To the King of Nauarre.
SIR, it doth many times so fall out, that those things which we imagine to be most hurtfull vnto vs, do redound to our grea∣test benefit. This when Chion (a man in his daies of good estimation among the Greekes) had tried in himselfe, hee did by a Letter of his (yet extant) giue thankes to the contrarie winds, which maugre his head had detained him at Constan•inople, from whence hee ment to haue sailed to A∣thens, because the sayde s•aie procured him the benefite of en∣tering a league of friendship with Xenophon who during his a∣boade, ariued there with his troopes after his returne out of Persia, confessing that he had more profited in the companie of that gallant Captaine, then hee shoulde haue done in the schooles of the most famous Philosophers of all Grecce. After the example therefore of that so notable a personage, my selfe will giue thankes to the miseries of this time, because that for∣cing me to become a Philosopher in a strange land, they haue wrought me this good, to haue passed away eight or nine mo∣neths in the companie of the Lord De la None. For besides that hee is endued with all those good partes which Chion no∣teth in Xenophon, as well in respect of his learning, as also for his knowledge and experience in armes: the examples of his vertues and sweetnesse of his conuersation did so helpe me to disgest both the publike calamities and mine owne perticu∣lar discommodities, that during life I cannot but yeeld praise to God for so great a benefite. Howbeit the thing that made me most desirous of his friendshippe, was a consideration that the farther he was through his afflictions driuen out of France and from your Maiestie, the more did his affection to your seruice & the welfare of the whole Realme seeme to increase: for whether he walkt or slept all his imaginations tended no∣lie to the finding out of such meanes as might best redresse the calamities that oppressed our miserable Countrie, and his ordinarie deuises to the seeking out of anie thing that might aduance the reestablishing of the state in her former Page [unnumbered] dignitie: A matter at this day so lamentable, as it seemeth ra∣ther to bee wished than hoped for. Injoying therefore that sweete familiaritie wherewith it pleased him to honour mee, and being on a time in his closet I chaunced to laie my hand vpon a heape of papers throwen aside in a corner, as things not regarded, and finding that they deserued to bee more di∣ligently gathered together, I began very gladly to reade them ouer: but he would not suffer me, saying they were but scrib∣lings whereon he had employed the most tedious houres of his leasure during his long and straight imprisoment: likewise that among them there was nothing worth the sight, because his continuall exercise in warrefare wherein he had employed himselfe, had denied him all opportunitie to endite well, as al∣so that in these discourses especiallie (as neuer meaning other than to passe awaie the time) he had taken no paines with the polishing or filing of them, & that he was determined neuer to take thē in hand again: so as at that instant I could not obtain anie thing of him. But the tast that I had then gotten did so set me on edge that all his deniall & despising of them did the more confirme mee in my desire, neither did I euer qease vntil by sundrie meanes I had gotten sometime one 〈◊〉 some∣time another, so long til at lēgth I had gathered all this booke.
Afterward hauing more carefullie considered of the value of my bootie, accounting it more precious & profitable than to be kept in the bottome of a hutch. I did what I might to perswade the author thereof to publishe it: but in the ende seeing that hee made so small account of the same, that there was no meanes to obtaine his consent, I aduentured vnwares to him to goe through with my enterprise, as wel for the commendation which I hope shall redounde vnto him, as for the commoditie that all Fraunce may reape thereby. For this booke is replenished with most notable aduertise∣mentes to both great and small, to the ende they emploie all their power and endeauours to redresse and assure this state which without dissimulation is verie neere to vtter ruine and destruction, It openeth the meanes to attain to a good & sted∣fast reestablishment: It intreateth of concord which is the on∣ly •iment that is able to soulder and knit againe together the dissolued members of this fraile auncient building: It dooth at large discourse of martiall discipline, and withall Page [unnumbered] teacheth how to vse and well employ our weapons: It exhor∣teth euery one in his vocation to embrace pietie & to honor Iustice: It teacheth Princes, Lordes, and generally all gentrie the true path & high way to climbe to vertue, and to recouer the auncient honor of France, as also how to eschue the dan∣ger of shame and miserie. To be brief, whatsoeuer is most rare and excellent throughout all the most famous Philosophers