Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne

Overview
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ), February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

, known for popularising the essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

 as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts") contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written.
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Quotations

Que sais-je?

Translation: "What know I?" or "What do I know?"

Je veux qu'on me voit en ma façon simple, naturelle, et ordinaire, sans étude et artifice; car c'est moi que je peins...Je suis moi-même la matière de mon livre.

Translation: I want to be seen here in my simple, natural, ordinary fashion, without straining or artifice; for it is myself that I portray...I am myself the matter of my book.

Certes, c'est un subject merveilleusement vain, divers, et ondoyant, que l'homme. Il est malaisé d'y fonder jugement constant et uniforme.

Translation: Truly man is a marvellously vain, diverse, and undulating object. It is hard to found any constant and uniform judgement on him.

As for extraordinary things, all the provision in the world would not suffice.

Book I, ch. 14

In my opinion, every rich man is a miser.

Book I, ch. 14

Things are not bad in themselves, but our cowardice makes them so.

Book I, ch. 14

C'est de quoi j'ai le plus de peur que la peur.

Translation: The thing I fear most is fear.

Je veux que la mort me trouve plantant mes choux.

Translation: I want death to find me planting my cabbages.

All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim.

Book I, ch. 20

He who would teach men to die would teach them to live.

Book I, ch. 20
Encyclopedia
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ), February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

, known for popularising the essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

 as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts") contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a direct influence on writers the world over, including René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

, Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.- Biography :...

, Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer was an American social writer. He was the author of ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983...

, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

, and perhaps William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 (see "Influences" section below).

In his own time, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 than as an author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

. The tendency in his essays to digress into anecdotes and personal ruminations was seen as detrimental to proper style rather than as an innovation, and his declaration that, 'I am myself the matter of my book', was viewed by his contemporaries as self-indulgent. In time, however, Montaigne would be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time, the spirit of freely entertaining doubt which began to emerge at that time. He is most famously known for his skeptical remark, 'Que sais-je?' ('What do I know?'). Remarkably modern even to readers today, Montaigne's attempt to examine the world through the lens of the only thing he can depend on implicitly—his own judgment—makes him more accessible to modern readers than any other author of the Renaissance. Much of modern literary non-fiction has found inspiration in Montaigne and writers of all kinds continue to read him for his masterful balance of intellectual knowledge and personal story-telling.

Life


Montaigne was born in the Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 region of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, on the family estate Château de Montaigne
Château de Montaigne
The Château de Montaigne is a castle situated on the borders of Périgord and Bordelais, near Bergerac and Saint-Émilion, in the small commune of Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne in the Dordogne département of France...

, in a town now called Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne
Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne
Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.-Population:-References:*...

, not far from Bordeaux. The family was very rich; his grandfather, Lord Ramon Eyquem, had made a fortune as a herring merchant and had bought the estate in 1477. His father, Pierre Eyquem, Lord of Montaigne, was a French Roman Catholic
Roman Catholicism in France
The Roman Catholic Church of France, sometimes called the "eldest daughter of the Church" owing to its early and unbroken communion with the bishop of Rome, is part of the worldwide Catholic Church...

 soldier in Italy for a time and had also been the mayor of Bordeaux. His mother, Antoinette López de Villanueva, was from a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family. His mother lived a great part of Montaigne's life near him, and even survived him, but is only mentioned twice in his essays. Montaigne's relationship with his father, however, is frequently reflected upon and discussed in his essays.

From the moment of his birth, Montaigne's education followed a pedagogical plan
Pedagogy
Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction....

 sketched out by his father and refined by the advice of the latter's humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 friends. Soon after his birth, Montaigne was brought to a small cottage, where he lived the first three years of life in the sole company of a peasant family, 'in order to', according to the elder Montaigne, 'draw the boy close to the people, and to the life conditions of the people, who need our help.' After these first spartan years, Montaigne was brought back to the château. The objective was for Latin to become his first language. The intellectual education of Montaigne was assigned to a German tutor (a doctor named Horstanus who couldn't speak French). His father hired only servants who could speak Latin and they also were given strict orders to always speak to the boy in Latin. The same rule applied to his mother, father, and servants, who were obliged to use only Latin words he himself employed, and thus acquired a knowledge of the very language his tutor taught him. Montaigne's Latin education was accompanied by constant intellectual and spiritual stimulation. He was familiarized with Greek by a pedagogical method that employed games, conversation, and exercises of solitary meditation, rather than books. Music was played from the moment of Montaigne's awakening. An épinettier (playing a zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

 original to the French region of Vosges
Vosges
Vosges is a French department, named after the local mountain range. It contains the hometown of Joan of Arc, Domrémy.-History:The Vosges department is one of the original 83 departments of France, created on February 9, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was made of territories that had been...

