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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


I WENT accordingly, and waited for the good King’s visit, who, it seems, had gone meanwhile to take leave of Madame d’Etampes. She asked whither he was bound, adding that she would accompany him; but when he informed her, she told him that she would not go, and begged him as a special favour not to go himself that day. She had to return to the charge more than twice before she shook the King’s determination; however, he did not come to visit me that day. Next morning I went to his Majesty at the same hour; and no sooner had he caught sight of me, than he swore it was his intention to come to me upon the spot. Going then, according to his wont, to take leave of his dear Madame d’Etampes, this lady saw that all her influence had not been able to divert him from his purpose; so she began with that biting tongue of hers to say the worst of me that could be insinuated against a deadly enemy of this most worthy crown of France. The good King appeased her by replying that the sole object of his visit was to administer such a scolding as should make me tremble in my shoes. This he swore to do upon his honour. Then he came to my house, and I conducted him through certain rooms upon the basement, where I had put the whole of my great door together. Upon beholding it, the King was struck with stupefaction, and quite lost his cue for reprimanding me, as he had promised Madame d’Etampes. Still he did not choose to go away without finding some opportunity for scolding; so he began in this wise: “There is one most important matter, Benvenuto, which men of your sort, though full of talent, ought always to bear in mind; it is that you cannot bring your great gifts to light by your own strength alone; you show your greatness only through the opportunities we give you. Now you ought to be a little more submissive, not so arrogant and headstrong. I remember that I gave you express orders to make me twelve silver statues; and this was all I wanted. You have chosen to execute a salt-cellar, and vases and busts and doors, and a heap of other things, which quite confound me, when I consider how you have neglected my wishes and worked for the fulfillment of your own. If you mean to go on in this way, I shall presently let you understand what is my own method of procedure when I choose to have things done in my own way. I tell you, therefore, plainly: do your utmost to obey my commands; for if you stick to your own fancies, you will run your head against a wall.” While he was uttering these words, his lords in waiting hung upon the King’s lips, seeing him shake his head, frown, and gesticulate, now with one hand and now with the other. The whole company of attendants, therefore, quaked with fear for me; but I stood firm, and let no breath of fear pass over me.