After a year of intense combat, Major Dick Winters certainly deserved a break. His next mission — helping to manage the occupation and demobilization effort in Europe in the aftermath of victory — was a piece of cake in comparison. Yet in many ways, his new task proved more onerous than battle. Winters had to keep his eye on 25, surrendered Germans, but it was his own men that gave him the most trouble. The majority of the combat-hardened paratroopers he had served with had rotated home, and their replacements — fresh from basic training — lacked the discipline and gravitas of the old vets.
Maintaining discipline and morale become a major leadership challenge. Lacking a clear purpose and focus, many of the men put forth a bare minimum of effort in their duties and strayed into vices, partying, and causing trouble. Winters himself felt adrift. Laid-back days filled with inspections, light calisthenics, volleyball, reading, and sunbathing, which had at first been relaxing, quickly grew stale. Winters observed a paradox and phenomenon as old as antiquity: men have a harder time being their best in times of peace, than they do in times of crisis.
There are many ways to define masculinity, but one of the best is to describe it as a particular kind of energy — one that drives men to take risks, compete, fight, and explore. It is the energy that fueled men in what were their primary roles throughout history : protectors, warriors, hunters. To survive and thrive in the face of these threats, men must stay vigilant and keep their mental and physical skills sharp.
In a time of security and comfort, individuals and organizations have a lot of buffer and margin for error; a lot can go wrong and red tape can abound without lives being lost — at least ones immediately traceable to a certain cause. Things keep on going on, ineffectively, but pretty much the same. So standards slip, and men get sloppy and soft. They have the luxury of laziness — of deciding to take leave and opt out. Without an external threat to provide challenge and excitement, men turn to vice to create a little drama themselves. Their job is crucial — they literally hold the keys to preventing or launching nuclear annihilation upon the world — but also mind-numbingly dull.
Missileers take turns pulling hour shifts in small, stuffy capsules located miles from the base, and embedded feet below the ground. Beyond going through some checklists and taking care of practice alerts, they have a lot of idle time on their hands. Tucked away on cold, barren posts in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, far from the action abroad, working in an area of the military that feels obsolete, in a job that consists of passive monitoring rather than proactive maneuvering, morale amongst missileers is often low.
In April , seventeen officers at the Minot, North Dakota base were stripped of their authority to control and launch missiles and ordered to undergo months of remedial job training after performing poorly in inspection and mishandling launch codes. In October , a two-star general who oversaw the entire nuclear command was relieved of his duties after spending an official trip to Moscow getting drunk, carousing, and being rude to his hosts.
Then in an investigation of illegal drug use ecstasy, amphetamines, bath salts led to the discovery of widespread cheating amongst nuclear officers on their monthly proficiency tests. Overall, the nuclear missile force has a court martial rate 2X that of the Air Force as a whole, with the infractions ranging from drug use to rape to assault. In this, the problems that face the nuclear missile force are very much a microcosm for those which ail all modern men. For primitive man, staying active and sharp was a matter of necessity and survival.
He never knew when another village might swoop in for an attack, a bear would cross his path in the woods, or a lightning strike might start a wildfire. Simply obtaining food required physical effort and sometimes risk.
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A man had to continually show courage and prowess in the face of danger and risk, and be willing to stand up and fight his fellows when challenged. He believed that an ancient Roman would not recognise the place again. It often happened that in digging down into earth the workmen came upon the crown of some lofty column, which, though thus buried, was still standing upright. The people there have no recourse to other foundations than the vaults and arches of the old houses, upon which, as on slabs of rock, they raise their modern palaces. It is easy to see that several of the ancient streets are thirty feet below those at present in use.
Sceptical as Montaigne shows himself in his books, yet during his sojourn at Rome he manifested a great regard for religion. He saw a Jewish child circumcised, and wrote down a most minute account of the operation. The court of Muscovy had at that time such limited relations with the other powers of Europe, and it was so imperfect in its information, that it thought Venice to be a dependency of the Holy See. I begged him, on the contrary, to abide by the opinion of the person who had criticised me, confessing, among other matters, as, for example, in my use of the word fortune, in quoting historical poets, in my apology for Julian, in my animadversion on the theory that he who prayed ought to be exempt from vicious inclinations for the time being; item, in my estimate of cruelty, as something beyond simple death; item, in my view that a child ought to be brought up to do everything, and so on; that these were my opinions, which I did not think wrong; as to other things, I said that the corrector understood not my meaning.
The Master, who is a clever man, made many excuses for me, and gave me to suppose that he did not concur in the suggested improvements; and pleaded very ingeniously for me in my presence against another also an Italian who opposed my sentiments. Such is what passed between Montaigne and these two personages at that time; but when the Essayist was leaving, and went to bid them farewell, they used very different language to him. To excuse themselves for what they had said against my book, they instanced works of our time by cardinals and other divines of excellent repute which had been blamed for similar faults, which in no way affected reputation of the author, or of the publication as a whole; they requested me to lend the Church the support of my eloquence this was their fair speech , and to make longer stay in the place, where I should be free from all further intrusion on their part.
