…but hold! they don’t wear trousers (215).
Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cannibals’ covers a great deal of ground and, if it does not reach the heights of ‘Of Moderation’, nonetheless typifies his style. In the course of the essay he considers bravery, relative morality, difference of customs, as well as the impetus for imperialism. Most interesting, however, is his continued pondering of the subject of truth and how true or accurate representations of the world can be made. He contrasts the tendency, even among the most discerning, to succumb to the seductions of extravagant hearsay, for ‘…we may see how we should be on our guard against clinging to vulgar opinions, and how we should judge things by the light of reason, and not from common rumour’ (202), with the temptation of an astute observer to embroider his account of the world to make it more palatable or persuasive. It is, in short, a muddle and, to truly understand the world as it is:
…we need either a very truthful man, or one so simple that he has not the art of building up and giving and air of probability to fictions, and is wedded to no theory (204).