A Holiday With Montaigne

IT was my good luck to spend my last holidays with two companions. One was my canoe, — a canvas canoe painted maroon. Its paddle has but one blade. There is a seat for another paddler in the bow, and room amidships for a passenger to lie quite comfortable. It is somewhat difficult for one to paddle a canoe meant for two. You put your kit and a bag of sand in the bow, lean a little to one side, and take your strokes as even as you can. In this way, in calm weather, you make good speed ; but when the wind blows a few points off the bow, nothing but great experience or sudden genius will help you. The canoe moves as if of a sudden it had heard music from Venusberg; it whirls about, once, twice, and breaks into a jig; then frolicking with the wind, pirouettes back whence you came, bobbing its bow like a maître de danse. “ Certes c’est un subject merveilleusement vain, divers et ondoyant que ” le canot.

I started at the southern end of Lake George. The cars had been hot, and the freight-master and expressman had both laid violent hands on my canoe. From them I rescued it only by paying fees under duress, which were subsequently returned to me by persons in authority. The sun was high, a light breeze blew upon my back, a soft gray cloud bung over me like an umbrella. My pack and the sand-bag balanced my stroke. My sandwiches and a bottle of soda-water lay safe in a tin pail under the seat. The blue-gray hills rose sleepily in the distance. The trees on the shore bunched themselves into indistinctness, and hid all but the chimneys of the houses. A noisy, self-assured little launch puffed up to us, and finding us in all points uninteresting, whistled off up the lake. I became perfectly content.

My other companion, carefully covered by a rubber blanket, lay still a little forward of the middle thwart. He was very fine in a new half-calf binding, which he had got from the money saved by the economy of a foot in the length of the canoe. The lake was so smooth that there was no danger of water-drops, and I took off the rubber blanket that I might see him. He looked very dignified in his bronze-and-black covering. I had been told that a canoe trip offered me a rare opportunity to learn what science in one of its branches had been doing of late, —science in popular dress humbling itself to the level of lewd persons, like Bolingbroke on a holiday. I thanked the teller, but took my four volumes of Montaigne. It is not well to cope with a man of the world in the city : he has you at disadvantage and presumes upon it ; he turns all the happenings among crowded men and women into parables for his triumph and your discomfiture. I would not willingly meet Æsop in Alexandria, or Horace in Rome. In the country you and your man of the world are man to man. There his knowledge cannot put you out of countenance ; his experience is no better than oyster-forks in a jungle. Nothing is more delightful than to be with Montaigne on water and under trees. He ceases to be a man of the world, and plays the elder brother come back from far travel and from meeting many men. No matter how often you have read him in town, he seems more kind, more simple, more genuine, when you meet him in this way and hear him talk at ease.

It is a constant pleasure to find how quick is his sympathy with happiness, how keen his compassion for sorrow. In town it is the fashion to say that he is shrewd, well informed, a man of fine observation, a master of special pleading, above all a man who will neither affirm nor deny, a skeptic. In the country we say what a good follow he is. To countrymen, he who has no certainties, who will not affirm, is no better than the Spirit that denies. One is the master, the other the man. We who like to affirm, and take our oaths that the sky is blue, the earth solid, who know that right is right, and have propositions like theorems in geometry on heights and depths and breadths, commonly entertain slight respect for the skeptic. How is there leisure to hesitate and stand aloof in such justling times ? We want a St. Paul, an Emperor Julian, a Wendell Phillips. There are two sides, if you will, we say, but there is no middle ground.

“ Questo misero modo
Tengon famine triste di coloro,
Che visser senza infamia e senza lodo.”

Tn our time, so full of vigorous beliefs of its own, M. Renan finds in the highest type of man “ le don de sourire de son œuvre, d’y être supérieur.” But no man heeds. The world is full of undoubting believers ; they believe the head or the tail of the coin. Renan’s followers have pockets crammed with beliefs of their own, bawling to the public to try them. They trundle their push-carts down the boulevard hawking new creeds :

“ Par ici, mes amis, par ici ! Voici des croyances neuves, voici la Vérité.” In the city such men vex us. Let us remain by ourselves. Why must we join this guild, this club of notions, that body metaphysical ? In the moment of vexation, before the foam of it settles, quit the busy hum of men, shoulder your paddle, grasp Montaigne, and in your canoe, gliding under willow-trees, beliefs lose their terrors; you “ first endure, then pity, then embrace.” In the city Montaigne is sympathetic, he agrees with all you say against these licentious venders ; but in the country, where, to quote M. Renan again, “ on croît lourdement,” where beliefs are heavy but persuasive as poppy and mandragora, Montaigne is indispensable as an antidote.

Lake George is pretty well surrounded by a cordon of houses, but by a discriminating course these may be avoided. There is a little cove hid behind a point of land, which, beaked with a rock, juts into the lake. It is hard by a house marked “ The Antlers “ on the map. This map you buy in the cars from the newsboy. It is the appendix to a book containing a eulogy on Lake George. Leave the eulogy on the seat; the map is very useful. This little cove has a graveled edge whereon to beach the canoe. From the rocky beak you dive into three fathoms of transparent water down towards the blue-green rocks at the bottom. After that sandwiches and soda-water. Next a pipe filled with long cut, and opening volume one, the spirit of Michel de Montaigne sits beside you discoursing. A skeptic, using the word with reference to life in general, is intended to mean one whose ideas have no home, but travel from inn to inn like wandering Jews ; a man whose mind is like a fine lady before a milliner’s mirror, who trys on one bonnet after another, looks at it before and behind, over the shoulder, at this angle and that, but cannot prevail upon herself to say, I take this, this is mine. And as this word is commonly used of one with whom the speaker finds some fault, it carries a tinge of ill ; it signifies a person who does not believe that men act from disinterested motives, does not recognize the importance of human feelings, who denies the dignity of human existence, — one in whose presence we are ashamed of our love for the melodramatic. The greatest believer in humanity that has ever lived in Europe is Shakespeare. If a man be morbid, if somebody’s toes tread upon the kibes on his heel, if he be disheartened by ill success in his government of life, and, like the blind man beating the post, can discover no virtue in men and women, he betakes himself to Shakespeare. There he finds the dignity of man written in capital letters.