and Historiographers, concerning the conduct and good or∣dering of a great estate, either the instruction of such as make profession of honor is founde to bee herein set downe in as pleasant a language and delectable varietie of matter, & with∣all so accōmodated to the humour of our nation, that I hope to get the goodwilles of al those that shal reade this discourse, as hauing bene the occasion that they are not frustrated of the fruite and pleasure herein to be reaped: And this will they accompt to be the greater, if they vouchsafe but to behould and consider of the horror of the place where so exquisite a matter was conceiued and brought into the world. For who is he that waying the miserable captiuitie wherein the Lord of la Nouë was deteined when he wrot these remembrances, being past hope, or at the leastwise voyd of all apparance that euer he should get foorth, oppressed with sicknesse of bodie and anguish of minde, & besides all this most straightly kept: who I say is he that viewing him in this miserable captiuitie will not admire his wonderfull constancie and valiant cou∣rage, which had bene rare euen in the most vertuous ages, that could in the middest of so many calamities and appari∣tions of most terrible things: yea as it were in the bottome of the gulph of death, thinke vpon the commoditie of his coun∣trie, and in such bitter bondage maintaine his soule in such libertie, that to heare him in his discourses it might seeme his prison had no power but ouer his passions, and ouer all that might molest or empeach the tranquilitie of his mind: either, as Plato saith, that those that are in heauinesse and agonie of death beginning to put of their mortall bodies, haue the po∣wers of their soules more excellent then in their perfect health; so the incōuenience of this prison hauing quailed and suppressed his bodie, did helpe him to purge his vnderstan∣ding, by vnclothing him of the cares of this life & nourishing him with most beautifull and high meditations farre more Page [unnumbered] commodiously then he could haue done in his full libertie: which verifieth my saying in the beginning viz that the things which wee doe most feare and thinke to bee our greatest harme▪ doe sometimes turne vs to greater prosperitie and good. For so much of our bodily ease as afflictions do take frō vs, so much strength and resolution doe they adde vnto our soules, whereas con∣trariwise there is no courage so valiant or forcible but prospe∣ritie will weaken and extenuate, witnesse Mecenas, who as Sencca saith, had bene one of the chief men in the world if too much ease had not gelded him: for he vseth that worde to shewe how sore vertue is weakened through too much felici∣tie. And in deede if the outward apparance or common opi∣nion did not dazle our eyes, wee should perceiue that those whome God doth most rigorously chastise in this worlde, are often times the same whom he most sweetly instructeth: also that the calamities wherewith hee afflicteth them are not in deede any calamities. But like as it is a pleasure to behold two good Fencers trying each other, and employing whatsoeuer their actiuitie or knowledge well to assaile and better to de∣fend: euen so doth the Lord delight to make those whom he hath endued with most graces, to fight and withstand the so∣rest aduersities, and to exercise their vertue by diuers profes, the which the more violent that they bee, the more doe they shewe forth the weaknesse and small effects of all whatsoeuer that we call euill fortune against a valiant hart armed with the feare of God. And who hath more practised this then your selfe Sir, or who is able to shew better tokens hereof. But least I should passe my boundes, I will speake only of our author, whose example may be a sufficient proofe of the saying of Se∣neca. That an honest man cannot eschue aduersities, although he may well conquer and ouercome them. And notwithstanding som∣times he seemeth in the sight of the ignorant to be wretched or vnhappie, yet in the middest of all his mishappes he stil en∣ioyeth perfect felicitie which hath sworne so loyall amitie vn∣to him, that whatsoeuer chaunceth him yet is she still about him, with him and in him, and doth vpholde his soule in so pleasant a seate, that in whatsoeuer estate she be, she is still like vnto her selfe, as being lifted vp so high aboue all accidents of humaine affayres, that she can in no wise be by them taynted. But to returne to that which I first began to speake of con∣cerning Page [unnumbered] the commoditie of this booke, such espetially as shall hereafter vndertake to write the historie of our time may find great profite therin, and learne how to put in practise the pre∣cept of Tacitus, who willeth that neither loue nor hatred take any holde of the Historiographers pen. For they shall see, that notwithstāding our authors long emprisonment, yet he doth in sundrie places speake honorably of the Spanyards, also in matter concerning our