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The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 




C. A. Sainte-Beuve 


Literary and 
Philosophical Essays 

French, German 
and Italian 

W/'M Introductions and "Notes 
Yo/ume 32 

P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 


Copyright, 1910 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

manufactured in u. s. a. 



That We Should Not Judge of Our Happiness Until After 

Our Death 5 

That to Philosophise is to Learne How to Die 9 

Of the Institution and Education of Children 29 

Of Friendship 72 

Of Bookes 87 

by montaigne 

Montaigne 105 

What is a Classic? 121 

by charles augustin sainte-beuve 

The Poetry of the Celtic Races 137 

by ernest kenan 

The Education of the Human Race 185 

BY gotthold ephraim lessing 

Letters Upon the ^Esthetic Education of Man 209 


Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals . . 305 

Transition from Popular Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic 

of Morals 3'^ 

immanuel kant 

Byron and Goethe 377 

by giuseppe mazzini 


Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, the founder of the modern Essay, 
was born February 28, 1533, at the chateau of Montaigne in Perigord. 
He came of a family of weahhy merchants of Bordeaux, and was edu- 
cated at the College de Guyenne, where he had among his teachers the 
great Scottish Latinist, George Buchanan. Later he studied law, and 
held various public offices; but at the age of thirty-eight he retired to 
his estates, where he lived apart from the civil wars of the time, and 
devoted himself to study and thought. While he was traveling in Ger- 
many and Italy, in 1580-81, he was elected mayor of Bordeaux, and this 
office he filled for four years. He married in 1565, and had six daughters, 
only one of whom grew up. The first two books of his "Essays" appeared 
in 1580; the third in 1588; and four years later he died. 

These are the main external facts of Montaigne's life: of the man him- 
self the portrait is to be found in his book. "It is myself I portray," he 
declares; and there is nowhere in literature a volume of self-revelation 
surpassing his in charm and candor. He is frankly egotistical, yet mod- 
est and unpretentious; profoundly wise, yet constantly protesting his 
ignorance; learned, yet careless, forgetful, and inconsistent. His themes 
are as wide and varied as his observation of human life, and he has 
written the finest eulogy of friendship the world has known. Bacon, 
who knew his book and borrowed from it, wrote on the same subject; 
and the contrast of the essays is the true reflection of the contrast between 
the personalities of their authors. 

Shortly after Montaigne's death the "Essays" were translated into 
English by John Florio, with less than exact accuracy, but in a style so 
full of the flavor of the age that we still read Montaigne in the version 
which Shakespeare knew. The group of examples here printed exhibits 
the author in a variety of moods, easy, serious, and, in the essay on 
"Friendship," as nearly impassioned as his philosophy ever allowed him 
to become. 


Reader, loe here a well-meaning Booke. It doth at the first entrance 
forewarne thee, that in contriving the same I have proposed unto my 
selfe no other than a familiar and private end: I have no respect or con- 
sideration at all, either to thy service, or to my glory: my forces are not 
capable of any such desseigne. I have vowed the same to the particular 
commodity of my kinsfolks and friends: to the end, that losing me 
(which they are likely to doe ere long), they may therein find some 
lineaments of my conditions and humours, and by that meanes reserve 
more whole, and more lively foster the knowledge and acquaintance 
they have had of me. Had my intention beene to forestal and purchase 
the world's opinion and favour, I would surely have adorned myselfe 
more quaintly, or kept a more grave and solemne march. I desire therein 
to be delineated in mine owne genuine, simple and ordinarie fashion, 
without contention, art or study; for it is myselfe I pourtray. My imper- 
fections shall therein be read to the life, and my naturall forme discerned, 
so farre-forth as publike reverence hath permitted me. For if my fortune 
had beene to have lived among those nations which yet are said to live 
under the sweet liberty of Nature's first and uncorrupted lawes, I assure 
thee, I would most willingly have pourtrayed myselfe fully and naked. 
Thus, gentle Reader, myselfe am the groundworke of my booke: it is 
then no reason thou shouldest employ thy time about so frivolous and 
vaine a subject. 

Therefore farewell. 


The First of March, 1580. 




scilicet ultima semper 

Expectanda dies homini est, dicique beatus 
Ante obitum. nemo, supremaque junera debet} 

We must expect of man the latest day, 
Nor ere he die, he's happie, can we say. 

THE very children are acquainted with the storie of Croesus 
to this purpose : who being taken by Cyrus, and by him con- 
demned to die, upon the point of his execution, cried out 
aloud: "Oh Solon, Solon!" which words of his, being reported to 
Cyrus, who inquiring what he meant by them, told him, hee now 
at his owne cost verified the advertisement Solon had before times 
given him; which was, that no man, what cheerefull and blandish- 
ing countenance soever fortune shewed them, may rightly deeme 
himselfe happie, till such time as he have passed the last day of his 
life, by reason of the uncertaintie and vicissitude of humane things, 
which by a very light motive, and slight occasion, are often changed 
from one to another cleane contrary state and degree. And therefore 
Agesilaus answered one that counted the King of Persia happy, be- 
cause being very young, he had gotten the garland of so mightie and 
great a dominion: "yea but said he, Priam at the same age was not 
unhappy." Of the Kings of Macedon that succeeded Alexander the 
Great, some were afterward seene to become Joyners and Scriveners 
at Rome: and of Tyrants of Sicilie, Schoolemasters at Corinth. One 
that had conquered halfe the world, and been Emperour over so 
many Armies, became an humble and miserable suter to the raskally 
officers of a king of ^Egypte: At so high a rate did that great Pompey 

1 Ovid. Met. 1. iii. 135. 


purchase the irkesome prolonging of his Hfe but for five or six 
moneths. And in our fathers daies, Lodowicke Sforze, tenth Duke 
of Millane, under whom the State of ItaUe had so long beene tur- 
moiled and shaken, was seene to die a wretched prisoner at Loches 
in France, but not till he had lived and lingered ten yeares in thral- 
dom, which was the worst of his bargaine. The fairest Queene, 
wife to the greatest King of Christendome, was she not lately seene 
to die by the hands of an executioner ? Oh unworthie and barbarous 
crueltie! And a thousand such examples. For, it seemeth that as 
the sea-billowes and surging waves, rage and storme against the surly 
pride and stubborne height of our buildings, so are there above, 
certaine spirits that envie the rising prosperities and greatnesse heere 

Vsque adeb res humanas vis abdita qucedam 
Obterit, et pulchros jasces scevdsque secures 
Proculcare, ac ludibrio sibi habere videtur? 

A hidden power so mens states hath out-worne 
Faire swords, fierce scepters, signes of honours borne, 
It seemes to trample and deride in scorne. 

And it seemeth Fortune doth sometimes narrowly watch the last 
day of our life, thereby to shew her power, and in one moment 
to overthrow what for many yeares together she had been erecting, 
and makes us cry after Laberius, Nimirum hac die una plus vixi, 
mihi quam vivendum juit? Thus it is, "I have lived longer by this 
one day than I should." So may that good advice of Solon be taken 
with reason. But forsomuch as he is a Philosopher, with whom the 
favours or disfavours of fortune, and good or ill lucke have no place, 
and are not regarded by him; and puissances and greatnesses, and 
accidents of qualitie, are well-nigh indifferent : I deeme it very likely 
he had a further reach, and meant that the same good fortune of our 
life, which dependeth of the tranquillitie and contentment of a 
welborne minde, and of the resolution and assurance of a well 
ordered soule, should never be ascribed unto man, untill he have 
beene seene play the last act of his comedie, and without doubt the 
hardest. In all the rest there may be some maske: either these sophis- 
^LucRET. 1. V. 1243. 'Macros. 1. ii. c. 7. 


ticall discourses of Philosophic are not in us but by countenance, 
or accidents that never touch us to the quick, give us alwaies leasure 
to keep our countenance setled. But when that last part of death, and 
of our selves comes to be acted, then no dissembling will availe, then 
is it high time to speake plaine English, and put off all vizards: then 
whatsoever the pot containeth must be shewne, be it good or bad, 
foule or cleane, wine or water. 

Nam vera voces turn demum pectore ab imo 
Ejiciuntur, et eripitur persona, manet res} 

For then are sent true speeches from the heart, 
We are ourselves, we leave to play a part. 

Loe heere, why at this last cast, all our lives other actions must be 
tride and touched. It is the master-day, the day that judgeth all 
others: it is the day, saith an auncient Writer, that must judge of 
all my forepassed yeares. To death doe I referre the essay^ of my 
studies fruit. There shall wee see whether my discourse proceed 
from my heart, or from my mouth. I have seene divers, by their 
death, either in good or evill, give reputation to all their forepassed 
life. Scipio, father-in-law to Pompey, in well dying, repaired the ill 
opinion which untill that houre men had ever held of him. Epam- 
inondas being demanded which of the three he esteemed most, 
either Chabrias, or Iphicrates, or himself e: "It is necessary," said he, 
"that we be seene to die, before your question may well be resolved.^ " 
Verily, we should steale much from him, if he should be weighed 
without the honour and greatnesse of his end. God hath willed it, 
as he pleased: but in my time three of the most execrable persons 
that ever I knew in all abomination of life, and the most infamous, 
have beene seen to die very orderly and quietly, and in every cir- 
cumstance composed even unto perfection. There are some brave 
and fortunate deaths. I have seene her cut the twine of some man's 
life, with a progresse of wonderful advancement, and with so worthie 
an end, even in the flowre of his growth and spring of his youth, that 
in mine opinion, his ambitious and haughtie contagious designes, 
thought nothing so high as might interrupt them, who without 
going to the place where he pretended, arived there more gloriously 
^ LucRET. 1. iii. 57. ^ Assay, exact weighing. * Answered. 


and worthily than either his desire or hope aimed at, and by his fall 
fore-went the power and name, whither by his course he aspired. 
When I judge of other men's lives, I ever respect how they have 
behaved themselves in their end; and my chief est study is, I may well 
demeane my selfe at my last gaspe, that is to say, quietly and con- 


CICERO saith, that to Philosophise is no other thing than for 
a man to prepare himselfe to death: which is the reason that 
studie and contemplation doth in some sort withdraw our 
soule from us, and severally employ it from the body, which is a 
kind of apprentisage and resemblance of death; or else it is, that 
all the wisdome and discourse of the world, doth in the end resolve 
upon this point, to teach us not to feare to die. Truly either reason 
mockes us, or it only aimeth at our contentment, and in fine, bends 
all her travell to make us live well, and as the holy Scripture saith, 
"at our ease." All the opinions of the world conclude, that pleasure 
is our end, howbeit they take divers meanes unto and for it, else 
would men reject them at their first comming. For, who would give 
eare unto him, that for it's end would establish our paine and dis- 
turbance? The dissentions of philosophical! sects in this case are 
verbal: Transcurratnus solertissimas nugas;^ "Let us run over such 
over-fine fooleries and subtill trifles." There is more wilfulnesse and 
wrangling among them, than pertains to a sacred profession. But 
what person a man undertakes to act, he doth ever therewithal! per- 
sonate his owne. Allthough they say, that in vertue it selfe, the last 
scope of our aime is voluptuousnes. It pleaseth me to importune their 
eares still with this word, which so much offends their hearing. And 
if it imply any chief pleasure or exceeding contentments, it is rather 
due to the assistance of vertue, than to any other supply, voluptuous- 
nes being more strong, sinnowie, sturdie, and manly, is but more 
seriously voluptuous. And we should give it the name of pleasure, 
more favorable, sweeter, and more natural!; and not terme it vigor, 
from which it hath his denomination. Should this baser sensuality 
deserve this faire name, it should be by competencie, and not by 

*Sen. Epiri. 117. 


privilege. I finde it lesse void of incommodities and crosses than 
vertue. And besides that, her taste is more fleeting, momentarie, 
and fading, she hath her fasts, her eyes, and her travels,^ and both 
sweat and bloud. Furthermore she hath particularly so many wound- 
ing passions, and of so severall sorts, and so filthie and loathsome a 
societie waiting upon her, that shee is equivalent to penitencie. Wee 
are in the wrong, to thinke her incommodities serve her as a provo- 
cation and seasoning to her sweetnes, as in nature one contrarie is 
vivified by another contrarie: and to say, when we come to vertue, 
that like successes and difficulties overwhelme it, and yeeld it austere 
and inaccessible. Whereas much more properly then unto volup- 
tuousnes, they ennobled, sharpen, animate, and raise that divine and 
perfect pleasure, which it meditates and procureth us. Truly he is 
verie unworthie her acquaintance, that counter-ballanceth her cost to 
his fruit, and knowes neither the graces nor use of it. Those who 
go about to instruct us, how her pursuit is very hard and laborious, 
and her jovisance' well-pleasing and delightfull: what else tell they 
us, but that shee is ever unpleasant and irksome ? For, what humane 
meane"* did ever attaine unto an absolute enjoying of it? The per- 
fectest have beene content but to aspire and approach her, without 
ever possessing her. But they are deceived; seeing that of all the 
pleasures we know, the pursute of them is pleasant. The enterprise 
is perceived by the qualitie of the thing, which it hath regard unto: 
for it is a good portion of the effect, and consubstantiall. That happi- 
nes and felicitie, which shineth in vertue, replenisheth her approaches 
and appurtenances, even unto the first entrance and utmost barre. 
Now of all the benefits of vertue, the contempt of death is the 
chiefest, a meane that furnisheth our life with an ease-full tran- 
quillitie, and gives us a pure and amiable taste of it: without which 
every other voluptuousnes is extinguished. Loe, here the reasons why 
all rules encounter and agree with this article. And albeit they all 
leade us with a common accord to despise griefe, povertie, and other 
accidentall crosses, to which man's life is subject, it is not with an 
equall care: as well because accidents are not of such a necessitie, for 
most men passe their whole life without feeling any want or povertie, 
and othersome without feeling any griefe or sicknes, as Xenophilus 

* Travails, labours. 'Enjoyment. * Human means. 


the Musitian, who lived an hundred and six yeares in perfect and 
continuall health : as also if the worst happen, death may at all times, 
and whensoever it shall please us, cut off all other inconveniences and 
crosses. But as for death, it is inevitable. 

Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium 
Versatur urna, serius, ocius 
Sors exitura, et nos in teternum 
Exilium impositura cymbce^ 

All to one place are driv'n, of all 
Shak't is the lot-pot, where-hence shall 
Sooner or later drawne lots fall, 
And to deaths boat for aye enthrall. 

And by consequence, if she makes us affeard, it is a continual 
subject of torment, and which can no way be eased. There is no 
starting-hole will hide us from her, she will finde us wheresoever 
we are, we may as in a suspected countrie start and turne here and 
there: quce quasi saxum Tantalo semper impendetf "Which ever- 
more hangs like the stone over the head of Tantalus:" Our lawes 
doe often condemne and send malefactors to be executed in the same 
place where the crime was committed: to which whilest they are 
going, leade them along the fairest houses, or entertaine them with 
the best cheere you can, 

non Siculte dopes 
Dulcem elaborabunt saporem: 
Non avium, citharaque cantus 
Somnum reducent^ 

Not all King Denys dcintie fare, 
Can pleasing taste for them prepare: 
No song of birds, no musikes sound 
Can luUabie to sleepe profound. 

Doe you thinke they can take any pleasure in it.'' or be any thing 
delighted ? and that the finall intent of their voiage being still before 
their eies, hath not altered and altogether distracted their taste from 
all these commodities and allurements ? 

5 HoR. 1. iii. Od. iii. 25. * Cic. De Fin. 1. i. 

'HoR. 1. iii. Od. i. 12. 


Audit iter, numeratque dies, spatioque viarum 
Metitur vitam, torquetur peste jutura? 

He heares his journey, counts his daies, so measures he 
His life by his waies length, vext with the ill shall be. 

The end of our cariere is death, it is the necessarie object of our 
aime: if it affright us, how is it possible we should step one foot 
further without an ague? The remedie of the vulgar sort is, not to 
think on it. But from what brutall stupiditie may so grosse a blind- 
nesse come upon him? he must be made to bridle his Asse by the 

Qui capite ipse suo instituit vestigia retro? 

Who doth a course contrarie runne 
With his head to his course begunne. 

It is no marvel! if he be so often taken tripping; some doe no 
sooner heare the name of death spoken of, but they are afraid, yea 
the most part will crosse themselves, as if they heard the Devill 
named. And because mention is made of it in mens wils and testa- 
ments, I warrant you there is none will set his hand to them, til the 
physitian hath given his last doome, and utterly forsaken him. And 
God knowes, being then betweene such paine and feare, with what 
sound judgment they endure him. For so much as this syllable 
sounded so unpleasantly in their eares, and this voice seemed so ill- 
boding and unluckie, the Romans had learned to allay and dilate the 
same by a Periphrasis. In liew of saying, he is dead, or he hath 
ended his daies, they would say, he hath lived. So it be life, be it 
past or no, they are comforted: from whom we have borrowed our 
phrases quondam, alias, or late such a one. It may haply be, as the 
common saying is, the time we live is worth the money we pay for it. 
I was borne betweene eleven of the clocke and noone, the last of 
Februarie 1533, according to our computation, the yeare beginning 
the first of Januarie. It is but a fortnight since I was 39 yeares old. 
I want at least as much more. If in the meane time I should trouble 
my thoughts with a matter so farre from me, it were but folly. But 
what ? we see both young and old to leave their life after one selfe- 
same condition. No man departs otherwise from it, than if he but 
'Claud, in Ruff. 1. ii. j. 137. *Lucret. I. iv. 474. 


now came to it, seeing there is no man so crazed,'" bedrell," or de- 
crepit, so long as he remembers Methusalem, but thinkes he may 
yet live twentie yeares. Moreover, seely'"" creature as thou art, who 
hath limited the end of thy dales? Happily thou presumest upon 
physitians reports. Rather consider the effect and experience. By the 
common course of things long since thou livest by extraordinarie 
favour. Thou hast alreadie over-past the ordinarie tearmes of com- 
mon life: And to prove it, remember but thy acquaintances, and tell 
me how many more of them have died before they came to thy age, 
than have either attained or outgone the same: yea, and of those that 
through renoune have ennobled their life, if thou but register them, 
I will lay a wager, I will finde more that have died before they 
came to five and thirty years, than after. It is consonant with reason 
and pietie, to take example by the humanity of lesus Christ, who 
ended his humane life at three and thirtie yeares. The greatest man 
that ever was, being no more than a man, I meane Alexander the 
Great, ended his dayes, and died also of that age. How many severall 
meanes and waies hath death to surprise us! 

Quid quisque vitet, nunquam homini satis 
Cautum est in horas^^ 

A man can never take good heed, 
Hourely what he may shun and speed. 

I omit to speak of agues and pleurisies; who would ever have 
imagined that a Duke of Brittanie should have beene stifled to death 
in a throng of people, as whilome was a neighbour of mine at Lyons, 
when Pope Clement made his entrance there ? Hast thou not seene 
one of our late Kings slaine in the middest of his sports ? and one of 
his ancestors die miserably by the chocke" of an hog? Eschilus fore- 
threatned by the fall of an house, when he stood most upon his 
guard, strucken dead by the fall of a tortoise shell, which fell out of 
the tallants of an eagle flying in the air ? and another choaked with 
the kernell of a grape? And an Emperour die by the scratch of a 
combe, whilest he was combing his head? And ^mylius Lepidus 
with hitting his foot against a doore-seele? And Aufidius with 
stumbling against the ConsuU-chamber doore as he was going in 

*" Infirm. " Bedridden. " Simple, weak. " Hor. 1. ii. Od. xiii. 13. " Shock. 


thereat? And Cornelius Callus, the Praetor, Tigillinus, Captaine of 
the Romane watch, Lodowike, sonne of Guido Gonzaga, Marquis of 
Mantua, end their daies betweene womens thighs? And of a farre 
worse example Speusippus, the Platonian philosopher, and one of our 
Popes? Poore Bebius a Judge, whilest he demurreth the sute of a 
plaintife but for eight daies, behold, his last expired: And Caius 
lulius a Physitian, whilest he was annointing the eies of one of his 
patients, to have his owne sight closed for ever by death. And if 
amongst these examples, I may adde one of a brother of mine, called 
Captain Saint Martin, a man of three and twentie yeares of age, who 
had alreadie given good testimonie of his worth and forward valour, 
playing at tennis, received a blow with a ball, that hit him a little 
above the right eare, without apparance of any contusion, bruse, or 
hurt, and never sitting or resting upon it, died within six houres 
after of an apoplexie, which the blow of the ball caused in him. 
These so frequent and ordinary examples, hapning, and being still 
before our eies, how is it possible for man to forgo or forget the 
remembrance of death? and why should it not continually seeme 
unto us, that shee is still ready at hand to take us by the throat? 
What matter is it, will you say unto me, how and in what manner 
it is, so long as a man doe not trouble and vex himselfe therewith ? 
I am of this opinion, that howsoever a man may shrowd or hide 
himselfe from her dart, yea, were it under an oxe-hide, I am not the 
man would shrinke backer it sufficeth me to live at my ease; and the 
best recreation I can have, that doe I ever take; in other matters, as 
little vain glorious, and exemplare as you list. 

prcetulerim delirus inersque videri. 

Dum mea delectent mala me, vel denique fallant, 
Quam sapere et ringi}^ 

A dotard I had rather seeme, and dull, 
Sooner my faults may please make me a gull, 
Than to be wise, and beat my vexed scull. 

But it is folly to thinke that way to come unto it. They come, 
they goe, they trot, they daunce : but no speech of death. All that is 
good sport. But if she be once come, and on a sudden and openly 
1^ HoR. 1. ii. Epist. ii. 126. 


surprise, either them, their wives, their children, or their friends, what 
torments, what outcries, what rage, and what despaire doth then 
overwhelme them ? saw you ever anything so drooping, so changed, 
and so distracted ? A man must looke to it, and in better times fore- 
see it. And might that brutish carelessenesse lodge in the minde of a 
man of understanding (which I find altogether impossible) she sels 
us her ware at an overdeere rate: were she an enemie by mans wil 
to be avoided, I would advise men to borrow the weapons of coward- 
linesse : but since it may not be, and that be you either a coward or a 
runaway, an honest or valiant man, she overtakes you, 

Nempe et fugacem persequitur virum. 
Nee pareit imbellis juventce 
Poplitibus, timidoque tergo}^ 

Shee persecutes the man that flies, 

Shee spares not weake youth to surprise, 

But on their hammes and backe turn'd plies. 

And that no temper of cuirace" may shield or defend you, 

llle lieet jerro eautus se condat et cere. 

Mors tamen inclusum protrahet inde caput. 


Though he with yron and brasse his head empale. 
Yet death his head enclosed thence will hale. 

Let us learne to stand, and combat her with a resolute minde. And 
being to take the greatest advantage she hath upon us from her, let 
us take a cleane contrary way from the common, let us remove her 
strangenesse from her, let us converse, frequent, and acquaint our 
selves with her, let us have nothing so much in minde as death, let 
us at all times and seasons, and in the ugliest manner that may be, 
yea with all faces shapen and represent the same unto our imagina- 
tion. At the stumbling of a horse, at the fall of a stone, at the least 
prick with a pinne, let us presently ruminate and say with our 
selves, what if it were death it selfe ? and thereupon let us take heart 
of grace, and call our wits together to confront her. Amiddest our 
bankets, feasts, and pleasures, let us ever have this restraint or 
object before us, that is, the remembrance of our condition, and let 

"HoR. 1. iii. 0(/. ii. 14. "Cuirass. '* Propert. 1. iii. et xvii. 25. 


not pleasure so much mislead or transport us, that we altogether 
neglect or forget, how many waies, our joyes, or our feastings, be 
subject unto death, and by how many hold-fasts shee threatens us 
and them. So did the Egyptians, who in the middest of their ban- 
quetings, and in the full of their greatest cheere, caused the anat- 
omie'^ of a dead man to be brought before them, as a memorandum 
and warning to their guests. 

Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum. 
Grata superveniet; quce non sperabitur, hora}" 

Thinke every day shines on thee as thy last, 
Welcome it will come, whereof hope was past. 

It is uncertaine where death looks for us; let us expect her everie 
where : the premeditation of death, is a forethinking of libertie. He 
who hath learned to die, hath unlearned to serve. There is no evill 
in life, for him that hath well conceived, how the privation of life is 
no evill. To know how to die, doth free us from all subjection and 
constraint. Paulus ^milius answered one, whom that miserable king 
of Macedon his prisoner sent to entreat him he would not lead him 
in triumph, "Let him make that request unto himselfe." Verily, if 
Nature afford not some helpe in all things, it is very hard that art and 
industrie should goe farre before. Of my selfe, I am not much given 
to melancholy, but rather to dreaming and sluggishness. There is 
nothing wherewith I have ever more entertained my selfe, than with 
the imaginations of death, yea in the most licentious times of my age. 

lucundum, cum cetas florida ver ageret}^ 

When my age flourishing 
Did spend its pleasant spring. 

Being amongst faire Ladies, and in earnest play, some have thought 
me busied, or musing with my selfe, how to digest some jealousie, or 
meditating on the uncertaintie of some conceived hope, when God 
he knowes, I was entertaining my selfe with the remembrance of 
some one or other, that but few dales before was taken with a 
burning fever, and of his sodaine end, comming from such a feast 
or meeting where I was my selfe, and with his head full of idle 
" Skeleton. ^0 Hor. I. i. V-pist. iv. 13. *• Catui,. Bleg. iv. 16. 


conceits, o£ love, and merry glee; supposing the same, either sickness 
or end, to be as neere me as him. 

lam fuerit, nee post, unquam revocare licebitP 

Now time would be, no more 
You can this time restore. 

I did no more trouble my selfe or frowne at such conceit,^' than 
at any other. It is impossible we should not apprehend or feele some 
motions or startings at such imaginations at the first, and comming 
sodainely upon us: but doubtlesse, he that shall manage and medi- 
tate upon them with an impartiall eye, they will assuredly, in tract^* 
of time, become familiar to him : Otherwise, for my part, I should be 
in continuall feare and agonie; for no man did ever more distrust 
his hfe, nor make lesse account of his continuance: Neither can 
health, which hitherto I have so long enjoied, and which so seldome 
hath beene crazed,^^ lengthen my hopes, nor any sicknesse shorten 
them of it. At every minute me thinkes I make an escape. And I 
uncessantly record unto my selfe, that whatsoever may be done an- 
other day, may be effected this day. Truly hazards and dangers doe 
little or nothing approach us at our end: And if we consider, how 
many more there remaine, besides this accident, which in number 
more than millions seeme to threaten us, and hang over us; we shall 
find, that be we sound or sicke, lustie or weake, at sea or at land, 
abroad or at home, fighting or at rest, in the middest of a battell or 
in our beds, she is ever alike neere unto us. Nemo altera fragilior est, 
nemo in crastinum sui certior: "No man is weaker then other; none 
surer of himselfe (to live) till to morrow." Whatsoever I have to 
doe before death, all leasure to end the same seemeth short unto me, 
yea were it but of one houre. Some body, not long since turning 
over my writing tables, found by chance a memoriall of something 
I would have done after my death: I told him (as indeed it was 
true), that being but a mile from my house, and in perfect health 
and lustie, I had made haste to write it, because I could not assure 
my self I should ever come home in safety: As one that am ever 
hatching of mine owne thoughts, and place them in my selfe : I am 
ever prepared about that which I may be: nor can death (come when 

^^ LucR. 1. iii. 947. ^' Idea. ^* Course. ^^ Enfeebled. 


she please) put me in mind of any new thing. A man should ever, 
as much as in him lieth, be ready booted to take his journey, and 
above all things, looke he have then nothing to doe but vv'ith himselfe. 

Quid brevi fortes jaculamur cevo 

To aime why are we ever bold, 
At many things in so short hold? 

For then we shall have worke sufficient, without any more ac- 
crease. Some man complaineth more that death doth hinder him 
from the assured course of an hoped for victorie, than of death it 
selfe; another cries out, he should give place to her, before he have 
married his daughter, or directed the course of his childrens bringing 
up; another bewaileth he must forgoe his wives company; another 
moaneth the losse of his children, the chiefest commodities of his 
being. I am now by meanes of the mercy of God in such a taking, 
that without regret or grieving at any worldly matter, I am pre- 
pared to dislodge, whensoever he shall please to call me: I am every 
where free: my farewell is soone taken of all my friends, except 
of my selfe. No man did ever prepare himselfe to quit the world 
more simply and fully, or more generally spake of all thoughts of it, 
than I am fully assured I shall doe. The deadest deaths are the best. 

Miser, 6 miser (aiunt) omnia ademit. 

Vna dies infesta mihi tot prcemia vitai" 

O wretch, O wretch (friends cry), one day, 
All joyes of life hath tane away: 

And the builder, 

manent (saith he) opera interrupta, minteque 

Murorum ingentes.'" 

The workes unfinisht lie. 
And walls that threatned hie. 

A man should designe nothing so long afore-hand, or at least with 
such an intent, as to passionate^" himselfe to see the end of it; we are 
all borne to be doing. 

2« HoR. 1. ii. Od. xiv. " LucR. I. iii. 942. 28 virg. /En. 1. iv. 88. 
2' Long passionately. 


Cum moriar, medium solvar et inter opusF' 

When dying I my selfe shall spend, 
Ere halfe my businesse come to end. 

I would have a man to be doing, and to prolong his lives offices 
as much as lieth in him, and let death seize upon me whilest I am 
setting my cabiges, carelesse of her dart, but more of my unperfect 
garden. I saw one die, who being at his last gaspe, uncessantly com- 
plained against his destinie, and that death should so unkindly cut 
him off in the middest of an historic which he had in hand, and was 
now come to the fifteenth or sixteenth of our Kings. 

lllud in his rebus non addunt, nee tibi earum, 
lam desiderium rerum super insidet una?^ 

Friends adde not that in this case, now no more 
Shalt thou desire, or want things wisht before. 

A man should rid himselfe of these vulgar and hurtful humours. 
Even as Churchyards were first place adjoyning unto churches, and 
in the most frequented places of the City, to enure (as Lycurgus 
said) the common people, women and children, not to be skared at 
the sight of a dead man, and to the end that continuall spectacle of 
bones, sculs, tombes, graves and burials, should forewarne us of our 
condition, and fatall end. 

Quin etiam exhilarare viris convivia ccede 
Mos olim, et miscere epulis spectacula dira 
Certantum ferro, sape et super ipsa cadentum 
Pocula, respersis non parco sanguine mensis?^ 

Nay more, the manner was to welcome guests. 
And with dire shewes of slaughter to mix feasts. 
Of them that fought at sharpe, and with bords tainted 
Of them with much bloud, who o'er full cups fainted. 

And even as the ^Egyptians after their feastings and carousings 
caused a great image of death to be brought in and shewed to the 
guests and by-standers, by one that cried aloud, "Drinke and be 
merry, for such shah thou be when thou art dead:" So have I 
learned this custome or lesson, to have alwaies death, not only in my 
imagination, but continually in my mouth. And there is nothing I 
'"Ovid. Am. I. ii. El. x. 36. '' LucR. 1. iii. 944. '^Syl. Ital. 1. xi. 51. 


desire more to be informed of than of the death of men; that is to 
say, what words, what countenance, and what face they shew at their 
death; and in reading of histories, which I so attentively observe. It 
appeareth by the shuffling and hudling up'^ of my examples, I affect'* 
no subject so particularly as this. Were I a composer of books, I 
would keepe a register, commented of the divers deaths, which in 
teaching men to die, should after teach them to live. Dicearcus made 
one of that title, but of another and lesse profitable end. Some man 
will say to mee, the effect exceeds the thought so farre, that there is 
no fence so sure, or cunning so certaine, but a man shall either lose 
or forget if he come once to that point; let them say what they list: 
to premeditate on it, giveth no doubt a great advantage: and it is 
nothing, at the least, to goe so farre without dismay or alteration, or 
without an ague? There belongs more to it: Nature her selfe lends 
her hand, and gives us courage. If it be a short and violent death, 
wee have no leisure to feare it; if otherwise, I perceive that accord- 
ing as I engage my selfe in sicknesse, I doe naturally fall into some 
disdaine and contempt of life. I finde that I have more adoe to 
digest this resolution, that I shall die when I am in health, than I 
have when I am troubled with a fever : forsomuch as I have no more 
such fast hold on the commodities of life, whereof I begin to lose 
the use and pleasure, and view death in the face with a lesse un- 
danted looke, which makes me hope, that the further I goe from that, 
and the nearer I approach to this, so much more easily doe I enter in 
composition for their exchange. Even as I have tried in many other 
occurrences, which Csesar affirmed, that often some things seeme 
greater, being farre from us, than if they bee neere at hand: I have 
found that being in perfect health, I have much more beene frighted 
with sicknesse, than when I have felt it. The joUitie wherein I live, 
the pleasure and the strength make the other seeme so disproportion- 
able from that, that by imagination I amplifie these commodities by 
one moitie, and apprehended them much more heavie and burthen- 
some, than I feele them when I have them upon my shoulders. The 
same I hope will happen to me of death. Consider we by the 
ordinary mutations, and daily declinations which we suffer, how 
Nature deprives us of the sight of our losse and empairing; what 

" Collecting. '* Like. 


hath an aged man left him of his youths vigor, and of his forepast 

Heu senibus vitce portio quanta manetl^ 

Alas to men in yeares how small 
A part of life is left in all ? 

Czsar, to a tired and crazed'" Souldier of his guard, who in the 
open street came to him, to beg leave he might cause himselfe to be 
put to death; viewing his decrepit behaviour, answered pleasantly: 
"Doest thou thinke to be alive then?" Were man all at once to fall 
into it, I doe not thinke we should be able to beare such a change, 
but being faire and gently led on by her hand, in a slow, and as it 
were unperceived descent, by little and little, and step by step, she 
roules us into that miserable state, and day by day seekes to acquaint 
us with it. So that when youth failes in us, we feele, nay we per- 
ceive no shaking or transchange at all in our selves: which in essence 
and veritie is a harder death, than that of a languishing and irke- 
some life, or that of age. Forsomuch as the leape from an ill being 
unto a not being, is not so dangerous or steeple; as it is from a de- 
lightfull and flourishing being unto a painfull and sorrowfuU con- 
dition. A weake bending, and faint stopping bodie hath lesse strength 
to beare and under goe a heavie burden: So hath our soule. She 
must bee rouzed and raised against the violence and force of this 
adversarie. For as it is impossible she should take any rest whilest 
she feareth: whereof if she be assured (which is a thing exceeding 
humane'' condition) she may boast that it is impossible unquiet- 
nesse, torment, and feare, much lesse the least displeasure should 
lodge in her. 

Non vultus instantis tyranni 
Mente quatit solida, neque Auster, 
Dux inquieti turbidus Adrice, 
Nee julminantis magna Jovis manus?^ 

No urging tyrants threatning face, 
Where minde is found can it displace, 
No troublous wind the rough seas Master, 
Nor Joves great hand, the thunder-caster. 

^5 Cor. Ga/. I. i. i6. '^ Diseased. ^r Human. 3* Hor. 1. iii. 0(/. iii. 


She is made Mistris of her passions and concupiscence. Lady of 
indulgence, of shame, of povertie, and of all fortunes injuries. Let 
him that can, attaine to this advantage: Herein consists the true and 
soveraigne liberty, that affords us meanes wherewith to jeast and 
make a scorne of force and injustice, and to deride imprisonment, 
gives,'* or fetters. 

tn mamas, et 

Compedibus, scevo te sub custode tenebo. 

Ipse Deus simul atque volam, me solvet: opitior. 

Hoc sentit, moriar. Mors ultima linea rerum est.*'' 

In gyves and fetters I will hamper thee. 
Under a Jayler that shall cruell be: 
Yet, when I will, God me deliver shall, 
He thinkes, I shall die: death is end of all. 

Our religion hath had no surer humane foundation than the con- 
tempt of life. Discourse of reason doth not only call and summon us 
unto it. For why should we feare to lose a thing, which being lost, 
cannot be moaned? but also, since we are threatened by so many 
kinds of death, there is no more inconvenience to feare them all, than 
to endure one: what matter is it when it commeth, since it is un- 
avoidable ? Socrates answered one that told him, "The thirty tyrants 
have condemned thee to death." "And Nature them," said he. What 
fondnesse is it to carke and care so much, at that instant and passage 
from all exemption of paine and care ? As our birth brought us the 
birth of all things, so shall our death the end of all things. There- 
fore is it as great follie to weepe, we shall not live a hundred yeeres 
hence, as to waile we lived not a hundred yeeres agoe. "Death is the 
beginning of another life." So wept we, and so much did it cost us 
to enter into this life; and so did we spoile us of our ancient vaile in 
entring into it. Nothing can be grievous that is but once. Is it reason 
so long to fear a thing of so short time.? Long life or short life is 
made all one by death. For long or short is not in things that are 
no more. Aristotle saith, there are certaine little beasts alongst the 
river Hyspanis, that live but one day; she which dies at 8 o'clocke 
in the morning, dies in her youth, and she that dies at 5 in the 
afternoon, dies in her decrepitude, who of us doth not laugh, when 
'' Gyves, shackles. *" Hor. 1. L Ep. xvi. 76. 


we shall see this short moment of continuance to be had in con- 
sideration of good or ill fortune? The most and the least is ours, 
if we compare it with eternitie, or equall it to the lasting of moun- 
tains, rivers, stars, and trees, or any other living creature, is not lesse 
ridiculous. But nature compels us to it. Depart (saith she) out of 
this world, even as you came into it. The same way you came from 
death to life, returne without passion or amazement, from life to 
death: your death is but a peece of the worlds order, and but a parcell 
of the worlds life. 

inter se mortales mutua vivunt, 

Et quasi cursores vitae lampada tradunt}^ 

Mortall men live by mutuall entercourse: 
And yeeld their life-torch, as men in a course. 

Shal I not change this goodly contexture of things for you? It is 
the condition of your creation: death is a part of yourselves: you 
flie from yourselves. The being you enjoy is equally shared betweene 
life and death. The first day of your birth doth as wel addresse you 
to die, as to live. 

Prima quce vitam dedit, hora, Carpsit,*^ 

The first houre, that to men 
Gave life, strait, cropt it then. 

Nascentes morimur, finisque ab origins pendet:*^ 

As we are borne we die; the end 
Doth of th' originall depend. 

All the time you live, you steale it from death : it is at her charge. 
The continuall worke of your life, is to contrive death: you are in 
death, during the time you continue in life: for, you are after death, 
when you are no longer living. Or if you had rather have it so, you 
are dead after life: but during life, you are still dying: and death 
doth more rudely touch the dying than the dead, and more lively and 
essentially. If you have profited by life, you have also beene fed 
thereby, depart then satisfied. 

Cur non ut plenus vitis conviva recedis?** 

Why like a full-fed guest, 
Depart you not to rest ? 

*' LucRET. ii. 74, 77. ^ Sen. Her. Sur. chor. iii. ^' Manil. Ast. 1. iv. 
** LucRET. 1. iii. 982. 


If you have not knowne how to make use of it: if it were un- 
profitable to you, what need you care to have lost it? to what end 
would you enjoy it longer? 

cur amplius addere quarts 

Rursum quod pereat male, et ingratum occidat omne?^ 

Why seeke you more to gaine, what must againe 
All perish ill, and passe with grief e or paine? 

Life in itself e is neither good nor evill: it is the place of good or 
evill, according as you prepare it for them. And if you have lived 
one day, you have scene all : one day is equal to all other dales. There 
is no other light, there is no other night. This Sunne, this Moone, 
these Starres, and this disposition, is the very same which your fore- 
fathers enjoyed, and which shall also entertaine your posteritie. 

Non alium videre patres, aliumve nepotes 

No other saw our Sires of old, 
No other shall their sonnes behold. 

And if the worst happen, the distribution and varietie of all the 
acts of my comedie, is performed in one yeare. If you have ob- 
served the course of my foure seasons; they containe the infancie, the 
youth, the viriltie, and the old age of the world. He hath plaied his 
part: he knowes no other wilinesse belonging to it, but to begin 
againe, it will ever be the same, and no other. 

Versamur ibidem, atque insumus usque,'''' 

We still in one place turne about, 
Still there we are, now in, now out. 

Atque in se sua per vestigia volvitur annus.*^ 

The yeare into it selfe is cast 

By those same steps, that it hath past. 

I am not purposed to devise you other new sports. 

Nam tibi prxterea quod machiner, inveniamque 
Quod placeat nihil est; eadem sunt omnia semper?'^ 

Else nothing, that I can devise or frame, 

Can please thee, for all things are still the same. 

^'LucRET. 1. iii. 989. ^^Manil. i. 522. "Lucret. 1. iii. 123. 
^ ViRG. Georg. 1. ii. 403. *' Lucret. 1. ii. 978. 


Make roome for others, as others have done for you. Equalitie is 
the chiefe ground-worke of equitie, who can complaine to be com- 
prehended where all are contained? So may you live long enough, 
you shall never diminish anything from the time you have to die: 
it is bootlesse; so long shall you continue in that state which you 
feare, as if you had died being in your swathing-clothes, and when 
you were sucking. 

-licet, quot vis, vivendo vincere secla. 

Mors aterna tamen, nihilominus ilia manebit}" 

Though yeares you live, as many as you will. 
Death is eternall, death remaineth still. 

And I will so please you, that you shall have no discontent. 

In vera nescis nullum fore morte alium te. 
Qui possit vivus tibi te lugere peremptum, 
Stansque jacentem?^ 

Thou know'st not there shall be not other thou, 
When thou art dead indeed, that can tell how 
Alive to waile thee dying. 
Standing to waile thee lying. 

Nor shall you wish for life, which you so much desire 

Nee sibi enim quisquam turn se vitamque requirit^^ 
Nee desiderium nostri nos afficit ullum}^ 

For then none for himself e himself e or life requires: 
Nor are we of our selves affected with desires. 

Death is lesse to be feared than nothing, if there were anything 
lesse than nothing. 

multo mortem minus ad nos esse putandum. 

Si minus esse potest quam quod nihil esse videmusJ^ 

Death is much less to us, we ought esteeme. 
If lesse may be, than what doth nothing seeme. 

Nor alive, nor dead, it doth concern you nothing. Alive because 
you are: Dead, because you are no more. Moreover, no man dies 
before his houre. The time you leave behinde was no more yours 
5»/A. 1126. "Id. 1. iii. 9. 52/^.963. "/A. 966. "/A. 970. 


than that which was before your birth, and concemeth you no more. 
Respice enim quam nil ad nos anteacta vetustas 


Temporis ceterni juerit! 

For marke, how all antiquitie foregone 
Of all time ere we were, to us was none. 

Wheresoever your life ended, there is it all. The profit of life con- 
sists not in the space, but rather in the use. Some man hath lived 
long, that hath a short life. Follow it whilst you have time. It con- 
sists not in number of yeeres, but in your will, that you have lived 
long enough. Did you thinke you should never come to the place, 
where you were still going ? There is no way but hath an end. And 
if company may solace you, doth not the whole world walke the 
same path.? 

Omnia te, vita perfuncta, sequentur^ 

Life past, all things at last 

Shall follow thee as thou hast past. 

Doe not all things move as you doe, or keepe your course ? Is there 
any thing grows not old together with yourself e ? A thousand men, 
a thousand beasts, and a thousand other creatures die in the very 
instant that you die. 

Nam nox nulla diem, neque noctem aurora sequuta est. 
Que non audierit mistus vagitibus cegris 
Ploratus, mortis comites et funeris atri?^ 

No night ensued day light; no morning followed night, 
Which heard not moaning mixt with sick-mens groaning, 
With deaths and funerals joyned was that moaning. 

To what end recoile you from it, if you cannot goe backe. You 
have seene many who have found good in death, ending thereby 
many many miseries. But have you seene any that hath received 
hurt thereby ? Therefore it is meere simplicitie to condemne a thing 
you never approve, neither by yourselfe nor any other. Why doest 
thou complaine of me and of destinie? Doe we offer thee any wrong? 
is it for thee to direct us, or for us to governe thee? Although thy 
age be not come to her period, thy life is. A Httle man is a whole 
^Ib. 1016. ^Ib. 1012. s'id. 1. u. 587. 


man as well as a great man. Neither men nor their lives are meas- 
ured by the Ell. Chiron refused immortalitie, being informed of the 
conditions thereof, even by the God of time and of continuance, 
Saturne his father. Imagine truly how much an ever-during life 
would be lesse tolerable and more painfull to a man, than is the life 
which I have given him. Had you not death you would then un- 
cessantly curse, and cry out against me, that I had deprived you of 
it. I have of purpose and unwittingly blended some bitternesse 
amongst it, that so seeing the commoditie of its use, I might hinder 
you from over-greedily embracing, or indiscreetly calling for it. To 
continue in this moderation that is, neither to fly from life nor to run 
to death (which I require of you) I have tempered both the one and 
other betweene sweetnes and sowrenes. I first taught Thales, the 
chiefest of your Sages and Wisemen, that to live and die were indif- 
ferent, which made him answer one very wisely, who asked him 
wherefore he died not: "Because," said he, "it is indifferent. The 
water, the earth, the aire, the fire, and other members of this my uni- 
verse, are no more the instruments of thy life than of thy death. Why 
fearest thou thy last day ? He is no more guiltie, and conferreth no 
more to thy death, than any of the others. It is not the last step that 
causeth weariness : it only declares it. All dales march towards death, 
only the last comes to it." Behold heere the good precepts of our uni- 
versall mother Nature. I have oftentimes bethought my self whence 
it proceedeth, that in times of warre, the visage of death (whether wee 
see it in us or in others) seemeth without all comparison much lesse 
dreadful and terrible unto us, than in our houses, or in our beds, 
otherwise it should be an armie of Physitians and whiners, and she 
ever being one, there must needs bee much more assurance amongst 
countrie-people and of base condition, than in others. I verily be- 
lieve, these fearefuU lookes, and astonishing countenances wherewith 
we encompass it, are those that more amaze and terrilie us than 
death: a new forme of life; the out cries of mothers; the wailing of 
women and children; the visitation of dismaid and swouning 
friends; the assistance of a number of pale-looking, distracted, and 
whining servants; a darke chamber; tapers burning round about; 
our couch beset round with Physitians and Preachers; and to con- 
clude, nothing but horror and astonishment on every side of us: are 


wee not already dead and buried ? The very children are afraid of 
their friends, when they see them masked; and so are we. The 
maske must as well be taken from things as from men, which being 
removed, we shall find nothing hid under it, but the very same death, 
that a seely*' varlet, or a simple maid-servant, did latterly suffer 
without amazement or feare. Happie is that death which takes all 
leasure from the preparations of such an equipage. 

" Weak, simple. 



I NEVER knew father, how crooked and deformed soever his 
Sonne were, that would either altogether cast him off, or not 
acknowledge him for his owne: and yet (unlesse he be meerely 
besotted or blinded in his affection) it may not be said, but he plainly 
perceiveth his defects, and hath a feeling of his imperfections. But 
so it is, he is his owne. So it is in my selfe. I see better than any 
man else, that what I have set downe is nought but the fond imagi- 
nations of him who in his youth hath tasted nothing but the paring, 
and seen but the superficies of true learning; whereof he hath re- 
tained but a generall and shapelesse forme: a smacke of every thing 
in generall, but nothing to the purpose in particular: After the 
French manner. To be short, I know there is an art of Phisicke; 
a course of lawes; foure parts of the Mathematikes; and I am not 
altogether ignorant what they tend unto. And perhaps I also know 
the scope and drift of Sciences in generall to be for the service of our 
life. But to wade further, or that ever I tired my selfe with plodding 
upon Aristotle (the Monarch of our moderne doctrine') or obstin- 
ately continued in search of any one science : I conf esse I never did it. 
Nor is there any one art whereof I am able so much as to draw the 
first lineaments. And there is no scholler (be he of the lowest forme) 
that may not repute himselfe wiser than I, who am not able to 
oppose him in his first lesson: and if I be forced to it, I am con- 
strained verie impertinently to draw in matter from some generall 
discourse, whereby I examine, and give a guesse at his naturall 
judgement: a lesson as much unknowne to them as theirs is to me. 
I have not dealt or had commerce with any excellent booke, except 

' Learning. 


Plutarke or Seneca, from whom (as the Danaides) I draw my water, 
uncessantly filling, and as fast emptying: some thing whereof I 
fasten to this paper, but to my selfe nothing at all. And touching 
bookes : Historie is my chief e studie, Poesie my only delight, to which 
I am particularly affected: for as Cleanthes said, that as the voice 
being forciblie pent in the narrow gullet of a trumpet, at last issueth 
forth more strong and shriller, so me seemes, that a sentence cun- 
ningly and closely couched in measure-keeping Poesie, darts it selfe 
forth more furiously, and wounds me even to the quicke. And 
concerning the naturall faculties that are in me (whereof behold 
here an essay), I perceive them to faint under their owne burthen; 
my conceits,^ and my judgement march but uncertaine, and as it were 
groping, staggering, and stumbling at every rush: And when I have 
gone as far as I can, I have no whit pleased my selfe: for the further 
I saile the more land I descrie^and that so dimmed with fogges, and 
overcast with clouds, that my sight is so weakned, I cannot dis- 
tinguish the same. And then undertaking to speake indifferently of 
all that presents it selfe unto my fantasie, and having nothing but 
mine owne naturall meanes to imploy therein, if it be my hap (as 
commonly it is) among good Authors, to light upon those verie 
places which I have undertaken to treat off, as even now I did in 
Plutarke, reading his discourse of the power of imagination, wherein 
in regard of those wise men, I acknowledge my selfe so weake and 
so poore, so dull and grose-headed, as I am forced both to pittie and 
disdaine my selfe, yet am I pleased with this, that my opinions have 
often the grace to jump with theirs, and that I follow them a loofe- 
off,' and thereby possesse at least, that which all other men have not; 
which is, that I know the utmost difference betweene them and my 
selfe: all which notwithstanding, I suffer my inventions to run 
abroad, as weake and faint as I have produced them, without bun- 
gling and botching the faults which this comparison hath discovered 
to me in them. A man had need have a strong backe, to undertake 
to march foot to foot with these kind of men. The indiscreet writers 
of our age, amidst their triviall* compositions, intermingle and 
wrest in whole sentences taken from ancient Authors, supposing by 
such filching-theft to purchase honour and reputation to themselves, 
^ Ideas. ^ At a distance. ^ Commonplace. 


doe cleane contrarie. For, this infinite varietie and dissemblance of 
lustres, makes a face so wan, so il-favored, and so uglie, in respect of 
theirs, that they lose much more than gaine thereby. These were two 
contrarie humours: The Philosopher Chrisippus was wont to foist-in 
amongst his bookes, not only whole sentences and other long-long 
discourses, but whole bookes of other Authors, as in one, he brought 
in Euripides his Medea. And Apollodorus was wont to say of him, 
that if one should draw from out his bookes what he had stolne from 
others, his paper would remaine blanke. Whereas Epicurus cleane 
contrarie to him in three hundred volumes he left behind him, had 
not made use of one allegation.^ It was my fortune not long since to 
light upon such a place: I had languishingly traced after some 
French words, so naked and shallow, and so void either of sense or 
matter, that at last I found them to be nought but meere French 
words; and after a tedious and wearisome travell, I chanced to 
stumble upon an high, rich, and even to the clouds-raised piece, the 
descent whereof had it been somewhat more pleasant or easie, or the 
ascent reaching a little further, it had been excusable, and to be 
borne with-all; but it was such a steeple downe-fall, and by meere 
strength hewen out of the maine rocke, that by reading of the first 
six words, me thought I was carried into another world: whereby 
I perceive the bottome whence I came to be so low and deep, as I 
durst never more adventure to go through it; for, if I did stuflfe any 
one of my discourses with those rich spoiles, it would manifestly 
cause the sottishnesse^ of others to appeare. To reprove mine owne 
faults in others, seemes to me no more unsuflerable than to reprehend 
(as I doe often) those of others in my selfe. They ought to be 
accused every where, and have all places of Sanctuarie taken from 
them: yet do I know how over boldly, at all times I adventure to 
equall my selfe unto my filchings, and to march hand in hand with 
them; not without a fond bardie hope, that I may perhaps be able to 
bleare the eyes of the Judges from discerning them. But it is as 
much for the benefit of my application, as for the good of mine in- 
vention and force. And I doe not furiously front, and bodie to bodie 
wrestle with those old champions: it is but by flights, advantages, 
and false offers I seek to come within them, and if I can, to give 
' Citation. ^ Foolishness. 


them a fall. I do not rashly take them about the necke, I doe but 
touch them, nor doe I go so far as by my bargaine I would seeme 
to doe; could I but keepe even with them, I should then be an 
honest man; for I seeke not to venture on them, but where they 
are strongest. To doe as I have seen some, that is, to shroud them- 
selves under other armes, not daring so much as to show their fingers 
ends unarmed, and to botch up all their works (as it is an easie mat- 
ter in a common subject, namely for the wiser sort) with ancient 
inventions, here and there hudled up together. And in those who 
endeavoured to hide what they have filched from others, and make 
it their owne, it is first a manifest note of injustice, then a plaine 
argument of cowardlinesse; who having nothing of any worth in 
themselves to make show of, will yet under the countenance of others 
sufficiencie goe about to make a faire offer: Moreover (oh great 
foolishnesse) to seek by such cosening' tricks to forestall the ignorant 
approbation of the common sort, nothing fearing to discover their 
ignorance to men of understanding (whose praise only is of value) 
who will soone trace out such borrowed ware. As for me, there is 
nothing I will doe lesse. I never speake of others, but that I may the 
more speake of my selfe. This concerneth not those mingle-mangles 
of many kinds of stufle, or as the Grecians call them Rapsodies, that 
for such are published, of which kind I have (since I came to yeares 
of discretion) seen divers most ingenious and wittie; amongst others, 
one under the name of Capilupus; besides many of the ancient 
stampe. These are wits of such excellence, as both here and else- 
where they will soone be perceived, as our late famous writer Lipsius, 
in his learned and laborious work of the Politikes: yet whatsoever 
come of it, for so much as they are but follies, my intent is not to 
smother them, no more than a bald and hoarie picture of mine, where 
a Painter hath drawne not a perfect visage, but mine owne. For, 
howsoever, these are but my humors and opinions, and I deliver 
them but to show what my conceit* is, and not what ought to be 
beleeved. Wherein I ayme at nothing but to display my selfe, who 
peradventure (if a new prentiship change me) shall be another to 
morrow. I have no authoritie to purchase beliefe, neither do I de- 
sire it; knowing well that I am not sufficiently taught to instruct 
' cheating. ' Notion. 


Others. Some having read my precedent Chapter,' told me not long 
since in mine owne house, I should somewhat more have extended 
my selfe in the discourse concerning the institution of children. 
Nowf (Madam) if there were any sufHciencie in me touching that 
subject, I could not better employ the same than to bestow it as a 
present upon that little lad, which ere long threatneth to make a 
happie issue from out your honorable woombe; for (Madame) you 
are too generous to begin with other than a man childe. And having 
had so great a part in the conduct of your successful marriage, I may 
challenge some right and interest in the greatnesse and prosperitie of 
all that shall proceed from it: moreover, the ancient and rightfull 
possession, which you from time to time have ever had, and still 
have over my service, urgeth me with more than ordinarie respects, 
to wish all honour, well-fare and advantage to whatsoever may in 
any sort concerne you and yours. And truly, my meaning is but to 
show that the greatest diiBcultie, and importing all humane knowl- 
edge, seemeth to be in this point, where the nurture and institution 
of young children is in question. For, as in matters of husbandrie, 
the labor that must be used before sowing, setting, and planting, yea 
in planting itselfe, is most certaine and easie. But when that which 
was sowen, set and planted, commeth to take life; before it come to 
ripenesse, much adoe, and great varietie of proceeding belongeth to 
it. So in men, it is no great matter to get them, but being borne, what 
continuall cares, what diligent attendance, what doubts and feares, 
doe daily wait to their parents and tutors, before they can be nurtured 
and brought to any good ? The fore-shew of their inclination whilest 
they are young is so uncertaine, their humours so variable, their 
promises so changing, their hopes so false, and their proceedings so 
doubtful, that it is very hard (yea for the wisest) to ground any 
certaine judgment, or assured successe upon them. Behold Cymon, 
view Themistocles, and a thousand others, how they have differed, 
and fallen to better from themselves, and deceive the expectation of 
such as knew them. The young whelps both of Dogges and Beares 
at first sight shew their naturall disposition, but men headlong em- 
bracing this custome or fashion, following that humor or opinion, 
admitting this or that passion, allowing of that or this law, are easily 

'"Of Pedantism." 


changed, and soone disguised; yet it is hard to force the naturall pro- 
pension or readinesse of the mind, whereby it followeth, that for 
want of heedie fore-sight in those that could not guide their course 
well, they often employ much time in vaine, to addresse young chil- 
dren in those matters whereunto they are not naturally addicted. 
All which difficulties notwithstanding, mine opinion is, to bring 
them up in the best and profitablest studies, and that a man should 
slightly passe over those fond presages, and deceiving prognostikes, 
which we over precisely gather in their infancie. And (without 
oflfence be it said) me thinks that Plato in his Commonwealth 
allowed them too-too much authoritie. 

Madame, Learning joyned with true knowledge is an especiall 
and gracefull ornament, and an implement of wonderful use and 
consequence, namely, in persons raised to that degree of fortune 
wherein you are. And in good truth, learning hath not her owne 
true forme, nor can she make shew of her beauteous lineaments, if 
she fall into the hands of base and vile persons. [For, as famous 
Torquato Tasso saith: "Philosophic being a rich and noble Queene, 
and knowing her owne worth, graciously smileth upon and lovingly 
embraceth Princes and noble men, if they become suiters to her, 
admitting them as her minions, and gently afloording them all the 
favours she can; whereas upon the contrarie, if she be wooed, and 
sued unto by clownes, mechanicall fellowes, and such base kind of 
people, she holds herselfe disparaged and disgraced, as holding no 
proportion with them. And therefore see we by experience, that if 
a true Gentleman or nobleman follow her with any attention, and 
woo her with importunitie, he shall learne and know more of her, 
and prove a better schoUer in one yeare, than an ungentle or base 
fellow shall in seven, though he pursue her never so attentively."] 
She is much more readie and fierce to lend her furtherance and 
direction in the conduct of a warre, to attempt honourable actions, 
to command a people, to treat a peace with a prince of forraine na- 
tion, than she is to forme an argument in Logick, to devise a Syllo- 
gisme, to canvase a case at the barre, or to prescribe a receit of pills. 
So (noble Ladie) forsomuch as I cannot perswade myselfe, that you 
will either forget or neglect this point, concerning the institution of 
yours, especially having tasted the sweetnesse thereof, and being 


descended of so noble and learned a race. For we yet possesse the 
learned compositions of the ancient and noble Earles of Foix, from 
out whose heroicke loynes your husband and you take your of- 
spring. And Francis Lord of Candale, your worthie uncle, doth 
daily bring forth such fruits thereof, as the knowledge of the match- 
lesse qualitie of your house shall hereafter extend itselfe to many 
ages; I will therefore make you acquainted with one conceit of mine, 
which contrarie to the common use I hold, and that is all I am able 
to afloord you concerning that matter. The charge of the Tutor, 
which you shall appoint your sonne, in the choice of whom con- 
sisteth the whole substance of his education and bringing up; on 
which are many branches depending, which (forasmuch as I can 
adde nothing of any moment to it) I will not touch at all. And for 
that point, wherein I presume to advise him, he may so far forth give 
credit unto it, as he shall see just cause. To a gentleman borne of 
noble parentage, and heire of a house that aymeth at true learning, 
and in it would be disciplined, not so much for gane or commoditie 
to himself e (because so abject an end is far un worthie the grace and 
favour of the Muses, and besides, hath a regard or dependence of 
others) nor for externall shew and ornament, but to adorne and 
enrich his inward minde, desiring rather to shape and institute an 
able and sufficient man, than a bare learned man; my desire is there- 
fore, that the parents or overseers of such a gentleman be very cir- 
cumspect, and careful in chusing his director, whom I would rather 
commend for having a well composed and temperate braine, than a 
full stuft head, yet both will doe well. And I would rather prefer 
wisdome, judgement, civill customes, and modest behaviour, than 
bare and meere literall learning; and that in his charge he hold a 
new course. Some never cease brawling in their schollers eares (as if 
they were still pouring in a tonell) to follow their booke, yet is their 
charge nothing else but to repeat what hath beene told them before. 
I would have a tutor to correct this part, and that at first entrance, 
according to the capacitie of the wit he hath in hand, he should 
begin to make shew of it, making him to have a smacke of all 
things, and how to choose and distinguish them, without helpe of 
others, sometimes opening him the way, other times leaving him to 
open it by himselfe. I would not have him to invent and speake 


alone, but suffer his disciple to speake when his turne commeth. 
Socrates, and after him Arcesilaus, made their schollers to speake 
first, and then would speake themselves. Ohest plerumque its qui 
discere volunt, auctoritas eorum qui docenf}" "Most commonly the 
authoritie of them that teach, hinders them that would learne." 

It is therefore meet that he make him first trot-on before him, 
whereby he may the better judge of his pace, and so guesse how long 
he will hold out, that accordingly he may fit his strength; for want 
of which proportion we often marre all. And to know how to make 
a good choice, and how far forth one may proceed (still keeping a 
due measure), is one of the hardest labours I know. It is a signe of a 
noble, and effect of an undanted spirit, to know how to second, and 
how far forth he shall condescend to his childish proceedings, and 
how to guide them. As for myselfe, I can better and with more 
strength walke up than downe a hill. Those which, according to 
our common fashion, undertake with one selfe-same lesson, and like 
maner of education, to direct many spirits of divers formes and dif- 
ferent humours, it is no marvell if among a multitude of children, 
they scarce meet with two or three that reap any good fruit by their 
discipline, or that come to any perfection. I would not only have 
him to demand an accompt of the words contained in his lesson, but 
of the sense and substance thereof, and judge of the profit he hath 
made of it, not by the testimonie of his memorie, but by the witnesse 
of his life. That what he lately learned, he cause him to set forth and 
pourtray the same into sundrie shapes, and then to accommodate it 
to as many different and severall subjects, whereby he shal perceive, 
whether he have yet apprehended the same, and therein enfeoffed 
himselfe," at due times taking his instruction from the institution 
given by Plato. It is a signe of cruditie and indigestion for a man to 
yeeld up his meat, even as he swallowed the same; the stomacke 
hath not wrought his full operation, unlesse it have changed forme, 
and altered fashion of that which was given him to boyle and 

[Wee see men gape after no reputation but learning, and when 
they say, such a one is a learned man, they thinke they have said 
enough;] Our minde doth move at others pleasure, and tyed and 
'" Cic. De Nat. 1. i. '• Taken possession. 


forced to serve the fantasies of others, being brought under by 
authoritie, and forced to stoope to the lure of their bare lesson; wee 
have beene so subjected to harpe upon one string, that we have no 
way left us to descant upon voluntarie; our vigor and libertie is 
cleane extinct. Nunquam tuteloe suce fiunt: "They never come to 
their owne tuition." It was my hap to bee familiarlie acquainted 
with an honest man at Pisa, but such an Aristotelian, as he held this 
infallible position; that a conformitie to Aristotles doctrine was the 
true touchstone and squire'^ of all solid imaginations and perfect 
veritie; for, whatsoever had no coherencie with it, was but fond 
Chimeraes and idle humors; inasmuch as he had knowne all, seene 
all, and said all. This proposition of his being somewhat over amply 
and injuriously interpreted by somo, made him a long time after to 
be troubled in the inquisition of Rome. I would have him make his 
scholler narrowly to sift all things with discretion, and harbour 
nothing in his head by mere authoritie, or upon trust. Aristotles 
principles shall be no more axiomes unto him, than the Stoikes or 
Epicurians. Let this diversitie of judgements be proposed unto him, 
if he can, he shall be able to distinguish the truth from falsehood, 
if not, he will remaine doubtful. 

Che non men che saper dubbiar m'aggrataP 

No lesse it pleaseth me, 
To doubt, than wise to be. 

For if by his owne discourse he embrace the opinions of Xeno- 
phon or of Plato, they shall be no longer theirs, but his. He that 
meerely followeth another, traceth nothing, and seeketh nothing: 
Non sumus sub Rege, sibi quisque se vindicet:^^ "We are not under 
a Kings command, every one may challenge himself e, for let him at 
least know that he knoweth." It is requisite he endevour as much 
to feed himselfe with their conceits, as labour to learne their pre- 
cepts; which, so he know how to applie, let him hardily forget, 
where or whence he had them. Truth and reason are common to all, 
and are no more proper unto him that spake them heretofore, then 
unto him that shall speake them hereafter. And it is no more ac- 
cording to Platoes opinion than to mine, since both he and I under- 
" Square. "Dante, Inferno, cant. xi. 93. **Sen. Epist. xxxiii. 


stand and see alike. The Bees do here and there sucke this and cull 
that flower, but afterward they produce the hony, which is pecuUarly 
their owne, then is it no more Thyme or Majoram. So of peeces 
borrowed of others, he may lawfully alter, transforme, and confound 
them, to shape out of them a perfect peece of worke, altogether his 
owne; alwaies provided his judgement, his travell,^'' studie, and in- 
stitution tend to nothing, but to frame the same perfect. Let him 
hardily conceale where or whence he hath had any helpe, and make 
no shew of anything, but of that which he hath made himselfe. 
Pirates, pilchers, and borrowers, make a shew of their purchases and 
buildings, but not of that which they have taken from others : you see 
not the secret fees or bribes Lawyers take of their Clients, but you 
shall manifestly discover the alliances they make, the honours they 
get for their children, and the goodly houses they build. No man 
makes open shew of his receits, but every one of his gettings. The 
good that comes of studie (or at least should come) is to prove 
better, wiser and honester. It is the understanding power (said 
Epicharmus) that seeth and heareth, it is it that profiteth all and dis- 
poseth all, that moveth, swayeth, and ruleth all: all things else are 
but blind, senselesse, and without spirit. And truly in barring him of 
libertie to doe any thing of himselfe, we make him thereby more 
servile and more coward. Who would ever enquire of his schoUer 
what he thinketh of Rhetorike, of Grammar, of this or of that 
sentence of Cicero? Which things thoroughly fethered (as if they 
were oracles) are let flie into our memorie; in which both letters 
and syllables are substantiall parts of the subject. To know by roat 
is no perfect knowledge, but to keep what one hath committed to his 
memories charge, is commendable: what a man directly knoweth, 
that will he dispose-of, without turning still to his booke or looking 
to his pattern. A meere bookish sufEciencie is unpleasant. All I ex- 
pect of it is an imbellishing of my actions, and not a foundation of 
them, according to Platoes mind, who saith, constancie, faith, and 
sinceritie are true Philosophie; as for other Sciences, and tending else- 
where, they are but garish paintings. I would faine have Paluel or 
Pompey, those two excellent dauncers of our time, with all their 
nimblenesse, teach any man to doe their loftie tricks and high capers, 

''Travail, labor. 


only with seeing them done, and without stirring out of his place, as 
some Pedanticall fellowes would instruct our minds without moving 
or putting it in practice. And glad would I be to find one that would 
teach us how to manage a horse, to tosse a pike, to shoot-ofi a peace, 
to play upon the lute, or to warble with the voice, without any exer- 
cise, as these kind of men would teach us to judge, and how to 
speake well, without any exercise of speaking or judging. In which 
kind of life, or as I may terme it, Prentiship, what action or object 
soever presents it-selfe into our eies, may serve us in stead of a 
sufficient booke. A prettie pranke of a boy, a knavish tricke of a 
page, a foolish part of a lackey, an idle tale or any discourse else, 
spoken either in jest or earnest, at the table or in companie, are even 
as new subjects for us to worke upon: for furtherance whereof, com- 
merce or common societie among men, visiting of forraine countries, 
and observing of strange fashions, are verie necessary, not only to be 
able (after the manner of our yong gallants of France) to report 
how many paces the Church of Santa Rotonda is in length or 
breadth, or what rich garments the curtezan Signora Livia weareth, 
and the worth of her hosen; or as some do, nicely to dispute how 
much longer or broader the face of Nero is, which they have seene 
in some old mines of Italic, than that which is made for him in 
other old monuments else-where. But they should principally observe, 
and be able to make certaine relation of the humours and fashions 
of those countries they have seene, that they may the better know how 
to correct and prepare their wits by those of others. I would there- 
fore have him begin even from his infancie to travell abroad; and 
first, that at one shoot he may hit two markes he should see neigh- 
bour-countries, namely where languages are most different from 
ours; for, unlesse a mans tongue be fashioned unto them in his 
youth, he shall never attaine to the true pronunciation of them if he 
once grow in yeares. Moreover, we see it received as a common 
opinion of the wiser sort, that it agreeth not with reason, that a childe 
be alwaies nuzzled, cockered, dandled, and brought up in his par- 
ents lap or sight; forsomuch as their naturall kindnesse, or (as I may 
call it) tender fondnesse, causeth often, even the wisest to prove so 
idle, so overnice, and so base-minded. For parents are not capable, 
neither can they find in their hearts to see them checkt, corrected. 


or chastised, nor indure to see them brought up so meanly, and so 
far from daintinesse, and many times so dangerously, as they must 
needs be. And it would grieve them to see their children come home 
from those exercises, that a Gentleman must necessarily acquaint 
himselfe with, sometimes all wet and bemyred, other times sweatie 
and full of dust, and to drinke being either extreme hot or exceeding 
cold; and it would trouble them to see him ride a rough-untamed 
horse, or with his weapon furiously incounter a skilful Fencer, or to 
handle or shoot-ofi a musket; against which there is no remedy, if 
he will make him prove a sufficient, compleat, or honest man: he 
must not be spared in his youth; and it will come to passe, that he 
shall many times have occasion and be forced to shocke the rules 
of Physicke. 

Vitamque sub dio et trepidis agat 
In rebus}^ 

Leade he his life in open aire, 
And in affaires full of despaire. 

It is not sufficient to make his minde strong, his muskles must 
also be strengthened: the mind is over-borne if it be not seconded: 
and it is too much for her alone to discharge two offices. I have a 
feeling how mine panteth, being joyned to so tender and sensible" 
a bodie, and that lieth so heavie upon it. And in my lecture, I often 
perceive how my Authors in their writings sometimes commend 
examples for magnanimitie and force, that rather proceed from a 
thicke skin and hardnes of the bones. I have knowne men, women 
and children borne of so hard a constitution, that a blow with a 
cudgell would lesse hurt them, than a filip would doe me, and so 
dull and blockish, that they will neither stir tongue nor eyebrowes, 
beat them never so much. When wrestlers goe about to counterfeit 
the Philosophers patience, they rather shew the vigor of their sin- 
newes than of their heart. For the custome to beare travell, is to 
tolerate griefe: Labor callum obducit dolori}^ "Labour worketh a 
hardnesse upon sorrow." Hee must be enured to suffer the paine 
and hardnesse of exercises, that so he may be induced to endure the 
paine of the colicke, of cauterie, of fals, of sprains, and other dis- 
" HoR. 1. i. Od. ii. 4. " Sensitive. " Cic. Tusc. Qu. 1. ii. 


eases incident to mans bodie: yea, if need require, patiently to beare 
imprisonment and other tortures, by whicii sufferance he shall come 
to be had in more esteeme and accompt: for according to time and 
place, the good as well as the bad man may haply fall into them; 
we have seen it by experience. Whosoever striveth against the lawes, 
threats good men with mischiefe and extortion. Moreover, the 
authoritie of the Tutor (who should be soveraigne over him) is by 
the cockering and presence of the parents, hindred and interrupted : 
besides the awe and respect which the houshold beares him, and 
the knowledge of the meane, possibilities, and greatnesse of his house, 
are in my judgement no small lets'' in a young Gentleman. In this 
schoole of commerce, and societie among men, I have often noted 
this vice, that in lieu of taking acquaintance of others, we only 
endevour to make our selves knowne to them: and we are more 
ready to utter such merchandize as we have, than to ingrosse and 
purchase new commodities. Silence and modestie are qualities very 
convenient to civil conversation. It is also necessary that a young 
man be rather taught to be discreetly-sparing and close-handed, than 
prodigally-wastfuU and lavish in his expences, and moderate in hus- 
banding his wealth when he shall come to possesse it. And not to 
take pepper in the nose for every foolish tale that shall be spoken 
in his presence, because it is an uncivil importunity to contradict 
whatsoever is not agreeing to our humour: let him be pleased to 
correct himselfe. And let him not seeme to blame that in others 
which he refuseth to doe himselfe, nor goe about to withstand com- 
mon fashions. Licet sapere sine pompa, sine invidia:^" "A man may 
bee wise without ostentation, without envie." Let him avoid those 
imperious images of the world, those uncivil behaviours and childish 
ambition wherewith, God wot, too-too many are possest: that is, to 
make a faire shew of that which is not in him: endevouring to be 
reputed other than indeed he is; and as if reprehension and new 
devices were hard to come by, he would by that meane acquire into 
himselfe the name of some peculiar vertue. As it pertaineth but to 
great Poets to use the libertie of arts; so is it tolerable but in noble 
minds and great spirits to have a preheminence above ordinarie 
fashions. Si quid Socrates et Aristippus contra morem et consue- 

w Hindrances. 20 Sen. Epist. ciii. f. 


tudinem jecerunt, idem sibi ne arbitretur licere: Magis enim illi et 
divinis bonis hanc licentiam assequebantur'}^ "If Socrates and Aris- 
tippus have done ought against custome or good manner, let not a 
man thinke he may doe the same: for they obtained this Hcence by 
their great and excellent good parts :" He shall be taught not to enter 
rashly into discourse or contesting, but when he shall encounter with 
a Champion worthie his strength ; And then would I not have him 
imploy all the tricks that may fit his turne, but only such as may 
stand him in most stead. That he be taught to be curious in making 
choice of his reasons, loving pertinency, and by consequence brevitie. 
That above all, he be instructed to yeeld, yea to quit his weapons 
unto truth, as soone as he shall discerne the same, whether it proceed 
from his adversarie, or upon better advice from himselfe; for he shall, 
not be preferred to any place of eminencie above others, for repeating 
of a prescript" part; and he is not engaged to defend any cause, 
further than he may approove it; nor shall he bee of that trade 
where the libertie for a man to repent and re-advise himselfe is sold 
for readie money. Neque, ut omnia, que prcescripta et imperata sint, 
defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur:^^ "Nor is he inforced by any 
necessitie to defend and make good all that is prescribed and com- 
manded him." If his tutor agree with my humour, he shall frame his 
affection to be a most loyall and true subject to his Prince, and a most 
affectionate and couragious Gentleman in al that may concerne the 
honor of his Soveraigne or the good of his countrie, and endevour to 
suppresse in him all manner of affection to undertake any action 
otherwise than for a pubUke good and dutie. Besides many incon- 
veniences, which greatly prejudice our libertie by reason of these 
particular bonds, the judgment of a man that is waged and bought, 
either it is lesse free and honest, or else it is blemisht with oversight 
and ingratitude. A meere and precise Courtier can neither have law 
nor will to speake or thinke otherwise than favourablie of his 
Master, who among so many thousands of his subjects hath made 
choice of him alone, to institute and bring him up with his owne 
hand. These favours, with the commodities that follow minion^* 
Courtiers, corrupt (not without some colour of reason) his libertie, 
and dazle his judgement. It is therefore commonly scene that the 
21 Cic. Off. 1. i. 22 Fixed beforehand. 23 Cic. Acad. Qu. 1. iv. 24 Favorite. 


Courtiers-language differs from other mens, in the same state, and 
to be of no great credit in such matters. Let therefore his conscience 
and vertue shine in his speech, and reason be his chiefe direction. 
Let him be taught to confesse such faults as he shall discover in his 
owne discourses, albeit none other perceive them but himself e; for 
it is an evident shewf of judgement, and effect of sinceritie, which are 
the chiefest qualities he aymeth at. That wilfully to strive, and ob- 
stinately to contest in words, are common qualities, most apparent in 
basest mindes: That to readvise and correct himself e, and when one 
is most earnest, to leave an ill opinion, are rare, noble, and Philosophi- 
cal! conditions. Being in companie, he shall be put in minde, to cast 
his eyes round about, and every where: For I note, that the chiefe 
places are usually seezed upon by the most unworthie and lesse 
capable; and that height of fortune is seldome joyned with suf- 
ficiencie. I have scene that whilst they at the upper end of a board 
were busie entertaining themselves with talking of the beautie of 
the hangings about a chamber, or of the taste of some good cup of 
wine, many good discourses at the lower end have utterly been lost. 
He shall weigh the carriage of every man in his calling, a Heardsman, 
a Mason, a Stranger, or a Traveller; all must be imployed; every one 
according to his worth; for all helps to make up houshold; yea, the 
follie and the simplicitie of others shall be as instructions to him. By 
controlling the graces and manners of others, he shall acquire unto 
himselfe envie of the good and contempt of the bad. Let him hardly 
be possest with an honest curiositie to search out the nature and causes 
of all things: let him survay whatsoever is rare and singular about 
him; a building, a fountaine, a man, a place where any battell hath 
been fought, or the passages of Caesar or Charlemaine. 

Quae tellus sit lenta gelu, quce putris ab astu, 
Ventus in Italiam quis bene vela jerat}^ 

What land is parcht with heat, what clog'd with frost. 
What wind drives kindly to th' Italian coast. 

He shall endevour to be familiarly acquainted with the customes, 
with the meanes, with the state, with the dependances and alliances 
of all Princes; they are things soone and pleasant to be learned, and 
^^ Prop. 1. iv. El. iii. 39. 


most profitable to be knowne. In this acquaintance of men, my 
intending is, that hee chiefely comprehend them, that Uve but by 
the memorie of bookes. He shall, by the help of Histories, informe 
himselfe of the worthiest minds that were in the best ages. It is a 
frivolous studie, if a man list, but of unvaluable worth to such as 
can make use of it, and as Plato saith, the only studie the Lacede- 
monians reserved for themselves. What profit shall he not reap, 
touching this point, reading the lives of our Plutark ? Alwayes con- 
ditioned, the master bethinke himselfe whereto his charge tendeth, 
and that he imprint not so much in his schoUers mind the date of the 
ruine of Carthage, as the manners of Hanniball and Scipio, nor so 
much where Marcellus died, as because he was unworthy of his 
devoire^^ he died there: that he teach him not so much to know 
Histories as to judge of them. It is amongst things that best agree 
with my humour, the subject to which our spirits doe most diversly 
applie themselves. I have read in Titus Livius a number of things, 
which peradventure others never read, in whom Plutarke haply read 
a hundred more than ever I could read, and which perhaps the 
author himselfe did never intend to set downe. To some kind of 
men it is a meere gramaticall studie, but to others a perfect anatomic"" 
of Philosophie; by meanes whereof the secretest part of our nature is 
searched into. There are in Plutarke many ample discourses most 
worthy to be knowne: for in my judgement, he is the chief e work- 
master of such works, whereof there are a thousand, whereat he 
hath but slightly glanced; for with his finger he doth but point us 
out a way to walke in, if we list; and is sometimes pleased to give 
but a touch at the quickest and maine point of a discourse, from 
whence they are by diligent studie to be drawne, and so brought 
into open market. As that saying of his, That the inhabitants of 
Asia served but one alone, because they could not pronounce one 
onely syllable, which is Non, gave perhaps both subject and occasion 
to my friend Boetie to compose his booke of voluntarie servitude. 
If it were no more but to see Plutarke wrest a slight action to mans 
life, or a word that seemeth to beare no such sence, it will serve for 
a whole discourse. It is pittie men of understanding should so much 
love brevitie; without doubt their reputation is thereby better, but 
^ Task. ^ Dissection, analytical exposition. 


we the worse. Plutarke had rather we should commend him for his 
judgement than for his knowledge, he loveth better to leave a kind 
of longing-desire in us of him, than a satietie. He knew verie well 
that even in good things too much may be said : and that Alexandri- 
das did justly reprove him who spake verie good sentences to the 
Ephores, but they were over tedious. Oh stranger, quoth he, thou 
speakest what thou oughtest, otherwise then^' thou shouldest. Those 
that have leane and thin bodies stuffe them up with bumbasting.^' 
And such as have but poore matter, will puflEe it up with loftie words. 
There is a marvelous cleerenesse, or as I may terme it an enlightning 
of mans judgement drawne from the commerce of men, and by 
frequenting abroad in the world; we are all so contrived and com- 
pact in our selves, that our sight is made shorter by the length of 
our nose. When Socrates was demaunded whence he was, he an- 
swered, not of Athens, but of the world; for he, who had his imagi- 
nation more full and farther stretching, embraced all the world for 
his native Citie, and extended his acquaintance, his societie, and af- 
fections to all man-kind: and not as we do, that looke no further 
than our feet. If the frost chance to nip the vines about my village, 
my Priest doth presently argue that the wrath of God hangs over our 
head, and threatneth all mankind: and judgeth that the Pippe'° is 
alreadie falne upon the Canibals. 

In viewing these intestine and civill broiles of ours, who doth not 
exclaime, that this worlds vast frame is neere unto a dissolution, and 
that the day of judgement is readie to fall on us? never remembering 
that many worse revolutions have been seene, and that whilest we 
are plunged in griefe, and overwhelmed in sorrow, a thousand other 
parts of the world besides are blessed with happinesse, and wallow 
in pleasures, and never thinke on us? whereas, when I behold our 
lives, our licence, and impunitie, I wonder to see them so milde and 
easie. He on whose head it haileth, thinks all the Hemispheare besides 
to be in a storme and temp>est. And as that dull-pated Savoyard 
said, that if the seelie'' King of France could cunningly have man- 
aged his fortune, he might verie well have made himselfe chiefe 
Steward of his Lords household, whose imagination conceived no 
other greatnesse than his Masters; we are all insensible of this kind 
28 Than. ^9 padding. 30 a disease. "Simple. 


of errour: an errour of great consequence and prejudice. But who- 
soever shall present unto his inward eyes, as it were in a Table, the 
Idea of the great image of our universall mother Nature, attired in 
her richest robes, sitting in the throne of her Majestie, and in her 
visage shall read so generall and so constant a varietie; he that therein 
shall view himselfe, not himselfe alone, but a whole Kingdome, to 
be in respect of a great circle but the smallest point that can be 
imagined, he onely can value things according to their essentiall 
greatnesse and proportion. This great universe (which some multi- 
plie as Species under one Genus) is the true looking-glasse wherein 
we must looke, if we will know whether we be of a good stamp or 
in the right byase. To conclude, I would have this worlds-frame to 
be my SchoUers choise-booke:^^ So many strange humours, sundrie 
sects, varying judgements, diverse opinions, different lawes, and 
fantasticall customes teach us to judge rightly of ours, and instruct 
our judgement to acknowledge his imperfections and naturall weak- 
nesse, which is no easie an apprentiship: So many innovations of 
estates, so many fals of Princes, and changes of publike fortune, may 
and ought to teach us, not to make so great accompt of ours: So 
many names, so many victories, and so many conquests buried in 
darke oblivion, makes the hope to perpetuate our names but ridicu- 
lous, by the surprising of ten Argo-lettiers,'' or of a small cottage, 
which is knowne but by his fall. The pride and fiercenesse of so many 
strange and gorgeous shewes: the pride-puft majestie of so many 
courts, and of their greatnesse, ought to confirme and assure our sight, 
undauntedly to beare the affronts and thunder-claps of ours, without 
feeling our eyes: So many thousands of men, low-laide in their graves 
afore us, may encourage us not to feare, or be dismaied to go meet so 
good companie in the other world, and so of all things else. Our life 
(said Pithagoras) drawes neare unto the great and populous assem- 
blies of the Olympike games, wherein some, to get the glorie and to 
win the goale of the games, exercise their bodies with all Industrie; 
others, for greedinesse of gaine, bring thither marchandise to sell: 
others there are (and those be not the worst) that seek after no other 
good, but to marke how wherefore, and to what end, all things are 
done: and to be spectators or observers of other mens lives and 
'^ Book of examples. ^' Mounted bowmen. 


actions, that so they may the better judge and direct their owne. 
Unto examples may all the most profitable Discourses of Philosophie 
be sorted, which ought to be the touch-stone of human actions, and a 
rule to square them by, to whom may be said, 

-quid fas optare, quid asper 

Vtile nummus habet, patrite charisque propinquis 
Quantum elargiri deceat, quern te Deus esse 
lussit, et humana qua parte locatus es in re?*^ 
Quid sumus, aut quidnam victuri gignimur?^ 

What thou maiest wish, what profit may come cleare. 
From new-stampt coyne, to friends and countrie deare 
What thou ought'st give: whom God would have thee bee, 
And in what part mongst men he placed thee. 
What we are, and wherefore. 
To live hear we were bore. 

What it is to know, and not to know (which ought to be the scope 
of studie), what valour, what temperance, and what justice is: what 
difference there is betweene ambition and avarice, bondage and 
freedome, subjection and libertie, by which markes a man may dis- 
tinguish true and perfect contentment, and how far-forth one ought 
to feare or apprehend death, griefe, or shame. 

Et quo quemque modo jugidtque jerdtque laborem?^ 

How ev'ry labour he may plie, 
And beare, or ev'ry labour flie. 

What wards or springs move us, and the causes of so many motions 
in us: For me seemeth, that the first discourses, wherewith his con- 
ceit should be sprinkled, ought to be those that rule his manners 
and direct his sense; which will both teach him to know himself e, 
and how to live and how to die well. Among the liberall Sciences, 
let us begin with that which makes us free: Indeed, they may all, 
in some sort stead us, as an instruction to our life, and use of it, as 
all other things else serve the same to some purpose or other. But 
let us make especiall choice of that which may directly and perti- 
nently serve the same. If we could restraine and adapt the appur- 
tenances of our life to their right byase and naturall Hmits, we should 
3* Pers. 5a/. iii. 69. '^ lb. 67. ^^ Virg. Mn. 1. iii. 853. 


find the best part of the Sciences that now are in use, cleane out of 
fashion with us: yea, and in those that are most in use, there are 
certaine by-wayes and deep-flows most profitable, which we should 
do well to leave, and according to the institution of Socrates, limit 
the course of our studies in those where profit is wanting. 

-sapere aude. 

Incipe: vivendi qui recti prorogat horam, 
Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis, at tile 
Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis cevumP 

Be bold to be wise: to begin, be strong, 
He that to live well doth the time prolong, 
Clowne-like expects, till downe the streame be run. 
That runs, and will run, till the world be done. 

It is mere simplicitie to teach our children, 

Quid moveant Pisces, animosaque signa Leonis, 
Lotus et Hesperia quid Capricornus aqua.^ 

What Pisces move, or hot breath'd Leos beames. 
Or Capricornus bath'd in western streames, 

the knowledge of the starres, and the motion of the eighth spheare, 
before their owne; 

T£ IlXeidSeffcri k6.iu>1 t£ d' iarpial /SooiTeo)." 

What longs it to the seaven stars, and me, 
Or those about Bootes be. 

Anaximenes writing to Pythagoras, saith, "With what sense can 
I amuse my selfe in the secrets of the Starres, having continually 
death or bondage before mine eyes.'"' For at that time the Kings of 
Persia were making preparations to war against his Countrie. All 
men ought to say so : Being beaten with ambition, with avarice, with 
rashnesse, and with superstition, and having such other enemies 
unto life within him. Wherefore shall I study and take care about 
the mobility and variation of the world? When bee is once taught 
what is fit to make him better and wiser, he shall be entertained 
with Logicke, naturall Philosophy, Geometry, and Rhetoricke, then 
having setled his judgement, looke what science he doth most addict 

^''HoR. 1. i. Epist. ii. 40. '^Prop. 1. iv. El. i. 85. ''Anacr. Od. xvii. 10, 11. 


himselfe unto, he shall in short time attaine to the perfection of it. 
His lecture shall be somtimes by way of talke and somtimes by 
booke: his tutor may now and then supply him with the same 
Author, as an end and motive of his institution: sometimes giving 
him the pith and substance of it ready chewed. And if of himselfe 
he be not so throughly acquainted with bookes, that hee may readily 
find so many notable discourses as are in them to effect his purpose, 
it shall not be amisse that some learned man bee appointed to keepe 
him company, who at any time of need may furnish him with such 
munition as hee shall stand in need of; that hee may afterward dis- 
tribute and dispense them to his best use. And that this kind of 
lesson be more easie and naturall than that of Gaza, who will make 
question? Those are but harsh, thornie, and unpleasant precepts; 
vaine, idle and immaterial words, on which small hold may be taken; 
wherein is nothing to quicken the minde. In this the spirit findeth 
substance to bide and feed upon. A fruit without all comparison 
much better, and that will soone be ripe. It is a thing worthy con- 
sideration, to see what state things are brought unto in this our age; 
and how Philosophic, even to the wisest, and men of best under- 
standing, is but an idle, vaine and fantasticall name, of small use 
and lesse worth, both in opinion and effect. I thinke these Sophistries 
are the cause of it, which have forestalled the wayes to come unto 
it: They doe very ill that goe about to make it seeme as it were 
inaccessible for children to come unto, setting it foorth with a wrim- 
pled,*° gastlie, and frowning visage; who hath masked her with so 
counterf et, pale, and hideous a countenance ? There is nothing more 
beauteous, nothing more delightful, nothing more gamesome; and 
as I may say, nothing more fondly wanton: for she presenteth noth- 
ing to our eyes, and preacheth nothing to our eares, but sport and 
pastime. A sad and lowring looke plainly declareth that that is not 
her haunt. Demetrius the Gramarian, finding a companie of Phi- 
losophers sitting close together in the Temple of Delphos, said unto 
them, "Either I am deceived, or by your plausible and pleasant lookes, 
you are not in any serious and earnest discourse amongst your 
selves;" to whom one of them, named Heracleon the Megarian, 
answered, "That belongeth to them, who busie themselves in seeking 

<» Wrinkled. 


whether the future tense of the verbe /SdXXw, hath a double \ or that 
labour to find the derivation of the comparatives, x^i-pov, fitkruov, 
and of the superlatives xeipif™") ^tKrwrov, it is they that must chafe 
in intertaining themselves with their science: as for discourses of 
Philosophie they are wont to glad, rejoyce, and not to vex and molest 
those that use them. 

