Well Trained Mind Readers discussion

The Complete Essays
This topic is about The Complete Essays
31 views
The WEM Biographies > Biographies #3 - The Essays of Montaigne

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Cleo (last edited Jul 31, 2014 10:55PM) (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments Opening the thread for comments on The Essays of Montaigne - Complete.

Participants, are you ready? Are you going to try to read the complete essays, the selections Susan Wise Bauer recommends, or selections of your own choice?


message 2: by Plethora (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I can't leave a book partially read. So I will have to read the complete book.

I probably will start with Bauer's list so I can comment in the group as it moves along. Because of the heftiness of this book I sprang for the full complete version, should be arriving Saturday.


message 3: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments A Bookworm Reading wrote: "I can't leave a book partially read. So I will have to read the complete book.

I probably will start with Bauer's list so I can comment in the group as it moves along. Because of the heftiness of..."


Yay, you! I want to read the complete version because he certainly sounds like a fascinating guy!


message 4: by Plethora (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I'm trying to ignore the factor of me adding another doorstopper to my "currently reading" list that has gone rogue and become unmanageable. What is another to the pile? Just going for the gusto.


message 5: by Plethora (last edited Aug 01, 2014 05:53PM) (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments Montaigne arrived today....heavy weight book! I am certain it outweighs (and is thicker) War and Peace.

[At the very least they are neck and neck]


message 6: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments Well, I'm almost finished War and Peace so no problem! ;-)


message 7: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments Downloaded to my kindle and ready to go!


message 8: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments I will stick to Bauer's recommendations just so I don't give up entirely.


message 9: by Plethora (last edited Aug 03, 2014 01:27PM) (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I thought I should copy over the Bauer recs here.

Book 1
Chapters 2-4 (15 p.)
     2. On sadness
     3. Our emotions get carried away beyond us
     4. How the soul discharges its emotions against false objects when lacking real ones
Chapter 9 (6 p.)
     9. On liars
Chapters 19-21 (36 p.)
     19. That we should not be deemed happy till after our death
     20. To philosophize is to learn how to die
     21. On the power of the imagination
Chapter 26 (37 p.)
     26. On educating children
Chapter 28 (15 p.)
     28. On affectionate relationships
Chapter 29 (2 p.)
     29. Nine-and-twenty sonnets of Estienne de La Boëtie
Chapter 51 (4 p.)
     51. On the vanity of words

Book 2
Chapter 1 (8 p.)
     1. On the inconsistency of our actions
Chapters 5-8 (42 p.)
     5. On conscience
     6. On practice
     7. On rewards for honour
     8. On the affection of fathers for their children
Chapter 10 (15 p.)
     10. On books
Chapters 17-21 (55 p.)
     17. On presumption
     18. On giving the lie
     19. On freedom of conscience
     20. We can savour nothing pure
     21. Against indolence
Chapters 29 (8 p.)
     29. On virtue
Chapters 31 (8 p.)
     31. On anger

Book 3
Chapters 1-2 (16 p.)
     1. On the useful and the honourable
     2. On repenting
Chapter 13 (64 p.)
     13. On experience


message 10: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments @ Lisa -- very wise not to overload yourself. If you finish early, you can always add more, right?

@ Bookworm ~ thanks for this!


message 11: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments Just first essay #20 about how to die in book 1. Not a great essay to read first thing in the morning!


message 12: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments Should read "finished" not " first". Sorry!


message 13: by Plethora (last edited Aug 12, 2014 10:10PM) (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I just spent some time trying to work my way through the intro material in my copy. Long and filled with too much information. I skimmed over a large portion until I have time to read Book II, Chapter 12 and Sebond's work. Much of the information covered this particular selection entitled An apology for Raymond Sebond. The short version from what I got: Montaigne translated a work by Sebond. The original work was actually banned/prohibited by the Church, but Montaigne's was not. It had to do with the prologue contained in the original work, which he altered slightly to make acceptable within the Church's bounds. The original work was not banned and was widely distributed minus the prologue.

The into notes the following regarding this essay:
Longest written, excellent chapter to study as a means of discovering how Montaigne reconciled throughtout his Essays a questioning, often sceptical, intelligence with a profound political conservatism, an unshakable respect for constitutional legality, a humane morality and an easy submission - in its proper sphere - to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.



message 14: by Plethora (last edited Aug 12, 2014 11:49PM) (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments Some additional background info:

He had rejoiced at retiring from his counsellor position, he was leaving negotium (business) for otium (leisure).

However this leisure did not come, grief sent him into a depression touched by madness. It induced reveries, a term which then, and long afterwards, meant not amiable poetic musings but ravings. (The Reveries of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, are his 'ravings', not his 'day-dreams'.)

This instability set him out to writing the Essays as an attempt to exorcize the demon. To shame himself, he tells us, he decided to write down his thoughts and his rhapsodies.

No one in Classical Antiquity had done anything like it. In the history of the known world only a handful of authors had ever broken the taboo against writing primarily about oneself, as an ordinary man. St. Augustine had written about himself, but as a penitent in the Confessions; during the Renaissance, Girolamo Cardano wrote On his Life and On his Books, and Joachim Du Bellay lamented his Roman 'exile' in his poetic Regrets.

The Essays are not a diary but are of 'one substance' with their author: 'I am myself the matter of my book.'

