He died in , leaving behind him an interesting and little-known collection of poems, which appeared posthumously, 8vo, A Life of the Author and all his recovered Letters, sixteen in number, have also been given; but, as regards the correspondence, it can scarcely be doubted that it is in a purely fragmentary state. Nor is redundancy or paraphrase the only form of transgression in Cotton, for there are places in his author which he thought proper to omit, and it is hardly necessary to say that the restoration of all such matter to the text was considered essential to its integrity and completeness.
By the favour of Mr F. It has his autograph and copious MSS.
Michel de Montaigne. His father, Pierre Eyquem, esquire, was successively first Jurat of the town of Bordeaux , Under-Mayor , Jurat for the second time in , Procureur in , and at length Mayor from to To associate closely his son Michel with the people, and attach him to those who stand in need of assistance, he caused him to be held at the font by persons of meanest position; subsequently he put him out to nurse with a poor villager, and then, at a later period, made him accustom himself to the most common sort of living, taking care, nevertheless, to cultivate his mind, and superintend its development without the exercise of undue rigour or constraint.
Michel, who gives us the minutest account of his earliest years, charmingly narrates how they used to awake him by the sound of some agreeable music, and how he learned Latin, without suffering the rod or shedding a tear, before beginning French, thanks to the German teacher whom his father had placed near him, and who never addressed him except in the language of Virgil and Cicero. The study of Greek took precedence. At six years of age young Montaigne went to the College of Guienne at Bordeaux, where he had as preceptors the most eminent scholars of the sixteenth century, Nicolas Grouchy, Guerente, Muret, and Buchanan.
At thirteen he had passed through all the classes, and as he was destined for the law he left school to study that science. He was then about fourteen, but these early years of his life are involved in obscurity. The next information that we have is that in he received the appointment of councillor in the Parliament of Bordeaux; in he was at Bar-le-Duc with the court of Francis II, and in the year following he was present at Rouen to witness the declaration of the majority of Charles IX.
We do not know in what manner he was engaged on these occasions. Between and an important incident occurred in the life of Montaigne, in the commencement of his romantic friendship with Etienne de la Boetie, whom he had met, as he tells us, by pure chance at some festive celebration in the town. From their very first interview the two found themselves drawn irresistibly close to one another, and during six years this alliance was foremost in the heart of Montaigne, as it was afterwards in his memory, when death had severed it.
Although he blames severely in his own book [Essays, i. The history of his early married life vies in obscurity with that of his youth. His biographers are not agreed among themselves; and in the same degree that he lays open to our view all that concerns his secret thoughts, the innermost mechanism of his mind, he observes too much reticence in respect to his public functions and conduct, and his social relations. Michael, which was, as he informs us himself, the highest honour of the French noblesse. According to Lacroix du Maine, Montaigne, upon the death of his eldest brother, resigned his post of Councillor, in order to adopt the military profession, while, if we might credit the President Bouhier, he never discharged any functions connected with arms.
However, several passages in the Essays seem to indicate that he not only took service, but that he was actually in numerous campaigns with the Catholic armies. Let us add, that on his monument he is represented in a coat of mail, with his casque and gauntlets on his right side, and a lion at his feet, all which signifies, in the language of funeral emblems, that the departed has been engaged in some important military transactions. At the time to which we have come, Montaigne was unknown to the world of letters, except as a translator and editor.
We may suppose that he began to compose the Essays at the very outset of his retirement from public engagements; for as, according to his own account, observes the President Bouhier, he cared neither for the chase, nor building, nor gardening, nor agricultural pursuits, and was exclusively occupied with reading and reflection, he devoted himself with satisfaction to the task of setting down his thoughts just as they occurred to him. Those thoughts became a book, and the first part of that book, which was to confer immortality on the writer, appeared at Bordeaux in Montaigne was then fifty-seven; he had suffered for some years past from renal colic and gravel; and it was with the necessity of distraction from his pain, and the hope of deriving relief from the waters, that he undertook at this time a great journey.
As the account which he has left of his travels in Germany and Italy comprises some highly interesting particulars of his life and personal history, it seems worth while to furnish a sketch or analysis of it. The passage of Montaigne through Switzerland is not without interest, as we see there how our philosophical traveller accommodated himself everywhere to the ways of the country. The hotels, the provisions, the Swiss cookery, everything, was agreeable to him; it appears, indeed, as if he preferred to the French manners and tastes those of the places he was visiting, and of which the simplicity and freedom or frankness accorded more with his own mode of life and thinking.
