Essays "The Thing I Most Fear Is Fear"
by Francis Bacon

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"The Thing I Most Fear Is Fear"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this essay, Montaigne tells us that "doctors say that there is none which carries our judgment away sooner from its proper seat" than fear. He goes on to discuss the effect of fear on various historical characters, especially those engaged in battle. He ends with a discussion of mass fear, which he calls "panic terrors." In a variation of Montaigne's famous passage, Henry D. Thoreau said (in his Journal), "Nothing is so much to be feared as fear," and Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 Inaugural Address, in an effort to bolster the spirits of the American people, said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Montaigne says:

The thing I most fear is fear. . . . Those who have been well drubbed in some battle, and who are still wounded and bloody, you can perfectly well bring them back to the charge the next day. But those who have conceived a healthy fear of the enemy, you would never get them to look him in the face. . . . And so many people who, unable to endure the pangs of fear, have hanged themselves . . . have taught us well that fear is even more unwelcome and unbearable than death itself.