So it is with the books of all great men, or perhaps one should say of all great men whose fame and hooks have lived. Men and women do not cherish those who despise them. The books of misanthropes lie unread in national museums. Dust to dust. There is no resurrection for them. Therefore one has a right, in approaching a man whose books are on the shelves of every library, to assume that he is not a skeptic in any unworthy sense. To judge a man, mark what interests him. Positive testimony, as lawyers say, outweighs negative evidence. In his discourse De la Tristesse, Montaigne tells how, after his capture by Cambyses, Psammenitus watched with apparent serenity his son marched to death, his daughter borne away a slave, but on beholding one of his servants maltreated burst into weeping, it might be thought, says Montaigne, that his fortitude, equal to the first sorrows, had at last been overcome, as the last straw breaks the camel’s back. But when Cambyses questioned him, Psammenitus answered, “ It is because this last displeasure may be manifested by weeping, whereas the two former exceed by much all meanes and compasse to be expressed by teares.”He tells so many anecdotes of this kind that we are bound to reject the word “ skeptic ” as applicable to Montaigne in any mean and narrow sense.

If there be in him one quality more than another that wins the affection of the reader, it is a certain manner of courtesy, of hospitality, familiar, yet of trained urbanity withal, which infects all these discourses. The reader finds that Montaigne is wise, but he meets no suggestion that he himself is foolish; he discovers that Montaigne is of wide experience, and he does not stop to think it odd that this experience, though so broad, tallies at all points with his own, which, had he stopped to think, he would have known to be narrow. It is with such skill and good breeding that your host leads you from matter to matter. He spreads before you one tiling after another with the freshness and unexpectedness of a conjurer who suddenly out of your own memory produces meditations and reflections which you had not known were there. It is as if you were both ruminating upon a theme of common experience. Intermingled with his stories and reflections, his talk about himself, with its apparent self-revelation, pleases us wholly. Montaigne affects to wish us to believe that the book is about himself. He keeps repeating, "C’ est moy quo je peins.”" These are but my fantasies, by which I endeavour not to make things knowen, but myselfe.”

“ Others fashion man, I repeat him ; and represent a particular one but ill made.” While the book is in your hand, this egotism, or rather, say friendliness, seems to indicate a discriminating intimacy with you, giving you to feel that, unconsciously as it were, he bends and unfolds himself in consequence of the atmosphere of your personality. It is this flattery in his urbanity that has made people believe in his simplicity and sincerity. Readers should be guileless as children, simple, innocent, unsophisticated. And it may be that Montaigne is genuine. Breeding need not displace nature. Montaigne does not become a double-dealer because his manners are good and put us at our ease. One is a little ashamed to question Montaigne’s portrait of himself. Yet it is hard not to do so, for he has the manner of a well-graced actor; he recalls M. Coquelin too much. There is no imputation of ill upon Montaigne in suggesting that he does not give us his real picture. Unless a man’s heart be pure gold, the public weal does not demand that he wear it on his sleeve. Moreover, it may be that Montaigne endeavors to draw himself, and yet, his talents not permitting, does not. Howbeit, his manner has a perpetual charm. One would have young men fashion their outward behavior upon M. de Montaigne.

From this little cove near The Antlers there are some seven miles to the Narrows, and it is well worth while to cover them before sunset, in order to see the shadow from the western Hills crawl up on those to the east. It means a steady and industrious paddle. I had consulted the map as to where to spend the night, and had determined upon the clump of houses denominated “ Hulett’s; ” for the size of the asterisk on the map seemed to import an inn or a lodging-house, and suggested to nay luxurious mind generous accommodations,—perhaps Bass’s ale for dinner, and a bath. The wind blew from behind quite fresh. I tucked Montaigne well under his blanket, tilted the canoe slightly to the side I paddled on, and watched the gradual sinking of the sun and the little splashes of the waves as they ran beside me. After a paddle of a number of miles comes fatigue between the shoulder-blades ; it can be likened to nothing but a yoke or the old man that sat astraddle of Sindbad’s neck. On feeling this yoke, to obtain relief, you paddle on the other side of the boat.