Deprendas animi tormenta latentis in cegro 
Corpore, deprendas et gaudia; sumit utrumque 
Inde habitum jacies.*^ 

You may perceive the torments of the mind. 
Hid in sicke bodie, you the joyes may find; 
The face such habit takes in either kind. 

That mind which harboureth Philosophie, ought by reason of her 
sound health, make that bodie also sound and healthie: it ought to 
make her contentment to through-shine in all exteriour parts: it 
ought to shapen and modell all outward demeanours to the modell 
of it: and by consequence arme him that doth possesse it, with a 
gracious stoutnesse and lively audacite, with an active and pleasing 
gesture, and with a setled and cheerefuU countenance. The most 
evident token and apparant signe of true wisdome is a constant and 
unconstrained rejoycing, whose estate is like unto all things above 
the Moone, that is ever cleare, alwaies bright. It is Baroco" and 
Baralipton,^^ that makes their followers prove so base and idle, and 
not Philosophie; they know her not but by heare-say; what? Is it 
not shee that cleereth all stormes of the mind ? And teacheth miserie, 
famine, and sicknesse to laugh? Not by reason of some imaginarie 
Epicicles,^ but by naturall and palpable reasons. Shee aymeth at 
nothing but vertue; it is vertue shee seekes after; which as the 
schoole saith, is not pitcht on the top of an high, steepie, or inaccessi- 
ble hill; for they that have come unto her, afErme that cleane-con- 
trarie shee keeps her stand, and holds her mansion in a faire, flour- 
ishing, and pleasant plaine, whence as from an high watch tower, 
she survaieth all things, to be subject unto her, to whom any man 
may with great facilitie come, if he but know the way or entrance 

^iJuvEN. Sat. ix. 18. 

*^ Mnemonic words invented by the scholastic logicians. 

*^A term of the old astronomy. 


to her palace: for, the pathes that lead unto her are certaine fresh and 
shadie greene allies, sweet and flowrie waies, whose ascent is even, 
easie, and nothing wearisome, like unto that of heavens vaults. For- 
somuch as they have not frequented this vertue, who gloriously, as in 
a throne of Majestie sits soveraigne, goodly, triumphant, lovely, 
equally delicious, and couragious, protesting her selfe to be a pro- 
fessed and irreconcileable enemie to all sharpnesse, austeritie, feare, 
and compulsion; having nature for her guide, fortune and volup- 
tuousnesse for her companions; they according to their weaknesse 
have imaginarily fained her, to have a foolish, sad, grim, quarelous, 
spitefull, threatning, and disdainful! visage, with an horride and 
unpleasant looke; and have placed her upon a craggie, sharpe, and 
unfrequented rocke, amidst desert cliffes and uncouth crags, as a 
scar-crow, or bugbeare, to affright the common people with. Now 
the tutour, which ought to know that he should rather seek to fill 
the mind and store the will of his disciple, as much, or rather more, 
with love and affection, than with awe, and reverence unto vertue, 
may shew and tell him, that Poets follow common humours, mak- 
ing him plainly to perceive, and as it were palpably to feele, that the 
Gods have rather placed labour and sweat at the entrances which 
lead to Venus chambers, than at the doores that direct to Pallas 

And when he shall perceive his schoUer to have a sensible feeling 
of himself e, presenting Bradamant" or Angelica'" before him, as a 
Mistresse to enjoy, embelished with a naturall, active, generous, and 
unspotted beautie not uglie or Giant-like, but blithe and livelie, in 
respect of a wanton, soft, affected, and artificiall-flaring beautie; the 
one attired like unto a young man, coyfed with a bright-shining 
helmet, the other disguised and drest about the head like unto an 
impudent harlot, with embroyderies, frizelings, and carcanets of 
pearles: he will no doubt deeme his owne love to be a man and no 
woman, if in his choice he differ from that effeminate shepheard of 
Phrygia. In this new kind of lesson he shall declare unto him, that 
the prize, the glorie, and height of true vertue, consisted in the 
facilitie, profit, and pleasure of his exercises: so far from diificultie 

** A warlike heroine in Boiardo's "Orlando Innamorato" and Ariosto's "Orlando 

*^ The faithless princess, on account of whom Orlando goes mad, in the same poems. 


and incumbrances, that children as well as men, the simple as soone 
as the wise, may come unto her. Discretion and temperance, not 
force or way-wardnesse are the instruments to bring him unto her. 
Socrates (vertues chiefe favorite) that he might the better walke in 
the pleasant, naturall, and open path of her progresses, doth volun- 
tarily and in good earnest, quit all compulsion. Shee is the nurse 
and foster-mother of all humane" pleasures, who in making them 
just and upright, she also makes them sure and sincere. By moderat- 
ing them, she keepeth them in ure^' and breath. In limiting and 
cutting them off, whom she refuseth; she whets us on toward those 
she leaveth unto us; and plenteously leaves us them, which Nature 
pleaseth, and like a kind mother giveth us over unto satietie, if not 
unto wearisomnesse, unlesse we will peradventure say that the rule 
and bridle, which stayeth the drunkard before drunkennesse, the 
glutton before surfetting, and the letcher before the losing of his 
haire, be the enemies of our pleasures. If common fortune faile her, 
it cleerely scapes her; or she cares not for her, or she frames another 
unto herselfe, altogether her owne, not so fleeting nor so rowling. 
She knoweth the way how to be rich, mightie and wise, and how to 
lie in sweet-perfumed beds. She loveth life; she delights in beautie, 
in glorie, and in health. But her proper and particular office is, first 
to know how to use such goods temperately, and how to lose them 
constantly. An office much more noble than severe, without which 
all course of life is unnaturall, turbulent, and deformed, to which 
one may lawfully joyne those rocks, those incumbrances, and those 
hideous monsters. If so it happen, that his Disciple prove of so dif- 
ferent a condition, that he rather love to give eare to an idle fable 
than to the report of some noble voiage, or other notable and wise 
discourse, when he shall heare it; that at the sound of a Drum or 
clang of a Trumpet, which are wont to rowse and arme the youthly 
heat of his companions, turneth to another that calleth him to see a 
play, tumbling, jugling tricks, or other idle lose-time sports; and 
who for pleasures sake doth not deeme it more delightsome to 
returne all sweatie and wearie from a victorious combat, from 
wrestling, or riding of a horse, than from a Tennis-court or dancing 
schoole, with the prize or honour of such exercises; The best remedy 
^' Human. " Practice. 


I know for such a one is, to put him prentice to some base occupa- 
tion, in some good towne or other, yea, were he the sonne o£ a Duke; 
according to Platoes rule, who saith "That children must be placed, 
not according to their fathers conditions, but the faculties of their 
mind." Since it is Philosophie that teacheth us to live, and that 
infancie as well as other ages, may plainly read her lessons in the 
same, why should it not be imparted unto young Schollers? 

Vdum et molle lutum est, nunc nunc properandus, et acri 
Fingendus sine fine rota!^ 

, He's moist and soft mould, and must by and by 
Be cast, made up, while wheele whirls readily. 

We are taught to live when our life is well-nigh spent. Many 
schollers have been infected with that loathsome and marrow-wasting 
disease before ever they came to read Aristotles treatise of Tem- 
perance. Cicero was wont to say, "That could he out-live the lives 
of two men, he should never find leasure to study the Lyrike Poets." 
And I find these Sophisters both worse and more unprofitable. Our 
childe is engaged in greater matters; And but the first fifteene or 
sixteene yeares of his life are due unto Pedantisme, the rest unto 
action: let us therefore imploy so short time as we have to live in 
more necessarie instructions. It is an abuse; remove these thornie 
quiddities of Logike, whereby our life can no whit be amended, and 
betake our selves to the simple discourses of Philosophy; know how 
to chuse and fitly to make use of them : they are much more easie to 
be conceived than one of Bocace his tales. A childe comming from 
nurse is more capable of them, than he is to learne to read or write. 
Philosophy hath discourses, whereof infancie as well as decaying 
old-age may make good use. I am of Plutarkes mind, which is, that 
Aristotle did not so much ammuse his great Disciple about the arts 
how to frame Syllogismes, or the principles of Geometric, as he en- 
devoured to instruct him with good precepts concerning valour, 
prowesse, magnanimitie, and temperance, and an undanted assurance 
not to feare any thing; and with such munition he sent him, being 
yet verie young, to subdue the Empire of the world, only with 30000 
footmen, 4000 horsemen, and 42000 Crownes in monie. As for other 

*^ Pers. Sat. iii. 23. 


arts and sciences; he saith Alexander honoured them, and com- 
mended their excellencie and comlinesse; but for any pleasure he 
tooke in them, his affection could not easily be drawne to exercise 

petite h'lnc juvenesque senesque 

Finem animo certum, miserisque viatica canis.*^ 

Young men and old, draw hence (in your affaires) 
Your minds set marke, provision for gray haires. 

It is that which Epicurus said in the beginning of his letter to 
Memiceus: "Neither let the youngest shun nor the oldest wearie 
himselfe in philosophying, for who doth otherwise seemeth to say, 
that either the season to live happily is not yet come, or is already 
past." Yet would I not have this young gentleman pent-up, nor 
carelessly cast-off to the heedlesse choler, or melancholy humour of 
the hasty Schoole-master. I would not have his budding spirit cor- 
rupted with keeping him fast-tied, and as it were labouring four- 
teene or fifteene houres a day poaring on his booke, as some doe, as 
if he were a day-labouring man; neither doe I thinke it fit, if at any 
time, by reason of some solitairie or melancholy complexion, he 
should be scene with an over-indiscreet application given to his 
booke, it should be cherished in him; for, that doth often make him 
both unapt for civill conversation and distracts him from better 
imployments: How many have I seene in my dales, by an over- 
greedy desire of knowledge, become as it were foolish? Carneades 
was so deeply plunged, and as I may say besotted in it, that he could 
never have leasure to cut his haire, or pare his nailes: nor would I 
have his noble manners obscured by the incivilitie and barbarisme 
of others. The French wisdome hath long since proverbially been 
spoken of as verie apt to conceive study in her youth, but most unapt 
to keepe it long. In good truth, we see at this day that there is noth- 
ing lovelier to behold than the young children of France; but for 
the most part, they deceive the hope which was fore-apprehended 
of them: for when they once become men, there is no excellencie at 
all in them. I have heard men of understanding hold this opinion, 
that the Colleges to which they are sent (of which there are store) 

^Sat. V. 64. 


doe thus besot them: whereas to our schoUer, a cabinet, a gardin, the 
table, the bed, a sohtarinesse, a companie, morning and evening, and 
all houres shall be alike unto him, all places shall be a study for him : 
for Philosophy (as a former of judgements, and modeler of customes) 
shall be his principall lesson, having the privilege to entermeddle 
her selfe with all things, and in all places. Isocrates the Orator, being 
once requested at a great banket to speake of his art, when all 
thought he had reason to answer, said, "It is not now time to doe 
what I can, and what should now be done, I cannot doe it; For, to 
present orations, or to enter into disputation of Rhetorike, before a 
companie assembled together to be merrie, and make good cheere, 
would be but a medley of harsh and jarring musicke." The like may 
be said of all other Sciences. But touching Philosophy, namely, in 
that point where it treateth of man, and of his duties and offices, it 
hath been the common judgement of the wisest, that in regard of 
the pleasantnesse of her conversatione, she ought not to be rejected, 
neither at banquets nor at sports. And Plato having invited her to 
his solemne feast, we see how kindly she entertaineth the companie 
with a milde behaviour, fitly suting her selfe to time and place, not- 
withstanding it be one of his learned'st and profitable discourses, 

/Eque pauperibus prodest, locupletibus ceque, 
Et neglecta (tque pueris senibusque nocebit^" 

Poore men alike, alike rich men it easeth, 
Alike it, scorned, old and young displeaseth. 

So doubtlesse he shall lesse be idle than others; for even as the 
paces we bestow walking in a gallerie, although they be twice as 
many more, wearie us not so much as those we spend in going a set 
journey: So our lesson being past over, as it were, by chance, or way 
of encounter, without strict observance of time or place, being ap- 
plied to all our actions, shall be digested, and never felt. All sports 
and exercises shall be a part of his study; running, wrestling, musicke, 
dancing, hunting, and managing of armes and horses. I would have 
the exterior demeanor or decencie, and the disposition of his person 
to be fashioned together with his mind: for, it is not a mind, it is 
not a body that we erect, but it is a man, and we must not make two 
sf'HoR. 1. i. Epist. 135. 


parts of him. And as Plato saith, They must not be erected one 
without another, but equally be directed, no otherwise than a couple 
of horses matched to draw in one selfe-same teeme. And to heare 
him, doth he not seeme to imploy more time and care in the exer- 
cises of his bodie : and to thinke that the minde is together with the 
same exercised, and not the contrarie? As for other matters, this 
institution ought to be directed by a sweet-severe mildnesse; Not as 
some do, who in liew of gently-bidding children to the banquet of 
letters, present them with nothing but horror and crueltie. Let me 
have this violence and compulsion removed, there is nothing that, in 
my seeming, doth more bastardise and dizzie a welborne and gentle 
nature: If you would have him stand in awe of shame and punish- 
ment, doe not so much enure him to it: accustome him patiently to 
endure sweat and cold, the sharpnesse of the wind, the heat of the 
sunne, and how to despise all hazards. Remove from him all nice- 
nesse and quaintnesse in clothing, in lying, in eating, and in drink- 
ing: fashion him to all things, that he prove not a faire and wanton- 
puling boy, but a lustie and vigorous boy : When I was a child, being 
a man, and now am old, I have ever judged and believed the same. 
But amongst other things, I could never away with this kind of 
discipline used in most of our Colleges. It had peradventure been 
lesse hurtfuU, if they had somewhat inclined to mildnesse, or gentle 
entreatie. It is a verie prison of captivated youth, and proves dis- 
solute in punishing it before it be so. Come upon them when they 
are going to their lesson, and you heare nothing but whipping and 
brawling, both of children tormented, and masters besotted with 
anger and chafing. How wide are they, which go about to allure a 
childs mind to go to its booke, being yet but tender and fearefuU, 
with a stearne-frowning countenance, and with hands full of rods ? 
Oh wicked and pernicious manner of teaching! which Quintillian 
hath very wel noted, that this imperious kind of authoritie, namely, 
this way of punishing of children, drawes many dangerous incon- 
veniences within. How much more decent were it to see their school- 
houses and formes strewed with greene boughs and flowers, than 
with bloudy burchen-twigs .? If it lay in me, I would doe as the 
Philosopher Speusippus did, who caused the pictures of Gladness 
and Joy, of Flora and of the Graces, to be set up round about his 


school-house. Where their profit Ueth, there should also be their 
recreation. Those meats ought to be sugred over, that are healthful 
for childrens stomakes, and those made bitter that are hurtfuU for 
them. It is strange to see how carefull Plato sheweth him selfe in 
framing of his lawes about the recreation and pastime of the youth 
of his Citie, and how far he extends him selfe about their exercises, 
sports, songs, leaping, and dancing, whereof he saith, that severe 
antiquitie gave the conduct and patronage unto the Gods themselves, 
namely, to Apollo, to the Muses, and to Minerva. Marke but how 
far-forth he endevoreth to give a thousand precepts to be kept in his 
places of exercises both of bodie and mind. As for learned Sciences, 
he stands not much upon them, and seemeth in particular to com- 
mend Poesie, but for Musickes sake. All strangenesse and selfe- 
particularitie in our manners and conditions, is to be shunned, as an 
enemie to societie and civill conversation. Who would not be aston- 
ished at Demophons complexion, chiefe steward of Alexanders 
household, who was wont to sweat in the shadow, and quiver for 
cold in the sunne? I have seene some to startle at the smell of an 
apple more than at the shot of a peece; some to be frighted with a 
mouse, some readie to cast their gorge" at the sight of a messe of 
creame, and others to be scared with seeing a f ether bed shaken: as 
Germanicus, who could not abide to see a cock, or heare his crow- 
ing. There may haply be some hidden propertie of nature, which 
in my judgement might easilie be removed, if it were taken in time. 
Institution hath gotten this upon me (I must confesse with much 
adoe) for, except beere, all things else that are mans food agree 
indifferently with my taste. The bodie being yet souple, ought to be 
accommodated to all fashions and customes; and (alwaies provided, 
his appetites and desires be kept under) let a yong man boldly be 
made fit for al Nations and companies; yea, if need be, for al dis- 
orders and surfetings; let him acquaint him selfe with al fashions; 
That he may be able to do al things, and love to do none but those 
that are commendable. Some strict Philosophers commend not, but 
rather blame Calisthenes, for losing the good favour of his Master 
Alexander, only because he would not pledge him as much as he had 
drunke to him. He shall laugh, jest, dally, and debauch himself e 

" Vomit. 


with his Prince. And in his debauching, I would have him out-go 
al his fellowes in vigor and constancie, and that he omit not to doe 
evill, neither for want of strength or knowledge, but for lacke of 
will. Multum interest utrum peccare quis nolit, aut nesciaf}'^ "There 
is a great difference, whether one have no will, or no wit to doe 
amisse." I thought to have honoured a gentleman (as great a 
stranger, and as far from such riotous disorders as any is in France) 
by enquiring of him in verie good companie, how many times in all 
his life he had bin drunke in Germanic during the time of his abode 
there, about the necessarie affaires of our King; who tooke it even 
as I meant it, and answered three times, telling the time and manner 
how. I know some, who for want of that qualitie, have been much 
perplexed when they have had occasion to converse with that nation. 
I have often noted with great admiration, that wonderfull nature 
of Alcibiades, to see how easiUe he could sute himselfe to so divers 
fashions and different humors, without prejudice unto his health; 
sometimes exceeding the sumptuousnesse and pompe of the Per- 
sians, and now and then surpassing the austeritie and frugalitie 
of the Lacedemonians; as reformed in Sparta, as voluptuous in 

Omnis Aristippum decuit color, et status, et res?* 

All colours, states, and things are fit 
For courtly Aristippus wit. 

Such a one would I frame my Disciple, 

-quern duplici panno patientia velat. 

Mirabor, vita via si conversa decebit. 

Whom patience clothes with sutes of double kind, 
I muse, if he another way will find. 

Personamque feret non inconcinnus utramque}* 

He not unfitly may, 

Both parts and persons play. 

Loe here my lessons, wherein he that acteth them, profiteth more 
than he that but knoweth them, whon\ if you see, you heare, and if 
'^HoR. Epist. xvii. 23. *'Hor. Epist. xvii. 25. '*Cic. Tusc. Qu. I. iv. 


you heare him, you see him. God forbid, saith some bodie in Plato, 
that to Philosophize, be to learne many things, and to exercise the 
arts. Hanc amplissimam omnium artium bene vivendi disciplinam, 
vita magis quam litteris persequnti sunty^ "This discipline of living 
well, which is the amplest of all other arts, they followed rather in 
their lives than in their learning or writing." Leo Prince of the 
Phliasians, enquiring of Heraclides Ponticus, what art he professed, 
he answered, "Sir, I prof esse neither art nor science; but I am a 
Philosopher." Some reproved Diogenes, that being an ignorant man, 
he did neverthelesse meddle with Philosophie, to whom he replied, 
"So much the more reason have I and to greater purpose doe I med- 
dle with it." Hegesias praid him upon a time to reade some booke 
unto him: "You are a merry man," said he: "As you chuse naturall 
and not painted, right and not counterfeit figges to eat, why doe you 
not likewise chuse, not the painted and written, but the true and 
naturall exercises?" He shall not so much repeat, as act his lesson. 
In his actions shall he make repetition of the same. We must observe, 
whether there bee wisdome in his enterprises, integritie in his de- 
meanor, modestie in his jestures, justice in his actions, judgement and 
grace in his speech, courage in his sicknesse, moderation in his sports, 
temperance in his pleasures, order in the government of his house, 
and indifference in his taste, whether it be flesh, fish, wine, or water, 
or whatsoever he feedeth upon. Qui disciplinam suam non ostenta- 
tionem scientice sed legem vitcs putet: quique obtemperet ipse sibi, 
et decretis pareat!"^ "Who thinks his learning not an ostentation of 
knowledge, but a law of life, and himselfe obayes himselfe, and doth 
what is decreed." 

The true mirror of our discourses is the course of our lives. 
Zeuxidamus answered one that demanded of him, why the Lace- 
demonians did not draw into a booke, the ordinances of prowesse, 
that so their yong men might read them; "it is," saith he, "because 
they would rather accustome them to deeds and actions, than to 
bookes and writings." Compare at the end of fifteene or sixteene 
yeares one of these collegiall Latinizers, who hath imployed all that 
while onely in learning how to speake, to such a one as I meane. 
The world is nothing but babling and words, and I never saw man 
55/iJ. 29. ^Ib.ln. 


that doth not rather speake more than he ought, than lesse. Not- 
withstanding halfe our age is consumed that way. We are kept 
foure or five yeares learning to understand bare words, and to joine 
them into clauses, then as long in proportioning a great bodie 
extended into foure or five parts; and five more at least ere we can 
succinctly know how to mingle, joine, and interlace them hand- 
somly into a subtil fashion, and into one coherent orbe. Let us leave 
it to those whose profession is to doe nothing else. Being once on my 
journey to Orleans, it was my chance to meet upon that plaine that 
lieth on this side Clery, with two Masters of Arts, traveling toward 
Burdeaux, about fiftie paces one from another; far off behind them, 
I descride a troupe of horsemen, their Master riding formost, who 
was the Earle of Rochefocault; one of my servants enquiring of the 
first of those Masters of Arts, what Gentleman he was that followed 
him; supposing my servant had meant his fellow-scholler, for he 
had not yet seen the Earles traine, answered pleasantly, "He is no 
gentleman. Sir, but a Gramarian, and I am a Logitian." Now, we 
that contrariwise seek not to frame a Gramarian, nor a Logitian, 
but a compleat gentleman, let us give them leave to mispend their 
time; we have else-where, and somewhat else of more import to doe. 
So that our Disciple be well and sufficiently stored with matter; 
words will follow apace, and if they will not follow gently, he shall 
hale them on perforce. I heare some excuse themselves, that they 
cannot expresse their meaning, and make a semblance that their 
heads are so full stuft with many goodly things, but for want of 
eloquence they can neither utter nor make show of them. It is a 
meere fopperie. And will you know what, in my seeming, the cause 
is.'' They are shadows and Chimeraes, proceeding of some forme- 
lesse conceptions, which they cannot distinguish or resolve within, 
and by consequence are not able to produce them in asmuch as they 
understand not themselves : And if you but marke their earnestnesse, 
and how they stammer and labour at the point of their deliverie, 
you would deeme that what they go withall, is but a conceiving, and 
therefore nothing neere downelying; and that they doe but licke that 
imperfect and shapelesse lump of matter. As for me, I am of opinion, 
and Socrates would have it so, that he who had a cleare and lively 
imagination in his mind, may easilie produce and utter the same, 


although it be in Bergamask^' or Welsh, and if he be dumbe, by 
signes and tokens. 

Verbaque prievisam rem non invito sequentur}^ 

When matter we fore-know, 
Words voluntarie flow. 

As one said, as poetically in his prose, Cum res animum occu- 
pavere, verba ambiuntf^ "When matter hath possest their minds, 
they hunt after words": and another: Ipsce res verba rapiunt:^ 
"Things themselves will catch and carry words": He knowes 
neither Ablative, Conjunctive, Substantive, nor Gramar, no more 
doth his Lackey, nor any Oyster-wife about the streets, and yet if 
you have a mind to it he will intertaine you, your fill, and per- 
adventure stumble as little and as seldome against the rules of his 
tongue, as the best Master of arts in France. He hath no skill in 
Rhetoricke, nor can he with a preface fore-stall and captivate the 
Gentle Readers good will : nor careth he greatly to know it. In good 
sooth, all this garish painting is easilie defaced, by the lustre of an 
in-bred and simple truth; for these dainties and quaint devices serve 
but to ammuse the vulgar sort; unapt and incapable to taste the 
most solid and firme meat: as Afer verie plainly declareth in Cor- 
nelius Tacitus. The Ambassadours of Samos being come to Cle- 
omenes King of Sparta, prepared with a long prolix Oration, to stir 
him up to war against the tyrant Policrates, after he had listned 
a good while unto them, his answer was: "Touching your Exordium 
or beginning I have forgotten it; the middle I remember not; and 
for your conclusion I will do nothing in it." A fit, and (to my think- 
ing) a verie good answer; and the Orators were put to such a shift, 
as they knew not what to replie. And what said another? the 
Athenians from out two of their cunning Architects, were to chuse 
one to erect a notable great frame; the one of them more affected and 
selfe presuming, presented himselfe before them, with a smooth fore- 
premeditated discourse, about the subject of that piece of worke, 
and thereby drew the judgements of the common people unto his 
liking; but the other in few words spake thus: "Lords of Athens, 

*' A rustic dialect of the north of Italy. ^^ Hor. Art. Poet. 311. 

^' Sen. Controv. 1. vii. prese. *■> Cic. De Fin. 1. iii. c. 5. 


what this man hath said I will performe." In the greatest earnest- 
nesse of Ciceroes eloquence many were drawn into a kind of admira- 
tion; But Cato jesting at it, said, "Have we not a pleasant Consull?" 
A quicke cunning Argument, and a wittie saying, whether it go 
before or come after, it is never out of season. If it have no coherence 
with that which goeth before, nor with what commeth after; it is 
good and commendable in it selfe. I am none of those that think 
a good Ryme, to make a good Poeme; let him hardly (if so he please) 
make a short syllable long, it is no great matter; if the invention be 
rare and good, and his wit and judgement have cunningly played 
their part. I will say to such a one; he is a good Poet, but an ill 

Emunctx naris, durus cotnponere versus?^ 

A man whose sense could finely pierce. 
But harsh and hard to make a verse. 

Let a man (saith Horace) make his worke loose all seames, 
measures, and joynts. 

Tempora certa modbsque, et quod prius ordine verbum est^^ 
Posterius facias, preeponens ultima primis: 
Invenias etiam disjecti membra PoetceP 

Set times and moods, make you the first word last, 
The last word first, as if they were new cast: 
Yet find th' unjoynted Poets joints stand fast. 

He shall for all that, nothing gain-say himselfe, every piece will 
make a good shew. To this purpose answered Menander those that 
chid him, the day being at hand, in which he had promised a Com- 
edy, and had not begun the same, "Tut-tut," said he, "it is alreadie 
finished, there wanteth nothing but to adde the verse unto it;" for, 
having ranged and cast the plot in his mind, he made small accompt 
of feet, of measures, or cadences of verses, which indeed are but of 
small import in regard of the rest. Since great Ronsarde and learned 
Bellay have raised our French Poesie unto that height of honour 
where it now is: I see not one of these petty ballad-makers, or prentise 
dogrell rymers, that doth not bombast his labours with high-swelling 

"HOR. 1. i. Sat. iv. «2M. 58. ^Ih. 62. 


and heaven-disimbowelling words, and that doth not marshall his 
cadences verie neere as they doe. Plus sonat quam valetf^ "The 
sound is more than the weight or worth." And for the vulgar sort 
there were never so many Poets, and so few good: but as it hath been 
easie for them to represent their rymes, so come they far short in 
imitating the rich descriptions of the one, and rare inventions of the 
other. But what shall he doe, if he be urged with sophisticall sub- 
tilties about a Sillogisme ? A gammon of Bacon makes a man drink, 
drinking quencheth a mans thirst; Ergo, a gammon of bacon 
quencheth a mans thirst. Let him mock at it, it is more wittie to be 
mockt at than to be answered. Let him borrow this pleasant counter- 
craft of Aristippus; "Why shall I unbind that, which being bound 
doth so much trouble me?" Some one proposed certaine Logicall 
quiddities against Cleanthes, to whom Chrisippus said; use such 
jugling tricks to play with children, and divert not the serious 
thoughts of an aged man to such idle matters. If such foolish wiles, 
Contorta et aculeata sophismata^^ "Intricate and stinged sophismes," 
must perswade a lie, it is dangerous: but if they proove void of any 
effect, and move him but to laughter, I see not why he shall beware 
of them. Some there are so foolish that will go a quarter of a mile 
out of the way to hunt after a quaint new word, if they once get in 
chace; Aut qui non verba rebus aptant, sed res extrinsecus arcessunt, 
quibus verba conveniant: "Or such as fit not words to matter, but 
fetch matter from abroad, whereto words be fitted." And another. 
Qui alicujus verbi decore placentis, vocentur ad id quod non pro- 
posuerant scribere'^^ "Who are allured by the grace of some pleas- 
ing word, to write what they intended not to write." I doe more 
willingly winde up a wittie notable sentence, that so I may sew it 
upon me, than unwinde my thread to go fetch it. Contrariwise, it 
is for words to serve and wait upon the matter, and not for matter 
to attend upon words, and if the French tongue cannot reach unto 
it, let the Gaskonie, or any other. I would have the matters to sur- 
mount, and so fill the imagination of him that harkeneth, that he 
have no remembrance at all of the words. It is a naturall, simple, 
and unaffected speech that I love, so written as it is spoken, and such 
upon the paper, as it is in the mouth, a pithie, sinnowie, full, strong, 

" Sen. 'Epist. xl. *= cic. Acad. Qu. 1. iv. ^^ Sen. Epist. liii. 


compendious and materiall speech, not so delicate and affected as 
vehement and piercing. 

Heec demum sapiet dictio qua jerietP 

In fine, that word is wisely fit, 

Which strikes the fence, the marke doth hit. 

Rather difScuIt than tedious, void of affection, free, loose and 
bold, that every member of it seeme to make a bodie; not Pedanticall, 
nor Frier-like, nor Lawyer-like, but rather downe right, Souldier- 
like. As Suetonius calleth that of Julius Caesar, which I see no reason 
wherefore he calleth it. I have sometimes pleased myselfe in imitat- 
ing that licenciousnesse or wanton humour of our youths, in wear- 
ing of their garments; as carelessly to let their cloaks hang downe 
over one shoulder; to weare their cloakes scarfe or bawdrikewise, 
and their stockings loose hanging about their legs. It represents a 
kind of disdainful iiercenesse of these forraine embellishings, and 
neglect carelesnesse of art: But I commend it more being imployed in 
the course and forme of speech. All manner of affectation, namely" 
in the livelinesse and libertie of France, is unseemely in a Courtier. 
And in a Monarchic every Gentleman ought to addresse himselfe 
unto'° a Courtiers carriage. Therefore do we well somewhat to in- 
cUne to a native and carelesse behaviour. I like not a contexture, 
where the seames and pieces may be seen: As in a well compact 
bodie, what need a man distinguish and number all the bones and 
veines severally ? Quce veritati operatn dat oratio, incomposita sit et 
simplex?^ Quis accurate loquitur nisi qui vult putide loqui?^^ "The 
speach that intendeth truth must be plaine and unpollisht: Who 
speaketh elaborately, but he that meanes to speake unfavourably?" 
That eloquence offereth injuria unto things, which altogether 
drawes us to observe it. As in apparell, it is a signe of pusillanimitie 
for one to marke himselfe, in some particular and unusuall fashion: 
so likewise in common speech, for one to hunt after new phrases, 
and unaccustomed quaint words, proceedeth of a scholasticall and 
childish ambition. Let me use none other than are spoken in the 
hals of Paris. Aristophanes the Gramarian was somewhat out of the 

" Epitaph on Lucan, 6 ^ Especially. '* Aim at. '"> Sen. Epist. xl. 
'1/6. Epist. Ixxv. 


way, when he reproved Epicurus, for the simplicitie of his words, 
and the end of his art oratorie, which was onely perspicuitie in 
speech. The imitation of speech, by reason of the faciUtie of it, fol- 
loweth presently a whole nation. The imitation of judging and 
inventing comes more slow. The greater number of Readers, be- 
cause they have found one self-same kind of gowne, suppose most 
falsely to holde one like bodie. Outward garments and cloakes may 
be borrowed, but never the sinews and strength of the bodie. Most 
of those that converse with me, speake like unto these Essayes; but 
I know not whether they think alike. The Athenians (as Plato 
averreth) have for their part great care to be fluent and eloquent in 
their speech; The Lacedemonians endevour to be short and com- 
pendious; and those of Greet labour more to bee plentifull in con- 
ceits than in language. And these are the best. Zeno was wont to 
say, "That he had two sorts of disciples; the one he called 0iXoX6tous, 
curious to learne things, and those were his darlings, the other he 
termed \oyo(j>ikovs, who respected nothing more than the language." 
Yet can no man say, but that to speake well, is most gracious and 
commendable, but not so excellent as sortie make it: and I am 
grieved to see how we imploy most part of our time about that onely. 
I would first know mine owne tongue perfectly, then my neighbours 
with whom I have most commerce. I must needs acknowledge, that 
the Greeke and Latine tongues are great ornaments in a gentleman, 
but they are purchased at over-high a rate. Use it who list, I will 
tell you how they may be gotten better, cheaper, and much sooner 
than is ordinarily used, which was tried in myselfe. My late father, 
having, by all the meanes and industrie that is possible for a man, 
sought amongst the wisest, and men of best understanding, to find a 
most exquisite and readie way of teaching, being advised of the 
inconveniences then in use; was given to understand that the lin- 
gring while, and best part of our youth, that we imploy in learning 
the tongues, which cost them nothing, is the onely cause we can 
never attaine to that absolute perfection of skill and knowledge of 
the Greekes and Romanes. I doe not beleeve that to be the onely 
cause. But so it is, the expedient my father found out was this; 
that being yet at nurse, and before the first loosing of my tongue, I 
was delivered to a Germane (who died since, a most excellent Physi- 


tian in France) he being then altogether ignorant of the French 
tongue, but exquisitely readie and skilful! in the Latine. This man, 
whom my father had sent for of purpose, and to whom he gave 
verie great entertainment, had me continually in his armes, and was 
mine onely overseer. There were also joyned unto him two of his 
countrimen, but not so learned; whose charge was to attend, and 
now and then to play with me; and all these together did never 
entertaine me with other than the Latine tongue. As for others of 
his household, it was an inviolable rule, that neither himselfe, nor 
my mother, nor man, nor maid-servant, were suffered to speake one 
word in my companie, except such Latine words as every one had 
learned to chat and prattle with me. It were strange to tell how 
every one in the house profited therein. My Father and my Mother 
learned so much Latine, that for a need they could understand it, 
when they heard it spoken, even so did all the household servants, 
namely such as were neerest and most about me. To be short, we 
were all so Latinized, that the townes round about us had their share 
of it; insomuch as even at this day, many Latine names both of 
workmen and of their tooles are yet in use amongst them. And as 
for myselfe, I was about six years old, and could understand no more 
French or Perigordine than Arabike; and that without art, without 
bookes, rules, or grammer, without whipping or whining, I had 
gotten as pure a Latin tongue as my Master could speake; the 
rather because I could neither mingle or confound the same with 
other tongues. If for an Essay they would give me a Theme, whereas 
the fashion in Colleges is, to give it in French, I had it in bad Latine, 
to reduce the same into good. And Nicholas Grouchy, who hath 
written De comitiis Romanorum, William Guerente, who hath com- 
mented Aristotle: George Buchanan, that famous Scottish Poet, 
and Marke Antonie Muret, whom (while he lived) both France 
and Italie to this day, acknowledge to have been the best orator: all 
which have beene my familiar tutors, have often told me, that in 
mine infancie I had the Latine tongue so readie and so perfect, that 
themselves feared to take me in hand. And Buchanan, who after- 
ward I saw attending on the Marshall of Brissacke, told me, he was 
about to write a treatise of the institution of children, and that he 
tooke the model and patterne from mine: for at that time he had 


the charge and bringing up of the young Earle of Brissack, whom 
since we have seene prove so worthy and so vaHant a Captaine. As 
for the Greeke, wherein I have but small understanding, my father 
purposed to make me learne it by art; But by new and uncustomed 
meanes, that is, by way of recreation and exercise. We did tosse our 
declinations and conjugations to and fro, as they doe, who by way 
of a certaine game at tables learne both Arithmetike and Geometric. 
For, amongst other things he had especially beene perswaded to 
make me taste and apprehend the fruits of dutie and science by an 
unforced kinde of will, and of mine owne choice; and without any 
compulsion or rigor to bring me up in all mildnesse and libertie: 
yea with such kinde of superstition, that, whereas some are of opin- 
ion that suddenly to awaken young children, and as it were by 
violence to startle and fright them out of their dead sleepe in a 
morning (wherein they are more heavie and deeper plunged than 
we) doth greatly trouble and distemper their braines, he would 
every morning cause me to be awakened by the sound of some instru- 
ment; and I was never without a servant who to that purpose 
attended upon me. This example may serve to judge of the rest; as 
also to commend the judgement and tender affection 'of so carefull 
and loving a father : who is not to be blamed, though hee reaped not 
the fruits answerable to his exquisite toyle and painefuU manuring." 
Two things hindered the same; first the barrennesse and unfit soyle: 
for howbeit I were of a sound and strong constitution, and 'of a 
tractable and yeelding condition, yet was I so heavie, so sluggish, 
and so dull, that I could not be rouzed ' (yea were it to goe to play) 
from out mine idle drowzinesse. What I saw, I saw it perfectly; and 
under this heavy, and as it were Lethe-complexion did I breed bardie 
imaginations, and opinions farre above my yeares. My spirit was 
very slow, and would goe no further than it was led by others; my 
apprehension blockish, my invention poore; and besides, I had a 
marvelous defect in my weake memorie: it is therefore no wonder, 
if my father could never bring me to any perfection. Secondly, as 
those that in some dangerous sicknesse, moved with a kind of hope- 
full and greedie desire of perfect health againe, give eare to every 
Leach or Emperike," and follow all counsels, the good man being 
'^ Cultivation. '' Doctor or quack. 


exceedingly fearefuU to commit any oversight, in a matter he tooke 
so to heart, suffered himselfe at last to be led away by the common 
opinion, which like unto the Cranes, followeth ever those that go 
before, and yeelded to custome: having those no longer about him, 
that had given him his first directions, and which they had brought 
out of Italie. Being but six yeares old I was sent to the College of 
Guienne, then most flourishing and reputed the best in France, 
wrhere it is impossible to adde any thing to the great care he had, 
both to chuse the best and most sufficient masters that could be 
found, to reade unto me, as also for all other circumstances partain- 
ingto my education; wherein contrary to usuall customes of Colleges, 
he observed many particular rules. But so it is, it was ever a College. 
My Latin tongue was forthwith corrupted, whereof by reason of 
discontinuance, I afterward lost all manner of use: which new kind 
of institution stood me in no other stead, but that at my first admit- 
tance it made me to over-skip some of the lower formes, and to be 
placed in the highest. For at thirteene yeares of age, that I left the 
College, I had read over the whole course of Philosophie (as they 
call it) but with so small profit, that I can now make no account 
of it. The first taste or feeling I had of bookes, was of the pleasure 
I tooke in reading the fables of Ovids Metamorphosies; for, being 
but seven or eight yeares old, I would steale and sequester my selfe 
from all other delights, only to reade them : Forsomuch as the tongue 
wherein they were written was to me naturall; and it was the easiest 
booke I knew, and by reason of the matter therein contained most 
agreeing with my young age. For of King Arthur, of Lancelot du 
Lake, of Amadis, of Huon of Burdeaux, and such idle time consum- 
ing and wit-besotting trash of bookes wherein youth doth commonly 
ammuse it selfe, I was not so much as acquainted with their names, 
and to this day know not their bodies, nor what they container So 
exact was my discipline. Whereby I became more carelesse to studie 
my other prescript lessons. And well did it fall out for my purpose, 
that I had to deale with a very discreet Master, who out of his judge- 
ment could with such dexterite winke at and second my untoward- 
linesse, and such other faults that were in me. For by that meanes 
I read over Virgils ^neados, Terence, Plautus, and other Italian 
Comedies, allured thereunto by the pleasantnesse of their several! 


subjects: Had he beene so foolishly-severe, or so severely frow^ard as 
to crosse this course of mine, I thinke verily I had never brought any 
thing from the College, but the hate and contempt of Bookes, as doth 
the greatest part of our Nobilitie. Such was his discretion, and so 
warily did he behave himself e, that he saw and would not see: hee 
would foster and increase my longing: suffering me but by stealth 
and by snatches to glut my selfe with those Bookes, holding ever a 
gentle hand over me, concerning other regular studies. For, the 
chiefest thing my father required at their hands (unto whose charge 
he had committed me) was a kinde of well conditioned mildnesse 
and facilitie of complexion/^ And, to say truth, mine had no other 
fault, but a certaine dull languishing and heavie slothfulnesse. The 
danger was not, I should doe ill, but that I should doe nothing. 

No man did ever suspect I would prove a bad, but an unprofitable 
man: foreseeing in me rather a kind of idlenesse than a voluntary 
craftinesse. I am not so selfe-conceited but I perceive what hath 
followed. The complaints that are daily buzzed in mine eares are 
these; that I am idle, cold, and negligent in offices of friendship, and 
dutie to my parents and kinsfolkes; and touching publike oiBces, 
that I am over singular and disdainfuU. And those that are most 
injurious cannot aske, wherefore I have taken, and why I have not 
paied? but may rather demand, why I doe not quit, and wherefore 
I doe not give? I would take it as a favour, they should wish such 
effects of supererogation in me. But they are unjust and over par- 
tiall, that will goe about to exact that from me which I owe not, 
with more vigour than they will exact from themselves that which 
they owe; wherein if they condemne me, they utterly cancell both the 
gratifying of the action, and the gratitude, which thereby would be 
due to me. Whereas the active well doing should be of more con- 
sequence, proceeding from my hand, in regard I have no passive at 
all. Wherefore I may so much the more freely dispose of my fortune, 
by how much more it is mine, and of my selfe that am most mine 
owne. Notwithstanding, if I were a great blazoner of mine owne 
actions, I might perad venture barre such reproches, and justly upraid 
some, that they are not so much offended, because I doe not enough, 
as for that I may, and it lies in my power to doe much more than 
^'Easiness of disposition. 


I doe. Yet my minde ceased not at the same time to have pecuUar 
unto it selfe well setled motions, true and open judgements concern- 
ing the objects which it knew; which alone, and without any helpe 
or communication it would digest. And amongst other things, I 
verily beleeve it would have proved altogether incapable and unfit 
to yeeld unto force, or stoope unto violence. Shall I account or relate 
this qualitie of my infancie, which was, a kinde of boldnesse in my 
lookes, and gentle softnesse in my voice, and affabilitie in my ges- 
tures, and a dexterite in conforming my selfe to the parts I under- 
tooke? for before the age of the 

Alter ab undecimo turn me vix ceperat annusP 

Yeares had I (to make even) 
Scarce two above eleven. 

I have under-gone and represented the chiefest part in the Latin 
Tragedies of Buchanan, Guerente, and of Muret; which in great 
state were acted and plaid in our College of Guienne: wherein 
Andreas Goveanus our Rector principall; who as in all other parts 
belonging to his charge, was without comparison the chiefest Rector 
of France, and my selfe (without ostentation be it spoken) was 
reputed, if not a chiefe-master, yet a principall Actor in them. It is 
an exercise I rather commend than disalow in young Gentlemen: 
and have seene some of our Princes (in imitation of some of former 
ages) both commendably and honestly, in their proper persons act 
and play some parts in Tragedies. It hath heretofore been esteemed 
a lawf ull exercise, and a tolerable profession in men of honor, namely 
in Greece. Aristoni tragico actori rem aperit: huic et genus et fortuna 
honesta erant: nee ars, quia nihil tale apud Grcecos pudori est, ea 
dejormabat:^^ "He imparts the matter to Ariston a Player of 
tragedies, whose progenie and fortune were both honest; nor did his 
profession disgrace them, because no such matter is a disparagement 
amongst the Grecians." 

And I have ever accused them of impertinencie, that condemne 

and disalow such kindes of recreations, and blame those of injustice, 

that refuse good and honest Comedians, or (as we call them) Players, 

to enter our good townes, and grudge the common people such pub- 

^' ViRG. Buc. Eel. viii. 39, '° Lrv. Deo. iii. 1. iv. 


like sports. Politike and wel ordered commonwealths endevour 
rather carefully to unite and assemble their Citizens together; as in 
serious offices of devotion, so in honest exercises of recreation. Com- 
mon societie and loving friendship is thereby cherished and in- 
creased. And besides, they cannot have more formal and regular 
pastimes allowed them, than such as are acted and represented in 
open view of all, and in the presence of the magistrates themselves: 
And if I might beare sway, I would thinke it reasonable, that Princes 
should sometimes, at their proper charges, gratifie the common peo- 
ple with them, as an argument of a fatherly affection, and loving 
goodnesse towards them : and that in populous and frequented cities, 
there should be Theatres and places appointed for such spectacles; 
as a diverting of worse inconveniences, and secret actions. But to 
come to my intended purpose there is no better way to allure the 
affection, and to entice the appetite : otherwise a man shall breed but 
asses laden with Bookes. With jerks of rods they have their satchels 
full of learning given them to keepe. Which to doe well, one must 
not only harbor in himselfe, but wed and marry the same with his 


CONSIDERING the proceeding of a Painters worke I have, 
a desire hath possessed mee to imitate him: He maketh 
choice of the most convenient place and middle of everie 
wall, there to place a picture, laboured with all his skill and suffi- 
ciencie; and all void places about it he filleth up with antike Boscage' 
or Crotesko^ works; which are fantasticall pictures, having no grace, 
but in the variety and strangenesse of them. And what are these 
my compositions in tryth, other than antike workes, and monstrous 
bodies, patched and hudled up together of divers members, without 
any certaine or well ordered figure, having neither order, depen- 
dencie, or proportion, but casuall and framed by chance? 

Definit in piscem mulier formosa superni? 

A woman faire for parts superior. 
Ends in a fish for parts inferior. 

Touching this second point I goe as farre as my Painter, but for 
the other and better part I am farre behinde: for my sufficiency 
reacheth not so farre as that I dare undertake a rich, a polished, and, 
according to true skill, an art-like table. I have advised myselfe to 
borrow one of Steven de la Boetie, who with this kinde of worke 
shall honour all the world. It is a discourse he entitled Voluntary 
Servitude, but those who have not knowne him, have since very 
properly rebaptized the same, The Against-one. In his first youth 
he writ, by way of Essaie, in honour of libertie against Tyrants. It 
hath long since beene dispersed amongst men of understanding, not 
without great and well deserved commendations : for it is full of wit, 
and containeth as much learning as may be: yet doth it differ much 
from the best he can do. And if in the age I knew him in, he would 
have undergone my dessigne to set his fantasies downe in writing, 
we should doubtlesse see many rare things, and which would very 

1 Foliated ornament. * Grotesque. ^Hor. Art. Poet. 4. 


neerely approch the honour of antiquity : for especially touching that 
part of natures gifts, I know none may be compared to him. But it 
was not long of him, that ever this Treatise came to mans view, and 
I beleeve he never saw it since it first escaped his hands: with cer- 
taine other notes concerning the edict of Januarie, famous by reason 
of our intestine warre, which haply may in other places finde their 
deserved praise. It is all I could ever recover of his reliques (whom 
when death seized, he by his last will and testament, left with so 
kinde remembrance, heire and executor of his librarie and writings) 
besides the little booke, I since caused to be published : To which his 
pamphlet I am particularly most bounden, for so much as it was the 
instrumentall meane of our first acquaintance. For it was shewed 
me long time before I saw him; and gave me the first knowledge of 
his name, addressing, and thus nourishing that unspotted friendship 
which we (so long as it pleased God) have so sincerely, so entire 
and inviolably maintained betweene us, that truly a man shall not 
commonly heare of the like; and amongst our moderne men no signe 
of any such is seene. So many parts are required to the erecting of 
such a one, that it may be counted a wonder if fortune once in three 
ages contract the like. There is nothing to which Nature hath more 
addressed us than to societie. And Aristotle saith that perfect Law- 
givers have had more regardfull care of friendship than of justice. 
And the utmost drift of its perfection is this. For generally, all 
those amities which are forged and nourished by voluptuousnesse or 
profit, publike or private need, are thereby so much the lesse faire 
and generous, and so much the lesse true amities, in that they inter- 
meddle other causes, scope, and fruit with friendship, than it selfe 
alone: Nor doe those foure ancient kindes of friendships, Naturall, 
sociall, hospitable, and venerian,^ either particularly or conjointly be- 
seeme the same. That from children to parents may rather be termed 
respect : Friendship is nourished by communication, which by reason 
of the over-great disparitie cannot bee found in them, and would 
happly offend the duties of nature: for neither all the secret thoughts 
of parents can be communicated unto children, lest it might en- 
gender an unbeseeming familiaritie betweene them, nor the admoni- 
tions and corrections (which are the chiefest offices of friendship) 

* of love. 


could be exercised from children to parents. There have nations 
beene found, where, by custome, children killed their parents, and 
others where parents slew their children, thereby to avoid the hin- 
drance of enterbearing^ one another in after-times: for naturally one 
dependeth from the ruine of another. There have Philosophers 
beene found disdaining this naturall conjunction: witnesse Aristip- 
pus, who being urged with the affection he ought^ his children, as 
proceeding from his loyns, began to spit, saying, That also that excre- 
ment proceeded from him, and that also we engendred wormes and 
lice. And that other man, whom Plutarke would have perswaded 
to agree with his brother, answered, "I care not a straw the more for 
him, though he came out of the same wombe I did." Verily the 
name of Brother is a glorious name, and full of loving kindnesse, 
and therefore did he and I terme one another sworne brother: but 
this commixture, dividence, and sharing of goods, this joyning 
wealth to wealth, and that the riches of one shall be the povertie of 
another, doth exceedingly distemper and distract all brotherly alli- 
ance, and lovely conjunction: If brothers should conduct the prog- 
resse of their advancement and thrift in one same path and course, 
they must necessarily oftentimes hinder and crosse one another. 
Moreover, the correspondencie and relation that begetteth these true 
and mutually perfect amities, why shall it be found in these? The 
father and the sonne may very well be of a farre differing com- 
plexion, and so many brothers: He is my sonne, he is my kinsman; 
but he may be a foole, a bad, or a peevish-minded man. And then 
according as they are friendships which the law and dutie of nature 
doth command us, so much the lesse of our owne voluntarie choice 
and libertie is there required unto it: And our genuine libertie hath 
no production more properly her owne, than that of affection and 
amitie. Sure I am, that concerning the same I have assaied all that 
might be, having had the best and most indulgent father that ever 
was, even to his extremest age, and who from father to sonne was 
descended of a famous house, and touching this rare-seene vertue 
of brotherly concord very exemplare : 

et Ipse 

Notus in fratres animi paterni? 

5 Mutually supporting. ^ Owed. ■' Hor. 1. ii. Qd. ii. 6. 


To his brothers knowne so kinde, 
As to beare a fathers minde. 

To compare the affection toward women unto it, although it 
proceed from our owne free choice, a man cannot, nor may it be 
placed in this ranke : Her fire, I conf esse it to be more active, more 

( neque enim est dea nescia nostri 

Quce dulcem curis miscet amaritiem.y 

(Nor is that Goddesse ignorant of me, 
Whose bitter-sweets with my cares mixed be.) 

fervent, and more sharpe. But it is a rash and wavering fire, waving 
and divers: the fire of an ague subject to fits and stints, and that hath 
but slender hold-fast of us. In true friendship, it is a generall and 
universall heat, and equally tempered, a constant and setled heat, 
all pleasure and smoothnes, that hath no pricking or stinging in it, 
which the more it is in lustfull love, the more is it but a raging and 
mad desire in following that which flies us, 

Come segue la lepre il cacciatore 

Al jreddo, al caldo, alia montagna, al lito, 

Ne piu I'estima pot che presa vede, 

E sol dietro a chi fugge affretta il piede? 

Ev'n as the huntsman doth the hare pursue, 
In cold, in heat, on mountaines, on the shore, 
But cares no more, when he her ta'en espies 
Speeding his pace only at that which flies. 

As soone as it creepeth into the termes of friendship, that is to say, 
in the agreement of wits, it languisheth and vanisheth away : enjoy- 
ing doth lose it, as having a corporall end, and subject to satietie. 
On the other side, friendship is enjoyed according as it is desired, 
it is neither bred, nor nourished, nor increaseth but in jovissance, as 
being spirituall, and the minde being refined by use custome. Under 
this chiefe amitie, these fading affections have sometimes found 
place in me, lest I should speake of him, who in his verses speakes 
but too much of it. So are these two passions entered into me in 
knowledge one of another, but in comparison never: the first flying 
a high, and keeping a proud pitch, disdainfully beholding the other 
' Catul. Epig. Ixvi. ' Ariost. can. x. St. 7. 


to passe her points farre under it. Concerning marriage, besides that 
it is a covenant which hath nothing free but the entrance, the con- 
tinuance being forced and constrained, depending else-where than 
from our will, and a match ordinarily concluded to other ends: A 
thousand strange knots are therein commonly to be unknit, able to 
break the web, and trouble the whole course of a lively affection; 
whereas in friendship there is no commerce or busines depending 
on the same, but it selfe. Seeing (to speake truly) that the ordinary 
sufficiency of women cannot answer this conference and communica- 
tion, the nurse of this sacred bond: nor seeme their mindes strong 
enough to endure the pulling of a knot so hard, so fast, and durable. 
And truly, if without that, such a genuine and voluntarie acquaint- 
ance might be contracted, where not only mindes had this entire 
jovissance,'" but also bodies, a share of the alliance, and where a man 
might wholly be engaged: It is certaine, that friendship would 
thereby be more compleat and full : But this sex could never yet by 
any example attaine unto it, and is by ancient schooles rejected 
thence. And this other Greeke licence is justly abhorred by our cus- 
tomes, which notwithstanding, because according to use it had so 
necessarie a disparitie of ages, and difference of offices betweene 
lovers, did no more sufficiently answer the perfect union and agree- 
ment, which here we require: Quis est enim iste amor amicitice? 
cur neque deformem adolescentem quisquam amat, neque jormosum 
senem?^^ "For, what love is this of friendship? why doth no man 
love either a deformed young man, or a beautifull old man?" For 
even the picture the Academic makes of it, will not (as I suppose) 
disavowe mee, to say thus in her behalf e: That the first furie, en- 
spired by the son of Venus in the lovers hart, upon the object of 
tender youths-flower, to which they allow all insolent and passionate 
violences, an immoderate heat may produce, was simply grounded 
upon an externall beauty; a false image of corporall generation: for 
in the spirit it had no power, the sight whereof was yet concealed, 
which was but in his infancie, and before the age of budding. For, 
if this furie did seize upon a base minded courage, the meanes of 
its pursuit were riches, gifts, favour to the advancement of dignities, 
and such like vile merchandice, which they reprove. If it fell into a 
'" Enjoyment. " Cic. Tusc. Qu. iv. c. 33. 


more generous minde, the interpositions'^ were likewise generous: 
Philosophical! instructions, documents" to reverence religion, to obey 
the lawes, to die for the good o£ his countrie: examples o£ valor, 
wisdome and justice; the lover endevoring and studying to make 
himselfe acceptable by the good grace and beauty of his minde (that 
of his body being long since decayed) hoping by this mentall society 
to establish a more firme and permanent bargaine. When this pur- 
suit attained the eflect in due season (for by not requiring in a lover, 
he should bring leasure and discretion in his enterprise, they require 
it exactly in the beloved; forasmuch as he was to judge of an in- 
ternall beauty, of difficile knowledge, and abstruse discovery) then 
by the interposition of a spiritual beauty was the desire of a spiritual 
conception engendred in the beloved. The latter was here chiefest; 
the corporall, accidentall and second, altogether contrarie to the 
lover. And therefore doe they preferre the beloved, and verifie that 
the gods likewise preferre the same: and greatly blame the Poet 
iEschylus, who in the love betweene Achilles and Patroclus ascribeth 
the lovers part unto Achilles, who was in the first and beardlesse 
youth of his adolescency, and the fairest of the Grecians. After this 
general communitie, the mistris and worthiest part of it, predominant 
and exercising her offices (they say the most availefuU commodity 
did thereby redound both to the private and publike). That it was 
the force of countries received the use of it, and the principall de- 
fence of equitie and libertie: witnesse the comfortable loves of 
Hermodius and Aristogiton. Therefore name they it sacred and 
divine, and it concerns not them whether the violence of tyrants, or 
the demisnesse of the people be against them : To conclude, all that 
can be alleged in favour of the Academy, is to say, that it was a love 
ending in friendship, a thing which hath no bad reference unto the 
Stoical definition of love: Amorem conatum esse amicitice jaciendce 
ex pulchritudinis specie:^* "That love is an endevour of making 
friendship, by the shew of beautie." I returne to my description in a 
more equitable and equall manner. Omnino amicitice, corroboratis 
jam confirmatisque ingeniis et cetatibus, judicandce sunt:^^ "Clearely 
friendships are to be judged by wits, and ages already strengthened 

•'Means of approach. "Teachings. '*Cic. Tusc. Qu. iv. c. 34. 
"Cic. Amic. 


and confirmed." As for the rest, those we ordinarily call friendes 
and amities, are but acquaintances and familiarities, tied together 
by some occasion or commodities, by meanes whereof our mindes 
are entertained. In the amitie I speake of, they entermixe and con- 
found themselves one in the other, with so universall a commixture, 
that they weare out and can no more finde the seame that hath con- 
joined them together. If a man urge me to tell wherefore I loved 
him, I feele it cannot be expressed, but by answering; Because it 
was he, because it was my selfe. There is beyond all my discourse, 
and besides what I can particularly report of it, I know not what 
inexplicable and fatall power, a meane and Mediatrix of this indis- 
soluble union. We sought one another before we had seene one 
another, and by the reports we heard one of another; which wrought 
a greater violence in us, than the reason of reports may well beare; 
I thinke by some secret ordinance of the heavens, we embraced one 
another by our names. And at our first meeting, which was by 
chance at a great feast, and solemne meeting of a whole towneship, 
we found our selves so surprized, so knowne, so acquainted, and 
so combinedly bound together, that from thence forward, nothing 
was so neer unto us as one unto anothers. He writ an excellent 
Latyne Satyre since published; by which he excuseth and expound- 
eth the precipitation of our acquaintance, so suddenly come to her 
perfection; Sithence it must continue so short a time, and begun so 
late (for we were both growne men, and he some yeares older than 
my selfe) there was no time to be lost. And it was not to bee modelled 
or directed by the paterne of regular and remisse'^ friendship, 
wherein so many precautions of a long and preallable conversation" 
are required. This hath no other Idea than of it selfe, and can have 
no reference but to itselfe. It is not one especiall consideration, nor 
two, nor three, nor foure, nor a thousand: It is I wot not what kinde 
of quintessence, of all this commixture, which having seized all my 
will, induced the same to plunge and lose it selfe in his, which like- 
wise having seized all his will, brought it to lose and plunge it selfe 
in mine, with a mutuall greedinesse, and with a semblable concur- 
rance. I may truly say, lose, reserving nothing unto us, that might 
properly be called our owne, nor that was either his or mine. When 
'^ Slight, languid. " Preceding intercourse. 


Lelius in the presence o£ the Romane Consuls, who after the con- 
demnation of Tiberius Gracchus, pursued all those that had beene 
of his acquaintance, came to enquire of Caius Blosius (who was one 
of his chiefest friends) what he would have done for him, and that 
he answered, "All things." "What, all things?" replied he, "And 
what if he had willed thee to burne our Temples?" Blosius answered, 
"He would never have commanded such a thing." "But what if he 
had done it?" replied Lelius. The other answered, "I would have 
obeyed him." If hee were so perfect a friend to Gracchus as Histories 
report, he needed not offend the Consuls with this last and bold con- 
fession, and should not have departed from the assurance hee had of 
Gracchus his minde. But yet those who accuse this answer as sedi- 
tious, understand not well this mysterie: and doe not presuppose in 
what termes he stood, and that he held Gracchus his will in his 
sleeve, both by power and knowledge. They were rather friends 
than Citizens, rather friends than enemies of their countrey, or 
friends of ambition and trouble. Having absolutely committed them- 
selves one to another, they perfectly held the reines of one anothers 
inclination: and let this yoke be guided by vertue and conduct of 
reason (because without them it is altogether impossible to combine 
and proportion the same). The answer of Blosius was such as it 
should be. If their affections miscarried, according to my meaning, 
they were neither friends one to other, nor friends to themselves. 
As for the rest, this answer sounds no more than mine would doe, 
to him that would in such sort enquire of me; if your will should 
command you to kill your daughter, would you doe it? and that I 
should consent unto it: for, that beareth no witnesse of consent to 
doe it: because I am not in doubt of my will, and as little of such 
a friends will. It is not in the power of the worlds discourse to re- 
move me from the certaintie I have of his intentions and judgments 
of mine: no one of its actions might be presented unto me, under 
what shape soever, but I would presently finde the spring and motion 
of it. Our mindes have jumped'^ so unitedly together, they have 
with so fervent an affection considered of each other, and with like 
affection so discovered and sounded, even to the very bottome of 
each others heart and entrails, that I did not only know his, as well 

^ Agreed. 


as mine owne, but I would (verily) rather have trusted him concern- 
ing any matter of mine, than my selfe. Let no man compare any of 
the other common friendships to this. I have as much knowledge 
of them as another, yea of the perfectest of their kinde: yet wil I 
not perswade any man to confound their rules, for so a man might 
be deceived. In these other strict friendships a man must march 
with the bridle of wisdome and precaution in his hand : the bond is 
not so strictly tied but a man may in some sort distrust the same. 
Love him (said Chilon) as if you should one day hate him againe. 
Hate him as if you should love him againe. This precept, so 
abhominable in this soveraigne and mistris Amitie, is necessarie and 
wholesome in the use of vulgar and customarie friendships: toward 
which a man must employ the saying Aristotle was wont so often 
repeat, "Oh you my friends, there is no perfect friend." 

In this noble commerce, offices and benefits (nurses of other 
amities) deserve not so much as to bee accounted of: this confusion 
so full of our wills is cause of it: for even as the friendship I beare 
unto my selfe, admits no accrease," by any succour I give my selfe in 
any time of need, whatsoever the Stoickes allege; and as I acknowl- 
edge no thanks unto my selfe for any service I doe unto myselfe, so 
the union of such friends, being truly perfect, makes them lose the 
feeling of such duties, and hate, and expell from one another these 
words of division, and difference: benefit, good deed, dutie, obliga- 
tion, acknowledgement, prayer, thanks, and such their like. All 
things being by effect common betweene them; wils, thoughts, judge- 
ments, goods, wives, children, honour, and life; and their mutual 
agreement, being no other than one soule in two bodies, according 
to the fit definition of Aristotle, they can neither lend or give ought 
to each other. See here the reason why Lawmakers, to honour mar- 
riage with some imaginary resemblance of this divine bond, inhibite 
donations between husband and wife; meaning thereby to inferre, 
that all things should peculiarly bee proper to each of them, and 
that they have nothing to divide and share together. If in the friend- 
ship whereof I speake, one might give unto another, the receiver of 
the benefit should binde his fellow. For, each seeking more than any 
other thing to doe each other good, he who yeelds both matter and 

*' Increase. 


occasion, is the man sheweth himselfe liberall, giving his friend that 
contentment, to effect towards him what he desireth most. When 
the Philosopher Diogenes wanted money, he was wont to say that he 
redemanded the same of his friends, and not that he demanded it: 
And to show how that is practised by effect, I will relate an ancient 
singular example. Eudamidas the Corinthian had two friends: 
Charixenus a Sycionian, and Aretheus a Corinthian; being upon his 
death-bed, and very poore, and his two friends very rich, thus made 
his last will and testament: "To Aretheus, I bequeath the keeping 
of my mother, and to maintaine her when she shall be old: To 
Charixenus the marrying of my daughter, and to give her as great a 
dowry as he may: and in case one of them shall chance to die before, 
I appoint the survivor to substitute his charge, and supply his place." 
Those that first saw this testament laughed and mocked at the same; 
but his heires being advertised thereof, were very well pleased, and 
received it with singular contentment. And Charixenus, one of them, 
dying five daies after Eudamidas, the substitution being declared 
in favour of Aretheus, he carefully and very kindly kept and main- 
tained his mother, and of five talents that he was worth he gave two 
and a halfe in marriage to one only daughter he had, and the other 
two and a halfe to the daughter of Eudamidas, whom he married 
both in one day. This example is very ample, if one thing were not, 
which is the multitude of friends: For, this perfect amity I speake 
of, is indivisible; each man doth so wholly give himselfe unto his 
friend, that he hath nothing left him to divide else-where: more- 
over he is grieved that he is not double, triple, or quadruple, and 
hath not many soules, or sundry wils, that he might conferre them 
all upon this subject. Common friendships may bee divided; a man 
may love beauty in one, facility of behaviour in another, liberality 
in one, and wisdome in another, paternity in this, fraternity in that 
man, and so forth: but this amitie which possesseth the soule, and 
swaies it in all soveraigntie, it is impossible it should be double. If 
two at one instant should require helpe, to which would you run.? 
Should they crave contrary offices of you, what order would you 
follow? Should one commit a matter to your silence, which if the 
other knew would greatly profit him, what course would you take? 
Or how would you discharge your selfe? A singular and principall 


friendship dissolveth all other duties, and freeth all other obligations. 
The secret I have sworne not to reveale to another, I may without 
perjurie impart it unto him, who is no other but my selfe. It is a 
great and strange wonder for a man to double himself e; and those 
that taike of tripling know not, nor cannot reach into the height of 
it. "Nothing is extreme that hath his like." And he who shal pre- 
suppose that of two I love the one as wel as the other, and that they 
enter-love^" one another, and love me as much as I love them: he 
multiplieth in brotherhood, a thing most singular, and a lonely one, 
and than which one alone is also the rarest to be found in the world. 
The remainder of this history agreeth very wel with what I said; for, 
Eudamidas giveth us a grace and favor to his friends to employ 
them in his need: he leaveth them as his heires of his Uberality, 
which consisteth in putting the meanes into their hands to doe him 
good. And doubtlesse the force of friendship is much more richly 
shewen in his deed than in Aretheus. To conclude, they are imagi- 
nable effects to him that hath not tasted them; and which makes me 
wonderfully to honor the answer of that young Souldier to Cyrus, 
who enquiring of him what he would take for a horse with which 
he had lately gained the prize of a race, and whether he would 
change him for a Kingdome? "No surely, my Liege (said he), yet 
would I willingly forgoe him to gaine a true friend, could I but finde 
a man worthy of so precious an alliance." He said not ill, in saying 
"could I but finde." For, a man shall easily finde men fit for a super- 
ficiall acquaintance; but in this, wherein men negotiate from the 
very centre of their harts, and make no spare of any thing, it is most 
requisite all the wards and springs be sincerely wrought and per- 
fectly true. In confederacies, which hold but by one end, men have 
nothing to provide for, but for the imperfections, which particularly 
doe interest and concerne that end and respect. It is no great matter 
what religion my Physician or Lawyer is of: this consideration hath 
nothing common with the offices of that friendship they owe mee. 
So doe I in the familiar acquaintances that those who serve me con- 
tract with me. I am nothing inquisitive whether a Lackey be chaste 
or no, but whether he be diligent: I feare not a gaming Muletier, so 
much as if he be weake: nor a hot swearing Cooke, as one that is 

2* Love mutually. 


ignorant and unskilfull; I never meddle with saying what a man 
should doe in the world; there are over many others that doe it; 
but what my selfe doe in the world. 

Mihi sic usus est: Tibi, ut opus est facto, face.'^ 

So is it requisite for me; 

Doe thou as needfull is for thee. 

Concerning familiar table-talke, I rather acquaint my selfe with 
and follow a merry conceited^'' humour, than a wise man: And in 
bed I rather prefer beauty than goodnesse; and in society or con- 
versation of familiar discourse, I respect rather sufficiency, though 
without Preud' hommie}^ and so of all things else. Even as he that 
was found riding upon an hobby-horse, playing with his children 
besought him who thus surprized him not to speake of it untill he 
were a father himselfe, supposing the tender fondnesse and fatherly 
passion which then would posesse his minde should make him an 
impartiall judge of such an action; so would I wish to speake to 
such as had tried what I speake of: but knowing how far such an 
amitie is from the common use, and how seld seene and rarely 
found, I looke not to finde a competent judge. For, even the dis- 
courses, which Sterne antiquitie hath left us concerning this subject, 
seeme to me but faint and forcelesse in respect of the feeling I have 
of it: And in that point the effects exceed the very precepts of 

"Nil ego contulerim jucundo sanus amico}*' 

For me, be I well in my wit, 
Nought, as a merry friend, so fit. 

Ancient Menander accounted him happy that had but met the 
shadow of a true friend: verily he had reason to say so, especially 
if he had tasted of any: for truly, if I compare all the rest of my fore- 
passed life, which although I have, by the meere mercy of God, 
past at rest and ease, and except the losse of so deare a friend, free 
from all grievous affliction, with an ever-quietnesse of minde, as one 
that have taken my naturall and originall commodities in good pay- 
ment, without searching any others: if, as I say, I compare it all unto 

"Ter. Heau. act. i. sc. i, 28. ^^Fi^ndbil. ^Probity. 
"HoR. 1. i. Sat. vii. 44. 


the foure yeares I so happily enjoied the sweet company and deare- 
deare society of that worthy man, it is nought but a vapour, nought 
but a darke and yrkesome light. Since the time I lost him, 

quern semper acerbum, 
Semper honoratum (sic Dii volutstis) habebo^^ 

Which I shall ever hold a bitter day, 
Yet ever honour'd (so my God t' obey), 

I doe but languish, I doe but sorrow: and even those pleasures, 
all things present me with, in stead of yeelding me comfort, doe but 
redouble the griefe of his losse. We were copartners in all things. 
All things were with us at halfe; me thinkes I have stolne his part 
from him. 

— Nee fas esse ulla me voluptate hie frui 
Decrevi, tantisper dum tile abest meus particeps?^ 

I have set downe, no joy enjoy I may. 
As long as he my partner is away. 

I was so accustomed to be ever two, and so enured" to be never 
single, that me thinks I am but halfe my selfe. 

Illam mea si partem animx tulit, 

Maturior vis, quid moror altera, 

Nee charus aeque nee superstes. 

Integer? llle dies utramque 
Duxit ruinamP 

Since that part of my soule riper fate reft me. 
Why stay I heere the other part he left me ? 
Nor so deere, nor entire, while heere I rest: 
That day hath in one mine both opprest. 

There is no action can betide me, or imagination possesse me, but 
I heare him saying, as indeed he would have done to me: for even 
as he did excell me by an infinite distance in all other sufficiencies 
and vertues, so did he in all offices and duties of friendship. 

Quis desiderio sit pudor out modus. 

Tarn chari capitis?^^ 
What modesty or measure may I beare, 
In want and wish of him that was so deare? 

"VniG. /En. iii. 49. ^^Ter. Heau. act. i. sc. i, 97. ^'Accustomed. 
2'HoR. 1. ii. Od. xvii. 7. 2' Id. 1. i. Od. xxiv. i. 


O misero frater adempte mihil 
Omnia tecum una perierunt gaudia nostra. 

QucE tuus in vita dulcis alebat amor?" 
Tu mea, tu moriens jregisti commoda jrater?^ 

Tecum un^ tota est nostra sepulta anima, 
Cujus ego interim tota de mente jugavi 

Hcec studia, atque omnes delicias animi?^ 
Alloquar? audiero nunquam tua verba loquentem?^ 

Nunquam ego te vita jrater amabilior, 
Aspiciam posthac? at certe semper amabo?^ 

O brother rest from miserable me, 

All our delights are perished with thee, 

Which thy sweet love did nourish in my breath. 

Thou all my good hast spoiled in thy death: 

With thee my soule is all and whole enshrinde, 

At whose death I have cast out of my minde 

All my mindes sweet-meats, studies of this kinde; 

Never shall I, heare thee speake, speake with thee? 

Thee brother, than life dearer, never see? 

Yet shah thou ever be belov'd of mee. 

But let us a little heare this yong man speake, being but sixteene 
yeares of age. 

Because I have found this worke to have since beene published 
(and to an ill end) by such as seeke to trouble and subvert the state 
of our common-wealth, nor caring whether they shall reforme it or 
no; which they have fondly inserted among other writings of their 
invention, I have revoked my intent, which was to place it here. 
And lest the Authors memory should any way be interessed with 
those that could not thoroughly know his opinions and actions, they 
shall understand that this subject was by him treated of in his in- 
fancie, only by way of exercise, as a subject, common, bareworne, 
and wyer-drawne in a thousand bookes. I will never doubt but he 
beleeved what he writ, and writ as he thought: for bee was so con- 
scientious that no lie did ever passe his lips, yea were it but in 
matters of sport or play : and I know, that had it beene in his choyce, 
he would rather have beene borne at Venice than at Sarlac; and 
good reason why: But he had another maxime deepely imprinted 

'"Catui.. EUg. iv. 20, 92, 26, 95. 'i/i. 21. '^Catul. El. iv. 94. 
33/4. 25. ^El.\.<i. 


in his minde, which was, carefully to obey, and religiously to submit 
himselfe to the lawes, under which he was borne. There was never 
a better citizen, nor more affected to the welfare and quietnesse of 
his countrie, nor a sharper enemie of the changes, innovations, new- 
f angles, and hurly-burlies of his time: He would more willingly have 
imployed the utmost of his endevours to extinguish and suppresse, 
than to favour or further them : His minde was modelled to the pat- 
terne of other best ages. But yet in exchange of his serious treatise, 
I will here set you downe another, more pithie, materiall, and of 
more consequence, by him likewise produced at that tender age. 


I MAKE no doubt but it shall often befall me to speake of things 
which are better, and with more truth, handled by such as are 
their crafts-masters. Here is simply an essay of my natural 
faculties, and no whit of those I have acquired. And he that shall 
tax me with ignorance shall have no great victory at my hands; for 
hardly could I give others reasons for my discourses that give none 
unto my selfe, and am not well satisfied with them. He that shall 
make search after knowledge, let him seek it where it is: there is 
nothing I professe lesse. These are but my fantasies by which I 
endevour not to make things known, but my selfe. They may 
haply one day be knowne unto me, or have bin at other times, accord- 
ing as fortune hath brought me where they were declared or mani- 
fested. But I remember them no more. And if I be a man of some 
reading, yet I am a man of no remembering, I conceive no certainty, 
except it bee to give notice how farre the knowledge I have of it 
doth now reach. Let no man busie himselfe about the matters, but 
on the fashion I give them. Let that which I borrow be survaied, 
and then tell me whether I have made good choice of ornaments 
to beautifie and set foorth the invention which ever comes from 
mee. For I make others to relate (not after mine owne fantasie but 
as it best falleth out) what I cannot so well expresse, either through 
unskill of language or want of judgement. I number not my borrow- 
ings, but I weigh them. And if I would have made their number 
to prevail, I would have had twice as many. They are all, or almost 
all, of so famous and ancient names, that me thinks they sufficiently 
name themselves without mee. If in reasons, comparisons, and argu- 
ments, I transplant any into my soile, or confound them with mine 
owne, I purposely conceale the author, thereby to bridle the rash- 
nesse of these hastie censures that are so headlong cast upon all 
manner of compositions, namely young writings of men yet living; 
and in vulgare that admit all the world to taike of them, and which 



seemeth to convince the conception and publike designe alike. I 
will have them to give Plutarch a bob' upon mine own lips, and 
vex themselves in wronging Seneca in mee. My weaknesse must be 
hidden under such great credits. I will love him that shal trace or 
unfeather me; I meane through clearenesse of judgement, and by 
the onely distinction of the force and beautie of my discourses. For 
my selfe, who for want of memorie am ever to seeke how to trie and 
refine them by the knowledge of their country, knowe perfectly, by 
measuring mine owne strength, that my soyle is no way capable of 
some over-pretious flowers that therein I find set, and that all the 
fruits of my increase could not make it amends. This am I bound 
to answer for if I hinder my selfe, if there be either vanitie or fault 
in my discourses that I perceive not or am not able to discerne if they 
be showed me. For many faults do often escape our eyes; but the 
infirmitie of j udgement consisteth in not being able to perceive them 
when another discovereth them unto us. Knowledge and truth may 
be in us without judgement, and we may have judgement without 
them: yea, the acknowledgement of ignorance is one of the best 
and surest testimonies of judgement that I can finde. I have no other 
sergeant of band to marshall my rapsodies than fortune. And looke 
how my humours or conceites present themselves, so I shuffle them 
up. Sometimes they prease out thicke and three fold, and other 
times they come out languishing one by one. I will have my naturall 
and ordinarie pace seene as loose and as shuffling as it is. As I am, 
so I goe on plodding. And besides, these are matters that a man may 
not be ignorant of, and rashly and casually to speake of them. I 
would wish to have a more perfect understanding of things, but I 
will not purchase it so deare as it cost. My intention is to passe the 
remainder of my life quietly and not laboriously, in rest and not in 
care. There is nothing I will trouble or vex myselfe about, no not 
for science it selfe, what esteeme soever it be of. I doe not search 
and tosse over books but for an honester recreation to please, and 
pastime to delight my selfe: or if I studie, I only endevour to find 
out the knowledge that teacheth or handleth the knowledge of my 
selfe, and which may instruct me how to die well and how to live 

• Thrust, taunt. 


Has meus ad metas sudet oportet equus? 

My horse must sweating runne, 
That this goale may be wonne. 

If in reading I fortune to meet with any difficult points, I fret not 
my selfe about them, but after I have given them a charge or two, 
I leave them as I found them. Should I earnestly plod upon them, 
I should loose both time and my selfe, for I have a skipping wit. 
What I see not at the first view, I shall lesse see it if I opinionate my 
selfe upon it. I doe nothing without blithnesse; and an over obstinate 
continuation and plodding contention doth dazle, dul, and wearie 
the same: my sight is thereby confounded and diminished. I must 
therefore withdraw it, and at fittes goe to it againe. Even as to 
judge well of the lustre of scarlet we are taught to cast our eyes over 
it, in running over by divers glances, sodaine glimpses and reiterated 
reprisings.' If one booke seeme tedious unto me I take another, 
which I follow not with any earnestnesse, except it be at such houres 
as I am idle, or that I am weary with doing nothing. I am not 
greatly affected to new books, because ancient Authors are, in my 
judgement, more full and pithy: nor am I much addicted to Greeke 
books, forasmuch as my understanding cannot well rid'' his worke 
with a childish and apprentise intelligence. Amongst moderne 
bookes meerly pleasant, I esteeme Bocace his Decameron, Rabelais, 
and the kisses of John the second (if they may be placed under this 
title), worth the paines-taking to reade them. As for Amadis and 
such like trash of writings, they had never the credit so much as 
to allure my youth to delight in them. This I will say more, either 
boldly or rashly, that this old and heavie-pased minde of mine will 
no more be pleased with Aristotle, or tickled with good Ovid: his 
facility and quaint inventions, which heretofore have so ravished 
me, they can now a days scarcely entertaine me. I speake my minde 
freely of all things, yea, of such as peradventure exceed my suffi- 
ciencie, and that no way I hold to be of my jurisdiction. What my 
conceit is of them is told also to manifest the proportion of my 
insight, and not the measure of things. If at any time I finde my 
selfe distasted of Platoes Axiochus, as of a forceles worke, due regard 
' Propert. 1. iv. El. i. 70. ' Repeated observations. * Accomplish. 


had to such an Author, my judgement doth nothing beleeve it selfe: 
It is not so fond-hardy, or selfe-conceited, as it durst dare to oppose 
it selfe against the authority of so many other famous ancient judge- 
ments, which he reputeth his regents and masters, and with whom 
hee had rather erre. He chafeth with, and condemneth himselfe, 
either to rely on the superficiall sense, being unable to pierce into 
the centre, or to view the thing by some false lustre. He is pleased 
only to warrant himselfe from trouble and unrulinesse: As for weak- 
nesse, he acknowledgeth and ingeniously avoweth the same. He 
thinks to give a just interpretation to the apparences which his con- 
ception presents unto him, but they are shallow and imperfect. Most 
of ^sopes fables have divers senses, and severall interpretations: 
Those which Mythologize them, chuse some kinde of colour well 
suting with the fable; but for the most part, it is no other than the 
first and superficiall glosse: There are others more quicke, more 
sinnowie, more essentiall, and more internall, into which they could 
never penetrate; and thus thinke I with them. But to follow my 
course, I have ever deemed that in Poesie, Virgil, Lucretius, Catullus, 
and Horace, doe doubtles by far hold the first ranke: and especially 
Virgil in his Georgiks, which I esteeme to be the most accomplished 
peece of worke of Poesie: In comparison of which one may easily 
discerne, that there are some passages in the ^neidos to which the 
Author (had he lived) would no doubt have given some review or 
correction: The fifth booke whereof is (in my mind) the most 
absolutely perfect. I also love Lucan, and willingly read him, not 
so much for his stile, as for his owne worth and truth of his opinion 
and judgement. As for good Terence, I allow the quaintnesse and 
grace of his Latine tongue, and judge him wonderfull conceited and 
apt, lively to represent the motions and passions of the minde, and 
the condition of our manners : our actions make me often remember 
him. I can never reade him so often but still I discover some new 
grace and beautie in him. Those that lived about Virgil's time, com- 
plained that some would compare Lucretius unto him, I am of 
opinion that verily it is an unequall comparison; yet can I hardly 
assure my selfe in this opinion whensoever I finde my selfe entangled 
in some notable passage of Lucretius, If they were moved at this 
comparison, what would they say now of the fond, hardy and bar- 


barous stupiditie of those which now adayes compare Ariosto unto 
him? Nay, what would Ariosto say of it himself e? 

O seclum insipiens et infacetum? 

O age that hath no wit, 
And small conceit in it. 

I thinke our ancestors had also more reason to cry out against 
those that blushed not to.equall Plautus unto Terence (who makes 
more show to be a Gentleman) than Lucretius unto Virgil. This 
one thing doth greatly advantage the estimation and preferring of 
Terence, that the father of the Roman eloquence, of men of his 
quality doth so often make mention of him; and the censure* which 
the chiefe Judge of the Roman Poets giveth of his companion. It 
hath often come unto my minde, how such as in our dayes give 
themselves to composing of comedies (as the Italians who are very 
happy in them) employ three or foure arguments of Terence and 
Plautus to make up one of theirs. In one onely comedy they will 
huddle up five or six of Bocaces tales. That which makes them so 
to charge themselves with matter, is the distrust they have of their 
owne sufficiency, and that they are not able to undergoe so heavie 
a burthen with their owne strength. They are forced to finde a body 
on which they may rely and leane themselves: and wanting matter 
of their owne wherewith to please us, they will have the story or tale 
to busie and ammuse us: where as in my Authors it is cleane con- 
trary: The elegancies, the perfections and ornaments of his manner 
of speech, make us neglect and lose the longing for his subject. His 
quaintnesse and grace doe still retaine us to him. He is every where 
pleasantly conceited,' 

Liquidus puroque simillimus amni? 

So clearely-neate, so neately-cleare, 
As he a fine-pure River were, 

and doth so replenish our minde with his graces that we forget those 
of the fable. The same consideration drawes me somewhat further. 
I perceive that good and ancient Poets have shunned the affectation 

' Catul. Epig. xl. 8. ^ Opinion. ^ Full of pleasant notions. 
* HoR. 1. ii. Epist. ii. 120. 


and enquest, not only of fantasticall, new fangled, Spagniolized, and 
Petrarchisticall elevations, but also of more sweet and sparing in- 
ventions, which are the ornament of all the Poeticall workes of suc- 
ceeding ages. Yet is there no competent Judge that findeth them 
wanting in those Ancient ones, and that doth not much more admire 
that smoothly equall neatnesse, continued sweetnesse, and flourishing 
comelinesse of Catullus his Epigrams, than all the sharpe quips and 
witty girds wherewith Martiall doth whet and embellish the con- 
clusions of his. It is the same reason I spake of erewhile, as Mar- 
tiall of himselfe. Minus illi ingenio laborandum fuit, in cuius locum 
materia successerat? "He needed the lesse worke with his wit, in 
place whereof matter came in supply." The former without being 
moved or pricked cause themselves to be heard lowd enough: they 
have matter to laugh at every where, and need not tickle them- 
selves; where as these must have foraine helpe: according as they 
have lesse spirit, they must have more body. They leape on horse- 
backe, because they are not sufficiently strong in their legs to march 
on foot. Even as in our dances, those base conditioned men that 
keepe dancing-schooles, because they are unfit to represent the port 
and decencie of our nobilitie, endevour to get commendation by 
dangerous lofty trickes, and other strange tumbler-like friskes and 
motions. And some Ladies make a better shew of their countenances 
in those dances, wherein our divers changes, cuttings, turnings, and 
agitations of the body, than in some dances of state and gravity, 
where they need but simply to tread a naturall measure, represent 
an unaffected cariage, and their ordinary grace; And as I have also 
scene some excellent Lourdans, or Clownes, attired in their ordinary 
worky-day clothes, and with a common homely countenance, affoord 
us all the pleasure that may be had from their art: but prentises and 
learners that are not of so high a forme, besmeare their faces, to 
disguise themselves, and in motions counterfeit strange visages and 
antickes, to enduce us to laughter. This my conception is no where 
better discerned than in the comparison betweene Virgils ^neidos 
and Orlando Furioso. The first is seene to soare aloft with full- 
spread wings, and with so high and strong a pitch, ever following his 
point; the other faintly to hover and flutter from tale to tale, and as 

' Mart. Vr<c]. 1. viii. 


it were skipping from bough to bough, always distrusting his owne 
wings, except it be for some short flight, and for f eare his strength 
and breath should faile him, to sit downe at every fields-end; 

Excursusque breves tentat}" 

Out-lopes" sometimes he doth assay, 
But very short, and as he may. 

