What, hast thou neither means nor power in any other thing, but only to undertake Caesar?I quit the throne, if there be no other than I to obstruct thy hopes.
Volume 2 of a 10 volume collection of Montaigne’s famous essays in the 17th century English translation by Charles Cotton. This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. JACQUES AMIOT, grand almoner of France, one day related to me this story, much to the honor of a prince of ours (and ours he was upon several very good accounts, though originally of foreign extraction), that in the time of our first commotions, at the siege of Rouen, this prince, having been advertised by the queen-mother of a conspiracy against his life, and in her letters particular notice being given him of the person who was to execute the business (who was a gentleman of Anjou or of Maine, and who to this effect ordinarily frequented this prince’s house), discovered not a syllable of this intelligence to any one whatever; but going the next day to the Mont Sainte Catherine, from which our battery played against the town (for it was during the time of the siege), and having in company with him the said lord almoner, and another bishop, he saw this gentleman, who had been denoted to him, and presently sent for him; to whom, being come before him, seeing him already pale and trembling with the conscience of his guilt, he thus said, “ Monsieur such a one, you guess what I have to say to you; your countenance discovers it; ’tis in vain to disguise your practice, for I am so well informed of your business, that it will but make worse for you, to go about to conceal or deny it: you know very well such and such passages” (which were the most secret circumstances of his conspiracy), “and therefore be sure, as you tender your own life, to confess to me the whole truth of the design.” The poor man seeing himself thus trapped and convicted (for the whole business had been discovered to the queen by one of the accomplices), was in such a taking, he knew not what to do; but, folding his hands, to beg and sue for mercy, he threw himself at his prince’s feet, who taking him up, proceeded to say, “ Come, sir; tell me, have I at any time done you offence?
Is thy life of so great value, that so many mischiefs must be done to preserve it?
” His wife Livia, seeing him in this perplexity: “ Will you take a woman’s counsel? “ Do as the physicians do, who, when the ordinary recipes will do no good, make trial of the contrary.
I am of a quite contrary humor to other men, for I always despise it; but when I am sick, instead of recanting, or entering into composition with it, I begin, moreover, to hate and fear it, telling them who importune me to take physic, that at all events they must give me time to recover my strength and health, that I may be the better able to support and encounter the violence and danger of their potions.
I let nature work, supposing her to be sufficiently armed with teeth and claws to defend herself from the assaults of infirmity, and to uphold that contexture, the dissolution of which she flies and abhors.or have I, through private hatred or malice, offended any kinsman or friend of yours?It is not above three weeks that I have known you; what inducement, then, could move you to attempt my death?Let friendship from this time forward begin betwixt us, and let us show whether I have given, or thou hast received thy life with the better faith;” and so departed from him.Some time after, he preferred him to the consular dignity, complaining that he had not the confidence to demand it; had him ever after for his very great friend, and was, at last, made by him sole heir to all his estate.By severity you have hitherto prevailed nothing; Lepidus has followed Salvidienus; Murena, Lepidus; Caepio, Murena; Egnatius, Caepio.Begin now, and try how sweetness and clemency will succeed.“ What then,” said he, “is it possible that I am to live in perpetual anxiety and alarm, and suffer my would-be assassin, meantime, to walk abroad at liberty?Shall he go unpunished, after having conspired against my life, a life that I have hitherto defended in so many civil wars, in so many battles by land and by sea?The sacerdotal office which thou madest suit to me for, I conferred upon thee, after having denied it to others, whose fathers have ever borne arms in my service.After so many obligations, thou hast undertaken to kill me.” At which Cinna crying out that he was very far from entertaining any so wicked a thought: “ Thou dost not keep thy promise, Cinna,” continued Augustus, “that thou wouldst not interrupt me.