A better remedy is to take a swim. The wind blew fast up the Narrows, and I was thankful it came to aid me, for I could not have made head against it. Spray from the wave-tops spattered into the canoe, and it was hard to keep it steady. It was as it the bow had a potent desire to look round at me. First it swerved to right, then to left, and after trying this succession for a number of times, lulling me into routine and security, after a turn to starboard, it made believe to turn as usual to port; but just when my paddle was ready to meet that manœuvre it swung back to starboard, spattering the water so thick that Montaigne stood well in need of his blanket. Then the canoe lay limp, as if it were completely exhausted and wholly meritorious, like Roland in the market-place at Aix. Every wave tipped it to and fro, while I brandished the paddle to right and to left to keep from shipping enough water to sink me. After a few minutes, like a puppy that has been playing dead dog, it jumped to what would have been its keel if it had had one, and shot on over the water. I he setting sun shed a golden brown over the hilltops to the east; under the shadow-line the trees passed into gloom, and haze rose from the water’s edge as if to hide a troop of Undines coming forth from their bath. To the west, against the ebbing light, the hills stood out black, and the little islands passed quickly by dotted with wooden signs, “government property,” which looked in the distance like gray tombstones. I went ashore to lie down, rest, and read for a few minutes before dark. It may be the trees, the wind moving among the leaves, the jagged outline of the leaves themselves, or merely the smell of the pines, it may be the water of the lake rippling over the changing colors of the stones, it may be the sky framed by the boughs overhead, or it may be all in combination, yet by them and in them a man grows wiser, his limitations relax their tentacles and loose their hold,

“ While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony and the deep power of joy
We see into the life of things.”

Nature proffers a test of genuineness for a book the like of which cannot be found elsewhere. Out of doors, amid the simpler life of earth, motives for deception fail, masks are cumbersome ; disguises grow too heavy to wear, and are transparent at that. By some strange power, the inner reality throws its shine or shadow through the man’s waistcoat, through the book’s cover, over the outer semblance. The pine is the clearest-eyed tree of all trees. Its needles are so many magnets pointing towards the truth. Read Cervantes under the pine-tree, and you will find the marks of Don Quixote’s heels and lance-butt fresh in the moss. Read Dante after the sun has set, when the light begins to fail and the chill wind rises, and you must stop your ears against the “ sospiri, pianti, ed alti guai.” For a long time, if I were in doubt about a book, whether it were genuine or not, I used to climb with it up among the branches of a sugar-maple. There my doubts were solved. Simplicity meets simplicity. They will find one another, like Pyramus and Thisbe, unless one or both be dead. It makes one marvel to mark how sensitive the pine-tree is to its company. Its tones, its shape, its colors, vary ; it draws in its needles and protrudes them as if it fetched deep breaths. Its voice has the bass notes of seriousness and the treble of a boy’s merriment. The deep brown resin on its trunk holds the light as if there were fire within. I think there is a strain of Clan Alpine in us all. We owe allegiance to the pine.

Perhaps Montaigne does not sympathize with great emotions, but he is interested, deeply interested, in the drama of human existence ; he has the instinct of dramatic feeling; he cares not only for the free play of life, but also for a particular outcome ; he prefers one issue to another: not that Virtue should be rewarded and Vice punished, but that Prudence should be happily married and Folly be pointed at. Common Sense is the god of his divinity.

Pascal complains, “ Montaigne parloit trop de soi. A grievous fault if a man lack charm, but Montaigne is charming. One would not that young Apollo he that is killing a lizard on a tree-stump — should wear jacket and trousers. Montaigne makes no pretense of self-effacement. He says, I will write about myself. He embroiders “ Ego ” on his banner, and under that sign he has conquered. If men dislike apparent egotism, let them leave Montaigne. Such men should vex themselves at all expression, for all fiction and art are ripe with personality. But is this portrait of Montaigne by himself really indicative of egotism? For my part, it is as if Boswell had found Dr. Johnson in himself. Here is a man with a rare gift of delineation. He sits for his own portrait. But above this rare gift and controlling it sits the indeterminate soul; and as essay succeeds essay, this soul, uncertain of itself, half mocking his readers, half mocking himself, says, Here is the portrait of Michel de Montaigne; but if you ask me, reader, if it be like me,— eh bien, quo sçay-je ?

In half an hour [ was in the canoe again, laboring vigorously. After a paddle in rough waters of half a dozen miles a man of ordinary brawn begins to think of shore. The sun had set, the western light had faded and gone. The stars were out. Hulett’s, with its cold bath, cool ale, and hot beefsteak, began to stand out very clear and distinct before my mind’s nose and eyes, but there were no physical signs of it. Hulett’s has a post-office, and in view of this governmental footing it is, to my thinking, under a sort of national obligation to shine out and be cheerful to all wayfarers by land and water. I kept my eyes fixed over the starboard bow. The miles grew longer; ordinary miles became nautical. The yoke upon my neck would not budge, shift the paddle as I might. The wind dropped down ; the water reflected Jupiter looking out through a rift in the clouds; the widening lake lay flat to the shore, over which hung a blackness that I took to be the outline oi the hills. The monotony of the stroke, usually so favorable to reflection, played me false. The beat of the paddle, which during the day had had a steady halfmusical splash, and had scattered drops like the tang of a rhyme at the end of every stroke, made no sounds but bath— bath — bath — Bass — Bass — Bass — Hu — Hu — Hu — letts — letts — letts. But no lights ; only the flat water and the dark outline widening out. Montaigne vanished from my mind. I thought of nothing, and repeated to myself solemn ly? “ A miss is as good as a mile, — a miss is as good as a mile; ” wondering what conclusion I could draw from this premise. Lights at last. First one, which grew and expanded and divided in two, then in four, and other lights appeared beyond. In a few minutes I dragged the canoe up on a little beach, tipped it upside down, tucked a volume of Montaigne under my arm, slung my night-pack on my paddle, and approached a piazza and voices. I skiryed these, and reached a back door. A low growl elicited a pleasant “ Be quiet,”from some one in authority. The light streamed from the opened door. I explained my desires, and received a short answer that this house took lodgers, but that it was very particular, and what’s more, the house is full.” I guessed that my appearance made against me. I trusted that my speech was better than my clothes, and tried to remember what I could of travelers in distress. I felt for my purse. A very worn and dingy leather met my fingers. I withdrew my hand and talked fast, recalling how Ulysses’ volubility had always stood him in good stead. I was successful. The house expanded, put forth an extra room ; a tub was found, also chops and Milwaukee beer.

