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quedam effeminata ac levis, nec in dolore magis quam eadem in voluptate: qua quum liquescimus fluimusque mollitia, apis aculeum sine clamore ferre non possumus. Totum in eo est ut tibi imperes.[1] (a) Moreover, we do not elude philosophy by exaggerating beyond measure the sharpness of sufferings and human weakness. For we coerce it to fall back upon these unanswerable retorts: if it be unfortunate to live in need, at least there is no need to live in need.[2] (c) No man is long in evil case save by his own fault.[3] He who has not the courage to support either death or life, who will neither resist nor fly — what shall be done with him?



The subject of this Essay has so little to do with our own day that the first sentence is the only one of general interest. This sentence is an admirable expression of Montaigne’s esteem for moderation, his constant desire to maintain the mean. He recognises, as Shakespeare does, that

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied.
(Romeo and Juliet.)

Elsewhere, in the “Apology” (Book II, chapter 12), he says, speaking of the limits and boundary lines of all knowledge, “An extreme degree has a wrong quality as with virtue.”

And again, in the Essay “Of Moderation” (Book I, chapter 30), “We can so hold virtue as to render it sinful.”

  1. There is a certain effeminate and frivolous humour, common both to pleasure and to pain, which so softens and melts us that we can not bear the sting of a bee without crying out. ... The whole matter turns on command of one’s self. — Cicero, Tusc. Disp., I, 22.
  2. See Seneca, Epistle 12: Malum est in necessitate vivere; sed in necessitate vivere necesstitatis nulla est.
  3. On the Bordeaux copy of 1588, Montaigne first wrote the source of this sentence: Nemo nisi sua culpa diu dolet; then erased it, and substituted this translation.
  4. On est puny pour s’opiniastrer à une place sans raison. — [Place = place forte.]