) constantly accompanied Montaigne and his tutor, playing a tune any time the boy became bored or tired. When he wasn't in the mood for music, he could do whatever he wished: play games, sleep, be alone - most important of all was that the boy wouldn't be obliged to anything, but that, at the same time, he would have everything in order to take advantage of his freedom.

Around the year 1539, he was sent to study at a prestigious boarding school
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

 in Bordeaux, the Collège de Guyenne
College of Guienne
The Collège of Guienne was a school founded in 1533 in Bordeaux. The collège became renowned for the teaching of liberal arts between the years 1537 and 1571, attracting students such as Michel de Montaigne.-History:...

, then under the direction of the greatest Latin scholar of the era, George Buchanan
George Buchanan
George Buchanan may refer to:*George Buchanan , Scottish humanist*Sir George Buchanan , Scottish soldier during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms*Sir George Buchanan , Chief Medical Officer...

, where he mastered the whole curriculum by his thirteenth year. He then studied law in Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 and entered a career in the legal system. He was a counselor of the Court des Aides of Périgueux
Périgueux
Périgueux is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.Périgueux is the prefecture of the department and the capital of the region...

 and, in 1557, he was appointed counselor of the Parlement
Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

 in Bordeaux (a high court). From 1561 to 1563 he was courtier
Courtier
A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

 at the court of Charles IX
Charles IX of France
Charles IX was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. His reign was dominated by the Wars of Religion. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.-Childhood:...

; he was present with the king at the siege of Rouen (1562)
Siege of Rouen (1562)
The Siege of Rouen occurred on October 26, 1562 during the French Wars of Religion and was a decisive victory for the Catholics, who managed to capture Rouen, over the Huguenots.-References:...

. He was awarded the highest honour of the French nobility, the collar
Collar (Order of Knighthood)
A Collar is an ornate chain, often made of gold and enamel, and set with precious stones, which is worn about the neck as a symbol of membership in various chivalric orders. It is a particular form of the livery collar, the grandest form of the widespread phenomenon of livery in the Middle Ages and...

 of the order of St. Michael, something to which he aspired from his youth. While serving at the Bordeaux Parliament, he became very close friends with the humanist poet Étienne de la Boétie
Étienne de La Boétie
Étienne de La Boétie was a French judge, writer, anarchist, and "a founder of modern political philosophy in France." He "has been best remembered as the great and close friend of the eminent essayist Michel de Montaigne, in one of history's most notable friendships."-Life:"La Boétie was born in...

, whose death in 1563 deeply affected Montaigne. It has been argued that because of Montaigne's "imperious need to communicate," that, after losing Étienne, he began the Essais as his "means of communication;" and that "the reader takes the place of the dead friend."

In a prearranged marriage, Montaigne married Françoise de la Cassaigne. He did not marry her under his own free will and was pressured by family to do so ; they had six daughters, though only the second-born survived childhood.

Following the petition of his father, Montaigne started to work on the first translation of the Catalan monk Raymond Sebond's Theologia naturalis, which he published a year after his father's death in 1568 (In 1595, Sebond's Prologue was put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
Index Librorum Prohibitorum
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of publications prohibited by the Catholic Church. A first version was promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1559, and a revised and somewhat relaxed form was authorized at the Council of Trent...

 for its declaration that the Bible is not the only source of revealed truth). After this he inherited his estate, the Château de Montaigne, to which he moved back in 1570. Another literary accomplishment was Montaigne's posthumous edition of his friend Boétie's works.

In 1571, he retired from public life to the Tower of the Château, his so-called "citadel", in the Dordogne
Dordogne
Dordogne is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it...

