In one of his letters he writeth to Lucilius, after he had given him to understand how an ague having surprised him in Rome, contrary to his wives opinion who would needs have stayed him, he sodainly tooke his coach to goe unto a house of his into the country; and how he told her that the ague he had was no bodily fever, but of the place; and followeth thus: 'At last she let me goe, earnestly recommending my health unto me. Now I who know how her life lodgeth in mine, begin to provide for myself, that consequently I may provide for her the priviledge my age hath bestowed on me making me more constant and more resolute in many things, I lose it whenever I call to minde that in this aged corps there harboureth a young woman to whom I bring some profit. Since I cannot induce her to love me more courageously, shee induceth me to love my selfe more carefully; for something must be lent to honest affections, and sometimes, although occasions urge us to the contrary, life must be revoked againe, yea with torment. The soule must be held fast with ones teeth, since the lawe to live [in honest men] is not to live as long as they please, but so long as they ought. He who esteemeth not his wife or a friend so much as that he will not lengthen his life for them, and wil obstinately die, that man is over- nice and too effeminate: The soule must commaund that unto her selfe, when the utilitie of our friends requireth it we must sometimes lend our selves unto our friend, and when we would die for us we ought for their sakes to interrupt our deseigne. It is a testimony of high courage to returne to life for the respect of others , as divers notable men have done; and to preserve age is a part of singular integritie (the cheifest commoditie whereof is the carelesnesse of her continuance, and a more courageous and disdainefull use of life) if a man perceive such an office to be pleasing, acceptable and profitable to any well-affected friend. And who doeth it receiveth thereby a grateful meede and pleasing recompence; for what can be sweeter than to be so deare unto his wife, that in respect of her a man become more deare unt o himselfe. So my Paulina, hath not onely charged me with her feare, but also with mine. It hath not beene sufficient for me to consider how resolutely I might die, but I have also considered how irresolutely she might endure it, I have enforced my selfe to live. And to live is sometime magnanimitie.' Reade heere his owne wordes, as excellent as is his use.
Ouem de visceribus traxerat ipsa suis;
Si qua fides, vulnus quod feci, non dolet, inquit.
Sed q uod tu facies, id mihi Pæte dolet. -- Mart. i. Epig. xiv. 1.
Chast Arria, when she gave her Pætus that sharpe sword,
Which from her bowells she had drawne forth bleeding new,
The wound I gave and have, if you will trust my word
Grieves not, said she, but that which shall be made by you.