ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
to the truth, just as soon as he discovers it, whether it be born in the hands of his opponent, or in himself on second thought. For he is not to be put in a high place of instruction, to repeat a prescribed lesson. He is pledged to no cause save by the fact that he approves it; nor is to belong to the confraternity in which freedom to repent and reconsider is sold for ready money. (c) Neque, ut omnia quæ præscripta et imperata sint defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur.
If his tutor be of my mind, he will train his will to be a most loyal and devoted and fearless servant of his prince; but he will blow cold upon the desire to attach himself to the prince otherwise than by a public service. Besides many other disadvantages which impair our liberty by these private obligations, the judgement of a man who is pledged and bought is either less sound and less free, or is marred by prudence and ingratitude. A courtier can have neither the right nor the desire to speak or think otherwise than favourably of a master who has chosen him from the many thousands of his subjects to foster and advance with his own hand. Such favour and benefit not unreasonably impair his freedom and bedazzle him. Wherefore we ordinarily find these persons talking in a different tone from everybody else in a state, and that they are untrustworthy in such matters. (a) Let his conscience and his virtue shine forth even in his speech, (c) and have only reason for their guide. (a) Let him be made to understand that to avow the flaw that he finds in his own argument, although it be perceived only by himself, is an act of good judgement and sincerity, which are the qualities that he chiefly seeks; (c) that obstinacy and pugnacity are vulgar conditions, seen oftenest in the meanest minds; that to reconsider and correct oneself, to abandon an ill-advised course at the height of one’s ardour, are rare and strong and philosophical qualities.
- Cf. Book III, chap, 8: Je festoye et caresse la verité en quelque main je le trouve, et m’y rends alaigrement, et luy tends mes armes vaincus de loing que je la vois approcher.
- En chaise.
- Nor is he obliged by any necessity to defend all that is prescribed and enjoined. — Cicero, Academica, II, 3.
- That is, the courtiers.
- That is, in relation to the character of their master.