In the towns where he stayed, Montaigne took care to see the Protestant divines, to make himself conversant with all their dogmas. He even had disputations with them occasionally. He then passed through Brunsol, Trent, where he put up at the Rose; thence going to Rovera; and here he first lamented the scarcity of crawfish, but made up for the loss by partaking of truffles cooked in oil and vinegar; oranges, citrons, and olives, in all of which he delighted.
After passing a restless night, when he bethought himself in the morning that there was some new town or district to be seen, he rose, we are told, with alacrity and pleasure. His secretary, to whom he dictated his Journal, assures us that he never saw him take so much interest in surrounding scenes and persons, and believes that the complete change helped to mitigate his sufferings in concentrating his attention on other points. When there was a complaint made that he had led his party out of the beaten route, and then returned very near the spot from which they started, his answer was that he had no settled course, and that he merely proposed to himself to pay visits to places which he had not seen, and so long as they could not convict him of traversing the same path twice, or revisiting a point already seen, he could perceive no harm in his plan.
As to Rome, he cared less to go there, inasmuch as everybody went there; and he said that he never had a lacquey who could not tell him all about Florence or Ferrara. He also would say that he seemed to himself like those who are reading some pleasant story or some fine book, of which they fear to come to the end: he felt so much pleasure in travelling that he dreaded the moment of arrival at the place where they were to stop for the night.
We see that Montaigne travelled, just as he wrote, completely at his ease, and without the least constraint, turning, just as he fancied, from the common or ordinary roads taken by tourists. The good inns, the soft beds, the fine views, attracted his notice at every point, and in his observations on men and things he confines himself chiefly to the practical side. The consideration of his health was constantly before him, and it was in consequence of this that, while at Venice, which disappointed him, he took occasion to note, for the benefit of readers, that he had an attack of colic, and that he evacuated two large stones after supper.
He pronounced the Florentine women the finest in the world, but had not an equally good opinion of the food, which was less plentiful than in Germany, and not so well served. He lets us understand that in Italy they send up dishes without dressing, but in Germany they were much better seasoned, and served with a variety of sauces and gravies.
He remarked further, that the glasses were singularly small and the wines insipid. After dining with the Grand-Duke of Florence, Montaigne passed rapidly over the intermediate country, which had no fascination for him, and arrived at Rome on the last day of November, entering by the Porta del Popolo, and putting up at Bear. But he afterwards hired, at twenty crowns a month, fine furnished rooms in the house of a Spaniard, who included in these terms the use of the kitchen fire. What most annoyed him in the Eternal City was the number of Frenchmen he met, who all saluted him in his native tongue; but otherwise he was very comfortable, and his stay extended to five months.
The world, jealous of her, prolonged empire, had in the first place broken to pieces that admirable body, and then, when they perceived that the remains attracted worship and awe, had buried the very wreck itself. Again, he was apprehensive, seeing the space which this grave occupied, that the whole might not have been recovered, and that the burial itself had been buried. And, moreover, to see a wretched heap of rubbish, as pieces of tile and pottery, grow as it had ages since to a height equal to that of Mount Gurson,—[In Perigord.
He Montaigne observed that it was difficult to believe considering the limited area taken up by any of her seven hills and particularly the two most favoured ones, the Capitoline and the Palatine, that so many buildings stood on the site. He believed that an ancient Roman would not recognise the place again.
It often happened that in digging down into earth the workmen came upon the crown of some lofty column, which, though thus buried, was still standing upright.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The people there have no recourse to other foundations than the vaults and arches of the old houses, upon which, as on slabs of rock, they raise their modern palaces. It is easy to see that several of the ancient streets are thirty feet below those at present in use.
Sceptical as Montaigne shows himself in his books, yet during his sojourn at Rome he manifested a great regard for religion.
He saw a Jewish child circumcised, and wrote down a most minute account of the operation. The court of Muscovy had at that time such limited relations with the other powers of Europe, and it was so imperfect in its information, that it thought Venice to be a dependency of the Holy See. I begged him, on the contrary, to abide by the opinion of the person who had criticised me, confessing, among other matters, as, for example, in my use of the word fortune, in quoting historical poets, in my apology for Julian, in my animadversion on the theory that he who prayed ought to be exempt from vicious inclinations for the time being; item, in my estimate of cruelty, as something beyond simple death; item, in my view that a child ought to be brought up to do everything, and so on; that these were my opinions, which I did not think wrong; as to other things, I said that the corrector understood not my meaning.
The Master, who is a clever man, made many excuses for me, and gave me to suppose that he did not concur in the suggested improvements; and pleaded very ingeniously for me in my presence against another also an Italian who opposed my sentiments. Such is what passed between Montaigne and these two personages at that time; but when the Essayist was leaving, and went to bid them farewell, they used very different language to him.
To excuse themselves for what they had said against my book, they instanced works of our time by cardinals and other divines of excellent repute which had been blamed for similar faults, which in no way affected reputation of the author, or of the publication as a whole; they requested me to lend the Church the support of my eloquence this was their fair speech , and to make longer stay in the place, where I should be free from all further intrusion on their part.
It seemed to me that we parted very good friends. Before quitting Rome, Montaigne received his diploma of citizenship, by which he was greatly flattered; and after a visit to Tivoli he set out for Loretto, stopping at Ancona, Fano, and Urbino. He arrived at the beginning of May , at Bagno della Villa, where he established himself, order to try the waters. There, we find in the Journal, of his own accord the Essayist lived in the strictest conformity with the regime, and henceforth we only hear of diet, the effect which the waters had by degrees upon system, of the manner in which he took them; in a word, he does not omit an item of the circumstances connected with his daily routine, his habit of body, his baths, and the rest.
Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, June 8, Montaigne gives it as his reason and justification for enlarging to this extent here, that he had omitted, to his regret, to do so in his visits to other baths, which might have saved him the trouble of writing at such great length now; but it is perhaps a better reason in our eyes, that what he wrote he wrote for his own use.
We find in these accounts, however, many touches which are valuable as illustrating the manners of the place. The minute and constant watchfulness of Montaigne over his health and over himself might lead one to suspect that excessive fear of death which degenerates into cowardice. But was it not rather the fear of the operation for the stone, at that time really formidable? For reason prescribes that we should joyfully accept what it may please God to send us. Therefore the only remedy, the only rule, and the sole doctrine for avoiding the evils by which mankind is surrounded, whatever they are, is to resolve to bear them so far as our nature permits, or to put an end to them courageously and promptly.
He was still at the waters of La Villa, when, on the 7th September , he learned by letter that he had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux on the 1st August preceding. This intelligence made him hasten his departure; and from Lucca he proceeded to Rome. He again made some stay in that city, and he there received the letter of the jurats of Bordeaux, notifying to him officially his election to the Mayoralty, and inviting him to return as speedily as possible.
He passed by Padua, Milan, Mont Cenis, and Chambery; thence he went on to Lyons, and lost no time in repairing to his chateau, after an absence of seventeen months and eight days. We have just seen that, during his absence in Italy, the author of the Essays was elected mayor of Bordeaux. I excused myself; but they gave to understand that I was wrong in so doing, it being also the command of the king that I should stand. I have had the agreeable duty of confirming the selection, and I did so the more willingly, seeing that it was made during your distant absence; wherefore it is my desire, and I require and command you expressly that you proceed without delay to enter on the duties to which you have received so legitimate a call.
And so you will act in a manner very agreeable to me, while the contrary will displease me greatly. Praying God, M. Montaigne, in his new employment, the most important in the province, obeyed the axiom, that a man may not refuse a duty, though it absorb his time and attention, and even involve the sacrifice of his blood. Placed between two extreme parties, ever on the point of getting to blows, he showed himself in practice what he is in his book, the friend of a middle and temperate policy. Affectionately attached to the repose of his country, an enemy to changes and innovations, he would have preferred to employ what means he had towards their discouragement and suppression, than in promoting their success.
He applied himself, in an especial manner, to the maintenance of peace between the two religious factions which at that time divided the town of Bordeaux; and at the end of his two first years of office, his grateful fellow-citizens conferred on him in the mayoralty for two years more, a distinction which had been enjoyed, as he tells us, only twice before. In the midst of the cares of government, Montaigne found time to revise and enlarge his Essays, which, since their appearance in , were continually receiving augmentation in the form of additional chapters or papers.