Loe here then, concerning this kinde of subjects, what Authors 
please me best: As for my other lesson, which somewhat more 
mixeth profit with pleasure, whereby I learne to range my opinions 
and addresse my conditions, the Bookes that serve me thereunto are 
Plutarke (since he spake'^ French) and Seneca; both have this ex- 
cellent commodity for my humour, that the knowledge I seeke in 
them is there so scatteringly and loosely handled, that whosoever 
readeth them is not tied to plod long upon them, whereof I am 
uncapable. And so are Plutarkes little workes and Senecas Epistles, 
which are the best and most profitable parts of their writings. It is 
no great matter to draw mee to them, and I leave them where I list. 
For they succeed not and depend not one of another. Both jumpe'' 
and suit together, in most true and profitable opinions: And fortune 
brought them both into the world in one age. Both were Tutors 
unto two Roman Emperours: Both were strangers, and came from 
farre Countries; both rich and mighty in the common-wealth, and 
in credit with their masters. Their instruction is the prime and 
creame of Philosophy, and presented with a plaine, unaffected, and 
pertinent fashion. Plutarke is more uniforme and constant; Seneca 
more waving and diverse. This doth labour, force, and extend him- 
selfe, to arme and strengthen vertue against weaknesse, feare, and 
vitious desires; the other seemeth nothing so much to feare their 
force or attempt, and in a manner scorneth to hasten or change his 
pace about them, and to put himselfe upon his guard. Plutarkes 
opinions are Platonicall, gentle and accommodable unto civill so- 
cietie: Senecaes Stoicall and Epicurian, further from common use, 
but in my conceit" more proper, particular, and more solid. It 
appeareth in Seneca that he somewhat inclineth and yeeldeth to the 

'"ViRG. /En. 1. iv. 194. "Wanderings out. 
'^ Was translated by Angot. '' Agree. " Opinion. 


tyrannie of the Emperors which were in his daies; for I verily be- 
lieve, it is with a forced judgement he condemneth the cause of those 
noblie-minded murtherers of Caesar; Plutarke is every where free 
and open hearted; Seneca full-fraught with points and sallies; 
Plutarke stuft with matters. The former doth move and enflame 
you more; the latter content, please, and pay you better: This doth 
guide you, the other drive you on. As for Cicero, of all his works, 
those that treat of Philosophic (namely morall) are they which best 
serve my turne, and square with my intent. But boldly to confess 
the truth (for, since the bars of impudencie were broken downe, all 
curbing is taken away), his manner of writing seemeth verie tedious 
unto me, as doth all such like stufle. For his prefaces, definitions, 
divisions, and Etymologies consume the greatest part of his works; 
whatsoever quick, wittie, and pithie conceit is in him is surcharged 
and confounded by those his long and far-fetcht preambles. If I 
bestow but one hour in reading them, which is much for me, and 
let me call to minde what substance or juice I have drawne from 
him, for the most part I find nothing but wind and ostentation in 
him; for he is not yet come to the arguments which make for his 
purpose, and reasons that properly concerne the knot or pith I seek 
after. These Logicall and Aristotelian ordinances are not availfull 
for me, who onely endeavour to become more wise and sufEcient, 
and not more wittie or eloquent. I would have one begin with the 
last point: I understand sufficiently what death and voluptuousnesse 
are: let not a man busie himself e to anatomize them. At the first 
reading of a booke I seeke for good and solid reasons that may in- 
struct me how to sustaine their assaults. It is neither grammaticall 
subtilties nor logicall quiddities, nor the wittie contexture of choice 
words or arguments and syllogismes, that will serve my turne. I like 
those discourses that give the first charge to the strongest part of the 
doubt; his are but flourishes, and languish everywhere. They are 
good for schooles, at the barre, or for Orators and Preachers, where 
we may slumber : and though we wake a quarter of an houre after, 
we may finde and trace him soone enough. Such a manner of speech 
is fit for those judges that a man would corrupt by hooke or crooke, 
by right or wrong, or for children and the common people, unto 
whom a man must tell all, and see what the event would be. I would 


not have a man go about and labour by circumlocutions to induce 
and winne me to attention, and that (as our Heralds or Criers do) 
they shall ring out their words: Now heare me, now listen, or 
ho-yes." The Romanes in their religion were wont to say, "Hoc 
age;" '° which in ours we say, "Sursum corda." " There are so many 
lost words for me. I come readie prepared from my house. I neede 
no allurement nor sawce, my stomacke is good enough to digest raw 
meat: And whereas with these preparatives and flourishes, or pre- 
ambles, they thinke to sharpen my taste or stir my stomacke, they 
cloy and make it wallowish.'^ Shall the privilege of times excuse 
me from this sacrilegious boldnesse, to deem Platoes Dialogismes to 
be as languishing, by over-filling and stuffing his matter? And to 
bewaile the time that a man who had so many thousands of things 
to utter, spends about so many, so long, so vaine, and idle inter- 
loqutions, and preparatives? My ignorance shall better excuse me, 
in that I see nothing in the beautie of his language. I generally en- 
quire after bookes that use sciences, and not after such as institute 
them. The two first, and Plinie, with others of their ranke, have no 
Hoc age in them, they will have to doe with men that 'have fore- 
warned themselves; or if they have, it is a materiall and substantiall 
Hoc age, and that hath his bodie apart. I likewise love to read the 
Epistles and ad Atticum, not onely because they containe a most 
ample instruction of the historie and affaires of his times, but much 
more because in them I descrie his private humours. For (as I have 
said elsewhere) I am wonderfuU curious to discover and know the 
minde, the soul, the genuine disposition and naturall judgement of 
my authors. A man ought to judge their sufficiencie and not their 
customes, nor them by the shew of their writings, which they set 
forth on this world's theatre. I have sorrowed a thousand times that 
ever we lost the booke that Brutus writ of Vertue. Oh it is a goodly 
thing to learne the Theorike of such as understand the practice well. 
But forsomuch as the Sermon is one thing and the Preacher an other, 
I love as much to see Brutus in Plutarke as in himself: I would 
rather make choice to know certainly what talk he had in his tent 
with some of his familiar friends, the night fore-going the battell, 
than the speech he made the morrow after to his Armie; and what 
'' Oyez, hear. "^ Do this. " Lift up your hearts. *^ Mawkish. 


he did in his chamber or closet, than what in the senate or market 
place. As for Cicero, I am of the common judgement, that besides 
learning there was no exquisite'' eloquence in him : He was a good 
citizen, of an honest, gentle nature, as are commonly fat and burly 
men: for so was he: But to speake truly of him, full of ambitious 
vanity and remisse niceness.^" And I know not well how to excuse 
him, in that he deemed his Poesie worthy to be published. It is no 
great imperfection to make bad verses, but it is an imperfection in 
him that he never perceived how unworthy they were of the glorie 
of his name. Concerning his eloquence, it is beyond all comparison, 
and I verily beleeve that none shall ever equall it. Cicero the younger, 
who resembled his father in nothing but in name, commanding in 
Asia, chanced one day to have many strangers at his board, and 
amongst others, one Csstius sitting at the lower end, as the manner 
is to thrust in at great mens tables: Cicero inquired of one of his 
men what he was, who told him his name, but he dreaming on other 
matters, and having forgotten what answere his man made him, 
asked him his name twice or thrice more: the servant, because he 
would not be troubled to tell him one thing so often, and by some 
circumstance to make him to know him better, "It is," said he, "the 
same Csestius of whom some have told you that, in respect of his 
owne, maketh no accompt of your fathers eloquence:" Cicero being 
suddainly mooved, commanded the said poore Caestius to be presently 
taken from the table, and well whipt in his presence: Lo heere an 
uncivill and barbarous host. Even amongst those which (all things 
considered) have deemed his eloquence matchlesse and incompara- 
ble, others there have been who have not spared to note some faults 
in it. As great Brutus said, that it was an eloquence broken, halting, 
and disjoynted, fractam et elumbem: "Incoherent and sinnowlesse." 
Those Orators that lived about his age, reproved also in him the 
curious care he had of a certaine long cadence at the end of his 
clauses, and noted these words, esse videatur, which he so often useth. 
As for me, I rather like a cadence that falleth shorter, cut like lam- 
bikes: yet doth he sometimes confounde his numbers,^' but it is sel- 
dome: I have especially observed this one place: "Ego vero me minus 

19 Overelaborate. '" Ineffectual fastidiousness. 
2' Confuse his rhythm. 


diu senem esse malletn, quam esse senem, antequam essem." ^* "But 
I had rather not be an old man, so long as I might be, than to be old 
before I should be." Historians are my right hand, for they are 
pleasant and easie; and therewithall the man with whom I desire 
generally to be acquainted may more lively and perfectly be dis- 
covered in them than in any other composition : the varietie and truth 
of his inward conditions, in grosse and by retale : the diversitie of the 
meanes of his collection and composing, and of the accidents that 
threaten him. Now those that write of mens lives, forasmuch as they 
ammuse and busie themselves more about counsels than events, more 
about that which commeth from within than that which appeareth 
outward; they are fittest for me: And that's the reason why Plutarke 
above all in that kind doth best please me. Indeed I am not a little 
grieved that we have not a dozen of Laertius, or that he is not more 
knowne, or better understood; for I am no lesse curious to know the 
fortunes and lives of these great masters of the world than to under- 
stand the diversitie of their decrees and conceits. In this kind o£ 
studie of historie a man must, without distinction, tosse and turne 
over all sorts of Authors, both old and new, both French and others, 
if he will learne the things they so diversly treat of. But me thinkes 
that Caesar above all doth singularly deserve to be studied, not 
onely for the understanding of the historie as of himself e; so much 
perfection and excellencie is there in him more than in others, al- 
though Salust be reckoned one of the number. Verily I read that 
author with a little more reverence and respects than commonly men 
reade profane and humane Workes: sometimes considering him by 
his actions and wonders of his greatnesse, and other times waighing 
the puritie and inimitable polishing and elegancie of his tongue, 
which (as Cicero saith) hath not onely exceeded all historians, but 
haply Cicero himselfe: with such sinceritie in his judgement, speak- 
ing of his enemies, that except the false colours wherewith he goeth 
about to cloake his bad cause, and the corruption and filthinesse of 
his pestilent ambition, I am perswaded there is nothing in him to 
be found fault with: and that he hath been over-sparing to speake 
of himselfe; for so many notable and great things could never be 
executed by him, unlesse he had put more of his owne into them than 

22 Cic. De Senect. 


he setteth downe. I love those Historians that are either very simple 
or most excellent. The simple who have nothing o£ their owne to 
adde unto the storie and have but the care and diligence to collect 
whatsoever come to their knowledge, and sincerely and faithfully to 
register all things, without choice or culling, by the naked truth 
leave our judgment more entire and better satisfied. 

Such amongst others (for examples sake) plaine and well-meaning 
Froissard, who in his enterprise hath marched with so free and 
genuine a puritie, that having committed some oversight, he is 
neither ashamed to acknowledge nor afraid to correct the same, 
wheresoever he hath either notice or warning of it: and who repre- 
senteth unto us the diversitie of the newes then current and the 
different reports that were made unto him. The subject of an historic 
should be naked, bare, and formelesse; each man according to his 
capacitie or understanding may reap commoditie out of it. The 
curious and most excellent have the sufEciencie to cull and chuse that 
which is worthie to be knowne and may select of two relations that 
which is most likely: from the condition of Princes and of their 
humours, they conclude their counsels and attribute fit words to 
them: they assume a just authoritie and bind our faith to theirs. But 
truly that belongs not to many. Such as are betweene both (which is 
the most common fashion), it is they that spoil all; they will needs 
chew our meat for us and take upon them a law to judge, and by 
consequence to square and encline the storie according to their 
fantasie; for, where the judgement bendeth one way, a man cannot 
chuse but wrest and turne his narration that way. They undertake 
to chuse things worthy to bee knowne, and now and then conceal 
either a word or a secret action from us, which would much better 
instruct us: omitting such things as they understand not as in- 
credible: and haply such matters as they know not how to declare, 
either in good Latin or tolerable French. Let them boldly enstall 
their eloquence and discourse: Let them censure at their pleasure, 
but let them also give us leave to judge after them: And let them 
neither alter nor dispense by their abridgements and choice anything 
belonging to the substance of the matter; but let them rather send it 
pure and entire with all her dimensions unto us. Most commonly 
(as chiefly in our age) this charge of writing histories is committed 


unto base, ignorant, and mechanicall kind o£ people, only for this 
consideration that they can speake well; as if we sought to learne the 
Grammer of them; and they have some reason, being only hired to 
that end, and publishing nothing but their tittle-tattle to aime at 
nothing else so much. Thus with store of choice and quaint words, 
and wyre drawne phrases, they huddle up and make a hodge-pot of 
a laboured contexture of the reports which they gather in the market 
places or such other assemblies. The only good histories are those 
that are written by such as commanded or were imploied themselves 
in weighty affaires or that were partners in the conduct of them, or 
that at least have had the fortune to manage others of like qualitie. 
Such in a manner are all the Grecians and Romans. For many eye- 
witnesses having written of one same subject (as it hapned in those 
times when Greatnesse and Knowledge did commonly meet) if any 
fault or over-sight have past them, it must be deemed exceeding light 
and upon some doubtful accident. What may a man expect at a 
Phisitians hand that discourseth of warre, or of a bare SchoUer treat- 
ing of Princes secret designes? If we shall but note the religion which 
the Romans had in that, wee need no other example: Asinius Pollio 
found some mistaking or oversight in Caesars Commentaries, where- 
into he was falne, only because he could not possiblie oversee all 
things with his owne eyes that hapned in his Armie, but was faine 
to rely on the reports of particular men, who often related untruths 
unto him: or else because he had not been curiously advertized^^ and 
distinctly enformed by his Lieutenants and Captaines of such mat- 
ters as they in his absence had managed or effected. Whereby may 
be seen that nothing is so hard or so uncertaine to be found out as the 
certainde of the truth, sithence^* no man can put any assured con- 
fidence concerning the truth of a battel, neither in the knowledge 
of him that was Generall or commanded over it, nor in the soldiers 
that fought, of anything that hath hapned amongst them; except 
after the manner of a strict point of law, the severall witnesses are 
brought and examined face to face, and that all matters be nicely and 
thorowly sifted by the objects and trials of the successe of every 
accident. Verily the knowledge we have of our owne affaires is 
much more barren and feeble. But this hath sufficiently been handled 
2S Minutely informed. ^* Since. 


by Bodin, and agreeing with my conception. Somewhat to aid the 
weaknesse of my memorie and to assist her great defects; for it 
hath often been my chance to light upon bookes which I supposed 
to be new and never to have read, which I had not understanding 
dihgently read and run over many years before, and all bescribled 
with my notes; I have a while since accustomed my selfe to note at 
the end of my booke (I meane such as I purpose to read but once) 
the time I made an end to read it, and to set downe what censure or 
judgement I gave of it; that so it may at least at another time repre- 
sent unto my mind the aire and generall idea I had conceived of the 
Author in reading him. I will here set downe the Copie of some of 
my annotations, and especially what I noted upon my Guicciardine 
about ten yeares since: (For what language soever my books speake 
unto me I speake unto them in mine owne.) He is a diligent 
Historiographer and from whom in my conceit a man may as 
exactly learne the truth of such affaires as passed in his time, as of 
any other writer whatsoever: and the rather because himselfe hath 
been an Actor of most part of them and in verie honourable place. 
There is no signe or apparance that ever he disguised or coloured 
any matter, either through hatred, malice, favour, or vanitie; whereof 
the free and impartiall judgements he giveth of great men, and 
namely of those by whom he had been advanced or imployed in his 
important charges, as of Pope Clement the seaventh, beareth un- 
doubted testimony. Concerning the parts wherein he most goeth 
about to prevaile, which are his digressions and discourses, many 
of them are verie excellent and enriched with faire ornaments, but 
he hath too much pleased himselfe in them: for endeavouring to 
omit nothing that might be spoken, having so full and large a sub- 
ject, and almost infinite, he proveth somewhat languishing, and 
giveth a taste of a kind of scholasticall tedious babling. Moreover, I 
have noted this, that of so severall and divers armes, successes, and 
effects he judgeth of; of so many and variable motives, alterations, 
and counsels, that he relateth, he never referreth any one unto vertue, 
religion or conscience : as if they were all extinguished and banished 
the world. And of all actions how glorious soever in apparance they 
be of themselves, he doth ever impute the cause of them to some 
vicious and blame-worthie occasion, or to some commoditie and 


profit. It is impossible to imagine that amongst so infinite a number 
of actions whereof he judgeth, some one have not been produced 
and compassed by way of reason. No corruption could ever possesse 
men so universally but that some one must of necessity escape the 
contagion; which makes me to feare he hath had some distaste or 
blame in his passion, and it hath haply fortuned that he hath judged 
or esteemed of others according to himselfe. In my Philip de 
Comines there is this: In him you shall find a pleasing-sweet and 
gently-gliding speech, fraught with a purely sincere simplicitie, his 
narration pure and unaffected, and wherein the Authours unspotted 
good meaning doth evidently appeare, void of all manner o£ vanitie 
or ostentation speaking of himselfe, and free from all affection or 
envie-speaking of others; his discourses and perswasions accom- 
panied more with a well-meaning zeale and meere^' veritie than with 
any laboured and exquisite sufficiencie, and allthrough with gravitie 
and authoritie, representing a man well-borne and brought up in high 
negotiations. Upon the Memoires and historie of Monsieur du 
Bellay: It is ever a well-pleasing thing to see matters written by 
those that have assaid how and in what manner they ought to be 
directed and managed : yet can it not be denied but that in both these 
Lords there will manifestly appeare a great declination from a free 
Ubertie of writing, which clearely shineth in ancient writers of their 
kind: as in the Lord of louinille, familiar unto Saint Lewis; Eginard, 
Chancellor unto Charlemaine; and of more fresh memorie in Philip 
de Comines. This is rather a declamation or pleading for King 
Francis against the Emperour Charles the fifth, than an Historie. 
I will not beleeve they have altered or changed any thing concerning 
the generalitie of matters, but rather to wrest and turne the judge- 
ment of the events many times against reason, to our advantage, and 
to omit whatsoever they supposed to be doubtful or ticklish in their 
masters life: they have made a business of it: witnesse the recoylings 
of the Lords of Momorancy and Byron, which therein are forgotten; 
and which is more, you shall not so much as find the name of the 
Ladie of Estampes mentioned at all. A man may sometimes colour 
and haply hide secret actions, but absolutely to conceal that which 
all the world knoweth, and especially such things as have drawne-on 

J5 Pure. 


publike eiEEects, and of such consequence, it is an inexcusable defect, 
or as I may say unpardonable oversight. To conclude, whosoever 
desireth to have perfect information and knowledge of king Francis 
the first, and of the things hapned in his time, let him addresse him- 
selfe elsewhere if he will give any credit unto me. The profit he may 
reap here is by the particular description of the battels and exploits 
of warre wherein these gentlemen were present; some privie con- 
ferences, speeches, or secret actions of some princes that then lived, 
and the practices managed, or negotiations directed by the Lord of 
Langeay, in which doubtless are verie many things well worthy to 
be knowne, and diverse discourses not vulgare. 







Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the foremost French critic of the 
nineteenth century, and, in the view of many, the greatest literary critic 
of the world, was born at Boulogne-sur-Mer, December 23, 1804. He 
studied medicine, but soon abandoned it for literature; and before he 
gave himself up to criticism he made some mediocre attempts in poetry 
and fiction. He became professor at the College de France and the Ecole 
Normale and was appointed Senator in 1865. A course of lectures given 
at Lausanne in 1837 resulted in his great "Histoire de Port-Royal," and 
another given at Liege in his "Chateaubriand et son groupe litteraire." 
But his most famous productions were his critical essays published 
periodically in the "Constitutionnel" the "Moniteur" and the "Temps," 
later collected in sets under the names of "Critiques et Portraits Litter- 
aires," "Portraits Contemporains," "Causeries du Lundi," and "Nouveaux 
Lundis." At the height of his vogue, these Monday essays were events 
of European importance. He died in 1869. 

Sainte-Beuve's work was much more than literary criticism as that type 
of writing had been generally conceived before his time. In place of the 
mere classification of books and the passing of a judgment upon them 
as good or bad, he sought to illuminate and explain by throwing light 
on a literary work from a study of the life, circumstances, and aim of 
the writer, and by a comparison with the literature of other times and 
countries. Thus his work was historical, psychological, and ethical, as 
well as esthetic, and demanded vast learning and a literary outlook of 
unparalleled breadth. In addition to this equipment he had fine taste 
and an admirable style; and by his universality, penetration, and balance 
he raised to a new level the profession of critic. 


WHILE the good ship France is taking a somewhat hap- 
hazard course, getting into unknown seas, and preparing 
to double what the pilots (if there is a pilot) call the Stormy 
Cape, while the look-out at the mast-head thinks he sees the spectre 
of the giant Adamastor rising on the horizon, many honourable and 
peaceable men continue their work and studies all the same, and 
follow out to the end, or as far as they can, their favourite hobbies. 
I know, at the present time, a learned man who is collating more 
carefully than has ever yet been done the different early editions of 
Rabelais — editions, mark you, of which only one copy remains, of 
which a second is not to be found : from the careful collation of the 
texts some literary and maybe philosophical result will be derived 
with regard to the genius of the French Lucian-Aristophanes. I 
know another scholar whose devotion and worship is given to a 
very different man — to Bossuet: he is preparing a complete, exact, 
detailed history of the life and works of the great bishop. And as 
tastes differ, and "human fancy is cut into a thousand shapes" (Mon- 
taigne said that), Montaigne also has his devotees, he who, himself, 
was so little of one: a sect is formed round him. In his lifetime he 
had Mademoiselle de Gournay, his daughter of alliance, who was 
solemnly devoted to him; and his disciple, Charron, followed him 
closely, step by step, only striving to arrange his thoughts with more 
order and method. In our time amateurs, intelligent men, practice 
the religion under another form: they devote themselves to collecting 
the smallest traces of the author of the Essays, to gathering up the 
slightest relics, and Dr. Payen may be justly placed at the head of 
the group. For years he has been preparing a book on Montaigne, 
of which the title will be — 

"Michel de Montaigne, a collection of unedited or little known 
facts about the author of the Essays, his book, and his other writings, 
about his family, his friends, his admirers, his detractors." 



While awaiting the conclusion of the book, the occupation and 
amusement of a lifetime, Dr. Payen keeps us informed in short 
pamphlets of the various works and discoveries made about Mon- 

If we separate the discoveries made during the last five or six years 
from the jumble of quarrels, disputes, cavilling, quackery, and law- 
suits (for there have been all those), they consist in this — 

In 1846 M. Mace found in the (then) Royal Library, amongst the 
"Collection Du Puys," a letter of Montaigne, addressed to the king, 
Henri IV., September 2, 1590. 

In 1847 M. Payen printed a letter, or a fragment of a letter of 
Montaigne of February 16, 1588, a letter corrupt and incomplete, 
coming from the collection of the Comtesse Boni de Castellane. 

But, most important of all, in 1848, M. Horace de Viel-Ca,stel 
found in London, at the British Museum, a remarkable letter of 
Montaigne, May 22, 1585, when Mayor of Bordeaux, addressed to M. 
de Matignon, the king's lieutenant in the town. The great interest 
of the letter is that it shows Montaigne for the first time in the full 
discharge of his office with all the energy and vigilance of which he 
was capable. The pretended idler was at need much more active than 
he was ready to own. 

M. Detcheverry, keeper of the records to the mayoralty of Bor- 
deaux, found and published (1850) a letter of Montaigne, while 
mayor, to the Jurats, or aldermen of the town, July 30, 1585. 

M. Achille Jubinal found among the manuscripts of the National 
Library, and pubHshed (1850), a long, remarkable letter from Mon- 
taigne to the king, Henri IV., January 18, 1590, which happily coin- 
cides with that already found by M. Mace. 

Lastly, to omit nothing and do justice to all, in a "Visit to 
Montaigne's Chateau in Perigord," of which the account appeared 
in 1850, M. Bertrand de Saint-Germain described the place and 
pointed out the various Greek and Latin inscriptions that may still 
be read in Montaigne's tower in the third-storey chamber (the 
ground floor counting as the first), which the philosopher made his 
library and study. 

M. Payen, collecting together and criticising in his last pamphlet 
the various notices and discoveries, not all of equal importance, 


allowed himself to be drawn into some little exaggeration of praise; 
but we cannot blame him. Admiration, when applied to such noble, 
perfectly innocent, and disinterested subjects, is truly a spark of the 
sacred fire: it produces research that a less ardent zeal would quickly 
leave aside, and sometimes leads to valuable results. However, it 
would be well for those who, following M. Payen's example, intelli- 
gently understand and greatly admire Montaigne, to remember, even 
in their ardour, the advice of the wise man and the master. "There is 
more to do," said he, speaking of the commentators of his time, "in 
interpreting the interpretations than in interpreting the things them- 
selves; and more books about books than on any other subject. We 
do nothing, but everything swarms with commentators; of authors 
there is a great rarity." Authors are of great price and very scarce 
at all times — that is to say, authors who really increase the sum of 
human knowledge. I should like all who write on Montaigne, and 
give us the details of their researches and discoveries, to imagine one 
thing, — Montaigne himself reading and criticising them. "What 
would he think of me and the manner in which I am going to speak 
of him to the public?" If such a question was put, how greatly it 
would suppress useless phrases and shorten idle discussions! M. 
Payen's last pamphlet was dedicated to a man who deserves equally 
well of Montaigne — M. Gustave Brunet, of Bordeaux. He, speaking 
of M. Payen, in a work in which he pointed out interesting and 
various corrections of Montaigne's text, said : "May he soon decide to 
publish the fruits of his researches: he will have left nothing for 
future Montaignologues." Montaignologues! Great Heaven! what 
would Montaigne say of such a word coined in his honour ? You who 
occupy yourselves so meritoriously with him, but who have, I think, 
no claim to appropriate him to yourselves, in the name of him whom 
you love, and whom we all love by a greater or lesser title, never, I beg 
of you, use such words; they smack of the brotherhood and the sect, 
of pedantry and of the chatter of the schools — things utterly repug- 
nant to Montaigne, 

Montaigne had a simple, natural, affable mind, and a very happy 
disposition. Sprung from an excellent father, who, though of no 
great education, entered with real enthusiasm into the movement of 
the Renaissance and all the liberal novelties of his time, the son cor- 


rected the excessive enthusiasm, vivacity, and tenderness he inherited 
by a great refinement and justness of reflection; but he did not abjure 
the original groundwork. It is scarcely more than thirty years ago 
that whenever the sixteenth century was mentioned it was spoken 
of as a barbarous epoch, Montaigne only excepted : therein lay error 
and ignorance. The sixteenth century was a great century, fertile, 
powerful, learned, refined in parts, although in some aspects it was 
rough, violent, and seemingly coarse. What it particularly lacked 
was taste, if by taste is meant the faculty of clear and perfect selection, 
the extrication of the elements of the beautiful. But in the succeed- 
ing centuries taste quickly became distaste. If, however, in literature 
it was crude, in the arts properly so-called, in those of the hand and 
the chisel, the sixteenth century, even in France, is, in the quality of 
taste, far greater than the two succeeding centuries: it is neither 
meagre nor massive, heavy nor distorted. In art its taste is rich and 
of fine quality, — at once unrestrained and complex, ancient and 
modern, special to itself and original. In the region of morals it is 
unequal and mixed. It was an age of contrasts, of contrasts in all 
their crudity, an age of philosophy and fanaticism, of scepticism and 
strong faith. Everything was at strife and in collision; nothing was 
blended and united. Everything was in ferment; it was a period of 
chaos; every ray of light caused a storm. It was not a gentle age, 
or one we can call an age of light, but an age of struggle and combat. 
What distinguished Montaigne and made a phenomenon of him 
was, that in such an age he should have possessed moderation, 
caution, and order. 

Born on the last day of February, 1533, taught the ancient lan- 
guages as a game while still a child, waked even in his cradle by the 
sound of musical instruments, he seemed less fitted for a rude and 
violent epoch than for the commerce and sanctuary of the muses. 
His rare good sense corrected what was too ideal and poetical in his 
early education; but he preserved the happy faculty of saying every- 
thing with freshness and wit. Married, when past thirty, to an esti- 
mable woman who was his companion for twenty-eight years, he 
seems to have put passion only into friendship. He immortalised his 
love for Etienne de la Boetie, whom he lost after four years of the 
sweetest and closest intimacy. For some time counsellor in the 


Parliament o£ Bordeaux, Montaigne, before he was forty, retired 
from public life, and flung away ambition to live in his tower of 
Montaigne, enjoying his own society and his own intellect, entirely 
given up to his own observations and thoughts, and to the busy idle- 
ness of which we know all the sports and fancies. The first edition 
of the Essays appeared in 1580, consisting of only two books, and in 
a form representing only the first rough draft of what we have in 
the later editions. The same year Montaigne set out on a voyage to 
Switzerland and Italy. It was during that voyage that the aldermen 
of Bordeaux elected him mayor of their town. At first he refused 
and excused himself, but warned that it would be well to accept, and 
enjoined by the king, he took the office, "the more beautiful," he said, 
"that there was neither renunciation nor gain other than the honour 
of its performance." He filled the office for four years, from July 
1582 to July 1586, being re-elected after the first two years. Thus 
Montaigne, at the age of fifty, and a little against his will, re-entered 
public life when the country was on the eve of civil disturbances 
which, quieted and lulled to sleep for a while, broke out more vio- 
lently at the cry of the League. Although,. as a rule, lessons serve 
for nothing, since the art of wisdom and happiness cannot be taught, 
let us not deny ourselves the pleasure of listening to Montaigne; let 
us look on his wisdom and happiness; let him speak of public affairs, 
of revolutions and disturbances, and of his way of conducting him- 
self with regard to them. We do not put forward a model, but we 
offer our readers an agreeable recreation. 

Although Montaigne lived in so agitated and stormy a time, a 
period that a man who had lived through the Terror (M. Daunou) 
called the most tragic century in all history, he by no means regarded 
his age as the worst of ages. He was not of those prejudiced and 
afflicted persons, who, measuring everything by their visual horizon, 
valuing everything according to their present sensations, always de- 
clare that the disease they suffer from is worse than any ever before 
experienced by a human being. He was like Socrates, who did not 
consider himself a citizen of one city but of the world; with his 
broad and full imagination he embraced the universality of countries 
and of ages; he even judged more equitably the very evils of which 
he was witness and victim. "Who is it," he said, "that, seeing the 


bloody havoc of these civil wars of ours, does not cry out that the 
machine of the world is near dissolution, and that the day of judg- 
ment is at hand, without considering that many worse revolutions 
have been seen, and that, in the meantime, people are being merry 
in a thousand other parts of the earth for all this? For my part, con- 
sidering the hcense and impunity that always attend such commo- 
tions, I admire they are so moderate, and that there is not more 
mischief done. To him who feels the hailstones patter about his ears, 
the whole hemisphere appears to be in storm and tempest." And 
raising his thoughts higher and higher, reducing his own suffering to 
what it was in the immensity of nature, seeing there not only him- 
self but whole kingdoms as mere specks in the infinite, he added in 
words which foreshadowed Pascal, in words whose outline and 
sahent points Pascal did not disdain to borrow: "But whoever shall 
represent to his fancy, as in a picture, that great image of our mother 
nature, portrayed in her full majesty and lustre, whoever in her face 
shall read so general and so constant a variety, whoever shall observe 
himself in that figure, and not himself but a whole kingdom, no 
bigger than the least touch or prick of a pencil in comparison of the 
whole, that man alone is able to value things according to their true 
estimate and grandeur." 

Thus Montaigne gives us a lesson, a useless lesson, but I state it 
all the same, because among the many unprofitable ones that have 
been written down, it is perhaps of greater worth than most. I do 
not mean to underrate the gravity of the circumstances in which 
France is just now involved, for I believe there is pressing need to 
bring together all the energy, prudence, and courage she possesses 
in order that the country may come out with honour.^ However, 
let us reflect, and remember that, leaving aside the Empire, which 
as regards internal affairs was a period of calm, and before 1812 of 
prosperity, we who utter such loud complaints, lived in peace from 
1815 to 1830, fifteen long years; that the three days of July only in- 
augurated another order of things that for eighteen years guaranteed 
peace and industrial prosperity; in all, thirty-two years of repose. 
Stormy days came; tempests burst, and will doubtless burst again. 
Let us learn how to live througih them, but do not let us cry out 
'This essay appeared April 28, 1851. 


every day, as we are disposed to do, that never under the sun were 
such storms known as we are enduring. To get away from the 
present state of feeling, to restore lucidity and proportion to our 
judgments, let us read every evening a page of Montaigne. 

A criticism of Montaigne on the men of his day struck me, and it 
bears equally well on those of ours. Our philosopher says some- 
where that he knows a fair number of men possessing various good 
qualities — one, intelligence; another, heart; another, address, con- 
science or knowledge, or skill in languages, each has his share: "but 
of a great man as a whole, having so many good qualities together, 
or one with such a degree of excellence that we ought to admire him, 
or compare him with those we honour in the past, my fortune has 
never shown me one." He afterwards made an exception in favour 
of his friend Etienne de la Boetie, but he belonged to the company 
of great men dead before attaining maturity, and showing promise 
without having time to fulfil it. Montaigne's criticism called up a 
smile. He did not see a true and wholly great man in his time, the 
age of L'Hopital, Coligny, and the Guises. Well! how does ours 
seem to you? We have as many great men as in Montaigne's time, 
one distinguished for his intellect, another for his heart, a third for 
skill, some (a rare thing) for conscience, many for knowledge and 
language. But we too lack the perfect man, and he is greatly to be 
desired. One of the most intelligent observers of our day recognised 
and proclaimed it some years ago: "Our age," said M. de Remusat, 
"is wanting in great men." ^ 

How did Montaigne conduct himself in his duties as first magis- 
trate of a great city? If we take him literally and on a hasty first 
glance we should believe he discharged them slackly and languidly. 
Did not Horace, doing the honours to himself, say that in war he 
one day let his shield fall {relicta non bene parmula) ? We must 
not be in too great a hurry to take too literally the men of taste who 
have a horror of over-estimating themselves. Minds of a fine quality 
are more given to vigilance and to action than they are apt to con- 
fess. The man who boasts and makes a great noise, will, I am al- 
most sure, be less brave in the combat than Horace, and less vigilant 
at the council board than Montaigne. 

^Essttis de Philosophic, vol. L p. 22. 


On entering office Montaigne was careful to warn the aldermen of 
Bordeaux not to expect to find in him more than there really was; 
he presented himself to them without affectation. "I represented to 
them faithfully and conscientiously all that I felt myself to be, — a. 
man without memory, without vigilance, without experience, and 
without energy; but also, without hate, without ambition, without 
avarice, and without violence." He should be sorry, while taking the 
affairs of the town in hand, that his feelings should be so strongly 
affected as those of his worthy father had been, who in the end had 
lost his place and health. The eager and ardent pledge to satisfy an 
impetuous desire was not his method. His opinion was "that you 
must lend yourself to others, and only give yourself to yourself." 
And repeating his thought, according to his custom in all kinds of 
metaphors and picturesque forms, he said again that if he some- 
times allowed himself to be urged to the management of other men's 
affairs, he promised to take them in hand, not "into my lungs and 
liver." We are thus forewarned, we know what to expect. The 
mayor and Montaigne were two distinct persons; under his role and 
ofKce he reserved to himself a certain freedom and secret security. 
He continued to judge things in his own fashion and impartially, al- 
though acting loyally for the cause confided to him. He was far from 
approving or even excusing all he saw in his party, and he could 
judge his adversaries and say of them: "He did that thing wickedly, 
and this virtuously." "I would have," he added, "matters go well 
on our side; but if they do not, I shall not run mad. I am heartily 
for the right party; but I do not affect to be taken notice of for an 
especial enemy to others." And he entered into some details and 
applications which at that time were piquant. Let us remark, how- 
ever, in order to explain and justify his somewhat extensive profes- 
sion of impartiality, that the chiefs of the party then in evidence, the 
three Henris, were famous and considerable men on several counts: 
Henri, Duke of Guise, head of the League; Henri, King of Navarre, 
leader of the Opposition; and the King Henri IIL in whose name 
Montaigne was mayor, who wavered between the two. When parties 
have neither chief nor head, when they are known by the body only, 
that is to say, in their hideous and brutal reality, it is more difficult 


and also more hazardous to be just towards them and to assign to 
each its share of action. 

The principle which guided him in his administration was to look 
only at the fact, at the result, and to grant nothing to noise and out- 
ward show: "How much more a good effect makes a noise, so much 
I abate of the goodness of it." For it is always to be feared that it was 
more performed for the sake of the noise than upon the account of 
goodness: "Being exposed upon the stall, 'tis half sold." That was 
not Montaigne's way: he made no show; he managed men and affairs 
as quietly as he could; he employed in a manner useful to all alike 
the gifts of sincerity and conciliation; the personal attraction with 
which nature endowed him was a quality of the highest value in the 
management of men. He preferred to warn men of evil rather than 
to take on himself the honour of repressing it : "Is there any one who 
desires to be sick that he may see his physician's practice? And 
would not that physician deserve to be whipped who should wish 
the plague amongst us that he might put his art into practice?" 
Far from desiring that trouble and disorder in the affairs of the city 
should rouse and honour his government, he had ever willingly, he 
said, contributed all he could to their tranquillity and ease. He is 
not of those whom municipal honours intoxicate and elate, those 
"dignities of office" as he called them, and of which all the noise 
"goes from one cross-road to another." If he was a man desirous of 
fame, he recognised that it was of a kind greater than that. I do 
not know, however, if even in a vaster field he would have changed 
his method and manner of proceeding. To do good for the public 
imperceptibly would always seem to him the ideal of skill and the 
culminating point of happiness. "He who will not thank me," he 
said, "for the order and quiet calm that has accompanied my admin- 
istration, cannot, however, deprive me of the share that belongs to 
me by the title of my good fortune." And he is inexhaustible in 
describing in lively and graceful expressions the kinds of effective 
and imperceptible services he believed he had rendered — services 
greatly superior to noisy and glorious deeds: "Actions which come 
from the workman's hand carelessly and noiselessly have most 
charm, that some honest man chooses later and brings from their 
obscurity to thrust them into the light for their own sake." Thus 


fortune served Montaigne to perfection, and even in his administra- 
tion of affairs, in difficult conjunctures, he never had to belie his 
maxim, nor to step very far out of the way of life he had planned: 
"For my part I commend a gliding, solitary, and silent life." He 
reached the end of his magistracy almost satisfied with himself, 
having accomplished what he had promised himself, and much more 
than he had promised others. 

The letter lately discovered by M. Horace de Viel-Castel corrobo- 
rates the chapter in which Montaigne exhibits and criticises himself 
in the period of his public life. "That letter," says M. Payen, "is en- 
tirely on affairs. Montaigne is mayor; Bordeaux, lately disturbed, 
seems threatened by fresh agitations; the king's lieutenant is away. 
It is Wednesday, May 22, 1585; it is night, Montaigne is wakeful, 
and writes to the governor of the province." The letter, which is of 
too special and local an interest to be inserted here, may be summed 
up in these words: — Montaigne regretted the absence of Marshal de 
Matignon, and feared the consequences of its prolongation; he was 
keeping, and would continue to keep, him acquainted with all that 
was going on, and begged him to return as soon as his circumstances 
would permit. "We are looking after our gates and guards, and a 
little more carefully in your absence. ... If anything important and 
fresh occurs, I shall send you a messenger immediately, so that if 
you hear no news from me, you may consider that nothing has hap- 
pened." He begs M. de Matignon to remember, however, that he 
might not have time to warn him, "entreating you to consider that 
such movements are usually so sudden, that if they do occur they 
will take me by the throat without any warning." Besides, he will 
do everything to ascertain the march of events beforehand. "I will 
do what I can to hear news from all parts, and to that end shall visit 
and observe the inclinations of all sorts of men." Lastly, after keep- 
ing the marshal informed of everything, of the least rumours abroad 
in the city, he pressed him to return, assuring him "that we spare 
neither our care, nor, if need be, our lives to preserve everything in 
obedience to the king." Montaigne was never prodigal of protesta- 
tions and praises, and what with others was a mere form of speech, 
was with him a real undertaking and the truth. 

Things, however, became worse and worse: civil war broke out; 


friendly or hostile parties (the difference was not great) infested the 
country. Montaigne, who went to his country house as often as he 
could, whenever the duties of his office, which was drawing near its 
term, did not oblige him to be in Bordeaux, was exposed to every sort 
of insult and outrage. "I underwent," he said, "the inconveniences 
that moderation brings along with it in such a disease. I was pitied 
on all hands; to the Ghibelline I was a Guelph, and to the Guelph a 
Ghibelline." In the midst of his personal grievances he could dis- 
engage and raise his thoughts to reflections on the public misfortunes 
and on the degradation of men's characters. Considering closely the 
disorder of parties, and all the abject and wretched things which de- 
veloped so quickly, he was ashamed to see leaders of renown stoop 
and debase themselves by cowardly complacency; for in those cir- 
cumstances we know, like him, "that in the word of command to 
march, draw up, wheel, and the like, we obey him indeed; but all 
the rest is dissolute and free." "It pleases me," said Montaigne iron- 
ically, "to observe how much pusillanimity and cowardice there is in 
ambition; by how abject and servile ways it must arrive at its end." 
Despising ambition as he did, he was not sorry to see it unmasked 
by such practices and degraded in his sight. However, his goodness 
of heart overcoming his pride and contempt, he adds sadly, "it dis- 
pleases me to see good and generous natures, and that are capable 
of justice, every day corrupted in the management and command of 
this confusion. . . . We had ill-contrived souls enough without spoil- 
ing those that were generous and good." He rather sought in that 
misfortune an opportunity and motive for fortifying and strength- 
ening himself. Attacked one by one by many disagreeables and 
evils, which he would have endured more cheerfully in a heap — that 
is to say, all at once — pursued by war, disease, by all the plagues 
(July 1585), in the course things were taking, he already asked him- 
self to whom he and his could have recourse, of whom he could ask 
shelter and subsistence for his old age; and having looked and 
searched thoroughly all around, he found himself actually destitute 
and ruined. For, "to let a man's self fall plumb down, and from so 
great a height, it ought to be in the arms of a solid, vigorous, and 
fortunate friendship. They are very rare, if there be any." Speaking 
in such a manner, we perceive that La Boetie had been some time 


dead. Then he feh that he must after all rely on himself in his 
distress, and must gain strength; now or never was the time to put 
into practice the lofty lessons he spent his life in collecting from the 
books of the philosophers. He took heart again, and attained all the 
height of his virtue : "In an ordinary and quiet time, a man prepares 
himself for moderate and common accidents; but in the confusion 
wherein we have been for these thirty years, every Frenchman, 
whether in particular or in general, sees himself every hour upon the 
point of the total ruin and overthrow of his fortune." And far from 
being discouraged and cursing fate for causing him to be born in so 
stormy an age, he suddenly congratulated himself: "Let us thank 
fortune that has not made us live in an effeminate, idle and languish- 
ing age." Since the curiosity of wise men seeks the past for dis- 
turbances in states in order to learn the secrets of history, and, as 
we should say, the whole physiology of the body social, "so does my 
curiosity," he declares, "make me in some sort please myself with 
seeing with my own eyes this notable spectacle of our public death, 
its forms and symptoms; and, seeing I could not hinder it, am con- 
tent to be destined to assist in it, and thereby to instruct myself." 
I shall not suggest a consolation of that sort to most people; the 
greater part of mankind does not possess the heroic and eager 
curiosity of Empedocles and the elder Pliny, the two intrepid men 
who went straight to the volcanoes and the disturbances of nature 
to examine them at close quarters, at the risk of destruction and 
death. But to a man of Montaigne's nature, the thought of that 
stoical observation gave him consolation even amid real evils. Con- 
sidering the condition of false peace and doubtful truce, the regime 
of dull and profound corruption which had preceded the last dis- 
turbances, he almost congratulated himself on seeing their cessation; 
for "it was," he said of the regime of Henri III., "an universal junc- 
ture of particular members, rotten to emulation of one another, and 
the most of them with inveterate ulcers, that neither required nor ad- 
mitted of any cure. This conclusion therefore did really more ani- 
mate than depress me." Note that his health, usually delicate, is here 
raised to the level of his morality, although what it had suffered 
through the various disturbances might have been enough to under- 
mine it. He had the satisfaction of feeling that he had some hold 


against fortune, and that it would take a greater shock still to 
crush him. 

Another consideration, humbler and more humane, upheld him in 
his troubles, the consolation arising from a common misfortune, a 
misfortune shared by all, and the sight of the courage of others. The 
people, especially the real people, they who are victims and not rob- 
bers, the peasants of his district, moved him by the manner in which 
they endured the same, or even worse, troubles than his. The dis- 
ease or plague which raged at that time in the country pressed 
chiefly on the poor; Montaigne learned from them resignation and 
the practice of philosophy. "Let us look down upon the poor people 
that we see scattered upon the face of the earth, prone and intent 
upon their business, that neither know Aristotle nor Cato, example 
nor precept. Even from these does nature every day extract effects 
of constancy and patience, more pure and manly than those we so 
inquisitively study in the schools." And he goes on to describe them 
working to the bitter end, even in their grief, even in disease, until 
their strength failed them. "He that is now digging in my garden 
has this morning buried his father, or his son. , . . They never keep 
their beds but to die." The whole chapter is fine, pathetic, to the 
point, evincing noble, stoical elevation of mind, and also the cheer- 
ful and affable disposition which Montaigne said, with truth, was 
his by inheritance, and in which he had been nourished. There could 
be nothing better as regards "consolation in public calamities," ex- 
cept a chapter of some not more human, but of some truly divine 
book, in which the hand of God should be everywhere visible, not 
perfunctorily, as with Montaigne, but actually and lovingly present. 
In fact, the consolation Montaigne gives himself and others is per- 
haps as lofty and beautiful as human consolation without prayer 
can be. 

He wrote the chapter, the twelfth of the third book, in the midst 
of the evils described, and before they were ended. He concluded it 
in his graceful and poetical way with a collection of examples, "a 
heap of foreign flowers," to which he furnished only the thread for 
fastening them together. 

There is Montaigne to the life; no matter how seriously he spoke, 
it was always with the utmost charm. To form an opinion on his 


Style you have only to open him indifferently at any page and listen 
to his talk on any subject; there is none that he did not enliven and 
make suggestive. In the chapter "Of Liars," for instance, after en- 
larging on his lack of memory and giving a list of reasons by which 
he might console himself, he suddenly added this fresh and delight- 
ful reason, that, thanks to his faculty for forgetting, "the places I 
revisit, and the books I read over again, always smile upon me with 
a fresh novelty." It is thus that on every subject he touched he was 
continually new, and created sources of freshness. 

Montesquieu, in a memorable exclamation, said: "The four great 
poets, Plato, Malebranche, Shaftesbury, Montaigne!" How true it is 
of Montaigne! No French writer, including the poets proper, had so 
lofty an idea of poetry as he had. "From my earliest childhood," he 
said, "poetry had power over me to transport and transpierce me." 
He considered, and therein shows penetration, that "we have more 
poets than judges and interpreters of poetry. It is easier to write than 
to understand." In itself and its pure beauty his poetry defies defi- 
nition; whoever desired to recognise it at a glance and discern of what 
it actually consisted would see no more than "the brilliance of a 
flash of lightning." In the constitution and continuity of his style, 
Montaigne is a writer very rich in animated, bold similes, naturally 
fertile in metaphors that are never detached from the thought, but 
that seize it in its very centre, in its interior, that join and bind it. 
In that respect, fully obeying his own genius, he has gone beyond and 
sometimes exceeded the genius of language. His concise, vigorous 
and always forcible style, by its poignancy, emphasises and repeats 
the meaning. It may be said of his style that it is a continual epi- 
gram, or an ever-renewed metaphor, a style that has only been 
successfully employed by the French once, by Montaigne himself. If 
we wanted to imitate him, supposing we had the power and were 
naturally fitted for it — if we desired to write with his severity, exact 
proportion, and diverse continuity of figures and turns — it would be 
necessary to force our language to be more powerful, and poetically 
more complete, than is usually our custom. Style i la Montaigne, 
consistent, varied in the series and assortment of the metaphors, ex- 
acts the creation of a portion of the tissue itself to hold them. It is 
absolutely necessary that in places the woof should be enlarged and 


extended, in order to weave into it the metaphor; but in defining him 
I come almost to write like him. The French language, French 
prose, which in fact always savours more or less of conversation, 
does not, naturally, possess the resources and the extent of canvas 
necessary for a continued picture; by the side of an animated meta- 
phor it will often exhibit a sudden lacuna and some weak places. 
In filling this by boldness and invention as Montaigne did, in creat- 
ing, in imagining the expression and locution that is wanting, our 
prose should appear equally finished. Style a la Montaigne would, 
in many respects, be openly at war with that of Voltaire. It could 
only come into being and flourish in the full freedom of the sixteenth 
century, in a frank, ingenious, jovial, keen, brave, and refined mind, 
of an unique stamp, that even for that time, seemed free and some- 
what licentious, and that was inspired and emboldened, but not 
intoxicated by the pure and direct spirit of ancient sources. 

Such as he is, Montaigne is the French Horace; he is Horatian 
in the groundwork, often in the form and expression, although in 
that he sometimes approaches Seneca. His book is a treasure-house 
of moral observations and of experience; at whatever page it is 
opened, and in whatever condition of mind, some wise thought ex- 
pressed in a striking and enduring fashion is certain to be found. 
It will at once detach itself and engrave itself on the mind, a beauti- 
ful meaning in full and forcible words, in one vigorous line, familiar 
or great. The whole of his book, said Etienne Pasquier, is a real 
seminary of beautiful and remarkable sentences, and they come in 
so much the better that they run and hasten on without thrusting 
themselves into notice. There is something for every age, for every 
hour of life: you cannot read in it for any time without having the 
mind filled and lined as it were, or, to put it better, fully armed 
and clothed. We have just seen how much useful counsel and actual 
consolation it contains for an honourable man, born for private life, 
and fallen on times of disturbance and revolution. To this I shall add 
the counsel he gave those who, like myself and many men of my 
acquaintance, suffer from political disturbances without in any way 
provoking them, or believing ourselves capable of averting them. 
Montaigne, as Horace would have done, counsels them, while appre- 
hending everything from afar off, not to be too much preoccupied 


with such matters in advance; to take advantage to the end of 
pleasant moments and bright intervals. Stroke on stroke come his 
piquant and wise similes, and he concludes, to my thinking, with the 
most delightful one of all, and one, besides, entirely appropriate and 
seasonable: it is folly and fret, he said, "to take out your furred 
gown at Saint John because you will want it at Christmas." 


A DELICATE question, to which somewhat diverse solutions 
might be given according to times and seasons. An inteUi- 
L gent man suggests it to me, and I intend to try, i£ not to 
solve it, at least to examine and discuss it face to face with my 
readers, were it only to persuade them to answer it for themselves, 
and, if I can, to make their opinion and mine on the point clear. 
And why, in criticism, should we not, from time to time, venture to 
treat some of those subjects which are not personal, in which we no 
longer speak of some one but of some thing? Our neighbours, the 
English, have well succeeded in making of it a special division of 
literature under the modest title of "Essays." It is true that in 
writing of such subjects, always slightly abstract and moral, it is 
advisable to speak of them in a season of quiet, to make sure of our 
own attention and of that of others, to seize one of those moments 
of calm moderation and leisure seldom granted our amiable France; 
even when she is desirous of being wise and is not making revolu- 
tions, her brilliant genius can scarcely tolerate them. 

A classic, according to the usual definition, is an old author canon- 
ised by admiration, and an authority in his particular style. The 
word classic was first used in this sense by the Romans. With them 
not all the citizens of the different classes were properly called 
classici, but only those of the chief class, those who possessed an in- 
come of a certain fixed sum. Those who possessed a smaller income 
were described by the term injra classem, below the pre-eminent class. 
The word classicus was used in a figurative sense by Aulus Gellius, 
and applied to writers: a writer of worth and distinction, classicus 
assiduusque scriptor, a writer who is of account, has real property, 
and is not lost in the proletariate crowd. Such an expression implies 
an age sufficiently advanced to have already made some sort of 
valuation and classification of literature. 

At first the only true classics for the moderns were the ancients. 
The Greeks, by peculiar good fortune and natural enlightenment of 


mind, had no classics but themselves. They were at first the only 
classical authors for the Romans, who strove and contrived to imitate 
them. After the great periods of Roman literature, after Cicero and 
Virgil, the Romans in their turn had their classics, who became 
almost exclusively the classical authors of the centuries which fol- 
lowed. The middle ages, which were less ignorant of Latin antiquity 
than is believed, but which lacked proportion and taste, confused 
the ranks and orders. Ovid was placed above Homer, and Boetius 
seemed a classic equal to Plato. The revival of learning in the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries helped to bring this long chaos to 
order, and then only was admiration rightly proportioned. Thence- 
forth the true classical authors of Greek and Latin antiquity stood 
out in a luminous background, and were harmoniously grouped on 
their two heights. 

Meanwhile modern literatures were born, and some of the more 
precocious, like the Italian, already possessed the style of antiquity. 
Dante appeared, and, from the very first, posterity greeted him as a 
classic. Italian poetry has since shrunk into far narrower bounds; 
but, whenever it desired to do so, it always found again and pre- 
served the impulse and echo of its lofty origin. It is no indifferent 
matter for a poetry to derive its point of departure and classical 
source in high places; for example, to spring from Dante rather than 
to issue laboriously from Malherbe. 

Modern Italy had her classical authors, and Spain had every right 
to believe that she also had hers at a time when France was yet 
seeking hers. A few talented writers endowed with originality and 
exceptional animation, a few brilliant efforts, isolated, without fol- 
lowing, interrupted and recommenced, did not suffice to endow a 
nation with a solid and imposing basis of literary wealth. The idea 
of a classic implies something that has continuance and consistence, 
and which produces unity and tradition, fashions and transmits 
itself, and endures. It was only after the glorious years of Louis 
XIV. that the nation felt with tremor and pride that such good 
fortune had happened to her. Every voice informed Louis XIV. 
of it with flattery, exaggeration, and emphasis, yet with a certain 
sentiment of truth. Then arose a singular and striking contradic- 


tion: those men of whom Perrault was the chief, the men who were 
most smitten with the marvels of the age of Louis the Great, who 
even went the length of sacrificing the ancients to the moderns, 
aimed at exalting and canonising even those whom they regarded as 
inveterate opponents and adversaries. Boileau avenged and angrily 
upheld the ancients against Perrault, who extolled the moderns — 
that is to say, Corneille, Moliere, Pascal, and the eminent men of 
his age, Boileau, one of the first, included. Kindly La Fontaine, 
taking part in the dispute in behalf of the learned Huet, did not 
perceive that, in spite of his defects, he was in his turn on the point 
of being held as a classic himself. 

Example is the best definition. From the time France possessed 
her age of Louis XIV. and could contemplate it at a little distance, 
she knew, better than by any arguments, what to be classical meant. 
The eighteenth century, even in its medley of things, strengthened 
this idea through some fine works, due to its four great men. Read 
Voltaire's Age of Louis XIV., Montesquieu's Greatness and Fall of 
the Romans, Buffon's Epochs of Nature, the beautiful pages of 
reverie and natural description of Rousseau's Savoyard Vicar, and 
say if the eighteenth century, in these memorable works, did not 
understand how to reconcile tradition with freedom of development 
and independence. But at the beginning of the present century and 
under the Empire, in sight of the first attempts of a decidedly new 
and somewhat adventurous literature, the idea of a classic in a few 
resisting minds, more sorrowful than severe, was strangely narrowed 
and contracted. The first Dictionary of the Academy (1694) merely 
defined a classical author as "a much-approved ancient writer, who 
is an authority as regards the subject he treats." The Dictionary of 
the Academy of 1835 narrows that definition still more, and gives 
precision and even limit to its rather vague form. It describes 
classical authors as those "who have become models in any language 
whatever," and in all the articles which follow, the expressions, 
models, fixed rules for composition and style, strict rules of art to 
which men must conform, continually recur. That definition of 
classic was evidently made by the respectable Academicians, our 
predecessors, in face and sight of what was then called romantic — 


that is to say, in sight of the enemy. It seems to me time to re- 
nounce those timid and restrictive definitions and to free our mind 
of them. 

A true classic, as I should like to hear it defined, is an author who 
has enriched the human mind, increased its treasure, and caused it to 
advance a step; who has discovered some moral and not equivocal 
truth, or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed 
known and discovered; who has expressed his thought, observation, 
or invention, in no matter what form, only provided it be broad and 
great, refined and sensible, sane and beautiful in itself; who has 
spoken to all in his own peculiar style, a style which is found to be 
also that of the whole world, a style new without neologism, new 
and old, easily contemporary with all time. 

Such a classic may for a moment have been revolutionary; it may 
at least have seemed so, but it is not; it only lashed and subverted 
whatever prevented the restoration of the balance of order and 

If it is desired, names may be applied to this definition which I 
wish to make purposely majestic and fluctuating, or in a word, all- 
embracing. I should first put there Corneille of the Polyeucte, Cinna, 
and Horaces. I should put Moliere there, the fullest and most com- 
plete poetic genius we have ever had in France. Goethe, the king 
of critics, said : — 

"Moliere is so great that he astonishes us afresh every time we 
read him. He is a man apart; his plays border on the tragic, and no 
one has the courage to try and imitate him. His Avare, where vice 
destroys all affection between father and son, is one of the most 
sublime works, and dramatic in the highest degree. In a drama 
every action ought to be important in itself, and to lead to an action 
greater still. In this respect Tartuffe is a model. What a piece of 
exposition the first scene is! From the beginning everything has an 
important meaning, and causes something much more important to 
be foreseen. The exposition in a certain play of Lessing that might 
be mentioned is very fine, but the world only sees that of Tartuffe 
once. It is the finest of the kind we possess. Every year I read a 
play of Moliere, just as from time to time I contemplate some 
engraving after the great Italian masters." 


I do not conceal from myself that the definition of the classic I 
have just given somewhat exceeds the notion usually ascribed to the 
term. It should, above all, include conditions of uniformity, wisdom, 
moderation, and reason, which dominate and contain all the others. 
Having to praise M. Royer-CoUard, M. de Remusat said — "If he de- 
rives purity of taste, propriety of terms, variety of expression, at- 
tentive care in suiting the diction to the thought, from our classics, 
he owes to himself alone the distinctive character he gives it all." 
It is here evident that the part allotted to classical qualities seems 
mostly to depend on harmony and nuances of expression, on grace- 
ful and temperate style : such is also the most general opinion. In this 
sense the pre-eminent classics would be writers of a middling order, 
exact, sensible, elegant, always clear, yet of noble feeling and airily 
veiled strength. Marie-Joseph Chenier has described the poetics of 
those temperate and accomplished writers in lines where he shows 
himself their happy disciple :— 

"It is good sense, reason which does all, — virtue, genius, soul, talent, 
and taste. — What is virtue? reason put in practice; — talent? reason 
expressed with briUiance; — soul? reason delicately put forth; — and 
genius is sublime reason." 

While writing those lines he was evidently thinking of Pope, 
Boileau, and Horace, the master of them all. The peculiar charac- 
teristic of the theory which subordinated imagination and feeling 
itself to reason, of which Scaliger perhaps gave the first sign among 
the moderns, is, properly speaking, the Latin theory, and for a long 
time it was also by preference the French theory. If it is used ap- 
positely, if the term reason is not abused, that theory possesses some 
truth; but it is evident that it is abused, and that if, for instance, rea- 
son can be confounded with poetic genius and make one with it in a 
moral epistle, it cannot be the same thing as the genius, so varied 
and so diversely creative in its expression of the passions, of the 
drama or the epic. Where will you find reason in the fourth book 
of the /Eneid and the transports of Dido? Be that as it may, the 
spirit which prompted the theory, caused writers who ruled their 
inspiration, rather than those who abandoned themselves to it, to be 
placed in the first rank of classics; to put Virgil there more surely 
than Homer, Racine in preference to Corneille. The masterpiece to 


which the theory likes to point, which in fact brings together all con- 
ditions of prudence, strength, tempered boldness, moral elevation, 
and grandeur, is Athalie. Turenne in his two last campaigns and 
Racine in Athalie are the great examples of what wise and prudent 
men are capable of when they reach the maturity of their genius 
and attain their supremest boldness. 

BuflEon, in his Discourse on Style, insisting on the unity of design, 
arrangement, and execution, which are the stamps of true classical 
works, said: — "Every subject is one, and however vast it is, it can 
be comprised in a single treatise. Interruptions, pauses, sub-divisions 
should only be used when many subjects are treated, when, having 
to speak of great, intricate, and dissimilar things, the march of genius 
is interrupted by the multiplicity of obstacles, and contracted by the 
necessity of circumstances: otherwise, far from making a work more 
solid, a great number of divisions destroys the unity of its parts; the 
book appears clearer to the view, but the author's design remains 
obscure." And he continues his criticism, having in view Montes- 
quieu's Spirit of Laws, an excellent book at bottom, but sub-divided: 
the famous author, worn out before the end, was unable to infuse 
inspiration into all his ideas, and to arrange all his matter. However, 
I can scarcely believe that Buflon was not also thinking, by way of 
contrast, of Bossuet's Discourse on Universal History, a subject vast 
indeed, and yet of such an unity that the great orator was able to 
comprise it in a single treatise. When we open the first edition, 
that of 1681, before the division into chapters, which was introduced 
later, passed from the margin into the text, everything is developed in 
a single series, almost in one breath. It might be said that the orator 
has here acted like the nature of which Buffon speaks, that "he has 
worked on an eternal plan from which he has nowhere departed," so 
deeply does he seem to have entered into the familiar counsels and 
designs of providence. 

Are Athalie and the Discourse on Universal History the greatest 
masterpieces that the strict classical theory can present to its friends 
as well as to its enemies? In spite of the admirable simplicity and 
dignity in the achievement of such unique productions, we should 
like, nevertheless, in the interests of art, to expand that theory a little, 
and to show that it is possible to enlarge it without relaxing the 


tension. Goethe, whom I Hke to quote on such a subject, said: — 
"I call the classical healthy, and the romantic sic/^ly. In my opinion 
the Nibelungen song is as much a classic as Homer. Both are healthy 
and vigorous. The works of the day are romantic, not because they 
are new, but because they are weak, ailing, or sickly. Ancient works 
are classical not because they are old, but because they are powerful, 
fresh, and healthy. If we regarded romantic and classical from those 
two points of view we should soon all agree." 

Indeed, before determining and fixing the opinions on that matter, 
I should like every unbiassed mind to take a voyage round the world 
and devote itself to a survey of different literatures in their primitive 
vigour and infinite variety. What would be seen? Chief of all a 
Homer, the father of the classical world, less a single distinct in- 
dividual than the vast living expression of a whole epoch and a 
semi-barbarous civilisation. In order to make him a true classic, it 
was necessary to attribute to him later a design, a plan, literary in- 
vention, qualities of atticism and urbanity of which he had certainly 
never dreamed in the luxuriant development of his natural inspira- 
tions. And who appear by his side? August, venerable ancients, the 
^schyluses and the Sophocles, mutilated, it is true, and only there to 
present us with a debris of themselves, the survivors of many others 
as worthy, doubtless, as they to survive, but who have succumbed 
to the injuries of time. This thought alone would teach a man of 
impartial mind not to look upon the whole of even classical litera- 
tures with a too narrow and restricted view; he would learn that the 
exact and well-proportioned order which has since so largely pre- 
vailed in our admiration of the past was only the outcome of arti- 
ficial circumstances. 

And in reaching the modern world, how would it be? The great- 
est names to be seen at the beginning of literatures are those which 
disturb and run counter to certain fixed ideas of what is beautiful 
and appropriate in poetry. For example, is Shakespeare a classic? 
Yes, now, for England and the world; but in the time of Pope he was 
not considered so. Pope and his friends were the only pre-eminent 
classics; directly after their death they seemed so for ever. At the 
present time they are still classics, as they deserve to be, but they 
are only of the second order, and are for ever subordinated and rele- 


gated to their rightful place by him who has again come to his own 
on the height of the horizon. 

It is not, however, for me to speak ill of Pope or his great disciples, 
above all, when they possess pathos and naturalness like Gold- 
smith : after the greatest they are perhaps the most agreeable writers 
and the poets best fitted to add charm to life. Once when Lord 
Bohngbroke was writing to Swift, Pope added a postscript, in which 
he said — "I think some advantage would result to our age, if we 
three spent three years together." Men who, without boasting, have 
the right to say such things must never be spoken of lightly: the 
fortunate ages, when men of talent could propose such things, then 
no chimera, are rather to be envied. The ages called by the name of 
Louis XIV. or of Queen Anne are, in the dispassionate sense of the 
word, the only true classical ages, those which offer protection and a 
favourable cHmate to real talent. We know only too well how in 
our untrammelled times, through the instability and storminess of 
the age, talents are lost and dissipated. Nevertheless, let us acknowl- 
edge our age's part and superiority in greatness. True and sovereign 
genius triumphs over the very difficulties that cause others to fail: 
Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton were able to attain their height and 
produce their imperishable works in spite of obstacles, hardships and 
tempests. Byron's opinion of Pope has been much discussed, and the 
explanation of it sought in the kind of contradiction by which the 
singer of Don Juan and Childe Harold extolled the purely classical 
school and pronounced it the only good one, while himself acting 
so differently. Goethe spoke the truth on that point when he re- 
marked that Byron, great by the flow and source of poetry, feared 
that Shakespeare was more powerful than himself in the creation 
and realisation of his characters. "He would have liked to deny it; 
the elevation so free from egoism irritated him; he felt when near 
it that he could not display himself at ease. He never denied Pope, 
because he did not fear him; he knew that Pope was only a low wall 
by his side." 

If, as Byron desired. Pope's school had kept the supremacy and a 
sort of honorary empire in the past, Byron would have been the 
first and only poet in his particular style; the height of Pope's wall 
shuts out Shakespeare's great figure from sight, whereas when 


Shakespeare reigns and rules in all his greatness, Byron is only 

In France there was no great classic before the age of Louis XIV.; 
the Dantes and Shakespeares, the early authorities to whom, in times 
of emancipation, men sooner or later return, were wanting. There 
were mere sketches of great poets, like Mathurin Regnier, like Rabe- 
lais, without any ideal, without the depth of emotion and the 
seriousness which canonises. Montaigne was a kind of premature 
classic, of the family of Horace, but for want of worthy surroundings, 
like a spoiled child, he gave himself up to the unbridled fancies of 
his style and humour. Hence it happened that France, less than any 
other nation, found in her old authors a right to demand vehemently 
at a certain time literary liberty and freedom, and that it was more 
difficult for her, in enfranchising herself, to remain classical. How- 
ever, with Moliere and La Fontaine among her classics of the great 
period, nothing could justly be refused to those who possessed cour- 
age and ability. 

The important point now seems to me to be to uphold, while ex- 
tending, the idea and belief. There is no receipt for making classics; 
this point should be clearly recognised. To believe that an author 
will become a classic by imitating certain qualities of purity, modera- 
tion, accuracy, and elegance, independently of the style and inspira- 
tion, is to believe that after Racine the father there is a place for 
Racine the son; dull and estimable rdle, the worst in poetry. Further, 
it is hazardous to take too quickly and without opposition the place 
of a classic in the sight of one's contemporaries; in that case there is 
a good chance of not retaining the position with posterity. Fontanes 
in his day was regarded by his friends as a pure classic; see how at 
twenty-five years' distance his star has set. How many of these pre- 
cocious classics are there who do not endure, and who are so only 
for a while! We turn round one morning and are surprised not to 
find them standing behind us. Madame de Sevigne would wittily 
say they possessed but an evanescent colour. With regard to classics, 
the least expected prove the best and greatest: seek them rather in 
the vigorous genius born immortal and flourishing for ever. Ap- 
parently the least classical of the four great poets of the age of Louis 
XIV. was Moliere; he was then applauded far more than he was 


esteemed; men took delight in him without understanding his 
worth. After him, La Fontaine seemed the least classical: observe 
after two centuries what is the result for both. Far above Boileau, 
even above Racine, are they not now unanimously considered to 
possess in the highest degree the characteristics of an all-embracing 
morality ? 

Meanwhile there is no question of sacrificing or depreciating any- 
thing. I believe the temple of taste is to be rebuilt; but its reconstruc- 
tion is merely a matter of enlargement, so that it may become the 
home of all noble human beings, of all who have permanently in- 
creased the sum of the mind's delights and possessions. As for me, 
who cannot, obviously, in any degree pretend to be the architect or 
designer of such a temple, I shall confine myself to expressing a few 
earnest wishes, to submit, as it were, my designs for the edifice. 
Above all I should desire not to exclude any one among the worthy, 
each should be in his place there, from Shakespeare, the freest of 
creative geniuses, and the greatest of classics without knowing it, to 
Andrieux, the last of classics in little. "There is more than one 
chamber in the mansions of my Father;" that should be as true of 
the kingdom of the beautiful here below, as of the kingdom of 
Heaven. Homer, as always and everywhere, should be first, likest a 
god; but behind him, like the procession of the three wise kings of 
the East, would be seen the three great poets, the three Homers, so 
long ignored by us, who wrote epics for the use of the old peoples of 
Asia, the poets Valmiki, Vyasa of the Hindoos, and Firdousi of the 
Persians : in the domain of taste it is well to know that such men exist, 
and not to divide the human race. Our homage paid to what is 
recognized as soon as perceived, we must not stray further; the eye 
should delight in a thousand pleasing or majestic spectacles, should 
rejoice in a thousand varied and surprising combinations, whose ap- 
parent confusion would never be without concord and harmony. 
The oldest of the wise men and poets, those who put human morality 
into maxims, and those who in simple fashion sung it, would con- 
verse together in rare and gentle speech, and would not be surprised 
at understanding each other's meaning at the very first word. Solon, 
Hesiod, Theognis, Job, Solomon, and why not Confucius, would 
welcome the cleverest moderns, La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyere, 


who, when listening to them, would say "they knew all that we 
know, and in repeating life's experiences, we have discovered noth- 
ing." On the hill, most easily discernible, and of most accessible 
ascent, Virgil, surrounded by Menander, TibuUus, Terence, Fene- 
lon, would occupy himself in discoursing with them with great 
charm and divine enchantment: his gentle countenance would shine 
with an inner light, and be tinged with modesty; as on the day when 
entering the theatre at Rome, just as they finished reciting his verses, 
he saw the people rise with an unanimous movement and pay to 
him the same homage as to Augustus. Not far from him, regretting 
the separation from so dear a friend, Horace, in his turn, would 
preside (as far as so accomplished and wise a poet could preside) 
over the group of poets of social life who could talk although they 
sang, — Pope, Boileau, the one become less irritable, the other less 
fault-finding. Montaigne, a true poet, would be among them, and 
would give the finishing touch that should deprive that delightful 
corner of the air of a literary school. There would La Fontaine 
forget himself, and becoming less volatile would wander no more. 
Voltaire would be attracted by it, but while finding pleasure in it 
would not have patience to remain. A little lower down, on the 
same hill as Virgil, Xenophon, with simple bearing, looking in no 
way like a general, but rather resembling a priest of the Muses, 
would be seen gathering round him the Attics of every tongue and 
of every nation, the Addisons, Pellissons, Vauvenargues — all who 
feel the value of an easy persuasiveness, an exquisite simplicity, and 
a gende negligence mingled with ornament. In the centre of the 
place, in the portico of the principal temple (for there would be 
several in the enclosure), three great men would like to meet often, 
and when they were together, no fourth, however great, would 
dream of joining their discourse or their silence. In them would be 
seen beauty, proportion in greatness, and that perfect harmony which 
appears but once in the full youth of the world. Their three names 
have become the ideal of art — Plato, Sophocles, and Demosthenes. 
Those demi-gods honoured, we see a numerous and familiar com- 
pany of choice spirits who follow, the Cervantes and Molieres, 
practical painters of life, indulgent friends who are still the first of 
benefactors, who laughingly embrace all mankind, turn man's ex- 


perience to gaiety, and know the powerful workings of a sensible, 
hearty, and legitimate joy. I do not wish to make this description, 
which if complete would fill a volume, any longer. In the middle 
ages, believe me, Dante would occupy the sacred heights: at the feet 
of the singer of Paradise all Italy would be spread out like a garden; 
Boccaccio and Ariosto would there disport themselves, and Tasso 
would find again the orange groves of Sorrento. Usually a corner 
would be reserved for each of the various nations, but the authors 
would take delight in leaving it, and in their travels would recog- 
nise, where we should least expect it, brothers or masters. Lucretius, 
for example, would enjoy discussing the origin of the world and the 
reducing of chaos to order with Milton. But both arguing from their 
own point of view, they would only agree as regards divine pictures 
of poetry and nature. 

Such are our classics; each individual imagination may finish the 
sketch and choose the group preferred. For it is necessary to make 
a choice, and the first condition of taste, after obtaining knowledge 
of all, lies not in continual travel, but in rest and cessation from 
wandering. Nothing blunts and destroys taste so much as endless 
journeyings; the poetic spirit is not the Wandering ]ew. However, 
when I speak of resting and making choice, my meaning is not that 
we are to imitate those who charm us most among our masters in 
the past. Let us be content to know them, to penetrate them, to 
admire them; but let us, the late-comers, endeavour to be ourselves. 
Let us have the sincerity and naturalness of our own thoughts, of 
our own feelings; so much is always possible. To that let us add 
what is more difficult, elevation, an aim, if possible, towards an 
exalted goal; and while speaking our own language, and submitting 
to the conditions of the times in which we live, whence we derive 
our strength and our defects, let us ask from time to time, our brows 
lifted towards the heights and our eyes fixed on the group of 
honoured mortals : what would they say of us? 

But why speak always of authors and writings? Maybe an age 
is coming when there will be no more writing. Happy those who 
read and read again, those who in their reading can follow their 
unrestrained inclination! There comes a time in life when, all our 
journeys over, our experiences ended, there is no enjoyment more 


delightful than to study and thoroughly examine the things we 
know, to take pleasure in what we feel, and in seeing and seeing 
again the people we love: the pure joys of our maturity. Then it is 
that the word classic takes its true meaning, and is defined for every 
man of taste by an irresistible choice. Then taste is formed, it is 
shaped and definite; then good sense, if we are to possess it at all, is 
perfected in us. We have neither more time for experiments, nor a 
desire to go forth in search of pastures new. We cling to our friends, 
to those proved by long intercourse. Old wine, old books, old friends. 
We say to ourselves with Voltaire in these delightful lines: — "Let 
us enjoy, let us write, let us live, my dear Horace! ... I have lived 
longer than you: my verse will not last so long. But on the brink 
of the tomb I shall make it my chief care — to follow the lessons of 
your philosophy — to despise death in enjoying life — to read your 
writings full of charm and good sense — as we drink an old wine 
which revives our senses." 

In fact, be it Horace or another who is the author preferred, who 
reflects our thoughts in all the wealth of their maturity, of some one 
of those excellent and antique minds shall we request an interview 
at every moment; of some one of them shall we ask a friendship 
which never deceives, which could not fail us; to some one of them 
shall we appeal for that sensation of serenity and amenity (we have 
often need of it) which reconciles us with mankind and with our- 






Ernest Renan was born in 1823, at Treguier in Brittany. He was 
educated for the priesthood, but never took orders, turning at first to 
teaching. He continued his studies in religion and philology, and, after 
traveling in Syria on a government commission, he returned to Paris 
and became professor of Hebrew in the College de France, from which 
he was suspended for a time on account of protests against his heretical 
teachings. He died in 1892. 

Renan's activity divides itself into two parts. The first culminated in 
his two great works on the "Origins of Christianity" and on the "History 
of Israel." As to the scientific value of these books there is difference 
of opinion, as was to be expected in a treatment of such subjects to the 
exclusion of the miraculous. But the delicacy and vividness of his por- 
traits of the great personalities of Hebrew history, and the acuteness of 
his analysis of national psychology, are not to be denied. 

The other part of his work is more miscellaneous, but most of it is 
in some sense philosophical or autobiographical. Believing profoundly 
in scientific method, Renan was unable to find in science a basis for 
either ethics or metaphysics, and ended in a skepticism often ironical, 
yet not untinged with mysticism. 

"He was an amazing writer," says M. Faguet, "and disconcerted 
criticism by the impossibility of explaining his methods of procedure; 
he was luminous, supple, naturally pliant and yielding; beneath his 
apparently effeminate grace an extraordinary strength of character would 
suddenly make itself felt; he had, more than any nineteenth-century 
writer, the quality of charm; he exercised a caressing influence which 
enveloped, and finally conquered, the reader." 

In no kind of writing was Renan's command of style more notable 
than in the description of scenery; and in his pictures of his native Brit- 
tany in the essay on "The Poetry of the Celtic Races," as well as in his 
analysis of national qualities, two of his most characteristic powers are 
admirably displayed. 


EVERY one who travels through the Armorican peninsula ex- 
periences a change of the most abrupt description, as soon 
as he leaves behind the district most closely bordering upon 
the continent, in which the cheerful but commonplace type of face 
of Normandy and Maine is continually in evidence, and passes into 
the true Brittany, that which merits its name by language and race. 
A cold wind arises full of a vague sadness, and carries the soul to 
other thoughts; the tree-tops are bare and twisted; the heath with its 
monotony of tint stretches away into the distance; at every step the 
granite protrudes from a soil too scanty to cover it; a sea that is 
almost always sombre girdles the horizon with eternal moaning. 
The same contrast is manifest in the people: to Norman vulgarity, 
to a plump and prosperous population, happy to live, full of its own 
interests, egoistical as are all these who make a habit of enjoyment, 
succeeds a timid and reserved race living altogether within itself, 
heavy in appearance but capable of profound feeling, and of an 
adorable delicacy in its religious instincts. A Hke change is apparent, 
I am told, in passing from England into Wales, from the Lowlands 
of Scotland, English by language and manners, into the Gaelic High- 
lands; and too, though with a perceptible difference, when one buries 
oneself in the districts of Ireland where the race has remained pure 
from all admixture of alien blood. It seems like entering on the 
subterranean strata of another world, and one experiences in some 
measure the impression given us by Dante, when he leads us from 
one circle of his Inferno to another. 

Sufficient attention is not given to the peculiarity of this fact of an 
ancient race living, until our days and almost under our eyes, its own 
life in some obscure islands and peninsulas in the West, more and 
more affected, it is true, by external influences, but still faithful to 
its own tongue, to its own memories, to its own customs, and to its 


138 RENAN 

own genius. Especially is it forgotten that this little people, now 
concentrated on the very confines of the world, in the midst of rocks 
and mountains whence its enemies have been powerless to force it, 
is in possession of a literature which, in the Middle Ages, exercised 
an immense influence, changed the current of European civilisation, 
and imposed its poetical motives on nearly the whole of Christen- 
dom. Yet it is only necessary to open the authentic monuments of 
the Gaelic genius to be convinced that the race which created them 
has had its own original manner of feeling and thinking, that no- 
where has the eternal illusion clad itself in more seductive hues, and 
that in the great chorus of humanity no race equals this for pene- 
trative notes that go to the very heart. Alas! it too is doomed to 
disappear, this emerald set in the Western seas. Arthur will return 
no more from his isle of faery, and St. Patrick was right when he 
said to Ossian, "The heroes that thou weepest are dead; can they be 
born again?" It is high time to note, before they shall have passed 
away, the divine tones thus expiring on the horizon before the grow- 
ing tumult of uniform civilisation. Were criticism to set itself the 
task of calling back these distant echoes, and of giving a voice to 
races that are no more, would not that suffice to absolve it from the 
reproach, unreasonably and too frequently brought against it, of 
being only negative? 

Good works now exist which facilitate the task of him who under- 
takes the study of these interesting literatures. Wales, above all, is 
distinguished by scientific and literary activity, not always accom- 
panied, it is true, by a very rigorous critical spirit, but deserving the 
highest praise. There, researches which would bring honour to the 
most active centres of learning in Europe are the work of enthusi- 
astic amateurs. A peasant called Owen Jones published in 1801-7, 
under the name of the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, the precious 
collection which is to this day the arsenal of Cymric antiquities. A 
number of erudite and zealous workers, Aneurin Owen, Thomas 
Price of Crickhowell, William Rees, and John Jones, following in 
the footsteps of the Myvyrian peasant, set themselves to finish his 
work, and to profit from the treasures which he had collected. A 
woman of distinction. Lady Charlotte Guest, charged herself with 
the task of acquainting Europe with the collection of the Mabino- 


gion^ the pearl of Gaelic literature, the completest expression of the 
Cymric genius. This magnificent work, executed in twelve years 
with the luxury that the wealthy English amateur knows how to 
use in his publications, will one day attest how full of life the con- 
sciousness of the Celtic races remained in the present century. Only 
indeed the sincerest patriotism could inspire a woman to undertake 
and achieve so vast a literary monument. Scotland and Ireland have 
in like measure been enriched by a host of studies of their ancient 
history. Lastly, our own Brittany, though all too rarely studied with 
the philological and critical rigour now exacted in works of erudi- 
tion, has furnished Celtic antiquities with her share of worthy re- 
search. Does it not suffice to cite M. de la Villemarque, whose name 
will be henceforth associated among us with these studies, and 
whose services are so incontestable, that criticism need have no fear 
of depreciating him in the eyes of a public which has accepted him 
with so much warmth and sympathy ? 

If the excellence of races is to be appreciated by the purity of their 
blood and the inviolability of their national character, it must needs 
be admitted that none can vie in nobility with the still surviving 
remains of the Celtic race.^ Never has a human family lived more 
apart from the world, and been purer from all alien admixture. 
Confined by conquest within forgotten islands and peninsulas, it has 

^The Mabinogion, from the Llyfr Coch O Hergest and other ancient Welsh 
Manuscripts, with an English Translation and Notes. By Lady Charlotte Guest. 
London and Llandovery, 1837-49. The word Mabinogi (in the plural Mabinogion) 
designates a form of romantic narrative peculiar to Wales. The origin and primitive 
meaning of this word are very uncertain, and Lady Guest's right to apply it to the 
whole of the narratives which she has published is open to doubt. 

^To avoid all misunderstanding, I ought to point out that by the word Celtic I 
designate here, not the whole of the great race which, at a remote epoch, formed 
the population of nearly the whole of Western Europe, but simply the four groups 
which, in our days, still merit this name, as apposed to the Teutons and to the 
Neo-Latin peoples. These four groups are: (i) The inhabitants of Wales or Cambria, 
and the peninsula of Cornwall, bearing even now the ancient name of Cymry; (2) the 
Bretons hretonnants, or dwellers in French Brittany speaking Bas-Breton, who 
represent an emigration of the Cymry from Wales; (3) the Gaels of the North of 
Scodand speaking Gaelic; (4) the Irish, although a very profound line of demarcation 
separates Ireland from the rest of the Celtic family. [It is also necessary to point 
out that Renan in this essay applies the name Breton both to the Bretons proper, 
('. e. the inhabitants of Brittany, and to the British members of the Celtic race. — 
Translator's Note.] 

140 RENAN 

reared an impassable barrier against external influences; it has drawn 
all from itself; it has lived solely on its own capital. From this en- 
sues that powerful individuality, that hatred of the foreigner, which 
even in our own days has formed the essential feature of the Celtic 
peoples. Roman civilisation scarcely reached them, and left among 
them but few traces. The Teutonic invasion drove them back, but 
did not penetrate them. At the present hour they are still constant 
in resistance to an invasion dangerous in an altogether different way, 
— that of modern civilisation, destructive as it is of local variations 
and national types. Ireland in particular (and herein we perhaps 
have the secret of her irremediable weakness) is the only country 
in Europe where the native can produce the titles of his descent, and 
designate with certainty, even in the darkness of prehistoric ages, the 
race from which he has sprung. 

It is in this secluded life, in this defiance of all that comes from 
without, that we must search for the explanation of the chief features 
of the Celtic character* It has all the failings, and all the good 
qualities, of the solitary man; at once proud and timid, strong in 
feeling and feeble in action, at home free and unreserved, to the 
outside world awkward and embarrassed. It distrusts the foreigner, 
because it sees in him a being more refined than itself, who abuses 
its simplicity. Indifferent to the admiration of others, it asks only 
one thing, that it should be left to itself. It is before all else a do- 
mestic race, fitted for family life and fireside joys. In no other race 
has the bond of blood been stronger, or has it created more duties, 
or attached man to his fellow with so much breadth and depth. 
Every social institution of the Celtic peoples was in the beginning 
only an extension of the family. A common tradition attests, to 
this very day, that nowhere has the trace of this great institution of 
relationship been better preserved than in Brittany. There is a 
widely-spread belief in that country, that blood speaks, and that two 
relatives, unknown one to the other, in any part of the world where- 
soever it may be, recognise each other by the secret and mysterious 
emotion which they feel in each other's presence. Respect for the 
dead rests on the same principle. Nowhere has reverence for the 
dead been greater than among the Breton peoples; nowhere have 
so many memories and prayers clustered about the tomb. This is 


because life is not for these people a personal adventure, undertaken 
by each man on his own account, and at his own risks and perils; 
it is a link in a long chain, a gift received and handed on, a debt 
paid and a duty done. 

It is easily discernible how little fitted were natures so strongly 
concentrated to furnish one of those brilliant developments, which 
imposes the momentary ascendency of a people on the world; and 
that, no doubt, is why the part played externally by the Cymric race 
has always been a secondary one. Destitute of the means of ex- 
pansion, alien to all idea of aggression and conquest, little desirous 
of making its thought prevail outside itself, it has only known how 
to retire so far as space has permitted, and then, at bay in its last 
place of retreat, to make an invincible resistance to its enemies. Its 
very fidelity has been a useless devotion. Stubborn of submission 
and ever behind the age, it is faithful to its conquerors when its con- 
querors are no longer faithful to themselves. It was the last to defend 
its religious independence against Rome — and it has become the 
staunchest stronghold of Catholicism; it was the last in France to 
defend its political independence against the king — and it has given 
to the world the last royalists. 

Thus the Celtic race has worn itself out in resistance to its time, 
and in the defence of desperate causes. It does not seem as though 
in any epoch it had any aptitude for political life. The spirit of 
family stifled within it all attempts at more extended organisation. 
Moreover, it does not appear that the peoples which form it are by 
themselves susceptible of progress. To them life appears as a fixed 
condition, which man has no power to alter. Endowed with little 
initiative, too much inclined to look upon themselves as minors and 
in tutelage, they are quick to believe in destiny and resign themselves 
to it. Seeing how little audacious they are against God, one would 
scarcely believe this race to be the daughter of Japhet. 

Thence ensues its sadness. Take the songs of its bards of the 
sixth century; they weep more defeats than they sing victories. Its 
history is itself only one long lament; it still recalls its exiles, its 
flights across the seas. If at times it seems to be cheerful, a tear is 
not slow to glisten behind its smile; it does not know that strange 
forgetfulness of human conditions and destinies which is called 

142 RENAN 

gaiety. Its songs of joy end as elegies; there is nothing to equal the 
delicious sadness of its national melodies. One might call them 
emanations from on high which, falhng drop by drop upon the soul, 
pass through it like memories of another world. Never have men 
feasted so long upon these solitary delights of the spirit, these poetic 
memories which simultaneously intercross all the sensations of life, 
so vague, so deep, so penetrative, that one might die from them, 
without being able to say whether it was from bitterness or sweet- 

The infinite delicacy of feeling which characterises the Celtic race 
is closely allied to its need of concentration. Natures that are litde 
capable of expansion are nearly always those that feel most deeply, 
for the deeper the feeling, the less it tends to express itself. Thence 
we have that charming shamefastness, that veiled and exquisite 
sobriety, equally far removed from the sentimental rhetoric too 
familiar to the Latin races, and the reflective simplicity of Germany, 
which are so admirably displayed in the ballads published by M. de 
la Villemarque. The apparent reserve of the Celtic peoples, often 
taken for coldness, is due to this inward timidity which makes them 
believe that a feeling loses half its value if it be expressed; and that 
the heart ought to have no other spectator than itself. 

If it be permitted us to assign sex to nations as to individuals, we 
should have to say without hesitance that the Celtic race, especially 
with regard to its Cymric or Breton branch, is an essentially feminine 
race. No human family, I believe, has carried so much mystery into 
love. No other has conceived with more delicacy the ideal of woman, 
or been more fully dominated by it. It is a sort of intoxication, a 
madness, a vertigo. Read the strange Mabinogi of Peredur, or its 
French imitation Parceval le Gallois; its pages are, as it were, dewy 
with feminine sentiment. Woman appears therein as a kind of 
vague vision, an intermediary between man and the supernatural 
world. I am acquainted with no literature that offers anything 
analogous to this. Compare Guinevere or Iseult with those Scandi- 
navian furies Gudrun and Chrimhilde, and you will avow that 
woman such as chivalry conceived her, an ideal of sweetness and 
loveliness set up as the supreme end of life, is a creation neither 
classical, nor Christian, nor Teutonic, but in reality Celtic. 


Imaginative power is nearly always proportionate to concentration 
of feeling, and lack of the external development of life. The limited 
nature of Greek and Italian imagination is due to the easy expansive- 
ness of the peoples of the South, with whom the soul, wholly spread 
abroad, reflects but little within itself. Compared with the classical 
imagination, the Celtic imagination is indeed the infinite contrasted 
with the finite. In the fine Mabinogi of the Dream of Maxem 
Wledig, the Emperor Maximus beholds in a dream a young maiden 
so beautiful, that on waking he declares he cannot live without her. 
For several years his envoys scour the world in search of her; at last 
she is discovered in Brittany. So is it with the Celtic race; it has 
worn itself out in taking dreams for realities, and in pursuing its 
splendid visions. The essential element in the Celt's poetic Ufa is 
the adventure — that is to say, the pursuit of the unknown, an end- 
less quest after an object ever flying from desire. It was of this that 
St. Brandan dreamed, that Peredur sought with his mystic chivalry, 
that Knight Owen asked of his subterranean journeyings. This 
race desires the infinite, it thirsts for it, and pursues it at all costs, 
beyond the tomb, beyond hell itself. The characteristic failing of 
the Breton peoples, the tendency to drunkenness — a failing which, 
according to the traditions of the sixth century, was the cause of 
their disasters — ^is due to this invincible need of illusion. Do not 
say that it is an appetite for gross enjoyment; never has there been a 
people more sober and more alien to all sensuality. No, the Bretons 
sought in mead what Owen, St. Brandan, and Peredur sought in 
their own way, — the vision of the invisible world. To this day in 
Ireland drunkenness forms a part of all Saint's Day festivals — that is 
to say, the festivals which best have retained their national and 
popular aspect. 

Thence arises the profound sense of the future and of the eternal 
destinies of his race, which has ever borne up the Cymry, and kept 
him young still beside his conquerors who have grown old. Thence 
that dogma of the resurrection of the heroes, which appears to have 
been one of those that Christianity found most difficulty in rooting 
out. Thence Celtic Messianism, that belief in a future avenger who 
shall restore Cambria, and deliver her out of the hands of her op- 
pressors, like the mysterious Leminok promised by Merlin, the 

144 RENAN 

Lez-Breiz of the Armoricans, the Arthur of the Welsh.' The hand 
that arose from the mere, when the sword of Arthur fell therein, that 
seized it, and brandished it thrice, is the hope of the Celtic races. 
It is thus that little peoples dowered with imagination revenge them- 
selves on their conquerors. Feeling themselves to be strong inwardly 
and weak outwardly, they protest, they exult; and such a strife un- 
loosing their might, renders them capable of miracles. Nearly all 
great appeals to the supernatural are due to peoples hoping against 
all hope. Who shall say what in our own times has fermented in the 
bosom of the most stubborn, the most powerless of nationalities, — 
Poland? Israel in humiliation dreamed of the spiritual conquest of 
the world, and the dream has come to pass. 


At a first glance the literature of Wales is divided into three per- 
fectly distinct branches: the bardic or lyric, which shines forth in 
splendour in the sixth century by the works of Taliessin, of Aneurin, 
and of Liwarc'h Hen, and continues through an uninterrupted series 
of imitations up to modern times; the Mabinogion, or literature of 
romance, fixed towards the twelfth century, but linking themselves 
in the groundwork of their ideas with the remotest ages of the 
Celtic genius; finally, an ecclesiastical and legendary literature, im- 
pressed with a distinct stamp of its own. These three literatures 
seem to have existed side by side, almost without knowledge of one 
another. The bards, proud of their solemn rhetoric, held in disdain 
the popular tales, the form of which they considered careless; on the 
other hand, both bards and romancers appear to have had few 
relations with the clergy; and one at times might be tempted to 
suppose that they ignored the existence of Christianity. To our 
thinking it is in the Mabinogion that the true expression of the Celtic 
genius is to be sought; and it is surprising that so curious a literature, 
the source of nearly all the romantic creations of Europe, should 
have remained unknown until our own days. The cause is doubt- 
less to be ascribed to the dispersed state of the Welsh manuscripts, 
pursued till last century by the English, as seditious books compro- 

'M. Augustin Thierry has finely remarked that the renown attaching to Welsh 
prophecies in the Middle Ages was due to their steadfastness in affirming the future 
of their race. (Histoire de la Conquete d'Angleterre.) 


mising those who possessed them. Often too they fell into hands of 
ignorant owners, whose caprice or ill-will sufficed to keep them from 
critical research. 

The Mabinogion have been preserved for us in two principal docu- 
ments — one of the thirteenth century from the library of Hengurt, 
belonging to the Vaughan family; the other dating from the four- 
teenth century, known under the name of the Red Boof(^ of Hergest, 
and now in Jesus College, Oxford. No doubt it was some such col- 
lection that charmed the weary hours of the hapless Leolin in the 
Tower of London, and was burned after his condemnation, with 
the other Welsh books which had been the companions of his cap- 
tivity. Lady Charlotte Guest has based her edition on the Oxford 
manuscript; it cannot be sufficiently regretted that paltry considera- 
tions have caused her to be refused the use of the earlier manuscript, 
of which the later appears to be only a copy. Regrets are redoubled 
when one knows that several Welsh texts, which were seen and 
copied fifty years ago, have now disappeared. It is in the presence 
of facts such as these that one comes to believe that revolutions — 
in general so destructive of the works of the past— are favourable 
to the preservation of literary monuments, by compelling their con- 
centration in great centres, where their existence, as well as their 
publicity, is assured. 