It seemed to me that we parted very good friends. Before quitting Rome, Montaigne received his diploma of citizenship, by which he was greatly flattered; and after a visit to Tivoli he set out for Loretto, stopping at Ancona, Fano, and Urbino. He arrived at the beginning of May , at Bagno della Villa, where he established himself, order to try the waters.
There, we find in the Journal, of his own accord the Essayist lived in the strictest conformity with the regime, and henceforth we only hear of diet, the effect which the waters had by degrees upon system, of the manner in which he took them; in a word, he does not omit an item of the circumstances connected with his daily routine, his habit of body, his baths, and the rest.
Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, June 8, Montaigne gives it as his reason and justification for enlarging to this extent here, that he had omitted, to his regret, to do so in his visits to other baths, which might have saved him the trouble of writing at such great length now; but it is perhaps a better reason in our eyes, that what he wrote he wrote for his own use. We find in these accounts, however, many touches which are valuable as illustrating the manners of the place. The minute and constant watchfulness of Montaigne over his health and over himself might lead one to suspect that excessive fear of death which degenerates into cowardice.
But was it not rather the fear of the operation for the stone, at that time really formidable? For reason prescribes that we should joyfully accept what it may please God to send us. Therefore the only remedy, the only rule, and the sole doctrine for avoiding the evils by which mankind is surrounded, whatever they are, is to resolve to bear them so far as our nature permits, or to put an end to them courageously and promptly. He was still at the waters of La Villa, when, on the 7th September , he learned by letter that he had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux on the 1st August preceding.
This intelligence made him hasten his departure; and from Lucca he proceeded to Rome. He again made some stay in that city, and he there received the letter of the jurats of Bordeaux, notifying to him officially his election to the Mayoralty, and inviting him to return as speedily as possible. He passed by Padua, Milan, Mont Cenis, and Chambery; thence he went on to Lyons, and lost no time in repairing to his chateau, after an absence of seventeen months and eight days.
We have just seen that, during his absence in Italy, the author of the Essays was elected mayor of Bordeaux. I excused myself; but they gave to understand that I was wrong in so doing, it being also the command of the king that I should stand. I have had the agreeable duty of confirming the selection, and I did so the more willingly, seeing that it was made during your distant absence; wherefore it is my desire, and I require and command you expressly that you proceed without delay to enter on the duties to which you have received so legitimate a call.
And so you will act in a manner very agreeable to me, while the contrary will displease me greatly. Praying God, M. Montaigne, in his new employment, the most important in the province, obeyed the axiom, that a man may not refuse a duty, though it absorb his time and attention, and even involve the sacrifice of his blood. Placed between two extreme parties, ever on the point of getting to blows, he showed himself in practice what he is in his book, the friend of a middle and temperate policy. Affectionately attached to the repose of his country, an enemy to changes and innovations, he would have preferred to employ what means he had towards their discouragement and suppression, than in promoting their success.
He applied himself, in an especial manner, to the maintenance of peace between the two religious factions which at that time divided the town of Bordeaux; and at the end of his two first years of office, his grateful fellow-citizens conferred on him in the mayoralty for two years more, a distinction which had been enjoyed, as he tells us, only twice before. In the midst of the cares of government, Montaigne found time to revise and enlarge his Essays, which, since their appearance in , were continually receiving augmentation in the form of additional chapters or papers.
Two more editions were printed in and ; and during this time the author, while making alterations in the original text, had composed part of the Third Book. He went to Paris to make arrangements for the publication of his enlarged labours, and a fourth impression in was the result. He remained in the capital some time on this occasion, and it was now that he met for the first time Mademoiselle de Gournay. Gifted with an active and inquiring spirit, and, above all, possessing a sound and healthy tone of mind, Mademoiselle de Gournay had been carried from her childhood with that tide which set in with sixteenth century towards controversy, learning, and knowledge.
She learnt Latin without a master; and when, the age of eighteen, she accidentally became possessor of a copy of the Essays, she was transported with delight and admiration.
She quitted the chateau of Gournay, to come and see him. Montaigne, on leaving Paris, stayed a short time at Blois, to attend the meeting of the States-General. We do not know what part he took in that assembly: but it is known that he was commissioned, about this period, to negotiate between Henry of Navarre afterwards Henry IV. His political life is almost a blank; but De Thou assures us that Montaigne enjoyed the confidence of the principal persons of his time. De Thou, who calls him a frank man without constraint, tells us that, walking with him and Pasquier in the court at the Castle of Blois, he heard him pronounce some very remarkable opinions on contemporary events, and he adds that Montaigne had foreseen that the troubles in France could not end without witnessing the death of either the King of Navarre or of the Duke of Guise.
He had made himself so completely master of the views of these two princes, that he told De Thou that the King of Navarre would have been prepared to embrace Catholicism, if he had not been afraid of being abandoned by his party, and that the Duke of Guise, on his part, had no particular repugnance to the Confession of Augsburg, for which the Cardinal of Lorraine, his uncle, had inspired him with a liking, if it had not been for the peril involved in quitting the Romish communion. The author of the Essays was now fifty-five. The malady which tormented him grew only worse and worse with years; and yet he occupied himself continually with reading, meditating, and composition.
