ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
there are plenty of them, because of the number and variety of the chances. (c) If I do not rightly comment on them, let another comment for me. In the study that I enter upon of our manners and acts, fabulous testimonies, provided that they are possible, serve as well as true ones. Whether it really happened or not, at Rome or at Paris, to Peter or to John, it is always an illustration of what is contained in men’s minds, of which I am advantageously informed by the tale. I see it and profit by it, whether it be a shadow or a solid body. And of the different forms that histories often contain, I make use of that which is most unusual and memorable. There are authors whose object it is to narrate real events. Mine, if I should be able to attain it, would be to tell of what is possible to happen. The schools are rightly permitted to imagine examples when they have none. I do not do so, however, and in that respect I surpass in scrupulous conscientiousness all the fidelity of historians. In the examples which I here derive from what I have heard, done, or said, I have forbidden myself to venture to change even the most trivial and unimportant details. Consciously I do not falsify one iota; unconsciously, I can not say.
It sometimes comes into my mind about this matter, how it can be that it well befits a theologian, a philosopher, and such-like persons of delicate and accurate conscience and prudence, to write history. How can they rest their faith on a popular faith? how be responsible for the thoughts of unknown persons, and put forth their conjectures as of value? About actions with divers phases which take place in their presence, they would refuse to give evidence sworn to before a magistrate, and they know no man so intimately that they would be ready to answer fully regarding his intentions. I hold it less hazardous to write of past than of present matters, inasmuch as the writer then has only to produce a borrowed assertion. Some people urge me to write of the affairs
- Si je ne comme bien, qu’un autre comme pour moy. In the first part of this addition the Édition Municipale shows the various forms in which Montaigne tentatively expressed his thought before making a final decision. At this point he added, then deleted: Ce n’est pas mal parler que mal comer.
- Un tour de l’humaine capacité.