The general tone of the Mabinogion is rather romantic than epic. 
Life is treated naively and not too emphatically. The hero's individ- 
uality is limitless. We have free and noble natures acting in all 
their spontaneity. Each man appears as a kind of demi-god char- 
acterised by a supernatural gift. This gift is nearly always connected 
with some miraculous object, which in some measure is the personal 
seal of him who possesses it. The inferior classes, which this people 
of heroes necessarily supposes beneath it, scarcely show themselves, 
except in the exercise of some trade, for practising which they are 
held in high esteem. The somewhat complicated products of human 
industry are regarded as living beings, and in their manner endowed 
with magical properties. A multiplicity of celebrated objects have 
proper names, such as the drinking-cup, the lance, the sword, and 
the shield of Arthur; the chess-board of Gwendolen, on which the 
black pieces played of their own accord against the white; the horn 

146 RENAN 

of Bran Galed, where one found whatever Hquor one desired; the 
chariot of Morgan, which directed itself to the place to which one 
wished to go; the pot of Tyrnog, which would not cook when meat 
for a coward was put into it; the grindstone of Tudwal, which 
would only sharpen brave men's swords; the coat of Padarn, which 
none save a noble could don; and the mantle of Tegan, which no 
woman could put upon herself were she not above reproach/ The 
animal is conceived in a still more individual way; it has a proper 
name, personal qualities, and a role which it develops at its own will 
and with full consciousness. The same hero appears as at once man 
and animal, without it being possible to trace the line of demarca- 
tion between the two natures. 

The tale of Kilhwch and Olwen, the most extraordinary of the 
Mabinogion, deals with Arthur's struggle against the wild-boar king 
Twrch Trwyth, who with his seven cubs holds in check all the 
heroes of the Round Table. The adventures of the three hundred 
ravens of Kerverhenn similarly form the subject of the Dream of 
Rhonabwy. The idea of moral merit and demerit is almost wholly 
absent from all these compositions. There are wicked beings who 
insult ladies, who tyrannise over their neighbours, who only find 
pleasure in evil because such is their nature; but it does not appear 
that they incur wrath on that account. Arthur's knights pursue them, 
not as criminals but as mischievous fellows. All other beings are 
perfectly good and just, but more or less richly gifted. This is the 
dream of an amiable and gentle race which looks upon evil as being 
the work of destiny, and not a product of the human conscience. 
All nature is enchanted, and fruitful as imagination itself in indef- 
initely varied creations. Christianity rarely discloses itself; although 
at times its proximity can be felt, it alters in no respect the purely 
natural surroundings in which everything takes place. A bishop fig- 
ures at table beside Arthur, but his function is strictly limited to 
blessing the dishes. The Irish saints, who at one time present them- 
selves to give their benediction to Arthur and receive favours at his 
hands, are portrayed as a race of men vaguely known and difficult 
to understand. No mediaeval literature held itself further removed 

■* Here may be recognised the origin of trial by court mantle, one of the most 
interesting episodes in Lancelot of the Lal^e. 


from all monastic influence. We evidently must suppose that the 
Welsh bards and story-tellers lived in a state of great isolation from 
the clergy, and had their culture and traditions quite apart. 

The charm of the Mabinogion principally resides in the amiable 
serenity of the Celtic mind, neither sad nor gay, ever in suspense 
between a smile and a tear. We have in them the simple recital of 
a child, unwitting of any distinction between the noble and the com- 
mon; there is something of that softly animated world, of that calm 
and tranquil ideal to which Ariosto's stanzas transport us. The 
chatter of the later mediaeval French and German imitators can 
give no idea of this charming manner of narration. The skilful 
Chretien de Troyes himself remains in this respect far below the 
Welsh story-tellers, and as for Wolfram of Eschenbach, it must be 
avowed that the joy of the first discovery has carried German critics 
too far in the exaggeration of his merits. He loses himself in inter- 
minable descriptions, and almost completely ignores the art of his 

What strikes one at a first glance in the imaginative compositions 
of the Celtic races, above all when they are contrasted with those of 
the Teutonic races, is the extreme mildness of manners pervading 
them. There are none of those frightful vengeances which fill the 
Edda and the Niebelungen. Compare the Teutonic with the Gaelic 
hero, — Beowulf with Peredur, for example. What a difference there 
is! In the one all the horror of disgusting and blood-embrued bar- 
barism, the drunkenness of carnage, the disinterested taste, if I may 
say so, for destruction and death; in the other a profound sense of 
justice, a great height of personal pride it is true, but also a great 
capacity for devotion, an exquisite loyalty. The tyrannical man, the 
monster, the Blac\ Man, find a place here like the Lestrigons and 
the Cyclops of Homer only to inspire horror by contrast with softer 
manners; they are almost what the wicked man is in the naive 
imagination of a child brought up by a mother in the ideas of a 
gentle and pious morality. The primitive man of Teutonism is 
revolting by his purposeless brutality, by a love of evil that only 
gives him skill and strength in the service of hatred and injury. 
The Cymric hero on the other hand, even in his wildest flights, 
seems possessed by habits of kindness and a warm sympathy with 

148 RENAN 

the weak. Sympathy indeed is one of the deepest feelings among the 
Celtic peoples. Even Judas is not denied a share of their pity. St. 
Brandan found him upon a rock in the midst of the Polar seas; once 
a week he passes a day there to refresh himself from the fires of hell. 
A cloak that he had given to a beggar is hung before him, and tem- 
pers his sufferings. 

If Wales has a right to be proud of her Mabinogion, she has not 
less to felicitate herself in having found a translator truly worthy of 
interpreting them. For the proper understanding of these original 
beauties there was needed a delicate appreciation of Welsh narration, 
and an intelligence of the naive order, qualities of which an erudite 
translator would with difficulty have been capable. To render these 
gracious imaginings of a people so eminently dowered with feminine 
tact, the pen of a woman was necessary. Simple, animated, without 
eiTort and without vulgarity. Lady Guest's translation is a faithful 
mirror of the original Cymric. Even supposing that, as regards 
philology, the labours of this noble Welsh lady be destined to receive 
improvement, that does not prevent her book from for ever remain- 
ing a work of erudition and highly distinguished taste.^ 

The Mabinogion, or at least the writings which Lady Guest 
thought she ought to include under this common name, divide them- 
selves into two perfectly distinct classes — some connected exclusively 
with the two peninsulas of Wales and Cornwall, and relating to the 
heroic personality of Arthur; the others alien to Arthur, having for 
their scene not only the parts of England that have remained Cym- 
ric, but the whole of Great Britain, and leading us back by the 
persons and traditions mentioned in them to the later years of the 
Roman occupation. The second class, of greater antiquity than the 
first, at least on the ground of subject, is also distinguished by a much 
more mythological character, a bolder use of the miraculous, an 
enigmatical form, a style full of alliteration and plays upon words. 
Of this number are the tales of Pwyll, of Bran wen, of Manawyddan, 
of Math the son of Mathonwy, the Dream of the Emperor Maximus, 
the story of Llud and Llewelys, and the legend of Taliessin. To the 
Arthurian cycle belong the narratives of Owen, of Geraint, of Pere- 

^M. de la Villemarqu^ published in 1842 under the title of Contes populaires des 
anciens Bretons, a French translation of the narratives that Lady Guest had already 
presented in English at that time. 


dur, of Kilhwch and Olwen, and the Dream of Rhonabwy. It is 
also to be remarked that the two last-named narratives have a par- 
ticularly antique character. In them Arthur dwells in Cornwall, and 
not as in the others at Caerleon on the Usk. In them he appears with 
an individual character, hunting and taking a personal part in war- 
fare, while in the more modern tales he is only an emperor all- 
powerful and impassive, a truly sluggard hero, around whom a 
pleiad of active heroes groups itself. The Mabinogi of Kilhwch and 
Olwen, by its entirely primitive aspect, by the part played in it by 
the wild-boar in conformity to the spirit of Celtic mythology, by the 
wholly supernatural and magical character of the narration, by in- 
numerable allusions the sense of which escapes us, forms a cycle by 
itself. It represents for us the Cymric conception in all its purity, 
before it had been modified by the introduction of any foreign ele- 
ment. Without attempting here to analyse this curious poem, I 
should like by some extracts to make its antique aspect and high 
originality apparent. 

Kilhwch, the son of Kilydd, prince of Kelyddon, having heard 
some one mention the name of Olwen, daughter of Yspaddaden Pen- 
kawr, falls violently in love, without having ever seen her. He goes 
to find Arthur, that he may ask for his aid in the difficult undertak- 
ing which he meditates; in point of fact, he does not know in what 
country the fair one of his affection dwells. Yspaddaden is besides 
a frightful tyrant who suffers no man to go from his castle alive, 
and whose death is linked by destiny to the marriage of his daughter.' 
Arthur grants Kilhwch some of his most valiant comrades in arms 
to assist him in this enterprise. After wonderful adventures the 
knights arrive at the castle of Yspaddaden, and succeed in seeing 
the young maiden of Kilhwch's dream. Only after three days of 
persistent struggle do they manage to obtain a response from Olwen's 
father, who attaches his daughter's hand to conditions apparently 
impossible of realisation. The performance of these trials makes a 
long chain of adventures, the framework of a veritable romantic 
epic which has come to us in a very fragmentary form. Of the 
thirty-eight adventures imposed on Kilhwch the manuscript used 

'The idea of makinp; the death of the father the condition ot possession of the 
daughter is to be found in several romances of the Breton cycle, in Lancelot for 

150 RENAN 

by Lady Guest only relates seven or eight. I choose at random one 
of these narratives, which appears to me fitted to give an idea of the 
whole composition. It deals with the finding of Mabon the son of 
Modron, who was carried away from his mother three days after 
his birth, and whose deliverance is one of the labours exacted of 

"His followers said unto Arthur, 'Lord, go thou home; thou 
canst not proceed with thy host in quest of such small adventures 
as these.' Then said Arthur, 'It were well for thee, Gwrhyr Gwal- 
stawd leithoedd, to go upon this quest, for thou k newest all lan- 
guages, and art familiar with those of the birds and the beasts. Thou, 
Eidoel, oughtest likewise to go with my men in search of thy cousin. 
And as for you, Kai and Bedwyr, I have hope of whatever adven- 
ture ye are in quest of, that ye will achieve it. Achieve ye this 
adventure for me.' " 

They went forward until they came to the Ousel of Cilgwri. And 
Gwrhyr adjured her for the sake of Heaven, saying, "Tell me if 
thou knowest aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who was taken 
when three nights old from between his mother and the wall." And 
the Ousel answered, "When I first came here there was a smith's 
anvil in this place, and I was then a young bird; and from that time 
no work has been done upon it, save the pecking of my beak every 
evening, and now there is not so much as the size of a nut remaining 
thereof; yet all the vengeance of Heaven be upon me, if during all 
that time I have ever heard of the man for whom you enquire. 
Nevertheless I will do that which is right, and that which it is fitting 
I should do for an embassy from Arthur. There is a race of animals 
who were formed before me, and I will be your guide to them." 

So they proceeded to the place where was the Stag of Redynvre. 
"Stag of Redynvre, behold we are come to thee, an embassy from 
Arthur, for we have not heard of any animal older than thou. Say, 
knowest thou aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who was taken 
from his mother when three nights old?" The Stag said, "When 
first I came hither there was a plain all around me, without any 
trees save one oak sapling, which grew up to be an oak with an 
hundred branches. And that oak has since perished, so that now 
nothing remains of it but the withered stump; and from that day 


to this I have been here, yet have I never heard of the man for whom 
you enquire. Nevertheless, being an embassy from Arthur, I will 
be your guide to the place where there is an animal which was 
formed before I was." 

So they proceeded to the place where was the Owl of Cwm Cawl- 
wyd. "Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, here is an embassy from Arthur; 
knowest thou aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who was taken 
after three nights from his mother?" "If I knew I would tell you. 
When first I came hither, the wide valley you see was a wooded 
glen. And a race of men came and rooted it up. And there grew 
there a second wood; and this wood is the third. My wings, are 
they not withered stumps ? Yet all this time, even until to-day, I have 
never heard of the man for whom you enquire. Nevertheless I 
will be the guide of Arthur's embassy until you come to the place 
where is the oldest animal in the world, and the one that has trav- 
elled most, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy." 

Gwrhyr said, "Eagle of Gwern Abwy, we have come to thee an 
embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if thou knowest aught of Mabon 
the son of Modron, who was taken from his mother when he was 
three nights old." The Eagle said, "I have been here for a great 
space of time, and when I first came hither there was a rock here, 
from the top of which I pecked at the stars every evening; and now 
it is not so much as a span high. From that day to this I have been 
here, and I have never heard of the man for whom you enquire, 
except once when I went in search of food as far as Llyn Llyw. And 
when I came there, I struck my talons into a salmon, thinking he 
would serve me as food for a long time. But he drew me into the 
deep, and I was scarcely able to escape from him. After that I went 
with my whole kindred to attack him, and to try to destroy him, 
but he sent messengers, and made peace with me; and came and 
besought me to take fifty fish spears out of his back. Unless he know 
something of him whom you seek, I cannot tell who may. How- 
ever, I will guide you to the place where he is." 

So they went thither; and the Eagle said, "Salmon of Llyn Llyw, 
I have come to thee with an embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if 
thou knowest aught concerning Mabon the son of Modron, who was 
taken away at three nights old from his mother." "As much as I 

152 RENAN 

know I will tell thee. With every tide I go along the river upwards, 
until I come near to the walls of Gloucester, and there have I found 
such wrong as I never found elsewhere; and to the end that ye may 
give credence thereto, let one of you go thither upon each of my two 
shoulders." So Kai and Gwrhyr Gwalstawd leithoedd went upon 
the shoulders of the salmon, and they proceeded until they came 
unto the wall of the prison, and they heard a great wailing and 
lamenting from the dungeon. Said Gwrhyr, "Who is it that laments 
in this house of stone.''" "Alas there is reason enough for whoever 
is here to lament. It is Mabon the son of Modron who is here im- 
prisoned; and no imprisonment was ever so grievous as mine, neither 
that of Lludd Llaw Ereint, nor that of Greid the son of Eri." "Hast 
thou hope of being released for gold or for silver, or for any gifts 
of wealth, or through battle and fighting?" "By fighting will what- 
ever I may gain be obtained." 

We shall not follow the Cymric hero through trials the result of 
which can be foreseen. What, above all else, is striking in these 
strange legends is the part played by animals, transformed by the 
Welsh imagination into intelligent beings. No race conversed so 
intimately as did the Celtic race with the lower creation, and ac- 
corded it so large a share of moral life.' The close association of 
man and animal, the fictions so dear to medisval poetry of the Knight 
of the Lion, the Knight of the Falcon, the Knight of the Swan, the 
vows consecrated by the presence of birds of noble repute, are equally 
Breton imaginings. Ecclesiastical literature itself presents analogous 
features; gentleness towards animals informs all the legends of the 
saints of Brittany and Ireland. One day St. Kevin fell asleep, while 
he was praying at his window with outstretched arms; and a swallow 
perceiving the open hand of the venerable monk, considered it an 
excellent place wherein to make her nest. The saint on awaking 
saw the mother sitting upon her eggs, and, loth to disturb her, 
waited for the little ones to be hatched before he arose from his 

This touching sympathy was derived from the singular vivacity 
with which the Celtic races have inspired their feeling for nature, 

^See especially the narratives of Nennius, and of Giraldus Cambrensis. In them 
animals have at least as important a part as men. 


Their mythology is nothing more than a transparent naturaUsm, 
not that anthropomorphic naturalism of Greece and India, in which 
the forces of the universe, viewed as Hving beings and endowed with 
consciousness, tend more and more to detach themselves from phys- 
ical phenomena, and to become moral beings; but in some measure 
a realistic naturalism, the love of nature for herself, the vivid impres- 
sion of her magic, accompanied by the sorrowful feeling that man 
knows, when, face to face with her, he believes that he hears her 
commune with him concerning his origin and his destiny. The 
legend of Merlin mirrors this feeling. Seduced by a fairy of the 
woods, he flies with her and becomes a savage. Arthur's messengers 
come upon him as he is singing by the side of a fountain; he is led 
back again to court; but the charm carries him away. He returns 
to his forests, and this time for ever. Under a thicket of hawthorn 
Vivien has built him a magical prison. There he prophesies the 
future of the Celtic races; he speaks of a maiden of the woods, now 
visible and now unseen, who holds him captive by her spells. Sev- 
eral Arthurian legends are impressed with the same character. 
Arthur himself in popular belief became, as it were, a woodland 
spirit. "The foresters on their nightly round by the light of the 
moon," says Gervais of Tilbury,* "often hear a great sound as of 
horns, and meet bands of huntsmen; when they are asked whence 
they come, these huntsmen make reply that they are of King Arthur's 
following."^ Even the French imitators of the Breton romances 
keep an impression — although a rather insipid one — of the attrac- 
tion exercised by nature on the Celtic imagination. Elaine, the 
heroine of Lancelot, the ideal of Breton perfection, passes her life 
with her companions in a garden, in the midst of flowers which she 
tends. Every flower culled by her hands is at the instant restored to 
life; and the worshippers of her memory are under an obligation, 
when they cut a flower, to sow another in its place. 

The worship of forest, and fountain, and stone is to be explained 
by this primitive naturalism, which all the Councils of the Church 

8 An English chronicler of the twelfth century. 

^This manner of explaining all the unknown noises of the wood by Arthur's 
Hunting is still to be found in several districts. To understand properly the cult 
of nature, and, if I may say so, of landscape among the Celts, see Gildas and 
Nennius, pp. 131, 136, 137, etc. (Edit. San Marte, Berlin, 1884). 

154 RENAN 

held in Brittany united to proscribe. The stone, in truth, seems the 
natural symbol of the Celtic races. It is an immutable witness that 
has no death. The animal, the plant, above all the human figure, 
only express the divine life under a determinate form; the stone 
on the contrary, adapted to receive all forms, has been the fetish of 
peoples in their childhood. Pausanias saw, still standing erect, the 
thirty square stones of Pharae, each bearing the name of a divinity. 
The men-hir to be met with over the whole surface of the ancient 
world, what is it but the monument of primitive humanity, a living 
witness of its faith in Heaven?'" 

It has frequently been observed that the majority of popular be- 
liefs still extant in our different provinces are of Celtic origin. A not 
less remarkable fact is the strong tinge of naturalism dominant in 
these beliefs. Nay more, every time that the old Celtic spirit appears 
in our history, there is to be seen, re-born with it, faith in nature and 
her magic influences. One of the most characteristic of these mani- 
festations seems to me to be that of Joan of Arc. That indomitable 
hope, that tenacity in the affirmation of the future, that belief that 
the salvation of the kingdom will come from a woman, — all those 
features, far removed as they are from the taste of antiquity, and 
from Teutonic taste, are in many respects Celtic. The memory of 
the ancient cult perpetuated itself at Domremy, as in so many other 
places, under the form of popular superstition. The cottage of the 
family of Arc was shaded by a beech tree, famed in the country and 
reputed to be the abode of fairies. In her childhood Joan used to go 
and hang upon its branches garlands of leaves and flowers, which, 
so it was said, disappeared during the night. The terms of her ac- 
cusation speak with horror of this innocent custom, as of a crime 
against the faith; and indeed they were not altogether deceived, 
those unpitying theologians who judged the holy maid. Although 
she knew it not, she was more Celtic than Christian. She has been 
foretold by Merlin; she knows of neither Pope nor Church,— she 
only believes the voice that speaks in her own heart. This voice she 

'" It is, however, doubtful whether the monuments known in France as Celtic 
(men-hir, dol-men, etc.) are the work of the Celts. With M. Worsaae and the 
Copenhagen archaeologists, I am inclined to think that these monuments belong to 
a more ancient humanity. Never, in fact, has any branch of the Indo-European race 
built in this fashion. (See two articles by M. M^rim& in VAthenaum iran^ais, 
Sept. nth, 1852, and April 25th, 1853.) 


hears in the fields, in the sough of the wind among the trees, when 
measured and distant sounds fall upon her ears. During her trial, 
worn out with questions and scholastic subtleties, she is asked 
whether she still hears her voices. "Take me to the woods," she 
says, "and I shall hear them clearly." Her legend is tinged with the 
same colours; nature loved her, the wolves never touched the sheep 
of her flock. When she was a little girl, the birds used to come and 
eat bread from her lap as though they were tame." 


The Mabinogion do not recommend themselves to our study, only 
as a manifestation of the romantic genius of the Breton races. It was 
through them that the Welsh imagination exercised its influence 
upon the Continent, that it transformed, in the twelfth century, the 
poetic art of Europe, and realised this miracle, — ^that the creations of 
a half-conquered race have become the universal feast of imagina- 
tion for mankind. 

Few heroes owe less to reality than Arthur. Neither Gildas nor 
Aneurin, his contemporaries, speak of him; Bede did not even know 
his name; Taliessin and Liwarc'h Hen gave him only a secondary 
place. In Nennius, on the other hand, who lived about 850, the 
legend has fully unfolded. Arthur is already the exterminator of the 
Saxons; he has never experienced defeat; he is the suzerain of an 
army of kings. Finally, in Geoffrey of Monmouth, the epic creation 
culminates. Arthur reigns over the whole earth; he conquers Ire- 
land, Norway, Gascony, and France. At Caerleon he holds a tourna- 
ment at which all the monarchs of the world are present; there he 
puts upon his head thirty crowns, and exacts recognition as the 
sovereign lord of the universe. So incredible is it that a petty king 
of the sixth century, scarcely remarked by his contemporaries, should 
have taken in posterity such colossal proportions, that several critics 

'* since the first publication o£ these views, on which I should not like more 
emphasis to be put than what belongs to a passing impression, similar considerations 
have been developed, in terms that appear a little too positive, by M. H. Martin 
(History of France, vol. vi., 1856). The objections raised to it are, for the most 
part, due to the fact that very few people are capable of delicately appreciating 
questions of this kind, relative to the genius of races. It frequently happens that the 
resurrection of an old national genias takes place under a very different form from 
that which one would have expected, and by means of individuals who have no idea 
of the ethnographical part which they play. 

156 RENAN 

have supposed that the legendary Arthur and the obscure chieftain 
who bore that name have nothing in common, the one with the 
other, and that the son of Uther Pendragon is a wholly ideal hero, 
a survivor of the old Cymric mythology. As a matter of fact, in the 
symbols of Neo-Druidism — that is to say, of that secret doctrine, the 
outcome of Druidism, which prolonged its existence even to the 
Middle Ages under the form of Freemasonry — we again find Arthur 
transformed into a divine personage, and playing a purely mytho- 
logical part. It must at least be allowed that, if behind the fable 
some reahty lies hidden, history offers us no means of attaining it. 
It cannot be doubted that the discovery of Arthur's tomb in the Isle 
of Avalon in 11 89 was an invention of Norman policy, just as in 
1283, the very year in which Edward I. was engaged in crushing 
out the last vestiges of Welsh independence, Arthur's crown was very 
conveniently found, and forthwith united to the other crown jewels 
of England. 

We naturally expect Arthur, now become the representative of 
Welsh nationality, to sustain in the Mabinogion a character analo- 
gous to this role, and therein, as in Nennius, to serve the hatred of 
the vanquished against the Saxons. But such is not the case. Arthur, 
in the Mabinogion, exhibits no characteristics of patriotic resistance; 
his part is limited to uniting heroes around him, to maintaining the 
retainers of his palace, and to enforcing the laws of his order of 
chivalry. He is too strong for any one to dream of attacking him. 
He is the Charlemagne of the Carlovingian romances, the Aga- 
memnon of Homer, — one of those neutral personalities that serve 
but to give unity to the poem. The idea of warfare against the alien, 
hatred towards the Saxon, does not appear in a single instance. The 
heroes of the Mabinogion have no fatherland; each fights to show 
his personal excellence, and satisfy his taste for adventure, but not 
to defend a national cause. Britain is the universe; no one suspects 
that beyond the Cymry there may be other nations and other 

It was by this ideal and representative character that the Arthurian 
legend had such an astonishing prestige throughout the whole world. 
Had Arthur been only a provincial hero, the more or less happy 
defender of a little country, all peoples would not have adopted him, 


any more than they have adopted the Marco of the Serbs," or the 
Robin Hood of the Saxons. The Arthur who has charmed the 
world is the head of an order of equality, in which all sit at the same 
table, in which a man's worth depends upon his valour and his 
natural gifts. What mattered to the world the fate of an unknown 
peninsula, and the strife waged on its behalf? What enchanted it 
was the ideal court presided over by Gwenhwyvar (Guinevere), 
where around the monarchical unity the flower of heroes was gath- 
ered together, where ladies, as chaste as they were beautiful, loved 
according to the laws of chivalry, and where the time was passed in 
listening to stories, and learning civility and beautiful manners. 

This is the secret of the magic of that Round Table, about which 
the Middle Ages grouped all their ideas of heroism, of beauty, of 
modesty, and of love. We need not stop to inquire whether the ideal 
of a gentle and polished society in the midst of the barbarian world 
is, in all its features, a purely Breton creation, whether the spirit of 
the courts of the Continent has not in some measure furnished the 
model, and whether the Mabinogion themselves have not felt the 
reaction of the French imitations;'^ it suffices for us that the new 
order of sentiments which we have just indicated was, throughout 
the whole of the Middle Ages, persistently attached to the ground- 
work of the Cymric romances. Such an association could not be 
fortuitous; if the imitations are all so glaring in colour, it is evi- 
dently because in the original this same colour is to be found united 
to particularly strong character. How otherwise shall we explain 
why a forgotten tribe on the very confines of the world should have 
imposed its heroes upon Europe, and, in the domain of imagination, 
accomplished one of the most singular revolutions known to the 
historian of letters? 

If, in fact, one compares European literature before the introduc- 
tion of the Cymric romances, with what it became when the trou- 
veres set themselves to draw from Breton sources, one recognises 
readily that with the Breton narratives a new element entered into 

12 A Servian ballad-hero. 

''The surviving version of the Mabinogian has a later date than these imitations, 
and the Red Book includes several tales borrowed from the French trouveres. But it 
is out of the question to maintain that the really Welsh narratives have been 
borrowed in a like manner, since among them are some unknown to the trouveres, 
which could only possess interest for Breton countries. 

158 RENAN 

the poetic conception of the Christian peoples, and modified it pro- 
foundly. The Carlovingian poem, both by its structure and by the 
means which it employs, does not depart from classical ideas. The 
motives of man's action are the same as in the Greek epic. The 
essentially romantic element, the life of forests and mysterious adven- 
ture, the feeling for nature, and that impulse of imagination which 
makes the Breton warrior unceasingly pursue the unknown; — 
nothing of all this is as yet to be observed. Roland differs from the 
heroes of Homer only by his armour; in heart he is the brother of 
Ajax or Achilles. Perceval, on the contrary, belongs to another 
world, separated by a great gulf from that in which the heroes of 
antiquity live and act. 

It was above all by the creation of woman's character, by intro- 
ducing into medisval poetry, hitherto hard and austere, the nuances 
of love, that the Breton romances brought about this curious meta- 
morphosis. It was like an electric spark; in a few years European 
taste was changed. Nearly all the types of womankind known to 
the Middle Ages, Guinevere, Iseult, Enid, are derived from Arthur's 
court. In the Carlovingian poems woman is a nonentity without 
character or individuality; in them love is either brutal, as in the 
romance of Ferebras, or scarcely indicated, as in the Song of Roland. 
In the Mabinogion, on the other hand, the principal part always 
belongs to the women. Chivalrous gallantry, which makes the war- 
rior's happiness to consist in serving a woman and meriting her 
esteem, the belief that the noblest use of strength is to succour and 
avenge weakness, results, I know, from a turn of imagination which 
possessed nearly all European peoples in the twelfth century; but it 
cannot be doubted that this turn of imagination first found literary 
expression among the Breton peoples. One of the most surprising 
features in the Mabinogion is the delicacy of the feminine feeling 
breathed in them; an impropriety or a gross word is never to be met 
with. It would be necessary to quote at length the two romances of 
Peredur and Geraint to demonstrate an innocence such as this; but 
the naive simplicity of these charming compositions forbids us to see 
in this innocence any underlying meaning. The zeal of the knight 
in the defence of ladies' honour became a satirical euphemism only 
in the French imitators, who transformed the virginal modesty of 


the Breton romances into a shameless gallantry — so far indeed that 
these compositions, chaste as they are in the original, became the 
scandal of the Middle Ages, provoked censures, and were the occa- 
sion of the ideas of immorality which, for religious people, still clus- 
ter about the name of romance. 

Certainly chivalry is too complex a fact for us to be permitted to 
assign it to any single origin. Let us say however that in the idea 
of envisaging the esteem of a woman as the highest object of human 
activity, and setting up love as the supreme principle of morality, 
there is nothing of the antique spirit, or indeed of the Teutonic. 
Is it in the Edda or in the Niebelungen that we shall find the germ 
of this spirit of pure love, of exalted devotion, which forms the very 
soul of chivalry? As to following the suggestion of some critics 
and seeking among the Arabs for the beginnings of this institution, 
surely of all literary paradoxes ever mooted, this is one of the most 
singular. The idea of conquering woman in a land where she is 
bought and sold, of seeking her esteem in a land where she is scarcely 
considered capable of moral merit! I shall oppose the partizans of 
this hypothesis with one single fact, — the surprise experienced by the 
Arabs of Algeria when, by a somewhat unfortunate recollection of 
medieval tournaments, the ladies were entrusted with the presenta- 
tion of prizes at the Beiram races. What to the knight appeared an 
unparalleled honour seemed to the Arabs a humiliation and almost 
an insult. 

The introduction of the Breton romances into the current of 
European literature worked a not less profound revolution in the 
manner of conceiving and employing the marvellous. In the Car- 
lovingian poems the marvellous is timid, and conforms to the Chris- 
tian faith; the supernatural is produced directly by God or his envoys. 
Among the Cymry, on the contrary, the principle of the marvel is 
in nature herself, in her hidden forces, in her inexhaustible 
fecundity. There is a mysterious swan, a prophetic bird, a suddenly 
appearing hand, a giant, a black tyrant, a magic mist, a dragon, a 
cry that causes the hearer to die of terror, an object with extraor- 
dinary properties. There is no trace of the monotheistic conception, 
in which the marvellous is only a miracle, a derogation of eternal 
laws. Nor are there any of those personifications of the life of nature 

l60 RENAN 

which form the essential part of the Greek and Indian mythologies. 
Here we have perfect naturalism, an unlimited faith in the possible, 
belief in the existence of independent beings bearing within them- 
selves the principle of their strength, — an idea quite opposed to Chris- 
tianity, which in such beings necessarily sees either angels or fiends. 
And besides, these strange beings are always presented as being out- 
side the pale of the Church; and when the knight of the Round 
Table has conquered them, he forces them to go and pay homage to 
Guinevere, and have themselves baptised. 

Now, if in poetry there is a marvellous element that we might 
accept, surely it is this. Classical mythology, taken in its first sim- 
plicity, is too bold, taken as a mere figure of rhetoric, too insipid, to 
give us satisfaction. As to the marvellous element in Christianity, 
Boileau is right: no fiction is compatible with such a dogmatism. 
There remains then the purely naturalistic marvellous, nature in- 
teresting herself in action and acting herself, the great mystery of 
fatality unveiling itself by the secret conspiring of all beings, as in 
Shakespeare and Ariosto. It would be curious to ascertain how 
much of the Celt there is in the former of these poets; as for Ariosto 
he is the Breton poet par excellence. All his machinery, all his 
means of interest, all his fine shades of sentiment, all his types of 
women, all his adventures, are borrowed from the Breton romances. 

Do we now understand the intellectual role of that little race which 
gave to the world Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Perceval, Merlin, 
St. Brandan, St. Patrick, and almost all the poetical cycles of the 
Middle Ages? What a striking destiny some nations have, in alone 
possessing the right to cause the acceptance of their heroes, as though 
for that were necessary a quite peculiar degree of authority, serious- 
ness, and faith! And it is a strange thing that it is to the Normans, 
of all peoples the one least sympathetically inclined towards the 
Bretons, that we owe the renown of the Breton fables. BriUiant and 
imitative, the Norman everywhere became the pre-eminent repre- 
sentative of the nation on which he had at first imposed himself 
by force. French in France, English in England, Italian in Italy, 
Russian at Novgorod, he forgot his own language to speak that of 
the race which he had conquered, and to become the interpreter of 


its genius. The deeply suggestive character of the Welsh romances 
could not fail to impress men so prompt to seize and assimilate the 
ideas of the foreigner. The first revelation of the Breton fables, the 
Latin Chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth, appeared about the year 
1 137, under the auspices of Robert of Gloucester, natural son of 
Henry I. Henry II. acquired a taste for the same narratives, and at 
his request Robert Wace, in 1155, wrote in French the first history 
of Arthur, thus opening the path in which walked after him a host 
of poets or imitators of all nationalities, French, Provencal, Italian, 
Spanish, English, Scandinavian, Greek, and Georgian. We need 
not belittle the glory of the first trouveres who put into a language, 
then read and understood from one end of Europe to the other, 
fictions which, but for them, would have doubtless remained for ever 
unknown. It is however difficult to attribute to them an inventive 
faculty, such as would permit them to merit the title of creators. 
The numerous passages in which one feels that they do not fully 
understand the original which they imitate, and in which they 
attempt to give a natural significance to circumstances of which the 
mythological bearing escaped them, suffice to prove that, as a rule, 
they were satisfied to make a fairly faithful copy of the work before 
their eyes. 

What part has Armorican Brittany played in the creation or propa- 
gation of the legends of the Round Table ? It is impossible to say 
with any degree of precision; and in truth such a question becomes 
a matter of secondary import once we form a just idea of the close 
bonds of fraternity, which did not cease until the twelfth century 
to unite the two branches of the Breton peoples. That the heroic 
traditions of Wales long continued to live in the branch of the 
Cymric family which came and settled in Armorica cannot be 
doubted when we find Geraint, Urien, and other heroes become 
saints in Lower Brittany;" and above all when we see one of the 
most essential episodes of the Arthurian cycle, that of the Forest of 
Broceliande, placed in the same country. A large number of facts 

"I shall only cite a single proof; it is a law of Edward the Confessor: "Britones 
vero Armorici quum venerint in regno isto, suscipi debent et in regno protegi sicut 
probi cives dc corpore regni hujus; exierunt quondam de sanguine Britonum regni 
hujus." — Wilkins, Leges Anglo-Saxonica, p. 206. 

1 62 REN AN 

collected by M. de la Villemarque'^ prove, on the other hand, that 
these same traditions produced a true poetic cycle in Brittany, and 
even that at certain epochs they must have recrossed the Channel, as 
though to give new life to the mother country's memories. The fact 
that Gauthier Calenius, Archdeacon of Oxford, brought back from 
Brittany to England (about 1125) the very text of the legends 
which were translated into Latin ten years afterwards by Geoffrey 
of Monmouth is here decisive. I know that to readers of the 
Mabinogion such an opinion will appear surprising at a first glance. 
All is Welsh in these fables, the places, the genealogies, the cus- 
toms; in them Armorica is only represented by Hoel, an important 
personage no doubt, but one who has not achieved the fame of the 
other heroes of Arthur's court. Again, if Armorica saw the birth of 
the Arthurian cycle, how is it that we fail to find there any traces 
of that brilliant nativity?'* 

These objections, I avow, long barred my way, but I no longer 
find them insoluble. And first of all there is a class of Mabinogion, 
including those of Owen, Geraint, and Peredur, stories which pos- 
sess no very precise geographical localisation. In the second place, 
national written literature being less successfully defended in Brit- 
tany than in Wales against the invasion of foreign culture, it may 
be conceived that the memory of the old epics should be there more 
obliterated. The literary share of the two countries thus remains 
sufficiently distinct. The glory of French Brittany is in her popular 
songs; but it is only in Wales that the genius of the Breton people 
has succeeded in estabUshing itself in authentic books and achieved 


In comparing the Breton cycle as the French trouveres knew it, 
and the same cycle as it is to be found in the text of the Mabinogion, 

^^Les Romans de la Table-Konde et les contes des anciens Bretons (Paris, 1859), 
pp. 20 et seq. In the Contes populaires des anciens Bretons, o£ which the above 
may be considered as a new edition, the learned author had somewhat exaggerated 
the influence of French Brittany. In the present article, when first published, I had, 
on the other hand, depreciated it too much. 

'* M. de la Villemarqu^ makes appeal to the popular songs still extant in Brittany, 
in which Arthur's deeds are celebrated. In fact, in his Chants populaires de la 
Bretagne two poems are to be found in which that hero's name figures. 


one might be tempted to believe that the European imagination, 
enthralled by these brilliant fables, added to them some poetical 
themes unknown to the Welsh. Two of the most celebrated heroes 
of the continental Breton romances, Lancelot and Tristan, do not 
figure in the Mabinogion; on the other hand, the characteristics of 
the Holy Grail are presented in a totally different way from that 
which we find in the French and German poets. A more attentive 
study shows that these elements, apparently added by the French 
poets, are in reality of Cymric origin. And first of all, M. de la 
Villemarque has demonstrated to perfection that the name of Lance- 
lot is only a translation of that of the Welsh hero Mael, who in point 
of fact exhibits the fullest analogy with the Lancelot of the French 
romances." The context, the proper names, all the details of the 
romance of Lancelot also present the most pronounced Breton aspect. 
As much must be said of the romance of Tristan. It is even to be 
hoped that this curious legend will be discovered complete in some 
Welsh manuscript. Dr. Owen states that he has seen one of which 
he was unable to obtain a copy. As to the Holy Grail, it must be 
avowed that the mystic cup, the object after which the French 
Parcevd and the German Parsifal go in search, has not nearly the 
same importance among the Welsh. In the romance of Peredur it 
only figures in an episodical fashion, and without a well-defined 
religious intention. 

"Then Peredur and his uncle discoursed together, and he beheld 
two youths enter the hall, and proceed up to the chamber, bearing 
a spear of mighty size, with three streams of blood flowing from 
the point to the ground. And when all the company saw this, they 
began wailing and lamenting. But for all that, the man did not 
break off his discourse with Peredur. And as he did not tell Peredur 
the meaning of what he saw, he forbore to ask him concerning it. 
And when the clamour had a little subsided, behold two maidens 
entered, with a large salver between them, in which was a man's 
head, surrounded by a profusion of blood. And thereupon the 
company of the court made so great an outcry, that it was irksome 

" Ancelot is the diminutive of Ancel, and means servant, page, or esquire. To 
this day in the Cymric dialects Mael has the same signification. The surname of 
Poursigant, which we find borne by some Welshmen in the French service in the 
early part of the fourteenth century, is also no doubt a translation of Mael. 

164 REN AN 

to be in the same hall with them. But at length they were silent." 
This strange and wondrous circumstance remains an enigma to the 
end of the narrative. Then a mysterious young man appears to 
Peredur, apprises him that the lance from which the blood was 
dropping is that with which his uncle was wounded, that the vessel 
contains the blood and the head of one of his cousins, slain by the 
witches of Kerloiou, and that it is predestined that he, Peredur, 
should be their avenger. In point of fact, Peredur goes and convokes 
the Round Table; Arthur and his knights come and put the witches 
of Kerloiou to death. 

If we now pass to the French romance of Parceval, we find that 
all this phantasmagoria clothes a very different significance. The 
lance is that with which Longus pierced Christ's side, the Grail or 
basin is that in which Joseph of Arimathea caught the divine blood. 
This miraculous vase procures all the good things of heaven and 
earth; it heals wounds, and is filled at the owner's pleasure with the 
most exquisite food. To approach it one must be in a state of grace; 
only a priest can tell of its marvels. To find these sacred relics after 
the passage of a thousand trials, — such is the object of Peredur's 
chivalry, at once worldly and mystical. In the end he becomes a 
priest; he takes the Grail and the lance into his hermitage; on the day 
of his death an angel bears them up to Heaven. Let us add that 
many traits prove that in the mind of the French trout/ere the Grail 
is confounded with the eucharist. In the miniatures which occa- 
sionally accompany the romance of Parceval, the Grail is in the 
form of a pyx, appearing at all the solemn moments of the poem as 
a miraculous source of succour. 

Is this strange myth, differing as it does from the simple narra- 
tive presented in the Welsh legend of Peredur, really Cymric, or 
ought we rather to see in it an original creation of the trouveres, 
based upon a Breton foundation? With M. de la Villemarque" we 
believe that this curious fable is essentially Cymric. In the eighth 
century a Breton hermit had a vision of Joseph of Arimathea bearing 
the chalice of the Last Supper, and wrote the history called the 
Gradal. The whole Celtic mythology is full of the marvels of a 

" See the excellent discussion of this interesting problem in the introduction to 
Contes populaires des ancietis Bretons (pp. 181 et seq.). 


magic caldron under which nine fairies blow silendy, a mysterious 
vase which inspires poetic genius, gives wisdom, reveals the future, 
and unveils the secrets of the world. One day as Bran the Blessed 
was hunting in Ireland upon the shore of a lake, he saw come forth 
from it a black man bearing upon his back an enormous caldron, 
followed by a witch and a dwarf. This caldron was the instrument 
of the supernatural power of a family of giants. It cured all ills, 
and gave back life to the dead, but without restoring to them the 
use of speech — an allusion to the secret of the bardic initiation. In 
the same way Perceval's wariness forms the whole plot of the quest 
of the Holy Grail. The Grail thus appears to us in its primitive 
meaning as the pass-word of a kind of freemasonry which survived in 
Wales long after the preaching of the Gospel, and of which we find 
deep traces in the legend of Taliessin. Christianity grafted its legend 
upon the mythological data, and a like transformation was doubt- 
less made by the Cymric race itself. If the Welsh narrative of Peredur 
does not offer the same developments as the French romance of 
Parceval, it is because the Red Book of Hergest gives us an earlier 
version than that which served as a model for Chretien de Troyes. 
It is also to be remarked that, even in Parceval, the mystical idea 
is not as yet completely developed, that the trouvere seems to treat 
this strange theme as a narrative which he has found already com- 
plete, and the meaning of which he can scarcely guess. The motive 
that sets Parceval a-field in the French romance, as well as in the 
Welsh version, is a family motive; he seeks the Holy Grail as a 
talisman to cure his uncle the Fisherman-King, in such a way that 
the religious idea is still subordinated to the profane intention. In 
the German version, on the other hand, full as it is of mysticism 
and theology, the Grail has a temple and priests. Parsifal, who has 
become a purely ecclesiastical hero, reaches the dignity of King of 
the Grail by his religious enthusiasm and his chastity." Finally, the 
prose versions, more modern still, sharply distinguish the two chiv- 
alries, the one earthly, the other mystical. In them Parceval becomes 

"It is indeed remarkable that all the Breton heroes in their last transformation 
are at once gallant and devout. One of the most celebrated ladies of Arthur's court, 
Luned, becomes a saint and a martyr for her chastity, her festival being celebrated 
on August 1st. She it is who figures in the French romances under the name of 
Lunette. See Lady Guest, vol. i., pp. 113, 114, 

1 66 REN AN 

the model o£ the devout knight. This was the last of the meta- 
morphoses which that all-powerful enchantress called the human 
imagination made him undergo; and it was only right that, after 
having gone through so many dangers, he should don a monkish 
frock, wherein to take his rest after his life of adventure. 

When we seek to determine the precise moment in the history of 
the Celtic races at which we ought to place ourselves in order to 
appreciate their genius in its entirety, we find ourselves led back 
to the sixth century of our era. Races have nearly always a pre- 
destined hour at which, passing from simplicity to reflection, they 
bring forth to the light of day, for the first time, all the treasures of 
their nature. For the Celtic races the poetic moment of awakening 
and primal activity was the sixth century. Christianity, still young 
amongst them, has not completely stifled the national cult; the 
religion of the Druids defends itself in its schools and holy places; 
warfare against the foreigner, without which a people never achieves 
a full consciousness of itself, attains its highest degree of spirit. It is 
the epoch of all the heroes of enduring fame, of all the characteristic 
saints of the Breton Church; finally, it is the great age of bardic litera- 
ture, illustrious by the names of Taliessin, of Aneurin, of Liwarc'h 

To such as would view critically the historical use of these half- 
fabulous names and would hesitate to accept as authentic, poems 
that have come down to us through so long a series of ages, we reply 
that the objections raised to the antiquity of the bardic literature — 
objections of which W. Schlegel made himself the interpreter in 
opposition to M. Fauriel — have completely disappeared under the 
investigations of an enlightened and impartial criticism.^" By a rare 
exception sceptical opinion has for once been found in the wrong. 
The sixth century is in fact for the Breton peoples a perfectly his- 
torical century. We touch this epoch of their history as closely and 
with as much certainty as Greek or Roman antiquity. It is indeed 

™This evidently does not apply to the language of the poems in question. It is 
well known that mediaeval scribes, alien as they were to all ideas of archeology, 
modernised the texts, in measure as they copied them; and that a manuscript in the 
vulgar tongue, as a rule, only attests the language of him who transcribed it. 


known that, up to a somewhat late period, the bards continued to 
compose pieces under the names — which had become popular — of 
Aneurin, Taliessin, and Liwarc'h Hen; but no confusion can be 
made between these insipid rhetorical exercises and the really ancient 
fragments which bear the names of the poets cited — ^fragments full 
of personal traits, local circumstances, and individual passions and 

Such is the literature of which M. de la Villemarque has attempted 
to unite the most ancient and authentic monuments in his Breton 
Bards of the Sixth Century. Wales has recognised the service that 
our learned compatriot has thus rendered to Celtic studies. We con- 
fess, however, to much preferring to the Bards the Popular Songs 
of Brittany. It is in the latter that M. de la Villemarque has best 
served Celtic studies, by revealing to us a delightful literature, in 
which, more clearly than anywhere else, are apparent these features 
of gentleness, fidelity, resignation, and timid reserve which form 
the character of the Breton peoples." 

The theme of the poetry of the bards of the sixth century is simple 

and exclusively heroic; it ever deals with the great motives of 

patriotism and glory. There is a total absence of all tender feeling, 

no trace of love, no well-marked religious idea, but only a vague and 

naturalistic mysticism, — a survival of Druidic teaching, — and a moral 

philosophy wholly expressed in Triads, similar to that taught in the 

half-bardic, half-Christian schools of St. Cadoc and St. Iltud. The 

singularly artificial and highly wrought form of the style suggests 

the existence of a system of learned instruction possessing long 

^^This interesting collection ought not, however, to be accepted unreservedly; and 
the absolute confidence with which it has been quoted is not without its inconveniences. 
We believe that when M. de la Villemarqu^ comments on the fragments which, to 
his eternal honour, he has been the first to bring to light, his criticism is far from 
being proof against all reproach, and that several of the historical allusions which he 
considers that he finds in them are hypotheses more ingenious than solid. The 
past is too great, and has come down to us in too fragmentary a manner, for such 
coincidences to be probable. Popular celebrities are rarely those of history, and 
when the rumours of distant centuries come to us by two channels, one popular, the 
other historical, it is a rare thing for these two forms of tradition to be fully in 
accord with one another. M. de la Villemarque is also too ready to suppose that 
the people repeats for centuries songs that it only half understands. When a song 
ceases to be intelligible, it is nearly always altered by the people, with the end of 
approximating it to the sounds familiar and significant to their ears. Is it not also 
to be feared that in this case the editor, in entire good faith, may lend some slight 
inflection to the text, so as to find in it the sense that he desires, or has in bis mind? 

1 68 RENAN 

traditions. A more pronounced shade, and there would be a danger 
of falling into a pedantic and mannered rhetoric. The bardic litera- 
ture, by its lengthened existence through the whole of the Middle 
Ages, did not escape this danger. It ended by being no more than 
a somewhat insipid collection of unoriginalities in style, and con- 
ventional metaphors.^^ 

The opposition between bardism and Christianity reveals itself in 
the pieces translated by M. de la Villemarque by many features of 
original and pathetic interest. The strife which rent the soul of the 
old poets, their antipathy to the grey men of the monastery, their 
sad and painful conversion, are to be found in their songs. The sweet- 
ness and tenacity of the Breton character can alone explain how a 
heterodoxy so openly avowed as this maintained its position in face 
of the dominant Christianity, and how holy men, Kolumkill for 
example, took upon themselves the defence of the bards against the 
kings who desired to stamp them out. The strife was the longer in 
its duration, in that Christianity among the Celtic peoples never 
employed force against rival religions, and, at the worst, left to the 
vanquished the liberty of ill humour. Belief in prophets, indestruc- 
tible among these peoples, created, in despite of faith the Anti- 
Christian type of Merlin, and caused his acceptance by the whole of 
Europe. Gildas and the orthodox Bretons were ceaseless in their 
thunderings against the prophets, and opposed to them Elias and 
Samuel, two bards who only foretold good; even in the twelfth 
century Giraldus Cambrensis saw a prophet in the town of Caerleon. 

Thanks to this toleration bardism lasted into the heart of the Mid- 
dle Ages, under the form of a secret doctrine, with a conventional 
language, and symbols almost wholly borrowed from the solar 
divinity of Arthur. This may be termed Neo-Druidism, a kind of 
Druidism subtilised and reformed on the model of Christianity, 
which may be seen growing more and more obscure and mysterious, 
until the moment of its total disappearance. A curious fragment 
belonging to this school, the dialogue between Arthur and Eliwlod, 
has transmitted to us the latest sighs of this latest protestation of 
expiring naturalism. Under the form of an eagle Eliwlod introduces 

22 A Welsh scholar, Mr. Stephens, in his History of Cymric Literature (Llandovery, 
1849), has demonstrated these successive transformations very well. 


the divinity to the sentiment o£ resignation, o£ subjection, and of 
humihty, with which Christianity combated pagan pride. Hero- 
worship recoils step by step before the great formula, which Chris- 
tianity ceases not to repeat to the Celtic races to sever them from 
their memories: There is none greater than God. Arthur allows 
himself to be persuaded to abdicate from his divinity, and ends by 
reciting the Pater. 

I know of no more curious spectacle than this revolt of the manly 
sentiments of hero-worship against the feminine feeling which 
flowed so largely into the new faith. What, in fact, exasperates the 
old representatives of Celtic society are the exclusive triumph of the 
pacific spirit and the men, clad in linen and chanting psalms, whose 
voice is sad, who preach asceticism, and know the heroes no more.^' 
We know the use that Ireland has made of this theme, in the dia- 
logues which she loves to imagine between the representatives of 
her profane and religious life, Ossian and St. Patrick.^* Ossian re- 
grets the adventures, the chase, the blast of the horn, and the kings 
of old time. "If they were here," he says to St. Patrick, "thou 
should'st not thus be scouring the country with the psalm-singing 
flock." Patrick seeks to calm him by soft words, and sometimes car- 
ries his condescension so far as to listen to his long histories, which 
appear to interest the saint but slightly. "Thou hast heard my story," 
says the old bard in conclusion; "albeit my memory groweth weak, 
and I am devoured with care, yet I desire to continue still to sing 
the deeds of yore, and to live upon ancient glories. Now am I 
stricken with years, my life is frozen within me, and all my joys are 
fleeting away. No more can my hand grasp the sword, nor mine 
arm hold the lance in rest. Among priests my last sad hour length- 
eneth out, and psalms take now the place of songs of victory." "Let 

2' The antipathy to Christianity attributed by the Armorican people to the dwarfs 
and kprigans belongs in like measure to traditions of the opposition encountered by 
the Gospel in its beginnings. The /(^origans in fact are, for the Breton peasant, great 
princesses who would not accept Christianity when the apostles came to Brittany. 
They hate the clergy and the churches, the bells of which make them take to flight. 
The Virgin above all is their great enemy; she it is who has hounded them forth 
from their fountains, and on Saturday, the day consecrated to her, whosoever beholds 
them combing their hair or counting their treasures is sure to perish. (Villemarqu^, 
Chants populaires, Introduction.) 

2* See Miss Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry, Dublin, 1789, pp. 37 et seq., pp. 75 
et seq. 


thy songs rest," says Patrick, "and dare not to compare thy Finn to 
the King of Kings, whose might knoweth no bounds: bend thy 
knees before Him, and know Him for thy Lord." It was indeed 
necessary to surrender, and the legend relates how the old bard ended 
his days in the cloister, among the priests whom he had so often used 
rudely, in the midst of these chants that he knew not. Ossian was 
too good an Irishman for any one to make up his mind to damn 
him utterly. Merhn himself had to cede to the new spell. He was, 
it is said, converted by St. Columba; and the popular voice in the 
ballads repeats to him unceasingly this sweet and touching appeal: 
"Merlin, Merlin, be converted; there is no divinity save that of 


We should form an altogether inadequate idea of the physiognomy 
of the Celtic races, were we not to study them under what is per- 
haps the most singular aspect of their development — that is to say, 
their ecclesiastical antiquities and their saints. Leaving on one side 
the temporary repulsion which Christian mildness had to conquer in 
the classes of society which saw their influence diminished by the 
new order of things, it can be truly said, that the gentleness of man- 
ners and the exquisite sensibility of the Celtic races, in conjunction 
with the absence of a formerly existing religion of strong organisa- 
tion, predestined them to Christianity. Christianity in fact, address- 
ing itself by preference to the more humble feelings in human na- 
ture, met here with admirably prepared disciples; no race has so 
delicately understood the charm of httleness, none has placed the 
simple creature, the innocent, nearer God. The ease with which the 
new religion took possession of these peoples is also remarkable. 
Brittany and Ireland between them scarce count two or three mar- 
tyrs; they are reduced to veneradng as such those of their com- 
patriots who were slain in the Anglo-Saxon and Danish invasions. 
Here comes to light the profound difference dividing the Celtic 
from the Teutonic race. The Teutons only received Christianity 
tardily and in spite of themselves, by scheming or by force, after a 
sanguinary resistance, and with terrible throes. Christianity was in 
fact on several sides repugnant to their nature; and one understands 


the regrets of pure Teutonists who, to this day, reproach the new 
faith with having corrupted their sturdy ancestors. 

Such was not the case with the Celtic peoples; that gentle little 
race was naturally Christian. Far from changing them, and taking 
away some of their qualities, Christianity finished and perfected 
them. Compare the legends relating to the introduction of Chris- 
tianity into the two countries, the Kristni Saga for instance, and the 
delightful legends of Lucius and St. Patrick. What a difference we 
find! In Iceland the first apostles are pirates, converted by some 
chance, now saying mass, now massacring their enemies, now resum- 
ing their former profession of sea-rovers; everything is done in accord 
with expediency, and without any serious faith. 

In Ireland and Brittany grace operates through women, by I know 
not what charm of purity and sweetness. The revolt of the Teutons 
was never effectually stifled; never did they forget the forced bap- 
tisms, and the sword-supported Carlovingian missionaries, until the 
day when Teutonism took its revenge, and Luther through seven 
centuries gave answer to Witikind. On the other hand, the Celts 
were, even in the third century, perfect Christians. To the Teutons 
Christianity was for long nothing but a Roman institution, imposed 
from without. They entered the Church only to trouble it; and it 
was not without very great difficulty that they succeeded in forming 
a national clergy. To the Celts, on the contrary, Christianity did not 
come from Rome; they had their native clergy, their own peculiar 
usages, their faith at first hand. It cannot, in fact, be doubted that 
in apostolic times Christianity was preached in Brittany; and several 
historians, not without justification, have considered that it was 
borne there by Judaistic Christians, or by disciples of the school of 
St. John. Everywhere else Christianity found, as a first sub-stratum, 
Greek or Roman civilisation. Here it found a virgin soil of a nature 
analogous to its own, and naturally prepared to receive it. 

Few forms of Christianity have offered an ideal of Christian per- 
fection so pure as the Celtic Church of the sixth, seventh, and eighth 
centuries. Nowhere, perhaps, has God been better worshipped in 
spirit than in those great monastic communities of Hy, or of lona, of 
Bangor, of Clonard, or of Lindisfarne. One of the most distinguished 
developments of Christianity — doubtless too distinguished for the 

172 RENAN 

popular and practical mission which the Church had to undertake — 
Pelagianism, arose from it. The true and refined moraUty, the sim- 
plicity, and the wealth of invention which give distinction to the 
legends of the Breton and Irish saints are indeed admirable. No 
race adopted Christianity with so much originality, or, while sub- 
jecting itself to the common faith, kept its national characteristics 
more persistently. In religion, as in all else, the Bretons sought isola- 
tion, and did not willingly fraternise with the rest of the world. 
Strong in their moral superiority, persuaded that they possessed the 
veritable canon of faith and religion, having received their Chris- 
tianity from an apostolic and wholly primitive preaching, they ex- 
perienced no need of feeling themselves in communion with Chris- 
tian societies less noble than their own. Thence arose that long 
struggle of the Breton churches against Roman pretensions, which 
is so admirably narrated by M. Augustin Thierry,''^ thence those in- 
flexible characters of Columba and the monks of lona, defending 
their usages and institutions against the whole Church, thence 
finally the false position of the Celtic peoples in Catholicism, when 
that mighty force, grown more and more aggressive, had drawn 
them together from all quarters, and compelled their absorption in 
itself. Having no Catholic past, they found themselves unclassed 
on their entrance into the great family, and were never able to 
succeed in creating for themselves an Archbishopric. AH their efforts 
and all their innocent deceits to attribute that title to the Churches 
of Dol and St. Davids were wrecked on the overwhelming di- 
vergence of their past; their bishops had to resign themselves to 
being obscure suffragans of Tours and Canterbury. 

It remains to be said that, even in our own days, the powerful 
originality of Celtic Christianity is far from being effaced. The 
Bretons of France, although they have felt the consequences of the 
revolutions undergone by Catholicism on the Continent, are, at the 
present hour, one of the populations in which religious feeling has 
retained most independence. The new devotions find no favour 
with it; the people are faithful to the old beliefs and the old saints; 
the psalms of religion have for them an ineffable harmony. In the 

'^ In his History of the Conquest. The objections raised by M. Varin and some 
other scholars to M. Thierry's narrative only affect some secondary details, which 
were rectified in the edition published after the illustrious historian's death. 


same way, Ireland keeps, in her more remote districts, quite unique 
forms of worship from those of the rest of the world, to which noth- 
ing in other parts of Christendom can be compared. The influence 
of modern Catholicism, elsewhere so destructive of national usages, 
has had here a wholly contrary effect, the clergy having found it 
incumbent on them to seek a vantage ground against Protestantism, 
in attachment to local practices and the customs of the past. 

It is the picture of these Christian institutions, quite distinct from 
those of the remainder of the West, of this sometimes strange wor- 
ship, of these legends of the saints marked with so distinct a seal of 
nationality, that lends an interest to the ecclesiastical antiquities of 
Ireland, of Wales, and of Armorican Brittany. No hagiology has 
remained more exclusively natural than that of the Celtic peoples; 
until the twelfth century those peoples admitted very few alien 
saints into their martyrology. None, too, includes so many natural- 
istic elements. Celtic Paganism offered so little resistance to the new 
religion, that the Church did not hold itself constrained to put in 
force against it the rigour with which elsewhere it pursued the slight- 
est traces of mythology. The conscientious essay by W. Rees on the 
Saints of Wales, and that by the Rev. John Williams, an extremely 
learned ecclesiastic of the diocese of St. Asaph, on the Ecclesiastical 
Antiquities of the Cymry, suffice to make one understand the im- 
mense value which a complete and intelligent history of the Celtic 
Churches, before their absorption in the Roman Church, would pos- 
sess. To these might be added the learned work of Dom Lobineau 
on the Saints of Brittany, re-issued in our days by the Abbe Tresvaux, 
had not the half-criticism of the Benedictine, much worse than a 
total absence of criticism, altered those naive legends and cut away 
from them, under the pretext of good sense and religious reverence, 
that which to us gives them interest and charm. 

Ireland above all would offer a religious physiognomy quite pecul- 
iar to itself, which would appear singularly original, were history 
in a position to reveal it in its entirety. When we consider the 
legions of Irish saints who in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries 
inundated the Continent and arrived from their isle bearing with 
them their stubborn spirit, their attachment to their own usages, 
their subtle and realistic turn of mind, and see the Scots (such was 

174 RENAN 

the name given to the Irish) doing duty, until the twelfth century, 
as instructors in grammar and literature to all the West, we cannot 
doubt that Ireland, in the first half of the Middle Ages, was the 
scene of a singular religious movement. Studious philologists and 
daring philosophers, the Hibernian monks were above all inde- 
fatigable copyists; and it was in part owing to them that the work 
of the pen became a holy task. Columba, secretly warned that his 
last hour is at hand, finishes the page of the psalter which he has 
commenced, writes at the foot that he bequeaths the continuation 
to his successor, and then goes into the church to die. Nowhere was 
monastic life to find such docile subjects. Credulous as a child, 
timid, indolent, inclined to submit and obey, the Irishman alone was 
capable of lending himself to that complete self-abdication in the 
hands of the abbot, which we find so deeply marked in the historical 
and legendary memorials of the Irish Church. One easily recognises 
the land where, in our own days, the priest, without provoking the 
slightest scandal, can, on a Sunday before quitting the altar, give the 
orders for his dinner in a very audible manner, and announce the 
farm where he intends to go and dine, and where he will hear his 
flock in confession. In the presence of a people v/hich lived by 
imagination and the senses alone, the Church did not consider itself 
under the necessity of dealing severely with the caprices of religious 
fantasy. It permitted the free action of the popular instinct; and 
from this freedom emerged what is perhaps of all cults the most 
mythological and most analogous to the mysteries of antiquity, 
presented in Christian annals, a cult attached to certain places, and 
almost exclusively consisting in certain acts held to be sacramental. 

Without contradiction the legend of St. Brandan is the most 
singular product of this combination of Celtic naturalism with Chris- 
tian spiritualism. The taste of the Hibernian monks for making 
maritime pilgrimages through the archipelago of the Scottish and 
Irish seas, everywhere dotted with monasteries,^'^ and the memory 
of yet more distant voyages in Polar seas, furnished the framework 
of this curious composition, so rich in local impressions. From 

^'The Irish saints literally covered the Western seas. A very considerable number 
of the saints of Brittany, St. Tenenan, St. Renan, etc., were emigrants from Ireland. 
The Breton legends of St. Malo, St. David, and of St. Pol of lAoa ate replete with 
similar stories of voyages to the distant isles of the West. 


Pliny (IV. XXX. 3) we learn that, even in his time, the Bretons loved 
to venture their lives upon the high seas, in search of unknown isles. 
M. Letronne has proved that in 795, sixty-five years consequently 
before the Danes, Irish monks landed in Iceland and established 
themselves on the coast. In this island the Danes found Irish books 
and bells; and the names of certain localities still bear witness to the 
sojourn of those monks, who were known by the name of Papce 
(fathers). In the Faroe Isles, in the Orkneys, and the Shetlands, 
indeed in all parts of the Northern seas, the Scandinavians found 
themselves preceded by those Papce, whose habits contrasted so 
strangely with their own.^^ Did they not have a glimpse too of that 
great land, the vague memory of which seems to pursue them, and 
which Columbus was to discover, following the traces of their 
dreams? It is only known that the existence of an island, traversed 
by a great river and situated to the west of Ireland, was, on the 
faith of the Irish, a dogma for mediaeval geographers. 

The story went that, towards the middle of the sixth century, a 
monk called Barontus, on his return from voyaging upon the sea, 
came and craved hospitality at the monastery of Clonfert. Brandan 
the abbot besought him to give pleasure to the brothers by narrating 
the marvels of God that he had seen on the high seas. Barontus 
revealed to them the existence of an island surrounded by fogs, 
where he had left his disciple Mernoc; it is the Land of Promise that 
God keeps for his saints. Brandan with seventeen of his monks 
desired to go in quest of this mysterious land. They set forth in a 
leather boat, bearing with them as their sole provision a utensil of 
butter, wherewith to grease the hides of their craft. For seven years 
they lived thus in their boat, abandoning to God sail and rudder, 
and only stopping on their course to celebrate the feasts of Christ- 
mas and Easter on the back of the king of fishes, Jasconius. Every 
step of this monastic Odyssey is a miracle, on every isle is a monas- 
tery, where the wonders of a fantastical universe respond to the 
extravagances of a wholly ideal life. Here is the Isle of Sheep, where 
these animals govern themselves according to their own laws; else- 
where the Paradise of Birds, where the winged race lives after the 

^^ On this point see the careful researches of Humboldt in his History of the 
Geography of the New Continent, vol. ii. 

176 RENAN 

fashion of monks, singing matins and lauds at the canonical hours. 
Brandan and his companions celebrate mass here with the birds, 
and remain with them for fifty days, nourishing themselves with 
nothing but the singing of their hosts. Elsewhere there is the Isle 
of Delight, the ideal of monastic life in the midst of the seas. Here 
no material necessity makes itself felt; the lamps light of themselves 
for the offices of religion, and never burn out, for they shine with 
a spiritual light. An absolute stillness reigns in the island; every one 
knows precisely the hour of his death; one feels neither cold, nor 
heat, nor sadness, nor sickness of body or soul. All this has endured 
since the days of St. Patrick, who so ordained it. The Land of 
Promise is more marvellous still; there an eternal day reigns; all the 
plants have flowers, all the trees bear fruits. Some privileged men 
alone have visited it. On their return a perfume is perceived to come 
from them, which their garments keep for forty days. 

In the midst of these dreams there appears with a surprising fidel- 
ity to truth the feeling for the picturesque in Polar voyages, — the 
transparency of the sea, the aspect of bergs and islands of ice melting 
in the sun, the volcanic phenomena of Iceland, the sporting of 
whales, the characteristic appearance of the Norwegian fiords, the 
sudden fogs, the sea calm as milk, the green isles crowned with 
grass which grows down to the very verge of the waves. This 
fantastical nature created expressly for another humanity, this 
strange topography at once glowing with fiction and speaking of 
truth, make the poem of St. Brandan one of the most extraordinary 
creations of the human mind, and perhaps the completest expression 
of the Celtic ideal. All is lovely, pure, and innocent; never has a 
gaze so benevolent and so gentle been cast upon the earth; there is 
not a single cruel idea, not a trace of frailty or repentance. It is the 
world seen through the crystal of a stainless conscience, one might 
almost say a human nature, as Pelagius wished it, that has never 
sinned. The very animals participate in this universal mildness. 
Evil appears under the form of monsters wandering on the deep, or 
of Cyclops confined in volcanic islands; but God causes them to 
destroy one another, and does not permit them to do hurt to the 

We have just seen how, around the legend of a monk the Irish 


imagination grouped a whole cycle of physical and maritime myths. 
The Purgatory of St. Patrick became the framework of another 
series of fables, embodying the Celtic ideas concerning the other life 
and its different conditions.^' Perhaps the profoundest instinct of 
the Celtic peoples is their desire to penetrate the unknown. With 
the sea before them, they wish to know what lies beyond; they dream 
of a Promised Land. In the face of the unknown that lies beyond 
the tomb, they dream of that great journey which the pen of Dante 
has celebrated. The legend tells how, while St. Patrick was preach- 
ing about Paradise and Hell to the Irish, they confessed that they 
would feel more assured of the reality of these places, if he would 
allow one of them to descend there, and then come back with in- 
formation. St. Patrick consented. A pit was dug, by which an 
Irishman set out upon the subterranean journey. Others wished to 
attempt the journey after him. With the consent of the abbot of the 
neighbouring monastery, they descended into the shaft, they passed 
through the torments of Hell and Purgatory, and then each told of 
what he had seen. Some did not emerge again; those who did 
laughed no more, and were henceforth unable to join in any gaiety. 
Knight Owen made a descent in 1153, and gave a narrative of his 
travels which had a prodigious success. 

Other legends related that when St. Patrick drove the goblins 
out of Ireland, he was greatly tormented in this place for forty days 
by legions of black birds. The Irish betook themselves to the spot, 
and experienced the same assaults which gave them an immunity 
from Purgatory. According to the narrative of Giraldus Cam- 
brensis, the isle which served as the theatre of this strange super- 
stition was divided into two parts. One belonged to the monks, the 
other was occupied by evil spirits, who celebrated religious rites in 
their own manner, with an infernal uproar. Some people, for the 
expiation of their sins, voluntarily exposed themselves to the fury 
of those demons. There were nine ditches m which they lay for a 
night, tormented in a thousand different ways. To make the descent 
it was necessary to obtain the permission of the bishop. His duty it 
was to dissuade the penitent from attempting the adventure, and to 

^ See Thomas Wright's excellent dissertation. Saint Patrick's Purgatory (London, 
1844), and Calderon's The Well of Saint Patrick- 

178 RENAN 

point out to him how many people had gone in who had never come 
out again. If the devotee persisted, he was ceremoniously conducted 
to the shaft. He was lowered down by means of a rope, with a loaf 
and a vessel of water to strengthen him in the combat against the 
fiend which he proposed to wage. On the following morning the 
sacristan offered the rope anew to the sufferer. If he mounted to 
the surface again, they brought him back to the church, bearing the 
cross and chanting psalms. If he were not to be found, the sacristan 
closed the door and departed. In more modern times pilgrims to the 
sacred isles spent nine days there. They passed over to them in a 
boat hollowed out of the trunk of a tree. Once a day they drank of 
the water of the lake; processions and stations were performed in 
the beds or cells of the saints. Upon the ninth day the penitents 
entered into the shaft. Sermons were preached to them warning 
them of the danger they were about to run, and they were told of 
terrible examples. They forgave their enemies and took farewell of 
one another, as though they were at their last agony. According to 
contemporary accounts, the shaft was a low and narrow kiln, into 
which nine entered at a time, and in which the penitents passed a 
day and a night, huddled and tightly pressed against one another. 
Popular belief imagined an abyss underneath, to swallow up the 
unworthy and the unbelieving. On emerging from the pit they 
went and bathed in the lake, and so their Purgatory was accom- 
plished. It would appear from the accounts of eye-witnesses that, to 
this day, things happen very nearly after the same fashion. 

The immense reputation of the Purgatory of St. Patrick filled the 
whole of the Middle Ages. Preachers made appeal to the public 
notoriety of this great fact, to controvert those who had their doubts 
regarding Purgatory. In the year 1358 Edward III. gave to a Hun- 
garian of noble birth, who had come from Hungary expressly to 
visit the sacred well, letters patent attesting that he had undergone 
his Purgatory. Narratives of those travels beyond the tomb became 
a very fashionable form of literature; and it is impwrtant for us to 
remark the wholly mythological, and as wholly Celtic, characteristics 
dominant in them. It is in fact evident that we are dealing with a 
mystery or local cult, anterior to Christianity, and probably based 
upon the physical appearance of the country. The idea of Purgatory, 


in its ' final and concrete form, fared specially well amongst the 
Bretons and the Irish. Bede is one of the first to speak of it in a 
descriptive manner, and the learned Mr. Wright very justly observes 
that nearly all the descriptions of Purgatory come from Irishmen, or 
from Anglo-Saxons who have resided in Ireland, such as St. Fursey, 
Tundale, the Northumbrian Dryhthelm, and Knight Owen. It is 
likewise a remarkable thing that only the Irish were able to behold 
the marvels of their Purgatory. A canon from Hemstede in Holland, 
who descended in 1494, saw nothing at all. Evidently this idea of 
travels in the other world and its infernal categories, as the Middle 
Ages accepted it, is Celtic. The belief in the three circles of existence 
is again to be found in the Triads^^ under an aspect which does not 
permit one to see any Christian interpolation. 

The soul's peregrinations after death are also the favourite theme 
of the most ancient Armorican poetry. Among the features by which 
the Celtic races most impressed the Romans were the precision of 
their ideas upon the future life, their inclination to suicide, and the 
loans and contracts which they signed with the other world in view. 
The more frivolous peoples of the South saw with awe in this 
assurance the fact of a mysterious race, having an understanding of 
the future and the secret of death. Through the whole of classical 
antiquity runs the tradition of an Isle of Shadows, situated on the 
confines of Brittany, and of a folk devoted to the passage of souls, 
which lives upon the neighbouring coast. In the night they hear dead 
men prowling about their cabin, and knocking at the door. Then 
they rise up; their craft is laden with invisible beings; on their return 
it is lighter. Several of these features reproduced by Plutarch, Clau- 
dian, Procopius,'" and Tzetzes^' would incline one to believe that the 
renown of the Irish myths made its way into classical antiquity 
about the first or second century. Plutarch, for example, relates, 
concerning the Cronian Sea, fables identical with those which fill 
the legend of St. Malo. Procopius, describing the sacred Island of 

^' A series of aphorisms under the form of triplets, which give us, with numerous 
interpolations, the ancient teaching of the bards, and that traditional wisdom which, 
according to the testimony of the ancients, was transmitted by means o£ mnemonic 
verses in the schools of the Druids. 

'"A Byzantine historian of the fifth and sixth centuries. 

" A Greek poet and grammarian of the twelfth century. 

l8o RENAN 

Brittia, which consists of two parts separated by the sea, one delight- 
ful, the other given over to evil spirits, seems to have read in advance 
the description of the Purgatory of St. Patric\, which Giraldus 
Cambrensis was to give seven centuries later. It cannot be doubted 
for a moment, after the able researches of Messrs. Ozanam, Labitte, 
and Wright, that to the number of poetical themes which Europe 
owes to the genius of the Celts, is to be added the framework of the 
Divine Comedy. 

One can understand how greatly this invincible attraction to 
fables must have discredited the Celtic race in the eyes of nationali- 
ties that believed themselves to be more serious. It is in truth a 
strange thing, that the whole of the mediaeval epoch, whilst sub- 
mitting to the influence of the Celtic imagination, and borrowing 
from Brittany and Ireland at least half of its poetical subjects, be- 
lieved itself obliged, for the saving of its own honour, to slight and 
satirise the people to which it owed them. Even Chretien de Troyes, 
for example, who passed his life in exploiting the Breton romances 
for his own purposes, originated the saying — 

"Les Gallois sent tous par nature 
Plus sots que betes de pature." 

Some English chronicler, I know not who, imagined he was mak- 
ing a charming play upon words when he described those beautiful 
creations, the whole world of which deserved to live, as "the child- 
ish nonsense with which those brutes of Bretons amuse themselves." 
The Bollandists'^ found it incumbent to exclude from their collec- 
tion, as apocryphal extravagances, those admirable religious legends, 
with which no Church has anything to compare. The decided lean- 
ing of the Celtic race towards the ideal, its sadness, its fidelity, its 
good faith, caused it to be regarded by its neighbours as dull, foolish, 
and superstitious. They could not understand its delicacy and re- 
fined manner of feeling. They mistook for awkwardness the em- 
barrassment experienced by sincere and open natures in the presence 
of more artificial natures. The contrast between French frivolity 
and Breton stubbornness above all led, after the fourteenth century, 

'^ A group of Jesuits who issued a collection of Lives of the Saints. The first five 
volumes were edited by John BoUand. 


to most deplorable conflicts, whence the Bretons ever emerged with 
a reputation for wrong-headedness. 

It was still worse, when the nation that most prides itself on its 
practical good sense found confronting it the people that, to its own 
misfortune, is least provided with that gift. Poor Ireland, with her 
ancient mythology, with her Purgatory of St. Patrick, and her fan- 
tastic travels of St. Brandan, was not destined to find grace in the 
eyes of English puritanism. One ought to observe the disdain of 
English critics for these fables, and their superb pity for the Church 
which dallies with Paganism, so far as to keep up usages which are 
notoriously derived from it. Assuredly we have here a praiseworthy 
zeal, arising from natural goodness; and yet, even if these flights of 
imagination did no more than render a little more supportable 
many sufferings which are said to have no remedy, that after all 
would be something. Who shall dare to say where, here on earth, 
is the boundary between reason and dreaming? Which is worth 
more, the imaginative instinct of man, or the narrow orthodoxy 
that pretends to remain rational, when speaking of things divine? 
For my own part, I prefer the frank mythology, with all its vagaries, 
to a theology so paltry, so vulgar, and so colourless, that it would be 
wronging God to believe that, after having made the visible world 
so beautiful he should have made the invisible world so prosaically 

In presence of the ever-encroaching progress of a civilisation which 
is of no country, and can receive no name, other than that of mod- 
ern or European, it would be puerile to hope that the Celtic race 
is in the future to succeed in obtaining isolated expression of its 
originality. And yet we are far from believing that this race has said 
its last word. After having put in practice all chivalries, devout and 
worldly, gone with Peredur in quest of the Holy Grail and fair 
ladies, and dreamed with St. Brandan of mystical Atlantides, who 
knows what it would produce in the domain of intellect, if it hard- 
ened itself to an entrance into the world, and subjected its rich and 
profound nature to the conditions of modern thought? It appears 
to me that there would result from this combination, productions 
of high originality, a subtle and discreet manner of taking life, a 
singular union of strength and weakness, of rude simplicity and 

1 82 RENAN 

mildness. Few races have had so complete a poetic childhood as the 
Celtic; mythology, lyric poetry, epic, romantic imagination, re^ 
ligious enthusiasm — none of these failed them; why should reflec- 
tion fail them? Germany, which commenced with science and 
criticism, has come to poetry; why should not the Celtic races, which 
began with poetry, finish with criticism? There is not so great a 
distance from one to the other as is supposed; the poetical races are 
the philosophic races, and at bottom philosophy is only a manner 
of poetry. When one considers how Germany, less than a century 
ago, had her genius revealed to her, how a multitude of national 
individualities, to all appearance effaced, have suddenly risen again 
in our own days, more instinct with life than ever, one feels per- 
suaded that it is a rash thing to lay down any law on the inter- 
mittence and awakening of nations; and that modern civilisation, 
which appeared to be made to absorb them, may perhaps be nothing 
more than their united fruition. 





Lessing's life has been sketched in the introduction to his "Minna 
von Barnhelm" in the volume of Continental Dramas in The Harvard 

"The Education of the Human Race" is the culmination of a bitter 
theological controversy which began with the publication by Lessing, in 
1 774-1 778, of a series of fragments of a work on natural religion by the 
German deist, Reimarus. This action brought upon Lessing the wrath 
of the orthodox German Protestants, led by J. M. Goeze, and in the 
batde that followed Lessing did his great work for the liberalizing of 
religious thought in Germany. The present treatise is an extraordinarily 
condensed statement of the author's attitude towards the fundamental 
questions of religion, and gives his view of the signification of the 
previous religious history of mankind, along with his faith and hope for 
the future. 

As originally issued, the essay purported to be merely edited by Less- 
ing; but there is no longer any doubt as to his having been its author. 
It is an admirable and characteristic expression of the serious and ele- 
vated spirit in which he dealt with matters that had then, as often, been 
degraded by the virulence of controversy. 



HAT which Education is to the Individual, Revelation is 
to the Race. 

Education is Revelation coming to the Individual Man; and 
Revelation is Education which has come, and is yet coming, to the 
Human Race. 


Whether it can be of any advantage to the science of instruction 
to contemplate Education in this point of view, I will not here 
inquire; but in Theology it may unquestionably be of great advan- 
tage, and may remove many difficulties, if Revelation be conceived 
of as the Educator of Humanity. 


Education gives to Man nothing which he might not educe out 
of himself; it gives him that which he might educe out of himself, 
only quicker and more easily. In the same way too, Revelation gives 
nothing to the human species, which the human reason left to itself 
might not attain; only it has given, and still gives to it, the most 
important of these things earlier. 

And just as in Education, it is not a matter of indifference in what, 
order the powers of a man are developed, as it cannot impart to a\ 
man all at once; so was God also necessitated to maintain a certain 
order, and a certain measure in His Revelation. 




Even if the first man were furnished at once with a conception of 
the One God; yet it was not possible that this conception, imparted, 
and not gained by thought, should subsist long in its clearness. As 
soon as the Human Reason, left to itself, began to elaborate it, it 
broke up the one Immeasurable into many Measurables, and gave 
a note or sign of mark to every one of these parts. 


Hence naturally arose polytheism and idolatry. And who can 
say how many millions of years human reason would have been 
bewildered in these errors, even though in all places and times there 
were individual men who recognized them as errors, had it not 
pleased God to afford it a better direction by means of a new 
Impulse ? 


But when He neither could nor would reveal Himself any more 
to each individual man, He selected an individual People for His 
special education; and that exactly the most rude and the most un- 
ruly, in order to begin with it from the very commencement. 


This was the Hebrew People, respecting whom we do not in the 
least know what kind of Divine Worship they had in Egypt. For so 
despised a race of slaves was not permitted to take part in the 
worship of the Egyptians; and the God of their fathers was entirely 
unknown to them. 


It is possible that the Egyptians had expressly prohibited the 
Hebrews from having a God or Gods, perhaps they had forced upon 
them the belief that their despised race had no God, no Gods, that 
to have a God or Gods was the prerogative of the superior Egyptians 
only, and this may have been so held in order to have the power of 
tyrannising over them with a greater show of fairness. Do Christians 
even now do much better with their slaves? 



To this rude people God caused Himself to be announced first, 
simply as "the God of their fathers," in order to make them ac- 
quainted and familiar with the idea of a God belonging to them 
also, and to begin with confidence in Him. 


Through the miracles with which He led them out of Egypt, and 
planted them in Canaan, He testified of Himself to them as a God 
mightier than any other God. 

And as He proceeded, demonstrating Himself to be the Mightiest 
of all, which only One can be, He gradually accustomed them thus 
to the idea of The One. 

But how far was this conception of The One, below the true 
transcendental conception of the One which Reason learnt to derive, 
so late with certainty, from the conception of the Infinite One? 

Although the best of the people were already more or less ap- 
proaching the true conception of the One only, the people as a whole 
could not for a long time elevate themselves to it. And this was 
the sole true reason why they so often abandoned their one God, and 
expected to find the One, /. e., as they meant, the Mightiest, in some 
God or other, belonging to another people. 


But of what kind of moral education was a people so raw, so in- 
capable of abstract thoughts, and so entirely in their childhood 
capable ? Of none other but such as is adapted to the age of children, 
an education by rewards and punishments addressed to the senses. 

Here too Education and Revelation meet together. As yet God 
could give to His people no other religion, no other law than one 


through obedience to which they might hope to be happy, or through 
disobedience to which they must fear to be unhappy. For as yet their 
regards went no further than this earth. They knew of no immortal- 
ity of the soul; they yearned after no life to come. But now to reveal 
these things to one whose reason had as yet so little growth, what 
would it have been but the same fault in the Divine Rule as is com- 
mitted by the schoolmaster, who chooses to hurry his pupil too 
rapidly, and boast of his progress, rather than thoroughly to ground 


But, it will be asked, to what purpose was this education of so 
rude a people, a people with whom God had to begin so entirely 
from the beginning? I reply, in order that in the process of time He 
might employ particular members of this nation as the Teachers of 
other people. He was bringing up in them the future Teachers of 
the human race. It was the Jews who became their teachers, none 
but Jews; only men out of a people so brought up, could be their 

For to proceed. When the Child by dint of blows and caresses 
had grown and was now come to years of understanding, the Father 
sent it at once into foreign countries : and here it recognised at once 
the Good which in its Father's house it had possessed, and had not 
been conscious of. 


While God guided His chosen people through all the degrees of 
a child-like education, the other nations of the earth had gone on 
by the light of reason. The most part had remained far behind the 
chosen people. Only a few had got before them. And this too, takes ' 
place with children, who are allowed to grow up left to themselves : 
many remain quite raw, some educate themselves even to an aston- 
ishing degree. 


But as these more fortunate few prove nothing against the use 
and necessity of Education, so the few heathen nations, who even 


appear to have made a start in the knowledge of God before the 
chosen people, prove nothing against a Revelation. The Child of 
Education begins with slow yet sure footsteps; it is late in overtaking 
many a more happily organised child of nature; but it does over- 
take it; and thenceforth can never be distanced by it again. 


Similarly — Putting aside the doctrine of the Unity of God, which 
in a way is found, and in a way is not found, in the books of the 
Old Testament — that the doctrine of immortality at least is not dis- 
coverable in it, is wholly foreign to it, that all doctrine connected 
therewith of reward and punishment in a future life, proves just as 
little against the Divine origin of these books. Notwithstanding the 
absence of these doctrines, the account of miracles and prophecies 
may be perfectly true. For let us suppose that these doctrines were 
not only wanting therein, but even that they were not at all true; 
let us suppose that for mankind all was over in this life; would the 
Being of God be for this reason less demonstrated ? Would God be 
for this less at liberty, would it less become Him to take immediate 
charge of the temporal fortunes of any people out of this perishable 
race ? The miracles which He performed for the Jews, the prophecies 
which He caused to be recorded through them, were surely not for 
the few mortal Jews, in whose time they had happened and been 
recorded: He had His intentions therein in reference to the whole 
Jewish people, to the entire Human Race, which, perhaps, is destined 
to remain on earth forever, though every individual Jew and every 
individual man die forever. 

Once more. The absence of those doctrines in the writings of the 
Old Testament proves nothing against their Divinity. Moses was 
sent from God even though the sanction of his law only extended 
to this life. For why should it extend further? He was surely sent 
only to the Israelitish people of that time, and his commission was 
perfectly adapted to the knowledge, capacities, yearnings of the then- 
existing Israelitish people, as well as to the destination of that which 
belonged to the future. And this is sufficient. 



So far ought Warburton to have gone, and no further. But that 
learned man overdrew his bow. Not content that the absence of 
these doctrines was no discredit to the Divine mission of Moses, it 
must even be a proof to him of the Divinity of the mission. And if 
he had only sought this proof in the adaptation of such a law to 
such a people! 

But he betook himself to the hypothesis of a miraculous system 
continued in an unbroken line from Moses to Christ, according to 
which, God had made every individual Jew exactly happy or un- 
happy, in the proportion to his obedience or disobedience to the law 
deserved. He would have it that this miraculous system had com- 
pensated for the want of those doctrines (of eternal rewards and 
punishments, &c.), without which no state can subsist; and that such 
a compensation even proved what that want at first sight appeared 
to negative. 

How well It was that Warburton could by no argument prove 
or even make likely this continuous miracle, in which he placed the 
existence of Israelitish Theocracy! For could he have done so, in 
truth, he could then, and not till then, have made the difBculty really 
insuperable, to me at least. For that which was meant to prove the 
Divine character of the Mission of Moses, would have rendered the 
matter itself doubtful, which God, it is true, did not intend then to 
reveal; but which on the other hand, He certainly would not render 


I explain myself by that which is a picture of Revelation. A 
Primer for children may fairly pass over in silence this or that im- 
portant piece of knowledge or art which it expounds, respecdng 
which the Teacher judged, that it is not yet fitted for the capacities 
of the children for whom he was writing. But it must contain abso- 
lutely nothing which blocks up the way towards the knowledge 
which is held back, or misleads the children from it. Rather far, all 


the approaches towards it must be carefully left open; and to lead 
them away from even one of these approaches, or to cause them to 
enter it later than they need, would alone be enough to change the 
mere imperfection of such a Primer into an actual fault. 


In the same way, in the writings of 'the Old Testament those 
primers for the rude Israelitish people, unpractised in thought, the 
doctrines of the immortality of the soul, and future recompenses, 
might be fairly left out: but they were bound to contain nothing 
which could have even procrastinated the progress of the people, 
for whom they were written, in their way to this grand truth. And 
to say but a small thing, what could have more procrastinated it 
than the promise of such a miraculous recompense in this life? A 
promise made by Him who promises nothing that He does not 


For although unequal distribution of the goods of this life, Virtue 
and Vice seem to be taken too little into consideration, although this 
unequal distribution does not exactly ailord a strong proof of the 
immortaUty of the soul and of a life to come, in which this difficulty 
will be reserved hereafter, it is certain that without this difficulty 
the human understanding would not for a long time, perhaps never, 
have arrived at better or firmer proofs. For what was to impel it to 
seek for these better proofs? Mere curiosity? 


An Israelite here and there, no doubt, might have extended to 
every individual member of the entire commonwealth, those prom- 
ises and threatenings which belong to it as a whole, and be firmly 
persuaded that whosoever should be pious must also be happy, and 
that whoever was unhappy must be bearing the penalty of his 
wrong-doing, which penalty would forthwith change itself into 
blessing, as soon as he abandoned his sin. Such a one appears to have 
written Job, for the plan of it is entirely in this spirit. 


But daily experience could not possibly be permitted to confirm 
this belief, or else it would have been all over, for ever, with people 
who had this experience, so far as all recognition and reception was 
concerned of the truth as yet unfamiliar to them. For if the pious 
were absolutely happy, and it also of course was a necessary part of 
his happiness that his satisfaction should be broken by no uneasy 
thoughts of death, and that he should die old, and satisfied with life 
to the full: how could he yearn after another life? and how could 
he reflect upon a thing after w'hich he did not yearn? But if the 
pious did not reflect thereupon, who then should reflect ? The trans- 
gressor? he who felt the punishments of his misdeeds, and if he 
cursed this life, must have so gladly renounced that other existence? 

Much less would it signify if an Israelite here and there directly 
and expressly denied the immortality of the soul and future recom- 
pense, on account of the law having no reference thereto. The denial 
of an individual, had it even been a Solomon, did not arrest the 
progress of the general reason, and was even in itself a proof that 
the nation had now come a great step nearer the truth. For indi- 
viduals only deny what the many are bringing into consideration; 
and to bring into consideration that, concerning which no one 
troubled himself at all before, is half way to knowledge. 


Let us also acknowledge that it is a heroic obedience to obey the 
laws of God simply because they are God's laws, and not because 
He has promised to reward the obedience to them here and there; 
to obey them even though there be an entire despair of future recom- 
pense, and uncertainty respecting a temporal one. 


Must not a people educated in this heroic obedience towards God 
have been destined, must they not have been capable beyond all 
others of executing Divine purposes of quite a special character? 


Let the soldier, who pays blind obedience to his leader, become also 
convinced of his leader's wisdom, and then say what that leader may 
not undertake to achieve with him. 

As yet the Jewish people had reverenced in their Jehovah rather 
the mightiest than the wisest of all Gods; as yet they had rather 
feared Him as a Jealous God than loved Him: a proof this too, that 
the conception which they had of their eternal One God was not 
exactly the right conception which we should have of God. How- 
ever, now the time was come that these conceptions of theirs were 
to be expanded, ennobled, rectified, to accomplish which God 
availed Himself of a quite natural means, a better and more correct 
measure, by which it got the opportunity of appreciating Him. 

