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Of Cruelty
by [?]

I fancy virtue to be something else, and something more noble, than good nature, and the mere propension to goodness, that we are born into the world withal. Well-disposed and well-descended souls pursue, indeed, the same methods, and represent in their actions the same face that virtue itself does: but the word virtue imports, I know not what, more great and active than merely for a man to suffer himself, by a happy disposition, to be gently and quietly drawn to the rule of reason. He who, by a natural sweetness and facility, should despise injuries received, would doubtless do a very fine and laudable thing; but he who, provoked and nettled to the quick by an offence, should fortify himself with the arms of reason against the furious appetite of revenge, and after a great conflict, master his own passion, would certainly do a great deal more. The first would do well; the latter virtuously: one action might be called goodness, and the other virtue; for methinks, the very name of virtue presupposes difficulty and contention, and cannot be exercised without an opponent. ‘Tis for this reason, perhaps, that we call God good, mighty, liberal and just; but we do not call Him virtuous, being that all His operations are natural and without endeavour.–[Rousseau, in his Emile, book v., adopts this passage almost in the same words.]– It has been the opinion of many philosophers, not only Stoics, but Epicureans–and this addition–

[“Montaigne stops here to make his excuse for thus naming the Epicureans with the Stoics, in conformity to the general opinion that the Epicureans were not so rigid in their morals as the Stoics, which is not true in the main, as he demonstrates at one view. This involved Montaigne in a tedious parenthesis, during which it is proper that the reader be attentive, that he may not entirely lose the thread of the argument. In some later editions of this author, it has been attempted to remedy this inconvenience, but without observing that Montaigne’s argument is rendered more feeble and obscure by such vain repetitions: it is a licence that ought not to be taken, because he who publishes the work of another, ought to give it as the other composed ft. But, in Mr Cotton’s translation, he was so puzzled with this enormous parenthesis that he has quite left it out”–Coste.]

I borrow from the vulgar opinion, which is false, notwithstanding the witty conceit of Arcesilaus in answer to one, who, being reproached that many scholars went from his school to the Epicurean, but never any from thence to his school, said in answer, “I believe it indeed; numbers of capons being made out of cocks, but never any cocks out of capons.” –[Diogenes Laertius, Life of Archesilaus, lib. iv., 43.]–For, in truth, the Epicurean sect is not at all inferior to the Stoic in steadiness, and the rigour of opinions and precepts. And a certain Stoic, showing more honesty than those disputants, who, in order to quarrel with Epicurus, and to throw the game into their hands, make him say what he never thought, putting a wrong construction upon his words, clothing his sentences, by the strict rules of grammar, with another meaning, and a different opinion from that which they knew he entertained in his mind and in his morals, the Stoic, I say, declared that he abandoned the Epicurean sect, upon this among other considerations, that he thought their road too lofty and inaccessible;

[“And those are called lovers of pleasure, being in effect lovers of honour and justice, who cultivate and observe all the virtues.”–Cicero, Ep. Fam., xv. i, 19.]

These philosophers say that it is not enough to have the soul seated in a good place, of a good temper, and well disposed to virtue; it is not enough to have our resolutions and our reasoning fixed above all the power of fortune, but that we are, moreover, to seek occasions wherein to put them to the proof: they would seek pain, necessity, and contempt to contend with them and to keep the soul in breath: