29 Dec Of Glory (Michel de Montaigne) | Part A’
We are all hollow and empty; ‘tis not with wind and voice that we are to fill ourselves; we want a more solid substance to repair us: a man starving with hunger would be very simple to seek rather to provide himself with a gay garment than with a good meal: we are to look after that whereof we have most need.
We are in want of beauty, health, wisdom, virtue, and such like essential qualities: exterior ornaments should, be looked after when we have made provision for necessary things. Divinity treats amply and more pertinently of this subject, but I am not much versed in it.
Chrysippus and Diogenes were the earliest and firmest advocates of the contempt of glory; and maintained that, amongst all pleasures, there was none more dangerous nor more to be avoided than that which proceeds from the approbation of others. And, in truth, experience makes us sensible of many very hurtful treasons in it. There is nothing that so poisons princes as flattery, nor anything whereby wicked men more easily obtain credit and favour with them; nor panderism so apt and so usually made use of to corrupt the chastity of women as to wheedle and entertain them with their own praises.
The first charm the Syrens made use of to allure Ulysses is of this nature:
“Deca vers nous, deca, o tres-louable Ulysse,
Et le plus grand honneur don’t la Grece fleurisse.”
[“Come hither to us, O admirable Ulysses, come hither, thou greatest ornament and pride of Greece.”—Homer, Odysseus, xii. 184.]
These philosophers said, that all the glory of the world was not worth an understanding man’s holding out his finger to obtain it:
“Gloria quantalibet quid erit, si gloria tantum est?”
[“What is glory, be it as glorious as it may be, if it be no more than glory?”—Juvenal, Sat., vii. 81.]
I say for it alone; for it often brings several commodities along with it, for which it may justly be desired: it acquires us good-will, and renders us less subject and exposed to insult and offence from others, and the like. It was also one of the principal doctrines of Epicurus; for this precept of his sect,
Conceal thy life, that forbids men to encumber themselves with public negotiations and offices, also necessarily presupposes a contempt of glory, which is the world’s approbation of those actions we produce in public.—[Plutarch, Whether the saying, Conceal thy life, is well said.]—He that bids us conceal ourselves, and to have no other concern but for ourselves, and who will not have us known to others, would much less have us honoured and glorified; and so advises Idomeneus not in any sort to regulate his actions by the common reputation or opinion, except so as to avoid the other accidental inconveniences that the contempt of men might bring upon him.
These discourses are, in my opinion, very true and rational; but we are, I know not how, double in ourselves, which is the cause that what we believe we do not believe, and cannot disengage ourselves from what we condemn.
Let us see the last and dying words of Epicurus; they are grand, and worthy of such a philosopher, and yet they carry some touches of the recommendation of his name and of that humour he had decried by his precepts. Here is a letter that he dictated a little before his last gasp:
“EPICUYUS TO HEYMACHUS, health.
“Whilst I was passing over the happy and last day of my life, I
write this, but, at the same time, afflicted with such pain in my
bladder and bowels that nothing can be greater, but it was
recompensed with the pleasure the remembrance of my inventions and
doctrines brought to my soul. Now, as the affection thou hast ever
from thy infancy borne towards me and philosophy requires, take upon
thee the protection of Metrodorus’ children.”
This is the letter. And that which makes me interpret that the pleasure he says he had in his soul concerning his inventions, has some reference to the reputation he hoped for thence after his death, is the manner of his will, in which he gives order that Amynomachus and Timocrates, his heirs, should, every January, defray the expense of the celebration of his birthday as Hermachus should appoint; and also the expense that should be made the twentieth of every moon in entertaining the philosophers, his friends, who should assemble in honour of the memory of him and of Metrodorus.—[Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 30.]
Part B’ follows
The Essays of Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne