T being my
purpose to write the lives of Alexander the king, and of Caesar, by whom
Pompey was destroyed, the multitude of their great actions affords so large a
field that I were to blame if I should not by way of apology forewarn my
reader that I have chosen rather to epitomize the most celebrated parts of
their story, than to insist at large on every particular circumstance of it.
It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives.
And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest
discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an
expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations,
than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles
whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and
features of the face in which the character is seen, than in the other parts
of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the
marks and indications of the souls of men, and while I endeavor by these to
portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great
battles to be treated of by others.