, where he almost totally isolated himself from every social and family affair. Locked up in his library, which contained a collection of some 1,500 works, he began work on his Essais ("Essays"), first published in 1580. On the day of his 38th birthday, as he entered this almost ten-year period of self-imposed reclusion, he had the following inscription crown the bookshelves of his working chamber:

'In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, his birthday, Michael de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life, now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.’


During this time of the Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

 in France, Montaigne, himself a Roman Catholic, acted as a moderating force, respected both by the Catholic King Henry III
Henry III of France
Henry III was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.-Childhood:Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau,...

 and the Protestant Henry of Navarre.

In 1578, Montaigne, whose health had always been excellent, started suffering from painful kidney stone
Kidney stone
A kidney stone, also known as a renal calculus is a solid concretion or crystal aggregation formed in the kidneys from dietary minerals in the urine...

s, a sickness he had inherited from his father's family. From 1580 to 1581, Montaigne traveled in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, partly in search of a cure. He kept a detailed journal recording various episodes and regional differences. It was published much later, in 1774, under the title Travel Journal.

While in the city of Lucca
Lucca
Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plainnear the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca...

 in 1581, he learned that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux; he returned and served until 1585, again moderating between Catholics and Protestants. The plague
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 broke out in Bordeaux toward the end of his term.

Montaigne continued to extend, revise, and oversee the publication of Essais. In 1588 he wrote its third book and also met the writer Marie de Gournay
Marie de Gournay
Marie de Gournay was a French writer, who wrote a novel and a number of other literary compositions, including two proto-feminist works, The Equality of Men and Women and The Ladies' Grievance . In her novel Le Promenoir de M...

, who admired his work and later edited and published it. King Henry III
Henry III of France
Henry III was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.-Childhood:Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau,...

 was assassinated in 1589, and Montaigne then helped to keep Bordeaux loyal to Henry of Navarre, who would go on to become King Henry IV.

Montaigne died of quinsy, at the age of 59, in 1592 at the Château de Montaigne and was buried nearby. Later his remains were moved to the church of Saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 Antoine
Antoine
Antoine is a French given name meaning beyond praise or highly praise-worthy.-As a first name:*Antoine Arbogast, French mathematician*Antoine Arnauld, French theologian, philosopher and mathematician...

 at Bordeaux. The church no longer exists: it became the Convent des Feuillants, which has also disappeared. The Bordeaux Tourist Office says that Montaigne is buried at the Musée Aquitaine, Faculté des Lettres, Université Bordeaux 3 Michel de Montaigne, Pessac
Pessac
Pessac is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.It is the second-largest suburb of the city of Bordeaux and is adjacent to it on the southwest. It is a member of the metropolitan Urban Community of Bordeaux...

. His heart is preserved in the parish church of Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne
Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne
Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.-Population:-References:*...

.

The humanities branch of the University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux is an association of higher education institutions in and around Bordeaux, France. Its current incarnation was established 21 March 2007. The group is the largest system of higher education schools in southwestern France. It is part of the Academy of Bordeaux.There are seven...

 is named after him: Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3.


Essais



His fame rests on the Essais, a collection of a large number of short subjective treatments of various topics published in 1580, inspired by his studies in the classics, especially Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

. Montaigne's stated goal is to describe humans, and especially himself, with utter frankness.
Montaigne's writings are studied within literary studies, as literature and philosophy.

Inspired by his consideration of the lives and ideals of the leading figures of his age, he finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features. He describes his own poor memory, his ability to solve problems and mediate conflicts without truly getting emotionally involved, his disdain for the human pursuit of lasting fame, and his attempts to detach himself from worldly things to prepare for his timely death. He writes about his disgust with the religious conflicts of his time, reflecting a spirit of skepticism
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 and belief that humans are not able to attain true certainty. The longest of his essays, Apology for Raymond Sebond, contains his famous motto, "What do I know?"

Montaigne considered marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 necessary for the raising of children, but disliked strong feelings of passionate love because he saw them as detrimental to freedom. In education, he favored concrete examples and experience over the teaching of abstract knowledge that has to be accepted uncritically. His essay "On the Education of Children" is dedicated to Diana of Foix.

The Essais exercised important influence on both French and English literature, in thought and style.