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Two more editions were printed in and ; and during this time the author, while making alterations in the original text, had composed part of the Third Book. He went to Paris to make arrangements for the publication of his enlarged labours, and a fourth impression in was the result. He remained in the capital some time on this occasion, and it was now that he met for the first time Mademoiselle de Gournay. Gifted with an active and inquiring spirit, and, above all, possessing a sound and healthy tone of mind, Mademoiselle de Gournay had been carried from her childhood with that tide which set in with sixteenth century towards controversy, learning, and knowledge.
She learnt Latin without a master; and when, the age of eighteen, she accidentally became possessor of a copy of the Essays, she was transported with delight and admiration. She quitted the chateau of Gournay, to come and see him. Montaigne, on leaving Paris, stayed a short time at Blois, to attend the meeting of the States-General. We do not know what part he took in that assembly: but it is known that he was commissioned, about this period, to negotiate between Henry of Navarre afterwards Henry IV. His political life is almost a blank; but De Thou assures us that Montaigne enjoyed the confidence of the principal persons of his time.
De Thou, who calls him a frank man without constraint, tells us that, walking with him and Pasquier in the court at the Castle of Blois, he heard him pronounce some very remarkable opinions on contemporary events, and he adds that Montaigne had foreseen that the troubles in France could not end without witnessing the death of either the King of Navarre or of the Duke of Guise.
He had made himself so completely master of the views of these two princes, that he told De Thou that the King of Navarre would have been prepared to embrace Catholicism, if he had not been afraid of being abandoned by his party, and that the Duke of Guise, on his part, had no particular repugnance to the Confession of Augsburg, for which the Cardinal of Lorraine, his uncle, had inspired him with a liking, if it had not been for the peril involved in quitting the Romish communion.
The author of the Essays was now fifty-five. The malady which tormented him grew only worse and worse with years; and yet he occupied himself continually with reading, meditating, and composition. He employed the years , , and in making fresh additions to his book; and even in the approaches of old age he might fairly anticipate many happy hours, when he was attacked by quinsy, depriving him of the power utterance.
Pasquier, who has left us some details his last hours, narrates that he remained three days in full possession of his faculties, but unable to speak, so that, in order to make known his desires, he was obliged to resort to writing; and as he felt his end drawing near, he begged his wife to summon certain of the gentlemen who lived in the neighbourhood to bid them a last farewell. When they had arrived, he caused mass to be celebrated in apartment; and just as the priest was elevating the host, Montaigne fell forward with his arms extended in front of him, on the bed, and so expired.
He was in his sixtieth year. It was the 13th September Montaigne was buried near his own house; but a few years after his decease, his remains were removed to the church of a Commandery of St. Antoine at Bordeaux, where they still continue. His monument was restored in by a descendant.
It was seen about by an English traveller Mr. John, , 2 vols. My God! On the other hand, Malebranche and the writers of Port Royal were against him; some reprehended the licentiousness of his writings; others their impiety, materialism, epicureanism. Even Pascal, who had carefully read the Essays, and gained no small profit by them, did not spare his reproaches. But Montaigne has outlived detraction.
As time has gone on, his admirers and borrowers have increased in number, and his Jansenism, which recommended him to the eighteenth century, may not be his least recommendation in the nineteenth. Here we have certainly, on the whole, a first-class man, and one proof of his masterly genius seems to be, that his merits and his beauties are sufficient to induce us to leave out of consideration blemishes and faults which would have been fatal to an inferior writer. It first appeared in a little volume of Miscellanies in See Hazlitt, ubi sup.
I well foresaw that, if his illness permitted him to express himself, he would allow nothing to fall from him, in such an extremity, that was not replete with good example. I consequently took every care in my power to treasure what was said. True it is, Monseigneur, as my memory is not only in itself very short, but in this case affected by the trouble which I have undergone, through so heavy and important a loss, that I have forgotten a number of things which I should wish to have had known; but those which I recollect shall be related to you as exactly as lies in my power.