He employed the years , , and in making fresh additions to his book; and even in the approaches of old age he might fairly anticipate many happy hours, when he was attacked by quinsy, depriving him of the power utterance. Pasquier, who has left us some details his last hours, narrates that he remained three days in full possession of his faculties, but unable to speak, so that, in order to make known his desires, he was obliged to resort to writing; and as he felt his end drawing near, he begged his wife to summon certain of the gentlemen who lived in the neighbourhood to bid them a last farewell.
When they had arrived, he caused mass to be celebrated in apartment; and just as the priest was elevating the host, Montaigne fell forward with his arms extended in front of him, on the bed, and so expired. He was in his sixtieth year. It was the 13th September Montaigne was buried near his own house; but a few years after his decease, his remains were removed to the church of a Commandery of St.
Antoine at Bordeaux, where they still continue. His monument was restored in by a descendant. It was seen about by an English traveller Mr. John, , 2 vols. My God! On the other hand, Malebranche and the writers of Port Royal were against him; some reprehended the licentiousness of his writings; others their impiety, materialism, epicureanism. Even Pascal, who had carefully read the Essays, and gained no small profit by them, did not spare his reproaches.
But Montaigne has outlived detraction. As time has gone on, his admirers and borrowers have increased in number, and his Jansenism, which recommended him to the eighteenth century, may not be his least recommendation in the nineteenth. Here we have certainly, on the whole, a first-class man, and one proof of his masterly genius seems to be, that his merits and his beauties are sufficient to induce us to leave out of consideration blemishes and faults which would have been fatal to an inferior writer.
It first appeared in a little volume of Miscellanies in See Hazlitt, ubi sup. I well foresaw that, if his illness permitted him to express himself, he would allow nothing to fall from him, in such an extremity, that was not replete with good example.
I consequently took every care in my power to treasure what was said. True it is, Monseigneur, as my memory is not only in itself very short, but in this case affected by the trouble which I have undergone, through so heavy and important a loss, that I have forgotten a number of things which I should wish to have had known; but those which I recollect shall be related to you as exactly as lies in my power. For to represent in full measure his noble career suddenly arrested, to paint to you his indomitable courage, in a body worn out and prostrated by pain and the assaults of death, I confess, would demand a far better ability than mine: because, although, when in former years he discoursed on serious and important matters, he handled them in such a manner that it was difficult to reproduce exactly what he said, yet his ideas and his words at the last seemed to rival each other in serving him.
For I am sure that I never knew him give birth to such fine conceptions, or display so much eloquence, as in the time of his sickness. If, Monseigneur, you blame me for introducing his more ordinary observations, please to know that I do so advisedly; for since they proceeded from him at a season of such great trouble, they indicate the perfect tranquillity of his mind and thoughts to the last.
On Monday, the 9th day of August , on my return from the Court, I sent an invitation to him to come and dine with me. He returned word that he was obliged, but, being indisposed, he would thank me to do him the pleasure of spending an hour with him before he started for Medoc. Shortly after my dinner I went to him. He had laid himself down on the bed with his clothes on, and he was already, I perceived, much changed. He complained of diarrhoea, accompanied by the gripes, and said that he had it about him ever since he played with M.
I advised him to go as he had proposed, but to stay for the night at Germignac, which is only about two leagues from the town. I gave him this advice, because some houses, near to that where he was ping, were visited by the plague, about which he was nervous since his return from Perigord and the Agenois, here it had been raging; and, besides, horse exercise was, from my own experience, beneficial under similar circumstances.
He set out, accordingly, with his wife and M. Bouillhonnas, his uncle. Early on the following morning, however, I had intelligence from Madame de la Boetie, that in the night he had fresh and violent attack of dysentery. She had called in physician and apothecary, and prayed me to lose no time coming, which after dinner I did.
Essay on laziness is man’s worst enemy in hindi
He was delighted to see me; and when I was going away, under promise to turn the following day, he begged me more importunately and affectionately than he was wont to do, to give him as such of my company as possible. I was a little affected; yet was about to leave, when Madame de la Boetie, as if she foresaw something about to happen, implored me with tears to stay the night.
When I consented, he seemed to grow more cheerful. I returned home the next day, and on the Thursday I paid him another visit. He had become worse; and his loss of blood from the dysentery, which reduced his strength very much, was largely on the increase. I quitted his side on Friday, but on Saturday I went to him, and found him very weak. He then gave me to understand that his complaint was infectious, and, moreover, disagreeable and depressing; and that he, knowing thoroughly my constitution, desired that I should content myself with coming to see him now and then.
On the contrary, after that I never left his side. It was only on the Sunday that he began to converse with me on any subject beyond the immediate one of his illness, and what the ancient doctors thought of it: we had not touched on public affairs, for I found at the very outset that he had a dislike to them. But, on the Sunday, he had a fainting fit; and when he came to himself, he told me that everything seemed to him confused, as if in a mist and in disorder, and that, nevertheless, this visitation was not unpleasing to him.
