The Essays of Montaigne/Book I/Chapter XXXIV

The Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton
Chapter XXXIV. Of one defect in our government.

Chapter XXXIV. Of one defect in our government. Edit

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and
his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment,
formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavouring to introduce
this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned
to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their
business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for
example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to
sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant
of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer;
some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to
what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no
contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for
there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want
of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very
sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had
scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy
and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand
men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous
conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their
wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man
that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be
employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy
it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune
sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity;
and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard
to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to
commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book
or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and
disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and
which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to
write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the
remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house:
very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of
memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a
thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our
travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill
news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom,
which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own
house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.