For to represent in full measure his noble career suddenly arrested, to paint to you his indomitable courage, in a body worn out and prostrated by pain and the assaults of death, I confess, would demand a far better ability than mine: because, although, when in former years he discoursed on serious and important matters, he handled them in such a manner that it was difficult to reproduce exactly what he said, yet his ideas and his words at the last seemed to rival each other in serving him.
For I am sure that I never knew him give birth to such fine conceptions, or display so much eloquence, as in the time of his sickness. If, Monseigneur, you blame me for introducing his more ordinary observations, please to know that I do so advisedly; for since they proceeded from him at a season of such great trouble, they indicate the perfect tranquillity of his mind and thoughts to the last.
On Monday, the 9th day of August , on my return from the Court, I sent an invitation to him to come and dine with me. He returned word that he was obliged, but, being indisposed, he would thank me to do him the pleasure of spending an hour with him before he started for Medoc. Shortly after my dinner I went to him. He had laid himself down on the bed with his clothes on, and he was already, I perceived, much changed. He complained of diarrhoea, accompanied by the gripes, and said that he had it about him ever since he played with M.
I advised him to go as he had proposed, but to stay for the night at Germignac, which is only about two leagues from the town. I gave him this advice, because some houses, near to that where he was ping, were visited by the plague, about which he was nervous since his return from Perigord and the Agenois, here it had been raging; and, besides, horse exercise was, from my own experience, beneficial under similar circumstances.
He set out, accordingly, with his wife and M. Bouillhonnas, his uncle.
ESSAYS OF MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
Early on the following morning, however, I had intelligence from Madame de la Boetie, that in the night he had fresh and violent attack of dysentery. She had called in physician and apothecary, and prayed me to lose no time coming, which after dinner I did. He was delighted to see me; and when I was going away, under promise to turn the following day, he begged me more importunately and affectionately than he was wont to do, to give him as such of my company as possible.
I was a little affected; yet was about to leave, when Madame de la Boetie, as if she foresaw something about to happen, implored me with tears to stay the night. When I consented, he seemed to grow more cheerful. I returned home the next day, and on the Thursday I paid him another visit. He had become worse; and his loss of blood from the dysentery, which reduced his strength very much, was largely on the increase.
I quitted his side on Friday, but on Saturday I went to him, and found him very weak. He then gave me to understand that his complaint was infectious, and, moreover, disagreeable and depressing; and that he, knowing thoroughly my constitution, desired that I should content myself with coming to see him now and then. On the contrary, after that I never left his side. It was only on the Sunday that he began to converse with me on any subject beyond the immediate one of his illness, and what the ancient doctors thought of it: we had not touched on public affairs, for I found at the very outset that he had a dislike to them.
But, on the Sunday, he had a fainting fit; and when he came to himself, he told me that everything seemed to him confused, as if in a mist and in disorder, and that, nevertheless, this visitation was not unpleasing to him.
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He had had no regular sleep since the beginning of his illness; and as he became worse and worse, he began to turn his attention to questions which men commonly occupy themselves with in the last extremity, despairing now of getting better, and intimating as much to me. On that day, as he appeared in tolerably good spirits, I took occasion to say to him that, in consideration of the singular love I bore him, it would become me to take care that his affairs, which he had conducted with such rare prudence in his life, should not be neglected at present; and that I should regret it if, from want of proper counsel, he should leave anything unsettled, not only on account of the loss to his family, but also to his good name.
He thanked me for my kindness; and after a little reflection, as if he was resolving certain doubts in his own mind, he desired me to summon his uncle and his wife by themselves, in order that he might acquaint them with his testamentary dispositions. I told him that this would shock them. I replied, that it was of no importance, being incidental to the complaint from which he suffered.
I should also regret it on account of such as have, in my lifetime, valued me, and whose conversation I should like to have enjoyed a little longer; and I beseech you, my brother, if I leave the world, to carry to them for me an assurance of the esteem I entertained for them to the last moment of my existence. My birth was, moreover, scarcely to so little purpose but that, had I lived, I might have done some service to the public; but, however this may be, I am prepared to submit to the will of God, when it shall please Him to call me, being confident of enjoying the tranquillity which you have foretold for me.
