Reading Montaigne 1.13: Ceremony of interviews between kings

Ostensibly about manners and decorum (should a gentleman leave to meet his esteemed visitor or wait to receive him; should the lesser in a meeting be early or should the greater be there first to receive him), this very short piece is also about the rituals of class and status, in the observance of which one runs the danger of becoming “uncivil by too much civility, and importunate in courtesy.”

To my occasional detriment, I’m no lover of the rituals of formality, most of which I find at best annoying and absurd, at worst a hindrance to communication. In this I feel much as Montaigne apparently does, acknowledging that knowledge of these matters is a useful kind of “social dexterity,” but that ultimately I would prefer not to engage in them, or do so as little as possible:

“As for me, I often forget both of these vain formalities, just as I cut out all ceremony in my house. Someone takes offense: I can’t help it. It is better for me to offend him once than myself every day; that would be perpetual slavery. What is the use of fleeing the servitude of the courts if we drag some of it right home to our lair?”

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