Montaigne'S Essays

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In 1580, he undertook a journey to Italy, whose main goal was to cure the pain of his kidney stones at thermal resorts.

The journey is related in part by a secretary, in part by Montaigne himself, in a manuscript that was only discovered during the XVIII, and forgotten soon after.

, his aim is above all to exercise his own judgment properly.

Readers who might want to convict him of ignorance would find nothing to hold against him, he said, for he was exerting his natural capacities, not borrowed ones.

We are unable to detect obvious links from one chapter to the next: in the first book, Montaigne jumps from “ Idleness” (I,8) to “Liars” (I,9), then from “Prompt or slow speech” (I,10) to “Prognostications” (I,11).

The random aspect of the work, acknowledged by the author himself, has been a challenge for commentators ever since.He arranged instead for a German preceptor and the household to speak to him exclusively in Latin at home.So the young Montaigne grew up speaking Latin and reading Vergil, Ovid, and Horace on his own.He received the decoration of the Order of Saint-Michel, a distinction all the more exceptional as Montaigne's lineage was from recent nobility.On the title page of the first edition (1580) of the , we read: “Essais de Messire Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l'ordre du Roy, & Gentilhomme ordinaire de sa chambre.” Initially keen to show off his titles and, thus, his social standing, Montaigne had the honorifics removed in the second edition (1582).A tradition rooted in the 19th century tends to relegate his work to the status of literary impressionism or to the expression of a frivolous subjectivity.To do him justice, one needs to bear in mind the inseparable unity of thought and style in his work.At the age of six, he was sent to board at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux, which he later praised as the best humanist college in France, though he found fault with humanist colleges in general.Where Montaigne later studied law, or, indeed, whether he ever studied law at all is not clear.In his second term he came under criticism for having abandoned the town during the great plague in an attempt to protect himself and his family.His time in office was dimmed by the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants.


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