As for you, my friend, I feel sure that you are so wise, that you will control your emotions, and submit to His divine ordinance regarding me; and I beg of you to see that that good man and woman do not mourn for my departure unnecessarily. He proceeded to inquire how they behaved at present. When they were near him he assumed an appearance of gaiety, and flattered them with hopes. I then went to call them. Let me only say that, wherever I have been, and with whomsoever I have conversed, I have represented you as doing for me all that a father could do for a son; both in the care with which you tended my education, and in the zeal with which you pushed me forward into public life, so that my whole existence is a testimony of your good offices towards me.
In short, I am indebted for all that I have to you, who have been to me as a parent; and therefore I have no right to part with anything, unless it be with your approval. There was a general silence hereupon, and his uncle was prevented from replying by tears and sobs. At last he said that whatever he thought for the best would be agreeable to him; and as he intended to make him his heir, he was at liberty to dispose of what would be his.
Then he turned to his wife.
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I beg you to accept such portion of my estate as I bequeath to you, and be satisfied with it, though it is very inadequate to your desert. Afterwards he turned to me. It will be a memorial of your old companion. Then he addressed all three of us. I am a Christian; I am a Catholic. I have lived one, and I shall die one. Send for a priest; for I wish to conform to this last Christian obligation.
I felt my heart so oppressed at this moment, that I had not the power to make him any answer; but in the course of two or three hours, solicitous to keep up his courage, and, likewise, out of the tenderness which I had had all my life for his honour and fame, wishing a larger number of witnesses to his admirable fortitude, I said to him, how much I was ashamed to think that I lacked courage to listen to what he, so great a sufferer, had the courage to deliver; that down to the present time I had scarcely conceived that God granted us such command over human infirmities, and had found a difficulty in crediting the examples I had read in histories; but that with such evidence of the thing before my eyes, I gave praise to God that it had shown itself in one so excessively dear to me, and who loved me so entirely, and that his example would help me to act in a similar manner when my turn came.
Interrupting me, he begged that it might happen so, and that the conversation which had passed between us might not be mere words, but might be impressed deeply on our minds, to be put in exercise at the first occasion; and that this was the real object and aim of all philosophy. Have I not lived long enough?
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Oxford Handbooks Online. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search within my subject: Select People are taught and get used to cultural constructions of gender as well as to sexed corporality, and that pro- cess leads them to assume that there are two separate and discrete sexes. Donald Frame Stanford, Calif. Pierre Villey and V. Rather, Montaigne focuses on the role that discourses play in the construction of sex. Other forms of discourse construct binarism in the travel journal version of the story.
Singing the song over and over helps insure that girls will always sing the song and that this means of sexual construction will propagate itself. He passes on the song without being aware of it, or to mirror how it infiltrates other discourses. She stands in direct contrast to the previous story in the travel narrative about Mary who passed as a man, moved to a new village, and married a woman. The sexed imagination should be transformed so that we all imagine that we have other sexed selves within us. Reeser in their construction of sexual binarism.
The borders of the sexed body are estab- lished as solid, clear, and stable, but that process can never be completed, and will never end. Sexed human bodies are not so different from geographical ones. For Montaigne, male and female and masculine and feminine are not necessarily stable binary oppositions that need to be taken apart and dismantled in the first place as they are already in flux.
Even if education and custom create binarism, the single mold of male and female bod- ies nonetheless recurs in the text and dialogues with sexual binarism. It is significant that this sex change takes place in the direction from female to male. For more on this topic, see Parker.
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But these key terms refer implicitly to other parts of the Essays. How, then, is gender taught and practiced for Montaigne? What does it mean to acquire a gender? How is it reified? In what sense is it not natural? Did it not put weapons in their hands, make them raise armies and fight battles? Because of a sup- posed biological basis or mold, gender comes to appear natural over time even as it is not fully fixed, to the point of blinding us to perception, in a way that mirrors the process of habit itself.
It is not simply that habit constructs gender through repetition, however, for habit itself is a gendered phenomenon. These seminal notions of gender may predate habit and help invent it as seeming natural. Because habit already has gender so embedded within it, we cannot escape gendered habit by becoming aware of it since gender creates our percep- tion of habit in the first place in ways that we cannot necessarily perceive. We see her at every turn forcing the rules of nature. Nous luy voyons forcer, tous les coups, les reigles de nature. And thus it will fit those who gradually become accustomed to things, however difficult.
If habit forces the rules of nature, it is in part because it forces the rules of gender.