He had had no regular sleep since the beginning of his illness; and as he became worse and worse, he began to turn his attention to questions which men commonly occupy themselves with in the last extremity, despairing now of getting better, and intimating as much to me. On that day, as he appeared in tolerably good spirits, I took occasion to say to him that, in consideration of the singular love I bore him, it would become me to take care that his affairs, which he had conducted with such rare prudence in his life, should not be neglected at present; and that I should regret it if, from want of proper counsel, he should leave anything unsettled, not only on account of the loss to his family, but also to his good name.
He thanked me for my kindness; and after a little reflection, as if he was resolving certain doubts in his own mind, he desired me to summon his uncle and his wife by themselves, in order that he might acquaint them with his testamentary dispositions. I told him that this would shock them. I replied, that it was of no importance, being incidental to the complaint from which he suffered. I should also regret it on account of such as have, in my lifetime, valued me, and whose conversation I should like to have enjoyed a little longer; and I beseech you, my brother, if I leave the world, to carry to them for me an assurance of the esteem I entertained for them to the last moment of my existence.
My birth was, moreover, scarcely to so little purpose but that, had I lived, I might have done some service to the public; but, however this may be, I am prepared to submit to the will of God, when it shall please Him to call me, being confident of enjoying the tranquillity which you have foretold for me. As for you, my friend, I feel sure that you are so wise, that you will control your emotions, and submit to His divine ordinance regarding me; and I beg of you to see that that good man and woman do not mourn for my departure unnecessarily.
He proceeded to inquire how they behaved at present. When they were near him he assumed an appearance of gaiety, and flattered them with hopes.
I then went to call them. Let me only say that, wherever I have been, and with whomsoever I have conversed, I have represented you as doing for me all that a father could do for a son; both in the care with which you tended my education, and in the zeal with which you pushed me forward into public life, so that my whole existence is a testimony of your good offices towards me. In short, I am indebted for all that I have to you, who have been to me as a parent; and therefore I have no right to part with anything, unless it be with your approval.
There was a general silence hereupon, and his uncle was prevented from replying by tears and sobs. At last he said that whatever he thought for the best would be agreeable to him; and as he intended to make him his heir, he was at liberty to dispose of what would be his. Then he turned to his wife. I beg you to accept such portion of my estate as I bequeath to you, and be satisfied with it, though it is very inadequate to your desert. Afterwards he turned to me. It will be a memorial of your old companion.
Then he addressed all three of us. I am a Christian; I am a Catholic. I have lived one, and I shall die one. Send for a priest; for I wish to conform to this last Christian obligation. I felt my heart so oppressed at this moment, that I had not the power to make him any answer; but in the course of two or three hours, solicitous to keep up his courage, and, likewise, out of the tenderness which I had had all my life for his honour and fame, wishing a larger number of witnesses to his admirable fortitude, I said to him, how much I was ashamed to think that I lacked courage to listen to what he, so great a sufferer, had the courage to deliver; that down to the present time I had scarcely conceived that God granted us such command over human infirmities, and had found a difficulty in crediting the examples I had read in histories; but that with such evidence of the thing before my eyes, I gave praise to God that it had shown itself in one so excessively dear to me, and who loved me so entirely, and that his example would help me to act in a similar manner when my turn came.
Interrupting me, he begged that it might happen so, and that the conversation which had passed between us might not be mere words, but might be impressed deeply on our minds, to be put in exercise at the first occasion; and that this was the real object and aim of all philosophy. Have I not lived long enough? I am just upon thirty-three. By the grace of God, my days so far have known nothing but health and happiness; but in the ordinary course of our unstable human affairs, this could not have lasted much longer; it would have become time for me to enter on graver avocations, and I should thus have involved myself in numberless vexations, and, among them, the troubles of old age, from which I shall now be exempt.
Moreover, it is probable that hitherto my life has been spent more simply, and with less of evil, than if God had spared me, and I had survived to feel the thirst for riches and worldly prosperity. I am sure, for my part, that I now go to God and the place of the blessed. Had I any, whom would it become so much as yourself to remove them? The notary, who had been summoned to draw up his will, came in the evening, and when he had the documents prepared, I inquired of La Boetie if he would sign them. As soon as the will was signed, the chamber being full, he asked me if it would hurt him to talk.
I answered, that it would not, if he did not speak too loud. Let me relieve my conscience by counselling thee to be, in the first place, devout, to God: for this doubtless is our first duty, failing which all others can be of little advantage or grace, but which, duly observed, carries with it necessarily all other virtues. After God, thou shouldest love thy father and mother—thy mother, my sister, whom I regard as one of the best and most intelligent of women, and by whom I beg of thee to let thy own life be regulated.
Allow not thyself to be led away by pleasures; shun, like the plague, the foolish familiarities thou seest between some men and women; harmless enough at first, but which by insidious degrees corrupt the heart, and thence lead it to negligence, and then into the vile slough of vice. Credit me, the greatest safeguard to female chastity is sobriety of demeanour. I beseech and direct that thou often call to mind the friendship which was betwixt us; but I do not wish thee to mourn for me too much—an injunction which, so far as it is in my power, I lay on all my friends, since it might seem that by doing so they felt a jealousy of that blessed condition in which I am about to be placed by death.