What a blessing is the power of recuperation in man ! Dinner done, I lighted my pipe and fell into discourse with Montaigne. This after-dinner time is the time of all the day to sit with Montaigne. The mind rests at ease upon its well-nourished servant, and lack of desire begets interest. You yield to the summons of bien-être ; the land of socialists, of law, of railroads and timetables, bows and withdraws, leaving you alone in the world of leisure. More than in other worlds Montaigne is at home here. His voice has leisure in it. The titles of his discourses, Of Sadnesse, Of idlenesse, Of Lyers, Whether the Captaine of a Place Besieged Ought to Sallie Forth to Parlie, Of the Incommodity of Greatnesse, are leisurely ; his habit is leisurely. Leisure sits in his chair, walks when he walks, and clips out anecdotes from Plutarch for him. It were a good wager that Bordeaux, during his mayoralty, abounded in trim gardens. Yet there is nothing lazy here. Jacques Bonhomme may be lazy, bourgeois gentilshommes may be lazy, but Montaigne has leisure. As you read you have time to contemplate and reflect ; you are not impatient to pass through the garnishment of his essay and come to the pith, in which you believe that Montaigne will most truly say what he truly thinks. Here is the intellectual charm of the book, — out of all he says to lay hands upon his meaning and ascertain his attitude. The problem is ever present. Is there an attempt on his part, by an assumed self-revelation, to mislead, or does the difficulty lie in his very genuineness and simplicity ? Does his belief lie concealed in his anecdotes, or is it set forth in his egotistical sentences? Is he playing his game with you, or only with himself ? To my mind, it is as if he divided himself and were playing blind-man’sbuff ; one half blindfolded, groping and clutching, the other half uncaught still, crying, “ Here I am ! ” The same impression is left whether he talks of himself or suggests theories of life and death. “The world runnes all on wheeles. All things therein moove without intermission ; yea, the earth, the rockes of Caucasus, and the Pyramides of Ægypt, both with the publike and their own motion. Constancy it selfe is nothing but a languishing and wavering dance. I cannot settle my object; it goeth so unquietly and staggering, with a naturall drunkennesse. I take it in this plight, as it is at th’ instant I ammuse my selfe about it. I describe not the essence but the passage ; not a passage from age to age, or as the people reckon, from seaven yeares to seaven, but from day to day, from irtinute to minute. My history must be fitted to the present.” Is not this sense of uncertainty the very effect Montaigne wishes to leave upon the reader’s mind ? And how could he do it better than by putting forth a portrait of himself, saying, This is according to the best of my knowledge, and refusing to say, This is a true picture ? If a man, set to the task of describing himself, cannot accomplish it, what assurance of correspondence have we between things in themselves and our knowledge, which for the most is nothing but portraits of things drawn by others, and coming to us through a succession, each copy in which is stamped with uncertainty ? Has he not left this portrait of himself as the great exemplar of his doctrine ? It is his secret. Whatever it be, it is his humor, his chosen method of expression. I believe he wishes to tell the reader about himself, but cannot be sure that he is showing himself as he is. He found much pleasure in trying to explain himself by sayings and stories gathered from Plutarch. There was something in the ingenuity of the method that gratified him.

Montaigne was born near Bordeaux, in 1533. His father was an admirer of the new learning, and Michel was put in care of a Latin-speaking man servant. Later he was taught Greek, but with little success, for it passed from him. At twenty-one he became a member of the Bordeaux Parlement. At his father’s wish, he translated from the Spanish the Natural Theology of Raymond Sebond, and made a mariage de convenance. After his father’s death, in 1568, he took possession of the Château de Montaigne, and soon set himself to the business of writing essays.

Montaigne published the first complete edition of his essays in 1588, and afterwards he revised it, adding, enlarging, amending, with the greatest care. He died in 1592, and in 1595 Mademoiselle de Gournay, a lady of industry and letters, published a new edition with his changes. There could be no better evidence of the work and anxiety spent upon these essays than that given by a comparison of the two editions. Montaigne wrote them and rewrote them. One can feel the hesitation and deliberation with which he chose his words. He says: "It is a naturall, simple, and unaffected speech that I love, so written as it is spoken, and such upon the paper as it is in the mouth, a pithie, sinnowie, full, strong, compendious, and materiall speech, not so delicate and affected as vehement and piercing. Rather difficult than tedious, void of affectation, free, loose and bold; not Pedanticall, nor Frier-like, nor lawyer-like, but rather downe right, as Suetonius calleth that of Julius Cæsar.” The French men of letters in the seventeenth century thought that Montaigne had no art, and in England, George Savile, the distinguished Marquis of Halifax, in accepting the dedication of Cotton’s translation, says : He “ showeth by a generous kind of negligence that he did not write for praise, but to give the world a true picture of himself and of mankind. . . . He hath no affection to set himself out, and dependeth wholly upon the natural force of what is his own and the excellent application of what he borroweth.” With great respect let it be said that this is a mistake. Montaigne had great art, and not art alone, but arts and artifice of all kinds. Every great book is a Work of art. Every book that survives its own generation is a work of art. No one knew this better than Montaigne. He desired immortality, and wrote to that end. His book is the fruit of hard labor, of thought deliberate, considerate, affectionate ; it has been meditated awake, and dreamed upon asleep ; cogitated walking, talking, afoot, and on horseback. Nothing in it has been left to chance and the minute. The manuscript at breakfast was his newspaper, after dinner his cigar ; out of doors it was in his pocket, it lay under his pillow at night.