Instead of, as hitherto, appreciating Him in contrast with the 
miserable idols of the small neighboring peoples, with whom they 
lived in constant rivalry, they began, in captivity under the wise 
Persians, to measure Him against the "Being of all Beings" such as 
a more disciplined reason recognized and reverenced. 


Revelation had guided their reason, and now, all at once, reason 
gave clearness to their Revelation. 

This was the first reciprocal influence which these two (Reason 
and Revelation) exercised on one another; and so far is the mutual 
influence from being unbecoming to the Author of them both, that 
without it either of them would have been useless. 


The child, sent abroad, saw other children who knew more, who 

lived more becomingly, and asked itself, in confusion, "Why do I 

not know that too ? Why do I not live so too ? Ought I not to have 

been taught and admonished of all this in my father's house?" 


Thereupon it again sought out its Primer, which had long been 
thrown into a corner, in order to throw off a blame upon the Primer. 
But behold, it discovers that the blame does not rest upon the books, 
that the shame is solely its own, for not having long ago, known 
this very thing, and lived in this very way. 

Since the Jews, by this time, through the medium of the pure 
Persian doctrine, recognized in their Jehovah, not simply the greatest 
of all national deities, but GOD; and since they could, the more 
readily find Him and indicate Him to others in their sacred writings, 
inasmuch as He was really in them; and since they manifested as 
great an aversion for sensuous representations, or at all events, were 
instructed in these Scriptures, to have an aversion to them as great 
as the Persians had always felt; what wonder that they found favor 
in the eyes of Cyrus, with a Divine Worship which he recognized as 
being, no doubt, far below pure Sabeism, but yet far above the rude 
idolatries which in its stead had taken possession of the forsaken 
land of the Jews. 


Thus enlightened respecting the treasures which they had pos- 
sessed, without knowing it, they returned, and became quite another 
people, whose first care it was to give permanency to this illumi- 
nation amongst themselves. Soon an apostacy and idolatry among 
them was out of the question. For it is possible to be faithless to a 
national deity, but never to God, after He has once been recognised. 

The theologians have tried to explain this complete change in the 
Jewish people in a different way; and one, who has well demon- 
strated the insufficiency of these explanations, at last was for giving 
us, as a true account — "the visible fulfilment of the prophecies which 
had been spoken and written respecting the Babylonish captivity and 
the restoration from it." But even this reason can be only so far the 
true one, as it presupposes the, by this time, exalted ideas of God. 
The Jews must by this time have recognized that to do miracles, 


and to predict the future, belonged only to God, both of which they 
had ascribed formerly to false idols, by which it came to pass that 
even miracles and prophecies had hitherto made so weak an im- 
pression upon them. 


Doubtless, the Jews were made more acquainted with the doctrine 
of immortality among the Chaldeans and Persians. They became 
more familiar with it too in the schools of the Greek Philosophers 
in Egypt. 


However, as this doctrine was not in the same condition in refer- 
ence to their Scriptures that the doctrines of God's Unity and Attri- 
butes were — since the former were entirely overlooked by that 
sensual people, while the latter would be sought for : — and since too, 
for the former, previous exercising was necessary, and as yet there 
had been only hints and allusions, the faith in the immortality of 
the soul could naturally never be the faith of the entire people. It 
was and continued to be only the creed of a .certain section of them. 

An example of what I mean by "previous exercising" for the 
doctrine of immortality, is the Divine threatenings of punishing the 
misdeeds of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth 
generation. This accustomed the fathers to live in thought with 
their remotest posterity, and to feel, as it were, beforehand, the mis- 
fortune which they had brought upon these guiltless ones. 

By an allusion I mean that which was intended only to excite 
curiosity and to occasion questions. As, for instance, the oft-recurring 
mode of expression, describing death by "he was gathered to his 


By a "hint" I mean that which already contains any germ, out of 
which the, as yet, held back truth allows itself to be developed. Of 
this character was the inference of Christ from the naming of God 


"the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." This hint appears to me 
to be unquestionably capable of being worked out into a strong 


In such previous exercitations, allusions, hints, consists the positive 
perfection of a Primer; just as the above-mentioned peculiarity of 
not throwing difficulties or hindrances in the way to the suppressed 
truth constitutes the negative perfection of such a book. 


Add to all this the clothing and style. 

1. The clothing of abstract truths, which were not entirely to be 
passed over, in allegories and instructive single circumstances, which 
were narrated as actual occurrences. Of this character are the Crea- 
tion under the image of growing Day; the Origin of Evil in the 
story of the Forbidden Tree; the source of the variety of languages 
in the history of the Tower of Babel, &c. 


2. The style — sometimes plain and simple, sometimes poetical, 
throughout full of tautologies, but of such a kind as practised sagac- 
ity, since they sometimes appear to be saying something else, and 
yet the same thing; sometimes the same thing over again, and yet 
to signify or to be capable of signifying at the bottom, something 
else: — 

And then you have all the properties of excellence which belong 
to a Primer for a childlike people, as well as for children. 

But every Primer is only for a certain age. To delay the child, 
that has outgrown it, longer in it than it was intended for, is hurt- 
ful. For to be able to do this in a way in any sort profitable, you 
must insert into it more than there is really in it, and extract from 
it more than it can contain. You must look for and make too much 
of allusions and hints; squeeze allegories too closely; interpret ex- 


amples too circumstantially; press too much upon words. This gives 
the child a petty, crooked, hair splitting understanding: it makes 
him full of mysteries, superstitions; full of contempt for all that is 
comprehensible and easy. 

The very way in which the Rabbins handled their sacred books! 
The very character which they thereby imparted to the character of 
their people! 


A Better Instructor must come and tear the exhausted Primer from 
the child's hands. Christ came! 

That portion of the human race which God had willed to compre- 
hend in one Educational plan, was ripe for the second step of Educa- 
tion. He had, however, only willed to comprehend on such a plan, 
one which by language, mode of action, government, and other 
natural and political relationships, was already united in itself. 

That is, this portion of the human race was come so far in the 
exercise of its reason, as to need, and to be able to make use of nobler 
and worthier motives of moral action than temporal rewards and 
punishments, which had hitherto been its guides. The child had 
become a youth. Sweetmeats and toys have given place to the bud- 
ding desire to go as free, as honored, and as happy as its elder brother. 

For a long time, already, the best individuals of that portion of 
the human race (called above the elder brother) had been accus- 
tomed to let themselves be ruled by the shadow of such nobler 
motives. The Greek and Roman did everything to live on after this 
life, even if it were only in the remembrance of their fellow-citizens. 

It was time that another true life to be expected after this should 
gain an influence over the youth's actions. 



And so Christ was the first certain practical Teacher of the im- 
mortaUty of the soul. 


The first certain Teacher. Certain, through the prophecies which 
were fulfilled in Him; certain, through the miracles which He 
achieved; certain, through His own revival after a death through 
which He had sealed His doctrine. Whether we can still prove this 
revival, these miracles, I put aside, as I leave on one side who the 
Person of Christ was. All that may have been at that time of great 
weight for the reception of His doctrine, but it is now no longer of 
the same importance for the recognition of the truth of His doctrine. 


The first practical Teacher. For it is one thing to conjecture, to 
wish, and to believe the immortality of the soul, as a philosophic 
speculation: quite another thing to direct the inner and outer acts 
by it. 


And this at least Christ was the first to teach. For although, 
already before Him, the belief had been introduced among many 
nations, that bad actions have yet to be punished in that life; yet 
they were only such actions as were injurious to civil society, and 
consequently, too, had already had their punishment in civil so- 
ciety. To enforce an inward purity of heart in reference to another 
life, was reserved for Him alone. 


His disciples have faithfully propagated these doctrines: and if 
they had even had no other merit, than that of having effected a 
more general publication, among other nations, of a Truth which 
Christ had appeared to have destined only for the Jews, yet would 
they have even on that account alone, to be reckoned among the 
Benefactors and Fosterers of the Human Race. 



If, however, they transplanted this one great Truth together with 
other doctrines, whose truth was less enlightening, whose usefulness 
was of a less exalted character, how could it be otherwise. Let us not 
blame them for this, but rather seriously examine whether these very 
commingled doctrines have not become a new impulse of directions 
for human reason. 


At least, it is already clear that the New Testament Scriptures, in 
which these doctrines after some time were found preserved, have 
afforded, and still afford, the second better Primer for the race of 

For seven hundred years past they have exercised human reason 
more than all other books, and enlightened it more, were it even only 
through the light which the human reason itself threw into them. 


It would have been impossible for any other book to become so 
generally known among different nations: and indisputably, the 
fact that modes of thought so diverse from each other have been 
occupied on the same book, has helped on the human reason more 
than if every nation had had its own Primer specially for itself. 


It was also highly necessary that each people for a period should 
hold this Book as the ne plus ultra of their knowledge. For the 
youth must consider his Primer as the first of all books, that the 
impatience to finish this book, may not hurry him on to things for 
which he has, as yet, laid no basis. 


And one thing is also of the greatest importance even now. Thou 
abler spirit, who art fretting and restless over the last page of the 


Primer, beware! Beware of letting thy weaker fellow scholars mark 
what thou perceivest afar, or what thou art beginning to see! 


Until these weaker fellow scholars are up with thee, rather return 
once more into this Primer, and examine whether that which thou 
takest only for duplicates of the method, for a blunder in the teach- 
ing, is not perhaps something more. 


Thou hast seen in the childhood of the human race, respecting the 
doctrine of God's unity, that God makes immediate revelations of 
mere truths of reason, or has permitted and caused pure truths of 
reason to be taught, for some time, as truths of immediate revelation, 
in order to promulgate them the more rapidly, and ground them the 
more firmly. 

Thou experiencest in the boyhood of the Race the same thing in 
reference to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It is preached 
in the better Primer as a Revelation, instead of taught as a result 
of human reason. 

As we by this time can dispense with the Old Testament, in 
reference to the doctrine of the unity of God, and as we are by de- 
grees beginning also to be less dependent on the New Testament, in 
reference to the immortality of the soul: might there not in this 
Book also be other truths of the same sort prefigured, mirrored, as 
it were, which we are to marvel at, as revelations, exactly so long 
as until the time shall come when reason shall have learned to educe 
them, out of its other demonsuated truths and bind them up with 

For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity. How if this doctrine 
should at last, after endless errors, right and left, only bring men on 
the road to recognise that God cannot possibly be One in the sense 


in which finite things are one, that even His unity must be a trans- 
cendental unity, which does not exclude a sort of plurality? Must 
not God at least have the most perfect conception of Himself, /. e., 
a conception in which is found everything which is in Him? But 
would everything be found in it which is in Him, if a mere con- 
ception, a mere possibility, were found even of his necessary Reahty 
as well as of His other qualities ? This possibility exhausts the being 
of His other qualities. Does it that of His necessary Reality? I 
think not. Consequently God can either have no perfect conception 
of himself at all, or this perfect conception is just as necessarily real, 
/'. e., actually existent, as He Himself is. Certainly the image of 
myself in the mirror is nothing but an empty representation of me, 
because it only has that of me upon the surface of which beams 
of light fall. But now if this image had everything, everything with- 
out exception, which I have myself, would it then still be a mere 
empty representation, or not rather a true reduplication of myself? 
When I believe that I recognise in God a familiar reduplication, I 
perhaps do not so much err, as that my language is insufficient for 
my ideas: and so much at least for ever incontrovertible, that they 
who wish to make the idea thereof popular for comprehension, could 
scarcely have expressed themselves more intelligibly and suitably 
than by giving the name of a Son begotten from Eternity, 

And the doctrine of Original Sin. How, if at last everything were 
to convince us that man standing on the first and lowest step of his 
humanity, is not so entirely master of his actions as to be able to 
obey moral laws? 

And the doctrine of the Son's satisfaction. How, if at last, all 
compelled us to assume that God, in spite of that original incapacity 
of man, chose rather to give him moral laws, and forgive him all 
transgressions in consideration of His Son, /. e., in consideration o£ 
the self-existent total of all His own perfections, compared with 
which, and in which, all imperfections of the individual disappear, 
than not to give him those laws, and then to exclude him from all 


moral blessedness, which cannot be conceived o£ without moral 


Let it not be objected that speculations of this description upon the 
mysteries of religion are forbidden. The word mystery signified, in 
the first ages of Christianity, something quite different from what 
it means now: and the cultivation of revealed truths into truths of 
reason, is absolutely necessary, if the human race is to be assisted by 
them. When they were revealed they were certainly no truths of 
reason, but they were revealed in order to become such. They were 
like the "that makes — " of the ciphering master, which he says to the 
boys, beforehand, in order to direct them thereby in their reckoning. 
If the scholars were to be satisfied with the "that makes," they 
would never learn to calculate, and would frustrate the intention 
with which their good master gave them a guiding clue in their 

And why should not we too, by the means of a religion whose 
historical truth, if you will, looks dubious, be conducted in a familiar 
way to closer and better conceptions of the Divine Being, our own 
nature, our relation to God, truths at which the human reason would 
never have arrived of itself.'' 


It is not true that speculations upon these things have ever done 
harm or become injurious to the body politic. You must reproach, 
not the speculations, but the folly and the tyranny of checking them. 
You must lay the blame on those who would not permit men having 
their own speculations to exercise them. 


On the contrary, speculations of this sort, whatever the result, are 
unquestionably the most fitting exercises of the human heart, gen- 
erally, so long as the human heart, generally, is at best only capable 
of loving virtue for the sake of its eternal blessed consequences. 



For in this selfishness of the human heart, to will to practice the 
understanding too, only on that which concerns our corporal needs, 
would be to blunt rather than to sharpen it. It absolutely will be 
exercised on spiritual objects, if it is to attain its perfect illumination, 
and bring out that purity of heart which makes us capable of loving 
virtue for its own sake alone. 

Or, is the human species never to arrive at this highest step of 
illumination and purity ? — Never ? 


Never? — Let me not think this blasphemy, All Merciful! Educa- 
tion has its goal, in the Race, no less than in the Individual. That 
which is educated is educated for something. 

The flattering prospects which are open to the people, the Honor 
and Well-being which are painted to him, what are they more than 
the means of educating him to become a man, who, when these 
prospects of Honor and Well-being have vanished, shall be able to 
do his Duty? 


This is the aim of human education, and should not the Divine 
education extend as far? Is that which is successful in the way of 
Art with the individual, not to be successful in the way of Nature 
with the whole? Blasphemy! Blasphemy!! 

No! It will come! it will assuredly come! the time of the per- 
fecting, when man, the more convinced his understanding feels 
itself of an ever better Future, will nevertheless not be necessitated 
to borrow motives of action from this Future; for he will do the 
Right because it is right, not because arbitrary rewards are annexed 
thereto, which formerly were intended simply to fix and strengthen 


his unsteady gaze in recognising the inner, better, rewards of well- 


It will assuredly come! the time of a new eternal Gospel, which is 
promised us in the Primer of the New Testament itself! 


Perhaps even some enthusiasts of the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries had caught a glimpse of a beam of this new eternal Gospel, 
and only erred in that they predicted its outburst at so near to their 
own time. 

Perhaps their "Three Ages of the World" were not so empty a 
speculation after all, and assuredly they had no contemptible views 
when they taught that the New Covenant must become as much 
antiquated as the old has been. There remained by them the 
similarity of the economy of the same God. Ever, to let them speak 
my words, ever the self-same plan of the Education of the Race. 


Only they were premature. Only they believed that they could 
make their contemporaries, who had scarcely outgrown their child- 
hood, without enlightenment, without preparation, men worthy of 
their Third Age, 


And it was just this which made them enthusiasts. The enthusiast 
often casts true glances into the future, but for this future he can- 
not wait. He wishes this future accelerated, and accelerated through 
him. That for which nature takes thousands of years is to mature 
itself in the moment of his existence. For what possession has he in 
it if that which he recognises as the Best does not become the best 
in his lifetime ? Does he come back ? Does he expect to come back ? 
Marvellous only that this enthusiastic expectation does not become 
more the fashion among enthusiasts. 


Go thine inscrutable way, Eternal Providence! Only let me not 
despair in Thee, because of this inscrutableness. Let me not despair 
in Thee, even if Thy steps appear to me to be going back. It is not 
true that the shortest line is always straight. 


Thou hast on Thine Eternal Way so much to carry on together, 
so much to do! So many aside steps to take! And what if it were 
as good as proved that the vast flow wheel which brings mankind 
nearer to this perfection is only put in motion by smaller, swifter 
wheels, each of which contributes its own individual unit thereto? 


It is so! The very same Way by which the Race reaches its per- 
fection, must every individual man — one sooner — another later — 
have travelled over. Have travelled over in one and the same life? 
Can he have been, in one and the selfsame life, a sensual Jew and a 
spiritual Christian? Can he in the self-same life have overtaken 

Surely not that! But why should not every individual man have 
existed more than once upon this World ? 

Is this hypothesis so laughable merely because it is the oldest? 
Because the human understanding, before the sophistries of the 
Schools had dissipated and debilitated it, lighted upon it at once? 


Why may not even I have already performed those steps of my 
perfecting which bring to man only temporal punishments and 

And once more, why not another time all those steps, to perform 
which the views of Eternal Rewards so powerfully assist us? 



Why should I not come back as often as I am capable of acquiring 
fresh knowledge, fresh expertness ? Do I bring away so much from 
once, that there is nothing to repay the trouble of coming back ? 

Is this a reason against it? Or, because I forget that I have been 
here already? Happy is it for me that I do forget. The recollection 
of my former condition would permit me to make only a bad use of 
the present. And that which even I must forget now, is that neces- 
sarily forgotten for ever? 


Or is it a reason against the hypothesis that so much time would 
have been lost to me ? Lost ? — And how much then should I miss ? — 
Is not a whole Eternity mine? 




An outline of the life of Schiller will be found prefixed to the trans- 
lation of "Wilhelm Tell" in the volume of Continental Dramas in The 
Harvard Classics. 

Schiller's importance in the intellectual history of Germany is by no 
means confined to his poetry and dramas. He did notable work in his- 
tory and philosophy, and in the department of esthetics especially, he 
made significant contributions, modifying and developing in important 
respects the doctrines of Kant. In the letters on "Esthetic Education," 
which are here printed, he gives the philosophic basis for his doctrine of 
art, and indicates clearly and persuasively his view of the place of beauty 
in human life. 


Letter I. 

By YOUR permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the 
> results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly 
sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity 
of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely con- 
nected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed 
from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of 
the Beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and 
exercised, and which will take upon itself the most difficult part of 
my task in an investigation where one is compelled to appeal as 
frequently to feelings as to principles. 

That which I would beg of you as a favour, you generously impose 
upon me as a duty; and, when I solely consult my inclination, you 
impute to me a service. The liberty of action you prescribe is rather 
a necessity for me than a constraint. Little exercised in formal rules, 
I shall scarcely incur the risk of sinning against good taste by any 
undue use of them; my ideas, drawn rather from within than from 
reading or from an intimate experience with the world, will not dis- 
own their origin; they would rather incur any reproach than that of 
a sectarian bias, and would prefer to succumb by their innate feeble- 
ness than sustain themselves by borrowed authority and foreign 

In truth, I will not keep back from you that the assertions which 
follow rest chiefly upon Kantian principles; but if in the course of 
these researches you should be reminded of any special school of 
philosophy, ascribe it to my incapacity, not to those principles. No; 
your liberty of mind shall be sacred to me; and the facts upon which 
I build will be furnished by your own sentiments; your own un- 



fettered thought will dictate the laws according to which we have 
to proceed. 

With regard to the ideas which predominate in the practical part of 
Kant's system, philosophers only disagree, whilst mankind, I am 
confident of proving, have never done so. If stripped of their techni- 
cal shape, they will appear as the verdict of reason pronounced from 
time immemorial by common consent, and as facts of the moral 
instinct which nature, in her wisdom, has given to man in order to 
serve as guide and teacher until his enlightened intelligence gives 
him maturity. But this very technical shape which renders truth 
visible to the understanding conceals it from the feelings; for, un- 
happily, understanding begins by destroying the object of the inner 
sense before it can appropriate the object. Like the chemist, the 
philosopher finds synthesis only by analysis, or the spontaneous work 
of nature only through the torture of art. Thus, in order to detain 
the fleeting apparition, he must enchain it in the fetters of rule, dis- 
sect its fair proportions into abstract notions, and preserve its living 
spirit in a fleshless skeleton of words. Is it surprising that natural 
feeling should not recognise itself in such a copy, and if in the 
report of the analyst the truth appears as paradox? 

Permit me therefore to crave your indulgence if the following re- 
searches should remove their object from the sphere of sense while 
endeavouring to draw it towards the understanding. That which I 
before said of moral experience can be applied with greater truth to 
the manifestation of "the beautiful." It is the mystery which en- 
chants, and its being is extinguished with the extinction of the 
necessary combination of its elements. 

Letter II. 

But I might perhaps make a better use of the opening you afford me 
if I were to direct your mind to a loftier theme than that of art. It 
would appear to be unseasonable to go in search of a code for the 
aesthetic world, when the moral world offers matter of so much 
higher interest, and when the spirit of philosophical inquiry is so 
stringently challenged by the circumstances of our times to occupy 
itself with the most perfect of all works of art — the establishment and 
structure of a true political freedom. 


It is unsatisfactory to live out of your own age and to work for 
other times. It is equally incumbent on us to be good members of 
our own age as of our own state or country. If it is conceived to be 
unseemly and even unlawful for a man to segregate himself from 
the customs and manners of the circle in which he lives, it would be 
inconsistent not to see that it is equally his duty to grant a proper 
share of influence to the voice of his own epoch, to its taste and its 
requirements, in the operations in which he engages. 

But the voice of our age seems by no means favorable to art, at 
all events to that kind of art to which my inquiry is directed. The 
course of events has given a direction to the genius of the time that 
threatens to remove it continually further from the ideal of art. For 
art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself bodily above necessity 
and neediness; for art is the daughter of freedom, and it requires 
its prescriptions and rules to be furnished by the necessity of spirits 
and not by that of matter. But in our day it is necessity, neediness, 
that prevails, and bends a degraded humanity under its iron yoke. 
Utility is the great idol of the time, to which all powers do homage 
and all subjects are subservient. In this great balance of utility, the 
spiritual service of art has no weight, and, deprived of all encour- 
agement, it vanishes from the noisy Vanity Fair of our time. The 
very spirit of philosophical inquiry itself robs the imagination of one 
promise after another, and the frontiers of art are narrowed, in pro- 
portion as the limits of science are enlarged. 

The eyes of the philosopher as well as of the man of the world are 
anxiously turned to the theatre of political events, where it is pre- 
sumed the great destiny of man is to be played out. It would almost 
seem to betray a culpable indifference to the welfare of society if we 
did not share this general interest. For this great commerce in social 
and moral principles is of necessity a matter of the greatest concern 
to every human being, on the ground both of its subject and of its 
results. It must accordingly be of deepest moment to every man to 
think for himself. It would seem that now at length a question that 
formerly was only settled by the law of the stronger is to be deter- 
mined by the calm judgment of the reason, and every man who is 
capable of placing himself in a central position, and raising his in- 
dividuality into that of his species, can look upon himself as in pos- 


session of this judicial faculty of reason; being moreover, as man 
and member of the human family, a party in the case under trial and 
involved more or less in its decisions. It would thus appear that 
this great political process is not only engaged with his individual 
case, it has also to pronounce enactments, which he as a rational 
spirit is capable of enunciating and entitled to pronounce. 

It is evident that it would have been most attractive to me to 
inquire into an object such as this, to decide such a question in con- 
junction with a thinker of powerful mind, a man of liberal sym- 
pathies, and a heart imbued with a noble enthusiasm for the weal 
of humanity. Though so widely separated by worldly position, it 
would have been a delightful surprise to have found your unprej- 
udiced mind arriving at the same result as my own in the field of 
ideas. Nevertheless, I think I can not only excuse, but even justify 
by solid grounds, my step in resisting this attractive purpose and in 
preferring beauty to freedom. I hope that I shall succeed in convinc- 
ing you that this matter of art is less foreign to the needs than to 
the tastes of our age; nay, that, to arrive at a solution even in the 
political problem, the road of esthetics must be pursued, because it 
is through beauty that we arrive at freedom. But I cannot carry out 
this proof without my bringing to your remembrance the principles 
by which the reason is guided in political legislation. 

Letter III. 

Man is not better treated by nature in his first start than her other 
works are; so long as he is unable to act for himself as an inde- 
pendent intelligence, she acts for him. But the very fact that con- 
stitutes him a man is, that he does not remain stationary, where 
nature has placed him, that he can pass with his reason, retracing 
the steps nature had made him anticipate, that he can convert the 
work of necessity into one of free solution, and elevate physical neces- 
sity into a moral law. 

When man is raised from his slumber in the senses, he feels that 
he is a man, he surveys his surroundings, and finds that he is in a 
state. He was introduced into this state, by the power of circum- 
stances, before he could freely select his own position. But as a 


moral being he cannot possibly rest satisfied with a political condition 
forced upon him by necessity, and only calculated for that condition; 
and it would be unfortunate if this did satisfy him. In many cases 
man shakes off this blind law of necessity, by his free spontaneous 
action, of which among many others we have an instance, in his 
ennobling by beauty and suppressing by moral influence the power- 
ful impulse implanted in him by nature in the passion of love. Thus, 
when arrived at maturity, he recovers his childhood by an artificial 
process, he founds a state of nature in his ideas, not given him by 
any experience, but established by the necessary laws and conditions 
of his reason, and he attributes to this ideal condition an object, an 
aim, of which he was not cognisant in the actual reality of nature. 
He gives himself a choice of which he was not capable before, and 
sets to work just as if he were beginning anew, and were exchanging 
his original state of bondage for one of complete independence, 
doing this with complete insight and of his free decision. He is 
justified in regarding this work of political thraldom as non-existing, 
though a wild and arbitrary caprice may have founded its work very 
artfully; though it may strive to maintain it with great arrogance 
and encompass it with a halo of veneration. For the work of blind 
powers possesses no authority, before which freedom need bow, and 
all must be made to adapt itself to the highest end which reason has 
set up in his personality. It is in this wise that a people in a state of 
manhood is justified in exchanging a condition of thraldom for one 
of moral freedom. 

Now the term natural condition can be applied to every political 
body which owes its establishment originally to forces and not to 
laws, and such a state contradicts the moral nature of man, because 
lawfulness can alone have authority over this. At the same time this 
natural condition is quite sufficient for the physical man, who only 
gives himself laws in order to get rid of brute force. Moreover, the 
physical man is a reality, and the moral man problematical. There- 
fore when the reason suppresses the natural condition, as she must 
if she wishes to substitute her own, she weighs the real physical man 
against the problematical moral man, she weighs the existence of 
society against a possible, though morally necessary, ideal of society. 
She takes from man something which he really possesses, and with- 


out which he possesses nothing, and refers him as a substitute to 
something that he ought to possess and might possess; and if rea- 
son had rehed too exclusively on him, she might, in order to secure 
him a state of humanity in which he is wanting and can want with- 
out injury to his life, have robbed him even of the means of animal 
existence which is the first necessary condition of his being a man. 
Before he had opportunity to hold firm to the law with his will, rea- 
son would have withdrawn from his feet the ladder of nature. 

The great point is therefore to reconcile these two considerations: 
to prevent physical society from ceasing for a moment in time, 
while the moral society is being formed in the idea; in other words, 
to prevent its existence from being placed in jeopardy, for the sake 
of the moral dignity of man. When the mechanic has to mend a 
watch, he lets the wheels run out, but the living watchworks of the 
state have to be repaired while they act, and a wheel has to be 
exchanged for another during its revolutions. Accordingly props 
must be sought for to support society and keep it going while it is 
made independent of the natural condition from which it is sought 
to emancipate it. 

This prop is not found in the natural character of man, who, 
being selfish and violent, directs his energies rather to the destruction 
than to the preservation of society. Nor is it found in his moral char- 
acter, which has to be formed, which can never be worked upon or 
calculated on by the lawgiver, because it is free and never appears. 
It would seem therefore that another measure must be adopted. It 
would seem that the physical character of the arbitrary must be sep- 
arated from moral freedom; that it is incumbent to make the former 
harmonise with the laws and the latter dependent on impressions; 
it would be expedient to remove the former still farther from matter 
and to bring the latter somewhat more near to it; in short to produce 
a third character related to both the others — the physical and the 
moral^paving the way to a transition from the sway of mere force 
to that of law, without preventing the proper development of the 
moral character, but serving rather as a pledge in the sensuous sphere 
o£ a morality in the unseen. 


Letter IV. 

Thus much is certain. It is only when a third character, as pre- 
viously suggested, has preponderance that a revolution in a state 
according to moral principles can be free from injurious conse- 
quences; nor can anything else secure its endurance. In proposing 
or setting up a moral state, the moral law is relied upon as a real 
power, and free will is drawn into the realm of causes, where all 
hangs together mutually with stringent necessity and rigidity. But 
we know that the condition of the human will always remains qon- 
tingent, and that only in the Absolute Being physical coexists with 
moral necessity. Accordingly if it is wished to depend on the moral 
conduct of man as on natural results, this conduct must become 
nature, and he must be led by natural impulse to such a course of 
action as can only and invariably have moral results. But the will 
of man is perfectly free between inclination and duty, and no phys- 
ical necessity ought to enter as a sharer in this magisterial personaUty. 
If therefore he is to retain this power of solution, and yet become a 
reliable link in the causal concatenation of forces, this can only be 
effected when the operations of both these impulses are presented 
quite equally in the world of appearances. It is only possible when, 
with every difference of form, the matter of man's volition remains 
the same, when all his impulses agreeing with his reason are suffi- 
cient to have the value of a universal legislation. 

It may be urged that every individual man carries, within him- 
self, at least in his adaptation and destination, a purely ideal man. 
The great problem of his existence is to bring all the incessant 
changes of his outer life into conformity with the unchanging unity 
of this ideal. This pure ideal man, which makes itself known more 
or less clearly in every subject, is represented by the state, which is 
the objective and, so to speak, canonical form in which the mani- 
fold differences of the subjects strive to unite. Now two ways pre- 
sent themselves to the thought, in which the man of time can agree 
with the man of idea, and there are also two ways in which the 
state can maintain itself in individuals. One of these ways is when 
the pure ideal man subdues the empirical man, and the state sup- 


presses the individual, or again when the individual becomes the 
state, and the man of time is ennobled to the man of idea. 

I admit that in a one-sided estimate from the point of view o£ 
morality this difference vanishes, for the reason is satisfied if her 
law prevails unconditionally. But when the survey taken is complete 
and embraces the whole man (anthropology), where the form is 
considered together with the substance, and a living feeling has a 
voice, the difference will become far more evident. No doubt the 
reason demands unity, and nature variety, and both legislations take 
man in hand. The law of the former is stamped upon him by an 
incorruptible consciousness, that of the latter by an ineradicable 
feeling. Consequently education will always appear deficient when 
the moral feeling can only be maintained with the sacrifice of what 
is natural; and a political administration will always be very imper- 
fect when it is only able to bring about unity by suppressing variety. 
The state ought not only to respect the objective and generic but 
also the subjective and specific in individuals; and while diffusing the 
unseen world of morals, it must not depopulate the kingdom of 
appearance, the external world of matter. 

When the mechanical artist places his hand on the formless block, 
to give it a form according to his intention, he has not any scruples 
in doing violence to it. For the nature on which he works does not 
deserve any respect in itself, and he does not value the whole for its 
parts, but the parts on account of the whole. When the child of the 
fine arts sets his hand to the same block, he has no scruples either in 
doing violence to it, he only avoids showing this violence. He does 
not respect the matter in which he works, any more than the mechan- 
ical artist; but he seeks by an apparent consideration for it to deceive 
the eye which takes this matter under its protection. The political 
and educating artist follows a very different course, while making 
man at once his material and his end. In this case the aim or end 
meets in the material, and it is only because the whole serves the 
parts that the parts adapt themselves to the end. The political artist 
has to treat his material — man — with a very different kind of respect 
from that shown by the artist of fine art to his work. He must spare 
man's peculiarity and personality, not to produce a deceptive effect 


on the senses, but objectively and out of consideration for his inner 

But the state is an organisation which fashions itself through itself 
and for itself, and for this reason it can only be realised when the 
parts have been accorded to the idea of the whole. The state serves 
the purpose of a representative, both to pure ideal and to objective 
humanity, in the breast of its citizens, accordingly it will have to 
observe the same relation to its citizens in which they are placed 
to it, and it will only respect their subjective humanity in the same 
degree that it is ennobled to an objective existence. If the internal 
man is one with himself, he will be able to rescue his peculiarity, 
even in the greatest generalisation of his conduct, and the state will 
only become the exponent of his fine instinct, the clearer formula of 
his internal legislation. But if the subjective man is in conflict with 
the objective and contradicts him in the character of the people, so 
that only the oppression of the former can give the victory to the 
latter, then the state will take up the severe aspect of the law against 
the citizen, and in order not to fall a sacrifice, it will have to crush 
under foot such a hostile individuality, without any compromise. 

Now man can be opposed to himself in a twofold manner: either 
as a savage, when his feelings rule over his principles; or as a bar- 
barian, when his principles destroy his feelings. The savage despises 
art, and acknowledges nature as his despotic ruler; the barbarian 
laughs at nature, and dishonours it, but he often proceeds in a more 
contemptible way than the savage, to be the slave of his senses. The 
cultivated man makes of nature his friend, and honours its friend- 
ship, while only bridling its caprice. 

Consequently, when reason brings her moral unity into physical 
society, she must not injure the manifold in nature. When nature 
strives to maintain her manifold character in the moral structure 
of society, this must not create any breach in moral unity; the vic- 
torious form is equally remote from uniformity and confusion. 
Therefore, totality of character must be found in the people which 
is capable and worthy to exchange the state of necessity for that of 


Letter V. 

Does the present age, do passing events, present this character? I 
direct my attention at once to the most prominent object in this 
vast structure. 

It is true that the consideration of opinion is fallen, caprice is un- 
nerved, and, although still armed with power, receives no longer any 
respect. Man has awaked from his long lethargy and self-deception, 
and he demands with impressive unanimity to be restored to his 
imperishable rights. But he does not only demand them; he rises 
on all sides to seize by force what, in his opinion, has been unjustly 
wrested from him. The edifice of the natural state is tottering, its 
foundations shake, and a physical possibility seems at length granted 
to place law on the throne, to honour man at length as an end, and 
to make true freedom the basis of poHtical union. Vain hope! The 
moral possibility is wanting, and the generous occasion finds an 
unsusceptible rule. 

Man paints himself in his actions, and what is the form depicted 
in the drama of the present time ? On the one hand, he is seen run- 
ning wild, on the other in a state of lethargy; the two extremest 
stages of human degeneracy, and both seen in one and the same 

In the lower larger masses, coarse, lawless impulses come to view, 
breaking loose when the bonds of civil order are burst asunder, and 
hastening with unbridled fury to satisfy their savage instinct. Objec- 
tive humanity may have had cause to complain of the state; yet 
subjective man must honour its institutions. Ought he to be blamed 
because he lost sight of the dignity of human nature, so long as he 
was concerned in preserving his existence ? Can we blame him that 
he proceeded to separate by the force of gravity, to fasten by the 
force of cohesion, at a time when there could be no thought of build- 
ing or raising up? The extinction of the state contains its justifica- 
tion. Society set free, instead of hastening upward into organic Hfe, 
collapses into its elements. 

On the other hand, the civilized classes give us the still more re- 
pulsive sight of lethargy, and of a depravity of character which is the 
more revolting because it roots in culture. I forget who of the older 


or more recent philosophers makes the remark, that what is more 
noble is the more revolting in its destruction. The remark applies 
with truth to the world of morals. The child of nature, when he 
breaks loose, becomes a madman; but the art scholar, when he 
breaks loose, becomes a debased character. The enlightenment of 
the understanding, on which the more refined classes pride them- 
selves with some ground, shows on the whole so little of an en- 
nobling influence on the mind that it seems rather to confirm cor- 
ruption by its maxims. We deny nature in her legitimate field and 
feel her tyranny in the moral sphere, and while resisting her im- 
pressions, we receive our principles from her. While the affected 
decency of our manners does not even grant to nature a pardonable 
influence in the initial stage, our materialistic system of morals 
allows her the casting vote in the last and essential stage. Egotism 
has founded its system in the very bosom of a refined society, and 
without developing even a sociable character, we feel all the con- 
tagions and miseries of society. We subject our free judgment to 
its despotic opinions, our feelings to its bizarre customs, and our 
will to its seductions. We only maintain our caprice against her 
holy rights. The man of the world has his heart contracted by a 
proud self-complacency, while that of the man of nature often beats 
in sympathy; and every man seeks for nothing more than to save 
his wretched property from the general destruction, as it were from 
some great conflagration. It is conceived that the only way to find 
a shelter against the aberrations of sentiment is by completely fore- 
going its indulgence, and mockery, which is often a useful chastener 
of mysticism, slanders in the same breath the noblest aspirations. 
Culture, far from giving us freedom, only develops, as it advances, 
new necessities; the fetters of the physical close more tightly around 
us, so that the fear of loss quenches even the ardent impulse toward 
improvement, and the maxims of passive obedience are held to be 
the highest wisdom of life. Thus the spirit of the time is seen to 
waver between perversions and savagism, between what is unnatural 
and mere nature, between superstition and moral unbelief, and it is 
often nothing but the equilibrium of evils that sets bounds to it. 


Letter VI. 

Have I gone too far in this portraiture of our times? I do not 
anticipate this stricture, but rather another — that I have proved too 
much by it. You will tell me that the picture I have presented 
resembles the humanity of our day, but it also bodies forth all nations 
engaged in the same degree of culture, because all, without excep- 
tion, have fallen off from nature by the abuse of reason, before they 
can return to it through reason. 

But if we bestow some serious attention to the character of our 
times, we shall be astonished at the contrast between the present and 
the previous form of humanity, especially that of Greece. We are 
justified in claiming the reputation of culture and refinement, when 
contrasted with a purely natural state of society, but not so compar- 
ing ourselves with the Grecian nature. For the latter was combined 
with all the charms of art and with all the dignity of wisdom, with- 
out, however, as with us, becoming a victim to these influences. The 
Greeks put us to shame not only by their simplicity, which is foreign 
to our age; they are at the same time our rivals, nay, frequently our 
models, in those very points of superiority from which we seek com- 
fort when regretting the unnatural character of our manners. We 
see that remarkable people uniting at once fulness of form and ful- 
ness of substance, both philosophising and creating, both tender and 
energetic, uniting a youthful fancy to the virility of reason in a 
glorious humanity. 

At the period of Greek culture, which was an awakening of the 
powers of the mind, the senses and the spirit had no distinctly sep- 
arated property; no division had yet torn them asunder, leading them 
to partition in a hostile attitude, and to mark off their limits with 
precision. Poetry had not yet become the adversary of wit, nor had 
speculation abused itself by passing into quibbling. In cases of neces- 
sity both poetry and wit could exchange parts, because they both 
honoured truth only in their special way. However high might be 
the flight of reason, it drew matter in a loving spirit after it, and, 
while sharply and stifBy defining it, never mutilated what it touched. 
It is true the Greek mind displaced humanity, and recast it on a 
magnified scale in the glorious circle of its gods; but it did this not 


by dissecting human nature, but by giving it fresh combinations, for 
the whole of human nature was represented in each of the gods. 
How different is the course followed by us moderns! We also dis- 
place and magnify individuals to form the image of the species, but 
we do this in a fragmentary way, not by altered combinations, so 
that it is necessary to gather up from different individuals the ele- 
ments that form the species in its totality. It would almost appear 
as if the powers of mind express themselves with us in real life or 
empirically as separately as the psychologist distinguishes them in 
the representation. For we see not only individual subjects, but 
whole classes of men, uphold their capacities only in part, while the 
rest of their faculties scarcely show a germ of activity, as in the case 
of the stunted growth of plants. 

I do not overlook the advantages to which the present race, re- 
garded as a unity and in the balance of the understanding, may 
lay claim over what is best in the ancient world; but it is obliged to 
engage in the contest as a compact mass, and measure itself as a 
whole against a whole. Who among the moderns could step forth, 
man against man, and strive with an Athenian for the prize of 
higher humanity? 

Whence comes this disadvantageous relation of individuals cou- 
pled with great advantages of the race? Why could the individual 
Greek be qualified as the type of his time ? and why can no modern 
dare to offer himself as such? Because all-uniting nature imparted 
its forms to the Greek, and an all-dividing understanding gives our 
forms to us. 

It was culture itself that gave these wounds to modern humanity. 
The inner union of human nature was broken, and a destructive 
contest divided its harmonious forces directly; on the one hand, an 
enlarged experience and a more distinct thinking necessitated a 
sharper separation of the sciences, while on the other hand, the more 
complicated machinery of states necessitated a stricter sundering of 
ranks and occupations. Intuitive and speculative understanding 
took up a hostile attitude in opposite fields, whose borders were 
guarded with jealousy and distrust; and by limiting its operation to 
a narrow sphere, men have made unto themselves a master who is 
wont not unfrequently to end by subduing and oppressing all the 


other faculties. Whilst on the one hand a luxuriant imagination 
creates ravages in the plantations that have cost the intelligence so 
much labour, on the other hand a spirit of abstraction suffocates the 
fire that might have warmed the heart and inflamed the imagina- 

This subversion, commenced by art and learning in the inner man, 
was carried out to fulness and finished by the spirit of innovation 
in government. It was, no doubt, reasonable to expect that the simple 
organisation of the primitive republics should survive the quaint- 
ness of primitive manners and of the relations of antiquity. But, 
instead of rising to a higher and nobler degree of animal life, this 
organisation degenerated into a common and coarse mechanism. 
The zoophyte condition of the Grecian states, where each individual 
enjoyed an independent life, and could, in cases of necessity, become 
a separate whole and unit in himself, gave way to an ingenious 
mechanism, whence, from the splitting up into numberless parts, 
there results a mechanical life in the combination. Then there was 
a rupture between the state and the church, between laws and cus- 
toms; enjoyment was separated from labour, the means from the 
end, the effort from the reward. Man himself eternally chained 
down to a Uttle fragment of the whole, only forms a kind of frag- 
ment; having nothing in his ears but the monotonous sound of the 
perpetually revolving wheel, he never develops the harmony of his 
being; and instead of imprinting the seal of humanity on his being, 
he ends by being nothing more than the living impress of the craft 
to which he devotes himself, of the science that he cultivates. This 
very partial and paltry relation, linking the isolated members to the 
whole, does not depend on forms that are given spontaneously; for 
how could a complicated machine, which shuns the light, confide 
itself to the free will of man ? This relation is rather dictated, with 
a rigorous strictness, by a formulary in which the free intelligence 
of man is chained down. The dead letter takes the place of a living 
meaning, and a practised memory becomes a safer guide than genius 
and feeling. 

If the community or state measures man by his function, only 
asking of its citizens memory, or the intelligence of a craftsman, or 
mechanical skill, we cannot be surprised that the other faculties of 


the mind are neglected, for the exclusive culture of the one that 
brings in honour and profit. Such is the necessary result of an 
organisation that is indifferent about character, only looking to 
acquirements, whilst in other cases it tolerates the thickest darkness, 
to favour a spirit of law and order; it must result if it wishes that 
individuals in the exercise of special aptitudes should gain in depth 
what they are permitted to lose in extension. We are aware, no 
doubt, that a powerful genius does not shut up its activity within 
the limits of its functions; but mediocre talents consume in the craft 
fallen to their lot the whole of their feeble energy; and if some of 
their energy is reserved for matters of preference, without prejudice 
to its functions, such a state of things at once bespeaks a spirit soar- 
ing above the vulgar. Moreover, it is rarely a recommendation in 
the eye of a state to have a capacity superior to your employment, 
or one of those noble intellectual cravings of a man of talent which 
contend in rivalry with the duties of office. The state is so jealous 
of the exclusive possession of its servants that it would prefer — nor 
can it be blamed in this — for functionaries to show their powers 
with the Venus of Cytherea rather than the Uranian Venus. 

It is thus that concrete individual life is extinguished, in order 
that the abstract whole may continue its miserable life, and the state 
remains for ever a stranger to its citizens, because feeling does not 
discover it anywhere. The governing authorities find themselves 
compelled to classify, and thereby simplify, the multiplicity of citi- 
zens, and only to know humanity in a representative form and at 
second hand. Accordingly they end by entirely losing sight of 
humanity, and by confounding it with a simple artificial creation of 
the understanding, whilst on their part the subject classes cannot 
help receiving coldly laws that address themselves so little to their 
personality. At length society, weary of having a burden that the 
state takes so little trouble to lighten, falls to pieces and is broken 
up — a destiny that has long since attended most European states. 
They are dissolved in what may be called a state of moral nature, 
in which public authority is only one function more, hated and 
deceived by those who think it necessary, respected only by those 
who can do without it. 

Thus compressed between two forces, within and without, could 


humanity follow any other course than that which it has taken ? The 
speculative mind, pursuing imprescriptible goods and rights in the 
sphere of ideas, must needs have become a stranger to the world of 
sense, and lose sight of matter for the sake of form. On its part, the 
world of public affairs, shut up in a monotonous circle of objects, 
and even there restricted by formulas, was led to lose sight of the 
life and liberty of the whole, while becoming impoverished at the 
same time in its own sphere. Just as the speculative mind was 
tempted to model the real after the intelligible, and to raise the sub- 
jective laws of its imagination into laws constituting the existence 
of things, so the state spirit rushed into the opposite extreme, wished 
to make a particular and fragmentary experience the measure of all 
observation, and to apply without exception to all affairs the rules 
of its own particular craft. The speculative mind had necessarily 
to become the prey of a vain subtlety, the state spirit of a narrow 
pedantry; for the former was placed too high to see the individual, 
and the latter too low to survey the whole. But the disadvantage of 
this direction of mind was not confined to knowledge and mental 
production; it extended to action and feeling. We know that the 
sensibility of the mind depends, as to degree, on the liveliness, and 
for extent on the richness of the imagination. Now the predom- 
inance of the faculty of analysis must necessarily deprive the im- 
agination of its warmth and energy, and a restricted sphere of objects 
must diminish its wealth. It is for this reason that the abstract 
thinker has very often a cold heart, because he analyses impressions, 
which only move the mind by their combination or totality; on the 
other hand, the man of business, the statesman, has very often a 
narrow heart, because shut up in the narrow circle of his employ- 
ment his imagination can neither expand nor adapt itself to another 
manner of viewing things. 

My subject has led me naturally to place in relief the distressing 
tendency of the character of our own times to show the sources of 
the evil, without its being my province to point out the compensa- 
tions offered by nature. I will readily admit to you that, although 
this splitting up of their being was unfavourable for individuals, it 
was the only road open for the progress of the race. The point at 
which we see humanity arrived among the Greeks was undoubtedly 


a maximum; it could neither stop there nor rise higher. It could 
not stop there, for the sum of notions acquired forced infallibly the 
intelligence to break with feeling and intuition, and to lead to clear- 
ness of knowledge. Nor could it rise any higher; for it is only in 
a determinate measure that clearness can be reconciled with a certain 
degree of abundance and of warmth. The Greeks had attained this 
measure, and to continue their progress in culture, they, as we, were 
obliged to renounce the totality of their being, and to follow dif- 
ferent and separate roads in order to seek after truth. 

There was no other way to develop the manifold aptitudes of 
man than to bring them in opposition with one another. This antag- 
onism of forces is the great instrument of culture, but it is only an in- 
strument; for as long as this antagonism lasts, man is only on the 
road to culture. It is only because these special forces are isolated in 
man, and because they take on themselves to impose an exclusive 
legislation, that they enter into strife with the truth of things, and 
oblige common sense, which generally adheres imperturbably to 
external phenomena, to dive into the essence of things. While pure 
understanding usurps authority in the world of sense, and empiricism 
attempts to subject this intellect to the conditions of experience, these 
two rival directions arrive at the highest possible development, and 
exhaust the whole extent of their sphere. While on the one hand 
imagination, by its tyranny, ventures to destroy the order of the 
world, it forces reason, on the other side, to rise up to the supreme 
sources of knowledge, and to invoke against this predominance of 
fancy the help of the law of necessity. 

By an exclusive spirit in the case of his faculties, the individual is 
fatally led to error; but the species is led to truth. It is only by gath- 
ering up all the energy of our mind in a single focus, and concentrat- 
ing a single force in our being, that we give in some sort wings to 
this isolated force, and that we draw it on artificially far beyond the 
limits that nature seems to have imposed upon it. If it be certain 
that all human individuals taken together would never have arrived, 
with the visual power given them by nature, to see a satellite of 
Jupiter, discovered by the telescope of the astronomer, it is just as 
well established that never would the human understanding have 
produced the analysis of the infinite, or the critique of pure reason, 


if in particular branches, destined for this mission, reason had not 
apphed itself to special researches, and if, after having, as it were, 
freed itself from all matter, it had not by the most powerful abstrac- 
tion given to the spiritual eye of man the force necessary, in order 
to look into the absolute. But the question is, if a spirit thus absorbed 
in pure reason and intuition will be able to emancipate itself from 
the rigorous fetters of logic, to take the free action of poetry, and 
seize the individuality of things with a faithful and chaste sense? 
Here nature imposes even on the most universal genius a limit it 
cannot pass, and truth will make martyrs as long as philosophy will 
be reduced to make its principal occupation the search for arms 
against errors. 

But whatever may be the final profit for the totality of the world, 
of this distinct and special perfecting of the human faculties, it can- 
not be denied that this final aim of the universe, which devotes them 
to this kind of culture, is a cause of suffering, and a kind of maledic- 
tion for individuals. I admit that the exercises of the gymnasium 
form athletic bodies; but beauty is only developed by the free and 
equal play of the limbs. In the same way the tension of the isolated 
spiritual forces may make extraordinary men; but it is only the 
well-tempered equilibrium of these forces that can produce happy 
and accomplished men. And in what relation should we be placed 
with past and future ages if the perfecting of human nature made 
such a sacrifice indispensable? In that case we should have been the 
slaves of humanity, we should have consumed our forces in servile 
work for it during some thousands of years, and we should have 
stamped on our humiliated, mutilated nature the shameful brand 
of this slavery — ^all this in order that future generations, in a happy 
leisure, might consecrate themselves to the cure of their moral health, 
and develop the whole of human nature by their free culture. 

But can it be true that man has to neglect himself for any end 
whatever? Can nature snatch from us, for any end whatever, the 
perfection which is prescribed to us by the aim of reason? It must 
be false that the perfecting of particular faculties renders the sac- 
rifice of their totaUty necessary; and even if the law of nature had 
imperiously this tendency, we must have the power to reform by a 
superior art this totality of our being, which art has destroyed. 


Letter VII. 

Can this effect of harmony be attained by the state? That is not 
possible, for the state, as at present constituted, has given occasion to 
evil, and the state as conceived in the idea, instead of being able to 
establish this more perfect humanity, ought to be based upon it, 
Thus the researches in which I have indulged would have brought 
me back to the same point from which they had called me off for a 
time. The present age, far from offering us this form of humanity, 
which we have acknowledged as a necessary condition of an im- 
provement of the state, shows us rather the diametrically opposite 
form. If therefore the principles I have laid down are correct, and 
if experience confirms the picture I have traced of the present time, 
it would be necessary to qualify as unseasonable every attempt to 
effect a similar change in the state, and all hope as chimerical that 
would be based on such an attempt, until the division of the inner 
man ceases, and nature has been sufficiently developed to become 
herself the instrument of this great change and secure the reality of 
the political creation of reason. 

In the physical creation, nature shows us the road that we have 
to follow in the moral creation. Only when the struggle of ele- 
mentary forces has ceased in inferior organisations, nature rises to 
the noble form of the physical man. In like manner, the conflict of 
the elements of the moral man and that of blind instincts must have 
ceased, and a coarse antagonism in himself, before the attempt can 
be hazarded. On the other hand, the independence of man's char- 
acter must be secured, and his submission to despotic forms must 
have given place to a suitable liberty, before the variety in his con- 
stitution can be made subordinate to the unity of the ideal. When 
the man of nature still makes such an anarchical abuse of his will, 
his liberty ought hardly to be disclosed to him. And when the man 
fashioned by culture makes so little use of his freedom, his free 
will ought not to be taken from him. The concession of liberal prin- 
ciples becomes a treason to social order when it is associated with 
a force still in fermentation, and increases the already exuberant 
energy of its nature. Again, the law of conformity under one level 
becomes tyranny to the individual when it is alHed to a weakness 


already holding sway and to natural obstacles, and when it comes to 
extinguish the last spark of spontaneity and of originality. 

The tone of the age must therefore rise from its profound moral 
degradation; on the one hand it must emancipate itself from the 
blind service of nature, and on the other it must revert to its sim- 
plicity, its truth, and its fruitful sap; a sufficient task for more than 
a century. However, I admit readily, more than one special effort 
may meet with success, but no improvement of the whole will result 
from it, and contradictions in action will be a continual protest 
against the unity of maxims. It will be quite possible, then, that in 
remote corners of the world humanity may be honoured in the per- 
son of the negro, while in Europe it may be degraded in the person 
of the thinker. The old principles will remain, but they will adopt 
the dress of the age, and philosophy will lend its name to an oppres- 
sion that was formerly authorised by the Church. In one place, 
alarmed at the liberty which in its opening efforts always shows 
itself an enemy, it will cast itself into the arms of a convenient 
servitude. In another place, reduced to despair by a pedantic tutelage, 
it will be driven into the savage license of the state of nature. 
Usurpation will invoke the weakness of human nature, and insur- 
rection will invoke its dignity, till at length the great sovereign of 
all human things, blind force, shall come in and decide, like a vulgar 
pugilist, this pretended contest of principles. 

Letter VIII. 

Must philosophy therefore retire from this field, disappointed in its 
hopes? Whilst in all other directions the dominion of forms is 
extended, must this the most precious of all gifts be abandoned to 
a formless chance? Must the contest of blind forces last eternally 
in the political world, and is social law never to triumph over a hat- 
ing egotism? 

Not in the least. It is true that reason herself will never attempt 
directly a struggle with this brutal force which resists her arms, and 
she will be as far as the son of Saturn in the 'Iliad' from descending 
into the dismal field of battle, to fight them in person. But she 
chooses the most deserving among the combatants, clothes him with 


divine arms as Jupiter gave them to his son-in-law^, and by her 
triumphing force she finally decides the victory. 

Reason has done all that she could in finding the law and pro- 
mulgating it; it is for the energy of the will and the ardour of feel- 
ing to carry it out. To issue victoriously from her contest with force, 
truth herself must first become a force, and turn one of the instincts 
of man into her champion in the empire of phaenomena. For in- 
stincts are the only motive forces in the material world. If hitherto 
truth has so little manifested her victorious power, this has not de- 
pended on the understanding, which could not have unveiled it, 
but on the heart which remained closed to it, and on instinct which 
did not act with it. 

Whence, in fact, proceeds this general sway of prejudices, this 
might of the understanding in the midst of the light disseminated by 
philosophy and experience? The age is enlightened, that is to say, 
that knowledge, obtained and vulgarised, suffices to set right at least 
our practical principles. The spirit of free inquiry has dissipated the 
erroneous opinions which long barred the access to truth, and has 
undermined the ground on which fanaticism and deception had 
erected their throne. Reason has purified itself from the illusions of 
the senses and from a mendacious sophistry, and philosophy herself 
raises her voice and exhorts us to return to the bosom of nature, to 
which she had first made us unfaithful. Whence then is it that we 
remain still barbarians ? 

There must be something in the spirit of man — as it is not in the 
objects themselves — which prevents us from receiving the truth, not- 
withstanding the brilliant light she diffuses, and from accepting her, 
whatever may be her strength for producing conviction. This some- 
thing was perceived and expressed by an ancient sage in this very sig- 
nificant maxim: sapere aude} 

Dare to be wise! A spirited courage is required to triumph over 
the impediments that the indolence of nature as well as the cowardice 
of the heart oppose to our instruction. It was not without reason 
that the ancient Mythos made Minerva issue fully armed from the 
head of Jupiter, for it is with warfare that this instruction com- 
mences. From its very outset it has to sustain a hard fight against 

^ Dare to be wise. 


the senses, which do not like to be roused from their easy slumber. 
The greater part of men are much too exhausted and enervated by 
their struggle with want to be able to engage in a new and severe 
contest with error. Satisfied if they themselves can escape from the 
hard labour of thought, they willingly abandon to others the guar- 
dianship of their thoughts. And if it happens that nobler necessities 
agitate their soul, they cling with a greedy faith to the formulas that 
the state and the church hold in reserve for such cases. If these 
unhappy men deserve our compassion, those others deserve our just 
contempt, who, though set free from those necessities by more for- 
tunate circumstances, yet willingly bend to their yoke. These latter 
persons prefer this twilight of obscure ideas, where the feelings have 
more intensity, and the imagination can at will create convenient 
chimeras, to the rays of truth which put to flight the pleasant illu- 
sions of their dreams. They have founded the whole structure of 
their happiness on these very illusions, which ought to be combated 
and dissipated by the Ught of knowledge, and they would think 
they were paying too dearly for a truth which begins by robbing 
them of all that has value in their sight. It would be necessary that 
they should be already sages to love wisdom: a truth that was felt 
at once by him to whom philosophy owes its name.^ 

It is therefore not going far enough to say that the light of the 
imderstanding only deserves respect when it reacts on the character; 
to a certain extent it is from the character that this light proceeds; 
for the road that terminates in the head must pass through the heart. 
Accordingly, the most pressing need of the present time is to edu- 
cate the sensibility, because it is the means, not only to render 
efficacious in practice the improvement of ideas, but to call this 
improvement into existence. 

Letter IX. 

But perhaps there is a vicious circle in our previous reasoning? 
Theoretical culture must it seems bring along with it practical cul- 
ture, and yet the latter must be the condition of the former. All 
improvement in the political sphere must proceed from the en- 
nobling of the character. But, subject to the influence of a social con- 
^ The Greek word means, as is known, love of wisdom. 


stitution still barbarous, how can character become ennobled? It 
would then be necessary to seek for this end an instrument that the 
state does not furnish, and to open sources that would have preserved 
themselves pure in the midst of political corruption. 

I have now reached the point to which all the considerations 
tended that have engaged me up to the present time. This instru- 
ment is the art of the beautiful; these sources are open to us in its 
immortal models. 

Art, like science, is emancipated from all that is positive, and all 
that is humanly conventional; both are completely independent of 
the arbitrary will of men. The political legislator may place their 
empire under an interdict, but he cannot reign there. He can pro- 
scribe the friend of truth, but truth subsists; he can degrade the 
artist, but he cannot change art. No doubt, nothing is more common 
than to see science and art bend before the spirit of the age, and crea- 
tive taste receive its law from critical taste. When the character be- 
comes stiff and hardens itself, we see science severely keeping her 
limits, and art subject to the harsh restraint of rules; when the char- 
acter is relaxed and softened, science endeavours to please and art 
to rejoice. For whole ages philosophers as well as artists show them- 
selves occupied in letting down truth and beauty to the depths of 
vulgar humanity. They themselves are swallowed up in it; but, 
thanks to their essential vigour and indestructible life, the true and 
the beautiful make a victorious light, and issue triumphant from the 

No doubt the artist is the child of his time, but unhappy for him 
if he is its disciple or even its favourite. Let a beneficent deity carry 
off in good time the suckling from the breast of its mother, let it 
nourish him on the milk of a better age, and suffer him to grow up 
and arrive at virility under the distant sky of Greece. When he has 
attained manhood, let him come back, presenting a face strange to 
his own age; let him come, not to delight it with his apparition, 
but rather to purify it, terrible as the son of Agamemnon. He will, 
indeed, receive his matter from the present time, but he will borrow 
the form from a nobler time and even beyond all time, from the 
essential, absolute, immutable unity. There, issuing from the pure 
ether of its heavenly nature, flows the source of all beauty, which was 


never tainted by the corruption o£ generations or of ages, which roll 
along far beneath it in dark eddies. Its matter may be dishonoured 
as well as ennobled by fancy, but the ever chaste form escapes from 
the caprices of imagination. The Roman had already bent his knee 
for long years to the divinity of the emperors, and yet the statues of 
the gods stood erect; the temples retained their sanctity for the eye 
long after the gods had become a theme for mockery, and the noble 
architecture of the palaces that shielded the infamies of Nero and 
of Commodus were a protest against them. Humanity has lost its 
dignity, but art has saved it, and preserves it in marbles full of mean- 
ing; truth continues to live in illusion, -and the copy will serve to re- 
establish the model. If the nobility of art has survived the nobility 
of nature, it also goes before it like an inspiring genius, forming and 
awakening minds. Before truth causes her triumphant light to pen- 
etrate into the depth of the heart, poetry intercepts her rays, and the 
summits of humanity shine in a bright light, while a dark and humid 
night still hangs over the valleys. 

But how will the artist avoid the corruption of his time which 
encloses him on all hands ? Let him raise his eyes to his own dignity, 
and to law; let him not lower them to necessity and fortune. Equally 
exempt from a vain activity which would imprint its trace on the 
fugitive moment, and from the dreams of an impatient enthusiasm 
which applies the measure of the absolute to the paltry productions 
of time, let the artist abandon the real to the understanding, for that 
is its proper field. But let the artist endeavour to give birth to the 
ideal by the union of the possible and of the necessary. Let him 
stamp illusion and truth with the effigy of this ideal; let him apply 
it to the play of his imagination and his most serious actions, in 
short, to all sensuous and spiritual forms; then let him quietly 
launch his work into infinite time. 

But the minds set on fire by this ideal have not all received an 
equal share of calm from the creative genius — that great and patient 
temper which is required to impress the ideal on the dumb marble, 
or to spread it over a page of cold, sober letters, and then entrust it 
to the faithful hands of time. This divine instinct, and creative 
force, much too ardent to follow this peaceful walk, often throws 
itself immediately on the present, on active life, and strives to trans- 


form the shapeless matter of the moral world. The misfortune of 
his brothers, of the whole species, appeals loudly to the heart of the 
man of feeling; their abasement appeals still louder; enthusiasm is 
inflamed, and in souls endowed with energy the burning desire 
aspires impatiently to action and facts. But has this innovator ex- 
amined himself to see if these disorders of the moral world wound 
his reason, or if they do not rather wound his self-love? If he does 
not determine this point at once, he will find it from the impulsive- 
ness with which he pursues a prompt and definite end. A pure, 
moral motive has for its end the absolute; time does not exist for it, 
and the future becomes the present to it directly, by a necessary 
development, it has to issue from the present. To a reason having no 
limits the direction towards an end becomes confounded with the 
accomplishment of this end, and to enter on a course is to have fin- 
ished it. 

If, then, a young friend of the true and of the beautiful were to 
ask me how, notwithstanding the resistance of the times, he can 
satisfy the noble longing of his heart, I should reply: Direct the 
world on which you act towards that which is good, and the meas- 
ured and peaceful course of time will bring about the results. You 
have given it this direction if by your teaching you raise its thoughts 
towards the necessary and the eternal; if, by your acts or your crea- 
tions, you make the necessary and the eternal the object of your 
leanings. The structure of error and of all that is arbitrary must fall, 
and it has already fallen, as soon as you are sure that it is tottering. 
But it is important that it should not only totter in the external but 
also in the internal man. Cherish triumphant truth in the modest 
sanctuary of your heart; give it an incarnate form through beauty, 
that it may not only be the understanding that does homage to it, but 
that feeling may lovingly grasp its appearance. And that you may 
not by any chance take from external reality the model which you 
yourself ought to furnish, do not venture into its dangerous society 
before you are assured in your own heart that you have a good escort 
furnished by ideal nature. Live with your age, but be not its crea- 
tion; labour for your contemporaries, but do for them what they 
need, and not what they praise. Without having shared their faults, 
share their punishment with a noble resignation, and bend under 


the yoke which they find is as painful to dispense with as to bear. 
By the constancy with which you will despise their good fortune, 
you will prove to them that it is not through cowardice that you sub- 
mit to their sufferings. See them in thought such as they ought to 
be when you must act upon them; but see them as they are when you 
are tempted to act for them. Seek to owe their suffrage to their 
dignity; but to make them happy keep an account of their unworthi- 
ness; thus, on the one hand, the nobleness of your heart will kindle 
theirs, and, on the other, your end will not be reduced to nothingness 
by their unworthiness. The gravity of your principles will keep them 
off from you, but in play they will still endure them. Their taste is 
purer than their heart, and it is by their taste you must lay hold of 
this suspicious fugitive. In vain will you combat their maxims, in 
vain will you condemn their actions; but you can try your moulding 
hand on their leisure. Drive away caprice, frivolity, and coarseness, 
from their pleasures, and you will banish them imperceptibly from 
their acts, and at length from their feelings. Everywhere that you 
meet them, surround them with great, noble, and ingenious forms; 
multiply around them the symbols of perfection, till appearance 
triumphs over reality, and art over nature. 

Letter X. 

Convinced by my preceding letters, you agree with me on this point, 
that man can depart from his destination by two opposite roads, 
that our epoch is actually moving on these two false roads, and that 
it has become the prey, in one case, of coarseness, and elsewhere of 
exhaustion and depravity. It is the beautiful that must bring it back 
from this twofold departure. But how can the cultivation of the fine 
arts remedy, at the same time, these opposite defects, and unite in 
itself two contradictory qualities? Can it bind nature in the savage, 
and set it free in the barbarian ? Can it at once tighten a spring and 
loose it, and if it cannot produce this double effect, how will it be 
reasonable to expect from it so important a result as the education 
of man.? 

It may be urged that it is almost a proverbial adage that the feel- 
ing developed by the beautiful refines manners, and any new proof 
offered on the subject would appear superfluous. Men base this 


maxim on daily experience, which shows us almost always clearness 
of intellect, delicacy of feeling, liberality and even dignity of con- 
duct, associated with a cultivated taste, while an uncultivated taste 
is almost always accompanied by the opposite qualities. With con- 
siderable assurance, the most civilised nation of antiquity is cited 
as an evidence of this, the Greeks, among whom the perception of 
the beautiful attained its highest development, and, as a contrast, 
it is usual to point to nations in a partial savage state, and partly bar- 
barous, who expiate their insensibility to the beautiful by a coarse 
or, at all events, a hard austere character. Nevertheless, some think- 
ers are tempted occasionally to deny either the fact itself or to dis- 
pute the legitimacy of the consequences that are derived from it. 
They do not entertain so unfavourable an opinion of that savage 
coarseness which is made a reproach in the case of certain nations; 
nor do they form so advantageous an opinion of the refinement so 
highly lauded in the case of cultivated nations. Even as far back as 
in antiquity there were men who by no means regarded the culture 
of the liberal arts as a benefit, and who were consequently led to for- 
bid the entrance of their repubhc to imagination. 

I do not speak of those who calumniate art, because they have 
never been favoured by it. These persons only appreciate a posses- 
sion by the trouble it takes to acquire it, and by the profit it brings; 
and how could they properly appreciate the silent labour of taste in 
the exterior and interior man ? How evident it is that the accidental 
disadvantages attending liberal culture would make them lose sight 
of its essential advantages! The man deficient in form despises the 
grace of diction as a means of corruption, courtesy in the social rela- 
tions as dissimulation, delicacy and generosity in conduct as an 
affected exaggeration. He cannot forgive the favourite of the Graces 
for having enlivened all assemblies as a man of the world, of having 
directed all men to his views like a statesman, and of giving his 
impress to the whole century as a writer; while he, the victim of 
labour, can only obtain, with all his learning, the least attention or 
overcome the least difficulty. As he cannot learn from his fortunate 
rival the secret of pleasing, the only course open to him is to deplore 
the corruption of human nature, which adores rather the appear- 
ance than the reality. 


But there are also opinions deserving respect, that pronounce them- 
selves adverse to the effects of the beautiful, and find formidable 
arms in experience, with which to wage war against it. "We are 
free to admit" — such is their language — "that the charms of the 
beautiful can further honourable ends in pure hands; but it is not 
repugnant to its nature to produce, in impure hands, a directly con- 
trary effect, and to employ in the service of injustice and error the 
power that throws the soul of man into chains. It is exactly because 
taste only attends to the form and never to the substance; it ends 
by placing the soul on the dangerous incline, leading it to neglect all 
reality and to sacrifice truth and morality to an attractive envelope. 
All the real difference of things vanishes, and it is only the appear- 
ance that determines their value! How many men of talent" — 
thus these arguers proceed — "have been turned aside from all effort 
by the seductive power of the beautiful, or have been led away from 
all serious exercise of their activity, or have been induced to use it 
very feebly ? How many weak minds have been impelled to quarrel 
with the organisation of society, simply because it has pleased the 
imagination of poets to present the image of a world constituted dif- 
ferently, where no propriety chains down opinion and no artifice 
holds iiature in thraldom? What a dangerous logic of the passions 
they have learned since the poets have painted them in their pictures 
in the most brilliant colours and since, in the contest with law and 
duty, they have commonly remained masters of the battlefield. What 
has society gained by the relations of society, formerly under the 
sway of truth, being now subject to the laws of the beautiful, or by 
the external impression deciding the estimation in which merit is 
to be held? We admit that all virtues whose appearance produces 
an agreeable effect are now seen to flourish, and those which, in 
society, give a value to the man who possesses them. But, as a com- 
pensation, all kinds of excesses are seen to prevail, and all vices are in 
vogue that can be reconciled with a graceful exterior." It is cer- 
tainly a matter entitled to reflection that, at almost all the periods 
of history when art flourished and taste held sway, humanity is found 
in a state of decline; nor can a single instance be cited of the union 
of a large diffusion of aesthetic culture with political liberty and 
isocial virtue, of fine manners associated with good morals, and of 


politeness fraternising with truth and loyalty of character and 

As long as Athens and Sparta preserved their independence, and 
as long as their institutions were based on respect for the laws, taste 
did not reach its maturity, art remained in its infancy, and beauty 
was far from exercising her empire over minds. No doubt, poetry 
had already taken a sublime flight, but it was on the wings of genius, 
and we know that genius borders very closely on savage coarseness, 
that it is a light which shines readily in the midst of darkness, and 
which therefore often argues against rather than in favour of the 
taste of the time. When the golden age of art appears under Pericles 
and Alexander, and the sway of taste becomes more general, strength 
and liberty have abandoned Greece; eloquence corrupts the truth, 
wisdom offends it on the lips of Socrates, and virtue in the life of 
Phocion. It is well known that the Romans had to exhaust their 
energies in civil wars, and, corrupted by Oriental luxury, to bow 
their heads under the yoke of a fortunate despot, before Grecian art 
triumphed over the stiffness of their character. The same was the 
case with the Arabs: civilisation only dawned upon them when the 
vigour of their military spirit became softened under the sceptre of 
the Abbassides. Art did not appear in modern Italy till the glorious 
Lombard League was dissolved, Florence submitting to the Medici, 
and all those brave cities gave up the spirit of independence for an 
inglorious resignation. It is almost superfluous to call to mind the 
example of modern nations, with whom refinement has increased 
in direct proportion to the decline of their liberties. Wherever we 
direct our eyes in past times, we see taste and freedom mutually 
avoiding each other. Everywhere we see that the beautiful only 
founds its sway on the ruins of heroic virtues. 

And yet this strength of character, which is commonly sacrificed 
to establish jesthetic culture, is the most powerful spring of all that 
is great and excellent in man, and no other advantage, however 
great, can make up for it. Accordingly, if we only keep to the experi- 
ments hitherto made, as to the influence of the beautiful, we can- 
not certainly be much encouraged in developing feelings so dan- 
gerous to the real culture of man. At the risk of being hard and 
coarse, it will seem preferable to dispense with this dissolving force 


of the beautiful, rather than see human nature a prey to its enervat- 
ing influence, notwithstanding all its refining advantages. How- 
ever, experience is perhaps not the proper tribunal at which to decide 
such a question; before giving so much weight to its testimony, it 
would be well to inquire if the beauty we have been discussing is 
the power that is condemned by the previous examples. And the 
beauty we are discussing seems to assume an idea of the beautiful 
derived from a source different from experience, for it is this higher 
notion of the beautiful which has to decide if what is called beauty 
by experience is entitled to the name. 

This pure and rational idea of the beautiful — supposing it can be 
placed in evidence— cannot be taken from any real and special case, 
and must, on the contrary, direct and give sanction to our judgment 
in each special case. It must therefore be sought for by a process of 
abstraction, and it ought to be deduced from the simple possibility 
of a nature both sensuous and rational; in short, beauty ought to 
present itself as a necessary condition of humanity. It is therefore 
essential that we should rise to the pure idea of humanity, and as 
experience shows us nothing but individuals, in particular cases, and 
never humanity at large, we must endeavour to find in their individ- 
ual and variable mode of being the absolute and the permanent, and 
to grasp the necessary conditions of their existence, suppressing all 
accidental limits. No doubt this transcendental procedure will re- 
move us for some time from the familiar circle of phxnomena and 
the living presence of objects, to keep us on the unproductive ground 
of abstract ideas; but we are engaged in the search after a principle 
of knowledge solid enough not to be shaken by anything, and the 
man who does not dare to rise above reality will never conquer this 

Letter XI. 

If abstraction rises to as great an elevation as possible, it arrives at 
two primary ideas, before which it is obliged to stop and to recog- 
nise its limits. It distinguishes in man something that continues, and 
something that changes incessantly. That which continues it names 
his person; that which changes his position, his condition. 
The person and the condition, I and my determinations, which we 


represent as one and the same thing in the necessary being, are 
eternally distinct in the finite being. Notwithstanding all continu- 
ance in the person, the condition changes; in spite o£ all change of 
condition, the person remains. We pass from rest to activity, from 
emotion to indifference, from assent to contradiction, but we are 
always we ourselves, and what immediately springs from ourselves 
remains. It is only in the absolute subject that all his determinations 
continue with his personality. All that Divinity is, it is because it is 
so; consequently it is eternally what it is, because it is eternal. 

As the person and the condition are distinct in man, because he 
is a finite being, the condition cannot be founded on the person, nor 
the person on the condition. Admitting the second case, the person 
would have to change; and in the former case, the condition would 
have to continue. Thus in either supposition either the personality 
or the quaUty of a finite being would necessarily cease. It is not 
because we think, feel, and will, that we are; it is not because we 
are that we think, feel, and will. We are because we are. We feel, 
think, and will, because there is out of us something that is not 

Consequently the person must have its principle of existence in 
itself because the permanent cannot be derived from the changeable, 
and thus we should be at once in possession of the idea of the ab- 
solute being, founded on itself; that is to say, of the idea of freedom. 
The condition must have a foundation, and as it is not through the 
person, and is not therefore absolute, it must be a sequence and a 
result; and thus, in the second place, we should have arrived at the 
condition of every dependent being, of everything in the process of 
becoming something else: that is, of the idea of time. "Time is the 
necessary condition of all processes, of becoming (werden) ;" this is 
an identical proposition, for it says nothing but this: "That some- 
thing may follow, there must be a succession." 

The person which manifests itself in the eternally continuing Ego, 
or I myself, and only in him, cannot become something or begin in 
time, because it is much rather time that must begin with him, be- 
cause the permanent must serve as basis to the changeable. That 
change may take place, something must change; this something can- 
not therefore be the change itself. When we say the flower opens 


and fades, we make of this flower a permanent being in the midst of 
this transformation; we lend it, in some sort, a personality, in which 
these two conditions are manifested. It cannot be objected that man 
is born, and becomes something; for man is not only a person sim- 
ply, but he is a person finding himself in a determinate condition. 
Now our determinate state of condition springs up in time, and it 
is thus that man, as a phaenomenon or appearance, must have a be- 
ginning, though in him pure intelligence is eternal. Without time, 
that is, without a becoming, he would not be a determinate being; 
his personality would exist virtually, no doubt, but not in action. It 
is not by the succession of its perceptions that the immutable Ego or 
person manifests himself to himself. 

Thus, therefore, the matter of activity, or reality, that the supreme 
intelligence draws from its own being, must be received by man; 
and he does, in fact, receive it, through the medium of perception, 
as something which is outside him in space, and which changes in 
him in time. This matter which changes in him is always accom- 
panied by the Ego, the personality, that never changes; and the rule 
prescribed for man by his rational nature is to remain immutably 
himself in the midst of change, to refer all perceptions to experience, 
that is, to the unity of knowledge, and to make of each of its man- 
ifestations of its modes in time the law of all time. The matter only 
exists in as far as it changes; he, his personality, only exists in as far 
as he does not change. Consequently, represented in his perfection, 
man would be .the permanent unity, which remains always the same, 
among the waves of change. 

Now, although an infinite being, a divinity could not become (or 
be subject to time), still a tendency ought to be named divine which 
has for its infinite end the most characteristic attribute of the divin- 
ity; the absolute manifestation of power — the reality of all the pos- 
sible — and the absolute unity of the manifestation (the necessity of 
all reality) . It cannot be disputed that man bears within himself, in 
his personality, a predisposition for divinity. The way to divinity — 
if the word "way" can be applied to what never leads to its end — 
is open to him in every direction. 

Considered in itself and independently of all sensuous matter, his 
personality is nothing but the pure virtuality of a possible infinite 


manifestation, and so long as there is neither intuition nor feeling, 
it is nothing more than a form, an empty power. Considered in it- 
self, and independently of all spontaneous activity of the mind, 
sensuousness can only make a material man; without it, it is a pure 
form; but it cannot in any way establish a union between matter 
and it. So long as he only feels, wishes, and acts under the influence 
of desire, he is nothing more than the world, if by this word we 
point out only the formless contents of time. Without doubt, it is 
only his sensuousness that makes his strength pass into efficacious 
acts, but it is his personality alone that makes this activity his own. 
Thus, that he may not only be a world, he must give form to matter, 
and in order not to be a mere form, he must give reality to the vir- 
tuality that he bears in him. He gives matter to form by creating 
time, and by opposing the immutable to change, the diversity of the 
world to the eternal unity of the Ego. He gives a form to matter by 
again suppressing time, by maintaining permanence in change, and 
by placing the diversity of the world under the unity of the Ego. 

Now from this source issue for man two opposite exigencies, the 
two fundamental laws of sensuous-rational nature. The first has for 
its object absolute reality; it must make a world of what is only 
form, manifest all that in it is only a force. The second law has for 
its object absolute jormality; it must destroy in him all that is only 
world, and carry out harmony in all changes. In other terms, he 
must manifest all that is internal, and give form to ail that is external. 
Considered in its most lofty accomplishment, this twofold labour 
brings us back to the idea of humanity which was my starting- 

Letter XII. 

This twofold labour or task, which consists in making the necessary 
pass into reality in us and in making out of us reality subject to the 
law of necessity, is urged upon us as a duty by two opposing forces, 
which are justly styled impulsions or instincts, because they impel 
us to reahse their object. The first of these impulsions, which I shall 
call the sensuous instinct, Issues from the physical existence of man, 
or from sensuous nature; and it is this instinct which tends to en- 
close him in the limits of time and to make of him a material being; 


I do not say to give him matter, for to do that a certain free activity 
of the personahty would be necessary, which, receiving matter, dis- 
tinguishes it from the Ego, or what is permanent. By matter I only 
understand in this place the change or reality that fills time. Conse- 
quently the instinct requires that there should be change, and that 
time should contain something. This simply filled state of time is 
named sensation, and it is only in this state that physical existence 
manifests itself. 

As all that is in time is successive, it follows by that fact alone 
that something is: all the remainder is excluded. When one note 
on an instrument is touched, among all those that it virtually offers, 
this note alone is real. When man is actually modified, the infinite 
possibility of all his modifications is limited to this single mode of 
existence. Thus, then, the exclusive action of sensuous impulsion has 
for its necessary consequence the narrowest limitation. In this state 
man is only a unity of magnitude, a complete moment in time; or, 
to speak more correctly, he is not, for his personality is suppressed 
as long as sensation holds sway over him and carries time along 
with it. 

This instinct extends its domains over the entire sphere of the 
finite in man, and as form is only revealed in matter, and the abso- 
lute by means of its limits, the total manifestation of human nature 
is connected on a close analysis with the sensuous instinct. But though 
it is only this instinct that awakens and develops what exists virtually 
in man, it is nevertheless this very instinct which renders his per- 
fection impossible. It binds down to the world of sense by indestruct- 
ible ties the spirit that tends higher and it calls back to the limits of 
the present, abstraction which had its free development in the sphere 
of the infinite. No doubt, thought can escape it for a moment, and 
a firm will victoriously resists its exigencies; but soon compressed 
nature resumes her rights to give an imperious reality to our exist- 
ence, to give it contents, substance, knowledge, and an aim for our 

The second impulsion, which may be named the formal instinct, 
issues from the absolute existence of man, or from his rational nature, 
and tends to set free, and bring harmony into the diversity of its 
manifestations, and to maintain personality notwithstanding all the 


changes of state. As this personality, being an absolute and indi- 
visible unity, can never be in contradiction with itself, as we are 
ourselves for ever, this impulsion, which tends to maintain person- 
ality, can never exact in one time anything but what it exacts and 
requires for ever. It therefore decides for always what it decides now, 
and orders now what it orders for ever. Hence it embraces the 
whole series of times, or what comes to the same thing, it suppresses 
time and change. It wishes the real to be necessary and eternal, and 
it wishes the eternal and the necessary to be real; in other terms, it 
tends to truth and justice. 

If the sensuous instinct only produces accidents, the formal instinct 
gives laws, laws for every judgment when it is a question of knowl- 
edge, laws for every will when it is a question of action. Whether, 
therefore, we recognise an object or conceive an objective value to 
a state of the subject, whether we act in virtue of knowledge or 
make of the objective the determining principle of our state; in both 
cases we withdraw this state from the jurisdiction of time, and we 
attribute to it reality for all men and for all time, that is, universality 
and necessity. Feeling can only say: "That is true for this subject 
and at this moment," and there may come another moment, another 
subject, which withdraws the affirmation from the actual feeling. 
But when once thought pronounces and says: "That is," it decides 
for ever and ever, and the validity of its decision is guaranteed by the 
personaUty itself, which defies all change. Inclination can only say: 
"That is good jar your individuality and present necessity;" but the 
changing current of affairs will sweep them away, and what you 
ardently desire to-day will form the object of your aversion to- 
morrow. But when the moral feeling says: "That ought to be," it 
decides for ever. If you confess the truth because it is the truth, and 
if you practice justice because it is justice, you have made of a par- 
ticular case the law of all possible cases, and treated one moment of 
your life as eternity. 

Accordingly, when the formal impulse holds sway and the pure 
object acts in us, the being attains its highest expansion, all barriers 
disappear, and from the unity of magnitude in which man was en- 
closed by a narrow sensuousness, he rises to the unity of idea, which 
embraces and keeps subject the entire sphere of phenomena. During 


this operation we are no longer in time, but time is in us with its 
infinite succession. We are no longer individuals but a species; the 
judgment of all spirits is expressed by our own, and the choice of 
all hearts is represented by our own act. 

Letter XIII. 

On a first survey, nothing appears more opposed than these two im- 
pulsions; one having for its object change, the other immutability, 
and yet it is these two notions that exhaust the notion of humanity, 
and a third fundamental impulsion, holding a medium between 
them, is quite inconceivable. How then shall we re-establish the 
unity of human nature, a unity that appears completely destroyed by 
this primitive and radical opposition ? 

I admit these two tendencies are contradictory, but it should be 
noticed that they are not so in the same objects. But things that do 
not meet cannot come into collision. No doubt the sensuous impul- 
sion desires change; but it does not wish that it should extend to 
personality and its field, nor that there should be a change of prin- 
ciples. The formal impulsion seeks unity and permanence, but it 
does not wish the condition to remain fixed with the person, that 
there should be identity of feeling. Therefore these two impulsions 
are not divided by nature, and if, nevertheless, they appear so, it is 
because they have become divided by transgressing nature freely, by 
ignoring themselves, and by confounding their spheres. The office 
of culture is to watch over them and to secure to each one its proper 
limits; therefore culture has to give equal justice to both, and to de- 
fend not only the rational impulsion against the sensuous, but also 
the latter against the former. Hence she has to act a twofold part: 
first, to protect sense against the attacks of freedom; secondly, to 
secure personality against the power of sensations. One of these ends 
is attained by the cultivation of the sensuous, the other by that of 
the reason. 

Since the world is developed in time, or change, the perfection of 
the faculty that places men in relation with the world will necessarily 
be the greatest possible mutability and extensiveness. Since person- 
ality is permanence in change, the perfection of this faculty, which 


must be opposed to change, will be the greatest possible freedom of 
action (autonomy) and intensity. The more the receptivity is de- 
veloped under manifold aspects, the more it is movable and offers 
surfaces to phenomena, the larger is the part of the world seized 
upon by man, and the more virtualities he develops in himself. 
Again, in proportion as man gains strength and depth, and depth 
and reason gain in freedom, in that proportion man tal^es in a larger 
share of the world, and throws out forms outside himself. There- 
fore his culture will consist, first, in placing his receptivity on con- 
tact with the world in the greatest number of points possible, and 
in raising passivity to the highest exponent on the side of feeling; 
secondly, in procuring for the determining faculty the greatest pos- 
sible amount of independence, in relation to the receptive power, 
and in raising activity to the highest degree on the side of reason. 
By the union of these two qualities man will associate the highest 
degree of self-spontaneity (autonomy) and of freedom with the 
fullest plenitude of existence, and instead of abandoning himself to 
the world so as to get lost in it, he will rather absorb it in himself, 
with all the infinitude of its phaenomena, and subject it to the unity 
of his reason. 

But man can invert this relation, and thus fail in attaining his 
destination in two ways. He can hand over to the passive force the 
intensity demanded by the active force; he can encroach by material 
impulsion on the formal impulsion, and convert the receptive into 
the determining power. He can attribute to the active force the 
extensiveness belonging to the passive force, he can encroach by the 
formal impulsion on the material impulsion, and substitute the de- 
termining for the receptive power. In the former case, he will never 
be an Ego, a personality; in the second case, he will never be a Non- 
Ego, and hence in both cases he will be neither the one nor the other, 
consequently he will be nothing. 

In fact, if the sensuous impulsion becomes determining, if the 
senses become law-givers, and if the world stifles personality, he 
loses as object what he gains in force. It may be said of man that 
when he is only the contents of time, he is not and consequently 
he has no other contents. His condition is destroyed at the same time 
as his personality, because these are two correlative ideas, because 


change presupposes permanence, and a limited reality implies an in- 
finite reality. If the formal impulsion becomes receptive, that is, if 
thought anticipates sensation, and the person substitutes itself in the 
place of the world, it loses as a subject and autonomous force what 
it gains as object, because immutability implies change, and that to 
manifest itself also absolute reality requires limits. As soon as man 
is only form, he has no form, and the personality vanishes with the 
condition. In a word, it is only inasmuch as he is spontaneous, 
autonomous, that there is reality out of him, that he is also receptive; 
and it is only inasmuch as he is receptive that there is reality in him, 
that he is a thinking force. 

Consequently these two impulsions require limits, and looked 
upon as forces, they need tempering; the former that it may not 
encroach on the field of legislation, the latter that it may not invade 
the ground of feeling. But this tempering and moderating the 
sensuous impulsion ought not to be the effect of physical impotence 
or of a blunting of sensations, which is always a matter for con- 
tempt. It must be a free act, an activity of the person, which by its 
moral intensity moderates the sensuous intensity, and by the sway of 
impressions takes from them in depth what it gives them in surface 
or breadth. The character must place limits to temperament, for 
the senses have only the right to lose elements if it be to the ad- 
vantage of the mind. In its turn, the tempering of the formal im- 
pulsion must not result from moral impotence, from a relaxation of 
thought and will, which would degrade humanity. It is necessary 
that the glorious source of this second tempering should be the 
fulness of sensations; it is necessary that sensuousness itself should 
defend its field with a victorious arm and resist the violence that the 
invading activity of the mind would do to it. In a word, it is neces- 
sary that the material impulsion should be contained in the limits 
of propriety by personality, and the formal impulsion by receptivity 
or nature. 

Letter XIV. 

We have been brought to the idea of such a correlation between the 
two impulsions that the action of the one establishes and limits at 
the same time the action of the other, and that each of them, taken 


in isolation, does arrive at its highest manifestation just because the 
other is active. 

No doubt this correlation of the two impulsions is simply a prob- 
lem advanced by reason, and which man will only be able to solve 
in the perfection of his being. It is in the strictest signification of 
the term: the idea of his humanity; accordingly, it is an infinite to 
which he can approach nearer and nearer in the course of time, but 
without ever reaching it, "He ought not to aim at form to the injury 
of reality, nor to reality to the detriment of the form. He must 
rather seek the absolute being by means of a determinate being, and 
the determinate being by means of an infinite being. He must set 
the world before him because he is a person, and he must be a person 
because he has the world before him. He must feel because he has a 
consciousness of himself, and he must have a consciousness of him- 
self because he feels." It is only in conformity with this idea that 
he is a man in the full sense of the word; but he cannot be con- 
vinced of this so long as he gives himself up exclusively to one of 
these two impulsions, or only satisfies them one after the other. For 
as long as he only feels, his absolute personality and existence re- 
main a mystery to him, and as long as he only thinks, his condition 
or existence in time escapes him. But if there were cases in which 
he could have at once this twofold experience in which he would 
have the consciousness of his freedom and the feeling of his existence 
together, in which he would simultaneously feel as matter and know 
himself as spirit, in such cases, and in such only, would he have a 
complete intuition of his humanity, and the object that would pro- 
cure him this intuition would be a symbol of his accomplished 
destiny, and consequently serve to express the infinite to him — 
since this destination can only be fulfilled in the fulness of time. 

Presuming that cases of this kind could present themselves in 
experience, they would awake in him a new impulsion, which, pre- 
cisely because the two other impulsions would co-operate in it, would 
be opposed to each of them taken in isolation, and might, with good 
grounds, be taken for a new impulsion. The sensuous impulsion re- 
quires that there should be change, that time should have contents; 
the formal impulsion requires that time should be suppressed, that 
there should be no change. Consequently, the impulsion in which 


both of the others act in concert — allow me to call it the instinct of 
play, till I explain the term — the instinct of play would have as its 
object to suppress time in time to conciliate the state of transition 
or becoming with the absolute being, change with identity. 