I assure thee, my dear, that if I had the option now of continuing in life or of completing the voyage on which I have set out, I should find it very hard to choose. Adieu, dear niece. Do not account it singular that I, with no tie of blood to you, am interested in you; for, being the child of one who is so closely allied to me, I am necessarily concerned in what concerns you; and consequently the affairs of your brother, M.
You enjoy sufficient store of wealth and beauty; you are a lady of good family; it only remains for you to add to these possessions the cultivation of your mind, in which I exhort you not to fail. I do not think necessary to warn you against vice, a thing so odious in women, for I would not even suppose that you could harbour any inclination for it—nay, I believe that you hold the very name in abhorrence. Dear daughter, farewell. All in the room were weeping and lamenting; but he held without interruption the thread of his discourse, which was pretty long.
But when he had done, he directed us all to leave the room, except the women attendants, whom he styled his garrison. But first, calling to him my brother, M. I have now a thing which I am very anxious indeed to mention to you, and with your permission I will do so. I consider that you were led to it by observing the vicious character of our prelates, which no doubt much requires setting in order, and by imperfections which time has brought into our Church.
It is not my desire at present discourage you from this course, for I would have no one act in opposition to his conscience; but I wish, having regard to the good repute acquired by your family from its enduring concord—a family than which none can be dearer to me; a family, thank God! You perceive what disasters our quarrels have brought upon this kingdom, and I anticipate still worse mischiefs; and in your goodness and wisdom, beware of involving your family in such broils; let it continue to enjoy its former reputation and happiness.
I postponed till now any communication with you on the subject, and perhaps the condition in which you see me address you, may cause my advice and opinion to carry greater authority. Do you not perceive now that the help you give me has no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering? Shortly afterwards he fainted, and we all thought him gone; but by the application of vinegar and wine he rallied.
Why did you break the agreeable repose I was enjoying? I beg of you to leave me. O, how thou robbest me of my repose! This morning he confessed, but the priest had omitted to bring with him the necessary apparatus for celebrating Mass. On the Tuesday, however, M. A little before, indeed, he had shown a desire to speak to his wife, and had told her, with as gay a countenance as he could contrive to assume, that he had a story to tell her.
And it seemed as if he was making an attempt to gain utterance; but, his strength failing him, he begged a little wine to resuscitate it. It was of no avail, for he fainted away suddenly, and was for some time insensible. Assuredly, it costs me more than half the pain I endure, to see you suffer; and reasonably so, because the evils which we ourselves feel we do not actually ourselves suffer, but it certain sentient faculties which God plants in us, that feel them: whereas what we feel on account of others, we feel by consequence of a certain reasoning process which goes on within our minds.
Good night, my wife; go thy way. Being in this extremity, he frequently called me, merely to satisfy him that I was at his side. At length, he composed himself a little to rest, which strengthened our hopes; so much so, indeed, that I left the room, and went to rejoice thereupon with Mademoiselle de la Boetie.
Idleness Kills Manliness
In pursuance of the instructions which you gave me last year in your house at Montaigne, Monseigneur, I have put into a French dress, with my own hand, Raymond de Sebonde, that great Spanish theologian and philosopher; and I have divested him, so far as I could, of that rough bearing and barbaric appearance which you saw him wear at first; that, in my opinion, he is now qualified to present himself in the best company.
It is perfectly possible that some fastidious persons will detect in the book some trace of Gascon parentage; but it will be so much the more to their discredit, that they allowed the task to devolve on one who is quite a novice in these things. It is only right, Monseigneur, that the work should come before the world under your auspices, since whatever emendations and polish it may have received, are owing to you. Still I see well that, if you think proper to balance accounts with the author, you will find yourself much his debtor; for against his excellent and religious discourses, his lofty and, so to speak, divine conceptions, you will find that you will have to set nothing but words and phraseology; a sort of merchandise so ordinary and commonplace, that whoever has the most of it, peradventure is the worst off.
Monseigneur, I pray God to grant you a very long and happy life. From Paris, this 18th of June Your most humble and most obedient son,. This will be an inducement to you to continue to cherish towards his memory, your good opinion and goodwill. And to be bold with you, Monsieur, do not fear to increase these sentiments somewhat; for, as you had knowledge of his high qualities only in his public capacity, it rests with me to assure you how many endowments he possessed beyond your personal experience of him.
He did me the honour, while he lived, and I count it amongst the most fortunate circumstances in my own career, to have with me a friendship so close and so intricately knit, that no movement, impulse, thought, of his mind was kept from me, and if I have not formed a right judgment of him, I must suppose it to be from my own want of scope. Indeed, without exaggeration, he was so nearly a prodigy, that I am afraid of not being credited when I speak of him, even though I should keep much within the mark of my own actual knowledge.
And for this time, Monsieur, I shall content myself with praying you, for the honour and respect we owe to truth, to testify and believe that our Guienne never beheld his peer among the men of his vocation. Under the hope, therefore, that you will pay him his just due, and in order to refresh him in your memory, I present you this book, which will answer for me that, were it not for the insufficiency of my power, I would offer you as willingly something of my own, as an acknowledgment of the obligations I owe to you, and of the ancient favour and friendship which you have borne towards the members of our house.