Sitting in his library in the third story of the château’s tower, pacing up and down the corridor leading to it, cantering on his comfortable cob, promenading in his vegetable garden, you would think him as far and safe from disturbance as from the volcanoes in the moon. Yet when he betook himself to his château it was but twelve months before the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Leaguers and Huguenots, men with the meanest conception of leisure, ramped about the land. Montaigne ate and slept in his unguarded house ; read Seneca and Jacques Amyot; picked up sentences on the vanity of life wherever he could find them, fixing them into the walls of his library ; was amiable to his wife and tended his daughter’s education, while idealism and turbulence ranged abroad, spilling the wines of “ Burgundy and milk of France.”

For a book to succeed in surviving its own generation is a strange matter. Force, says science, is eternal; but what is force ? Calvin lies neglected on the shelf, while Michel tie Montaigne prospers and multiplies. His children, the essayists, are like sparrows in spring, singing, chattering, chirping everywhere.

The bed at S— Point that night was very comfortable. The next day I learned by circuitous questioning — for I regret to say that I had let my hostess understand, or rather I had not corrected her misunderstanding, that her house had been my hope and aim all the weary afternoon — that I had passed Hulett’s in the dark. Post-office, inn, cottages, boat-house, all abed by nine o’clock, and lamps extinguished. Never was there such a pitiful economy of light. To reach the northern end of the lake needs but a short paddle. At that point is a little shop, where cider and ginger-pop are sold. The proprietor has a horse and cart, and for a dollar will ferry a canoe across to Lake Champlain. The little river that connects the two lakes is impassable on account of its fall. The mills make a poor return for the turning of their wheels by fouling the water. All the way to Ticonderoga the water looks like slops. There is little pleasure rowing there. I passed the night at Ticonderoga Hotel, and left at dawn. The day began to break as I launched my canoe. Near the shore stood a clump of locust-trees, whose branches interarched, dividing the eastern sky into sections of orange, green, and pink ; their trunks black as ink from rain in the night, save on the edges, where the morning colors streaked the outlines with yellow light. In the afternoon of the day before, under the shadow of the trees, I had wondered whether Montaigne had sympathy for the bigger emotions of life. In the early morning I knew that he had not. The rising sun is imperious in its requisition. Under its rays, the blood flows fast, muscles tighten, eyes brighten, cheeks color, sinews swell. We want love, ambition, recklessness, prayer, fasting, perils, and scars. Talk to us then of

“ Le donne, i cavalier, l’arme, gli amori,
Le cortesie, l’audaci impress.”

Keep Seneca and Epictetus for winter evenings, sewing societies, and convalescence. By ill luck it happened that the sun was not an hour high, and the light ran over the ripples on the lake as if creation were beginning, and creation’s lord were

“ in Werdelust
Schaffender Freude nah,”

when I opened Montaigne and read that he had once been in love. “ Je m’y eschauday en mon enfance, et y souffris toutes les rages que les poëtes disent advenir à ceux qui s’y laissent aller sans ordre et sans jugement.” “ And truly, in my youth I suffered much extremity for love ; very near this.” O Montaigne, O Polonius, is your knowledge of life as great as of these matters ?

Montaigne had a wife who had no part in “ toutes les rages.” One day, when he was carried home to all appearances dead, he was met by “ ceux de ma famille, avec les cris accoustumez en telles choses.” He had children. They died, and he says : I lost two or three at nurse, if not without regret, at least without repining. . . . The generality of men think it a great blessing to have many children ; I, and some others, think it as happy to be without them.” The Huguenots give up peace, content, worldly prosperity, health, and friends for an idea, and they vex him with their nonconformist nonsense. Is not Paris worth a muss ? Is not peace more than the absence of branched candlesticks ? The Catholics die for love of the habit of ages, for tradition, for the divinity in asceticism ; and Montaigne professes to be of their faith, he too has their religion. He is surrounded by soldiers, and what to him are the big wars, the plumed troops, the neighing steed, the spirit-stirring drum ?

I put Montaigne hastily back under his blanket and paddled hard, chanting songs of America. That night I reached Westport. Lake Champlain is too big lor a canoe; it is too wide ; the wind blows too fresh, and unless you hug the indented shore you lose the pleasure of an ever shifting scene. The steamboats shake the water most immoderately.