The sensuous instinct wishes to be determined, it wishes to receive 
an object; the formal instinct wishes to determine itself, it wishes to 
produce an object. Therefore the instinct of play will endeavor to 
receive as it would itself have produced, and to produce as it aspires 
to receive. 

The sensuous impulsion excludes from its subject all autonomy 
and freedom; the formal impulsion excludes all dependence and 
passivity. But the exclusion of freedom is physical necessity; the 
exclusion of passivity is moral necessity. Thus the two impulsions 
subdue the mind: the former to the laws of nature, the latter to the 
laws of reason. It results from this that the instinct of play, which 
unites the double action of the two other instincts, will content the 
mind at once morally and physically. Hence, as it suppresses all that 
is contingent, it will also suppress all coercion, and will set man 
free physically and morally. When we welcome with effusion some 
one who deserves our contempt, we feel painfully that nature is 
constrained. When we have a hostile feeling against a person who 
commands our esteem, we feel painfully the constraint of reason. 
But if this person inspires us with interest, and also wins our esteem, 
the constraint of feeling vanishes together with the constraint of 
reason, and we begin to love him, that is to say, to play, to take 
recreation, at once with our inclination and our esteem. 

Moreover, as the sensuous impulsion controls us physically, and 
the formal impulsion morally, the former makes our formal con- 
stitution contingent, and the latter makes our material constitution 
contingent, that is to say, there is contingence in the agreement of our 
happiness with our perfection, and reciprocally. The instinct of play, 
in which both act in concert, will render both our formal and our 
material constitution contingent; accordingly, our perfection and 
our happiness in like manner. And on the other hand, exactly be- 
cause it makes both of them contingent, and because the contingent 
disappears with necessity, it will suppress this contingence in both, 
and will thus give form to matter and reality to form. In proportion 


that it will lessen the dynamic influence of feeling and passion, it will 
place them in harmony with rational ideas, and by taking from the 
laws of reason their moral constraint, it will reconcile them with the 
interest of the senses. 

Letter XV. 

I APPROACH continually nearer to the end to which I lead you, by a 
path offering few attractions. Be pleased to follow me a few steps 
further, and a large horizon will open up to you and a delightful 
prospect will reward you for the labour of the way. 

The object of the sensuous instinct, expressed in a universal con- 
ception, is named Life in the widest acceptation: a conception that 
expresses all material existence and all that is immediately present in 
the senses. The object of the formal instinct, expressed in a universal 
conception, is called shape or form, as well in an exact as in an in- 
exact acceptation; a conception that embraces all formal qualities 
of things and all relations of the same to the thinking powers. The 
object of the play instinct, represented in a general statement, may 
therefore bear the name of liuing form; a term that serves to describe 
all aesthetic qualities of phaenomena, and what people style, in the 
widest sense, beauty. 

Beauty is neither extended to the whole field of all living things 
nor merely enclosed in this field. A marble block, though it is and 
remains lifeless, can nevertheless become a living form by the archi- 
tect and sculptor; a man, though he lives and has a form, is far from 
being a living form on that account. For this to be the case, it is 
necessary that his form should be life, and that his life should be a 
form. As long as we only think of his form, it is lifeless, a mere ab- 
straction; as long as we only feel his life, it is without form, a mere 
impression. It is only when his form lives in our feeling, and his life 
in our understanding, he is the living form, and this will every- 
where be the case where we judge him to be beautiful. 

But the genesis of beauty is by no means declared because we 
know how to point out the component parts, which in their combi- 
nation produce beauty. For to this end it would be necessary to 
comprehend that combination itself, which continues to defy our 
exploration, as well as all mutual operation between the finite and 


the infinite. The reason, on transcendental grounds, makes the fol- 
lowing demand: There shall be a communion between the formal 
impulse and the material impulse — that is, there shall be a play in- 
stinct — because it is only the unity of reality with the form, of the 
accidental with the necessary, of the passive state with freedom, that 
the conception of humanity is completed. Reason is obliged to make 
this demand, because her nature impels her to completeness and to 
the removal of all bounds; while every exclusive activity of one or 
the other impulse leaves human nature incomplete and places a 
limit in it. Accordingly, as soon as reason issues the mandate, "a 
humanity shall exist," it proclaims at the same time the law, "there 
shall be a beauty." Experience can answer us if there is a beauty, and 
we shall know it as soon as she has taught us if a humanity can 
exist. But neither reason nor experience can tell us how beauty can 
be, and how a humanity is possible. 

We know that man is neither exclusively matter nor exclusively 
spirit. Accordingly, beauty, as the consummation of humanity, can 
neither be exclusively mere life, as has been asserted by sharp-sighted 
observers, who kept too close to the testimony of experience, and to 
which the taste of the time would gladly degrade it; Nor can beauty 
be merely form, as has been judged by speculative sophists, who de- 
parted too far from experience, and by philosophic artists, who were 
led too much by the necessity of art in explaining beauty; it is 
rather the common object of both impulses, that is, of the play in- 
stinct. The use of language completely justifies this name, as it is 
wont to qualify with the word play what is neither subjectively nor 
objectively accidental, and yet does not impose necessity either ex- 
ternally or internally. As the mind in the intuition of the beautiful 
finds itself in a happy medium between law and necessity, it is, 
because it divides itself between both, emancipated from the pressure 
of both. The formal impulse and the material impulse are equally 
earnest in their demands, because one relates in its cognition to things 
in their reality and the other to their necessity; because in action the 
first is directed to the preservation of life, the second to the preser- 
vation of dignity, and therefore both to truth and perfection. But 
life becomes more indifferent when dignity is mixed up with it, and 
duty no longer coerces when inclination attracts. In like manner the 


mind takes in the reality of things, material truth, more freely and 
tranquilly as soon as it encounters formal truth, the law of necessity; 
nor does the mind find itself strung by abstraction as soon as im- 
mediate intuition can accompany it. In one word, when the mind 
comes into communion with ideas, all reality loses its serious value 
because it becomes small; and as it comes in contact with feeling, 
necessity parts also with its serious value because it is easy. 

But perhaps the objection has for some time occurred to you, Is 
not the beautiful degraded by this, that it is made a mere play ? and 
is it not reduced to the level of frivolous objects which have for ages 
passed under that name? Does it not contradict the conception of 
the reason and the dignity of beauty, which is nevertheless regarded 
as an instrument of culture, to confine it to the work of being a 
mere play? and does it not contradict the empirical conception of 
play, which can coexist with the exclusion of all taste, to confine it 
merely to beauty? 

But what is meant by a mere play, when we know that in all con- 
ditions of humanity that very thing is play, and only that is play 
which makes man complete and develops simultaneously his two- 
fold nature? What you style limitation, according to your repre- 
sentation of the matter, according to my views, which I have justified 
by proofs, I name enlargement. Consequently, I should have said 
exactly the reverse: man is serious only with the agreeable, with the 
good, and with the perfect, but he plays with beauty. In saying this 
we must not indeed think of the plays that are in vogue in real life, 
and which commonly refer only to his material state. But in real 
life we should also seek in vain for the beauty of which we are here 
speaking. The actually present beauty is worthy of the really, of the 
actually, present play-impulse; but by the ideal of beauty, which is 
set up by the reason, an ideal of the play-instinct is also presented, 
which man ought to have before his eyes in all his plays. 

Therefore, no error will ever be incurred if we seek the ideal of 
beauty on the same road on which we satisfy our play-impulse. We 
can immediately understand why the ideal form of a Venus, of a 
Juno, and of an Apollo, is to be sought not at Rome, but in Greece, 
if we contrast the Greek population, delighting in the bloodless ath- 
letic contests of boxing, racing, and intellectual rivalry at Olympia, 


with the Roman people gloating over the agony of a gladiator. Now 
the reason pronounces that the beautiful must not only be life and 
form, but a living form, that is, beauty, inasmuch as it dictates to 
man the twofold law of absolute formality and absolute reality. 
Reason also utters the decision that man shall only play with beauty, 
and he shall only play with beauty. 

For, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full 
meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man 
when he plays. This proposition, which at this moment perhaps ap- 
pears paradoxical, will receive a great and deep meaning if we have 
advanced far enough to apply it to the twofold seriousness of duty 
and of destiny. I promise you that the whole edifice of aesthetic art 
and the still more difficult art of life will be supported by this prin- 
ciple. But this proposition is only unexpected in science; long ago 
it lived and worked in art and in the feeling of the Greeks, her most 
accomplished masters; only they removed to Olympus what ought to 
have been preserved on earth. Influenced by the truth of this prin- 
ciple, they effaced from the brow of their gods the earnestness and 
labour which furrow the cheeks of mortals, and also the hollow lust 
that smoothes the empty face. They set free the ever serene from 
the chains of every purpose, of every duty, of every care, and they 
made indolence and indifference the envied condition of the godlike 
race; merely human appellations for the freest and highest mind. 
As well the material pressure of natural laws as the spiritual pres- 
sure of moral laws lost itself in its higher idea of necessity, which 
embraced at the same time both worlds, and out of the union of 
these two necessities issued true freedom. Inspired by this spirit, 
the Greeks also effaced from the features of their ideal, together 
with desire or inclination, all traces of volition, or, better still, they 
made both unrecognisable, because they knew how to wed them both 
in the closest alliance. It is neither charm nor is it dignity which 
speaks from the glorious face of the Juno Ludovici; it is neither of 
these, for it is both at once. While the female god challenges our 
veneration, the godlike woman at the same times kindles our love. 
But while in ecstasy we give ourselves up to the heavenly beauty, 
the heavenly self-repose awes us back. The whole form rests and 
dwells in itself — a fully complete creation in itself — and as if she 


were out of space, without advance or resistance; it shows no force 

contending with force, no opening through which time could break 

in. Irresistibly carried away and attracted by her womanly charm, 

kept off at a distance by her godly dignity, we also find ourselves at 

length in the state of the greatest repose, and the result is a wonderful 

impression, for which the understanding has no idea and language 

no name. 

Letter XVI. 

From the antagonism of the two impulsions, and from the associa- 
tion of two opposite principles, we have seen beauty to result, of 
which the highest ideal must therefore be sought in the most perfect 
union and equilibrium possible of the reality and of the form. But 
this equilibrium remains always an idea that reality can never com- 
pletely reach. In reality, there will always remain a preponderance 
of one of these elements over the other, and the highest point to 
which experience can reach will consist in an oscillation between two 
principles, when sometimes reality and at others form will have the 
advantage. Ideal beauty is therefore eternally one and indivisible, 
because there can only be one single equilibrium; on the contrary, 
experimental beauty will be eternally double, because in the oscilla- 
tion the equilibrium may be destroyed in two ways — this side and 

I have called attention in the foregoing letters to a fact that can 
also be rigorously deduced from the considerations that have en- 
gaged our attention to the present point; this fact is that an exciting 
and also a moderating action may be expected from the beautiful. 
The tempering action is directed to keep within proper limits the 
sensuous and the formal impulsions; the exciting, to maintain both 
of them in their full force. But these two modes of action of beauty 
ought to be completely identified in the idea. The beautiful ought 
to temper while uniformly exciting the two natures, and it ought also 
to excite while uniformly moderating them. This result flows at once 
from the idea of a correlation, in virtue of which the two terms 
mutually imply each other, and are the reciprocal condition one of 
the other, a correlation of which the purest product is beauty. But 
experience does not offer an example of so perfect a correlation. In 
the field of experience it will always happen more or less that excess 


on the one side will give rise to deficiency on the other, and defi- 
ciency will give birth, to excess. It results trom tVus that what in die 
beau-ideal is only distinct in the idea, is different in reality in empiri- 
cal beauty. The beau-ideal, though simple and indivisible, discloses, 
when viewed in two diflferent aspects, on the one hand a property 
of gentleness and grace, and on the other an energetic property; in 
experience there is a gentle and graceful beauty, and there is an 
energetic beauty. It is so, and it will be always so, so long as the 
absolute is enclosed in the limits of time, and the ideas of reason 
have to be realised in humanity. For example, the intellectual man 
has the idea of virtue, of truth, and of happiness; but the active man 
will only practise virtues, will only grasp truths, and enjoy happy 
days. The business of physical and moral education is to bring back 
this multiplicity to unity, to put morality in the place of manners, 
science in the place of knowledge; the business of aesthetic education 
is to make out of beauties the beautiful. 

Energetic beauty can no more preserve a man from a certain 
residue of savage violence and harshness than graceful beauty can 
secure him against a certain degree of effeminacy and weakness. 
As it is the effect of the energetic beauty to elevate the mind in a 
physical and moral point of view and to augment its momentum, it 
only too often happens that the resistance of the temperament and 
of the character diminishes the aptitude to receive impressions, that 
the delicate part of humanity suffers an oppression which ought 
only to affect its grosser part, and that this course nature participates 
in an increase of force that ought only to turn to the account of free 
personality. It is for this reason that at the periods when we find 
much strength and abundant sap in humanity, true greatness of 
thought is seen associated with what is gigantic and extravagant, 
and the sublimest feeling is found coupled with the most horrible 
excess of passion. It is also the reason why, in the periods distin- 
guished for regularity and form, nature is as often oppressed as it is 
governed, as often outraged as it is surpassed. And as the action of 
gentle and graceful beauty is to relax the mind in the moral sphere 
as well as the physical, it happens quite as easily that the energy of 
feelings is extinguished with the violence of desires, and that char- 
acter shares in the loss of strength which ought only to affect the 


passions. This is the reason why, in ages assumed to be refined, it 
is not a rare thing to see gentleness degenerate into effeminacy, 
pohteness into platitude, correctness into empty sterility, liberal ways 
into arbitrary caprice, ease into frivolity, calm into apathy, and, lastly, 
a most miserable caricature treads on the heels of the noblest, the 
most beautiful type o£ humanity. Gentle and graceful beauty is 
therefore a want to the man who suffers the constraint of matter and 
of forms, for he is moved by grandeur and strength long before he 
becomes sensible to harmony and grace. Energetic beauty is a 
necessity to the man who is under the indulgent sway of taste, for 
in his state of refinement he is only too much disposed to make light 
of the strength that he retained in his state of rude savagism. 

I think I have now answered and also cleared up the contradiction 
commonly met in the judgments of men respecting the influence of 
the beautiful, and the appreciation of aesthetic culture. This contra- 
diction is explained directly we remember that there are two sorts 
of experimental beauty, and that on both hands an affirmation is 
extended to the entire race, when it can only be proved of one of the 
species. This contradiction disappears the moment we distinguish a 
twofold want in humanity to which two kinds of beauty correspond. 
It is therefore probable that both sides would make good their 
claims if they come to an understanding respecting the kind of 
beauty and the form of humanity that they have in view. 

Consequently in the sequel of my researches I shall adopt the 
course that nature herself follows with man considered from the 
point of view of aesthetics, and setting out from the two kinds of 
beauty, I shall rise to the idea of the genus. I shall examine the effects 
produced on man by the gentle and graceful beauty when its springs 
of action are in full play, and also those produced by energetic beauty 
when they are relaxed. I shall do this to confound these two sorts of 
beauty in the unity of the beau-ideal, in the same way that the two 
opposite forms and modes of being of humanity are absorbed in the 
unity of the ideal man. 

Letter XVII. 

While we were only engaged in deducing the universal idea of 
beauty from the conception of human nature in general, we had only 


to consider in the latter the Hmits estabUshed essentially in itself, and 
inseparable from the notion of the finite. Without attending to the 
contingent restrictions that human nature may undergo in the real 
world of phaenomena, we have drawn the conception of this nature 
directly from reason, as a source of every necessity, and the ideal of 
beauty has been given us at the same time with the ideal of 

But now we are coming down from the region of ideas to the 
scene of reality, to find man in a determinate state, and consequently 
in limits which are not derived from the pure conception of human- 
ity, but from external circumstances and from an accidental use of 
his freedom. But although the limitation of the idea of humanity 
may be very manifold in the individual, the contents of this idea 
sulEce to teach us that we can only depart from it by two opposite 
roads. For if the perfection of man consist in the harmonious energy 
of his sensuous and spiritual forces, he can only lack this perfection 
through the want of harmony and the want of energy. Thus then, 
before having received on this point the testimony of experience, 
reason suffices to assure us that we shall find the real and conse- 
quently limited man in a state of tension or relaxation, according 
as the exclusive activity of isolated forces troubles the harmony of his 
being, or as the unity of his nature is based on the uniform relaxation 
of his physical and spiritual forces. These opposite limits are,, as we 
have now to prove, suppressed by the beautiful, which re-establishes 
harmony in man when excited, and energy in man when relaxed; 
and which, in this way, in conformity with the nature of the beauti- 
ful, restores the state of limitation to an absolute state, and makes of 
man a whole, complete in himself. 

Thus the beautiful by no means belies in reality the idea which we 
have made of it in speculation; only its action is much less free in it 
than in the field of theory, where we were able to apply it to the 
pure conception of humanity. In man, as experience shows him to 
us, the beautiful finds a matter, already damaged and resisting, 
which robs him in ideal perfection of what it communicates to him 
of its individual mode of being. Accordingly in reality the beauti- 
ful will always appear a peculiar and limited species, and not as the 
pure genus; in excited minds in the state of tension, it will lose its 


freedom and variety; in relaxed minds, it will lose its vivifying force; 
but we, who have become familiar with the true character of this 
contradictory phaenomenon, cannot be led astray by it. We shall 
not follow the great crowd of critics, in determining their conception 
by separate experiences, and to make them answerable for the de- 
ficiencies which man shows under their influence. We know rather 
that it is man who transfers the imperfections of his individuality 
over to them, who stands perpetually in the way of their perfection 
by his subjective limitation, and lowers their absolute ideal to two 
limited forms of phsnomena. 

It was advanced that soft beauty is for an unstrung mind, and the 
energetic beauty for the tightly strung mind. But I apply the term 
unstrung to a man when he is rather under the pressure of feelings 
than under the pressure of conceptions. Every exclusive sway of one 
of his two fundamental impulses is for man a state of compulsion 
and violence, and freedom only exists in the co-operation of his two 
natures. Accordingly, the man governed preponderately by feelings, 
or sensuously unstrung, is emancipated and set free by matter. The 
soft and graceful beauty, to satisfy this twofold problem, must there- 
fore show herself under two aspects — in two distinct forms. First 
as a form in repose, she will tone down savage life, and pave the 
way from feeling to thought. She will, secondly, as a living image 
equip the abstract form with sensuous power, and lead back the 
conception to intuition and law to feeling. The former service she 
does to the man of nature, the second to the man of art. But be- 
cause she does not in both cases hold complete sway over her matter, 
but depends on that which is furnished either by formless nature or 
unnatural art, she will in both cases bear traces of her origin, and 
lose herself in one place in material life and in another in mere 
abstract form. 

To be able to arrive at a conception how beauty can become a 
means to remove this twofold relaxation, we must explore its source 
in the human mind. Accordingly, make up your mind to dwell a 
little longer in the region of speculation, in order then to leave it 
for ever, and to advance with securer footing on the ground of 


Letter XVIII. 

By beauty the sensuous man is led to form and to thought; by beauty 
the spiritual man is brought back to matter and restored to the world 
of sense. 

From this statement it would appear to follow that between matter 
and form, between passivity and activity, there must be a middle 
state, and that beauty plants us in this state. It actually happens that 
the greater part of mankind really form this conception of beauty 
as soon as they begin to reflect on its operations, and all experience 
seems to point to this conclusion. But, on the other hand, nothing 
is more unwarrantable and contradictory than such a conception, 
because the aversion of matter and form, the passive and the active, 
feeling and thought, is eternal and cannot be mediated in any way. 
How can we remove this contradiction? Beauty weds the two 
opposed conditions of feeling and thinking, and yet there is abso- 
lutely no medium between them. The former is immediately cer- 
tain through experience, the other through the reason. 

This is the point to which the whole question of beauty leads, and 
if we succeed in settling this point in a satisfactory way, we have at 
length found the clue that will conduct us through the whole laby- 
rinth of aesthetics. 

But this requires two very different operations, which must neces- 
sarily support each other in this inquiry. Beauty it is said, weds two 
conditions with one another which are opposite to each other, and 
can never be one. We must start from this opposition; we must 
grasp and recognise them in their entire purity and strictness, so 
that both conditions are separated in the most definite matter; other- 
wise we mix, but we do not unite them. Secondly, it is usual to say, 
beauty unites those two opposed conditions, and therefore removes 
the opposition. But because both conditions remain eternally op- 
posed to one another, they cannot be united in any other way than 
by being suppressed. Our second business is therefore to make this 
connection perfect, to carry them out with such purity and perfec- 
tion that both conditions disappear entirely in a third one, and no 
trace of separation remains in the whole; otherwise we segregate, 
but do not unite. All the disputes that have ever prevailed and still 


prevail in the philosophical world respecting the conception of beauty 
have no other origin than their commencing without a sufficiently 
strict distinction, or that it is not carried out fully to a pure union. 
Those philosophers who blindly follow their feeling in reflecting on 
this topic can obtain no other conception of beauty, because they 
distinguish nothing separate in the totahty of the sensuous impres- 
sion. Other philosophers, who take the understanding as their ex- 
clusive guide, can never obtain a conception of beauty, because they 
never see anything else in the whole than the parts, and spirit and 
matter remain eternally separate, even in their most perfect imity. 
The first fear to suppress beauty dynamically, that is, as a working 
power, if they must separate what is united in the feehng. The others 
fear to suppress beauty logically, that is, as a conception, when they 
have to hold together what in the understanding is separate. The 
former wish to think of beauty as it works; the latter wish it to 
work as it is thought. Both therefore must miss the truth; the 
former because they try to follow infinite nature with their limited 
thinking power; the others, because they wish to limit unlimited 
nature according to their laws of thought. Thd, first fear to rob 
beauty of its freedom by a too strict dissection, the others fear to 
destroy the distinctness of the conception by a too violent union. 
But the former do not reflect that the freedom in which they very 
properly place the essence of beauty is not lawlessness, but harmony 
of laws; not caprice, but the highest internal necessity. The others do 
not remember that distinctness, which they with equal right demand 
from beauty, does not consist in the exclusion of certain realities, 
but the absolute including of all; that is not therefore limitation, 
but infinitude. We shall avoid the quicksands on which both have 
made shipwreck if we begin from the two elements in which beauty 
divides itself before the understanding, but then afterwards rise to 
a pure esthetic unity by which it works on feeling, and in which 
both those conditions completely disappear. 

Letter XIX. 

Two principal and different states of passive and active capacity of 
being determined' can be distinguished in man; in like manner two 

' Bestimmbarkeit. 


states of passive and active determination.* The explanation of this 
proposition leads us most readily to our end. 

The condition of the state of man before destination or direction is 
given him by the impressions of the senses is an unlimited capacity 
of being determined. The infinite of time and space is given to his 
imagination for its free use; and, because nothing is settled in this 
kingdom of the possible, and therefore nothing is excluded from it, 
this state of absence of determination can be named an empty in- 
finiteness, which must not by any means be confounded with an 
infinite void. 

Now it is necessary that his sensuous nature should be modified, 
and that in the indefinite series of possible determinations one alone 
should become real. One perception must spring up in it. That 
which, in the previous state of determinableness, was only an empty 
potency becomes now an active force, and receives contents; but at 
the same time, as an active force it receives a limit, after having been, 
as a simple power, unlimited. Reality exists now, but the infinite has 
disappeared. To describe a figure in space, we are obliged to limit 
infinite space; to represent to ourselves a change in time, we are 
obliged to divide the totality of time. Thus we only arrive at reality 
by limitation, at the positive, at a real position, by negation or ex- 
clusion; to determination, by the suppression of our free determin- 

But mere exclusion would never beget a reality, nor would a mere 
sensuous impression ever give birth to a perception, if there were 
not something from which it was excluded, if by an absolute act of 
the mind the negation were not referred to something positive, 
and if opposition did not issue out of non-position. This act of 
the mind is styled judging or thinking, and the result is named 

Before we determine a place in space, there is no space for us; but 
without absolute space we could never determine a place. The same 
is the case with time. Before we have an instant, there is no time to 
us; but without infinite time — eternity — we should never have a 
representation of the instant. Thus, therefore, we can only arrive at 
the whole by the part, to the unlimited through limitation; but re- 

* Bestimmung. 


ciprocally we only arrive at the part through the whole, at limitation 
through the unlimited. 

It follows from this, that when it is affirmed of beauty that it 
mediates for man, the transition from feeling to thought, this must 
not be understood to mean that beauty can fill up the gap that 
separates feeling from thought, the passive from the active. This 
gap is infinite; and, without the interposition of a new and inde- 
pendent faculty, it is impossible for the general to issue from the 
individual, the necessary from the contingent. Thought is the im- 
mediate act of this absolute power, which, I admit, can only be 
manifested in connection with sensuous impressions, but which in 
this manifestation depends so little on the sensuous that it reveals 
itself specially in an opposition to it. The spontaneity or autonomy 
with which it acts excludes every foreign influence; and it is not in as 
far as it helps thought — which comprehends a manifest contradiction 
— but only in as far as it procures for the intellectual faculties the 
freedom to manifest themselves in conformity with their proper 
laws. It does it only because the beautiful can become a means of 
leading man from matter to form, from feeling to laws, from a 
limited existence to an absolute existence. 

But this assumes that the freedom of the intellectual faculties can 
be balked, which appears contradictory to the conception of an au- 
tonomous power. For a power which only receives the matter of 
its activity from without can only be hindered in its action by the 
privation of this matter, and consequently by way of negation; it 
is therefore a misconception of the nature of the mind, to attribute to 
the sensuous passions the power of oppressing positively the freedom 
of the mind. Experience does indeed present numerous examples 
where the rational forces appear compressed in proportion to the 
violence of the sensuous forces. But instead of deducing this spiritual 
weakness from the energy of passion, this passionate energy must 
rather be explained by the weakness of the human mind. For the 
sense can only have a sway such as this over man when the mind 
has spontaneously neglected to assert its power. 

Yet in trying by these explanations to remove one objection, I 
appear to have exposed myself to another, and I have only saved the 
autonomy of the mind at the cost of its unity. For how can the 


mind derive at the same time from itself the principles of inactivity 
and of activity, if it is not itself divided, and if it is not in opposition 
with itself? 

Here we must remember that we have before us, not the infinite 
mind, but the finite. The finite mind is that which only becomes 
active through the passive, only arrives at the absolute through limi- 
tation, and only acts and fashions in as far as it receives matter. 
Accordingly, a mind of this nature must associate with the impulse 
towards form or the absolute, an impulse towards matter or limi- 
tation, conditions without which it could not have the former 
impulse nor satisfy it. How can two such opposite tendencies 
exist together in the same being? This is a problem that can no 
doubt embarrass the metaphysician, but not the transcendental 
philosopher. The latter does not presume to explain the possi- 
bility of things, but he is satisfied with giving a solid basis to 
the knowledge that makes us understand the possibility of ex- 
perience. And as experience would be equally impossible without 
this autonomy in the mind, and without the absolute unity of the 
mind, it lays down these two conceptions as two conditions of ex- 
perience equally necessary without troubling itself any more to 
reconcile them. Moreover, this immanence of two fundamental im- 
pulses does not in any degree contradict the absolute unity of the 
mind, as soon as the mind itself, its selfhood, is distinguished from 
these two motors. No doubt, these two impulses exist and act in it, 
but itself is neither matter nor form, nor the sensuous nor reason, 
and this is a point that does not seem always to have occurred to 
those who only look upon the mind as itself acting when its acts are 
in harmony with reason, and who declare it passive when its acts 
contradict reason. 

Arrived at its development, each of these two fundamental im- 
pulsions tends of necessity and by its nature to satisfy itself; but 
precisely because each of them has a necessary tendency, and both 
nevertheless have an opposite tendency, this twofold constraint mu- 
tually destroys itself, and the will preserves an entire freedom be- 
tween them both. It is therefore the will that conducts itself like a 
power — as the basis of reahty — with respect to both these impulses; 
but neither of them can by itself act as a power with respect to the 


Other. A violent man, by his positive tendency to justice, which 
never fails in him, is turned away from injustice; nor can a tempta- 
tion of pleasure, however strong, make a strong character violate 
its principles. There is in man no other power than his will; and 
death alone, which destroys man, or some privation of self -conscious- 
ness, is the only thing that can rob man of his internal freedom. 

An external necessity determines our condition, our existence in 
time, by means of the sensuous. The latter is quite involuntary, and 
directly it is produced in us, we are necessarily passive. In the same 
manner an internal necessity awakens our personality in connection 
with sensations, and by its antagonism with them; for consciousness 
cannot depend on the will, which presupposes it. This primitive 
manifestation of personality is no more a merit to us than its priva- 
tion is a defect in us. Reason can only be required in a being who 
is self-conscious, for reason is an absolute consecutiveness and uni- 
versality of consciousness; before this is the case, he is not a man, 
nor can any act of humanity be expected from him. The meta- 
physician can no more explain the limitation imposed by sensation 
on a free and autonomous mind than the natural philosopher can 
understand the infinite, which is revealed in consciousness in con- 
nection with these limits. Neither abstraction nor experience can 
bring us back to the source whence issue our ideas of necessity and 
of universality; this source is concealed in its origin in time from 
the observer, and its super-sensuous origin from the researches of 
the metaphysician. But, to sum up in a few words, consciousness is 
there, and, together with its immutable unity, the law of all that is 
for man is established, as well as of all that is to be by man, for his 
understanding and his activity. The ideas of truth and of right 
present themselves inevitable, incorruptible, immeasurable, even in 
the age of sensuousness; and without our being able to say why or 
how, we see eternity in time, the necessary following the contingent. 
It is thus that, without any share on the part of the subject, the sen- 
sation and self-consciousness arise, and the origin of both is beyond 
our volition, as it is out of the sphere of our knowledge. 

But as soon as these two faculties have passed into action, and 
man has verified by experience, through the medium of sensation, a 
determinate existence, and through the medium of consciousness, its 


absolute existence, the two fundamental impulses exert their in- 
fluence directly their object is given. The sensuous impulse is awak- 
ened with the experience of life — with the beginning of the indi- 
vidual; the rational impulsion with the experience of law — with the 
beginning of his personality; and it is only when these two incUna- 
tions have come into existence that the human type is realised. Up to 
that time, everything takes place in man according to the law of 
necessity; but now the hand of nature lets him go, and it is for him 
to keep upright humanity which nature places as a germ "in. his 
heart. And thus we see that directly the two opposite and funda- 
mental impulses exercise their influence in him, both lose their con- 
straint, and the autonomy of two necessities gives birth to freedom. 

Letter XX. 

That freedom is an active and not a passive principle results from 
its very conception; but that liberty itself should be an effect of 
nature (taking this word in its widest sense), and not the work of 
man, and therefore that it can be favoured or thwarted by natural 
means, is the necessary consequence of that which precedes. It begins 
only when man is complete, and when these two fundamental im- 
pulsions have been developed. It will then be wanting whilst he is 
incomplete, and while one of these impulsions is excluded, and it 
will be re-established by all that gives back to man his integrity. 

Thus it is possible, both with regard to the entire species as to 
the individual, to remark the moment when man is yet incomplete, 
and when one of the two exclusions acts solely in him. We know 
that man commences by life simply, to end by form; that he is more 
of an individual than a person, and that he starts from the limited 
or finite to approach the infinite. The sensuous impulsion comes 
into play therefore before the rational impulsion, because sensation 
precedes consciousness; and in this priority of sensuous impulsion 
we find the key of the history of the whole of human liberty. 

There is a moment, in fact, when the instinct of life, not yet 
opposed to the instinct of form, acts as nature and as necessity; when 
the sensuous is a power because man has not begun; for even in 
man there can be no other power than his will. But when man shall 


have attained to the power of thought, reason, on the contrary, will 
be a power, and moral or logical necessity will take the place of 
physical necessity. Sensuous power must then be annihilated before 
the law which must govern it can be established. It is not enough 
that something shall begin which as yet was not; previously some- 
thing must end which had begun. Man cannot pass immediately 
from sensuousness to thought. He must step backwards, for it is 
only when one determination is suppressed that the contrary de- 
termination can take place. Consequently, in order to exchange 
passive against active liberty, a passive determination against an 
active, he must be momentarily free from all determination, and 
must traverse a state of pure determinability. He has then to return 
in some degree to that state of pure negative indetermination in 
which he was before his senses were affected by anything. But this 
state was absolutely empty of all contents, and now the question is 
to reconcile an equal determination and a determinability equally 
without limit, with the greatest possible fulness, because from this 
situation something positive must immediately follow. The determi- 
nation which man received by sensation must be preserved, because 
he should not lose the reality; but at the same time, in so far as 
finite, it should be suppressed, because a determinabihty without 
limit would take place. The problem consists then in annihilating 
the determination of the mode of existence, and yet at the same time 
in preserving it, which is only possible in one way: in opposing to 
it another. The two sides of a balance are in equilibrium when 
empty; they are also in equilibrium when their contents are of equal 

Thus, to pass from sensation to thought, the soul traverses a me- 
dium position, in which sensibility and reason are at the same time 
active, and thus they mutually destroy their determinant power, and 
by their antagonism produce a negation. This medium situation in 
which the soul is neither physically nor morally constrained, and yet 
is in both ways active, merits essentially the name of a free situation; 
and if we call the state of sensuous determination physical, and the 
state of rational determination logical or moral, that state of real 
and active determination should be called the (esthetic. 


Letter XXI. 

I HAVE remarked in the beginning of the foregoing letter that there 
is a twofold condition of determinableness and a twofold condition 
of determination. And now I can clear up this proposition. 

The mind can be determined — is determinable — only in as far 
as it is not determined; it is, however, determinable also, in as far as 
it is not exclusively determined; that is, if it is not confined in 
its determination. The former is only a want of determination — it is 
without limits, because it is without reality; but the latter, the aesthetic 
determinableness, has no limits, because it unites all reality. 

The mind is determined, inasmuch as it is only limited; but it is 
also determined because it limits itself of its own absolute capacity. 
It is situated in the former position when it feels, in the second when 
it thinks. Accordingly the aesthetic constitution is in relation to de- 
terminableness what thought is in relation to determination. The 
latter is a negative from internal and infinite completeness, the 
former a limitation from internal infinite power. Feeling and 
thought come into contact in one single point, the mind is deter- 
mined in both conditions, the man becomes something and exists — 
either as individual or person — by exclusion; in other cases these two 
faculties stand infinitely apart. Just in the same manner, the aesthetic 
determinableness comes in contact with the mere want of determina- 
tion in a single point, by both excluding every distinct determined 
existence, by thus being in all other points nothing and all, and 
hence by being infinitely different. Therefore, if the latter, in the ab- 
sence of determination from deficiency, is represented as an empty 
infiniteness, the aesthetic freedom of determination, which forms the 
proper counterpart to the former, can be considered, as a completed 
infiniteness; a representation which exactly agrees with the teachings 
of the previous investigations. 

Man is therefore nothing in the aesthetic state, if attention is given 
to the single result, and not to the whole faculty, and if we regard 
only the absence or want of every special determination. We must 
therefore do justice to those who pronounce the beautiful, and the 
disposition in which it places the mind, as entirely indifferent and 
unprofitable, in relation to \nowledge and feeling. They are per- 


fectly right; for it is certain that beauty gives no separate, single 
result, either for the understanding or for the will; it does not carry 
out a single intellectual or moral object; it discovers no truth, does 
not help us to fulfil a single duty, and, in one word, is equally unfit 
to found the character or to clear the head. Accordingly, the per- 
sonal worth of a man, or his dignity, as far as this can only depend 
on himself, remains entirely undetermined by aesthetic culture, and 
nothing further is attained than that, on the part of nature, it is made 
profitable for him to make of himself what he will; that the freedom 
to be what he ought to be is restored perfectly to him. 

But by this, something infinite is attained. But as soon as we 
remember that freedom is taken from man by the one-sided com- 
pulsion of nature in feeling, and by the exclusive legislation of the 
reason in thinking, we must consider the capacity restored to him 
by the ssthetical disposition, as the highest of all gifts, as the gift of 
humanity. I admit that he possesses this capacity for humanity, be- 
fore every definite determination in which he may be placed. But 
as a matter of fact, he loses it with every determined condition, into 
which he may come, and if he is to pass over to an opposite con- 
dition, humanity must be in every case restored to him by the aesthetic 

It is therefore not only a poetical license, but also philosophically 
correct, when beauty is named our second creator. Nor is this in- 
consistent with the fact that she only makes it possible for us to 
attain and reaUse humanity, leaving this to our free will. For in this 
she acts in common with our original creator, nature, which has 
imparted to us nothing further than this capacity for humanity, but 
leaves the use of it to our own determination of will. 

Letter XXII. 

Accordingly, if the aesthetic disposition of the mind must be looked 
upon in one respect as nothing — that is, when we confine our view 
to separate and determined operations — it must be looked upon m 
another respect as a state of the highest reality, in as far as we attend 
to the absence of all limits and the sum of powers which are com- 
monly active in it. Accordingly we cannot pronounce them, again, 
to be wrong who describe the aesthetic state to be the most productive 


in relation to knowledge and morality. They are perfectly right, 
for a state of mind which comprises the whole of humanity in itself 
must of necessity include in itself also — necessarily and potentially — 
every separate expression of it. Again, a disposition of mind that 
removes all limitation from the totality of human nature must also 
remove it from every social expression of the same. Exactly because 
its "jesthetic disposition" does not exclusively shelter any separate 
function of humanity, it is favourable to all without distinction; nor 
does it favour any particular functions, precisely because it is the 
foundation of the possibility of all. All other exercises give to the mind 
some special aptitude, but for that very reason give it some definite 
limits; only the sesthetical leads him to the unlimited. Every other 
condition, in which we can live, refers us to a previous condition, and 
requires for its solution a following condition; only the aesthetic is 
a complete whole in itself, for it unites in itself all conditions of its 
source and of its duration. Here alone we feel ourselves swept out of 
time, and our humanity expresses itself with purity and integrity as 
if it had not yet received any impression or interruption from the 
operation of external powers. 

That which flatters our senses in immediate sensation opens our 
weak and volatile spirit to every impression, but makes us in the 
same degree less apt for exertion. That which stretches our think- 
ing power and invites to abstract conceptions strengthens our mind 
for every kind of resistance, but hardens it also in the same propor- 
tion, and deprives us of susceptibility in the same ratio that it helps 
us to greater mental activity. For this very reason, one as well as 
the other brings us at length to exhaustion, because matter cannot 
long do without the shaping, constructive force, and the force cannot 
do without the constructible material. But on the other hand, if we 
have resigned ourselves to the enjoyment of genuine beauty, we are 
at such a moment of our passive and active powers in the same 
degree master, and we shall turn with ease from grave to gay, from 
rest to movement, from submission to resistance, to abstract thinking 
and intuition. 

This high indifference and freedom of mind, united with power 
and elasticity, is the disposition in which a true work of art ought 
to dismiss us, and there is no better test of true aesthetic excellence. 
If after an enjoyment of this kind we find ourselves specially im- 


pelled to a particular mode of feeling or action, and unfit for other 
modes, this serves as an infallible proof that we have not experi- 
enced any pure cesthetic effect, whether this is owing to the object, 
to our own mode of feeling — as generally happens — or to both to- 

As in reality no purely aesthetical effect can be met with — for man 
can never leave his dependence on material forces — the excellence of 
a work of art can only consist in its greater approximation to its ideal 
of xsthetic purity, and however high we may raise the freedom of 
this effect, we shall always leave it with a particular disposition and 
a particular bias. Any class of productions or separate work in the 
world of art is Taoble and excellent in proportion to the universality 
of the disposition and the unlimited character of the bias thereby 
presented to our mind. This truth can be applied to works in various 
branches of art, and also to different works in the same branch. We 
leave a grand musical performance with our feelings excited, the 
reading of a noble poem with a quickened imagination, a beautiful 
statue or building with an awakened understanding; but a man 
would not choose an opportune moment who. attempted to invite us 
to abstract thinking after a high musical enjoyment, or to attend 
to a prosaic affair of common life after a high poetical enjoyment, or 
to kindle our imagination and astonish our feelings directly after 
inspecting a fine statue or edifice. The reason of this is that music, 
by its matter, even when most spiritual, presents a greater affinity 
with the senses than is permitted by aesthetic liberty; it is because 
even the most happy poetry, having for its medium the arbitrary and 
contingent play of the imagination, always shares in it more than the 
intimate necessity of the really beautiful allows; it is because the best 
sculpture touches on severe science by what is determinate in its con- 
ception. However, these particular affinities are lost in proportion as 
the works of these three kinds of art rise to a greater elevation, and 
it is a natural and necessary consequence of their perfection, that, 
without confounding their objective limits, the different arts come 
to resemble each other more and more, in the action which they 
exercise on the mind. At its highest degree of ennobling, music 
ought to become a form, and act on us with the calm power of an 
antique statue; in its most elevated perfection, the plastic art ought 
to become music and move us by the immediate action exercised 


on the mind by the senses; in its most complete development, poetry 
ought both to stir us powerfully like music and like plastic art to 
surround us with a peaceful light. In each art, the perfect style con- 
sists exactly in knowing how to remove specific limits, while sacri- 
ficing at the same time the particular advantages of the art, and to 
give it by a wise use of what belongs to it specially a more general 

Nor is it only the limits inherent in the specific character of each 
kind of art that the artist ought to overstep in putting his hand to 
the work; he must also triumph over those which are inherent in 
the particular subject of which he treats. In a really beautiful work 
of art, the substance ought to be inoperative, the form should do 
everything; for by the form, the whole man is acted on; the substance 
acts on nothing but isolated forces. Thus, however vast and sublime 
it may be, the substance always exercises a restrictive action on the 
mind, and true aesthetic liberty can only be expected from the form. 
Consequently the true search of the master consists in destroying 
matter by the form; and the triumph of art is great in proportion as 
it overcomes matter and maintains its sway over those who enjoy its 
work. It is great particularly in destroying matter when most im- 
posing, ambitious, and attractive, when therefore matter has most 
power to produce the effect proper to it, or, again, when it leads those 
who consider it more closely to enter directly into relation with it. 
The mind of the spectator and of the hearer must remain perfectly 
free and intact; it must issue pure and entire from the magic circle 
of the artist, as from the hands of the Creator. The most frivolous 
subject ought to be treated in such a way that we preserve the faculty 
to exchange it immediately for the most serious work. The arts 
which have passion for their object, as a tragedy for example, do not 
present a difficulty here; for, in the first place these arts are not en- 
tirely free, because they are in the service of a particular end (the 
pathetic), and then no connoisseur will deny that even in this class 
a work is perfect in proportion as amidst the most violent storms of 
passion it respects the liberty of the soul. There is a fine art of 
passion, but an impassioned fine art is a contradiction in terms, for 
the infallible effect of the beautiful is emancipation from the pas- 
sions. The idea of an instructive fine art (didactic art) or improving 


(moral) art is no less contradictory, for nothing agrees less with the 
idea of the beautiful than to give a determinate tendency to the 

However, from the fact that a work produces effects only by its 
substance, it must not always be inferred that there is a want of 
form in this work; this conclusion may quite as well testify to a 
want of form in the observer. If his mind is too stretched or too 
relaxed, if it is only accustomed to receive things either by the senses 
or the intelligence, even in the most perfect combination, it will only 
stop to look at the parts, and it will only see matter in the most 
beautiful form. Only sensible of the coarse elements, he must first 
destroy the jESthetic organisation of a work to find enjoyment in it, 
and carefully disinter the details which genius has caused to vanish, 
with infinite art, in the harmony of the whole. The interest he takes 
in the work is either solely moral or exclusively physical; the only 
thing wanting to it is to be exactly what it ought to be — aesthetical. 
The readers of this class enjoy a serious and pathetic poem as they 
do a sermon; a simple and playful work, as an inebriating draught; 
and if on the one hand they have so little taste as to demand 
edification from a tragedy or from an epos, even such as the "Mes- 
sias," on the other hand they will be infallibly scandalised by a piece 
after the fashion of Anacreon and Catullus. 

Letter XXIII. 

I TAKE up the thread of my researches, which I broke off only to 
apply the principles I laid down to practical art and the appreciation 
of its works. 

The transition from the passivity of sensuousness to the activity of 
thought and of will can be effected only by the intermediary state 
of aesthetic liberty; and though in itself this state decides nothing 
respecting our opinions and our sentiments, and therefore leaves our 
intellectual and moral value entirely problematical, it is, however, 
the necessary condition without which we should never attain to an 
opinion or a sentiment. In a word, there is no other way to make a 
reasonable being out of a sensuous man than by making him first 


But, you might object: Is this mediation absolutely indispensable? 
Could not truth and duty, one or the other, in themselves and by 
themselves, find access to the sensuous man? To this I reply: Not 
only is it possible, but it is absolutely necessary that they owe solely 
to themselves their determining force, and nothing would be more 
contradictory to our preceding afErmations than to appear to defend 
the contrary opinion. It has been expressly proved that the beautiful 
furnishes no result, either for the comprehension or for the will; 
that it mingles with no operations, either of thought or of resolution; 
and that it confers this double power without determining anything 
with regard to the real exercise of this power. Here all foreign help 
disappears, and the pure logical form, the idea, would speak im- 
mediately to the intelligence, as the pure moral form, the law, im- 
mediately to the will. 

But that the pure form should be capable of it, and that there is in 
general a pure form for sensuous man, is that, I maintain, which 
should be rendered possible by the esthetic disposition of the soul. 
Truth is not a thing which can be received from without like reality 
or the visible existence of objects. It is the thinking force, in his 
own liberty and activity, which produces it, and it is just this liberty 
proper to it, this liberty which we seek in vain in sensuous man. 
The sensuous man is already determined physically, and thenceforth 
he has no longer his free determinability; he must necessarily first 
enter into possession of this lost determinability before he can ex- 
change the passive against an active determination. Therefore, in 
order to recover it, he must either lose the passive determination 
that he had, or he should enclose already in himself the active de- 
termination to which he should pass. If he confined himself to lose 
passive determination, he would at the same time lose with it the 
possibility of an active determination, because thought needs a body, 
and form can only be realised through matter. He must therefore 
contain already in himself the active determination that he may be 
at once both actively and passively determined, that is to say, he 
becomes necessarily aesthetic. 

Consequently, by the aesthetic disposition of the soul the proper 
activity of reason is already revealed in the sphere of sensuousness, 
the power of sense is already broken within its own boundaries, and 


the ennobling of physical man carried far enough, for spiritual man 
has only to develop himself according to the laws of liberty. The 
transition from an aesthetic state to a logical and moral state (from 
the beautiful to truth and duty) is then infinitely more easy than the 
transition from the physical state to the jesthetic state (from life 
pure and blind to form). This transition man can effectuate alone 
by his liberty, whilst he has only to enter into possession of himself 
not to give it himself; but to separate the elements of his nature, 
and not to enlarge it. Having attained to the aesthetic disposition, 
man will give to his judgments and to his actions a universal value 
as soon as he desires it. This passage from brute nature to beauty, 
in which an entirely new faculty would awaken in him, nature 
would render easier, and his will has no power over a disposition 
which, we know, itself gives birth to the will. To bring the aesthetic 
man to profound views, to elevated sentiments, he requires nothing 
more than important occasions; to obtain the same thing from the 
sensuous man, his nature must at first be changed. To make of the 
former a hero, a sage, it is often only necessary to meet with a sublime 
situation, which exercises upon the faculty of the will the more im- 
mediate action; for the second, it must first be transplanted under 
another sky. 

One of the most important tasks of culture, then, is to submit man 
to form, even in a purely physical life, and to render it aesthetic as 
far as the domain of the beautiful can be extended, for it is alone in 
the aesthetic state, and not in the physical state, that the moral state 
can be developed. If in each particular case man ought to possess 
the power to make his judgment and his will the judgment of the 
entire species; if he ought to find in each limited existence the transi- 
tion to an infinite existence; if, lastly, he ought from every dependent 
situation to take his flight to rise to autonomy and to liberty, it must 
be observed that at no moment is he only individual and solely obeys 
the law of nature. To be apt and ready to raise himself from the nar- 
row circle of the ends of nature, to rational ends, in the sphere of the 
former he must already have exercised himself in the second; he 
must already have realised his physical destiny with a certain liberty 
that belongs only to spiritual nature, that is to say, according to the 
laws of the beautiful. 


And that he can efEect without thwarting in the least degree his 
physical aim. The exigencies of nature with regard to him turn only 
upon what he does — upon the substance of his acts; but the ends of 
nature in no degree determine the way in which he acts, the form 
of his actions. On the contrary, the exigencies of reason have rigor- 
ously the form of his activity for its object. Thus, so much as it is 
necessary for the moral destination of man, that he be purely moral, 
that he shows an absolute personal activity, so much is he indifferent 
that his physical destination be entirely physical, that he acts in a 
manner entirely passive. Henceforth with regard to this last destina- 
tion, it entirely depends on him to fulfil it solely as a sensuous being 
and natural force (as a force which acts only as it diminishes) or, 
at the same time, as absolute force, as a rational being. To which of 
these does his dignity best respond? Of this, there can be no ques- 
tion. It is as disgraceful and contemptible for him to do under 
sensuous impulsion that which he ought to have determined merely 
by the motive of duty, as it is noble and honourable for him to in- 
cline towards conformity with laws, harmony, independence; there 
even where the vulgar man only satisfies a legitimate want. In a 
word, in the domain of truth and morality, sensuousness must have 
nothing to determine; but in the sphere of happiness, form may find 
a place, and the instinct of play prevail. 

Thus then, in the indifferent sphere of physical life, man ought to 
already commence his moral life; his own proper activity ought 
already to make way in passivity, and his rational liberty beyond the 
limits of sense; he ought already to impose the law of his will upon 
his inclinations; he ought — if you will permit me the expression — to 
carry into the domain of matter the war against matter, in order to 
be dispensed from combatting this redoubtable enemy upon the 
sacred field of liberty; he ought to learn to have nobler desires, not 
to be forced to have sublime volitions. This is the fruit of aesthetic 
culture, which submits to the laws of the beautiful, in which neither 
the laws of nature nor those of reason suffer, which does not force 
the will of man, and which by the form it gives to exterior life 
already opens internal life. 


Letter XXIV. 

Accordingly three different moments or stages of development can 
be distinguished, which the individual man, as well as the whole 
race, must of necessity traverse in a determinate order if they are to 
fulfil the circle of their determination. No doubt, the separate periods 
can be lengthened or shortened, through accidental causes which are 
inherent either in the influence of external things or under the free 
caprice of men; but neither of them can be overstepped, and the 
order of their sequence cannot be inverted either by nature or by 
the will. Man, in his physical condition, suffers only the power of 
nature; he gets rid of this power in the aesthetical condition, and he 
rules them in the moral state. 

What is man before beauty liberates him from free pleasure, and 
the serenity of form tames down the savageness of life? Eternally 
uniform in his aims, eternally changing in his judgments, self- 
seeking without being himself, unfettered without being free, a 
slave without serving any rule. At this period, the world is to him 
only destiny, not yet an object; all has existence for him only in as far 
as it procures existence to him; a thing that neither seeks from nor 
gives to him. is non-existent. Every phenomenon stands out before 
him, separate and cut off, as he finds himself in the series of beings. 
All that is, is to him through the bias of the moment; every change 
is to him an entirely fresh creation, because with the necessary in 
him, the necessary out of him is wanting, which binds together all 
the changing forms in the universe, and which holds fast the law on 
the theatre of his action, while the individual departs. It is in vain 
that nature lets the rich variety of her forms pass before him; he 
sees in her glorious fulness nothing but his prey, in her power and 
greatness nothing but his enemy. Either he encounters objects, and 
wishes to draw them to himself in desire, or the objects press in a 
destructive manner upon him, and he thrusts them away in dismay 
and terror. In both cases his relation to the world of sense is im- 
mediate contact; and perpetually anxious through its pressure, rest- 
less and plagued by imperious wants, he nowhere finds rest except in 
enervation, and nowhere limits save in exhausted desire. 


"True, his is the powerful breast and the mighty hand of the 

Titans. . . . 
A certain inheritance; yet the god welded 
Round his forehead a brazen band; 
Advice, moderation, wisdom, and patience, — 
Hid it from his shy, sinister look. 
Every desire is with him a rage. 
And his rage prowls around limitless." — Iphigenia in Tauris. 

Ignorant of his own human dignity, he is far removed from 
honouring it in others, and conscious of his own savage greed, he 
fears it in every creature that he sees like himself. He never sees 
others in himself, only himself in others, and human society, instead 
of enlarging him to the race, only shuts him up continually closer in 
his individuality. Thus limited, he wanders through his sunless hfe, 
till favouring nature rolls away the load of matter from his darkened 
senses, reflection separates him from things, and objects show them- 
selves at length in the after-glow of the consciousness. 

It is true we cannot point out this state of rude nature as we have 
here portrayed it in any definite people and age. It is only an idea, 
but an idea with which experience agrees most closely in special 
features. It may be said that man was never in this animal condi- 
tion, but he has not, on the other hand, ever entirely escaped from it. 
Even in the rudest subjects, unmistakable traces of rational freedom 
can be found, and even in the most cultivated, features are not 
wanting that remind us of that dismal natural condition. It is 
possible for man, at one and the same time, to unite the highest and 
the lowest in his nature; and if his dignity depends on a strict separa- 
tion of one from the other, his happiness depends on a skilful re- 
moval of this separation. The culture which is to bring his dignity 
into agreement with his happiness will therefore have to provide for 
the greatest purity of these two principles in their most intimate 

Consequently the first appearance of reason in man is not the be- 
ginning of humanity. This is first decided by his freedom, and 
reason begins first by making his sensuous dependence boundless; a 
phasnomenon that does not appear to me to have been sufficiently 
elucidated, considering its importance and universality. We know 
that the reason makes itself known to man by the demand for the 


absolute — the self-dependent and necessary. But as this want of the 
reason cannot be satisfied in any separate or single state of his 
physical life, he is obliged to leave the physical entirely and to rise 
from a limited reality to ideas. But although the true meaning of 
that demand of the reason is to withdraw him from the limits of 
time and to lead him up from the world of sense to an ideal world, 
yet this same demand of reason, by a misapplication — scarcely to be 
avoided in this age, prone to sensuousness — can direct him to physi- 
cal life, and, instead of making man free, plunge him in the most 
terrible slavery. 

Facts verify this supposition. Man raised on the wings of imagina- 
tion leaves the narrow limits of the present, in which mere animality 
is enclosed, in order to strive on to an unlimited future. But while 
the limitless is unfolded to his dazed imagination, his heart has not 
ceased to live in the separate, and to serve the moment. The impulse 
towards the absolute seizes him suddenly in the midst of his ani- 
mality, and as in this cloddish condition all his efforts aim only at 
the material and temporal, and are limited by his individuality, he 
is only led by that demand of the reason to extend his individuality 
into the infinite, instead of to abstract from it. He will be led to 
seek instead of form an inexhaustible matter, instead of the un- 
changeable an everlasting change and an absolute securing of his 
temporal existence. The same impulse which, directed to his 
thought and action, ought to lead to truth and morality, now directed 
to his passion and emotional state, produces nothing but an unUmited 
desire and an absolute want. The first fruits, therefore, that he reaps 
in the world of spirits, are cares and fear — ^both operations of the 
reason; not of sensuousness, but of a reason that mistakes its object 
and applies its categorical imperative to matter. All unconditional 
systems of happiness are fruits of this tree, whether they have for 
their object the present day or the whole of life, or what does not 
make them any more respectable, the whole of eternity, for their 
object. An unlimited duration of existence and of well-being is only 
an ideal of the desires; hence a demand which can only be put forth 
by an animality striving up to the absolute. Man, therefore, without 
gaining anything for his humanity by a rational expression of this 
sort, loses the happy limitation of the animal over which he now only 


possesses the unenviable superiority of losing the present for an en- 
deavour after vv^hat is remote, yet without seeking in the limitless 
future anything but the present. 

But even if the reason does not go astray in its object, or err in the 
question, sensuousness will continue to falsify the answer for a long 
time. As soon as man has begun to use his understanding and to 
knit together phenomena in cause and effect, the reason, accord- 
ing to its conception, presses on to an absolute knitting together 
and to an unconditional basis. In order merely to be able to put 
forward this demand man must already have stepped beyond the 
sensuous, but the sensuous uses this very demand to bring back the 

In fact it is now that he ought to abandon entirely the world of 
sense in order to take his flight into the realm of ideas; for the in- 
telligence remains eternally shut up in the finite and in the con- 
tingent, and does not cease putting questions without reaching the 
last link of the chain. But as the man with whom we are engaged is 
not yet capable of such an abstraction, and does not find it in the 
sphere of sensuous knowledge, and because he does not look for it in 
pure reason, he will seek for it below in the region of sentiment, and 
will appear to find it. No doubt the sensuous shows him nothing 
that has its foundation in itself, and that legislates for itself, but it 
shows him something that does not care for foundation or law; 
therefore thus not being able to quiet the intelligence by showing it 
a final cause, he reduces it to silence by the conception which desires 
no cause; and being incapable of understanding the sublime neces- 
sity of reason, he keeps to the blind constraint of matter. As sensu- 
ousness knows no other end than its interest, and is determined by 
nothing except blind chance, it makes the former the modve of its 
actions, and the latter the master of the world. 

Even the divine part in man, the moral law, in its first manifesta- 
tion in the sensuous cannot avoid this perversion. As this moral law 
is only prohibited and combats in man the interest of sensuous ego- 
tism, it must appear to him as something strange until he has come 
to consider this self-love as the stranger, and the voice of reason as 
his true self. Therefore he confines himself to feeling the fetters 
which the latter imposes on him, without having the consciousness of 


the infinite emancipation which it procures for him. Without sus- 
pecting in himself the dignity of lawgiver, he only experiences the 
constraint and the impotent revolt of a subject fretting under the 
yoke, because in this experience the sensuous impulsion precedes the 
moral impulsion, he gives to the law of necessity a beginning in him, 
a positive origin, and by the most unfortunate of all mistakes he 
converts the immutable and the eternal in himself into a transitory 
accident. He makes up his mind to consider the notions of the just 
and the unjust as statutes which have been introduced by a will, and 
not as having in themselves an eternal value. Just as in the explana- 
tion of certain natural phenomena he goes beyond nature and seeks 
out of her what can only be found in her, in her own laws; so also 
in the explanation of moral phaenomena he goes beyond reason and 
makes light of his humanity, seeking a god in this way. It is not 
wonderful that a religion which he has purchased at the cost of his 
humanity shows itself worthy of this origin, and that he only con- 
siders as absolute and eternally binding laws that have never been 
binding from all eternity. He has placed himself in relation with, 
not a holy being, but a powerful. Therefore the spirit of his religion, 
of the homage that he gives to God, is a fear that abases him, and 
not a veneration that elevates him in his own esteem. 

Though these different aberrations by which man departs from the 
ideal of his destination cannot all take place at the same time, be- 
cause several degrees have to be passed over in the transition from 
the obscure of thought to error, and from the obscure of will to the 
corruption of the will; these degrees are all, without exception, the 
consequence of his physical state, because in all the vital impulsion 
sways the formal impulsion. Now, two cases may happen: either 
reason may not yet have spoken in man, and the physical may reign 
over him with a blind necessity, or reason may not be sufficiently 
purified from sensuous impressions, and the moral may still be sub- 
ject to the physical; in both cases the only principle that has a real 
power over him is a material principle, and man, at least as regards 
his ultimate tendency, is a sensuous being. The only difference is, 
that in the former case he is an animal without reason, and in the 
second case a rational animal. But he ought to be neither one nor 
the other: he ought to be a man. Nature ought not to rule him 


exclusively; nor reason conditionally. The two legislations ought to 
be completely independent and yet mutually complementary. 

Letter XXV. 

Whilst man, in his first physical condition, is only passively affected 
by the world of sense, he is still entirely identified with it; and for 
this reason the external world, as yet, has no objective existence for 
him. When he begins in his aesthetic state of mind to regard the 
world objectively, then only is his personality severed from it, and 
the world appears to him an objective reality, for the simple reason 
that he has ceased to form an identical portion of it. 

That which first connects man with the surrounding universe is 
the power of reflective contemplation. Whereas desire seizes at once 
its object, reflection removes it to a distance and renders it inalien- 
ably her own by saving it from the greed of passion. The necessity of 
sense which he obeyed during the period of mere sensations, lessens 
during the period of reflection; the senses are for the time in abey- 
ance; even ever-fleeting time stands still whilst the scattered rays of 
consciousness are gathering and shape themselves; an image of the in- 
finite is reflected upon the perishable ground. As soon as light dawns 
in man, there is no longer night outside of him; as soon as there is 
peace within him the storm lulls throughout the universe, and the 
contending forces of nature find rest within prescribed limits. Hence 
we cannot wonder if ancient traditions allude to these great changes 
in the inner man as to a revolution in surrounding nature, and 
symbolise thought triumphing over the laws of time, by the figure 
of Zeus, which terminates the reign of Saturn. 

As long as man derives sensations from a contact with nature, he 
is her slave; but as soon as he begins to reflect upon her objects and 
laws he becomes her lawgiver. Nature, which previously ruled him 
as a power, now expands before him as an object. What is objective 
to him can have no power over him, for in order to become objective 
it has to experience his own power. As far and as long as he im- 
presses a form upon matter, he cannot be injured by its effect; for 
a spirit can only be injured by that which deprives it of its freedom. 
Whereas he proves his own freedom by giving a form to the form- 


less; where the mass rules heavily and without shape, and its unde- 
fined outlines are for ever fluctuating between uncertain boundaries, 
fear takes up its abode; but man rises above any natural terror as 
soon as he knows how to mould it, and transform it into an object 
of his art. As soon as he upholds his independence toward phae- 
nomenal nature, he maintains his dignity toward her as a thing of 
power and with a noble freedom he rises against his gods. They 
throw aside the mask with which they had kept him in awe during 
his infancy, and to his surprise his mind perceives the reflection of 
his own image. The divine monster of the Oriental, which roams 
about changing the world with the blind force of a beast of prey, 
dwindles to the charming outline of humanity in Greek fable; the 
empire of the Titans is crushed, and boundless force is tamed by 
infinite form. 

But whilst I have been merely searching for an issue from the 
material world and a passage into the world of mind, the bold flight 
of my imagination has already taken me into the very midst of the 
latter world. The beauty of which we are in search we have left 
behind by passing from the life of mere sensations to the pure form 
and to the pure object. Such a leap exceeds the condition of human 
nature; in order to keep pace with the latter we must return to the 
world of sense. 

Beauty is indeed the sphere of unfettered contemplation and re- 
flecdon; beauty conducts us into the world of ideas, without however 
taking us from the world of sense, as occurs when a truth is per- 
ceived and acknowledged. This is the pure product of a process of 
abstraction from everything material and accidental, a pure object 
free from every subjective barrier, a pure state of self -activity with- 
out any admixture of passive sensations. There is indeed a way back 
to sensation from the highest abstraction; for thought teaches the 
inner sensation, and the idea of logical and moral unity passes into a 
sensation of sensual accord. But if we delight in knowledge we sepa- 
rate very accurately our own conceptions from our sensations; we 
look upon the latter as something accidental, which might have been 
omitted without the knowledge being impaired thereby, without 
truth being less true. It would, however, be a vain attempt to sup- 
press this connection of the faculty of feeling with the idea of beauty, 


consequently, we shall not succeed in representing to ourselves one 
as the effect of the other, but we must look upon them both to- 
gether and reciprocally as cause and effect. In the pleasure which we 
derive from knowledge we readily distinguish the passage from the 
active to the passive state, and we clearly perceive that the first ends 
when the second begins. On the contrary, from the pleasure which 
we take in beauty, this transition from the active to the passive is 
not perceivable, and reflection is so intimately blended with feeling 
that we believe we feel the form immediately. Beauty is then an 
object to us, it is true, because reflection is the condition of the feeling 
which we have of it; but it is also a state of our personality (our 
Ego), because the feeling is the condition of the idea we conceive 
of it: beauty is therefore doubtless form, because we contemplate it, 
but it is equally life because we feel it. In a word, it is at once our 
state and our act. And precisely because it is at the same time both 
a state and an act, it triumphantly proves to us that the passive does 
not exclude the active, neither matter nor form, neither the finite 
nor the infinite; and that consequently the physical dependence to 
which man is necessarily devoted does not in any way destroy his 
moral liberty. This is the proof of beauty, and I ought to add that 
this alone can prove it. In fact, as in the possession of truth or of 
logical unity, feeling is not necessarily one with the thought, but 
follows it accidentally; it is a fact which only proves that a sensitive 
nature can succeed a rational nature, and vice versa; not that they 
co-exist, that they exercise a reciprocal action one over the other, and 
lastly that they ought to be united in an absolute and necessary man- 
ner. From this exclusion of feeling as long as there is thought, and 
of thought so long as there is feeling, we should on the contrary con- 
clude that the two natures are incompatible, so that in order to dem- 
onstrate that pure reason is to be realised in humanity, the best proof 
given by the analysis is that this realisation is demanded. But, as in 
the realisation of beauty or of aesthetic unity, there is a real union, 
mutual substitution of matter and of form, of passive and of active, 
by this alone is proved the compatibility of the two natures, the 
possible realisation of the infinite in the finite, and consequently 
also the possibility of the most sublime humanity. 
Henceforth we need no longer be embarrassed to find a transition 


from dependent feeling to moral liberty, because beauty reveals to 
us the fact that they can perfectly co-exist, and that to show himself 
a spirit, man need not escape from matter. But if on one side he is 
free, even in his relation with a visible world, as the fact of beauty 
teaches, and if on the other side freedom is something absolute and 
supersensuous, as its idea necessarily implies, the question is no 
longer how man succeeds in raising himself from the finite to the 
absolute, and opposing himself in his thought and will to sensuality, 
as this has already been produced in the fact of beauty. In a word, 
we have no longer to ask how he passes from virtue to truth, which 
is already included in the former, but how he opens a way for him- 
self from vulgar reality to esthetic reality, and from the ordinary 
feelings of life to the perception of the beautiful. 

Letter XXVI. 

I HAVE shown in the previous letters that it is only the aesthetic dis- 
position of the soul that gives birth to liberty, it cannot therefore be 
derived from liberty nor have a moral origin. It must be a gift of 
nature; the favour of chance alone can break the bonds of the 
physical state and bring the savage to duty. The germ of the beauti- 
ful will find an equal difficulty in developing itself in countries where 
a severe nature forbids man to enjoy himself, and in those where 
a prodigal nature dispenses him from all effort; where the blunted 
senses experience no want, and where violent desire can never be 
satisfied. The delightful flower of the beautiful will never unfold 
itself in the case of the Troglodyte hid in his cavern always alone, 
and never finding humanity outside himself; nor among nomads, 
who, travelling in great troops, only consist of a multitude, and have 
no individual humanity. It will only flourish in places where man 
converses peacefully with himself in his cottage, and with the whole 
race when he issues from it. In those climates where a limpid ether 
opens the senses to the lightest impression, whilst a life-giving 
warmth developes a luxuriant nature, where even in the inanimate 
creation the sway of inert matter is overthrown, and the victorious 
form ennobles even the most abject natures; in this joyful state and 
fortunate zone, where activity alone leads to enjoyment, and enjoy- 


ment to activity, from life itself issues a holy harmony, and the laws 
of order develope life, a different result takes place. When imagina- 
tion incessantly escapes from reality, and does not abandon the sim- 
plicity of nature in its wanderings : then and there only the mind and 
the senses, the receptive force and the plastic force, are developed 
in that happy equilibrium which is the soul of the beautiful and the 
condition of humanity. 

What phenomenon accompanies the initiation of the savage into 
humanity ? However far we look back into history the phasnomenon 
is identical among all people who have shaken off the slavery of the 
animal state, the love of appearance, the inclination for dress and 
for games. 

Extreme stupidity and extreme intelligence have a certain affinity 
in only seeking the real and being completely insensible to mere 
appearance. The former is only drawn forth by the immediate 
presence of an object in the senses, and the second is reduced to a 
quiescent state only by referring conceptions to the facts of experi- 
ence. In short, stupidity cannot rise above reality, nor the intelli- 
gence descend below truth. Thus, in as far as the want of reality 
and attachment to the real are only the consequence of a want and a 
defect, indifference to the real and an interest taken in appearances 
are a real enlargement of humanity and a decisive step towards 
culture. In the first place it is the proof of an exterior liberty, for as 
long as necessity commands and want solicits, the fancy is strictly 
chained down to the real; it is only when want is satisfied that it 
developes without hindrance. But it is also the proof of an internal 
liberty, because it reveals to us a force which, independent of an 
external substratum, sets itself in motion, and has sufficient energy 
to remove from itself the solicitations of nature. The reality of 
things is effected by things, the appearance of things is the work of 
man, and a soul that takes pleasure in appearance does not take 
pleasure in what it receives but in what it makes. 

It is self-evident that I am speaking of zsthetical evidence different 
from reality and truth, and not of logical appearance identical with 
them. Therefore if it is liked it is because it is an appearance, and not 
because it is held to be something better than it is: the first prin- 
ciple alone is a play whilst the second is a deception. To give a value 


to the appearance of the first kind can never injure truth, because 
it is never to be feared that it will supplant it — the only way in 
which truth can be injured. To despise this appearance is to despise 
in general all the fine arts of which it is the essence. Nevertheless, 
it happens sometimes that the understanding carries its zeal for 
reality as far as this intolerance, and strikes with a sentence of ostra- 
cism all the arts relating to beauty in appearance, because it is only 
an appearance. However, the intelligence only shows this vigorous 
spirit when it calls to mind the affinity pointed out further back. I 
shall find some day the occasion to treat specially of the limits of 
beauty in its appearance. 

It is nature herself which raises man from reality to appearance 
by endowing him with two senses which only lead him to the knowl' 
edge of the real through appearance. In the eye and the ear the 
organs of the senses are already freed from the persecutions of nature, 
and the object with which we are immediately in contact through 
the animal senses is remoter from us. What we see by the eye 
differs from what we feel; for the understanding to reach objects 
overleaps the light which separates us from. them. In truth, we are 
passive to an object; in sight and hearing the object is a form we 
create. While still a savage, man only enjoys through touch merely 
aided by sight and sound. He either does not rise to perception 
through sight, or does not rest there. As soon as he begins to enjoy 
through sight, vision has an independent value, he is aesthetically 
free, and the instinct of play is developed. 

The instinct of play likes appearance, and direcdy it is awakened 
it is followed by the formal imitative instinct which treats appear- 
ance as an independent thing. Directly man has come to distinguish 
the appearance from the reality, the form from the body, he can 
separate, in fact he has already done so. Thus the faculty of the art 
of imitation is given with the faculty of form in general. The in- 
clination that draws us to it reposes on another tendency I have not 
to notice here. The exact period when the aesthetic instinct, or that of 
art, developes, depends entirely on the attraction that mere appear- 
ance has for men. 

As every real existence proceeds from nature as a foreign power, 
whilst every appearance comes in the first place from man as a per- 


cipient subject, he only uses his absolute sight in separating sem- 
blance from essence, and arranging according to subjective law. With 
an unbridled liberty he can unite what nature has severed, provided 
he can imagine his union, and he can separate what nature has 
united, provided this separation can take place in his intelligence. 
Here nothing can be sacred to him but his own law: the only con- 
dition imposed upon him is to respect the border which separates his 
own sphere from the existence of things or from the realm of nature. 

This human right of ruling is exercised by man in the art of ap- 
pearance; and his success in extending the empire of the beautiful, 
and guarding the frontiers of truth, will be in proportion with the 
strictness with which he separates form from substance: for if he 
frees appearance from reality he must also do the converse. 

But man possesses sovereign power only in the world of appear- 
ance, in the unsubstantial realm of imagination, only by abstaining 
from giving being to appearance in theory, and by giving it being 
in practice. It follows that the poet transgresses his proper limits 
when he attributes being to his ideal, and when he gives this ideal 
aim as a determined existence. For he can only reach this result by 
exceeding his right as a poet, that of encroaching by the ideal on the 
field of experience, and by pretending to determine real existence in 
virtue of a simple possibility, or else he renounces his right as poet 
by letting experience encroach on the sphere of the ideal, and by 
restricting possibility to the conditions of reality. 

It is only by being frank or disclaiming all reality, and by being 
independent or doing without reality, that the appearance is sestheti- 
cal. Directly it apes reality or needs reality for effect it is nothing 
more than a vile instrument for material ends, and can prove nothing 
for the freedom of the mind. Moreover, the object in which we find 
beauty need not be unreal if our judgment disregards this reality; for 
if it regards this the judgment is no longer sesthetical. A beautiful 
woman if living would no doubt please us as much and rather more 
than an equally beautiful woman seen in painting; but what makes 
the former please men is not her being an independent appearance; 
she no longer pleases the pure aesthetic feeling. In the painting, life 
must only attract as an appearance, and reality as an idea. But it is 
certain that to feel in a living object only the pure appearance, 


requires a greatly higher aesthetic culture than to do without life in 
the appearance. 

When the frank and independent appearance is found in man 
separately, or in a whole people, it may be inferred they have mind, 
taste, and all prerogatives connected with them. In this case, the 
ideal will be seen to govern real life, honour triumphing over for- 
tune, thought over enjoyment, the dream of immortality over a 
transitory existence. 

In this case public opinion will no longer be feared and an olive 
crown will be more valued than a purple mantle. Impotence and 
perversity alone have recourse to false and paltry semblance, and 
individuals as well as nations who lend to reality the support of 
appearance, or to the aesthetical appearance the support of reality, 
show their moral unworthiness and their aesthetical impotence. 
Therefore, a short and conclusive answer can be given to this ques- 
tion—How far will appearance be permitted in the moral world? 
It will run thus in proportion as this appearance will be aesthetical, 
that is, an appearance that does not try to make up for reality, nor 
requires to be made up for by it. The aesthetical appearance can 
never endanger the truth of morals: wherever it seems to do so the 
appearance is not aesthetical. Only a stranger to the fashionable 
world can take the polite assurances, which are only a form, for 
proofs of affection, and say he has been deceived; but only a clumsy 
fellow in good society calls in the aid of duplicity and flatters to be- 
come amiable. The former lacks the pure sense for independent 
appearance; therefore he can only give a value to appearance by 
truth. The second lacks reality, and wishes to replace it by appear- 
ance. Nothing is more common than to hear depredators of the 
times utter these paltry complaints — that all solidity has disappeared 
from the world, and that essence is neglected for semblance. Though 
I feel by no jneans called upon to defend this age against these 
reproaches, I must say that the wide application of these criticisms 
shows that they attach blame to the age, not only on the score of 
the false, but also of the frank appearance. And even the exceptions 
they admit in favour of the beautiful have for their object less the 
independent appearance than the needy appearance. Not only do 
they attack the artificial colouring that hides truth and replaces 


reality, but also the beneficent appearance that fills a vacuum and 
clothes poverty; and they even attack the ideal appearance that en- 
nobles a vulgar reality. Their strict sense of truth is rightly offended 
by the falsity of manners; unfortunately, they class politeness in this 
category. It displeases them that the noisy and showy so often 
eclipse true merit, but they are no less shocked that appearance is 
also demanded from merit, and that a real substance does not dis- 
pense with an agreeable form. They regret the cordiality, the energy, 
and solidity of ancient times; they would restore with them ancient 
coarseness, heaviness, and the old Gothic profusion. By judgments 
of this kind they show an esteem for the matter itself unworthy of 
humanity, which ought only to value the matter inasmuch as it can 
receive a form and enlarge the empire of ideas. Accordingly, the 
taste of the age need not much fear these criticisms, if it can clear 
itself before better judges. Our defect is not to grant a value to 
jesthetic appearance (we do not do this enough) : a severe judge of 
the beautiful might rather reproach us with not having arrived at 
pure appearance, with not having separated clearly enough existence 
from the phaenomenon, and thus established their limits. We shall 
deserve this reproach so. long as we cannot enjoy the beautiful in 
living nature without desiring it; as long as we cannot admire the 
beautiful in the imitative arts without having an end in view; as long 
as we do not grant to imagination an absolute legislation of its own; 
and as long as we do not inspire it with care for its dignity by the 
esteem we testify for its works. 

Letter XXVII. 

Do not fear for reality and truth. Even if the elevated idea of 
aesthetic appearance became general, it would not become so, as 
long as man remains so little cultivated as to abuse it; and if it 
became general, this would result from a culture that would pre- 
vent all abuse of it. The pursuit of independent appearance requires 
more power of abstraction, freedom of heart, and energy of will 
than man requires to shut himself up in reality; and he must have 
left the latter behind him if he wishes to attain to aesthetic appear- 
ance. Therefore a man would calculate very badly who took the 


road of the ideal to save himself that of reality. Thus reality would 
not have much to fear from appearance, as we understand it; but, 
on the other hand, appearance would have more to fear from reality. 
Chained to matter, man uses appearance for his purposes before he 
allows it a proper personality in the art of the ideal: to come to that 
point a complete revolution must take place in his mode of feeling, 
otherwise he would not be even on the way to the ideal. Conse- 
quently, when we find in man the signs of a pure and disinterested 
esteem, we can infer that this revolution has taken place in his nature, 
and that humanity has really begun in him. Signs of this kind are 
found even in the first and rude attempts that he makes to em- 
bellish his existence, even at the risk of making it worse in its 
material conditions. As soon as he begins to prefer form to sub- 
stance and to risk reality for appearance (known by him to be such), 
the barriers of animal life fall, and he finds himself on a track that 
has no end. 

Not satisfied with the needs of nature, he demands the super- 
fluous. First, only the superfluous of matter, to secure his enjoy- 
ment beyond the present necessity; but afterwards he wishes a super- 
abundance in matter, an aesthetical supplement to satisfy the impulse 
for the formal, to extend enjoyment beyond necessity. By piling up 
provisions simply for a future use, and anticipating their enjoy- 
ment in the imagination, he outsteps the limits of the present mo- 
ment, but not those of time in general. He enjoys more; he does 
not enjoy differently. But as soon as he makes form enter into his 
enjoyment, and he keeps in view the forms of the objects which 
satisfy his desires, he has not only increased his pleasure in extent 
and intensity, but he has also ennobled it in mode and species. 

No doubt nature has given more than is necessary to unreasoning 
beings; she has caused a gleam of freedom to shine even in the dark- 
ness of animal life. When the lion is not tormented by hunger, and 
when no wild beast challenges him to fight, his unemployed energy 
creates an object for himself; full of ardour, he fills the re-echoing 
desert with his terrible roars, and his exuberant force rejoices in 
itself, showing itself without an object. The insect flits about re- 
joicing in life in the sunlight, and it is certainly not the cry of want 
that makes itself heard in the melodious song of the bird; there is 


undeniably freedom in these movements, though it is not emancipa- 
tion from want in general, but from a determinate external neces- 

The animal worlds, when a privation is the motor of its activity, 
and it plays when the plenitude of force is this motor, when an 
exuberant life is excited to action. Even in inanimate nature a lux- 
ury o£ strength and a latitude of determination are shown, which 
in this material sense might be styled play. The tree produces num- 
berless germs that are abortive without developing, and it sends 
forth more roots, branches and leaves, organs of nutrition, than are 
used for the preservation of the species. Whatever this tree restores 
to the elements of its exuberant life, without using it, or enjoying it, 
may be expended by Ufe in free and joyful movements. It is thus 
that nature offers in her material sphere a sort of prelude to the limit- 
less, and that even there she suppresses partially the chains from 
which she will be completely emancipated in the realm of form. 
The constraint of superabundance or physical play, answers as a 
transition from the constraint of necessity, or of physical seriousness, 
to aesthetical play; and before shaking off, in the supreme freedom 
of the beautiful, the yoke of any special aim, nature already ap- 
proaches, at least remotely, this independence, by the free movement 
which is itself its own end and means. 

The imagination, like the bodily organs, has in man its free 
movement and its material play, a play in which, without any ref- 
erence to form, it simply takes pleasure in its arbitrary power and in 
the absence of all hindrance. These plays of fancy, inasmuch as 
form is not mixed up with them, and because a free succession of 
images makes all their charm, though confined to man, belong exclu- 
sively to animal life, and only prove one thing — that he is deUvered 
from all external sensuous constraint — without our being entitled 
to infer that there is in it an independent plastic force. 

From this play of free association of ideas, which is still quite 
material in nature and is explained by simple natural laws, the 
imagination, by making the attempt of creating a free form, passes 
at length at a jump to the ssthetic play: I say at one leap, for quite 
a new force enters into action here; for here, for the first time, the 
legislative mind is mixed with the acts of a blind instinct, subjects 


the arbitrary march of the imagination to its eternal and immutable 
unity, causes its independent permanence to enter in that which is 
transitory, and its infinity in the sensuous. Nevertheless, as long as 
rude nature, which knows of no other law than running incessantly 
from change to change, will yet retain too much strength, it will 
oppose itself by its different caprices to this necessity; by its agitation 
to this permanence; by its manifold needs to this independence, and 
by its insatiability to this sublime simplicity. It will be also trouble- 
some to recognise the instinct of play in its first trials, seeing that 
the sensuous impulsion, with its capricious humour and its violent 
appetites, constantly crosses. It is on that account that we see the 
taste, still coarse, seize that which is new and startling, the dis- 
ordered, the adventurous and the strange, the violent and the sav- 
age, and fly from nothing so much as from calm and simplicity. It 
invents grotesque figures, it likes rapid transitions, luxurious forms, 
sharply marked changes, acute tones, a pathetic song. That which 
man calls beautiful at this time, is that which excites him, that'which 
gives him matter; but that which excites him to give his personality 
to the object, that which gives matter to a possible plastic operation, 
for otherwise it would not be the beautiful for him. A remarkable 
change has therefore taken place in the form of his judgments; he 
searches for these objects, not because they affect him, but because 
they furnish him with the occasion of acting; they please him, not 
because they answer to a want, but because they satisfy a law, which 
speaks in his breast, although quite low as yet. 

Soon it will not be sufficient for things to please him; he will wish 
to please: in the first place, it is true, only by that which belongs to 
him; afterwards by that which he is. That which he possesses, that 
which he produces, ought not merely to bear any more the traces 
of servitude, nor to mark out the end, simply and scrupulously, by 
the form. Independently of the use to which it is destined, the object 
ought also to reflect the enlightened intelligence which imagines it, 
the hand which shaped it with affection, the mind free and serene 
which chose it and exposed it to view. Now, the ancient German 
searches for more magnificent furs, for more splendid antlers of the 
stag, for more elegant drinking horns; and the Caledonian chooses 
the prettiest shells for his festivals. The arms themselves ought to 


be no longer only objects of terror, but also of pleasure; and the 
skilfully worked scabbard will not attract less attention than the 
homicidal edge of the sword. The instinct of play, not satisfied with 
bringing into the sphere of the necessary an aesthetic superabundance 
for the future more free, is at last completely emancipated from the 
bonds of duty, and the beautiful becomes of itself an object of man's 
exertions. He adorns himself. The free pleasure comes to take a 
place among his wants, and the useless soon becomes the best part 
of his joys. Form, which from the outside gradually approaches him, 
in his dwelling, his furniture, his clothing, begins at last to take 
possession of the man himself, to transform him, at first exteriorly, 
and afterwards in the interior. The disordered leaps of joy become 
the dance, the formless gesture is changed into an amiable and 
harmonious pantomime, the confused accents of feeling are devel- 
oped, and begin to obey measure and adapt themselves to song. 
When, like the flight of cranes, the Trojan army rushes on to the 
field of battle with thrilling cries, the Greek army approaches in 
silence and with a noble and measured step. On the one side we see 
but the exuberance of a blind force, on the other the triumph of 
form and the simple majesty of law. 

Now, a nobler necessity binds the two sexes mutually, and the 
interests of the heart contribute in rendering durable an alliance 
which was at first capricious and changing like the desire that knits 
it. Delivered from the heavy fetters of desire, the eye, now calmer, 
attends to the form, the soul contemplates the soul, and the interested 
exchange of pleasure becomes a generous exchange of mutual incli- 
nation. Desire enlarges and rises to love, in proportion as it sees 
humanity dawn in its object; and, despising the vile triumphs gained 
by the senses, man tries to win a nobler victory over the will. The 
necessity of pleasing subjects the powerful nature to the gentle laws 
of taste; pleasure may be stolen, but love must be a gift. To obtain 
this higher recompense, it is only through the form and not through 
matter that it can carry on the contest. It must cease to act on feeling 
as a force, to appear in the intelligence as a simple phaenomenon; it 
must respect liberty, as it is liberty it wishes to please. The beautiful 
reconciles the contrast of different natures in its simplest and purest 
expression. It also reconciles the eternal contrast of the two sexes, 


in the whole complex framework of society, or at all events it seeks 
to do so; and, taking as its model the free alliance it has knit between 
manly strength and womanly gentleness, it strives to place in har- 
mony, in the moral world, all the elements of gentleness and of 
violence. Now, at length, weakness becomes sacred, and an unbridled 
strength disgraces; the injustice of nature is corrected by the gen- 
erosity of chivalrous manners. The being whom no power can make 
tremble, is disarmed by the amiable blush of modesty, and tears 
extinguish a vengeance that blood could not have quenched. Hatred 
itself hears the delicate voice of honour, the conqueror's sword spares 
the disarmed enemy, and a hospitable hearth smokes for the stranger 
on the dreaded hill-side where murder alone awaited him before. 

In the midst of the formidable realm of forces, and of the sacred 
empire of laws, the aesthetic impulse of form creates by degrees a 
third and a joyous realm, that of play and of the appearance, where 
she emancipates man from fetters, in all his relations, and from all 
that is named constraint, whether physical or moral. 

If in the dynamic state of rights men mutually move and come 
into collision as forces, in the moral (ethical) state of duties, man 
opposes to man the majesty of the laws, and chains down his will. 
In this realm of the beautiful or the aesthetic state, man ought to 
appear to man only as a form, and an object of free play. To give 
freedom through freedom is the fundamental law of this realm. 

The dynamic state can only make society simply possible by sub- 
duing nature through nature; the moral (ethical) state can only 
make it morally necessary by submitting the will of the individual 
to the general will. The aesthetic state alone can make it real, because 
it carries out the will of all through the nature of the individual. 
If necessity alone forces man to enter into society, and if his reason 
engraves on his soul social principles, it is beauty only that can give 
him a social character; taste alone brings harmony into society, be- 
cause it creates harmony in the individual. All other forms of per- 
ception divide the man, because they are based exclusively either 
in the sensuous or in the spiritual part of his being. It is only the 
perception of beauty that makes of him an entirety, because it de- 
mands the co-operation of his two natures. All other forms of com- 
munication divide society, because they apply exclusively either to 


the receptivity or to the private activity of its members, and there- 
fore to what distinguishes men one from the other. The aesthetic 
communication alone unites society, because it applies to what is 
common to all its members. We only enjoy the pleasures of sense 
as individuals, without the nature of the race in us sharing in it; 
accordingly, we cannot generalise our individual pleasures, because 
we cannot generalise our individuality. We enjoy the pleasures of 
knowledge as a race, dropping the individual in our judgment; but 
we cannot generalise the pleasures of the understanding, because we 
cannot eliminate individuality from the judgments of others as we 
do from our own. Beauty alone can we enjoy both as individuals 
and as a race, that is, as representing a race. Good appertaining to 
sense can only make one person happy, because it is founded on 
incUnation, which is always exclusive; and it can only make a man 
partially happy, because his real personality does not share in it. 
Absolute good can only render a man happy conditionally, for truth 
is only the reward of abnegation, and a pure heart alone has faith 
in a pure will. Beauty alone confers happiness on all, and under 
its influence every being forgets that he is limited. 

Taste does not suffer any superior or absolute authority, and the 
sway of beauty is extended over appearance. It extends up to the 
seat of reason's supremacy, suppressing all that is material. It extends 
down to where sensuous impulse rules with blind compulsion, and 
form is undeveloped. Taste ever maintains its power on these remote 
borders, where legislation is taken from it. Particular desires must 
renounce their egotism, and the agreeable, otherwise tempting the 
senses, must in matters of taste adorn the mind with the attractions 
of grace. 

Duty and stern necessity must change their forbidding tone, only 
excused by resistance, and do homage to nature by a nobler trust in 
her. Taste leads our knowledge from the mysteries of science into 
the open expanse of common sense, and changes a narrow scholasti- 
cism into the common property of the human race. Here the highest 
genius must leave its particular elevation, and make itself familiar 
to the comprehension even of a child. Strength must let the Graces 
bind it, and the arbitrary lion must yield to the reins of love. For 
this purpose taste throws a veil over physical necessity, offending a 


free mind by its coarse nudity, and dissimulating our degrading 
parentage with matter by a delightful illusion of freedom. Mer- 
cenary art itself rises from the dust; and the bondage of the bodily, 
St its magic touch, falls off from the inanimate and animate. In the 
aesthetic state the most slavish tool is a free citizen, having the same 
rights as the noblest; and the intellect which shapes the mass to its 
intent must consult it concerning its destination. Consequently in 
the realm of aesthetic appearance, the idea of equality is realised, 
which the political zealot would gladly see carried out socially. It 
has often been said that perfect politeness is only found near a 
throne. If thus restricted in the material, man has, as elsewhere 
appears, to find compensation in the ideal world. 

Does such a state of beauty in appearance exist, and where? It 
must be in every finely harmonised soul; but as a fact, only in select 
circles, like the pure ideal of the church and state — in circles where 
manners are not formed by the empty imitations of the foreign, but 
by the very beauty of nature; where man passes through all sorts of 
complications in all simplicity and innocence, neither forced to trench 
on another's freedom to preserve his own, nor to show grace at the 
cost of dignity. 






Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia, April 22, 
1724, the son of a saddler of Scottish descent. The family was pietist, 
and the future philosopher entered the university of his native city in 
1740, with a view to studying theology. He developed, however, a many- 
sided interest in learning, and his earlier publications were in the field 
of speculative physics. After the close of his period of study at the 
university he became a private tutor; then in 1755, privat-docent; and 
in 1770, professor. During the first eleven years of his professorship 
Kant published little, spending his energies in the meditation that was 
to result in the philosophical system of which the first part was given to 
the world in his "Critique of Pure Reason" in 1781. From that time till 
near the end of the century he issued volume after volume; yet when he 
died in 1804 he regarded his statement of his system as fragmentary. 

Of the enormous importance of Kant in the history of philosophy, no 
idea can be given here. The important document which follows was 
published in 1785, and forms the basis of the moral system on which he 
erected the whole structure of belief in God, Freedom, and Immortality. 
Kant is often difGcult and obscure, and became more so as he grew 
older; but the present treatise can be followed, in its main lines, by any 
intelligent person who is interested enough in the fundamental prob- 
lems of human life and conduct to give it serious and concentrated atten- 
tion. To such a reader the subtle yet clear distinctions, and the lofty and 
rigorous principles of action, which it lays down, will prove an intel- 
lectual and moral tonic such as hardly any other modern writer affords. 


Ancient Greek philosophy was divided into three sciences: Physics, 
Ethics, and Logic. This division is perfecdy suitable to the nature of the 
thing, and the only improvement that can be made in it is to add the 
principle on which it is based, so that we may both satisfy ourselves of 
its completeness, and also be able to determine correctly the necessary 

All rational knowledge is either material or formal: the former con- 
siders some object, the latter is concerned only with the form of the 
understanding and of the reason itself, and with the universal laws of 
thought in general without distinction of its objects. Formal philosophy 
is called Logic. Material philosophy, however, which has to do with 
determinate objects and the laws to which they are subject, is again 
two-fold; for these laws are either laws of nature or of jreedom. The 
science of the former is Physics, that of the latter. Ethics; they are also 
called natural philosophy and moral philosophy respectively. 

Logic cannot have any empirical part; that is, a part in which the 
universal and necessary laws of thought should rest on grounds taken 
from experience; otherwise it would not be logic, i.e. a canon for the 
understanding or the reason, valid for all thought, and capable of dem- 
onstration. Natural and moral philosophy, on the contrary, can each 
have their empirical part, since the former has to determine the laws of 
nature as an object of experience; the latter the laws of the human will, 
so far as it is affected by nature: the former, however, being laws accord- 
ing to which everything does happen; the latter, laws according to which 
everything ought to happen.' Ethics, however, must also consider the 
conditions under which what ought to happen frequently does not. 

We may call all philosophy empirical, so far as it is based on grounds 
of experience: on the other hand, that which delivers its doctrines from 
a priori principles alone we may call pure philosophy. When the latter 
is merely formal it is logic; if it is restricted to definite objects of the 
understanding it is metaphysic. 

In this way there arises the idea of a two-fold metaphysic — a meta- 
physic of nature and a metaphysic of morals. Physics will thus have an 

' [The word "law" is here used in two different senses, on which see Whately's 
Logic, Appendix, Art. "Law."] 



empirical and also a rational part. It is the same with Ethics; but here 
the empirical part might have the special name of practical anthropology, 
the name morality being appropriated to the rational part. 

All trades, arts, and handiworks have gained by division of labour, 
namely, when, instead of one man doing everything, each confines him- 
self to a certain kind of work distinct from others in the treatment it 
requires, so as to be able to perform it with greater facility and in the 
greatest perfection. Where the different kinds of work are not so dis- 
tinguished and divided, where everyone is a jack-of -all-trades, there 
manufactures remain still in the greatest barbarism. It might deserve to 
be considered whether pure philosophy in all its parts does not require 
a man specially devoted to it, and whether it would not be better for the 
whole business of science if those who, to please the tastes of the public, 
are wont to blend the rational and empirical elements together, mixed 
in all sorts of proportions unknown to themselves, and who call them- 
selves independent thinkers, giving the name of minute philosophers to 
those who apply themselves to the rational part only — if these, I say, 
were warned not to carry on two employments together which differ 
widely in the treatment they demand, for each of which perhaps a spe- 
cial talent is required, and the combination of which in one person only 
produces bunglers. But I only ask here whether the nature of science 
does not require that we should always carefully separate the empirical 
from the rational part, and prefix to Physics proper (or empirical physics) 
a metaphysic of nature, and to practical anthropology a metaphysic of 
morals, which must be carefully cleared of everything empirical, so that 
we may know how much can be accomplished by pure reason in both 
cases, and from what sources it draws this its a priori teaching, and 
that whether the latter inquiry is conducted by all moralists (whose 
name is legion), or only by some who feel a calling thereto. 

As my concern here is with moral philosophy, I limit the question 
suggested to this: Whether it is not of the utmost necessity to construct 
a pure moral philosophy, perfectly cleared of everything which is only 
empirical, and which belongs to anthropology? for that such a philos- 
ophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of 
the moral laws. Every one must admit that if a law is to have moral 
force, i.e. to be the basis of an obligation, it must carry with it absolute 
necessity; that, for example, the precept, "Thou shalt not lie," is not 
valid for men alone, as if other rational beings had no need to observe 
it; and so with all the other moral laws properly so called; that, there- 
fore, the basis of obligation must not be sought in the nature of man, or in 


the circumstances in the world in which he is placed, but i priori simply 
in the conceptions of pure reason; and although any other precept which 
is founded on principles of mere experience may be in certain respects 
universal, yet in as far as it rests even in the least degree on an empirical 
basis, perhaps only as to a motive, such a precept, while it may be a prac- 
tical rule, can never be called a moral law. 

Thus not only are moral laws with their principles essentially dis- 
tinguished from every other kind of practical knowledge in which there 
is anything empirical, but all moral philosophy rests wholly on its pure 
part. When applied to man, it does not borrow the least thing from the 
knowledge of man himself (anthropology), but gives laws a priori to 
him as a rational being. No doubt these laws require a judgment sharp- 
ened by experience, in order on the one hand to distinguish in what 
cases they are applicable, and on the other to procure for them access 
to the will of the man, and effectual influence on conduct; since man is 
acted on by so many inclinations that, though capable of the idea of a 
practical pure reason, he is not so easily able to make it effective in con- 
creto in his life. 

A metaphysic of morals is therefore indispensably necessary, not merely 
for speculative reasons, in order to investigate the sources of the practical 
principles which are to be found a priori in our reason, but also because 
morals themselves are liable to all sorts of corruption, as long as we are 
without that clue and supreme canon by which to estimate them cor- 
rectly. For in order that an action should be morally good, it is not 
enough that it conform to the moral law, but it must also be done for 
the sal{e of the law, otherwise that conformity is only very contingent 
and uncertain; since a principle which is not moral, although it may 
now and then produce actions conformable to the law, will also often 
produce actions which contradict it. Now it is only in a pure philosophy 
that we can look for the moral law in its purity and genuineness (and, 
in a practical matter, this is of the utmost consequence) : we must, there- 
fore, begin with pure philosophy (metaphysic), and without it there 
cannot be any moral philosophy at all. That which mingles these pure 
principles with the empirical does not deserve the name of philosophy 
(for what distinguishes philosophy from common rational knowledge 
is, that it treats in separate sciences what the latter only comprehends 
confusedly); much less does it deserve that of moral philosophy, since 
by this confusion it even spoils the purity of morals themselves, and 
counteracts its own end. 

Let it not be thought, however, that what is here demanded is already 


extant in the propaedeutic prefixed by the celebrated WolP to his moral 
philosophy, namely, his so-called general practical philosophy, and that, 
therefore, we have not to strike into an entirely new field. Just because 
it was to be a general practical philosophy, it has not taken into consid- 
eration a will of any particular kind — say one which should be deter- 
mined solely from a priori principles without any empirical motives, and 
which we might call a pure will, but volition in general, with all the 
actions and conditions which belong to it in this general signification. 
By this it is distinguished from a metaphysic of morals, just as general 
logic, which treats of the acts and canons of thought in general, is dis- 
tinguished from transcendental philosophy, which treats of the partic- 
ular acts and canons of pure thought, i.e. that whose cognitions are alto- 
gether h priori. For the metaphysic of morals has to examine the idea 
and the principles of a possible pure will, and not the acts and condi- 
tions of human volition generally, which for the most part are drawn 
from psychology. It is true that moral laws and duty are spoken of in 
the general practical philosophy (contrary indeed to all fitness). But 
this is no objection, for in this respect also the authors of that science 
remain true to their idea of it; they do not distinguish the motives which 
are prescribed as such by reason alone altogether a priori, and which are 
properly moral, from the empirical motives which the understanding 
raises to general conceptions merely by comparison of experiences; but 
without noticing the difference of their sources, and looking on them 
all as homogeneous, they consider only their greater or less amount. It 
is in this way they frame their notion of obligation, which though any- 
thing but moral, is all that can be asked for in a philosophy which 
passes no judgment at all on the origin of all possible practical concepts, 
whether they are a priori, or only <J posteriori. 

Intending to publish hereafter a metaphysic of morals, I issue in the 
first instance these fundamental principles. Indeed there is properly no 
other foundation for it than the critical examination of a pure practical 
reason; just as that of metaphysics is the critical examination of the pure 
speculative reason, already published. But in the first place the former 
is not so absolutely necessary as the latter, because in moral concerns 
human reason can easily be brought to a high degree of correctness and 
completeness, even in the commonest understanding, while on the con- 
trary in its theoretic but pure use it is wholly dialectical; and in the 
second place if the critique of a pure practical reason is to be complete, 

^ [Johann Christian Von Wolf (i 679-1 728) was the author of treatises on philoso- 
phy, mathematics, &c., which were for a long time the standard text-books in the 
German Universities. His philosophy was founded on that of J-eibnitz.] 


it must be possible at the same time to show its identity with the specu- 
lative reason in a common principle, for it can ultimately be only one 
and the same reason which has to be distinguished merely in its appli- 
cation. I could not, however, bring it to such completeness here, without 
introducing considerations of a wholly different kind, which would be 
perplexing to the reader. On this account I have adopted the tide of 
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, instead of that of a 
Critical Examination of the pure practical Reason. 

But in the third place, since a metaphysic of morals, in spite of the 
discouraging title, is yet capable of being presented in a popular form, 
and one adapted to the common understanding, I find it useful to sep- 
arate from it this preliminary treatise on its fundamental principles, in 
order that I may not hereafter have need to introduce these necessarily 
subde discussions into a book of a more simple character. 

The present treatise is, however, nothing more than the investigation 
and establishment of the supreme principle of morality, and this alone 
constitutes a study complete in itself, and one which ought to be kept 
apart from every other moral investigation. No doubt my conclusions 
on this weighty question, which has hitherto been very unsatisfactorily 
examined, would receive much light from the application of the same 
principle to the whole system, and would be gready confirmed by the 
adequacy which it exhibits throughout; but I must forego this advantage, 
which indeed would be after all more gratifying than useful, since the 
easy applicability of a principle and its apparent adequacy give no very 
certain proof of its soundness, but rather inspire a certain partiality, 
which prevents us from examining and estimating it strictly in itself, 
and without regard to consequences. 

I have adopted in this work the method which I think most suitable, 
proceeding analytically from common knowledge to the determination 
of its ultimate principle, and again descending synthetically from the 
examination of this principle and its sources to the common knowledge 
in which we find it employed. The division will, therefore, be as 
follows: — 

1. First section. — Transition from the common rational knowledge of 

morality to the philosophical. 

2. Second section. — Transition from popular moral philosophy to the 

metaphysic of morals. 

3. Third section. — Final step from the metaphysic of morals to the 

critique of the pure practical reason. 








NOTHING can possibly be conceived in the world, or even 
out o£ it, which can be called good without qualification, 
except a Good Will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the 
other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, 
resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubt- 
edly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature 
may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which 
is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is 
called character, is not good. It is the same with the gifts of fortune. 
Power, riches, honour, even health, and the general well-being and 
contentment with one's condition which is called happiness, inspire 
pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct 
the influence of these on the mind, and with this also to rectify the 
whole principle of acting, and adapt it to its end. The sight of a 
being who is not adorned with a single feature of a pure and good 
willj enjoying unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an 
impartial rational spectator. Thus a good will appears to constitute 
the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness. 

There are even some qualities which are of service to this good will 
itself, and may facilitate its action, yet which have no intrinsic uncon- 
ditional value, but always presuppose a good wdll, and this qualifies 
the esteem that we jusdy have for them, and does not permit us to 


306 KANT 

regard them as absolutely good. Moderation in the affections and 
passions, self-control and calm deliberation are not only good in many 
respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the 
person; but they are far from deserving to be called good without 
qualification, although they have been so unconditionally praised by 
the ancients. For without the principles of a good will, they may be- 
come extremely bad, and the coolness of a villain not only makes him 
far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in 
our eyes than he would have been without it. 

A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, 
not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but 
simply by virtue of the volition, that is, it is good in itself, and con- 
sidered by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be 
brought about by it in favour of any inclination, nay, even of the 
sum total of all inclinations. Even if it should happen that, owing 
to special disfavour of fortune, or the niggardly provision of a step- 
motherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish 
its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing, 
and there should remain only the good will (not, to be sure, a mere 
wish, but the summoning of all means in our power), then, like a 
jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its 
whole value in itself. Its usefulness or fruitfulness can neither add 
to nor take away anything from this value. It would be, as it were, 
only the setting to enable us to handle it the more conveniently in 
common commerce, or to attract to it the attention of those who are 
not yet connoisseurs, but not to recommend it to true connoisseurs, 
or to determine its value. 

There is, however, something so strange in this idea of the absolute 
value of the mere will, in which no account is taken of its utility, 
that notwithstanding the thorough assent of even common reason to 
the idea, yet a suspicion must arise that it may perhaps really be the 
product of mere high-flown fancy, and that we may have misunder- 
stood the purpose of nature in assigning reason as the governor of our 
will. Therefore we will examine this idea from this point of view. 

In the physical constitution of an organized being, that is, a being 
adapted suitably to the purposes of life, we assume it as a funda- 
mental principle that no organ for any purpose will be found but 


what is also the fittest and best adapted for that purpose. Now in 
a being which has reason and a will, if the proper object of nature 
were its conservation, its welfare, in a word, its happiness, then 
nature would have hit upon a very bad arrangement in selecting the 
reason of the creature to carry out this purpose. For all the actions 
which the creature has to perform with a view to this purpose, and 
the whole rule of its conduct, would be far more surely prescribed to 
it by instinct, and that end would have been attained thereby much 
more certainly than it ever can be by reason. Should reason have been 
communicated to this favoured creature over and above, it must only 
have served it to contemplate the happy constitution of its nature, 
to admire it, to congratulate itself thereon, and to feel thankful for 
it to the beneficent cause, but not that it should subject its desires 
to that weak and delusive guidance, and meddle bunglingly with 
the purpose of nature. In a word, nature would have taken care 
that reason should not break forth into practical exercise, nor have 
the presumption, with its weak insight, to think out for itself the 
plan of happiness, and of the means of attaining it. Nature would 
not only have taken on herself the choice of the ends, but also 
of the means, and with vwse foresight would have entrusted both to 

And, in fact, we find that the more a cultivated reason applies 
itself with deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, 
so much the more does the man fail of true satisfaction. And from 
this circumstance there arises in many, if they are candid enough 
to confess it, a certain degree of misology, that is, hatred of reason, 
especially in the case of those who are most experienced in the use 
of it, because after calculating all the advantages they derive, I do 
not say from the invention of all the arts of common luxury, but 
even from the sciences (which seem to them to be after all only a lux- 
ury of the understanding), they find that they have, in fact, only 
brought more trouble on their shoulders, rather than gained in happi- 
ness; and they end by envying, rather than despising, the more com- 
mon stamp of men who keep closer to the guidance of mere instinct, 
and do not allow their reason much influence on their conduct. And 
this we must admit, that the judgment of those who would very 
much lower the lofty eulogies of the advantages which reason gives 

308 KANT 

US in regard to the happiness and satisfaction of hfe, or who would 
even reduce them below zero, is by no means morose or ungrateful 
to the goodness with which the world is governed, but that there lies 
at the root of these judgments the idea that our existence has a dif- 
ferent and far nobler end, for which, and not for happiness, reason 
is properly intended, and which must, therefore, be regarded as the 
supreme condition to which the private ends of man must, for the 
most part, be postponed. 

For as reason is not competent to guide the will with certainty in 
regard to its objects and the satisfaction of all our wants (which it 
to some extent even multiplies), this being an end to which an 
implanted instinct would have led with much greater certainty; and 
since, nevertheless, reason is imparted to us as a practical faculty, 
i.e. as one which is to have influence on the will, therefore, admitting 
that nature generally in the distribution of her capacities has adapted 
the means to the end, its true destination must be to produce a will, 
not merely good as a means to something else, but good in itself, 
for which reason was absolutely necessary. This will then, though 
not indeed the sole and complete good, must be the supreme good 
and the condition of every other, even of the desire of happiness. 
Under these circumstances, there is nothing inconsistent with the 
wisdom of nature in the fact that the cultivation of the reason, which 
is requisite for the first and unconditional purpose, does in many 
ways interfere, at least in this life, with the attainment of the second, 
which is always conditional, namely, happiness. Nay, it may even 
reduce it to nothing, without nature thereby failing of her purpose. 
For reason recognises the establishment of a good will as its highest 
practical destination, and in attaining this purpose is capable only 
of a satisfaction of its own proper kind, namely, that from the attain- 
ment of an end, which end again is determined by reason only, not- 
withstanding that this may involve many a disappointment to the 
ends of inclination. 

We have then to develop the notion of a will which deserves to 
be highly esteemed for itself, and is good without a view to anything 
further, a notion which exists already in the sound natural under- 
standing, requiring rather to be cleared up than to be taught, and 
which in estimating the value of our actions always takes the first 


place, and constitutes the condition of all the rest. In order to do 
this we will take the notion of duty, which includes that of a good 
will, although implying certain subjective restrictions and hin- 
drances. These, however, far from concealing it, or rendering it 
unrecognisable, rather bring it out by contrast, and make it shine 
forth so much the brighter. 

I omit here all actions which are already recognised as inconsistent 
with duty, although they may be useful for this or that purpose, for 
with these the question whether they are done from duty cannot 
arise at all, since they even conflict with it. I also set aside those 
actions which really conform to duty, but to which men have no 
direct inclination, performing them because they are impelled thereto 
by some other inclination. For in this case we can readily distinguish 
whether the action which agrees with duty is done from duty, or 
from a selfish view. It is much harder to make this distinction when 
the action accords with duty, and the subject has besides a direct 
inclination to it. For example, it is always a matter of duty that 
a dealer should not overcharge an inexperienced purchaser, and 
wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman does not 
overcharge, but keeps a fixed price for everyone, so that a child buys 
of him as well as any other. Men are thus honestly served; but this 
is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman has so acted 
from duty and from principles of honesty: his own advantage re- 
quired it; it is out of the question in this case to suppose that he 
might besides have a direct inclination in favour of the buyers, so 
that, as it were, from love he should give no advantage to one over 
another. Accordingly the action was done neither from duty nor 
from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view. 

On the other hand, it is a duty to maintain one's life; and, in addi- 
tion, everyone has also a direct inclination to do so. But on this 
account the often anxious care which most men take for it has no 
intrinsic worth, and their maxim has no moral import. They pre- 
serve their life as duty requires, no doubt, but not because duty 
requires. On the other hand, if adversity and hopeless sorrow have 
completely taken away the relish for life; if the unfortunate one, 
strong in mind, indignant at his fate rather than desponding or 
dejected, wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving 


it — not from inclination or fear, but from duty— then his maxim has 
a moral worth. 

To be beneficent when we can is a duty; and besides this, there 
are many minds so sympathetically constituted that, without any 
other motive of vanity or self-interest, they find a pleasure in spread- 
ing joy around them and can take delight in the satisfaction of 
others so far as it is their own work. But I maintain that in such 
a case an action of this kind, however proper, however amiable it 
may be, has nevertheless no true moral worth, but is on a level with 
other inclinations, e.g. the inclination to honour, which, if it is hap- 
pily directed to that which is in fact of public utility and accordant 
with duty, and consequently honourable, deserves praise and encour- 
agement, but not esteem. For the maxim lacks the moral import, 
namely, that such actions be done from duty, not from inclination. 
Put the case that the mind of that philanthropist were clouded by 
sorrow of his own, extinguishing all sympathy with the lot of others, 
and that while he still has the power to benefit others in distress, 
he is not touched by their trouble because he is absorbed with his 
own; and now suppose that he tears himself out of this dead in- 
sensibility, and performs the action without any inclination to it, 
but simply from duty, then first has his action its genuine moral 
worth. Further still; if nature has put little sympathy in the heart of 
this or that man; if he, supposed to be an upright man, is by tempera- 
ment cold and indifferent to the sufferings of others, perhaps because 
in respect of his own he is provided with the special gift of patience 
and fortitude, and supposes, or even requires, that others should 
have the same — and such a man would certainly not be the meanest 
product of nature — but if nature had not specially framed him for a 
philanthropist, would he not still find in himself a source from 
whence to give himself a far higher worth than that of a good- 
natured temperament could be? Unquestionably. It is just in this 
that the moral worth of the character is brought out which is incom- 
parably the highest of all, namely, that he is beneficent, not from 
inclination, but from duty. 

To secure one's own happiness is a duty, at least indirecdy; for 
discontent with one's condition, under a pressure of many anxieties 
and amidst unsatisfied wants, might easily become a great temptation 


to transgression of duty. But here again, without looking to duty, 
all men have already the strongest and most intimate inclination 
to happiness, because it is just in this idea that all inclinations are 
combined in one total. But the precept of happiness is often of such 
a sort that it greatly interferes with some inclinations, and yet a man 
cannot form any definite and certain conception of the sum of satis- 
faction of all of them which is called happiness. It is not then to be 
wondered at that a single inclination, definite both as to what it 
promises and as to the time within which it can be gratified, is often 
able to overcome such a fluctuating idea, and that a gouty patient, 
for instance, can choose to enjoy what he likes, and to suffer what 
he may, since, according to his calculation, on this occasion at least, 
he has [only] not sacrificed the enjoyment of the present moment 
to a possibly mistaken expectation of a happiness which is supposed 
to be found in health. But even in this case, if the general desire for 
happiness did not influence his will, and supposing that in his par- 
ticular case health was not a necessary element in this calculation, 
there yet remains in this, as in all other cases, this law, namely, that 
he should promote his happiness not from inclination but from 
duty, and by this would his conduct first acquire true moral worth. 

It is in this manner, undoubtedly, that we are to understand those 
passages of Scripture also in which we are commanded to love our 
neighbour, even our enemy. For love, as an affection, cannot be com- 
manded, but beneficence for duty's sake may; even though we are 
not impelled to it by any inclination — nay, are even repelled by a 
natural and unconquerable aversion. This is practical love, and not 
pathological — a love which is seated in the will, and not in the pro- 
pensions of sense — in principles of action and not of tender sym- 
pathy; and it is this love alone which can be commanded. 

The second' proposition is: That an action done from duty derives 
its moral worth, not from the purpose which is to be attained by it, 
but from the maxim by which it is determined, and therefore does 
not depend on the realization of the object of the action, but merely 
on the principle of volition by which the action has taken place, 
without regard to any object of desire. It is clear from what pre- 

'[Tbe first proposition was that to have moral worth an action must be done from 

312 KANT 

cedes that the purposes which we may have in view in our actions, 
or their effects regarded as ends and springs of the will, cannot give 
to actions any unconditional or moral worth. In what, then, can 
their worth lie, if it is not to consist in the will and in reference to 
its expected effect? It cannot lie anywhere but in the principle of 
the will without regard to the ends which can be attained by the 
action. For the will stands between its <3 priori principle, which is 
formal, and its d. posteriori spring, which is material, as between 
two roads, and as it must be determined by something, it follows 
that it must be determined by the formal principle of volition when 
an action is done from duty, in which case every material principle 
has been withdrawn from it. 

The third proposition, which is a consequence of the two pre- 
ceding, I would express thus: Duty is the necessity of acting from 
respect for the law. I may have inclination for an object as the effect 
of my proposed action, but I cannot have respect for it, just for this 
reason, that it is an effect and not an energy of will. Similarly, I can- 
not have respect for inclination, whether my own or another's; I can 
at most, if my own, approve it; if another's, sometimes even love it; 
i.e. look on it as favourable to my own interest. It is only what is 
connected with my will as a principle, by no means as an effect — 
what does not subserve my inclination, but overpowers it, or at least 
in case of choice excludes it from its calculation — in other words, 
simply the law of itself, which can be an object of respect, and hence 
a command. Now an action done from duty must wholly exclude 
the influence of inclination, and with it every object of the will, so 
that nothing remains which can determine the will except objec- 
tively the law, and subjectively pure respect for this practical law, 
and consequently the maxim^ that I should follow this law even to 
the thwarting of all my inclinations. 

Thus the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect ex- 
pected from it, nor in any principle of action which requires to 
borrow its motive from this expected effect. For all these effects — 
agreeableness of one's condition, and even the promotion of the hap- 

^A maxim is the subjective principle of volition. The objective principle (».ff. 
that which would also serve subjectively as a practical principle to all rational 
beings i£ reason had full power over the faculty of desire) is the practical law. 


piness o£ others — could have been also brought about by other 
causes, so that for this there would have been no need of the will 
of a rational being; whereas it is in this alone that the supreme and 
unconditional good can be found. The pre-eminent good which we 
call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception 
of law in itself, which certainly is only possible in a rational being, 
in so far as this conception, and not the expected effect, determines 
the will. This is a good which is already present in the person who 
acts accordingly, and we have not to wait for it to appear first in 
the result.' 

But what sort of law can that be, the conception of which must 
determine the will, even without paying any regard to the effect 
expected from it, in order that this will may be called good absolutely 
and without qualification? As I have deprived the will of every 
impulse which could arise to it from obedience to any law, there 
remains nothing but the universal conformity of its actions to law 
in general, which alone is to serve the will as a principle, i.e. I am 
never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim 
should become a universal law. Here now, it is the simple con- 
formity to law in general, without assuming any particular law 
applicable to certain actions, that serves the will as its principle, and 
must so serve it, if duty is not to be a vain delusion and a chimerical 

' It might be here objected to me that I take refuge behind the word respect in an 
obscure feeling, instead of giving a distinct solution of the question by a concept 
of the reason. But although respect is a feeling, it is not a feeling received through 
influence, but is self-wrought by a rational concept, and, therefore, is specifically 
distinct from all feelings of the former kind, which may be referred either to 
inclination or fear. What I recognise immediately as a law for me, I recognise with 
respect. This merely signifies the consciousness that my will is subordinate to a 
law, without the intervention of other influences on my sense. The immediate 
determination of the will by the law, and the consciousness of this is called respect, 
so that this is regarded as an effect of the law on the subject, and not as the cause 
of it. Respect is properly the conception of a worth which thwarts my self-love. 
Accordingly it is something which is considered neither as an object of inclination 
nor of fear, although it has something analogous to both. The object of respect 
is the law only, and that, the law which we impose on ourselves, and yet recognise 
as necessary in itself. As a law, we are subjected to it without consulting self-love; 
as imposed by us on ourselves, it is a result of our will. In the former aspect it 
has an analogy to fear, in the latter to inclination. Respect for a person is properly 
only respect for the law (of honesty, &c.), of which he gives us an example. Since 
we also look on the improvement of our talents as a duty, we consider that we see 
in a person of talents, as it were, the example of a law (viz. to become like him in 
this by exercise), and this constitutes our respect. All so-called moral interest consists 
simply in respect for the law. 

314 KANT 

notion. The common reason of men in its practical judgments per- 
fectly coincides with this, and always has in view the principle here 
suggested. Let the question be, for example: May I when in dis- 
tress make a promise with the intention not to keep it? 1 readily 
distinguish here between the two significations which the question 
may have. Whether it is prudent, or whether it is right, to make a 
false promise. The former may undoubtedly often be the case. I 
see clearly indeed that it is not enough to extricate myself from a 
present difficulty by means of this subterfuge, but it must be well 
considered whether there may not hereafter spring from this He 
much greater inconvenience than that from which I now free my- 
self, and as, with all my supposed cunning, the consequences cannot 
be so easily foreseen but that credit once lost may be much more 
injurious to me than any mischief which I seek to avoid at present, 
it should be considered whether it would not be more prudent to 
act herein according to a universal maxim, and to make it a habit 
to promise nothing except with the intention of keeping it. But it 
is soon clear to me that such a maxim will still only be based on the 
fear of consequences. Now it is a wholly different thing to be truth- 
ful from duty, and to be so from apprehension of injurious conse- 
quences. In the first case, the very notion of the action already implies 
a law for me; in the second case, I must first look about elsewhere 
to see what results may be combined with it which would affect 
myself. For to deviate from the principle of duty is beyond all 
doubt wicked; but to be unfaithful to my maxim of prudence may 
often be very advantageous to me, although to abide by it is cer- 
tainly safer. The shortest way, however, and an unerring one, to 
discover the answer to this question whether a lying promise is con- 
sistent with duty, is to ask myself. Should I be content that my 
maxim (to extricate myself from difficulty by a false promise) 
should hold good as a universal law, for myself as well as for others? 
and should I be able to say to myself, "Every one may make a de- 
ceitful promise when he finds himself in a difficulty from which he 
cannot otherwise extricate himself"? Then I presently become aware 
that while I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying 
should be a universal law. For with such a law there would be no 
promises at all, since it would be in vain to allege my intention in re- 


gard to my future actions to those who would not believe this allega- 
tion, or if they over-hastily did so, would pay me back in my own 
coin. Hence my maxim, as soon as it should be made a universal law, 
would necessarily destroy itself. 

I do not, therefore, need any far-reaching penetration to discern 
what I have to do in order that my will may be morally good. 
Inexperienced in the course of the world, incapable of being pre- 
pared for all its contingencies, I only ask myself: Canst thou also 
will that thy maxim should be a universal law ? If not, then it must 
be rejected, and that not because of a disadvantage accruing from it 
to myself or even to others, but because it cannot enter as a prin- 
ciple into a possible universal legislation, and reason extorts from 
me immediate respect for such legislation. I do not indeed as yet 
discern on what this respect is based (this the philosopher may 
inquire), but at least I understand this, that it is an estimation of 
the worth which far outweighs all worth of what is recommended by 
inclination, and that the necessity of acting from pure respect for the 
practical law is what constitutes duty, to which every other motive 
must give place, because it is the condition of a will being good in 
itself, and the worth of such a will is above everything. 

Thus, then, without quitting the moral knowledge of common 
human reason, we have arrived at its principle. And although, no 
doubt, common men do not conceive it in such an abstract and 
universal form, yet they always have it really before their eyes, and 
use it as the standard of their decision. Here it would be easy to 
show how, with this compass in hand, men are well able to dis- 
tinguish, in every case that occurs, what is good, what bad, con- 
formably to duty or inconsistent with it, if, without in the least 
teaching them anything new, we only, like Socrates, direct their 
attention to the principle they themselves employ; and that therefore 
we do not need science and philosophy to know what we should 
do to be honest and good, yea, even wise and virtuous. Indeed we 
might well have conjectured beforehand that the knowledge of what 
every man is bound to do, and therefore also to know, would be 
within the reach of every man, even the commonest.^ Here we can- 

^ [Compare the note to the Preface to the Critique of the Practical Reason, p. iii. 
A specimen of Kant's proposed application of the Socratic method may be found in 
Mr. Semple's translation of the Metaphysic of Ethics, p. 290.] 

3l6 KANT 

not forbear admiration when we see how great an advantage the 
practical judgment has over the theoretical in the common under- 
standing of men. In the latter, if common reason ventures to depart 
from the laws of experience and from the perceptions of the senses 
it falls into mere inconceivabilities and self-contradictions, at least 
into chaos of uncertainty, obscurity, and instability. But in the prac- 
tical sphere it is just when the common understanding excludes all 
sensible springs from practical laws that its power of judgment 
begins to show itself to advantage. It then becomes even subtle, 
whether it be that it chicanes with its own conscience or with other 
claims respecting what is to be called right, or whether it desires for 
its own instruction to determine honestly the worth of actions; and, 
in the latter case, it may even have as good a hope of hitting the mark 
as any philosopher whatever can promise himself. Nay, it is almost 
more sure of doing so, because the philosopher cannot have any 
other principle, while he may easily perplex his judgment by a multi- 
tude of considerations foreign to the matter, and so turn aside from 
the right way. Would it not therefore be wiser in moral concerns 
to acquiesce in the judgment of common reason or at most only to 
call in philosophy for the. purpose of rendering the system of morals 
more complete and intelligible, and its rules more convenient for 
use (especially for disputation), but not so as to draw off the com- 
mon understanding from its happy simplicity, or to bring it by 
means of philosophy into a new path of inquiry and instruction ? 

Innocence is indeed a glorious thing, only, on the other hand, it 
is very sad that it cannot well maintain itself, and is easily seduced. 
On this account even wisdom — which otherwise consists more in 
conduct than in knowledge — yet has need of science, not in order 
to learn from it, but to secure for its precepts admission and per- 
manence. Against all the commands of duty which reason represents 
to man as so deserving of respect, he feels in himself a powerful 
counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of 
which he sums up under the name of happiness. Now reason issues 
its commands unyieldingly, without promising anything to the in- 
clinations, and, as it were, with disregard and contempt for these 
claims, which are so impetuous, and at the same time so plausible, 
and which will not allow themselves to be suppressed by any com- 


mand. Hence there arises a natural dialectic, i. e. a disposition, to 
argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, 
or at least their purity and strictness; and, if possible, to make them 
more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, that is to say, to 
corrupt them at their very source, and entirely to destroy their 
worth — a thing which even common practical reason cannot ultim- 
ately call good. 

Thus is the common reason of man compelled to go out of its 
sphere, and to take a step into the field of a practical philosophy, 
not to satisfy any speculative want (which never occurs to it as long 
as it is content to be mere sound reason), but even on practical 
grounds, in order to attain in it information and clear instruction 
respecting the source of its principle, and the correct determination 
of it in opposition to the maxims which are based on wants and 
inclinations, so that it may escape from the perplexity of opposite 
claims, and not run the risk of losing all genuine moral principles 
through the equivocation into which it easily falls. Thus, when 
practical reason cultivates itself, there insensibly arises in it a dialectic 
which forces it to seek aid in philosophy, just, as happens to it in its 
theoretic use; and in this case, therefore, as well as in the other, it 
will find rest nowhere but in a thorough critical examination of our 



IF we have hitherto drawn our notion of duty from the com- 
mon use of our practical reason, it is by no means to be inferred 
that we have treated it as an empirical notion. On the con- 
trary, if we attend to the experience of men's conduct, we meet fre- 
quent and, as we ourselves allow, just complaints that one cannot 
find a single certain example of the disposition to act from pure 
duty. Although many things are done in conformity with what 
duty prescribes, it is nevertheless always doubtful whether they are 
done stricdy from duty, so as to have a moral worth. Hence there 
have, at all times, been philosophers who have altogether denied that 
this disposition actually exists at all in human actions, and have 
ascribed everything to a more or less refined self-love. Not that they 
have on that account questioned the soundness of the conception of 
morality; on the contrary, they spoke with sincere regret of the 
frailty and corruption of human nature, which though noble enough 
to take as its rule an idea so worthy of respect, is yet too weak to 
follow it, and employs reason, which ought to give it the law only 
for the purpose of providing for the interest of the inclinations, 
whether singly or at the best in the greatest possible harmony with 
one another. 

In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with 
complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, 
however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the 
conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest 
self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of 
duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this 
or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this 
infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of 



self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual 
determining cause of the will. We like then to flatter ourselves by 
falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we 
can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind 
the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral 
worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, 
but with those inward principles of them which we do not see. 

Moreover, we cannot better serve the wishes of those who ridicule 
all morality as a mere chimera of human imagination overstepping 
itself from vanity, than by conceding to them that notions of duty 
must be drawn only from experience (as from indolence, people are 
ready to think is also the case with all other notions) ; for this is to 
prepare for them a certain triumph. I am willing to admit out of 
love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we 
look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which 
is always prominent, and it is this they have in view, and not the 
strict command of duty which would often require self-denial. 
Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does 
not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may 
sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in 
the world, and this especially as years increase and the judgment is 
partly made wiser by experience, and partly also more acute in 
observation. This being so, nothing can secure us from falling away 
altogether from our ideas of duty, or maintain in the soul a well- 
grounded respect for its law, but the clear conviction that although 
there should never have been actions which really sprang from such 
pure sources, yet whether this or that takes place is not at all the 
question; but that reason of itself, independent on all experience, 
ordains what ought to take place, that accordingly actions of which 
perhaps the world has hitherto never given an example, the feasibil- 
ity even of which might be very much doubted by one who founds 
everything on experience, are nevertheless inflexibly commanded by 
reason; that, ex. gr. even though there might never yet have been a 
sincere friend, yet not a whit the less is pure sincerity in friendship 
required of every man, because, prior to all experience, this duty is 
involved as duty in the idea of a reason determining the will by 
ci priori principles. 

320 KANT 

When we add further that, unless we deny that the notion of 
morahty has any truth or reference to any possible object, we must 
admit that its law must be valid, not merely for men, but for all 
rational creatures generally, not merely under certain contingent con- 
ditions or with exceptions, but with absolute necessity, then it is clear 
that no experience could enable us to infer even the possibility of 
such apodictic laws. For with what right could we bring into un- 
bounded respect as a universal precept for every rational nature that 
which perhaps holds only under the contingent conditions of hu- 
manity? Or how could laws of the determination of our will be 
regarded as laws of the determination of the will of rational beings 
generally, and for us only as such, if they were merely empirical, 
and did not take their origin wholly ^ priori from pure but prac- 
tical reason ? 

Nor could anything be more fatal to morality than that we should 
wish to derive it from examples. For every example of it that is set 
before me must be first itself tested by principles of morality, whether 
it is worthy to serve as an original example, i. e., as a pattern, but by 
no means can it authoritatively furnish the conception of morality. 
Even the Holy One of the Gospels must first be compared with our 
ideal of moral perfection before we can recognise Him as such; and 
so He says of Himself, "Why call ye Me (whom you see) good; 
none is good (the model of good) but God only (whom ye do not 
see) ?" But whence have we the conception of God as the supreme 
good? Simply from the idea of moral perfection, which reason 
frames a priori, and connects inseparably with the notion of a free- 
will. Imitation finds no place at all in morality, and examples serve 
only for encouragement, /. e., they put beyond doubt the feasibility 
of what the law commands, they make visible that which the prac- 
tical rule expresses more generally, but they can never authorise us 
to set aside the true original which lies in reason, and to guide our- 
selves by examples. 

If then there is no genuine supreme principle of morality but 
what must rest simply on pure reason, independent on all experience, 
I think it is not necessary even to put the question, whether it is 
good to exhibit these concepts in their generality {in abstracto) as 


they are established i priori along with the principles belonging to 
them, if our knowledge is to be distinguished from the vulgar, and 
to be called philosophical. In our times indeed this might perhaps 
be necessary; for if we collected votes, whether pure rational knowl- 
edge separated from everything empirical, that is to say, metaphysic 
of morals, or whether popular practical philosophy is to be pre- 
ferred, it is easy to guess which side would preponderate. 

This descending to popular notions is certainly very commendable, 
if the ascent to the principles of pure reason has first taken place and 
been satisfactorily accomplished. This implies that we first found 
Ethics on Metaphysics, and then, when it is firmly established, pro- 
cure a hearing for it by giving it a popular character. But it is quite 
absurd to try to be popular in the first inquiry, on which the sound- 
ness of the principles depends. It is not only that this proceeding 
can never lay claim to the very rare merit of a true philosophical 
popularity, since there is no art in being intelligible if one renounces 
all thoroughness of insight; but also it produces a disgusting medley 
of compiled observations and half-reasoned principles. Shallow pates 
enjoy this because it can be used for every-day chat, but the sagacious 
find in it only confusion, and being unsatisfied and unable to help 
themselves, they turn away their eyes, while philosophers, who see 
quite well through this delusion, are little listened to when they 
call men off for a time from this pretended popularity, in order that 
they might be rightfully popular after they have attained a definite 

We need only look at the attempts of moralists in that favourite 
fashion, and we shall find at one time the special constitution o£ 
human nature (including, however, the idea of a rational nature 
generally), at one time perfection, at another happiness, here moral 
sense, there fear of God, a little of this, and a little of that, in mar- 
vellous mixture, without its occurring to them to ask whether the 
principles of morality are to be sought in the knowledge of human 
nature at all (which we can have only from experience) ; and, if this 
is not so, if these principles are to be found altogether ^ priori free 
from everything empirical, in pure rational concepts only, and no- 
where else, not even in the smallest degree; then rather to adopt the 

322 KANT 

method of making this a separate inquiry, as pure practical philos- 
ophy, or (if one may use a name so decried) as metaphysic of morals,* 
to bring it by itself to completeness, and to require the public, which 
wishes for popular treatment, to await the issue of this under- 

Such a metaphysic of morals, completely isolated, not mixed with 
any anthropology, theology, physics, or hyperphysics, and still less 
with occult qualities (which we might call hypophysical), is not 
only an indispensable substratum of all sound theoretical knowledge 
of duties, but is at the same time a desideratum of the highest im- 
portance to the actual fulfilment of their precepts. For the pure con- 
ception of duty, unmixed with any foreign addition of empirical 
attractions, and, in a word, the conception of the moral law, exer- 
cises on the human heart, by way of reason alone (which first be- 
comes aware with this that it can of itself be practical), an influence 
so much more powerful than all other springs^ which may be derived 
from the field of experience, that in the consciousness of its worth, 
it despises the latter, and can by degrees become their master; whereas 
a mixed ethics, compounded partly of motives drawn from feelings 
and inclinations, and partly also of conceptions of reason, must make 
the mind waver between motives which cannot be brought under 
any principle, which lead to good only by mere accident, and very 
often also to evil. 

' Just as pure mathematics are distinguished from applied, pure logic from 
applied, so if we choose we may also distinguish pure philosophy of morals (meta- 
physic) from applied (viz. applied to human nature). By this designation we are 
also at once reminded that moral principles are not based on properties of human 
nature, but must subsist ^ priori of themselves, while from such principles practical 
rules must be capable of being deduced for every rational nature, and accordingly 
for that of man. 

^I have a letter from the late excellent Sulzer, in which he asks me what can be 
the reason that moral instruction, although containing much that is convincing for 
the reason, yet accomplishes so little? My answer was postponed in order that I 
might make it complete. But it is simply this, that the teachers themselves have 
not got their own notions clear, and when they endeavour to make up for this 
by raking up motives of moral goodness from every quarter, trying to make their 
physic right strong, they spoil it. For the commonest understanding shows that if 
we imagine, on the one hand, an act of honesty done with steadfast mind, apart 
from every view to advantage of any kind in this world or another, and even under 
the greatest temptations of necessity or allurement, and, on the other hand, a 
similar act which was affected, in however low a degree, by a foreign motive, the 
former leaves far behind and eclipses the second; it elevates the soul, and inspires 
the wish to be able to act in like manner oneself. Even moderately young children 
feel this impression, and one should never represent duties to them in any other light. 


From what has been said, it is clear that all moral conceptions have 
their seat and origin completely ^ priori in the reason, and that, 
moreover, in the commonest reason just as truly as in that which 
is in the highest degree speculative; that they cannot be obtained by 
abstraction from any empirical, and therefore merely contingent 
knowledge; that it is just this purity of their origin that makes them 
worthy to serve as our supreme practical principle, and that just in 
proportion as we add anything empirical, we detract from their 
genuine influence, and from the absolute value of actions; that it is 
not only of the greatest necessity, in a purely speculative point of 
view, but is also of the greatest practical importance to derive these 
notions and laws from pure reason, to present them pure and un- 
mixed, and even to determine the compass of this practical or pure 
rational knowledge, i. e. to determine the whole faculty of pure prac- 
tical reason; and, in doing so, we must not make its principles de- 
pendent on the particular nature of human reason, though in specu- 
lative philosophy this may be permitted, or may even at times be 
necessary; but since moral laws ought to hold good for every rational 
creature, we must derive them from the general concept of a rational 
being. In this way, although for its application to man morality has 
need of anthropology, yet, in the first instance, we must treat it 
independently as pure philosophy, /. e. as metaphysic, complete in 
itself (a thing which in such distinct branches of science is easily 
done) ; knowing well that unless we are in possession of this, it 
would not only be vain to determine the moral element of duty in 
right actions for purposes of speculative criticism, but it would be 
impossible to base morals on their genuine principles, even for com- 
mon practical purposes, especially of moral instruction, so as to pro- 
duce pure moral dispositions, and to engraft them on men's minds 
to the promotion of the greatest possible good in the world. 

But in order that in this study we may not merely advance by the 
natural steps from the common moral judgment (in this case very 
worthy of respect) to the philosophical, as has been already done, 
but also from a popular philosophy, which goes no further than it 
can reach by groping with the help of examples, to metaphysic 
(which does not allow itself to be checked by anything empirical, 
and as it must measure the whole extent of this kind of rational 

324 KANT 

knowledge, goes as far as ideal conceptions, where even examples 
fail us), we must follow and clearly describe the practical faculty 
of reason, from the general rules of its determination to the point 
where the notion of duty springs from it. 

Everything in nature works according to laws. Rational beings 
alone have the faculty of acting according to the conception of laws, 
that is according to principles, /. e., have a will. Since the deduction 
of actions from principles requires reason, the will is nothing but 
practical reason. If reason infallibly determines the will, then the 
actions of such a being which are recognised as objectively necessary 
are subjectively necessary also, /. e., the will is a faculty to choose that 
only which reason independent on inclination recognises as prac- 
tically necessary, /. e., as good. But if reason of itself does not suffi- 
ciently determine the will, if the latter is subject also to subjective 
conditions (particular impulses) which do not always coincide with 
the objective conditions; in a word, if the will does not in itself com- 
pletely accord with reason (which is actually the case with men), 
then the actions which objectively are recognised as necessary are 
subjectively contingent, and the determination of such a will accord- 
ing to objective laws is obligation, that is to say, the relation of the 
objective laws to a will that is not thoroughly good is conceived as 
the determination of the will of a rational being by principles of 
reason, but which the will from its nature does not of necessity 

The conception of an objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory 
for a will, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the 
command is called an Imperative. 

All imperatives are expressed by the word ought [or shall], and 
thereby indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will, 
which from its subjective constitution is not necessarily determined 
by it (an obligation). They say that something would be good to 
do or to forbear, but they say it to a will which does not always do 
a thing because it is conceived to be good to do it. That is practically 
good, however, which determines the will by means of the concep- 
tions of reason, and consequently not from subjective causes, but 
objectively, that is on principles which are valid for every rational 
being as such. It is distinguished from the pleasant, as that which 


influences the will only by means of sensation from merely subjec- 
tive causes, valid only for the sense of this or that one, and not as 
a principle of reason, which holds for every one.' 

A perfectly good will would therefore be equally subject to objec- 
tive laws (viz. laws of good), but could not be conceived as obliged 
thereby to act lawfully, because of itself from its subjective constitu- 
tion it can only be determined by the conception of good. There- 
fore no imperatives hold for the Divine will, or in general for a holy 
will; ought is here out of place, because the volition is already of 
itself necessarily in unison with the law. Therefore imperatives are 
only formulae to express the relation of objective laws of all volition 
to the subjective imperfection of the will of this or that rational 
being, e. g. the human will. 

Now all imperatives command either hypothetically or categoric- 
ally. The former represent the practical necessity of a possible action 
as means to something else that is willed (or at least which one 
might possibly will). The categorical imperative would be that 
which represented an action as necessary of itself without reference 
to another end, /. e., as objectively necessary. 

Since every practical law represents a possible action as good, and 
on this account, for a subject who is practically determinable by 
reason, necessary, all imperatives are formulae determining an action 
which is necessary according to the principle of a will good in some 
respects. If now the action is good only as a means to something else, 
then the imperative is hypothetical; if it is conceived as good in itself 
and consequently as being necessarily the principle of a will which 
of itself conforms to reason, then it is categorical. 

'The dependence of the desires on sensations is called inclination, and this 
accordingly always indicates a want. The dependence of a contingently determinable 
will on principles of reason is called an interest. This therefore is found only in the 
case of a dependent will, which does not always of itself conform to reason; in the 
Divine will we cannot conceive any interest. But the human will can also take an 
interest in a thing without therefore acting from interest. The former signifies the 
practical interest in the action, the latter the pathological in the object of the action. 
The former indicates only dependence of the will or principles of reason in themselves; 
the second, dependence on principles of reason for the sake of inclination, reason 
supplying only the practical rules how the requirement of the inclination may be 
satisfied. In the first case the action interests me; in the second the object of the 
action (because it is pleasant to me). We have seen in the first section that in an 
action done from duty we must look not to the interest in the object, but only to 
that in the action itself, and in its rational principle (viz. the law). 

326 KANT 

Thus the imperative declares what action possible by me would 
be good, and presents the practical rule in relation to a will which 
does not forthwith perform an action simply because it is good, 
whether because the subject does not always know that it is good, 
or because, even if it know this, yet its maxims might be opposed to 
the objective principles of practical reason. 

Accordingly the hypothetical imperative only says that the action 
is good for some purpose, possible or actual. In the first case it is a 
Problematical, in the second an Assertorial practical principle. The 
categorical imperative which declares an action to be objectively 
necessary in itself without reference to any purpose, /'. e., without any 
other end, is valid as an Apodictic (practical) principle. 

Whatever is possible only by the power of some rational being 
may also be conceived as a possible purpose of some will; and there- 
fore the principles of action as regards the means necessary to attain 
some possible purpose are in fact infinitely numerous. All sciences 
have a practical part, consisting of problems expressing that some 
end is possible for us, and of imperatives directing how it may be 
attained. These may, therefore, be called in general imperatives of 
Skill. Here there is no question whether the end is rational and 
good, but only what one must do in order to attain it. The precepts 
for the physician to make his patient thoroughly healthy, and for 
a poisoner to ensure certain death, are of equal value in this respect, 
that each serves to effect its purpose perfectly. Since in early youth 
it cannot be known what ends are likely to occur to us in the course 
of life, parents seek to have their children taught a great many things, 
and provide for their sl^ill in the use of means for all sorts of arbitrary 
ends, of none of which can they determine whether it may not per- 
haps hereafter be an object to their pupil, but which it is at all events 
possible that he might aim at; and this anxiety is so great that they 
commonly neglect to form and correct their judgment on the value 
of the things which may be chosen as ends. 

There is one end, however, which may be assumed to be actually 
such to all rational beings (so far as imperatives apply to them, viz. 
as dependent beings), and therefore, one purpose which they not 
merely may have, but which we may with certainty assume that 
they all actually have by a natural necessity, and this is happiness. 


The hypothetical imperative which expresses the practical necessity 
of an action as means to the advancement of happiness is Assertorial. 
We are not to present it as necessary for an uncertain and merely 
possible purpose, but for a purpose which we may presuppose with 
certainty and ^ priori in every man, because it belongs to his being. 
Now skill in the choice of means to his own greatest well-being may 
be called prudence* in the narrowest sense. And thus the impera- 
tive which refers to the choice of means to one's own happiness, i. e., 
the precept of prudence, is still always hypothetical; the action is 
not commanded absolutely, but only as means to another purpose. 

Finally, there is an imperative which commands a certain conduct 
immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to 
be attained by it. This imperative is Categorical. It concerns not 
the matter of the action, or its intended result, but its form and the 
principle of which it is itself a result, and what is essentially good 
in it consists in the mental disposition, let the consequence be what 
it may. This imperative may be called that of Morality. 

There is a marked distinction also between the volitions on these 
three sorts of principles in the dissimilarity of the obligation of the 
will. In order to mark this difference more clearly, I think they 
would be most suitably named in their order if we said they are 
either rules of skill, or counsels of prudence, or commands (laws) 
of moraUty. For it is law only that involves the conception of an 
unconditional and objective necessity, which is consequently uni- 
versally valid; and commands are laws which must be obeyed, that 
is, must be followed, even in opposition to inclination. Counsels, 
indeed, involve necessity, but one which can only hold under a con- 
tingent subjective condition, viz. they depend on whether this or 
that man reckons this or that as part of his happiness; the categorical 
imperative, on the contrary, is not limited by any condition, and as 
being absolutely, although practically, necessary, may be quite prop- 

^The word prudence is taken in two senses: in the one it may bear the name of 
knowledge o£ the world, in the other that of private prudence. The former is a 
man's ability to influence others so as to use them for his own purposes. The latter 
is the sagacity to combine all these purposes for his own lasting benefit. This l3.tter 
is properly that to which the value even of the former is reduced, and when a man 
is prudent in the former sense, but not in the latter, we might better say of him 
that he is clever and cunning, but, on the whole, imprudent. [Compare on the 
difference between kjug and gescheu here alluded to, Anthropologie, § 45, ed. 
Schubert, p. no.] 

328 KANT 

erly called a command. We might also call the first kind of impera- 
tives technical (belonging to art), the second pragmatic^ (to wel- 
fare), the third moral (belonging to free conduct generally, that 
is, to morals). 

Now arises the question, how are all these imperatives possible? 
This question does not seek to know how we can conceive the 
accomplishment of the action which the imperative ordains, but 
merely how we can conceive the obligation of the will which the 
imperative expresses. No special explanation is needed to show how 
an imperative of skill is possible. Whoever wills the end, wills also 
(so far as reason decides his conduct) the means in his power which 
are indispensably necessary thereto. This proposition is, as regards 
the volition, analytical; for, in willing an object as my effect, there 
is already thought the causality of myself as an acting cause, that is 
to say, the use of the means; and the imperative educes from the 
conception of volition of an end the conception of actions necessary 
to this end. Synthetical propositions must no doubt be employed in 
defining the means to a proposed end; but they do not concern the 
principle, the act of the will, but the object and its realization. Ex. gr., 
that in order to bisect a line on an unerring principle I must draw 
from its extremities two intersecting arcs; this no doubt is taught 
by mathematics only in synthetical propositions; but if I know that 
it is only by this process that the intended operation can be per- 
formed, then to say that if I fully will the operation, I also will the 
action required for it, is an analytical proposition; for it is one and 
the same thing to conceive something as an effect which I can pro- 
duce in a certain way, and to conceive myself as acting in this way. 

If it were only equally easy to give a definite conception of happi- 
ness, the imperatives of prudence would correspond exactly with 
those of skill, and would likewise be analytical. For in this case as 
in that, it could be said, whoever wills the end, wills also (according 
to the dictate of reason necessarily) the indispensable means thereto 
which are in his power. But, unfortunately, the notion of happiness 

' It seems to me that the proper signification of the word pragmatic may be most 
accurately defined in this way. For sanctions [see Cr. of Pract. Reas., p. 271] are 
called pragmatic which flow properly, not from the law of the states as necessary 
enactments, but from precaution for the general welfare. A history is composed 
pragmatically when it teaches prudence, i. e. instructs the world how it can provide for 
its interests better, or at least as well as the men of former time. 


is so indefinite that although every man wishes to attain it, yet he 
never can say definitely and consistently what it is that he really 
wishes and wills. The reason of this is that all the elements which 
belong to the notion of happiness are altogether empirical, /'. e. they 
must be borrowed from experience, and nevertheless the idea of hap- 
piness requires an absolute whole, a maximum of welfare in my 
present and all future circumstances. Now it is impossible that the 
most clear-sighted, and at the same time most powerful being (sup- 
posed finite), should frame to himself a definite conception of what 
he really wills in this. Does he will riches, how much anxiety, envy, 
and snares might he not thereby draw upon his shoulders } Does he 
will knowledge and discernment, perhaps it might prove to be only 
an eye so much the sharper to show him so much the more fear- 
fully the evils that are now concealed from him, and that cannot be 
avoided, or to impose more wants on his desires, which already give 
him concern enough. Would he have long life, who guarantees to 
him that it would not be a long misery? would he at least have 
health? how often has uneasiness of the body restrained from ex- 
cesses into which perfect health would have allowed one to fall? 
and so on. In short he is unable, on any principle, to determine with 
certainty what would make him truly happy; because to do so he 
would need to be omniscient. We cannot therefore act on any def- 
inite principles to secure happiness, but only on empirical counsels, 
ex. gr. of regimen, frugality, courtesy, reserve, &c., which experience 
teaches do, on the average, most promote well-being. Hence it fol- 
lows that the imperatives of prudence do not, strictly speaking, 
command at all, that is, they cannot present actions objectively as 
practically necessary; that they are rather to be regarded as counsels 
(consilia) than precepts {prceceptd) of reason, that the problem to 
determine certainly and universally what action would promote the 
happiness of a rational being is completely insoluble, and conse- 
quently no imperative respecting it is possible which should, in the 
strict sense, command to do what makes happy; because happiness 
is not an ideal of reason but of imagination, resting solely on em- 
pirical grounds, and it is vain to expect that these should define an 
action by which one could attain the totality of a series of conse- 
quences which is really endless. This imperative of prudence would 

330 KANT 

however be an analytical proposition if we assume that the means to 
happiness could be certainly assigned; for it is distinguished from 
the imperative of skill only by this, that in the latter the end is 
merely possible, in the former it is given; as however both only 
ordain the means to that which we suppose to be willed as an end, it 
follows that the imperative which ordains the willing of the means 
to him who wills the end is in both cases analytical. Thus there is 
no difficulty in regard to the possibility of an imperative of this kind 

On the other hand the question, how the imperative of morality 
is possible, is undoubtedly one, the only one, demanding a solution, 
as this is not at all hypothetical, and the objective necessity which it 
presents cannot rest on any hypothesis, as is the case with the hypo- 
thetical imperatives. Only here we must never leave out of con- 
sideration that we cannot make out by any example, in other words 
empirically, whether there is such an imperative at all; but it is 
rather to be feared that all those which seem to be categorical may 
yet be at bottom hypothetical. For instance, when the precept is: 
Thou shalt not promise deceitfully; and it is assumed that the neces- 
sity of this is not a mere counsel to avoid some other evil, so that it 
should mean : thou shalt not make a lying promise, lest if it become 
known thou shouldst destroy thy credit, but that an action of this 
kind must be regarded as evil in itself, so that the imperative of the 
prohibition is categorical; then we cannot show with certainty in any 
example that the will was determined merely by the law, without 
any other spring of action, although it may appear to be so. For it 
is always possible that fear of disgrace, perhaps also obscure dread 
of other dangers, may have a secret influence on the will. Who can 
prove by experience the non-existence of a cause when all that expe- 
rience tells us is that we do not perceive it? But in such a case the 
so-called moral imperative, which as such appears to be categorical 
and unconditional, would in reality be only a pragmatic precept, 
drawing our attention to our own interests, and merely teaching us 
to take these into consideration. 

We shall therefore have to investigate ^ priori the possibility of a 
categorical imperative, as we have not in this case the advantage of 
its reality being given in experience, so that [the elucidation of] its 


possibility should be requisite only for its explanation, not for its 
establishment. In the meantime it may be discerned beforehand that 
the categorical imperative alone has the purport of a practical law: 
all the rest may indeed be called principles of the will but not laws, 
since whatever is only necessary for the attainment of some arbitrary 
purpose may be considered as in itself contingent, and we can at any 
time be free from the precept if we give up the purpose : on the con- 
trary, the unconditional command leaves the will no liberty to choose 
the opposite; consequendy it alone carries with it that necessity which 
we require in a law. 

Secondly, in the case of this categorical imperative or law of 
morality, the difficulty (of discerning its possibility) is a very pro- 
found one. It is an d. priori synthetical practical proposition"; and as 
there is so much difficulty in discerning the possibility of speculative 
propositions of this kind, it may readily be supposed that the diffi- 
culty will be no less with the practical. 

In this problem we will first inquire whether the mere conception 
of a categorical imperative may not perhaps supply us also with the 
formula of it, containing the proposition vvhich alone can be a 
categorical imperative; for even if we know the tenor of such abso- 
lute command, yet how it is possible will require further special and 
laborious study, which we postpone to the last section. 

When I conceive a hypothetical imperative in general I do not 
know beforehand what it will contain until I am given the condi- 
tion. But when I conceive a categorical imperative I know at once 
what it contains. For as the imperative contains besides the law 
only the necessity that the maxims' shall conform to this law, while 
the law contains no conditions restricting it, there remains nothing 

' I connect the act with the will without presupposing any condition resulting 
from any inclination, but a priori, and therefore necessarily (though only objectively, 
J. e. assuming the idea of a reason possessing full power over all subjective motives). 
This is accordingly a practical proposition which does not deduce the willing of an 
action by mere analysis from another already presupposed (for we have not such a 
perfect will), but connects it immediately with the conception of the will of a 
rational being, as something not contained in it. 

' A MAXIM is a subjective principle of action, and must be distinguished from the 
objective principle, namely, practical law. The former contains the practical rule 
set by reason according to the conditions of the subject (often its ignorance or its 
inclinations), so that it is the principle on which the subject acts; but the law is 
the objective principle valid for every rational being, and is the principle on which it 
ought to act that is an imperative. 

332 KANT 

but the general statement that the maxim of the action should con- 
form to a universal law, and it is this conformity alone that the 
imperative properly represents as necessary.' 

There is therefore but one categorical imperative, namely this: 
Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will 
that it should become a universal law. 

Now if all imperatives of duty can be deduced from this one 
imperative as from their principle, then, although it should remain 
undecided whether what is called duty is not merely a vain notion, 
yet at least we shall be able to show what we understand by it and 
what this notion means. 

Since the universality of the law according to which effects are 
produced constitutes what is properly called nature in the most gen- 
eral sense (as to form), that is the existence of things so far as it is 
determined by general laws, the imperative of duty may be ex- 
pressed thus: Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by 
thy will a Universal Law of Nature. 

We will now enumerate a few duties, adopting the usual division 
of them into duties to ourselves and to others, and into perfect and 
imperfect duties.' 

I. A man reduced to despair by a series of misfortunes feels 
wearied of life, but is still so far in possession of his reason that he 
can ask himself whether it would not be contrary to his duty to 
himself to take his own life. Now he inquires whether the maxim 
of his action could become a universal law of nature. His maxim 
is: From self-love I adopt it as a principle to shorten my life when 
its longer duration is likely to bring more evil than satisfaction. It 
is asked then simply whether this principle founded on self-love 

' [I have no doubt that "den" in the original before "Imperativ" is a misprint 
for "der," and have translated accordingly. Mr. Semple has done the same. The 
editions that I have seen agree in reading "den," and M. Barni so translates. With 
this reading, it is the conformity that presents the imperative as necessary.] 

9 It must be noted here that I reserve the division of duties for a future metaphysic 
of morals; so that I give it here only as an arbitrary one (in order to arrange my 
examples). For the rest, I understand by a perfect duty one that admits no exception 
in favour of inclination, and then I have not merely external, but also internal perfect 
duties. This is contrary to the use of the vi^ord adopted in the schools; but I do not 
intend to justify it here, as it is all one for my purpose whether it is admitted or not 
[Perfect duties are usually understood to be those which can be enforced by external 
law; imperfect, those which cannot be enforced. They are also called respectively 
determinate and indeterminate, officia juris and officia virtutis.] 


can become a universal law o£ nature. Now we see at once that a 
system of nature of which it should be a law to destroy life by means 
of the very feeling whose special nature it is to impel to the improve- 
ment of life would contradict itself, and therefore could not exist as 
a system of nature; hence that maxim cannot possibly exist as a uni- 
versal law of nature, and consequently would be wholly inconsistent 
with the supreme principle of all duty.'" 

2. Another finds himself forced by necessity to borrow money. He 
knows that he will not be able to repay it, but sees also that nothing 
will be lent to him, unless he promises stoutly to repay it in a definite 
time. He desires to make this promise, but he has still so much con- 
science as to ask himself: Is it not unlawful and inconsistent with 
duty to get out of a difficulty in this way ? Suppose, however, that 
he resolves to do so, then the maxim of his action would be expressed 
thus: When I think myself in want of money, I will borrow money 
and promise to repay it, although I know that I never can do so. 
Now this principle of self-love or of one's own advantage may per- 
haps be consistent with my whole future welfare; but the question 
now is. Is it right ? I change then the suggestion of self-love into a 
universal law, and state the question thus: How would it be if my 
maxim were a universal law ? Then I see at once that it could never 
hold as a universal law of nature, but would necessarily contradict 
itself. For supposing it to be a universal law that everyone when he 
thinks himself in a difficulty should be able to promise whatever he 
pleases, with the purpose of not keeping his promise, the promise 
itself would become impossible, as well as the end that one might 
have in view in it, since no one would consider that anything was 
promised to him, but would ridicule all such statements as vain 

3. A third finds in himself a talent which with the help of some 
culture might make him a useful man in many respects. But he 
finds himself in comfortable circumstances, and prefers to indulge in 
pleasure rather than to take pains in enlarging and improving his 
happy natural capacities. He asks, however, whether his maxim of 
neglect of his natural gifts, besides agreeing with his inclination to 
indulgence, agrees also with what is called duty. He sees then that 

'" [On suicide cf. further Metaphysik. der Sitten, p. 274.] 

334 KANT 

a system of nature could indeed subsist with such a universal law 
although men (like the South Sea islanders) should let their talents 
rust, and resolve to devote their lives merely to idleness, amusement, 
and propagation of their species — in a word, to enjoyment; but he 
cannot possibly will that this should be a universal law of nature, or 
be implanted in us as such by a natural instinct. For, as a rational 
being, he necessarily wills that his faculties be developed, since they 
serve him, and have been given him, for all sorts of possible pur- 

4. A fourth, who is in prosperity, while he sees that others have 
to contend with great wretchedness and that he could help them, 
thinks: What concern is it of mine? Let everyone be as happy as 
heaven pleases, or as he can make himself; I will take nothing from 
him nor even envy him, only I do not wish to contribute anything 
to his welfare or to his assistance in distress! Now no doubt if such 
a mode of thinking were a universal law, the human race might very 
well subsist, and doubdess even better than in a state in which 
everyone talks of sympathy and good-will, or even takes care occa- 
sionally to put it into practice, but on the other side, also cheats when 
he can, betrays the rights of men, or otherwise violates them. But 
although it is possible that a universal law of nature might exist in 
accordance with that maxim, it is impossible to will that such a 
principle should have the universal validity of a law of nature. For 
a will which resolved this would contradict itself, inasmuch as many 
cases might occur in which one would have need of the love and 
sympathy of others, and in which, by such a law of nature, sprung 
from his own will, he would deprive himself of all hope of the aid 
he desires. 

These are a few of the many actual duties, or at least what we 
regard as such, which obviously fall into two classes on the one 
principle that we have laid down. We must be able to will that a 
maxim of our action should be a universal law. This is the canon of 
the moral appreciation of the action generally. Some actions are of 
such a character that their maxim cannot without contradiction be 
even conceived as a universal law of nature, far from it being possible 
that we should will that it should be so. In others this intrinsic im- 
possibility is not found, but still it is impossible to will that their 


maxim should be raised to the universality of a law of nature, since 
such a will would contradict itself. It is easily seen that the former 
violate strict or rigorous (inflexible) duty; the latter only laxer 
(meritorious) duty. Thus it has been completely shown by these 
examples how all duties depend as regards the nature of the obliga- 
tion (not the object of the action) on the same principle. 

If now we attend to ourselves on occasion of any transgression 
of duty, we shall find that we in fact do not will that our maxim 
should be a universal law, for that is impossible for us; on the con- 
trary we will that the opposite should remain a universal law, only 
we assume the liberty of making an exception in our own favour 
or (just for this time only) in favour of our inclination. Conse- 
quently if we considered all cases from one and the same point of 
view, namely, that of reason, we should find a contradiction in our 
own will, namely, that a certain principle should be objectively 
necessary as a universal law, and yet subjectively should not be 
universal, but admit of exceptions. As however we at one moment 
regard our action from the point of view of a will wholly conformed 
to reason, and then again look at the same action from the point of 
view of a will affected by inclination, there is not really any contra- 
diction, but an antagonism of inclination to the precept of reason, 
whereby the universality of the principle is changed into a mere 
generality, so that the practical principle of reason shall meet the 
maxim half way. Now, although this cannot be justified in our own 
impartial judgment, yet it proves that we do really recognise the 
validity of the categorical imperative and (with all respect for it) 
only allow ourselves a few exceptions, which we think unimportant 
and forced from us. 

We have thus established at least this much, that if duty is a con- 
ception which is to have any import and real legislative authority 
for our actions, it can only be expressed in categorical, and not at 
all in hypothetical imperatives. We have also, which is of great 
importance, exhibited clearly and definitely for every practical appli- 
cation the content of the categorical imperative, which must contain 
the principle of all duty if there is such a thing at all. We have not 
yet, however, advanced so far as to prove a priori that there actually 
is such an imperative, that there is a practical law which commands 

336 KANT 

absolutely of itself, and without any other impulse, and that the fol- 
lowing of this law is duty. 

With the view of attaining to this it is of extreme importance to 
remember that we must not allow ourselves to think of deducing the 
reality of this principle from the particular attributes of human 
nature. For duty is to be a practical, unconditional necessity of ac- 
tion; it must therefore hold for all rational beings (to whom an 
imperative can apply at all) and for this reason only be also a law 
for all human wills. On the contrary, whatever is deduced from the 
particular natural characteristics of humanity, from certain feelings 
and propensions," nay even, if possible, from any particular tendency 
proper to human reason, and which need not necessarily hold for the 
will of every rational being; this may indeed supply us with a maxim, 
but not with a law; with a subjective principle on which we may 
have a propension and inclination to act, but not with an objective 
principle on which we should be enjoined to act, even though all 
our propensions, inclinations, and natural dispositions were opposed 
to it. In fact the sublimity and intrinsic dignity of the command in 
duty are so much the more evident, the less the subjective impulses 
favour it and the more. they oppose it, without being able in the 
slightest degree to weaken the obligation of the law or to distinguish 
its vahdity. 

Here then we see philosophy brought to a critical position, since 
it has to be firmly fixed, notwithstanding that it has nothing to sup- 
port it either in heaven or earth. Here it must show its purity as 
absolute dictator of its own laws, not the herald of those which are 
whispered to it by an implanted sense or who knows what tutelary 
nature. Although these may be better than nothing, yet they can 
never afford principles dictated by reason, which must have their 
source wholly a priori and thence their commanding authority, 
expecting everything from the supremacy of the law and the due 
respect for it, nothing from inclination, or else condemning the man 
to self -contempt and inward abhorrence. 

"[Kant distinguishes "Hang (propensio)" from "Neigung (inclinatio)" as fol- 
lows: — "Hang" is a predisposition to the desire of some enjoyment; in other words, 
it is the subjective possibility of excitement of a certain desire, which precedes the 
conception of its object. When the enjoyment has been experienced, it produces a 
"Neigung" (inclination) to it, which accordingly is defined "habitual sensible 
desire."- — Anthropologic, %% Ti, 79; Religion, p. 31.] 


Thus every empirical element is not only quite incapable o£ being 
an aid to the principle of morality, but is even highly prejudicial 
to the purity of morals, for the proper and inestimable worth of an 
absolutely good will consists just in this, that the principle of action 
is free from all influence of contingent grounds, which alone experi- 
ence can furnish. We cannot too much or too often repeat our warn- 
ing against this lax and even mean habit of thought which seeks for 
its principle amongst empirical motives and laws; for human reason 
in its weariness is glad to rest on this pillow, and in a dream of sweet 
illusions (in which, instead of Juno, it embraces a cloud) it sub- 
stitutes for morality a bastard patched up from limbs of various 
derivation, which looks like anything one chooses to see in it; only 
not like virtue to one who has once beheld her in her true form.'^ 

The question then is this: Is it a necessary law for all rational 
beings that they should always judge of their actions by maxims of 
which they can themselves will that they should serve as universal 
laws? If it is so, then it must be connected (altogether ^ priori) 
with the very conception of the will of a rational being generally. 
But in order to discover this connexion we must, however reluctantly, 
take a step into metaphysic, although into a domain of it which is 
distinct from speculative philosophy, namely, the metaphysic of 
morals. In a practical philosophy, where it is not the reasons of what 
happens that we have to ascertain, but the laws of what ought to 
happen, even although it never does, i.e., objective practical laws, 
there it is not necessary to inquire into the reasons why anything 
pleases or displeases, how the pleasure of mere sensation differs from 
taste, and whether the latter is distinct from a general satisfaction 
of reason; on what the feeling of pleasure or pain rests, and how 
from it desires and inclinations arise, and from these again maxims 
by the co-operation of reason: for all this belongs to an empirical 
psychology, which would constitute the second part of physics, if we 
regard physics as the philosophy of nature, so far as it is based on 
empirical laws. But here we are concerned with objective practical 

'^ To behold virtue in her proper form is nothing else but to contemplate morality 
stripped of all admixture of sensible things and of every spurious ornament of reward 
or self-love. How much she then eclipses everything else that appears charming to 
the affections, every one may readily perceive with the least exertion of his reason, 
if it be not wholly spoiled for abstraction. 

338 KANT 

laws, and consequently with the relation o£ the will to itself so far as 
it is determined by reason alone, in which case whatever has ref- 
erence to anything empirical is necessarily excluded; since if reason 
of itself done determines the conduct (and it is the possibility of 
this that we are now investigating), it must necessarily do so ^ priori. 

The will is conceived as a faculty of determining oneself to action 
in accordance with the conception of certain laws. And such a 
faculty can be found only in rational beings. Now that which serves 
the will as the objective ground of its self-determination is the end, 
and if this is assigned by reason alone, it must hold for all rational 
beings. On the other hand, that which merely contains the ground 
of possibility of the action of which the effect is the end, this is 
called the means. The subjective ground of the desire is the spring, 
the objective ground of the volition is the motive; hence the distinc- 
tion between subjective ends which rest on springs and objective 
ends which depend on motives valid for every rational being. Prac- 
tical principles are formal when they abstract from all subjective 
ends, they are material when they assume these, and therefore par- 
ticular springs of action. The ends which a rational being proposes 
to himself at pleasure as effects of his actions (material ends) are 
all only relative, for it is only their relation to the particular desires 
of the subject that gives them their worth, which therefore cannot 
furnish principles universal and necessary for all rational beings and 
for every volition, that is to say practical laws. Hence all these 
relative ends can give rise only to hypothetical imperatives. 

Supposing, however, that there were something whose existence 
has in itself an absolute worth, something which, being an end in 
itself, could be a source of definite laws, then in this and this alone 
would lie the source of a possible categorical imperative, i. e., a 
practical law. 

Now I say : man and generally any rational being exists as an end 
in himself, not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or 
that will, but in all his actions, whether they concern himself or 
other rational beings, must be always regarded at the same time as 
an end. All objects of the inclinations have only a conditional worth, 
for if the inclinations and the wants founded on them did not exist, 
then their object would be without value. But the inclinations them- 


selves being sources of want, are so far from having an absolute 
worth for which they should be desired, that on the contrary it must 
be the universal wish of every rational being to be wholly free from 
them. Thus the worth of any object which is to be acquired by our 
action is always conditional. Beings whose existence depends not 
on our will but on nature's, have nevertheless, if they are irrational 
beings, only a relative value as means, and are therefore called 
things; rational beings, on the contrary, are called persons, because 
their very nature points them out as ends in themselves, that is as 
something which must not be used merely as means, and so far 
therefore restricts freedom of action (and is an object of respect). 
These, therefore, are not merely subjective ends whose existence has 
a worth jor us as an effect of our action but objective ends, that is 
things whose existence is an end in itself: an end moreover for which 
no other can be substituted, which they should subserve merely as 
means, for otherwise nothing whatever would possess absolute worth; 
but if all worth were conditioned and therefore contingent, then 
there would be no supreme practical principle of reason whatever. 

If then there is a supreme practical principle or, in respect of the 
human will, a categorical imperative, it must be one which, being 
drawn from the conception of that which is necessarily an end for 
every one because it is an end in itself, constitutes an objective prin- 
ciple of will, and can therefore serve as a universal practical law. 
The foundation of this principle is: rational nature exists as an end 
in itself. Man necessarily conceives his own existence as being so; 
so far then this is a subjective principle of human actions. But every 
other rational being regards its existence similarly, just on the same 
rational principle that holds for me:'' so that it is at the same time 
an objective principle, from which as a supreme practical law all 
laws of the will must be capable of being deduced. Accordingly the 
practical imperative will be as follows: So act as to treat humanity, 
whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as 
an end withal, never as means only. We will now inquire whether 
this can be practically carried out. 

To abide by the previous examples: 

'^This proposition is here stated as a postulate. The grounds of it will be found 
in the concluding section. 

340 KANT 

Firstly, under the head o£ necessary duty to oneself: He who con- 
templates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be con- 
sistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys 
himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a 
person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the 
end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something 
which can be used merely as means, but must in all his actions be 
always considered as an end in himself. I cannot, therefore, dispose 
in any way of a man in my own person so as to mutilate him, to 
damage or kill him. (It belongs to ethics proper to define this prin- 
ciple more precisely so as to avoid all misunderstanding, e. g., as to 
the amputation of the limbs in order to preserve myself; as to ex- 
posing my life to danger with a view to preserve it, &c. This question 
is therefore omitted here.) 

Secondly, as regards necessary duties, or those of strict obligation, 
towards others; he who is thinking of making a lying promise to 
others will see at once that he would be using another man merely as 
a mean, without the latter containing at the same time the end in 
himself. For he whom I propose by such a promise to use for my 
own purposes cannot possibly assent to my mode of acting towards 
him, and therefore cannot himself contain the end of this action. 
This violation of the principle of humanity in other men is more 
obvious if we take in examples of attacks on the freedom and prop- 
erty of others. For then it is clear that he who transgresses the 
rights of men, intends to use the person of others merely as means, 
without considering that as rational beings they ought always to be 
esteemed also as ends, that is, as beings who must be capable of con- 
taining in themselves the end of the very same action." 

Thirdly, as regards contingent (meritorious) duties to oneself; it 
is not enough that the action does not violate humanity in our own 
person as an end in itself, it must also harmonise with it. Now there 

'* Let it not be thought that the common : quod tibi non vis fieri, &c., could 
serve here as the rule or principle. For it is only a deduction from the former, 
though with several limitations; it cannot be a universal law, for it does not contain 
the principle of duties to oneself, nor of the duties of benevolence to others (for 
many a one would gladly consent that others should not benefit him, provided only 
that he might be excused from showing benevolence to them), nor finally that of 
duties of strict obligation to one another, for on this principle the criminal might 
argue against the judge who punishes him, and so on. 


are in humanity capacities of greater perfection which belong to the 
end that nature has in view in regard to humanity in ourselves as 
the subject: to neglect these might perhaps be consistent with the 
maintenance of humanity as an end in itself, but not with the ad- 
vancement of this end. 

Fourthly, as regards meritorious duties towards others : the natural 
end which all men have in their own happiness. Now humanity 
might indeed subsist, although no one should contribute anything to 
the happiness of others, provided he did not intentionally withdraw 
anything from it; but after all, this would only harmonise negatively 
not positively with humanity as an end in itself, if everyone does not 
also endeavor, as far as in him lies, to forward the ends of others. 
For the ends of any subject which is an end in himself, ought as far 
as possible to be my ends also, if that conception is to have its full 
effect with me. 

This principle, that humanity and generally every rational nature 
is an end in itself (which is the supreme limiting condition of every 
man's freedom of action), is not borrowed from experience, firstly, 
because it is universal, applying as it does to all rational beings what- 
ever, and experience is not capable of determining anything about 
them; secondly, because it does not present humanity as an end to 
men (subjectively), that is as an object which men do of themselves 
actually adopt as an end; but as an objective end, which must as a 
law constitute the supreme limiting condition of all our subjective 
ends, let them be what we will; it must therefore spring from pure 
reason. In fact the objective principle of all practical legislation lies 
(according to the first principle) in the rule and its form of uni- 
versality which makes it capable of being a law (say, e. g., a law of 
nature) ; but the subjective principle is in the end; now by the second 
principle the subject of all ends is each rational being, inasmuch 
as it is an end in itself. Hence follows the third practical principle of 
the will, which is the ultimate condition of its harmony with the 
universal practical reason, viz.: the idea of the will of every rational 
being as a universally legislative will. 

On this principle all maxims are rejected which are inconsistent 
with the will being itself universal legislator. Thus the will is not 
subject simply to the law, but so subject that it must be regarded as 

342 KANT 

itself giving the law, and on this ground only, subject to the law 
(of which it can regard itself as the author). 

In the previous imperatives, namely, that based on the conception 
of the conformity of actions to general laws, as in a physical system 
of nature, and that based on the universal prerogative of rational 
beings as ends in themselves — these imperatives just because they 
were conceived as categorical, excluded from any share in their 
authority all admixture of any interest as a spring of action; they 
were however only assumed to be categorical, because such an as- 
sumption was necessary to explain the conception of duty. But we 
could not prove independently that there are practical propositions 
which command categorically, nor can it be proved in this section; 
one thing however could be done, namely, to indicate in the im- 
perative itself by some determinate expression, that in the case of 
volition from duty all interest is renounced, which is the specific 
criterion of categorical as distinguished from hypothetical impera- 
tives. This is done in the present (third) formula of the principle, 
namely, in the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally 
legislating will. 

For although a will which is subject to laws may be attached to 
this law by means of an interest, yet a will which is itself a supreme 
lawgiver so far as it is such cannot possibly depend on any interest, 
since a will so dependent would itself still need another law re- 
stricting the interest of its self-love by the condition that it should 
be valid as universal law. 

Thus the principle that every human will is a will which in all its 
maxims gives universal lawsj^ provided it be otherwise justified, 
would be very well adapted to be the categorical imperative, in this 
respect, namely, that just because of the idea of universal legislation 
it is not based on any interest, and therefore it alone among all' 
possible imperatives can be unconditional. Or still better, converting 
the proposition, if there is a categorical imperative (/. e., a law for 
the will of every rational being), it can only command that every- 
thing be done from maxims of one's will regarded as a will which 
could at the same time will that it should itself give universal laws, 

'^ I may be excused from adducing examples to elucidate this principle, as those 
which have already been used to elucidate the categorical imperative and its formula 
would all serve for the like purpose here. 


for in that case only the practical principle and the imperative which 
it obeys are unconditional, since they cannot be based on any 

Looking back now on all previous attempts to discover the prin- 
ciple of morality, we need not wonder why they all fail. It was 
seen that man was bound to laws by duty, but it was not observed 
that the laws to which he is subject are only those of his own giving, 
though at the same time they are universal, and that he is only 
bound to act in conformity with his own will; a will, however, 
which is designed by nature to give universal laws. For when one 
has conceived man only as subject to a law (no matter what), then 
this law required some interest, either by way of attraction or con- 
straint, since it did not originate as a law from his own will, but 
this will was according to a law obliged by something else to act in a 
certain manner. Now by this necessary consequence all the labour 
spent in finding a supreme principle of duty was irrevocably lost. 
For men never elicited duty, but only a necessity of acting from a 
certain interest. Whether this interest was private or otherwise, in 
any case the imperative must be conditional, and could not by any 
means be capable of being a moral command. I will therefore call 
this the principle of Autonomy of the will, in contrast with every 
other which I accordingly reckon as Heteronomy}^ 

The conception of every rational being as one which must con- 
sider itself as giving in all the maxims of its will universal laws, so 
as to judge itself and its actions from this point of view — this con- 
ception leads to another which depends on it and is very fruitful, 
namely, that of a \ingdom of ends. 

By a \ingdom I understand the union of different rational beings 
in a system by common laws. Now since it is by laws that ends are 
determined as regards their universal validity, hence, if we abstract 
from the personal differences of rational beings, and likewise from 
all the content of their private ends, we shall be able to conceive all 
ends combined in a systematic whole (including both rational beings 
as ends in themselves, and also the special ends which each may 
propose to himself), that is to say, we can conceive a kingdom of 
ends, which on the preceding principles is possible. 

" [Cp. Critical Examination of Practical Reason, p. 184.] 

344 KANT 

For all rational beings come under the law that each of them must 
treat itself and all others never merely as means, but in every case 
at the same time as ends in themselves. Hence results a systematic 
union of rational beings by common objective laws, /. e., a kingdom 
which may be called a kingdom of ends, since what these laws 
have in view is just the relation of these beings to one another as 
ends and means. It is certainly only an ideal. 

A rational being belongs as a member to the kingdom of ends 
when, although giving universal laws in it, he is also himself subject 
to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when, while giving 
laws, he is not subject to the will of any other. 

A rational being must always regard himself as giving laws either 
as member or as sovereign in a kingdom of ends which is rendered 
possible by the freedom of will. He cannot, however, maintain the 
latter position merely by the maxims of his will, but only in case he 
is a completely independent being without wants and with unre- 
stricted power adequate to his will. 

Morality consists then in the reference of all action to the legisla- 
tion which alone can render a kingdom of ends possible. This legis- 
lation must be capable of existing in every rational being, and of 
emanating from his will, so that the principle of this will is, never 
to act on any maxim which could not without contradiction be also 
a universal law, and accordingly always so to act that the will could 
at the same time regard itself as giving in its maxims universal laws. 
If now the maxims of rational beings are not by their own nature co- 
incident with this objective principle, then the necessity of acting on 
it is called practical necessitation, /. e., duty. Duty does not apply 
to the sovereign in the kingdom of ends, but it does to every member 
of it and to all in the same degree. 

The practical necessity of acting on this principle, i. e., duty, does 
not rest at all on feelings, impulses, or inclinations, but solely on the 
relation of rational beings to one another, a relation in which the 
will of a rational being must always be regarded as legislative, since 
otherwise it could not be conceived as an end in itself. Reason then 
refers every maxim of the will, regarding it as legislating universally, 
to every other will and also to every action towards oneself; and this 


not on account of any other practical motive or any future advan- 
tage, but from the idea of the dignity of a rational being, obeying 
no law but that which he himself also gives. 

In the kingdom of ends everything has either Value or Dignity. 
Whatever has a value can be replaced by something else which is 
equivalent; whatever, on the other hand, is above all value, and 
therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity. 

Whatever has reference to the general inclinations and wants of 
mankind has a mar\et value; whatever, without presupposing a 
want, corresponds to a certain taste, that is to a satisfaction in the 
mere purposeless play of our faculties, has a jancy value; but that 
which constitutes the condition under which alone anything can be 
an end in itself, this has not merely a relative worth, i. e., value, but 
an intrinsic worth, that is dignity. 

Now morality is the condition under which alone a rational being 
can be an end in himself, since by this alone it is possible that he 
should be a legislating member in the kingdom of ends. Thus 
morality, and humanity as capable of it, is that which alone has 
dignity. Skill and diligence in labour have a market value; wit, 
lively imagination, and humour, have fancy value; on the other 
hand, fidelity to promises, benevolence from principle (not from 
instinct), have an intrinsic worth. Neither nature nor art contains 
anything which in default of these it could put in their place, for 
their worth consists not in the effects which spring from them, not 
in the use and advantage which they secure, but in the disposition of 
mind, that is, the maxims of the will which are ready to manifest 
themselves in such actions, even though they should not have the 
desired effect. These actions also need no recommendation from any 
subjective taste or sentiment, that they may be looked on with im- 
mediate favour and satisfaction : they need no immediate propension 
or feeling for them; they exhibit the will that performs them as an 
object of an immediate respect, and nothing but reason is required 
to impose them on the will; not to flatter it into them, which, in 
the case of duties, would be a contradiction. This estimation there- 
fore shows that the worth of such a disposition is dignity, and 
places it infinitely above all value, with which it cannot for a 

346 KANT 

moment be brought into comparison or competition without as it 
were violating its sanctity. 

What then is it which justifies virtue or the morally good dis- 
position, in making such lofty claims? It is nothing less than the 
privilege it secures to the rational being of participating in the giv- 
ing o£ universal laws, by which it qualifies him to be a member of a 
possible kingdom of ends, a privilege to which he was already 
destined by his own nature as being an end in himself, and on that 
account legislating in the kingdom of ends; free as regards all laws 
of physical nature, and obeying those only which he himself gives, 
and by which his maxims can belong to a system of universal law, 
to which at the same time he submits himself. For nothing has any 
worth except what the law assigns it. Now the legislation itself 
which assigns the worth of everything, must for that very reason 
possess dignity, that is an unconditional incomparable worth, and 
the word respect alone supplies a becoming expression for the 
esteem which a rational being must have for it. Autonomy then is 
the basis of the dignity of human and of every rational nature. 

The three modes of presenting the principle of morality that have 
been adduced are at bottom only so many formula? of the very same 
law, and each of itself involves the other two. There is, however, 
a difference in them, but it is rather subjectively than objectively 
practical, intended namely to bring an idea of the reason nearer to 
intuition (by means of a certain analogy), and thereby nearer to 
feeling. All maxims, in fact, have — 

1. A form, consisting in universality; and in this view the formula 
of the moral imperative is expressed thus, that the maxims must be 
so chosen as if they were to serve as universal laws of nature. 

2. A matter ^^ namely, an end, and here the formula says that the 
rational being, as it is an end by its own nature and therefore an end 
in itself, must in every maxim serve as the condition limiting all 
merely relative and arbitrary ends. 

3. A complete characterisation of all maxims by means of that 
formula, namely, that all maxims ought by their own legislation to 
harmonise with a possible kingdom of ends as with a kingdom of 

'' [The reading "Maxime," which is that both of Rosenkranz and Hartenstein, is 
obviously an error for "Materie."] 


nature." There is a progress here in the order of the categories o£ 
unity of the form of the will (its universaUty), plurality of the mat- 
ter (the objects, i. e., the ends), and totality of the system of these. 
In forming our moral judgment of actions it is better to proceed 
always on the strict method, and start from the general formula of 
the categorical imperative: Act according to a maxim which can at 
the same time mal^e itself a universal law. If, however, we wish to 
gain an entrance for the moral law, it is very useful to bring one and 
the same action under the three specified conceptions, and thereby as 
far as possible to bring it nearer to intuition. 