But, Monsieur, in default of better coin, I offer you in payment the assurance of my desire to do you humble service. Monsieur, I pray God to have you in His keeping. MONSIEUR,—It is one of the most conspicuous follies committed by men, to employ the strength of their understanding in overturning and destroying those opinions which are commonly received among us, and which afford us satisfaction and content; for while everything beneath heaven employs the ways and means placed at its disposal by nature for the advancement and commodity of its being, these, in order to appear of a more sprightly and enlightened wit, not accepting anything which has not been tried and balanced a thousand times with the most subtle reasoning, sacrifice their peace of mind to doubt, uneasiness, and feverish excitement.
It is not without reason that childhood and simplicity have been recommended by holy writ itself. For my part, I prefer to be quiet rather than clever: give me content, even if I am not to be so wide in my range. This is the reason, Monsieur, why, although persons of an ingenious turn laugh at our care as to what will happen after our own time, for instance, to our souls, which, lodged elsewhere, will lose all consciousness of what goes on here below, yet I consider it to be a great consolation for the frailty and brevity of life, to reflect that we have the power of prolonging it by reputation and fame; and I embrace very readily this pleasant and favourable notion original with our being, without inquiring too critically how or why it is.
Insomuch that having loved, beyond everything, the late M. I believe that he feels something of what I do on his behalf, and that my services touch and rejoice him. In fact, he lives in my heart so vividly and so wholly, that I am loath to believe him committed to the dull ground, or altogether cast off from communication with us. Therefore, Monsieur, since every new light I can shed on him and his name, is so much added to his second period of existence, and, moreover, since his name is ennobled and honoured by the place which receives it, it falls to me not only to extend it as widely as I can, but to confide it to the keeping of persons of honour and virtue; among whom you hold such a rank, that, to afford you the opportunity of receiving this new guest, and giving him good entertainment, I decided on presenting to you this little work, not for any profit you are likely to derive from it, being well aware that you do not need to have Plutarch and his companions interpreted to you—but it is possible that Madame de Roissy, reading in it the order of her household management and of your happy accord painted to the life, will be pleased to see how her own natural inclination has not only reached but surpassed the theories of the wisest philosophers, regarding the duties and laws of the wedded state.
And, at all events, it will be always an honour to me, to be able to do anything which shall be for the pleasure of you and yours, on account of the obligation under which I lie to serve you. Monsieur, I pray God to grant you a long and happy life. From Montaigne, this 30th April Now, in proportion as this is so much to be desired, so it is the more difficult of accomplishment, since you cannot have eyes to embrace a multitude so large and so widely extended, nor to see to the bottom of hearts, in order that you may discover intentions and consciences, matters principally to be considered; so that there has never been any commonwealth so well organised, in which we might not detect often enough defect in such a department or such a choice; and in those systems, where ignorance and malice, favouritism, intrigue, and violence govern, if any selection happens to be made on the ground of merit and regularity, we may doubtless thank Fortune, which, in its capricious movements, has for once taken the path of reason.
This consideration, Monseigneur, often consoled me, when I beheld M. Etienne de la Boetie, one of the fittest men for high office in France, pass his whole life without employment and notice, by his domestic hearth, to the singular detriment of the public; for, so far as he was concerned, I may assure you, Monseigneur, that he was so rich in those treasures which defy fortune, that never was man more satisfied or content.
I know, indeed, that he was raised to the dignities connected with his neighbourhood—dignities accounted considerable; and I know also, that no one ever acquitted himself better of them; and when he died at the age of thirty-two, he enjoyed a reputation in that way beyond all who had preceded him. But for all that, it is no reason that a man should be left a common soldier, who deserves to become a captain; nor to assign mean functions to those who are perfectly equal to the highest. In truth, his powers were badly economised and too sparingly employed; insomuch that, over and above his actual work, there was abundant capacity lying idle which might have been called into service, both to the public advantage and his own private glory.
Therefore, Monseigneur, since he was so indifferent to his own fame for virtue and ambition, unfortunately, seldom lodge together , and since he lived in an age when others were too dull or too jealous to witness to his character, I have it marvellously at heart that his memory, at all events, to which I owe the good offices of a friend, should enjoy the recompense of his brave life; and that it should survive in the good report of men of honour and virtue. On this account, sir, I have been desirous to bring to light, and present to you, such few Latin verses as he left behind.
Different from the builder, who places the most attractive, portion of his house towards the street, and to the draper, who displays in his window his best goods, that which was most precious in my friend, the juice and marrow of his genius, departed with him, and there have remained to us but the bark and the leaves. The exactly regulated movements of his mind, his piety, his virtue, his justice, his vivacity, the solidity and soundness of his judgment, the loftiness of his ideas, raised so far above the common level, his learning, the grace which accompanied his most ordinary actions, the tender affection he had for his miserable country, and his supreme and sworn detestation of all vice, but principally of that villainous traffic which disguises itself under the honourable name of justice, should certainly impress all well-disposed persons with a singular love towards him, and an extraordinary regret for his loss.