The only way to encounter their swell is to meet it bow on, and lift the boat over the crest of each roll with a downward stroke of the paddle. At Westport I got aboard the Chateaugay, and disembarked about noon at a point on the east side of the lake, opposite Plattsburg. There I had a very good dinner. It is not far thence to the border. The lake sluggishly glides into the river Richelieu. Never was a less appropriate christening ; for a meeker, duller, feebler river it were hard to imagine. I had had thoughts of a lively current hurrying me along, but for the life of me I could not tell which way the river was running. Running, I say, but there was no more run than Richelieu in this river, except down a certain rocky declivity, several miles long, where the water, much against its will, gives little automatic, jerky jumps, bumping along till it reaches level again. The first night on the river I passed at Rouse’s Point. Nothing but Montaigne could have enabled me to free myself from the oppression of the dining-room, bed-room, guests, and hotel clerk. None but Jeremiah could live there. I had to pay four dollars for the discomforts of the night. Extortion should be resisted. But “ there is nothing I hate more than driving of bargaines: it is a meere commerce of dodging and impudencie. After an hour’s debating and paltring, both parties will goe from their words and oaths for the getting or saving of a shilling.”

The river Richelieu has its defects and its virtues. Its chief defect, and a monstrous one when days are hot and no wind blows, is that it has no pool, no hollow, no recess, for a bath. Bushes, lilypads, water-docks, and darnels, all manner of slimy herbs range in unbroken ranks all along the sides. To take a jump from the canoe in the middle of the river is a facile feat, “ sed revocare gradum, hic labor est.” I poked along for hours, examining every spot that looked as if a pebbled bottom might lie underneath, but found nothing, until I saw a tiny rivulet, so little that it would take ten minutes to fill a bathtub, trickling down a bank steeper than ordinary. Here the oozy greenery parted respectfully and left an open path for the little brook to make head into the river. One step from the shore the bottom sunk two fathoms deep. I tried to mark the spot on my map for the sake of future travelers ; but there was no indication of its place ; not even the little house across the river was noted, the presence of which, perhaps, should have disturbed me.

The virtues of the Richelieu are those of the people past whose houses it flows, if those aggregates of roofs, walls, and chimneys can be called houses. In New England a house implies a family, — father and mother, children, chickens, and live creatures in general. These houses have bare existence, no more. Not a man is to be seen. The flat fields spread far away on either side, and there are signs of tillage, also pastures tenanted by pigs. Along the river runs a road, and at intervals of half a mile little unpainted houses with closed doors and shut windows stand square-toed upon it. Once or twice I saw a woman sewing or knitting on the doorstep, her back turned; and I would paddle nearer and strike my paddle a little more noisily for the sake of a bonjour, or at least of a look with a suggestion of interest or human curiosity. The backs remained like so many Ladies of Shalott fearful of consequences. Perhaps they could see me in a mirror, perhaps there had been a time when they used to look ; but the river had been so unremunerative that now no splash, bow noisy soever, could provoke a turn of the head. It was the land of Nod. Some children I saw, but voiceless children, playing drowsy games or sleepily driving sleeping pigs afield. Bitten with curiosity and afraid to drink the river’s water, I went up to one of these houses at noontide. I made a half circle to the back, and found a door open. In the kitchen sat two women, an old man, and one or two children ; the women busy sewing, the old man braiding a mat from long strips of colored cloth. They all looked up at me and called to the dog, which had shown more interest in me than I cared for. One of the defects of the Richelieu is its dogs. Never were there such dogs. Dogs by courtesy, for they have legs, tail, head, ears, and if you go near, they growl, their hair bristles, and their tails point stiffly to the ground ; but they are not the dogs honest folks are wont to meet, — mere gargoyles cast in animated clay. They fetch their hide from longhaired dogs, Scotch perhaps, their tails from English bulls, their throats from hounds, their snouts from pointers, their forepaws from dachshunds, their landless from Spitz, their teeth from jackals ; their braying, barking, snarling voices are all their own.

“ Bonjour,” said I, after the dog had lain down. “ Voulez-vous avoir la bonté de me donner du lait, madame?” The children stared as before ; the women looked at each other, and then at me. I repeated my question, hat in hand. They still stared. “ J’ai soif,” I continued ; “ l’eau du fleave est d’une telle couleur que j’en ai pear.” A light broke over the old man’s face ; one of the women questioned him. “ Il vent du lac.” Ah, du lac,” and they all smiled, and then clouded up, looking dubious. “ Je veux en acheter,” said I intelligently. “ Ah, il veut en acheter. C’est bien,” and the older woman shouted for Jacques. A round-faced young man clambered down a ladder from the attic above the cattle-sheds, and presently brought me some very good milk, with which I filled my pail and departed. As I paddled off I looked back to see who was watching me, making sure that at least a child or the dog would have sufficient curiosity to see the last of me. Not a sign ; the house stared indifferently at the water.

I passed one night at St. Johns, which stands at the southern end of the canal. The canal runs for twelve miles past the Chambly Rapids, the same that vexed Samuel Champlain when he made his first voyage of discovery, coming down from Mont Real to punish the Iroquois and to see what he could see. The lying Algonquins, in their eagerness to have his company, had told him that there was no obstacle for the canoes. In this town I lodged in a French inn. The host was large and portly,—somewhat too much given to looking like the innkeeper in Doré’s Don Quixote, but a very good fellow. There is red wine in his cellar, and his wife cooks omelets with golden-brown tops.

