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Montaigne: Essays

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  4,863 ratings  ·  329 reviews
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1595)
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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"To learn that one has said or done a foolish thing, that is nothing; one must learn that one is nothing but a fool, a much more comprehensive and important lesson".

There is sheer joy for me in that sentence.

It opens up a new starting point in life, not one of humility but of humour. There is basic honesty about one's own ridiculousness, but also an honesty about the validity and value of one's own experience and life, as clumsy and awkward as this may be.

The honesty and directness about his ow
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 ...more
Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teenagers - perhaps hundreds of thousands - sit in front of laptops, writing essays. It is the most dreaded homework assignment for many of them, and if they go on to college, it will be the assignment most cited as making them lose sleep, their printer to break, their grandmother to die, their car to break down, etc. etc.

Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teachers and professors count and recount the remaining essays in their grad
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
so easy to read again and again. if you let him, montaigne will be your buddy for life. this is the great-great-great grandfather of the best blog on life you've read. ...more
Going through The Essays, getting lost in them to find oneself there, trying everything to always come back to oneself, to this man who, the first, chooses only to study himself to try to understand a little nothing of this that it is, is a unique reading experience. We see, alive, the thought of a man constructed, small essays from the first book, which compile others' ideas, of these old models, Seneca, Plutarch, Lucretia, that we are gradually forgetting. To the long and tortuous all-out refl ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Humility is a good quality. Montaigne could have used a little bit of it.
Roz  Milner
Any Montaigne is more or less something I'd recommend (aside from his distasteful opinions towards women, he's remarkably timeless), so I'm concerned here mostly with the edition I read: J.M. Cohen's older translation for Penguin Classics, which has been reissued with as Montaigne: Essays. It's maybe a little stuffy, but it's a charming translation, well annotated with lots of notes (mostly to identify and translate the various quotes Montaigne sprinkled throughout his text). The introduction is ...more
“Montaigne was persuaded that everything had already been thought and said, and was anxious to show that man is always and everywhere one and the same.” - Introduction to the Essays by Andre Gide (From The Heritage Press, 3 Volume Edition, 1946)

(N.B. I have inserted a lot of quotes from Montaigne because he is the most qualified to talk about Montaigne, and he is speaking much more adeptly than what I could ever hope to say; they also give you a flavour of the Essays)
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: phd-studies
If all students, no matter at what point between kindergarten and PhD, knew how rambling and disjointed the original essays as de Montaigne wrote the literary tradition into existence, teachers would have a much harder time instilling need for the basic five-paragraph structure. It is like he is actively trying to stray off-topic, disconnecting title and theme almost as soon as the ink had dried on the page. On the plus side, much of his focus is on the fascinating details of daily life in sixte ...more
I am proofreading this book in French through Free Literature, published by Librarie de Paris, 1907.

Premier Volume:
The original file was provided by Internet Arquive.
Scott Gates
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don’t know if anyone else writing in the 16th century was as candid and self-involved and Montaigne was. Is there anyone else in the 1500s who would say that he’d rather have intercourse with the Muses (and produce literature) than have intercourse with his wife (and produce children). Or, “I centre my affection almost entirely on myself, bestowing only very little on others.... The world always looks outward, I turn my gaze inward.”

I think that this intense interest in the self was a relative
Layla ライラ
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend, favorite
⭒ 4.5 ⭒
A masterpiece, a masterwork, and a luxurious outlet for a thirty soul!
Wow! Just wow!
Montaigne’s beautiful usage of words and his power of delivery to one’s mind and soul is an astute talent.
This book is a resemblance of an endless ocean without a shore. It will stick with me forever, I may reread a lot of essays throughout my whole life.
Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
For me to understand the classical author, I always try to situate his setting in time.
So I find it significant that he wrote this book only about fifty years after the discovery of America. The Medieval Times in Europe.
He was a wealthy, well-educated French nobleman living at his family estate, Chateau de Montaigne, in Dordogne, France. There he dwelled in the upper floors of a large round tower, surrounded by over a thousand books. All the classics in Latin I
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard of Montaigne a long time ago, probably from quotations and references in other works, but it was an essay about him in the New Yorker that first got me interested in checking out his works. He is widely considered to be the originator of the essay, and what bookish character does not love good essays? In fact the name of this literary form came from the title of his works (essais = attempts in French), but I think similar things had been done by other, more ancient writers. I am not sure ...more
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really really liked this book. And I couldn't possibly have liked it more than five years ago because it's so freaking introspective so that's interesting to me.
The attitude towards women is ridiculous. I'm amazed at the number of "serious thinkers" who wrote about the importance of education as well as the inferiority of women without noticing, you know, that women didn't get an education. I know just because two points are held in a person's head doesn't mean there's an argument-path between
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I wish I had read it years ago, but then, I wouldn't have been ready to hear the wisdom in it. I wish I had been ready. Montaigne's humility and relaxed attitude towards his many limitations represents for me a philosophy of life and ageing utterly essential to avoiding bitterness as I enter the second half of my life without fully realising many of the dreams of the child I was. This is, as well as a tonic, a beautiful introduction to many ancient Greek and Roman classics. I ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
What went wrong? I read two books about Montaigne's Essays before I actually read the essays themselves. Wouldn't you think I'd love the essays even more than the books I read about the essays?

