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with regard to Montaigne’s own mind and manners, which aid us to form our conception of him. The Essay is truly of the proceedings of Montaigne, rather than of ambassadors.

The special ambassadorial proceeding that it treats of is the dissimulation and even concealment of the truth which ambassadors sometimes practise toward their masters.

I OBSERVE in my travels this practice — in order always to learn something from intercourse with others, which is one of the best schools possible[1] — of always leading those with whom I am conversing to talk of the things they know best:

Basti al nocchiero ragionar de’ venti,
Al bifolco dei tori, et le sue piaghe
Conti’l guerrier, conti’l pastor gli armenti.[2]

For it most frequently happens, on the contrary, that every one prefers to discourse of the occupations of another rather than his own, deeming that it is so much fresh reputation gained; witness Archidamus’s rebuke to Periander, that he abandoned the fame of a good doctor to acquire that of a wretched poet.[3] (c) See how diffusely Cæesar holds forth to make us understand his inventions for building bridges and engines of war,[4] and how concise he is, in comparison, when he is speaking of his professional functions, of his valour, and regarding the management of his troops. His exploits sufficiently prove him to be an excellent captain; he desires to make himself known as an excellent engineer, a somewhat alien matter. A man of the legal profession, being taken not long since to see a study supplied with all sorts of books of his own calling and of every other kind, found there nothing to talk about. But he paused to comment severely and magisterially upon a barricade placed on the winding staircase of the study, which a hundred officers and common soldiers

  1. Cf. the old proverb: Table vaut escole notable — Table-talk is an excellent schoolmaster.
  2. Let the pilot be content to speak of the winds, the labourer of his bulls; and let the warrior tell of his wounds, the shepherd of his flocks. — An Italian translation of Propertius, II, 1.43, which Montaigne found in Stefano Guazzo’s Civil Conversation.
  3. See Plutarch, Apothegms of the Lacedæmonians.
  4. See De Bello Gallico, IV, 17.