But, sir, I am unable to do justice to all these qualities; and of the fruit of his own studies it had not entered into his mind to leave any proof to posterity; all that remains, is the little which, as a pastime, he did at intervals. However this may be, I beg you, sir, to receive it kindly; and as our judgment of great things is many times formed from lesser things, and as even the recreations of illustrious men carry with them, to intelligent observers, some honourable traits of their origin, I would have you form from this, some knowledge of him, and hence lovingly cherish his name and his memory.
In this, sir, you will only reciprocate the high opinion which he had of your virtue, and realise what he infinitely desired in his lifetime; for there was no one in the world in whose acquaintance and friendship he would have been so happy to see himself established, as in your own. But if any man is offended by the freedom which I use with the belongings of another, I can tell him that nothing which has been written or been laid down, even in the schools of philosophy, respecting the sacred duties and rights of friendship, could give an adequate idea of the relations which subsisted between this personage and myself.
'22' Thoughts on a Story
Moreover, sir, this slender gift, to make two throws of one stone at the same time, may likewise serve, if you please, to testify the honour and respect which I entertain for your ability and high qualities; for as to those gifts which are adventitious and accidental, it is not to my taste to take them into account. Sir, I pray God to grant you a very happy and a very long life. From Montaigne, this 30th of April SIR,—Being on the point of commending to you and to posterity the memory of the late Etienne de la Boetie, as well for his extreme virtue as for the singular affection which he bore to me, it struck me as an indiscretion very serious in its results, and meriting some coercion from our laws, the practice which often prevails of robbing virtue of glory, its faithful associate, in order to confer it, in accordance with our private interests and without discrimination, on the first comer; seeing that our two principal guiding reins are reward and punishment, which only touch us properly, and as men, through the medium of honour and dishonour, forasmuch as these penetrate the mind, and come home to our most intimate feelings: just where animals themselves are susceptible, more or less, to all other kinds of recompense and corporal chastisement.
Moreover, it is well to notice that the custom of praising virtue, even in those who are no longer with us, impalpable as it is to them, serves as a stimulant to the living to imitate their example; just as capital sentences are carried out by the law, more for the sake of warning to others, than in relation to those who suffer.
Now, commendation and its opposite being analogous as regards effects, we cannot easily deny the fact, that although the law prohibits one man from slandering the reputation of another, it does not prevent us from bestowing reputation without cause. This pernicious licence in respect to the distribution of praise, has formerly been confined in its area of operations; and it may be the reason why poetry once lost favour with the more judicious. However this may be, it cannot be concealed that the vice of falsehood is one very unbecoming in gentleman, let it assume what guise it will.
As for that personage of whom I am speaking to you, sir he leads me far away indeed from this kind of language; for the danger in his case is not, lest I should lend him anything, but that I might take something from him; and it is his ill-fortune that, while he has supplied me, so far as ever a man could, with just and obvious opportunities for commendation, I find myself unable and unqualified to render it to him —I, who am his debtor for so many vivid communications, and who alone have it in my power to answer for a million of accomplishments, perfections, and virtues, latent thanks to his unkind stars in so noble a soul.
For the nature of things having I know not how permitted that truth, fair and acceptable—as it may be of itself, is only embraced where there are arts of persuasion, to insinuate it into our minds, I see myself so wanting, both in authority to support my simple testimony, and in the eloquence requisite for lending it value and weight, that I was on the eve of relinquishing the task, having nothing of his which would enable me to exhibit to the world a proof of his genius and knowledge.
In truth, sir, having been overtaken by his fate in the flower of his age, and in the full enjoyment of the most vigorous health, it had been his design to publish some day works which would have demonstrated to posterity what sort of a man he was; and, peradventure, he was indifferent enough to fame, having formed such a plan in his head, to proceed no further in it. But I have come to the conclusion, that it was far more excusable in him to bury with him all his rare endowments, than it would be on my part to bury also with me the knowledge of them which I had acquired from him; and, therefore, having collected with care all the remains which I found scattered here and there among his papers, I intend to distribute them so as to recommend his memory to as many persons as possible, selecting the most suitable and worthy of my acquaintance, and those whose testimony might do him greatest honour: such as you, sir, who may very possibly have had some knowledge of him during his life, but assuredly too slight to discover the perfect extent of his worth.
Posterity may credit me, if it chooses, when I swear upon my conscience, that I knew and saw him to be such as, all things considered, I could neither desire nor imagine a genius surpassing his. I beg you very humbly, sir, not only to take his name under your general protection, but also these ten or twelve French stanzas, which lay themselves, as of necessity, under shadow of your patronage.
For I will not disguise from you, that their publication was deferred, upon the appearance of his other writings, under the pretext as it was alleged yonder at Paris that they were too crude to come to light. For my own part; sir, it is not in my way to judge of such matters; but I have heard persons who are supposed to understand them, say that these stanzas are not only worthy to be presented in the market-place, but, independently of that, as regards beauty and wealth of invention, they are full of marrow and matter as any compositions of the kind, which have appeared in our language.
