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BOOK I, CHAPTER XIV

77


(a) Now let us consider the women. Who has not heard in Paris of her who caused herself to be flayed, solely to acquire the fresher colouring of a new skin?[1][1] There are those who have had sound, living teeth pulled out, in order to make their pronunciation more flexible or more lisping, or to arrange the teeth more regularly. How many examples we have of this sort of contempt of pain! What can they not do? What do they fear, if in the doing there is any hope of enhancement of their beauty?

(b) Vellere queis cura est albos a stirpe capillos,
Et faciem dempta pelle referre novam.[2]

(a) I have seen them swallow sand and ashes, and labour deliberately to destroy their stomachs, in order to acquire a pale complexion. To give themselves a Spanish slenderness,[3] what discomfort do they not endure, bound and girt, with great slashes on their sides, even to the quick — yes, and sometimes till these are fatal!

(c) It is a common custom with many nations of our day to wound themselves purposely, to give credit to their word; and our king[4] relates noteworthy instances of what he saw of this in Poland, and in relation to himself. But besides what I have heard of as having been done, of this sort, by some persons in France, I myself saw a girl,[5] to testify to the ardour of her promises and also her firmness, give herself, with the bodkin she wore in her hair, four or five sharp blows on the arm, which tore the skin and brought blood in good earnest. The Turks make for themselves great scars in honour of their mistresses; and, that the mark may remain, they instantly apply fire to the wound and hold it there an

    showed cowardice? Which, when he had fallen, and was to receive his death-stroke, turned away his head? — Cicero, Tusc. Desp., II, 17.

  1. 1580: et l’en surnommoit on Madame l’Escorchée.
  2. They who are careful to pluck out by the roots their white hairs, and to make a new face by peeling off the skin. — Tibullus, I, 8.45. The true reading is Tollere tunc cura, etc.
  3. Pour faire un corps bien espaignolé. This word is used only by Montaigne, and by him only here. It is a French form of a Gascon word signifying habitude, facon d’être des Espagnols.
  4. Henri III. See de Thou (an. 1574).
  5. In 1595, this passage was so changed as to read: Quand je viens de ces fameux Estats de Blois, j’avois veu peu auparavant une fille en Picardie.