Montaigne is sometimes held up as the type of the man of the world. It may be that he is such, but for those of us who are somewhat abashed at so fine a title, who have been taught to consider a man of the world as a hireling of the Prince of this World, and prefer to cope with a man of our hundred, the name may carry them into error. It is true that Montaigne went to Paris while Catherine de’ Medici and her sons held their court, and to Venice while the fame of Lepanto still hung over the Adriatic ; but he did not become a man of the world, supposing that traveling to the worldly cities of the world can so fashion a man. “ Ces belles villes, Venise et Paris, afferent la faveur que je leur porte, par l’aigre senteur, l’une de son marets. l’autre de sa boue.” In Venice there had been a man of the world, Pietro Aretino, called Divine by his compatriots, in whom except it be an high-raised, proudly pufft, mindmoving and heart-danting manner of speech, yet in good sooth more than ordinarie, wittie and ingenious ; but so new fangled, so extravagant, so fantasticall, so deep-laboured ; and to conclud, besides the eloquence, which he it as it may be, I cannot perceive anything in it, beyond or exceeding that of many other writers of his age, much lesse that it in any sort approacheth that ancient divinitie.” One suspects that it was not lack of style in Aretino that repelled Montaigne, but the superabundance of his disgusting nature. A man of the world does not have likes and dislikes ; he has amusements and interests, excitements even, ennui, tedium, and vacuity. This aversion from Aretino betrays Montaigne. He would conceal it as a mere pricking of his literary thumbs, but the truth will out. There was not lurking in Montaigne’s closet any skeleton of satiety. That is the mark of the man of the world. Not abroad, but in his château, in his study on the third story of the tower, is Montaigne at his ease. The world conies to him there, but what world ? This terrestrial globe peopled with ignorance and knowledge, custom and freedom, “ captive good ” and “ captain ill,” where Guise and Navarre break the peace in all the bailiwicks in France ? By no means. It is Plutarch’s world, a novel world of Greeks and Latins, more like Homer’s world than another, where princes and heroes perform their exploits from some Scamander to the sea and back again. Plutarch was his encyclopædia of interest. The man of the world watches the face of the world, walking to and fro to see what there may be abroad. Not so Montaigne. He cares little for the contemporary world of fact, even for the city of Bordeaux, his charge. Plutarch for him ; and what had Plutarch to do with the harvests and vintages of Bordeaux, with Gascon deaths and Gascon burials, with marriages and children, with drawing water and baking bread, with Ave Marias and Sunday holidays ? The heroic, the superhuman, the accomplishment of aspirations and hopes. — these are the domain of Plutarch and also of Romance. Montaigne would not have liked to be dubbed romantic, and clearly he was not; yet the glance and glitter of Romance caught the fancy of this late child of the Renaissance. It is said that the ebb tide of the new birth tumbled him over in its waves and left him lying on the wet sands of disillusion. If this be so, why did he seek and get the citizenship of Rome ? Was it not that “ Civis Romanus sum ” was one of the great permanent realities to his imagination? Why is it that he fills his pages with the romance of Alexander, Scipio, and Socrates ? Why do the records of fearlessness facing death, of the stoic suffering the ills of life with a smile, of men doing deeds that surpass the measure of a man’s strength, drag him to them ? He will not have his heroes belittled. “ Moreover, our judgments are but sick, and follow after the corruption of our manners. I see the greater part of the wits of my time puzzle their brains to draw a cloud over the glory of the noble and generous feats of old — grande subtilité.” The spirit of the Renaissance that wrought by land and sea in his father’s time still lingered. How could a man of letters escape the spirit of freedom and belief in possibility that the lack of geography and the babyhood of science spread thick over Europe ? To the west lay America and mystery. From the east news might come to-morrow that the men of Asia were masters of Vienna. From the spire of Bordeaux Cathedral a mayor standing a-tiptoe might see the cut of Drake’s jib as he sailed up the Gironde. Romance impregnated the air. Into France, reformation, Roman law, the arts of Italy, were come at double-quick, and to the south, in a certain place in La Mancha, El Señor Quixada, or Quesada, gave himself over to reading books of knight-errantry with so much zeal that he clean forgot to go a-hunting, and even to attend to his property ; in fact, this gentleman’s curiosity and nonsense in this matter reached such a pitch that he sold many an acre of cornfields in order to buy books of knight-errantry. Montaigne had too much of Polonius to behave in that way; nevertheless, the desire to reach out beyond the chalk-line drawn by the senses was potent with him. He goes round and round a subject not merely to show how no progress can be made towards discovering the inner reality of it, but partly to see if he cannot discover something. The make-weights that kept him steadfast in sobriety were his curiosity and his wit. Wit is the spirit that ties a man’s leg. It cannot abide half-lights, shadows, and darkness. Wit must deal with the immediate, with the plat of ground round which it paces its intellectual circuit. Wit has a lanthorn, which sheds its beams, revealing unexpected knowledge, but it turns the twilight beyond that circle of light into darkness. Ariosto’s wit makes his verses, but bars him from poetry. Spenser’s lack of wit allows him to make poetry, but barricades him from readers. Shakespeare and Cervantes were great enough to dominate their wit, but Montaigne’s clasped hands with his curiosity, and the two led him as the dog leads a blind man. The instinct in them has guided him to immortality. In curiosity Montaigne was of his father’s time. Curiosity was one of the makers of the Renaissance. It has not the graces of resignation and of contemplation, it lacks the self-respect of belief and the self-sufficiency of unbelief, but it accomplishes more than they, it must be reckoned with. It is the force underlying science. It is the grand vizier of change. Curiosity whispered to Columbus, plucked Galileo by the sleeve, and shook the apple off Newton’s appletree. Montaigne was a curious man. The English language lacks nicety in not having two words for the two halves of curiosity: one for Francis Bacon ; one for my landlady’s neighbor, she that lives behind ns to the left, whose window commands our yard. But if there were, could we apply the nobler adjective to Montaigne ? Does he want to know, like Ulysses ? Will he to ocean in an open boat,

“ yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star” ? Or does he rest content with the ordinary wares of knowledge, sold in market overt, and is he satisfied with ruminating over them, hands in pockets, leaving others to buy and use ?

