This little volume contains On Friendship
and five or six other essays by de Montaigne. The initial paragraph drew me in.
I was watching an artist on my staff working on a painting when I felt a desire to emulate him. The finest place in the middle of the wall he selects for a picture to be executed to the best of his ability; then he fills up the empty spaces all round it with grotesques, which are fantastical paintings whose attractiveness consists merely in variety and novelty. And in truth what are these Essays if not monstrosities and grotesques botched together from a variety of limbs having no defined shape, with an order sequence and proportion which are purely fortuitous?
I haven't read Montaigne for a while, and I am struck again by how contemporary his style seems. His ideas flow smoothly, and I could be reading some newspaper column. But then he starts comparing his friendship with Etienne de la Boetie, and other more mundane forms of human intercourse. And jeez! What misogyny! One can't expect to have a relationship of equals with a woman! After all,
women are in truth not normally capable of responding to such familiarity and mutual confidence as sustain that holy bond of friendship, nor do their souls seem firm enough to withstand the clasp of a knot so lasting and so tightly drawn.
Excuse me!?!?! Hard to believe that intelligent men thought this way just a few centuries ago.
It's an easy read, and so full of classical allusions as to be appealing to someone like me who missed out on a classical education. So I'll finish the book. But I'm still peeved.