ciuill warres, he vseth such sinceritie in the liuely description of the trueth, that he rather noteth the faults of that side where vnto himselfe leaned, then of the others: and commendeth in those against whome he bare arms, anything that he findeth worthie cōmendation as ear∣nestly as the desarts of those on whose side he fought: in such maner that our age may thinke it self happie, that in the mid∣dest of her most furious passions and partialities, she could recouer this platforme of obseruations of the historie, therby exempted from the vniuersal contagion of hatred & fauor. As also it is to be hoped that this exāple may wakē sūdry others, who seeing how agreeable a voyce the same that is ruled by reason, is, in respect of taunts and inuectiues full of bitternes which (as the small belles of the Choribantes) are good for no∣thing but to trouble the most settled braynes, will endeuour in their writings to set forth that which God may haue giuen them for the instruction of the posteritie, rather then the ve∣hemencie of disordinate affections, whereof our age reapeth but too much reproach and hurt. I will strayne my selfe no farther in the perticuler setting downe of the fruits that may be reaped in this booke, as well for common commoditie as priuate benefite, for they doe sufficiently appeare of them∣selues. Howbeit, in as much as it may so fall out that the au∣thor, considering what small accompt hee made of his wri∣tings, in liew of reioycing in the commendations that here∣by shall redound vnto him, may finde fault that I haue thus published them of mine owne head, and withall that I haue therevnto set his name, which hee chose rather to make fa∣mous by armes, as thinking it (according to the auncient er∣ror of the French Nobilitie) no honor that men should know how farre he honoreth or esteemeth of learning; either els vpon some perticuler hatred against this booke, as still put∣ting him in minde of his captiuitie, I doe presume Sir, most Page [unnumbered] humbly to beseech your Maiestie to aduowe my doings, and to bee my warrant in this that I haue preferred the publique commoditie before the perticuler desire of the Lorde of la Noüe, who although hee bee but a bad valewer of his owne workes, is neuerthelesse so affectionate a seruant vnto you, that he can no way mislike any thing that hee shall finde to like you: as also to the ende that France receiuing this booke as it were at your hands, and adioyning the authors desart to your aucthoritie, may loue and credite it the better. True it is that the ouer vehement mindes shall not finde these dis∣courses to their appetities. For so farre are they from fauou∣ring their passions, that in deede their only scope tendeth to the abolishing of the same. But all those that doe in pietie be∣hold this poore state fallen from her ancient felicitie: all those that mourne because France, which was wont to be the terror of the whole world, is now become a reproach to the same: all those that are wearie of bathing their swords in the blood of their brethren, parents, and friends: To be briefe, all good Frenchmen that bee good seruaunts to the King and his Crowne, will take great delight when they shall see their good entents aduanced forwarde with such holy and wise aduices as they shall finde in this booke. For the author hereof hath not after the maner of some both auncient and late Philoso∣phers wasted his time in forging an Idea of Ʋtopian perfec∣tions: but hath onely studied so to accommodate himselfe to our tast and disposition, and propounded his counsailes with so euident a facilitie and profite, that if wee profite not there∣by, whether in publique or priuate, wee can blame none but our owne stubbornesse and negligence. For in my opinion that man shall bee ouer farre out of taste of all good reading, that shall not in these discourses perceiue a spirite free from all passions and partialities, dedicated wholy to the honor of God, the seruice of his King, and the peace of his Countrie. This is it that hath embouldened me to offer them vnto you Sir, thinking that as well in consideration of their argument, as in respect of the great bonds wherein the author standeth your most bounden, they doe by right apperteyne vnto you. Not daring therefore to passe the strict prohibition whereby my insufficiencie forbiddeth mee to offer any thing of my owne, I do most humbly desire your Maiestie to receiue them Page [unnumbered] as some acknowledgemēt of my vowed seruice. And I beseech God Sir after so many deaths wherewith you haue bene beset euen from your infancie, from which he hath preserued you, to graunt vnto you a long & most happie life in perfect peace and assured tranquilitie, to the glory of his most blessed name, the honour of your Maiestie, and the contentaiton of all good French men your faithfull and affectionate seruants.
From Lausannathis first daie of Aprill. 1587.
Your most humble, obedient, and faithfull seruant De Fresnes.