Related writers and influence


Thinkers exploring similar ideas include Erasmus, Thomas More
Thomas More
Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

, and Guillaume Budé
Guillaume Budé
Guillaume Budé was a French scholar.-Life:Budé was born in Paris. He went to the University of Orléans to study law, but for several years, being possessed of ample means, he led an idle and dissipated life...

, who all worked about fifty years before Montaigne.

Since Edward Capell
Edward Capell
Edward Capell , English Shakespearian critic, was born at Troston Hall in Suffolk.-Biography:Through the influence of the Duke of Grafton he was appointed to the office of deputy-inspector of plays in 1737, with a salary of £200 per annum, and in 1745 he was made groom of the privy chamber through...

 first made the suggestion in 1780, some scholars believe that Shakespeare was familiar with Montaigne's essays. John Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essais became available to Shakespeare in English in 1603. It is suggested that Montaigne's influence is especially noticeable in "Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

" and "King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

", both in language and in the skepticism present in both plays. For an example, compare Shakespeare's Hamlet to Rosencrantz, at Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, about line 240, with an earlier quote of Montaigne:1. "... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison." 2. "Whether the events in our life are good or bad greatly depends on the way we perceive them."

Much of Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

's skepticism in his Pensées
Pensées
The Pensées represented a defense of the Christian religion by Blaise Pascal, the renowned 17th century philosopher and mathematician. Pascal's religious conversion led him into a life of asceticism, and the Pensées was in many ways his life's work. "Pascal's Wager" is found here...

was a result of reading Montaigne. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 chose "Montaigne; or, the Skeptic" as a subject of one of his series of lectures entitled Representative Men, along side other subjects such as Shakespeare and Plato. Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 judged of Montaigne: "That such a man wrote has truly augmented the joy of living on this Earth".

The American philosopher Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer was an American social writer. He was the author of ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983...

 employed Montaigne both stylistically and in thought. In Hoffer's memoir, Truth Imagined, he said of Montaigne, "He was writing about me. He knew my innermost thoughts." The Welsh novelist John Cowper Powys
John Cowper Powys
-Biography:Powys was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, in 1872, the son of the Reverend Charles Francis Powys , who was vicar of Montacute, Somerset for thirty-two years, and Mary Cowper Johnson, a descendent of the poet William Cowper. He came from a family of eleven children, many of whom were also...

 expressed his admiration for Montaigne's philosophy in his books Suspended Judgements (1916) and The Pleasures of Literature (1938). Judith N. Shklar
Judith N. Shklar
Judith Nisse Shklar was a political theorist, and the John Cowles Professor of Government at Harvard University.-Biography:...

 introduces her book Ordinary Vices (1984), "It is only if we step outside the divinely ruled moral universe that we can really put our minds to the common ills we inflict upon one another each day. That is what Montaigne did and that is why he is the hero of this book. In spirit he is on every one of its pages..."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his recent popular work The Black Swan quotes Montaigne as his great influence.

Quotations


  • Wherever your life ends, it is all there. The advantage of living is not measured by length, but by use; some men have lived long, and lived little; attend to it while you are in it. It lies in your will, not in the number of years, for you to have lived enough.
  • Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness.
  • Everyone calls barbarity what he is not accustomed to.
  • If you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved
  • When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?
  • Life in itself is neither good nor evil, it is the place of good and evil, according to what you make it.
  • The continuous work of our life is to build death.
  • If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because it was he, because it was I.
  • Kings and philosophers defecate, and so do ladies.
  • I enter into discussion and argument with great freedom and ease, inasmuch as opinion finds me in a bad soil to penetrate and take deep root in. No propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, whatever contrast it offers to my own. There is no fancy so frivolous and so extravagant that it does not seem to me quite suitable to the production of the human mind.
  • Our religion is made to eradicate vices, instead it encourages them, covers them, and nurtures them.
  • Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses.
  • Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.
  • The clatter of arms drowns the voice of law.
  • No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.
  • Montaigne's axiom: "Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known."
  • Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.
  • I have gathered a garland of other men’s flowers, and nothing is mine but the cord that binds them.
  • No man is a hero to his own valet.
  • The only thing certain is nothing is certain.
  • The greater part of the world's troubles are due to questions of grammar.
  • Whether the events in our life are good or bad greatly depends on the way we perceive them.
  • I believe it to be true that dreams are the true interpreters of our inclinations; but there is art required to sort and understand them.


External links