Naturally each workman feels himself more strong in some special part his art, and those are to be regarded as most fortunate, who lay hands on the noblest, for all the parts essential to the construction of any whole are not equally precious. We find elsewhere, perhaps, greater delicacy phrase, greater softness and harmony of language; but imaginative grace, and in the store of pointed wit, I do not think he has been surpassed; and we should take the account that he made these things neither his occupation nor his study, and that he scarcely took a pen in his hand more than once a year, as is shown by the very slender quantity of his remains.
For you see here, sir, green wood and dry, without any sort of selection, all that has come into my possession; insomuch that there are among the rest efforts even of his boyhood. In point of fact, he seems to have written them merely to show that he was capable of dealing with all subjects: for otherwise, thousands of times, in the course of ordinary conversation, I have heard things drop from him infinitely more worthy of being admired, infinitely more worthy of being preserved.
Such, sir, is what justice and affection, forming in this instance a rare conjunction, oblige me to say of this great and good man; and if I have at all offended by the freedom which I have taken in addressing myself to you on such a subject at such a length, be pleased to recollect that the principal result of greatness and eminence is to lay one open to importunate appeals on behalf of the rest of the world. Herewith, after desiring you to accept my affectionate devotion to your service, I beseech God to vouchsafe you, sir, a fortunate and prolonged life.
From Montaigne, this 1st of September MY WIFE,—You understand well that it is not proper for a man of the world, according to the rules of this our time, to continue to court and caress you; for they say that a sensible person may take a wife indeed, but that to espouse her is to act like a fool. Let them talk; I adhere for my part the custom of the good old days; I also wear my hair as it used to be then; and, in truth, novelty costs this poor country up to the present moment so dear and I do not know whether we have reached the highest pitch yet , that everywhere and in everything I renounce the fashion.
Let us live, my wife, you and I, in the old French method. Now, you may recollect that the late M. I do not wish to keep them niggardly to myself alone, nor do I deserve to have the exclusive use of them; so that I have resolved to communicate them to my friends; and because I have none, I believe, more particularly intimate you, I send you the Consolatory Letter written by Plutarch to his Wife, translated by him into French; regretting much that fortune has made it so suitable a present you, and that, having had but one child, and that a daughter, long looked for, after four years of your married life it was your lot to lose her in the second year of her age.
But I leave to Plutarch the duty of comforting you, acquainting you with your duty herein, begging you to put your faith in him for my sake; for he will reveal to you my own ideas, and will express the matter far better than I should myself. Hereupon, my wife, I commend myself very heartily to your good will, and pray God to have you in His keeping. From Paris, this 10th September It was perhaps under these circumstances that Montaigne addressed to him the present letter.
MONSIEUR,—The business of the Sieur de Verres, a prisoner, who is extremely well known to me, deserves, in the arrival at a decision, the exercise of the clemency natural to you, if, in the public interest, you can fairly call it into play.
He has done a thing not only excusable, according to the military laws of this age, but necessary and as we are of opinion commendable. He committed the act, without doubt, unwillingly and under pressure; there is no other passage of his life which is open to reproach. I beseech you, sir, to lend the matter your attentive consideration; you will find the character of it as I represent it to you.
He is persecuted on this crime, in a way which is far worse than the offence itself. If it is likely to be of use to him, I desire to inform you that he is a man brought up in my house, related to several respectable families, and a person who, having led an honourable life, is my particular friend. By saving him you lay me under an extreme obligation. I beg you very humbly to regard him as recommended by me, and, after kissing your hands, I pray God, sir, to grant you a long and happy life.
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From Castera, this 23d of April Gustave Brunet in the Bulletin du Bibliophile, July Having in hand a case so just and so favourable, you did all in your power to put the business in good trim; and matters being so well situated, I beg you to excuse my absence for some little time longer, and I will abridge my stay so far as the pressure of my affairs permits. I hope that the delay will be short; however, you will keep me, if you please, in your good grace, and will command me, if the occasion shall arise, in employing me in the public service and in yours.
Monsieur de Cursol has also written to me and apprised me of his journey. I humbly commend myself to you, and pray God, gentlemen, to grant you long and happy life. From Montaigne, this 21st of May GENTLEMEN,—I have taken my fair share of the satisfaction which you announce to me as feeling at the good despatch of your business, as reported to you by your deputies, and I regard it as a favourable sign that you have made such an auspicious commencement of the year. I hope to join you at the earliest convenient opportunity. I recommend myself very humbly to your gracious consideration, and pray God to grant you, gentlemen, a happy and long life.
From Montaigne, this 8th February I will not spare either my life or anything else for your service, and will leave it to your judgment whether the assistance I might be able to render by my presence at the forthcoming election, would be worth the risk I should run by going into the town, seeing the bad state it is in, —[This refers to the plague then raging, and which carried off 14, persons at Bordeaux.
I will draw as near to you on Wednesday as I can, that is, to Feuillas, if the malady has not reached that place, where, as I write to M. At Libourne, this 30th of July Payen, this letter belongs to Its authenticity has been called in question; but wrongly, in our opinion. Paris, , iv. It does not appear to whom the letter was addressed. We dared not, however, proceed on our way, from an uncertainty as to the safety of our persons, which should have been clearly expressed on our passports.
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