BOOK I, CHAPTER XXVI
stuff them out with padding; they who have slender substance, inflate it with words.
(a) There results a wonderful enlightenment of the human judgement from frequentation with mankind. We are all confined and packed close within ourselves, and our sight is contracted to the length of our nose. Some one asked Socrates of what place he was. He did not reply, “Of Athens,” but, “Of the world.” He, whose imagination was fuller and more widely extended, embraced the universe as his native place, cast his knowledge, his society, and his affections to all mankind — not like us, who look only beneath us. When the vines freeze in my village, my priest argues therefrom the wrath of God against the human race, and concludes that the pip already has the cannibals in its clutches. Looking upon our civil wars, who does not exclaim that this machine is overturned and that the day of judgement has us by the collar, not reflecting that many worse things have been seen, and that ten thousand parts of the world do not cease to make merry. (b) For my part, considering the license and impunity that attends them, I marvel to see them so mild and gentle. (a) To a man in a hailstorm the whole hemisphere seems to be under a raging tempest. And the Savoyard said that if that fool of a king had known how to manage his fortune, he might have been his duke’s majordomo: his imagination could conceive no more exalted grandeur than his master’s. (c) We all are unconsciously subject to this error — an error with important and prejudicial results. (a) But he who sets before himself as in a picture this noble figure of our mother Nature in her full majesty; who reads in her aspect a so universal and constant variety; who perceives himself therein, and not himself alone but a whole realm, as the smallest possible speck — he alone esteems things according to their real proportions. This great world, which some persons multiply further as species under one genus, is the mirror in which we must look at ourselves in order that we may know ourselves from the right
- See Plutarch, Of Banishment; Cicero, Tusc. Disp., V, 37.
- Ne laissent pas de galler le bon temps.
- That is, the Savoyard.
- Cf. Henri Estienne, Apologie pour Hérodote (discours préliminaire).