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PAGE 2

Of Recompenses Of Honour
by [?]

Seeing, then, that these remunerations of honour have no other value and estimation but only this, that few people enjoy them, ’tis but to be liberal of them to bring them down to nothing. And though there should be now more men found than in former times worthy of our order, the estimation of it nevertheless should not be abated, nor the honour made cheap; and it may easily happen that more may merit it; for there is no virtue that so easily spreads as that of military valour. There is another virtue, true, perfect, and philosophical, of which I do not speak, and only make use of the word in our common acceptation, much greater than this and more full, which is a force and assurance of the soul, equally despising all sorts of adverse accidents, equable, uniform, and constant, of which ours is no more than one little ray. Use, education, example, and custom can do all in all to the establishment of that whereof I am speaking, and with great facility render it common, as by the experience of our civil wars is manifest enough; and whoever could at this time unite us all, Catholic and Huguenot, into one body, and set us upon some brave common enterprise, we should again make our ancient military reputation flourish. It is most certain that in times past the recompense of this order had not only a regard to valour, but had a further prospect; it never was the reward of a valiant soldier but of a great captain; the science of obeying was not reputed worthy of so honourable a guerdon. There was therein a more universal military expertness required, and that comprehended the most and the greatest qualities of a military man:

“Neque enim eaedem militares et imperatorix artes sunt,”

[“For the arts of soldiery and generalship are not the same.”
–Livy, xxv. 19.]

as also, besides, a condition suitable to such a dignity. But, I say, though more men were worthy than formerly, yet ought it not to be more liberally distributed, and it were better to fall short in not giving it at all to whom it should be due, than for ever to lose, as we have lately done, the fruit of so profitable an invention. No man of spirit will deign to advantage himself with what is in common with many; and such of the present time as have least merited this recompense themselves make the greater show of disdaining it, in order thereby to be ranked with those to whom so much wrong has been done by the unworthy conferring and debasing the distinction which was their particular right.

Now, to expect that in obliterating and abolishing this, suddenly to create and bring into credit a like institution, is not a proper attempt for so licentious and so sick a time as this wherein we now are; and it will fall out that the last will from its birth incur the same inconveniences that have ruined the other.–[Montaigne refers to the Order of the Saint-Esprit, instituted by Henry III. in 1578.]–The rules for dispensing this new order had need to be extremely clipt and bound under great restrictions, to give it authority; and this tumultuous season is incapable of such a curb: besides that, before this can be brought into repute, ’tis necessary that the memory of the first, and of the contempt into which it is fallen, be buried in oblivion.

This place might naturally enough admit of some discourse upon the consideration of valour, and the difference of this virtue from others; but, Plutarch having so often handled this subject, I should give myself an unnecessary trouble to repeat what he has said. But this is worth considering: that our nation places valour, vaillance, in the highest degree of virtue, as its very word evidences, being derived from valeur, and that, according to our use, when we say a man of high worth a good man, in our court style–’tis to say a valiant man, after the Roman way; for the general appellation of virtue with them takes etymology from vis, force. The proper, sole, and essential profession of, the French noblesse is that of arms: and ’tis likely that the first virtue that discovered itself amongst men and has given to some advantage over others, was that by which the strongest and most valiant have mastered the weaker, and acquired a particular authority and reputation, whence came to it that dignified appellation; or else, that these nations, being very warlike, gave the pre-eminence to that of the virtues which was most familiar to them; just as our passion and the feverish solicitude we have of the chastity of women occasions that to say, a good woman, a woman of worth, a woman of honour and virtue, signifies merely a chaste woman as if, to oblige them to that one duty, we were indifferent as to all the rest, and gave them the reins in all other faults whatever to compound for that one of incontinence.