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Professor Edward Lobb in his essay "The Turn of the Screw, King Lear, and Tragedy" has drawn attention to a striking similarity between Henry James's story .

Essays by Michel de Montaigne (Book Analysis)

The result of Montaigne's Father's decision was that his family, their retainers and tenants all had to themselves to learn at least some Latin in order to talk to the young Montaigne as a child. The impression is that he grew up as a foreigner in his own country. This of course could come across as tragic but the effect is comic. Montaigne notes the peasants in his area are still using Latin names for tools, it is as though Montaigne's father involved them all in a great game, on the basis of a singular educational notion, that are all still playing years later.

Something of this playfulness matures in the son into an openness that allows him to see the peculiarity of his own point of view and to appreciate how far it is shaped by where he happens to stand. View all 23 comments. Dec 19, Lizzy rated it it was amazing Shelves: stars-5 , classics-literay-fiction , nonfiction , favorites-of-all-times , read Everyone looks in front of him; as for me; I look inside myself; I have no business but with myself, I take stock of myself, I taste myself… I roll about in myself.

The Complete Essays covers all kind of subjects and it is an almost eternal work in progress for me. It honestly deals with humanity itself. Montaigne is entertaining, compelling, and inclined to digression. I read Montaigne at indiscriminate times and places "I turn my gaze inward, I fix it there and keep it busy.

The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Book 2, (Part 1/3)

I read Montaigne at indiscriminate times and places, and under disparate moods. If I am depressed, I look for something in it that might help me get back on my feet and keep going; if I am happy, I search for companionship. And I am often awed by him, how easy he seems. It is, for me, an ever ending source of inspiration and of pleasure.

There are periods, it is true, that I forget about it altogether; but eventually I will go back and scan through its chapters looking for themes that grant me some moments of delight. At times I read Montaigne just for thirty minutes or one hour, but never for too long for I know I will get back to it eventually.

Ah, he also surprises me. I enjoyed his thoughts about women's rank in society, a puzzling mix of traditionalism and advanced-thinking, considering he lived in the 16th century: "Women are not altogether in the wrong, when they refuse the rules of life prescribed to the World, for so much as only men have established them without their consent.

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View all 20 comments. View all 33 comments. View all 12 comments. Clive James says somewhere that certain people throughout history are like ambassadors from the present stationed in the past: though separated from us by centuries, to read them is to share in thoughts and feelings that we recognise intimately as our own. And this is what Montaigne has been for me since I started reading him several years ago. He is the first person in history who strikes me as modern — or at least, the first to put that modern sense of uncertainty and existential nerviness dow Clive James says somewhere that certain people throughout history are like ambassadors from the present stationed in the past: though separated from us by centuries, to read them is to share in thoughts and feelings that we recognise intimately as our own.

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He is the first person in history who strikes me as modern — or at least, the first to put that modern sense of uncertainty and existential nerviness down on paper, to write something that is not didactic or improving or even purely entertaining, but animated instead by curiosity, doubt, overeducated boredom, trivial irritations. He doesn't bluster his way through his lack of knowledge, but faces it head-on with disarming cheerfulness, and his arguments themselves are not carefully structured means to approach knowledge, but rather meandering and conversational in a way that is completely unlike other writers of the time.

Les fantasies de la musique sont conduictes par art, les miennes par sort. To write bookes without learning is it not to make a wall without stone or such like thing? Conceits of musicke are directed by arte, mine by hap. It's unlikely to worry any of his readers. The range of topics addressed by Montaigne is gloriously all-encompassing: stick a pin in the nearest encyclopaedia and he will have something to say on whatever subject has been thus perforated.

Michel de Montaigne (1533—1592)

And crucially, it's not just the big subjects like war, religion, diplomacy, the Classical tradition. It's also the minor stuff, the kind of things that you worry about in the bath — how annoying it is to have to get up early, whether people should talk over dinner or just shut up and eat, what to wear in bed. Like men through history, he frets that he can't last long enough during sex and that his cock is too small — but unlike Horace or the Earl of Rochester, he doesn't write grandiose poetry on the subject, he just moans about it in humdrum, day-to-day prose.

You come to realise there is no issue he won't write about. Of course that frankness, that ruthless self-analysis, means that when he does come to the big subjects he's often totally riveting. I loved reading his thoughts on religion, which are incredibly undogmatic and open-minded given the context of sixteenth-century Europe. In Book II, chapter 12 — one of the longest essays and often printed separately — he ostensibly sets out to defend Christianity, but in his clear-sighted assessment of the arguments against religion he articulates intelligent agnosticism better than many atheists.