The placidity of his life is another proof of his fondness for romance. A man of the world must go out into the world to seek the motion and the tap-tap of the free play of life, in order to satisfy the physical needs of sight and sound. The man of imagination and romance sits in his study, and heroes, heroines, gryphons, and Ganelons come huddling about his chair. To Montaigne the world came through his books, yet he is not a representative scholar. His companionship with books is based on friendship, not on desire for knowledge. There is no latent Faust in him. He is a man of the library. Of all great men of letters, more than the rest he has his writing-table backgrounded and shut in by bookshelves. Cicero is a man of the forum, Voltaire of the theatre, Walter Scott of the tourney. Montaigne is at home with books, not with men. Of the former, his cronies are Plutarch, Seneca, Cicero, Horace. He cares not so much about states and policies as he does how states long dead and policies forgotten appear to philosopher and poet. He is indifferent to morals as affecting the happiness of men, and eagerly interested in them as a topic of conversation, as an occasion whereby opinion may take the foils against opinion, and thought click against its fellow. Nor is he fond of poetry except as it serves to embroider his monologues. Life itself interests him chiefly as a matter for talk. And how good his talk is, how excellent his speech! With his heart, or what of heart he had, in his books, it is natural that he wished to appear among men of letters in his best array. He was ambitious, when men thenceforward should read Cicero and Seneca, that Michel de Montaigne should be read too, and that his style should stand beside theirs, uncovered, par inter pares. Sainte-Beuve, making mention of Calvin, Rabelais, Pascal, and Montaigne, says that Rabelais and Montaigne are poets. But Montaigne clearly does not fill an English-speaking man’s conception of a poet. It must be, I think, that Sainte-Beuve was under the influence of Montaigne’s language, and therefore called him so. That was natural. The French tongue at that time had a strong element of poetry ; it bore deeper marks of its originals. It had not yet come under the complete dominion of narrow prosody and syntax. The words had in a measure the simplicity, the indecision of outline, the rude strength, of the Teutonic languages. Old English words, at times, like the conspirators in Brutus’ garden, come-fraught with greater meaning that they are indistinct; their shadows fall about them, hiding their feet; they glide into your presence : so it is with Montaigne’s words. Nowadays French words have evolutions and drills, accepted manœuvres ; they savor of mathematics and bloodless things. The French language of to-day has altered its sixteenth-century habit more than English has. No Bible arrested its development ; it had no Elizabethans to disdain conformity. Montaigne has the simplicity, the directness of expression and exposition, of the men of to-day, but the poetical quality that lurks in his words and phrases they have not inherited.

At St. Johns is the custom house, but the office was locked at a reasonable hour in the morning for calling, and I felt under no further obligations towards the Canadian government. Here also is the place to pay the canal toll, and in exchange receive a ticket which gives permission to pass all the locks. The toll-taker wrote me out a permit, full of dignity, authorizing the ship Sickle-Fin, weighing not more than one ton, whereof Captain —, naming me, was the master, laden with ballast (Montaigne), to travel free through all the locks.

It is the every-day humanity in Montaigne that binds us to him. It is his lack of capacity for self-sacrifice, his inability to believe, his ignorance of love, his innocence of scorn. These are our common property. He likes the comforts that we like ; he values security, ease, simplicity, a lire on the hearth, a book in the hand, fresh water in summer. He never makes us ashamed.

The next night I passed at Belœil. Here I was the sport of indecision for an hour, unable to make up my mind where to pass the night. There were three hotels, two on my left, one on my right. While looking at each in turn, I resolved to go to one of the other two. Finally I made my choice. I selected a little wooden house, with a little barroom, a little dining-room, and a very tiny larder, and beer of a despicable quality. I had ham and eggs for dinner,

— “ Si l’on avait su que Monsieur allait venir, on aurait pu avoir un bifteck,” — ham and eggs for breakfast, and an offer to put up ham and eggs for my lunch.

The villages along the river are all on one pattern. In the centre is a very large church, so big that you see it far off, long before there is any other indication of human life. The church is built on a rectangle, with a pointed roof and a tall spire tipped with a weather-cock. The roof is covered with tin, unpainted, which does not rust, perhaps because the air is so dry, and flashes very gaudily in the sun. Grouped about the church are large red brick buildings facing a little green. These are the houses for priests and nuns, with the offices for parish work. Images of the Virgin and saints stand about. The grass-plot and the paths are well kept, and were it not that the rest of the village does not seem to share in this prosperity, it would be a very pleasant sight. At St. Ours, where I passed the next night, there was an attractive house, shut in by a garden and well protected by trees, that had the look of accumulated savings ; but in general there was little sign of the comforts so often seen in the small manufacturing villages of New England, — no sound of a lawnmower, no croquet, no tennis.

The river Richelieu joins the St. Lawrence at Sorel. There I found that the St. Lawrence is too big and strong for a canoe, at least when paddled in a jogging, unsophisticated way. I put my canoe aboard the steamer, and bought a ticket for Quebec. In my stuffy cabin, under the dim gaslight, I admired Montaigne’s imperturbability and his ceaseless interest in things.

Henry D. Sedgwick, Jr.