I didn't.

I found the essays tedious, honestly. Maybe it was just the translations? I don't know, but I couldn't get to the end of this book quickly enough.
Daniel Alvarez
Dec 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
This book is worth thousands of dollars in therapist fees. Written 500 years ago yet it feels as if Montaigne is across the table from you like a sage friend that's always there for you. ...more
Anthony Land
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Sarah Bakewell, author of an excellent biography of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, has suggested that he might have been the world's first blogger. Here was a man who, 400 years before there was an Internet, wrote 900 pages of musings on anything and everything he encountered—an experience junkie happy to share his personal experiences and observations with anyone willing to read them.

What separates Montaigne from the denizens of today's blogosphere is that he wrote with a depth, breadth, insight a

Elizabeth Loea
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
i just wish he would spend less time talking about his kidney stones and more time on women's rights ...more
Alex Zakharov
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I realize that Montaigne has a reputation for being a quintessential fox (in Isaiah Berlin’s sense), but some of his essays are real dogs nonetheless – wandering endlessly and aimlessly through the fog of his verbiage, and ultimately yielding a pretty measly dosage of ideas. On the other hand, every 20 pages or so we get some pretty tasty morsels of cleverness. It is a type of book you don’t exactly enjoy reading, but a subsequent casual perusal is quite rewarding. I suspect I will keep coming b ...more
Nick Bond
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When many of us think of essays, we think of those fumbling by-rote exercises that got us through grade school and high school. In Western literary tradition, however, the essay has been used to communicate a wide range of ideas, running from philosophy to art criticism. Some say the genre came into being with the essays of Michel de Montaigne, a statesman of the French Renaissance, whose penchant for practical wisdom made him the "father of modern skepticism."

That lofty title probably would hav
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can see why every intellectual you run across recommends him so highly. The admissions he makes about his own personality and quirks are those that, although ostensibly presented as a weakness or failing, are really desired or admired by self-absorbed misanthropes such as myself. When I read Montaigne, who is so highly regarded by the history of literature, confessing to being not only unwilling but unable to perform the small and harmless acts of dissembling or dishonesty that basic human int ...more
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good translation of a classic. Not a breeze to read but not impossible. Best enjoyed by taking a random essay and just following the author to wherever he decides to digress (the titles of the essays are not as self contained as it would be expected in more modern essay writing). Some chapters are incredibly insightful for a guy from the 16th century. On the Education of Children he is way -way- ahead of his time. I almost skipped the essay on "Cannibalism". That would have been a mistake as it ...more
Bad Girl Bex
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Think of this book, not as something you 'ought to read', because of its historical and literary importance in heralding the birth of the essay, as an art form; consider it a delightfully charming insight into the musings, curiosities and experiences of a man, who around 500 years ago, put pen to paper, in order to organise and examine, his thoughts and feelings about everything that intrigues him about mankind and the world around him.

This book is completely readable and thoroughly accessible -
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This collection gives a very good sample of Montaigne's essays, which encompass a wide variety of subjects - from cannibals to the education of children - but which are really all about himself.

A powerful and original thinker, ahead of his time in many ways (though absolutely of his time in many others, for example in his views on women), Montaigne is chiefly worth reading because of his truthfulness. He doesn't include everything - only as much as he 'dares' - but what he does include is admira
Antonio Baclig
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I find it hard to evaluate this book, because after spending so much time with Montaigne's most honest thoughts, I feel so close to him that I feel like I am evaluating a friend. He may have his faults--perhaps too much of a moderate, too readily accepting of his way of life, too detached from the world, for my desires, but on the other hand, so bare in his self-reflection, so learned and yet so humble and thoughtful about even the value of learning, so perceptive of other cultures and levels of ...more
Marti Martinson
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my best Comic Book Guy voice, "Coolest Renaissance dude, ever."

This edition is selections from his three volume work. One could simply quote dozens of dozens of pithy, deep, flighty, comic, or serious sentences, but this should really be READ. The sections on the education of children and parental affection are amazing for being 16th century; they'd be amazing for the 21st. Yes, he is a big old chauvinist in places but he is not hateful. 4 instead of 5 stars.....

But I would like to share JUST
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Montaigne is very readable and relevant for being from the 1500s. His thoughts on love and romantic relations made me laugh out loud. 400 years later, not much has change. His essays on education and pedantry are straightforward reminders on what is worth studying and what is mental masturbation. All in all, you can dip into his essays for just a day or a whole week, and you will walk away with something new to think about.
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
These essays are soothing to read. Montaigne's tone is so rational and even tempered that the essays or reflections are easy to read and absorb. Best read in doses or installments as you would a magazine.
A warning to female readers. The author views women as simply ornamental with subservient existence to men. I presume this was the culture and historical period he lived in but some of the comments are startling, especially so since the author is so moderate and liberal on most subjects.
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Michel Eyquem de Montaigne was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Montaigne is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. 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 ...more

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