Introduction | Selections from the Essays of Montaigne Wikipedia | GradeSaver

Following his mind through these arguments is quite a thrill. He also comments on current events, of all kinds. After France adopts the Gregorian calendar in December , he takes the time to write irritably on the missing eleven days a circumstance which leads him, via a typically Montanian series of tangents, to end up discussing the merits of sex with the disabled. And his thoughts on the Spanish conquest of the Americas — the full details of which were still then emerging — make for a welcome reminder that not everyone at the time was gung-ho about the excesses of the colonial project.

Who ever raised the service of marchandize and benefit of traffick to so high a rate? So many goodly citties ransacked and raged; so many nations destroyed and made desolate; so infinite millions of harmelesse people of all sexes, states and ages, massacred, ravaged and put to the sword; and the richest, the fairest and the best part of the world topsiturvied, ruined and defaced for the traffick of Pearles and Pepper.


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Oh mechanicall victories, oh base conquest. Never did greedy revenge, publik wrongs or generall enmities, so moodily enrage and so passionately incense men against men, unto so horrible hostilities, bloody dissipation, and miserable calamities. On gender relations he offers an intriguing mix of traditionalism and forward-thinking. He makes frequent off-hand remarks about the place of women which seem to suggest that he is pretty representative of his time — commenting, for instance, that if women want to read they should confine themselves to theology and a little poetry — but then at other times he can be amazingly progressive.

His sympathy for those who do not fit patriarchal expectations shows that he grasps the fundamental point: Les femmes n'ont pas tort du tout quand elles refusent les reigles de vie qui sont introduites au monde, d'autant que ce sont les hommes qui les ont faictes sans elles.

Women are not altogether in the wrong, when they refuse the rules of life prescribed to the World, forsomuch as onely men have established them without their consent. In the end, although he can't stop himself feeling instinctively that a woman's role is different from a man's, he recognises that much of this is down to social pressures, and his simple conclusion is in some ways centuries ahead of its time: les masles et femelles sont jettez en mesme moule: sauf l'institution et l'usage, la difference n'y est pas grande.

At first this was a surprise to me as I flicked between them, but it's a good illustration of the fact that English has changed a lot more in four hundred years than French has. Many were the times that I turned to the Middle French to illuminate what seemed an obscure passage in my native language.

It's only when you read the original — c'est assez de tramper nos plumes en ancre, sans les tramper en sang — that you realise Florio's first comma is the fulcrum on which two perfectly-balanced halves of the sentence pivot. Take another look at the very end of that quote on the conquest of Mexico, above.


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Pour le destruire, on cerche un champ spacieux en pleine lumiere; pour le construire, on se musse dans un creux tenebreux et contraint. Each one avoideth to see a man borne, but all runne hastily to see him dye. To destroy him we seeke a spacious field and a full light, but to construct him we hide our selves in some darke corner and worke as close as we may. It is our dutie to conceale our selves in making him; it is our glory, and the originall of many vertues to destroy him being framed. The French is precisely assembled, and Florio ignores the precision entirely.

Where Montaigne is a Rolls-Royce engine, Florio is a cartoon jetpack. And yet! Where Florio fails to capture his source is precisely where he best represents the allusive, poly-synonymous essence of his own native tradition. Well, I won't push that any further, and Montaigne himself would doubtless have disagreed. There is no age but saith as much of hirs.

For those curious about Florio, the NYRB has published a selection of his versions of the Essays under the intensely irritating title of Shakespeare's Montaigne , though neither Montaigne nor Florio need Shakespeare's coat-tails to ride on — and anyway, apart from one famous bit in The Tempest , the evidence for Shakespeare's having read Florio is not very exciting. In the end though, whatever language you read Montaigne in, his humaneness and his sympathy will stay with you. By the time he writes the final volume he is at the end of his life, and his tone has not become bitter or regretful in the least.

Everywhere he shows a desire to find a middle way between the intellectual and the physical, the elevated and the practical, which I find extremely cheering. He invented an entire genre, but no one has achieved greater effects with it than he did himself. C'est non seulement la fondamentale mais la plus illustre de vos occupations…. Avez vous sceu mediter et manier vostre vie?