We can now end where we started at the beginning, namely, with 
the conception of a will unconditionally good. That will is absolutely 
good which cannot be evil, in other words, whose maxim, if made 
a universal law, could never contradict itself. This principle then is 
its supreme law: Act always on such a maxim as thou canst at the 
same time will to be a universal law; this is the sole condition under 
which a will can never contradict itself; and such an imperative is 
categorical. Since the validity of the will as a universal law for pos- 
sible actions is analogous to the universal connexion of the existence 
of things by general laws, which is the formal notion of nature in 
general, the categorical imperative can also be expressed thus: Act 
on maxims which can at the same time have for their object them- 
selves as universal laws of nature. Such then is the formula of an 
absolutely good will. 

Rational nature is distinguished from the rest of nature by this, 
that it sets before itself an end. This end would be the matter of 
every good will. But since in the idea of a will that is absolutely good 
without being limited by any condition (of attaining this or that 
end) we must abstract wholly from every end to be effected (since 
this would make every will only relatively good), it follows that in 
this case the end must be conceived, not as an end to be effected, but 
as an independently existing end. Consequently it is conceived only 
negatively, i^., as that which we must never act against, and which, 

'^ Teleology considers nature as a kingdom of ends; Ethics regards a possible 
kingdom of ends as a kingdom of nature. In the first case, the kingdom of ends 
is a theoretical idea, adopted to explain what actually is. In the latter it is a 
practical idea, adopted to bring about that which is not yet, but which can be 
realised by our conduct, namely, if it conforms to this idea. 

348 KANT 

therefore, must never be regarded merely as means, but must in every 
volition be esteemed as an end likewise. Now this end can be noth- 
ing but the subject of all possible ends, since this is also the subject of 
a possible absolutely good will; for such a will cannot without con- 
tradiction be postponed to any other object. The principle: So act in 
regard to every rational being (thyself and others), that he may 
always have place in thy maxim as an end in himself, is accordingly 
essentially identical with this other : Act upon a maxim which, at the 
same time, involves its own universal validity for every rational 
being. For that in using means for every end I should limit my 
maxim by the condition of its holding good as a law for every 
subject, this comes to the same thing as that the fundamental prin- 
ciple of all maxims of action must be that the subject of all ends, i. e., 
the rational being himself, be never employed merely as means, but 
as the supreme condition restricting the use of all means, that is in 
every case as an end likewise. 

It follows incontestably that, to whatever laws any rational being 
may be subject, he being an end in himself must be able to regard 
himself as also legislating universally in respect of these same laws, 
since it is just this fitness of his maxims for universal legislation that 
distinguishes him as an end in himself; also it follows that this 
implies his dignity (prerogative) above all mere physical beings, 
that he must always take his maxims from the point of view which 
regards himself, and likewise every other rational being, as law- 
giving beings (on which account they are called persons). In this 
way a world of rational beings {mundus intelligibilis) is possible as 
a kingdom of ends, and this by virtue of the legislation proper to all 
persons as members. Therefore every rational being must so act as 
if he were by his maxims in every case a legislating member in the 
universal kingdom of ends. The formal principle of these maxims is : 
So act as if thy maxim were to serve likewise as the universal law 
(of all rational beings). A kingdom of ends is thus only possible 
on the analogy of a kingdom of nature, the former however only 
by maxims, that is self-imposed rules, the latter only by the laws of 
efficient causes acting under necessitation from without. Neverthe- 
less, although the system of nature is looked upon as a machine, yet 
so far as it has reference to rational beings as its ends, it is given 


on this account the name of a kingdom of nature. Now such a king- 
dom of ends would be actually realised by means of maxims con- 
forming to the canon which the categorical imperative prescribes 
to all rational beings, // they were universally followed. But al- 
though a rational being, even if he punctually follows this maxim 
himself, cannot reckon upon all others being therefore true to the 
same, nor expect that the kingdom of nature and its orderly arrange- 
ments shall be in harmony with him as a fitting member, so as to 
form a kingdom of ends to which he himself contributes, that is to 
say, that it shall favour his expectation of happiness, still that law: 
Act according to the maxims of a member of a merely possible king- 
dom of ends legislating in it universally, remains in its full force, in- 
asmuch as it commands categorically. And it is just in this that the 
paradox lies; that the mere dignity of a man as a rational creature, 
without any other end or advantage to be attained thereby, in other 
words, respect for a mere idea, should yet serve as an inflexible 
precept of the will, and that it is precisely in this independence of 
the maxim on all such springs of action that its sublimity consists; 
and it is this that makes every rational, subject worthy to be a 
legislative member in the kingdom of ends: for otherwise he would 
have to be conceived only as subject to the physical law of his wants. 
And although we should suppose the kingdom of nature and the 
kingdom of ends to be united under one sovereign, so that the latter 
kingdom thereby ceased to be a mere idea and acquired true reality, 
then it would no doubt gain the accession of a strong spring, but by 
no means any increase of its intrinsic worth. For this sole absolute 
lawgiver must, notwithstanding this, be always conceived as esti- 
mating the worth of rational beings only by their disinterested be- 
haviour, as prescribed to themselves from that idea [the dignity of 
man] alone. The essence of things is not altered by their external 
relations, and that which abstracting from these, alone constitutes 
the absolute worth of man, is also that by which he must be judged, 
whoever the judge may be, and even by the Supreme Being. Moral- 
ity then is the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will, that is, 
to the potential universal legislation by its maxims. An action that is 
consistent with the autonomy of the will is permitted; one that does 
not agree therewith is forbidden. A will whose maxims necessarily 

350 KANT 

coincide with the laws o£ autonomy is a holy will, good absolutely. 
The dependence of a will not absolutely good on the principle of 
autonomy (moral necessitation) is obligation. This then cannot be 
applied to a holy being. The objective necessity of actions from 
obligation is called duty. 

From what has just been said, it is easy to see how it happens that 
although the conception of duty implies subjection to the law, we yet 
ascribe a certain dignity and sublimity to the person who fulfills all 
his duties. There is not, indeed, any sublimity in him, so far as he 
is subject to the moral law; but inasmuch as in regard to that very 
law he is likewise a legislator, and on that account alone subject to 
it, he has subUmity. We have also shown above that neither fear nor 
inclination, but simply respect for the law, is the spring which can 
give actions a moral worth. Our own will, so far as we suppose it 
to act only under the condition that its maxims are potentially uni- 
versal laws, this ideal will which is possible to us is the proper object 
of respect, and the dignity of humanity consists just in this capacity 
of being universally legislative, though with the condition that it is 
itself subject to this same legislation. 

The Autonomy of the Will as the Supreme Principle of Morality 

Autonomy of the will is that property of it by which it is a law 
to itself (independently on any property of the objects of volition). 
The principle of autonomy then is: Always so to choose that the 
same volition shall comprehend the maxims of our choice as a uni- 
versal law. We cannot prove that this practical rule is an imperative, 
/. e., that the will of every rational being is necessarily bound to it as 
a condition, by a mere analysis of the conceptions which occur in it, 
since it is a synthetical proposition; we must advance beyond the 
cognition of the objects to a critical examination of the subject, that 
is of the pure practical reason, for this synthetic proposition which 
commands apodictically must be capable of being cognised wholly 
a priori. This matter, however, does not belong to the present sec- 
tion. But that the principle of autonomy in question is the sole prin- 
ciple of morals can be readily shown by mere analysis of the 
conceptions of morality. For by this analysis we find that its prin- 


dple must be a categorical imperative, and that what this commands 
is neither more nor less than this very autonomy. 

Heteronomy of the Will as the Source of all spurious Principles of 


I£ the will seeks the law which is to determine it anywhere else 
than in the fitness of its maxims to be universal laws o£ its own dic- 
tation, consequently if it goes out of itself and seeks this law in the 
character of any of its objects, there always results heteronomy. The 
will in that case does not give itself the law, but it is given by the 
object through its relation to the will. This relation whether it rests 
on inclination or on conceptions of reason only admits of hypo- 
thetical imperatives: I ought to do something because I wish for 
something else. On the contrary, the moral, and therefore cate- 
gorical, imperative says: I ought to do so and so, even though I 
should not wish for anything else. Ex. gr., the former says: I ought 
not to lie if I would retain my reputation; the latter says: I ought 
not to lie although it should not bring me the least discredit. The 
latter therefore must so far abstract from all objects that they shall 
have no influence on the will, in order that practical reason (will) 
may not be restricted to administering an interest not belonging tc 
it, but may simply show its own commanding authority as the su- 
preme legislation. Thus, ex. gr., I ought to endeavour to promote the 
happiness of others, not as if its realization involved any concern of 
mine (whether by immediate inclination or by any satisfaction in- 
directly gained through reason), but simply because a maxim which 
excludes it cannot be comprehended as a universal law'* in one and 
the same volition. 


Of all Principles of Morality which can be founded on the Con- 
ception of Heteronomy 

Here as elsewhere human reason in its pure use, so long as it was 
not critically examined, has first tried all possible wrong ways before 
it succeeded in finding the one true way. 

** [I read allgemeines instead of allgemeinemJ] 

352 KANT 

All principles which can be taken from this point o£ view are 
either empirical or rational. The former, drawn from the principle 
of happiness, are built on physical or moral feelings; the latter, 
drawn from the principle of perfection, are built either on the ra- 
tional conception of perfection as a possible effect, or on that of an 
independent perfection (the will of God) as the determining cause 
of our will. 

Empirical principles are wholly incapable of serving as a founda- 
tion for moral laws. For the universality with which these should 
hold for all rational beings without distinction, the unconditional 
practical necessity which is thereby imposed on them, is lost when 
their foundation is taken from the particular constitution of human 
nature, or the accidental circumstances in which it is placed. The 
principle of private happiness, however, is the most objectionable, 
not merely because it is false, and experience contradicts the suppo- 
sition that prosperity is always proportioned to good conduct, nor 
yet merely because it contributes nothing to the establishment of 
morality — since it is quite a different thing to make a prosperous man 
and a good man, or to make one prudent and sharp-sighted for his 
own interests, and to make him virtuous — but because the springs 
it provides for morality are such as rather undermine it and destroy 
its sublimity, since they put the motives to virtue and to vice in the 
same class, and only teach us to make a better calculation, the specific 
difference between virtue and vice being entirely extinguished. On 
the other hand, as to moral feeling, this supposed special sense^" the 
appeal to it is indeed superficial when those who cannot thin\ be- 
lieve that feeling will help them out, even in what concerns general 
laws: and besides, feelings which naturally differ infinitely in degree 
cannot furnish a uniform standard of good and evil, nor has anyone 
a right to form judgments for others by his own feelings: never- 
theless this moral feeling is nearer to morality and its dignity in this 
respect, that it pays virtue the honour of ascribing to her immediately 
the satisfaction and esteem we have for her, and does not, as it were, 

^'I class the principle of moral feeling under that of happiness, because every 
empirical interest promises to contribute to our well-being by the agreeableness that 
a thing affords, whether it be immediately and without a view to profit, or whether 
profit be regarded. We must likewise, with Hutcheson, class the principle of 
sympathy with the happiness of others under his assumed moral sense. 


tell her to her face that we are not attached to her by her beauty 
but by profit. 

Amongst the rational principles of morality, the ontological con- 
ception of perfection, notwithstanding its defects, is better than the 
theological conception which derives morality from a Divine abso- 
lutely perfect will. The former, is, no doubt, empty and indefinite, 
and consequently useless for finding in the boundless field of pos- 
sible reality the greatest amount suitable for us; moreover, in at- 
tempting to distinguish specifically the reality of which we are now 
speaking from every other, it inevitably tends to turn in a circle, and 
cannot avoid tacitly presupposing the morality which it is to explain; 
it is nevertheless preferable to the theological view, first, because we 
have no intuition of the Divine perfection, and can only deduce it 
from our own conceptions, the most important of which is that of 
morality, and our explanation would thus be involved in a gross 
circle; and, in the next place, if we avoid this, the only notion of the 
Divine will remaining to us is a conception made up of the attributes 
of desire of glory and dominion, combined with the awful concep- 
tions of might and vengeance, and any system of morals erected on 
this foundation would be directly opposed to morality. 

However, if I had to choose between the notion of the moral 
sense and that of perfection in general (two systems which at least 
do not weaken morality, although they are totally incapable of serv- 
ing as its foundation), then I should decide for the latter, because 
it at least withdraws the decision of the question from the sensibility 
and brings it to the court of pure reason; and although even here it 
decides nothing, it at all events preserves the indefinite idea (of a 
will good in itself) free from corruption, until it shall be more pre- 
cisely defined. 

For the rest I think I may be excused here from a detailed refuta- 
tion of all these doctrines; that would only be superfluous labour, 
since it is so easy, and is probably so well seen even by those whose 
ofHce requires them to decide for one of these theories (because their 
hearers would not tolerate suspension of judgment). But what in- 
terests us more here is to know that the prime foundation of morality 
laid down by all these principles is nothing but heteronomy of the 
will, and for this reason they must necessarily miss their aim. 

354 KANT 

In every case where an object of the will has" to be supposed, in 
order that the rule may be prescribed which is to determine the will, 
there the rule is simply heteronomy; the imperative is conditional, 
namely, // or because one wishes for this object, one should act so 
and so: hence it can never command morally, that is categorically. 
Whether the object determines the will by means of inclination, as 
in the principle of private happiness, or by means of reason directed 
to objects of our possible volition generally, as in the principle of 
perfection, in either case the will never determines itself immediately 
by the conception of the action, but only by the influence which the 
foreseen effect of the action has on the will; / ought to do something, 
on this account, because I wish for something else; and here there 
must be yet another law assumed in me as its subject, by which I 
necessarily will this other thing, and this law again requires an im- 
perative to restrict this maxim. For the influence which the con- 
ception of an object within the reach of our faculties can exercise on 
the will of the subject in consequence of its natural properties, de- 
pends on the nature of the subject, either the sensibility (inclination 
and taste), or the understanding and reason, the employment of 
which is by the peculiar constitution of their nature attended with 
satisfaction. It follows that the law would be, properly speaking, 
given by nature, and as such, it must be known and proved by ex- 
perience, and would consequently be contingent, and therefore in- 
capable of being an apodictic practical rule, such as the moral rule 
must be. Not only so, but it is inevitably only heteronomy ; the will 
does not give itself the law, but it is given by a foreign impulse by 
means of a particular natural constitution of the subject adapted to 
receive it. An absolutely good will, then, the principle of which 
must be a categorical imperative, will be indeterminate as regards all 
objects, and will contain merely the form of volition generally, and 
that as autonomy, that is to say, the capability of the maxims of 
every good will to make themselves a universal law, is itself the only 
law which the will of every rational being imposes on itself, without 
needing to assume any spring or interest as a foundation. 

How such a synthetical practical a priori proposition is possible 
and why it is necessary, is a problem whose solution does not lie 
within the bounds of the metaphysic of morals; and we have not 


here affirmed its truth, much less professed to have a proof of it in 
our power. We simply showed by the development of the uni- 
versally received notion of morality that an autonomy of the will is 
inevitably connected with it, or rather is its foundation. Whoever 
then holds morality to be anything real, and not a chimerical idea 
without any truth, must likewise admit the principle of it that is here 
assigned. This section then, like the first, was merely analytical. 
Now to prove that morality is no creation of the brain, which it can- 
not be if the categorical imperative and with it the autonomy of the 
will is true, and as an h priori principle absolutely necessary, this 
supposes the possibility of a synthetic use of pure practical reason, 
which however we cannot venture on without first giving a critical 
examination of this faculty of reason. In the concluding section we 
shall give the principle outlines of this critical examination as far as 
is sufficient for our purpose. 





The Concept of Freedom is the Key that explains the 
Autonomy of the Will 

THE will is a kind of causality belonging to living beings in 
so far as they are rational, and freedom would be this prop- 
erty of such causality that it can be efficient, independently 
on foreign causes determining it; just as physical necessity is the 
property that the causality of all irrational beings has of being de- 
termined to activity by the influence of foreign causes. 

The preceding definition of freedom is negative, and therefore un- 
fruitful for the discovery of its essence; but it leads to a positive 
conception which is so much the more full and fruitful. Since the 
conception of causality involves that of laws, according to which, by 
something that we call cause, something else, namely, the effect, 
must be produced [laid down] ;' hence, although freedom is not a 
property of the will depending on physical laws, yet it is not for 
that reason lawless; on the contrary it must be a causality acting ac- 
cording to immutable laws, but of a peculiar kind; otherwise a free 
will would be an absurdity. Physical necessity is a heteronomy of 
the efficient causes, for every effect is possible only according to this 
law, that something else determines the efficient cause to exert its 
. causality. What else then can freedom of the will be but autonomy, 
that is the property of the will to be a law to itself? But the propo- 
sition: The will is in every action a law to itself, only expresses the 
principle, to act on no other maxim than that which can also have as 
an object itself as a universal law. Now this is precisely the formula 

^[Gesetzt. — ^There is in the original a play on the etymology of Gesetz, which 
does not admit of reproduction in English. It must be confessed that without it the 
statement is not self-evident.] 



o£ the categorical imperative and is the principle of morality, so that a 
free will and a will subject to moral laws are one and the same. 

On the hypothesis then of freedom of the will, morality together 
with its principle follows from it by mere analysis of the conception. 
However the latter is still a synthetic proposition; viz., an absolutely 
good will is that whose maxim can always include itself regarded as 
a universal law; for this property of its maxim can never be dis- 
covered by analysing the conception of an absolutely good will. Now 
such synthetic propositions are only possible in this way: that the 
two cognitions are connected together by their union with a third 
in which they are both to be found. The positive concept of freedom 
furnishes this third cognition, which cannot, as with physical causes, 
be the nature of the sensible world (in the concept of which we find 
conjoined the concept of something in relation as cause to something 
else as effect). We cannot now at once show what this third is to 
which freedom points us, and of which we have an idea a priori, 
nor can we make inteUigible how the concept of freedom is shown 
to be legitimate from principles of pure practical reason, and with 
it the possibility of a categorical imperative; but some further prep- 
aration is required. 


Must be presupposed as a Property of the Will of all Rational Beings 

It is not enough to predicate freedom of our own will, from what- 
ever reason, if we have not sufficient grounds for predicating the 
same of all rational beings. For as morality serves as a law for us 
only because we are rational beings, it must also hold for all rational 
beings; and as it must be deduced simply from the property of free- 
dom, it must be shown that freedom also is a property of all rational 
beings. It is not enough then to prove it from certain supposed ex- 
periences of human nature (which indeed is quite impossible, and 
it can only be shown d. priori), but we must show that it belongs to 
the activity of all rational beings endowed with a will. Now I say 
every being that cannot act except under the idea of freedom is just 
for that reason in a practical point of view really free, that is to say, 
all laws which are inseparably connected with freedom have the 
same force for him as if his will had been shown to be free in itself 

358 KANT 

by a proof theoretically conclusive.^ Now I affirm that we must 
attribute to every rational being which has a will that it has also the 
idea of freedom and acts entirely under this idea. For in such a 
being we conceive a reason that is practical, that is, has causality in 
reference to its objects. Now we cannot possibly conceive a reason 
consciously receiving a bias from any other quarter with respect to 
its judgments, for then the subject would ascribe the determination 
of its judgment not to its own reason, but to an impulse. It must 
regard itself as the author of its principles independent on foreign 
influences. Consequently as practical reason or as the will of a 
rational being it must regard itself as free, that is to say, the will of 
such a being cannot be a will of its own except under the idea of 
freedom. This idea must therefore in a practical point of view be 
ascribed to every rational being. 

0/ the Interest attaching to the Ideas of Morality 

We have finally reduced the definite conception of morality to the 
idea of freedom. This latter, however, we could not prove to be 
actually a property of ourselves or of human nature; only we saw 
that it must be presupposed if we would conceive a being as rational 
and conscious of its causality in respect of its actions, /. e., as endowed 
with a will; and so we find that on just the same grounds we must 
ascribe to every being endowed with reason and will this attribute 
of determining itself to action under the idea of its freedom. 

Now it resulted also from the presupposition of this idea that we 
became aware of a law that the subjective principles of action, /. e., 
maxims, must always be so assumed that they can also hold as 
objective, that is, universal principles, and so serve as universal laws 
of our own dictation. But why then should I subject myself to this 
principle and that simply as a rational being, thus also subjecting to 
it all other beings endowed with reason ? I will allow that no interest 

^ I adopt this method of assuming freedom merely as an idea which rational beings 
suppose in their actions, in order to avoid the necessity of proving it in its theoretical 
aspect also. The former is sufficient for my purpose; for even though the speculative 
proof should not be made out, yet a being that cannot act except with the idea 
of freedom is bound by the same laws that would oblige a being who was actually 
free. Thus we can escape here from the onus which presses on the theory. [Compare 
Butler's treatment of the question of liberty in his Analogy, part i., ch. vL] 


urges me to this, for that would not give a categorical imperative, 
but I must tal{e an interest in it and discern how this comes to pass; 
for this "I ought" is properly an "I would," valid for every rational 
being, provided only that reason determined his actions without any 
hindrance. But for beings that are in addition affected as we are by 
springs of a different kind, namely, sensibility, and in whose case 
that is not always done which reason alone would do, for these that 
necessity is expressed only as an "ought," and the subjective necessity 
is different from the objective. 

It seems then as if the moral law, that is, the principle of autonomy 
of the will, were properly speaking only presupposed in the idea of 
freedom, and as if we could not prove its reality and objective neces- 
sity independently. In that case we should still have gained some- 
thing considerable by at least determining the true principle more 
exactly than had previously been done; but as regards its validity 
and the practical necessity of subjecting oneself to it, we should not 
have advanced a step. For if we were asked why the universal 
validity of our maxim as a law must be the condition restricting our 
actions, and on what we ground the worth which we assign to this 
manner of acting — a worth so great that there cannot be any higher 
interest; and if we were asked further how it happens that it is by 
this alone a man believes he feels his own personal worth, in com- 
parison with which that of an agreeable or disagreeable condition is 
to be regarded, as nothing, to these questions we could give no 
satisfactory answer. 

We find indeed sometimes that we can take an interest' in a 
personal quality which does not involve any interest of external con- 
dition, provided this quality makes us capable of participating in 
the condition in case reason were to effect the allotment; that is to 
say, the mere being worthy of happiness can interest of itself even 
without the motive of participating in this happiness. This judg- 
ment, however, is in fact only the effect of the importance of the 
moral law which we before presupposed (when by the idea of free- 
dom we detach ourselves from every empirical interest); but that 
we ought to detach ourselves from these interests, i. e., to consider our- 

2 ["Interest" means a spring of the will, in so far as this spring is presented 
by Reason. See note, p. 391.] 

360 KANT 

selves as free in action and yet as subject to certain laws, so as to find 
a worth simply in our own person which can compensate us for the 
loss of everything that gives worth to our condition ; this we are not 
yet able to discern in this way, nor do we see how it is possible so to 
act — in other words, whence the moral law derives its obligation. 

It must be freely admitted that there is a sort of circle here from 
which it seems impossible to escape. In the order of efficient causes 
we assume ourselves free, in order that in the order of ends we may 
conceive ourselves as subject to moral laws: and we afterwards con- 
ceive ourselves as subject to these laws, because we have attributed to 
ourselves freedom of will : for freedom and self-legislation of will are 
both autonomy, and therefore are reciprocal conceptions, and for this 
very reason one must not be used to explain the other or give the 
reason of it, but at most only for logical purposes to reduce appar- 
ently different notions of the same object to one single concept (as 
we reduce different fractions of the same value to the lowest terms). 

One resource remains to us, namely, to inquire whether we do 
not occupy different points of view when by means of freedom we 
think ourselves as causes efficient ^ priori, and when we form our 
conception of ourselves from our actions as effects which we see 
before our eyes. 

It is a remark which needs no subtle reflection to make, but which 
we may assume that even the commonest understanding can make, 
although it be after its fashion by an obscure discernment of judg- 
ment which it calls feeling, that all the "ideas" * that come to us in- 
voluntarily (as those of the senses) do not enable us to know objects 
otherwise than as they affect us; so that what they may be in them- 
selves remains unknown to us, and consequently that as regards 
"ideas" of this kind even with the closest attention and clearness 
that the understanding can apply to them, we can by them only attain 
to the knowledge of appearances, never to that of things in them- 
selves. As soon as this distinction has once been made (perhaps 
merely in consequence of the difference observed between the ideas 
given us from without, and in which we are passive, and those that 
we produce simply from ourselves, and in which we show our own 

* [The common understanding being here spoken of, I use the word "idea" in 
its popular sense.] 


activity), then it follows of itself that we must admit and assume 
behind the appearance something else that is not an appearance, 
namely, the things in themselves; although we must admit that as 
they can never be known to us except as they affect us, we can come 
no nearer to them, nor can we ever know what they are in them- 
selves. This must furnish a distinction, however crude, between a 
world of sense and the world of understanding, of which the former 
may be different according to the difference of the sensuous im- 
pressions in various observers, while the second which is its basis 
always remains the same. Even as to himself, a man cannot pretend 
to know what he is in himself from the knowledge he has by in- 
ternal sensation. For as he does not as it were create himself, and 
does not come by the conception of himself a priori but empirically, 
it naturally follows that he can obtain his knowledge even of him- 
self only by the inner sense, and consequently only through the ap- 
pearances of his nature and the way in which his consciousness is 
affected. At the same time beyond these characteristics of his own 
subject, made up of mere appearances, he must necessarily suppose 
something else as their basis, namely, his ego, whatever its char- 
acteristics in itself may be. Thus in respect to mere perception and 
receptivity of sensations he must reckon himself as belonging to the 
world of sense, but in respect of whatever there may be of pure 
activity in him (that which reaches consciousness immediately and 
not through affecting the senses) he must reckon himself as be- 
longing to the intellectual world, of which, however, he has no 
further knowledge. To such a conclusion the reflecting man must 
come with respect to all the things which can be presented to him: 
it is probably to be met with even in persons of the commonest 
understanding, who, as is well known, are very much inclined to 
suppose behind the objects of the senses something else invisible and 
acting of itself. They spoil it, however, by presently sensualizing 
this invisible again; that is to say, wanting to make it an object of 
intuition, so that they do not become a whit the wiser. 

Now man really finds in himself a faculty by which he distin- 
guishes himself from everything else, even from himself as affected 
by objects, and that is Reason. This being pure spontaneity is even 
elevated above the understanding. For although the latter is a 

362 KANT 

spontaneity and does not, like sense, merely contain intuitions that 
arise when we are affected by things (and are therefore passive), 
yet it cannot produce from its activity any other conceptions than 
those which merely serve to bring the intuitions of sense under rules, 
and thereby to unite them in one consciousness, and without this 
use of the sensibility it could not think at all; whereas, on the con- 
trary, Reason shows so pure a spontaneity in the case of what I call 
Ideas [Ideal Conceptions] that it thereby far transcends everything 
that the sensibihty can give it, and exhibits its most important func- 
tion in distinguishing the world of sense from that of understanding, 
and thereby prescribing the limits of the understanding itself. 

For this reason a rational being must regard himself qua intelli- 
gence (not from the side of his lower faculties) as belonging not to 
the world of sense, but to that of understanding; hence he has two 
points of view from which he can regard himself, and recognise 
laws of the exercise of his faculties, and consequently of all his 
actions: first, so far as he belongs to the world of sense, he finds 
himself subject to laws of nature (heteronomy) ; secondly, as be- 
longing to the intelligible world, under laws which being independ- 
ent on nature have their foundation not in experience but in reason 

As a rational being, and consequently belonging to the intelligible 
world, man can never conceive the causality of his own will other- 
wise than on condition of the idea of freedom, for independence on 
the determining causes of the sensible world (an independence which 
Reason must always ascribe to itself) is freedom. Now the idea of 
freedom is inseparably connected with the conception of autonomy, 
and this again with the universal principle of morality which is 
ideally the foundation of all actions of rational beings, just as the 
law of nature is of all phenomena. 

Now the suspicion is removed which we raised above, that there 
was a latent circle involved in our reasoning from freedom to au- 
tonomy, and from this to the moral law, viz.: that we laid down the 
idea of freedom because of the moral law only that we might after- 
wards in turn infer the latter from freedom and that consequently 
we could assign no reason at all for this law, but could only 
[present]^ it as a petitio principii which well disposed minds would 

^ [The verb is wanting in the original.] 


gladly concede to us, but which we could never put forward as a 
provable proposition. For now we see that when we conceive our- 
selves as free we transfer ourselves into the world of understanding 
as members of it, and recognise the autonomy of the will with its 
consequence, morality; whereas, if we conceive ourselves as under 
obligation we consider ourselves as belonging to the world of sense, 
and at the same time to the world of understanding. 

How is a Categorical Imperative Possible? 

Every rational being reckons himself qua intelligence as belonging 
to the world of understanding, and it is simply as an efficient cause 
belonging to that world that he calls his causality a will. On the 
other side he is also conscious of himself as a part of the world of 
sense in which his actions which are mere appearances [phenomena] 
of that causality are displayed; we cannot, however, discern how they 
are possible from this causality which we do not know; but instead 
of that, these actions as belonging to the sensible world must be 
viewed as determined by other phenomena, namely, desires and in- 
clinations. If therefore I were only a member of the world of under- 
standing, then all my actions would perfectly conform to the prin- 
ciple of autonomy of the pure will; if I were only a part of the 
world of sense they would necessarily be assumed to conform wholly 
to the natural law of desires and inclinations, in other words, to the 
heteronomy of nature. (The former would rest on morality as the 
supreme principle, the latter on happiness.) Since, however, the 
world of understanding contains the foundation of the world of 
sense, and consequently of its laws also, and accordingly gives the 
law to my will (which belongs wholly to the world of understand- 
ing) directly, and must be conceived as doing so, it follows that, 
although on the one side I must regard myself as a being belonging 
to the world of sense, yet on the other side I must recognise myself 
as subject as an intelligence to the law of the world of understanding, 
i. e., to reason, which contains this law in the idea of freedom, and 
therefore as subject to the autonomy of the will: consequently I must 
regard the laws of the world of understanding as imperatives for 
me, and the actions which conform to them as duties. 

And thus what makes categorical imperatives possible is this, that 
the idea of freedom makes me a member of an intelligible world, in 

364 KANT 

consequence of which if I were nothing else all my actions would 
always conform to the autonomy of the will; but as I at the same time 
intuite myself as a member of the world of sense, they ought so to 
conform, and this categorical "ought" implies a synthetic <J priori 
proposition, inasmuch as besides my will as affected by sensible de- 
sires there is added further the idea of the same will but as belonging 
to the world of the understanding, pure and practical of itself, which 
contains the supreme condition according to Reason of the former 
will; precisely as to the intuitions of sense there are added concepts 
of the understanding which of themselves signify nothing but regu- 
lar form in general, and in this way synthetic ^ priori proposi- 
tions become possible, on which all knowledge of physical nature 

The practical use of common human reason confirms this reason- 
ing. There is no one, not even the most consummate villain, provided 
only that he is otherwise accustomed to the use of reason, who, when 
we set before him examples of honesty of purpose, of steadfastness in 
following good maxims, of sympathy and general benevolence (even 
combined with great sacrifices of advantages and comfort), does not 
wish that he might also possess these qualities. Only on account of 
his inclinations and impulses he cannot attain this in himself, but at 
the same time he wishes to be free from such inclinations which are 
burdensome to himself. He proves by this that he transfers himself 
in thought with a will free from the impulses of the sensibility into 
an order of things wholly different from that of his desires in the 
field of the sensibility; since he cannot expect to obtain by that wish 
any gratification of his desires, nor any position which would satisfy 
any of his actual or supposable inclinations (for this would destroy 
the pre-eminence of the very idea which wrests that wish from him) : 
he can only expect a greater intrinsic worth of his own person. This 
better person, however, he imagines himself to be when he trans- 
fers himself to the point of view of a member of the world of the 
understanding, to which he is involuntarily forced by the idea of 
freedom, /. e., of independence on determining causes of the world 
of sense; and from this point of view he is conscious of a good will, 
which by his own confession constitutes the law for the bad vnW 


that he possesses as a member o£ the world o£ sense — a law whose 
authority he recognises while transgressing it. What he morally 
"ought" is then what he necessarily "would" as a member of the 
world of the understanding, and is conceived by him as an "ought" 
only inasmuch as he likewise considers himself as a member of the 
world of sense. 

On the Extreme Limits of all Practical Philosophy 

All men attribute to themselves freedom of will. Hence come all 
judgments upon actions as being such as ought to have been done, 
although they have not been done. However, this freedom is not a 
conception of experience, nor can it be so, since it still remains, even 
though experience shows the contrary of what on supposition of 
freedom are conceived as its necessary consequences. On the other 
side it is equally necessary that everything that takes place should be 
fixedly determined according to laws of nature. This necessity of 
nature is likewise not an empirical conception, just for this reason, 
that it involves the motion of necessity and consequently of h. priori 
cognition. But this conception of a system: of nature is confirmed 
by experience, and it must even be inevitably presupposed if experi- 
ence itself is to be possible, that is, a connected knowledge of the ob- 
jects of sense resting on general laws. Therefore freedom is only an 
Idea [Ideal Conception] of Reasori, and its objective reality in itself is 
doubtful, while nature is a concept of the understanding which 
proves, and must necessarily prove, its reahty in examples of ex- 

There arises from this a dialectic of Reason, since the freedom 
attributed to the will appears to contradict the necessity of nature, 
and placed between these two ways Reason for speculative purposes 
finds the road of physical necessity much more beaten and more 
appropriate than that of freedom; yet for practical purposes the 
narrow footpath of freedom is the only one on which it is possible to 
make use of reason in our conduct; hence it is just as impossible for 
the subtlest philosophy as for the commonest reason of men to argue 
away freedom. Philosophy must then assume that no real contra- 
diction will be found between freedom and physical necessity of the 

366 KANT 

same human actions, for it cannot give up the conception of nature 
any more than that of freedom. 

Nevertheless, even though we should never be able to comprehend 
how freedom is possible, we must at least remove this apparent con- 
tradiction in a convincing manner. For if the thought of freedom 
contradicts either itself or nature, which is equally necessary, it must 
in competition with physical necessity be entirely given up. 

It would, however, be impossible to escape this contradiction if 
the thinking subject, which seems to itself free, conceived itself in 
the same sense or in the very same relation when it calls itself free 
as when in respect of the same action it assumes itself to be subject 
to the law of nature. Hence it is an indispensable problem of specu- 
lative philosophy to show that its illusion respecting the contradiction 
rests on this, that we think of man in a different sense and relation 
when we call him free, and when we regard him as subject to the 
laws of nature as being part and parcel of nature. It must, there- 
fore, show that not only can both these very well co-exist, but that 
both must be thought as necessarily united in the same subject, since 
otherwise no reason could be given why we should burden reason 
with an idea which, though it may possibly without contradiction 
be reconciled with another that is sufficiently established, yet en- 
tangles us in a perplexity which sorely embarrasses Reason in its 
theoretic employment. This duty, however, belongs only to specu- 
lative philosophy, in order that it may clear the way for practical 
philosophy. The philosopher then has no option whether he will 
remove the apparent contradiction or leave it untouched; for in the 
latter case the theory respecting this would be bonum vacans into 
the possession of which the fatalist would have a right to enter, and 
chase all morality out of its supposed domain as occupying it with- 
out title. 

We cannot, however, as yet say that we are touching the bounds 
of practical philosophy. For the settlement of that controversy does 
not belong to it; it only demands from speculative reason that it 
should put an end to the discord in which it entangles itself in 
theoretical questions, so that practical reason may have rest and se- 
curity from external attacks which might make the ground debatable 
on which it desires to build. 


The claims to freedom of will made even by common reason are 
founded on the consciousness and the admitted supposition that 
reason is independent on merely subjectively determined causes 
which together constitute what belongs to sensation only, and which 
consequently come under the general designation of sensibility. Man 
considering himself in this way as an intelligence, places himself 
thereby in a different order of things and in a relation to determining 
grounds of a wholly different kind when on the one hand he thinks 
of himself as an intelligence endowed with a will, and consequently 
with causality, and when on the other he perceives himself as a 
phenomenon in the world of sense (as he really is also) , and affirms 
that his causality is subject to external determination according to 
laws of nature." Now he soon becomes aware that both can hold 
good, nay, must hold good at the same time. For there is not the 
smallest contradiction in saying that a thing in appearance (belong- 
ing to the world of sense) is subject to certain laws, on which the 
very same as a thing or being in itself is independent; and that he 
must conceive and think of himself in this twofold way, rests as to 
the first on the consciousness of himself as an object affected through 
the senses, and as to the second on the consciousness of himself as an 
intelligence, /. e., as independent on sensible impressions in the 
employment of his reason (in other words as belonging to the world 
of understanding). 

Hence it comes to pass that man claims the possession of a vvdll 
which takes no account of anything that comes under the head of 
desires and incUnations, and on the contrary conceives actions as 
possible to him, nay, even as necessary, which can only be done by 
disregarding all desires and sensible inclinations. The causality of 
such actions' lies in him as an intelligence and in the laws of effects 
and actions [which depend] on the principles of an intelligible 
world, of which indeed he knows nothing more than that in it pure 
reason alone independent on sensibility gives the law; moreover since 
it is only in that world, as an intelligence, that he is his proper self 

' [The punctuation of the original gives the following sense: "Submits his causality, 
as regards its external determination, to laws of nature." I have ventured to make 
what appears to be a necessary correction, by simply removing a comma.] 

' [M. Barni translates as if he read desselbcn instead of derselben, "the causality of 
this will." So also Mr. Semple.] 

368 KANT 

(being as man only the appearance of himself) those laws apply to 
him directly and categorically, so that the incitements of inclinations 
and appetites (in other words the whole nature of the world of 
sense) cannot impair the laws of his volition as an intelligence. Nay, 
he does not even hold himself responsible for the former or ascribe 
them to his proper self, i, e., his will: he only ascribes to his will 
any indulgence which he might yield them if he allowed them to 
influence his maxims to the prejudice of the rational laws of the 

When practical Reason thin\s itself into a world of understanding 
it does not thereby transcend its own limits, as it would if it tried 
to enter it by intuition or sensation. The former is only a negative 
thought in respect of the world of sense, which does not give any 
Jaws to reason in determining the will, and is positive only in this 
single point that this freedom as a negative characteristic is at the 
same time conjoined with a (positive) faculty and even with a cau- 
sality of reason, which we designate a will, namely, a faculty of so 
acting that the principle of the actions shall conform to the essential 
character of a rational motive, i. e., the condition that the maxim 
have imiversal validity as a law. But were it to borrow an object 
of will, that is, a motive, from the world of understanding, then it 
would overstep its bounds and pretend to be acquainted with some- 
thing of which it knows nothing. The conception of a world of the 
understanding is then only a point of view which Reason finds itself 
compelled to take outside the appearances in order to conceive itself 
as practical, which would not be possible if the influences of the sensi- 
bility had a determining power on man, but which is necessary un- 
less he is to be denied the consciousness of himself as an intelligence, 
and consequently as a rational cause, energizing by reason, that is, 
operating freely. This thought certainly involves the idea of an order 
and a system of laws different from that of the mechanism of nature 
which belongs to the sensible world, and it makes the conception of 
an intelligible world necessary (that is to say, the whole system of 
rational beings as things in themselves) . But it does not in the least 
authorize us to think of it further than as to its formal condition 
only, that is, the universality of the maxims of the will as laws, and 
consequently the autonomy of the latter, which alone is consistent 


with its freedom; whereas, on the contrary, all laws that refer to a 
definite object give heteronomy, which only belongs to laws of 
nature, and can only apply to the sensible world. 

But Reason would overstep all its bounds if it undertook to explain 
how pure reason can be practical, which would be exactly the same 
problem as to explain how freedom is possible. 

For we can explain nothing but that which we can reduce to laws, 
the object of which can be given in some possible experience. But 
freedom is a mere Idea [Ideal Conception], the objective reality of 
which can in no wise be shown according to laws of nature, and 
consequently not in any possible experience; and for this reason it 
can never be comprehended or understood, because we cannot sup- 
port it by any sort of example or analogy. It holds good only as a 
necessary hypothesis of reason in a being that believes itself con- 
scious of a will, that is, of a faculty distinct from mere desire (namely, 
a faculty of determining itself to action as an intelligence), in other 
words, by laws of reason independently on natural instincts. Now 
where determination according to laws of nature ceases, there all 
explanation ceases also, and nothing remains but defence, i. e., the 
removal of the objections of those who pretend to have seen deeper 
into the nature of things, and thereupon boldly declare freedom 
impossible. We can only point out to them that the supposed contra- 
diction that they have discovered in it arises only from this, that in 
order to be able to apply the law of nature to human actions, they 
must necessarily consider man as an appearance: then when we 
demand of them that they should also think of him qua intelligence 
as a thing in itself, they still persist in considering him in this respect 
also as an appearance. In this view it would no doubt be a contradic- 
tion to suppose the causality of the same subject (that is, his will) to 
be withdrawn from all the natural laws of the sensible world. But this 
contradiction disappears, if they would only bethink themselves and 
admit, as is reasonable, that behind the appearances there must also 
lie at their root (although hidden) the things in themselves, and 
that we cannot expect the laws of these to be the same as those that 
govern their appearances. 

The subjective impossibility of explaining the freedom of the will 
is identical with the impossibility of discovering and explaining an 

370 KANT 

interest ' which man can take in the moral law. Nevertheless he does 
actually take an interest in it, the basis of which in us we call the 
moral feeling, which some have falsely assigned as the standard of 
our moral judgment, whereas it must rather be viewed as the sub- 
jective effect that the law exercises on the will, the objective prin- 
ciple of which is furnished by Reason alone. 

In order indeed that a rational being who is also affected through 
the senses should will what Reason alone directs such beings that 
they ought to will, it is no doubt requisite that reason should have a 
power to infuse a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction in the fulfilment 
of duty, that is to say, that it should have a causality by which it de- 
termines the sensibility according to its own principles. But it is 
quite impossible to discern, /. e., to make it intelligible a priori, how 
a mere thought, which itself contains nothing sensible, can itself 
produce a sensation of pleasure or pain; for this is a particular kind 
of causality of which as of every other causality we can determine 
nothing whatever d. priori, we must only consult experience about 
it. But as this cannot supply us with any relation of cause and 
effect except between two objects of experience, whereas in this case, 
although indeed the effect produced lies within experience, yet the 
cause is supposed to be pure reason acting through mere ideas which 
offer no object to experience, it follows that for us men it is quite 
impossible to explain how and why the universality of the maxim as 
a law, that is, moraUty, interests. This only is certain, that it is not 
because it interests us that it has validity for us (for that would be 
heteronomy and dependence of practical reason on sensibility, 
namely, on a feeling as its principle, in which case it could never 
give moral laws), but that it interests us because it is valid for us as 

* Interest is that by which reason becomes practical, t. e., a cause determining the 
will. Hence we say of rational beings only that they take an interest in a thing; 
irrational beings only feel sensual appetites. Reason takes a direct interest in action 
then only when the universal validity of its maxims is alone sufficient to determine 
the will. Such an interest alone is pure. But if it can determine the will only by 
means of another object of desire or on the suggestion of a particular feeling of the 
subject, then Reason takes only an indirect interest in the action, and as Reason by 
itself without experience cannot discover either objects of the will or a special feeling 
actuating it, this latter interest would only be empirical, and not a pure rational 
interest. The logical interest of Reason (namely, to extend its insight) is never 
direct, but presupposes purposes for which reason is employed. 


men, inasmuch as it had its source in our will as intelligences, in 
other words in our proper self, and what belongs to mere appearance, 
is necessarily subordinated by reason to the nature of the thing in 

The question then: How a categorical imperative is possible can 
be answered to this extent that we can assign the only hypothesis on 
which it is possible, namely, the idea of freedom; and we can also 
discern the necessity of this hypothesis, and this is sufficient for the 
practical exercise of reason, that is, for the conviction of the validity 
of this imperative, and hence of the moral law; but how this hy- 
pothesis itself is possible can never be discerned by any human reason. 
On the hypothesis, however, that the will of an intelligence is free, 
its autonomy, as the essential formal condition of its determination, 
is a necessary consequence. Moreover, this freedom of will is not 
merely quite possible as a hypothesis (not involving any contradic- 
tion to the principle of physical necessity in the connexion of the 
phenomena of the sensible world) as speculative philosophy can 
show : but further, a rational being who is conscious of a causality * 
through reason, that is to say, of a will (distinct from desires), must 
of necessity make it practically, that is, in idea, the condition of all 
his voluntary actions. But to explain how pure reason can be of 
itself practical without the aid of any spring of action that could be 
derived from any other source, i. e., how the mere principle of the 
universal validity of all its maxims as laws (which would certainly 
be the form of a pure practical reason) can of itself supply a spring, 
without any matter (object) of the will in which one could ante- 
cedently take any interest; and how it can produce an interest which 
would be called purely moral; or in other words, how pure reason 
can be practical — to explain this is beyond the power of human 
reason, and all the labour and pains of seeking an explanation of it 
are lost. 

It is just the same as if I sought to find out how freedom itself is 
possible as the causality of a will. For then I quit the ground of 
philosophical explanation, and I have no other to go upon. I might 
indeed revel in the world of intelligences which still remains to me, 

' [Reading "einer" for "seiner."] 

372 KANT 

but although I have an idea o£ it which is well founded, yet I have 
not the least knowledge of it, nor can I ever attain to such knowl- 
edge with all the efforts of my natural faculty of reason. It signifies 
only a something that remains over when I have eliminated every- 
thing belonging to the world of sense from the actuating principles 
of my will, serving merely to keep in bounds the principle of motives 
taken from the field of sensibility; fixing its limits and showing that 
it does not contain all in all within itself, but that there is more 
beyond it; but this something more I know no further. Of pure 
reason which frames this ideal, there remains after the abstraction of 
all matter, i. e., knowledge of objects, nothing but the form, namely, 
the practical law of the universality of the maxims, and in con- 
formity with this the conception of reason in reference to a pure 
world of understanding as a possible efficient cause, that is a cause 
determining the will. There must here be a total absence of springs; 
unless this idea of an intelligible world is itself the spring, or that 
in which reason primarily takes an interest; but to make this intelli- 
gible is precisely the problem that we cannot solve. 

Here now is the extreme limit of all moral inquiry, and it is of 
great importance to determine it even on this account, in order that 
reason may not on the one hand, to the prejudice of morals, seek 
about in the world of sense for the supreme motive and an interest 
comprehensible but empirical; and on the other hand, that it may 
not impotently flap its wings without being able to move in the 
(for it) empty space of transcendent concepts which we call the 
intelligible world, and so lose itself amidst chimeras. For the rest, 
the idea of a pure world of understanding as a system of all intelli- 
gences, and to which we ourselves as rational beings belong (al- 
though we are likewise on the other side members of the sensible 
world), this remains always a useful and legitimate idea for the 
purposes of rational belief, although all knowledge stops at its 
threshold, useful, namely, to produce in us a lively interest in the 
moral law by means of the noble ideal of a universal kingdom of 
endi in themselves (rational beings), to which we can belong as 
members then only when we carefully conduct ourselves according 
to the maxims of freedom as if they were laws of nature. 


Concluding Remarl^ 

The speculative employment of reason with respect to nature 
leads to the absolute necessity of some supreme cause of the world: 
the practical employment of reason with a view to freedom leads 
also to absolute necessity, but only of the laws of the actions of a 
rational being as such. Now it is an essential principle of reason, 
however employed, to push its knowledge to a consciousness of its 
necessity (without which it would not be rational knowledge) . It is 
however an equally essential restriction of the same reason that it 
can neither discern the necessity of what is or what happens, nor of 
what ought to happen, unless a condition is supposed on which it is 
or happens or ought to happen. In this way, however, by the con- 
stant inquiry for the condition, the satisfaction of reason is only 
further and further postponed. Hence it unceasingly seeks the un- 
conditionally necessary, and finds itself forced to assume it, although 
without any means of making it comprehensible to itself, happy 
enough if only it can discover a conception which agrees with this 
assumption. It is therefore no fault in our deduction of the supreme 
principle of morality, but an objection that should be made to human 
reason in general, that it cannot enable us to conceive the absolute 
necessity of an unconditional practical law (such as the categorical 
imperative must be) . It cannot be blamed for refusing to explain this 
necessity by a condition, that is to say, by means of some interest 
assumed as a basis, since the law would then cease to be a moral 
law, /. e. a supreme law of freedom. And thus while we do not 
comprehend the practical unconditional necessity of the moral im- 
perative, we yet comprehend its incomprehensibility, and this is all 
that can be fairly demanded of a philosophy which strives to carry 
its principles up to the very limit of human reason. 




Giuseppe Mazzini, the great political idealist of the Italian struggle for 
independence, was born at Genoa, June 22, 1805. His faith in democ- 
racy and his enthusiasm for a free Italy he inherited from his parents; 
and while still a student in the University of Genoa he gathered round 
him a circle of youths who shared his dreams. At the age of twenty-two 
he joined the secret society of the Carbonari, and was sent on a mission 
to Tuscany, where he was entrapped and arrested. On his release, he set 
about the formation, among the Italian exiles in Marseilles, of the 
Society of Young Italy, which had for its aim the establishment of a free 
and united Italian republic. His activities led to a decree for his banish- 
ment from France, but he succeeded in outwitting the spies of the Gov- 
ernment and going on with his work. The conspiracy for a national 
rising planned by Young Italy was discovered, many of the leaders were 
executed, and Mazzini himself condemned to death. 

Almost at once, however, he resumed operations, working this time 
from Geneva; but another abortive expedition led to his expulsion from 
Switzerland. He found refuge, but at first hardly a livelihood, in Lon- 
don, where he continued his propaganda by means of his pen. He went 
back to Italy when the revolution of 1848 broke out, and fought fiercely 
but in vain against the French, when they besieged Rome and ended the 
Roman Republic in 1849. 

Defeated and broken, he returned to England, where he remained till 
called to Italy by the insurrection of 1857. He worked with Garibaldi for 
some time; but the kingdom established under Victor Emmanuel by 
Cavour and Garibaldi was far from the ideal Italy for which Mazzini 
had striven. The last years of his life were spent mainly in London, but 
at the end he returned to Italy, where he died on March 10, 1872. 
Hardly has any age seen a political martyr of a purer or nobler type. 

Mazzini's essay on Byron and Goethe is more than literary criticism, 
for it exhibits that philosophical quality which gives so remarkable a 
unity to the writings of Mazzini, whether literary, social, or political. 


I STOOD one day in a Swiss village at the foot o£ the Jura, and 
watched the coming of the storm. Heavy black clouds, their 
edges purpled by the setting sun, were rapidly covering the 
loveliest sky in Europe, save that of Italy. Thunder growled in the 
distance, and gusts of biting wind were driving huge drops of 
rain over the thirsty plain. Looking upwards, I beheld a large Alpine 
falcon, now rising, now sinking, as he floated bravely in the very 
midst of the storm and I could almost fancy that he strove to batde 
with it. At every fresh peal of thunder, the noble bird bounded 
higher aloft, as if in answering defiance. I followed him with my 
eyes for a long time, until he disappeared in the east. On the ground, 
about fifty paces beneath me, stood a stork; perfectly tranquil and 
impassive in the midst of the warring elements. Twice or thrice she 
turned her head towards the quarter frorh whence the wind came, 
with an indescribable air of half indifferent curiosity; but at length 
she drew up one of her long sinewy legs, hid her head beneath her 
wing, and calmly composed herself to sleep. 

I thought of Byron and Goethe; of the stormy sky that overhung 
both; of the tempest-tossed existence, the life-long struggle, of the 
one, and the calm of the other; and of the two mighty sources of 
poetry exhausted and closed by them. 

Byron and Goethe — the two names that predominate, and, come 
what may, ever will predominate, over our every recollection of the 
fifty years that have passed away. They rule; the master-minds, I 
might almost say the tyrants, of a whole period of poetry; brilliant, 
yet sad; glorious in youth and daring, yet cankered by the worm i' 
the bud, despair. They are the two representative poets of two great 
schools; and around them we are compelled to group all the lesser 
minds which contributed to render the era illustrious. The qualities 
which adorn and distinguish their works are to be found, although 
more thinly scattered, in other poets their contemporaries; still theirs 



are the names that involuntarily rise to our lips whenever we seek to 
characterize the tendencies of the age in which they lived. Their 
genius pursued different, even opposite routes; and yet very rarely 
do our thoughts turn to either without evoking the image of the 
other, as a sort of necessary complement to the first. The eyes of 
Europe were fixed upon the pair, as the spectators gaze on two 
mighty wrestlers in the same arena; and they, like noble and gener- 
ous adversaries, admired, praised, and held out the hand to each 
other. Many poets have followed in their footsteps; none have been 
so popular. Others have found judges and critics who have appre- 
ciated them calmly and impartially; not so they: for them there 
have been only enthusiasts or enemies, wreaths or stones; and when 
they vanished into the vast night that envelops and transforms alike 
men and things — silence reigned around their tombs. Little by little, 
poetry had passed away from our world, and it seemed as if their 
last sigh had extinguished the sacred flame. 

A reaction has now commenced; good, in so far as it reveals a 
desire for and promise of new life; evil, in so far as it betrays narrow 
views, a tendency to injustice towards departed genius, and the 
absence of any fixed rule or principle to guide our appreciation of 
the past. Human judgment, like Luther's drunken peasant, when 
saved from falling on one side, too often topples over on the other. 
The reaction against Goethe, in his own country especially, which 
was courageously and justly begun by Menzel during his lifetime, 
has been carried to exaggeration since his death. Certain social 
opinions, to which I myself belong, but which, although founded on 
a sacred principle, should not be allowed to interfere with the im- 
partiality of our judgment, have weighed heavily in the balance; and 
many young, ardent, and enthusiastic minds of our day have re- 
iterated with Bonne that Goethe is the worst of despots; the cancer 
of the German body. 

The English reaction against Byron — I do not speak of that mix- 
ture of cant and stupidity which denies the poet his place in West- 
minster Abbey, but of hterary reaction — has shown itself still more 
unreasoning. I have met with adorers of Shelley who denied the 
poetic genius of Byron; others who seriously compared his poems 
with those of Sir Walter Scott. One very much overrated critic 


writes that "Byron makes man after his own image, and woman 
after his own heart; the one is a capricious tyrant, the other a yield- 
ing slave." The first forgot the verses in which their favorite hailed 

"The pilgrim of eternity, whose fame 
Over his living head like Heaven is bent;" ' 

the second, that after the appearance of "The Giaour" and "Childe 
Harold," Sir Walter Scott renounced writing poetry.^ The last for- 
got that while he was quietly writing criticisms, Byron was dying 
for new-born liberty in Greece. All judged, too many in each country 
still judge, the two poets, Byron and Goethe, after an absolute type 
of the beautiful, the true, or the false, which they had formed in their 
own minds; without regard to the state of social relations as they 
were or are; without any true conception of the destiny or mission 
of poetry, or of the law by which it, and every other artistic mani- 
festation of human life, is governed. 

There is no absolute type on earth: the absolute exists in the 
Divine Idea alone; the gradual comprehension of which man is 
destined to attain; although its complete realization is impossible on 
earth; earthly life being but one stage of the eternal evolution of life, 
manifested in thought and action; strengthened by all the achieve- 
ments of the past, and advancing from age to age towards a less im- 
perfect expression of that idea. Our earthly life is one phase of the 
eternal aspiration of the soul towards progress, which is our law; 
ascending in increasing power and purity from the finite towards the 
infinite; from the real towards the ideal; from that which is, towards 
that which is to come. In the immense storehouse of the past evo- 
lutions of life constituted by universal tradition, and in the prophetic 
instinct brooding in the depths of the human soul, does poetry seek 
inspiration. It changes with the times, for it is their expression; it is 
transformed with society, for — consciously or unconsciously — it sings 
the lay of Humanity; although, according to the individual bias or 
circumstances of the singer, it assumes the hues of the present, or of 
the future in course of elaboration, and foreseen by the inspiration 
of genius. It sings now a dirge and now a cradle song; it initiates 
or sums up. 

' Adonais. ^ Lockhart 


Byron and Goethe summed up. Was it a defect in them? No; it 
was the law of the times, and yet society at the present day, twenty 
years after they have ceased to sing, assumes to condemn them for 
having been born too soon. Happy indeed are the poets whom God 
raises up at the commencement of an era, under the rays of the 
rising sun. A series of generations will lovingly repeat their verses, 
and attribute to them the new life which they did but foresee in the 

Byron and Goethe summed up. This is at once the philosophical 
explanation of their works, and the secret of their popularity. The 
spirit of an entire epoch of the European world became incarnate in 
them ere its decease, even as — in the political sphere — the spirit of 
Greece and Rome became incarnate before death in Csesar and Alex- 
ander. They were the poetic expression of that principle, of which 
England was the economic, France the political, and Germany the 
philosophic expression: the last formula, effort, and result of a 
society founded on the principle of individuality. That epoch, the 
mission of which had been, first through the labors of Greek philos- 
ophy, and afterwards through Christianity, to rehabilitate, emanci- 
pate, and develop individual man — appears to have concentrated in 
them, in Fichte, in Adam Smith, and in the French school des 
droits de I'homme, its whole energy and power, in order fully to 
represent and express all that it had achieved for mankind. It was 
much; but it was not the whole; and therefore it was doomed to 
pass away. The epoch of individuality was deemed near the goal; 
when lo! immense horizons were revealed; vast unknown lands in 
whose untrodden forests the principle of individuality was an in- 
sufficient guide. By the long and painful labors of that epoch the 
human unknown quantity had been disengaged from the various 
quantities of diflFerent nature by which it had been surrounded; but 
only to be left weak, isolated, and recoiling in terror from the soli- 
tude in which it stood. The political schools of the epoch had pro- 
claimed the sole basis of civil organization to be the right to liberty 
and equality (liberty for all), but they had encountered social an- 
archy by the way. The philosophy of the epoch had asserted the 
sovereignty of the human Bgo, and had ended in the mere adoration 
of jact, in Hegelian immobility. The Economy of the epoch imag- 


ined it had organized free competition, while it had but organized 
the oppression of the weak by the strong; of labor by capital; of 
poverty by wealth. The Poetry of the epoch had represented in- 
dividuality in its every phase; had translated in sentiment what 
science had theoretically demonstrated; and it had encountered the 
void. But as society at last discovered that the destinies of the race 
were not contained in a mere problem of liberty, but rather in the 
harmonization of liberty with association — so did poetry discover 
that the life it had hitherto drawn from individuality alone was 
doomed to perish for want of aliment; and that its future existence 
depended on enlarging and transforming its sphere. Both society 
and poetry uttered a cry of despair: the death-agony of a form of 
society produced the agitation we have seen constantly increasing 
in Europe since 1815: the death-agony of a form of poetry evoked 
Byron and Goethe. I believe this point of view to be the only one 
that can lead us to a useful and impartial appreciation of these two 
great spirits. 

There are two forms of individuality; the expressions of its in- 
ternal and external, or — as the Germans would say — of its subjective 
and objective life. Byron was the poet of the first, Goethe of the 
last. In Byron the Ego is revealed in all its pride of power, freedom, 
and desire, in the uncontrolled plenitude of all its faculties; in- 
haling existence at every pore, eager to seize "the life of life." The 
world around him neither rules nor tempers him. The Byronian 
Ego aspires to rule it; but solely for dominion's sake, to exercise upon 
it the Titanic force of his will. Accurately speaking, he cannot be 
said to derive from it either color, tone, or image; for it is he who 
colors; he who sings; he whose image is everywhere reflected and 
reproduced. His poetry emanates from his own soul; to be thence 
diffused upon things external; he holds his state in the centre of the 
universe, and from thence projects the light radiating from the 
depths of his own mind; as scorching and intense as the concen- 
trated solar ray. Hence that terrible unity which only the super- 
ficial reader could mistake for monotony. 

Byron appears at the close of one epoch, and before the dawn of 
the other; in the midst of a community based upon an aristocracy 
which has outlived the vigor of its prime; surrounded by a Europe 


containing nothing grand, unless it be Napoleon on one side and 
Pitt on the other, genius degraded to minister to egotism; intellect 
bound to the service of the past. No seer exists to foretell the future : 
belief is extinct; there is only its pretence: prayer is no more; there 
is only a movement of the lips at a fixed day or hour, for the sake 
of the family, or what is called the people; love is no more; desire 
has taken its place; the holy warfare of ideas is abandoned; the con- 
flict is that of interests. The worship of great thoughts has passed 
away. That which is, raises the tattered banner of some corpse-like 
traditions; that which would be, hoists only the standard of physical 
wants, of material appetites: around him are ruins, beyond him the 
desert; the horizon is a blank. A long cry of suffering and indigna- 
tion bursts from the heart of Byron: he is answered by anathemas. 
He departs; he hurries through Europe in search of an ideal to 
adore; he traverses it distracted, palpitating, like Mazeppa on the 
wild horse; borne onwards by a fierce desire; the wolves of envy 
and calumny follow in pursuit. He visits Greece; he visits Italy; 
if anywhere a lingering spark of the sacred fire, a ray of divine 
poetry, is preserved, it must be there. Nothing. A glorious past, a 
degraded present; none of life's poetry; no movement, save that of 
the sufferer turning on his couch to relieve his pain. Byron, from 
the solitude of his exile, turns his eyes again towards England; he 
sings. What does he sing? What springs from the mysterious and 
unique conception which rules, one would say in spite of himself, 
over all that escapes him in his sleepless vigil? The funeral hymn, 
the death-song, the epitaph of the aristocratic idea; we discovered it, 
we Continentalists; not his own countrymen. He takes his types 
from amongst those privileged by strength, beauty, and individual 
power. They are grand, poetical, heroic, but solitary; they hold no 
communion with the world around them, unless it be to rule over it; 
they defy alike the good and evil principle; they "will bend to 
neither." In life and in death "they stand upon their strength"; 
they resist every power, for their own is all their own; it was pur- 
chased by 

"Superior science — penance — daring — 
And length of watching — strength of mind — and skill 
In knowledge of our fathers." 


Each of them is the personification, sHghtly modified, of a single 
type, a single idea — the individual; free, but nothing more than 
free; such as the epoch now closing has made him; Faust, but with- 
out the compact which submits him to the enemy; for the heroes of 
Byron make no such compact. Cain kneels not to Arimanes; and 
Manfred, about to die, exclaims: 

"The mind, which is immortal, makes itself 
Requital for its good and evil thoughts — 
Is its own origin of ill, and end — 
And its own place and time, its innate sense, 
When stripped of this mortality, derives 
No color from the Heeting things without, 
But is absorbed in sufferance or in joy; 
Born from the knowledge of its own desert." 

They have no kindred: they live from their own life only; they re- 
pulse humanity, and regard the crowd with disdain. Each of them 
says: "I have faith in myself"; never, "I have faith in ourselves." 
They all aspire to power or to happiness. The one and the other 
alike escape them; for they bear within them, untold, unacknowl- 
edged even to themselves, the presentiment of a life that mere liberty 
can never give them. Free they are; iron souls in iron frames, they 
climb the Alps of the physical world as well as the Alps of thought; 
still is their visage stamped with a gloomy and ineffaceable sadness; 
still is their soul — whether, as in Cain and Manfred, it plunge into 
the abyss of the infinite, "intoxicated with eternity," or scour the 
vast plain and boundless ocean with the Corsair and Giaour — 
haunted by a secret and sleepless dread. It seems as if they were 
doomed to drag the broken links of the chain they have burst asun- 
der, riveted to their feet. Not only in the petty society against 
which they rebel does their soul feel fettered and restrained; but even 
in the world of the spirit. Neither is it to the enmity of society that 
they succumb; but under the assaults of this nameless anguish; 
under the corroding action of potent faculties "inferior still to their 
desires and their conceptions"; under the deception that comes from 
within. What can they do with the liberty so painfully won.? On 
whom, on what, expend the exuberant vitality within them? They 
(ire alone; this is the secret of their wretchedness) and impotence. 


They "thirst for good" — Cain has said it for them all — but cannot 
achieve it; for they have no mission, no belief, no comprehension 
even of the world around them. They have never realized the con- 
ception of Humanity in the multitudes that have preceded, surround, 
and will follow after them; never thought on their own place be- 
tween the past and future; on the continuity of labor that unites all 
the generations into one whole; on the common end and aim, only 
to be realized by the common effort; on the spiritual post-sepulchral 
life even on earth of the individual, through the thoughts he trans- 
mits to his fellows; and, it may be — when he lives devoted and dies 
in faith — through the guardian agency he is allowed to exercise 
over the loved ones left on earth. 

Gifted with a liberty they know not how to use; with a power and 
energy they know not how to apply; with a life whose purpose and 
aim they comprehend not; they drag through their useless and con- 
vulsed existence. Byron destroys them one after the other, as if he 
were the executioner of a sentence decreed in heaven. They fall 
unwept, like a withered leaf into the stream of time. 

"Nor earth nor sky shall yield a single tear. 
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall, 
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all." 

They die, as they have lived, alone; and a popular malediction hovers 
round their solitary tombs. 

This, for those who can read with the soul's eyes, is what Byron 
sings; or rather what humanity sings through him. The emptiness 
of the life and death of solitary individuality has never been so 
powerfully and efficaciously summed up as in the pages of Byron. 
The crowd do not comprehend him: they listen; fascinated for an 
instant; then repent, and avenge their momentary transport by 
calumniating and insulting the poet. His intuition of the death of 
a form of society they call wounded self-love; his sorrow for all is 
misinterpreted as cowardly egotism. They credit not the traces of 
profound suffering revealed by his lineaments; they credit not the 
presentiment of a new life which from time to time escapes his 
trembling Ups; they believe not in the despairing embrace in which 
he grasps the material universe — stars, lakes, alps, and sea — and 


identifies himself with it, and through it with God, o£ whom— to 
him at least — it is a symbol. They do, however, take careful count 
of some unhappy moments, in which, wearied out by the emptiness 
of life, he has raised — with remorse I am sure — the cup of ignoble 
pleasures to his lips, believing he might find forgetfulness there. 
How many times have not his accusers drained this cup, without re- 
deeming the sin by a single virtue; without — I will not say bearing — 
but without having even the capacity of appreciating the burden 
which weighed on Byron! And did he not himself dash into frag- 
ments the ignoble cup, so soon as he beheld something worthy the 
devotion of his life ? 

Goethe— individuahty in its objective hfe — having, like Byron, a 
sense of the falsehood and evil of the world round him — followed 
exactly the opposite path. After having — ^he, too, in his youth — 
uttered a cry of anguish in his Werther; after having laid bare the 
problem of the epoch in all its terrific nudity, in Faust; he thought 
he had done enough, and refused to occupy himself with its solu- 
tion. It is possible that the impulse of rebellion against social wrong 
and evil which burst forth for an instant in Werther may long have 
held his soul in secret travail; but that he despaired of the task of 
reforming it as beyond his powers. He himself remarked in his 
later years, when commenting on the exclamation made by a French- 
man on first seeing him: "That is the face of a man who has suf- 
fered much"; that he should rather have said: "That is the face of a 
man who has struggled energetically;" but of this there remains no 
trace in his works. Whilst Byron writhed and suffered under the 
sense of the wrong and evil around him, he attained the calm — I 
cannot say of victory — but of indifference. In Byron the man always 
ruled, and even at times, overcame the artist: the man was com- 
pletely lost in the artist in Goethe. In him there was no subjective 
life; no unity springing either from heart or head. Goethe is an in- 
telligence that receives, elaborates, and reproduces the poetry affluent 
to him from all external objects: from all points of the circumference; 
to him as centre. He dwells aloft alone; a mighty watcher in the 
midst of creation. His curious scrutiny investigates, with equal 
penetration and equal interest, the depths of the ocean and the 
calyx of the floweret. Whether he studies the rose exhaling its 


Eastern perfume to the sky, or the ocean casting its countless 
wrecks upon the shore, the brow of the poet remains equally 
calm: to him they are but two forms of the beautiful; two subjects 
for art. 

Goethe has been called a pantheist. I know not in what sense 
critics apply this vague and often ill-understood word to him. There 
is a materialistic pantheism and a spiritual pantheism; the pantheism 
of Spinoza and that of Giordano Bruno; of St. Paul; and of many 
others — all different. But there is no poetic pantheism possible, save 
on the condition of embracing the whole world of phenomena in 
one unique conception: of feeling and comprehending the life of 
the universe in its divine unity. There is nothing of this in Goethe. 
There is pantheism in some parts of Wordsworth; in the third canto 
of "Childe Harold," and in much of Shelley; but there is none in the 
most admirable compositions of Goethe; wherein life, though ad- 
mirably comprehended and reproduced in each of its successive 
manifestations, is never understood as a whole. Goethe is the poet 
of details, not of unity; of analysis, not of synthesis. None so able 
to investigate details; to set off and embellish minute and apparently 
trifling points; none throw so beautiful a light on separate parts; but 
the connecting link escapes him. His works resemble a magnificent 
encyclopedia, unclassified. He has felt everything but he has never 
felt the whole. Happy in detecting a ray of the beautiful upon the 
humblest blade of grass gemmed with dew; happy in seizing the 
poetic elements of an incident the most prosaic in appearance — he 
was incapable of tracing all to a common source, and recomposing 
the grand ascending scale in which, to quote a beautiful expression 
of Herder's "every creature is a numerator of the grand denominator, 
Nature." How, indeed, should he comprehend these things, he who 
had no place in his works or in his poet's heart for humanity, by the 
light of which conception only can the true worth of sublunary 
things be determined? "Religion and politics,'" said he, "are a 
troubled element for art. I have always kept myself aloof from them 
as much as possible." Questions of life and death for the millions 
were agitated around him; Germany re-echoed to the war songs of 
Korner; Fichte, at the close of one of his lectures, seized his musket, 
' Goethe and his Contemporaries. 


and joined the volunteers who were hastening (alas! what have not 
the Kings made of that magnificent outburst of nationality!) to 
fight the battles of their fatherland. The ancient soil of Germany 
thrilled beneath their tread; he, an artist, looked on unmoved; his 
heart knew no responsive throb to the emotion that shook his coun- 
try; his genius, utterly passive, drew apart from the current that 
swept away entire races. He witnessed the French Revolution in all 
its terrible grandeur, and saw the old world crumble beneath its 
strokes; and while all the best and purest spirits of Germany, who 
had mistaken the death-agony of the old world for the birth-throes 
of a new, were wringing their hands at the spectacle of dissolution, 
he saw in it only the subject of a farce. He beheld the glory and the 
fall of Napoleon; he witnessed the reaction of down-trodden nation- 
alities — sublime prologue of the grand epopee of the peoples destined 
sooner or later to be unfolded — and remained a cold spectator. He 
had neither learned to esteem men, to better them, nor even to suffer 
vAth them. If we except the beautiful type of Berlichingen, a poetic 
inspiration of his youth, man, as the creature of thought and action; 
the artificer of the future, so nobly sketched by Schiller in his dramas, 
has no representative in his works. He has carried something of this 
nonchalance even into the manner in which his heroes conceive love. 
Goethe's altar is spread with the choicest flowers, the most exquisite 
perfumes, the first-fruits of nature; but the Priest is wanting. In his 
work of second creation — for it cannot be denied that such it was — 
he has gone through the vast circle of living and visible things; but 
stopped short before the seventh day. God withdrew from him be- 
fore that time; and the creatures the poet has evoked wander within 
the circle, dumb and prayerless; awaiting until the man shall come to 
give them a name, and appoint them to a destination. 

No, Goethe is not the poet of Pantheism; he is a polytheist in his 
method as an artist; the pagan poet of modern times. His world is, 
above all things, the world of forms: a multiplied Olympus. The 
Mosaic heaven and the Christian are veiled to him. Like the pagans, 
he parcels out Nature into fragments, and makes of each a divinity; 
like them, he worships the sensuous rather than the ideal; he looks, 
touches, and listens far more than he feels. And what care and 
labor are bestowed upon the plastic portion of his art! what impor- 


tance is given — I will not say to the objects themselves — ^but to the 
external representation of objects! Has he not somewhere said that 
"the beautiful is the result of happy position?"^ 

Under this definition is concealed an entire system of poetic ma- 
terialism, substituted for the worship of the ideal; involving a whole 
series of consequences, the logical result of which was to lead Goethe 
to indifference, that moral suicide of some of the noblest energies of 
genius. The absolute concentration of every faculty of observation 
on each of the objects to be represented, without relation to the 
ensemble; the entire avoidance of every influence likely to modify the 
view taken of that object, became in his hands one of the most 
effective means of art. The poet, in his eyes, was neither the rush- 
ing stream a hundred times broken on its course, that it may carry 
fertility to the surrounding country; nor the brilliant flame, con- 
suming itself in the light it sheds around while ascending to heaven; 
but rather the placid lake, reflecting alike the tranquil landscape and 
the thunder-cloud; its own surface the while unruffled even by the 
lightest breeze. A serene and passive calm with the absolute clear- 
ness and distinctness of successive impressions, in each of which he 
was for the time wholly absorbed, are the peculiar characteristics of 
Goethe. "I allow the objects I desire to comprehend, to act tran- 
quilly upon me," said he; "/ then observe the impression I have 
received from them, and I endeavor to render it faithfully." Goethe 
has here portrayed his every feature to perfection. He was in life 
such as Madame Von Arnim proposed to represent him after death; 
a venerable old man, with a serene, almost radiant countenance; 
clothed in an antique robe, holding a lyre resting on his knees, and 
listening to the harmonies drawn from it either by the hand of a 
genius, or the breath of the winds. The last chords wafted his soul 
to the East; to the land of inactive contemplation. It was time: 
Europe had become too agitated for him. 

Such were Byron and Goethe in their general characteristics; both 
great poets; very different, and yet, complete as is the contrast be- 
tween them, and widely apart as are the paths they pursue, arriving 
at the same point. Life and death, character and poetry, everything 

^In the Kunst and Alterthum, I think. 


is unlike in the two, and yet the one is the complement of the other. 
Both are the children of fatality— for it is especially at the close of 
epochs that the providential law which directs the generations as- 
sumes towards individuals the semblance of fatality — and compelled 
by it unconsciously to work out a great mission. Goethe contem- 
plates the world in parts, and delivers the impressions they make 
upon him, one by one, as occasion presents them. Byron looks upon 
the world from a single comprehensive point of view; from the 
height of which he modifies in his own soul the impressions pro- 
duced by external objects, as they pass before him. Goethe succes- 
sively absorbs his own individuality in each of the objects he repro- 
duces. Byron stamps every object he portrays with his own indi- 
viduality. To Goethe, nature is the symphony; to Byron it is the 
prelude. She furnishes to the one the entire subject; to the other the 
occasion only of his verse. The one executes her harmonies; the 
other composes on the theme she has suggested. Goethe better ex- 
presses lives; Byron life. The one is more vast; the other more deep. 
The first searches everywhere for the beautiful, and loves, above all 
things, harmony and repose; the other seeks the sublime, and adores 
action and force. Characters, such as Coriolanus or Luther, dis- 
turbed Goethe. I know not if, in his numerous pieces of criticism, 
he has ever spoken of Dante; but assuredly he must have shared the 
antipathy felt for him by Sir Walter Scott; and although he would 
undoubtedly have sufBciently respected his genius to admit him into 
his Pantheon, yet he would certainly have drawn a veil between his 
mental eye and the grand but sombre figure of the exiled seer, who 
dreamed of the future empire of the world for his country, and of 
the world's harmonious development under her guidance. Byron 
loved and drew inspiration from Dante. He also loved Washington 
and Franklin, and followed, with all the sympathies of a soul athirst 
for action, the meteor-like career of the greatest genius of action our 
age has produced. Napoleon; feeling indignant — perhaps mistakenly 
— that he did not die in the struggle. 

When travelling in that second fatherland of all poetic souls — 
Italy — the poets still pursued divergent routes; the one experienced 
sensations; the other emotions; the one occupied himself especially 


with nature; the other with the greatness dead, the Hving wrongs, 
the human memories.^ 

And yet, notwithstanding all the contrasts, which I have only 
hinted at, but which might be far more elaborately displayed by 
extracts from their works; they arrived — Goethe, the poet of indi- 
viduality in its objective life — at the egotism of indifference; Byron — 
the poet of individuality in its subjective life — at the egotism (I say 
it with regret, but it, too, is egotism) of despair: a double sentence 
upon the epoch which it was their mission to represent and to 

Both of them — I am not speaking of their purely literary merits, 
incontestable and universally acknowledged — the one by the spirit 
of resistance that breathes through all his creations; the other by 
the spirit of sceptical irony that pervades his works, and by the inde- 
pendent sovereignty attributed to art over all social relations — greatly 
aided the cause of intellectual emancipation, and awakened in men's 
minds the sentiment of liberty. Both of them — the one, directly, by 
the implacable war he waged against the vices and absurdities of 
the privileged classes, and indirectly, by investing his heroes with 
all the most brilliant qualities of the despot, and then dashing them 
to pieces as if in anger; — the other, by the poetic rehabilitation of 
forms the most modest, and objects the most insignificant, as well 

"The contrast between the two poets is nowhere more strikingly displayed than 
by the manner in which they were affected by the sight of Rome. In Goethe's 
Elegies and in his Travels in Italy we find the impressions of the artist only. He 
did not understand Rome. The eternal synthesis that, from the heights of the 
Capitol and St. Peter, is gradually unfolded in ever-widening circles, embracing first 
a nation and then Europe, as it will ultimately embrace humanity, remained un- 
revealed to him; he saw only the inner circle of paganism; the least prolific, as well 
as least indigenous. One might fancy that he caught a glimpse of it for an instant, 
when he wrote; "History is read here far otherwise than in any other spot in the 
universe; elsewhere we read it from without to within; here one seems to read it 
from within to without;" but if so, he soon lost sight of it again, and became absorbed 
in external nature. "Whether we halt or advance, we discover a landscape ever 
renewing itself in a thousand fashions. We have palaces and ruins; gardens and 
solitudes; the horizon lengthens in the distance, or suddenly contracts; huts and 
stables, columns and triumphal arches, all lie pell-mell and often so close that we 
might find room for all on the same sheet of paper." 

At Rome Byron forgot passions, sorrows, his own individuality, all, in the presence 
of a great idea; witness this utterance of a soul born for devotedness: — 
"O Rome! my country! city of the soul! 

The orphans of the heart must turn to thee, 
Lone mother of dead empires! and control 
In their shut breasts their petty misery." 


as by the importance attributed to details — combated aristocratic 
prejudices, and developed in men's minds the sentiment of equality. 
And having by their artistic excellence exhausted both forms of the 
poetry of individuality, they have completed the cycle of its poets; 
thereby reducing all followers in the same sphere to the subaltern 
position of imitators, and creating the necessity of a new order of 
poetry; teaching us to recognize a want where before we felt only a 
desire. Together they have laid an era in the tomb; covering it with 
a pall that none may lift; and, as if to proclaim its death to the 
young generation, the poetry of Goethe has written its history, while 
that of Byron has graven its epitaph. 

And now farewell to Goethe; farewell to Byron! farewell to the 
sorrows that crush but sanctify not — to the poetic flame that illumines 
but warms not — to the ironical philosophy that dissects without re- 
constructing — to all poetry which, in an age w'here there is so much 
to do, teaches us inactive contemplation; or which, in a world where 
there is so much need of devotedness, would instil despair. Farewell 
to all types of power without an aim; to all personifications of the 
solitary individuality which seeks an aim to find it not, and knows 
not how to apply the life stirring within it; to all egotistic joys and 

"Bastards of the soul; 
O'erweening slips of idleness: weeds — no more — 
Self-springing here and there from the rank soil; 
O'erflowings of the lust of that same mind 
Whose proper issue and determinate end, 
When wedded to the love of things divine. 
Is peace, complacency, and happiness." 

Farewell, a long farewell to the past! The dawn of the future is 
announced to such as can read its signs, and we owe ourselves 
wholly to it. 

The duality of the Middle Ages, after having struggled for cen- 
turies under the banners of emperor and pope; after having left its 
trace and borne its fruit in every branch of intellectual development; 

When at last he came to a recollection of himself and his position, it was with 
a hope for the world (stanza 98) and a pardon for his enemies. From the fourth 
canto of Childe Harold, the daughter of Byron might learn more of the true spirit 
of her father than from all the reports she may have heard, and all the many 
volumes that have been written upon him. 


has reascended to heaven — its mission accompUshed — in the twin 
flames of poesy called Goethe and Byron. Two hitherto distinct 
formulae of life became incarnate in these two men. Byron is iso- 
lated man, representing only the internal aspect of life; Goethe 
isolated man, representing only the external. 

Higher than these two incomplete existences; at the point of 
intersection between the two aspirations towards a heaven they were 
unable to reach, will be revealed the poetry of the future; of human- 
ity; potent in new harmony, unity, and life. 

But because, in our own day, we are beginning, though vaguely, 
to foresee this new social poetry, which will soothe the suffering 
soul by teaching it to rise towards God through humanity; because 
we now stand on the threshold of a new epoch, which, but for them, 
we should not have reached; shall we decry those who were unable 
to do more for us than cast their giant forms into the gulf that held 
us all doubting and dismayed on the other side.'' From the earliest 
times has genius been made the scapegoat of the generations. Society 
has never lacked men who have contented themselves with reproach- 
ing the Chattertpns of their day with not being patterns of self- 
devotion, instead of physical or moral suicides; without ever asking 
themselves whether they had, during their lifetime, endeavored to 
place aught within the reach of such but doubt and destitution. I 
feel the necessity of protesting earnestly against the reaction set on 
foot by certain thinkers against the mighty-souled, which serves as 
a cloak for the cavilling spirit of mediocrity. There is something 
hard, repulsive, and ungrateful in the destructive instinct which so 
often forgets what has been done by the great men who preceded us, 
to demand of them merely an account of what more might have 
been done. Is the pillow of scepticism so soft to genius as to justify 
the conclusion that it is from egotism only that at times it rests its 
fevered brow thereon.'' Are we so free from the evil reflected in 
their verse as to have a right to condemn their memory? That evil 
was not introduced into the world by them. They saw it, felt it, 
respired it; it was around, about, on every side of them, and they 
were its greatest victims. How could they avoid reproducing it in 
their works? It is not by deposing Goethe or Byron that we shall 
destroy either sceptical or anarchical indifference amongst us. It is 


by becoming believers and organizers ourselves. If we are such, we 
need fear nothing. As is the public, so will be the poet. If we revere 
enthusiasm, the fatherland, and humanity; if our hearts are pure, 
and our souls steadfast and patient, the genius inspired to interpret 
our aspirations, and bear to heaven our ideas and our sufferings, 
will not be wanting. Let these statues stand. The noble monuments 
of feudal times create no desire to return to the days of serfdom. 

But I shall be told, there are imitators. I know it too well; but 
what lasting influence can be exerted on social life by those who have 
no real life of their own ? They will but flutter in the void, so long 
as void there be. On the day when the living shall arise to take the 
place of the dead, they will vanish like ghosts at cock-crow. Shall 
we never be sufficiently firm in our own faith to dare to show fitting 
reverence for the grand typical figures of an anterior age ? It would 
be idle to speak of social art at all, or of the comprehension of hu- 
manity, if we could not raise altars to the new gods, without over- 
throwing the old. Those only should dare to utter the sacred name 
of progress, whose souls possess intelligence enough to comprehend 
the past, and whose hearts possess sufficient poetic religion to rev- 
erence its greatness. The temple of the true believer is not the chapel 
of a sect; it is a vast Pantheon, in which the glorious images of 
Goethe and Byron will hold their honored place, long after Goethe- 
ism and Byronism shall have ceased to be. 

When, purified alike from imitation and distrust, men learn to pay 
righteous reverence to the mighty fallen, I know not whether Goethe 
will obtain more of their admiration as an artist, but I am certain 
that Byron will inspire them with more love, both as man and poet — 
a love increased even by the fact of the great injustice hitherto shown 
to him. While Goethe held himself aloof from us, and from the 
height of his Olympian calm seemed to smile with disdain at our 
desires, our struggles, and our sufferings — Byron wandered through 
the world, sad, gloomy, and unquiet; wounded, and bearing the 
arrow in the wound. Solitary and unfortunate in his infancy; un- 
fortunate in his first love, and still more terribly so in his ill-advised 
marriage; attacked and calumniated both in his acts and intentions 
without inquiry or defence; harassed by pecuniary difficulties; forced 
to quit his country, home, and child; friendless— we have seen it 


too clearly since his death — pursued even on the Continent by a 
thousand absurd and infamous falsehoods, and by the cold malignity 
of a world that twisted even his sorrows into a crime; he yet, in the 
midst of inevitable reaction, preserved his love for his sister and his 
Ada; his compassion for misfortune; his fidelity to the affections of 
his childhood and youth, from Lord Clare to his old servant Murray, 
and his nurse Mary Gray. He was generous with his money to all 
whom he could help or serve, from his literary friends down to the 
wretched libeller Ashe. Though impelled by the temper of his genius, 
by the period in which he lived, and by that fatality of his mission 
to which I have alluded, towards a poetic individualism, the inevi- 
table incompleteness of which I have endeavored to explain, he by 
no means set it up as a standard. That he presaged the future with 
the prevision of genius is proved by his definition of poetry in his 
journal — a definition hitherto misunderstood, but yet the best I 
know: "Poetry is the feeling of a former world and of a future." 
Poet as he was, he preferred activity for good, to all that his art 
could do. Surrounded by slaves and their oppressors; a traveller in 
countries where even remembrance seemed extinct; never did he 
desert the cause of the peoples; never was he false to human sym- 
pathies. A witness of the progress of the Restoration, and the tri- 
umph of the principles of the Holy Alliance, he never swerved from 
his courageous opposition; he preserved and publicly proclaimed his 
faith in the rights of the peoples and in the final^ triumph of liberty. 
The following passage from his journal is the very abstract of the 
law governing the efforts of the true party of progress at the present 
day: "Onwards! it is now the time to act; and what signifies self, if 
a single spark of that which would be worthy of the past'^ can be 
bequeathed unquenchably to the future? It is not one man, nor a 

•"Yet, Freedom! yet, thy banner torn, but flying. 

Streams, like the thunder-storm, against the wind: 
Thy trumpet voice, though broken now and dying. 

The loudest still the tempest leaves behind. 

The tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind, 
Chopped by the axe, looks rough and little worth. 

But the sap lasts — and still the seed we find 
Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North, 
So shall a better spring less bitter fruit bring forth." 

^ Written in Italy. 


million, but the spirit of liberty which must be spread. The waves 
which dash on the shore are, one by one, broken; but yet the ocean 
conquers nevertheless. It overwhelms the armada; it wears the rock; 
and if the Neptunians are to be believed, it has not only destroyed 
but made a world." At Naples, in the Romagna, wherever he saw 
a spark of noble life stirring, he was ready for any exertion; or dan- 
ger, to blow it into a flame. He stigmatized baseness, hypocrisy, and 
injustice, whencesoever they sprang. 

Thus lived Byron, ceaselessly tempest-tossed between the ills of 
the present and his yearnings after the future; often unequal; some- 
times sceptical; but always suffering — often most so when he seemed 
to laugh;' and always loving, even when he seemed to curse. 

Never did "the eternal spirit of the chainless mind" make a 
brighter apparition amongst us. He seems at times a transformation 
of that immortal Prometheus, of whom he has written so nobly; 
whose cry of agony, yet of futurity, sounded above the cradle of the 
European world; and whose grand and mysterious form, transfig- 
ured by time, reappears from age to age, between the entombment 
of one epoch and the accession of another; to wail forth the lament 
of genius, tortured by the presentment of things it will not see 
realized in its time. Byron, too, had the "firm will" and the "deep 
sense"; he, too, made of his "death a victory." When he heard the 
cry of nationality and liberty burst forth in the land he had loved 
and sung in early youth, he broke his harp and set forth. While the 
Christian Powers were protocolizing or worse — while the Christian 
nations were doling forth the alms of a few piles of ball in aid of 
the Cross struggling with the Crescent; he, the poet, and pretended 
sceptic, hastened to throw his fortune, his genius, and his life at 
the feet of the first people that had arisen in the name of the 
nationality and liberty he loved. 

I know no more beautiful symbol of the future destiny and mission 
of art than the death of Byron in Greece. The holy alliance of poetry 
with the cause of the peoples; the union — still so rare — of thought 
and action — which alone completes the human Word, and is destined 
to emancipate the world; the grand solidarity of all nations in the 

' "And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 
'Tis that I may not weep." 


conquest of the rights ordained by God for all his children, and in 
the accomplishment of that mission for which alone such rights 
exist — all that is now the religion and the hope of the party of prog- 
ress throughout Europe, is gloriously typified in this image, which 
we, barbarians that we are, have already forgotten. 

The day will come when democracy will remember all that it 
owes to Byron. England, too, will, I hope, one day remember the 
mission — so entirely English, yet hitherto overlooked by her — which 
Byron fulfilled on the Continent; the European role given by him 
to English literature, and the appreciation and sympathy for Eng- 
land which he awakened amongst us. 

Before he came, all that was known of English Hterature was the 
French translation of Shakespeare, and the anathema hurled by 
Voltaire against the "intoxicated barbarian." It is since Byron that 
we Continentalists have learned to study Shakespeare and other 
EngUsh writers. From him dates the sympathy of all the true- 
hearted amongst us for this land of liberty, whose true vocation he 
so worthily represented among the oppressed. He led the genius of 
Britain on a pilgrimage throughout all Europe. 

England will one day feel how ill it is — not for Byron but for 
herself — that the foreigner who lands upon her shores should search 
in vain in that temple which should be her national Pantheon, for 
the poet beloved and admired by all the nations of Europe, and for 
whose death Greece and Italy wept as it had been that of the noblest 
of their own sons. 

In these few pages — unfortunately very hasty — my aim has been, 
not so much to criticise either Goethe or Byron, for which both time 
and space are wanting, as to suggest, and if possible lead, English 
criticism upon a broader, more impartial, and more useful path than 
the one generally followed. Certain travellers of the eleventh century 
relate that they saw at Tenerifle a prodigiously lofty tree, which, 
from its immense extent of foliage, collected all the vapors of the 
atmosphere; to discharge them, when its branches were shaken, in 
a shower of pure and refreshing water. Genius is like this tree, and 
the mission of criticism should be to shake the branches. At the 
present day it more resembles a savage striving to hew down the 
noble tree to the roots.