The writings can be puzzling for the reader to follow the linkings of thoughts. As the chapters are not arranged in order of their composition. Within each chapter sentences and phrases written at widely different times were printed without any hint of dating. He wrote in one large continuous slab of text, no paragraphing, etc. He also revised his writings over the years. Modern reprints attempt to make this easier for us to read with paragraphing, quotes, italics and notations to when writings occured.

Is considered a bedside book in Europe.


message 15: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I read my introduction, but is has nothing about his "depression" or "ravings" as I recall. I'll have to look at it again.

Sorry, Bookworm, what translation are you reading again?


message 16: by Plethora (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I have the full complete Penguin edition: The Complete Essays.

The intro is long in this version.


grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) I have Penguin, too, but I skipped the intro; but I am glad you shared this.

Susan Wise Bauer talks about (in the lead up to the autobiographies in TWEM), that the biography is the journey to the identify of self. (I don't recall if those are her exact words or my paraphrase.)

We shall see the early biographers make the case that "the journey toward holiness is a journey toward self-knowledge"; but that will change once we hit the Enlightenment. So I look for the first part in Montaigne.


message 18: by Plethora (new) - added it

Plethora (bookworm_r) | 119 comments I don't usually start with the intro, especially with Penguin/Oxford editions as they contain too many spoilers. I always trudge lightly with the intro, usually I can read the first part before they start throwing in the spoilers.

I figured I would certainly need a little background for this work.


message 19: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I usually don't read the intro either, but in this case, I thought it would be very helpful to get some background on Montaigne. Since I downloaded the older Kindle translations, it was interesting to note that it stuck much more to Montaigne life, and facts. I find modern intros get into opinions about the author and his/her works, which is usually the reason why I skip them. This was an interesting comparison.


message 20: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments It is going to take me another month to finish Essays...


message 21: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I have slacked off on reading Monsieur M. while I try to finish up some other books. I should have my catch-up completed at the end of this week, and then I'll get back at it.

Have any essays that you're read so far impacted you, Lisa, either in a positive or negative way?


grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) Me, too. I won't be done with it until about third week of September. And that is only with suggested essays, not counting others I may want to get into.


message 23: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I just finished "On Sadness". What a curious essay! Montaigne says that the deepest sadness transcends emotions, then he goes on to say that he's not experienced passionate emotions because he's too rational. Then how does he claim authority to write about sadness? Hmmmm …..


grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) Ha! He writes as if he is above the emotion of sadness, but he has a lot to say about people who suffer from profound sadness. I was going through my notes, but my kids are up right now, and my husband, and I cannot concentrate. So, I'll have to examine more on this later. : D


message 25: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I know what you mean about having to concentrate with this book, Ruth. I read "Our emotions get carried away beyond us" and was left thinking, "huh?". What on earth did he mean? Was it based on our emotions, we have extreme actions, like having a physical remembrance of a dead man carry on beyond his death (such as carrying his bones into battle). Or was it more than that, or less, or am I completely off track? Yipes!


message 26: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments I liked Chapter 28...on affectionate relationships. I also enjoyed how pointedly he moved against those relationships being sexual.I do wonder if he was afraid of the stigma on such a sexual relationship...


message 27: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments Where are we on Essays? I just finished Book 2, Chapter 9... Which was quite interesting. His argument against the sensibilities of women was quite inflammatory. I read in the prologue he left less than common law dictated to his wife...I am very interested for more on the history of that relationship....


message 28: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments Help! I have stalled. I think I've read about 3 - 4 essays so far. I'll try to get back to it this week!


message 29: by grllopez (last edited Sep 22, 2014 07:25AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) Following TWEM suggestions, I just finished Book II, Ch. 8. I am trying to do a chapter a day, so I have about 11 more to read. I want to be done by the end of September, but I probably won't make it exactly, especially b/c I just started another book that I want to finish this week.

Lisa, are you reading every essay or just certain ones?


message 30: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments Ruth, I'm only reading the essays Bauer listed. I've fallen behind with any and all reading...


grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) Hi, Everyone,

I am planning to finish the suggested essays today. But I am fine with waiting until November to begin the next biography in the series, which is The Life of St. Teresa. Is that ok?

~ Ruth


message 32: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments Yes, please! November! I'm drowning in books and can't find my way to the top! :-)


message 33: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa | 40 comments I second November!


message 34: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments The essay that Bookworm listed as "On Affectionate Relationships" ....... is this also called "Of the Affection of Fathers for their Children"? I can't find the former title and I've noticed that, depending on the edition, the titles can differ slightly. Help!


message 35: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments So what did everyone think of the essays? Did you like reading them? Not? Did you think Montaigne was a nut? A genius? .......


grllopez ~ with freedom and books (with_freedom_and_books) People like Montaigne have brains that cannot rest. They are constantly contemplating the world and rethinking every little thing. Their brains never shut off.

Having said that, I enjoyed several of the first few essays, but after awhile, I desired reading something in more of a story format. I like biographies and autobiographies, but his story was not written like a story, obviously.


message 37: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments And I had somewhat of an opposite reaction. Initially, I was put off because of his rambling style and the manner in which he delivered his opinions, but I soon got used to it and each essay left me looking forward to the next one. Now I want to read them all, but the rest will have to be placed in between my other reads.


message 38: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments I'm finding it interesting that most of the essays that Bauer chose are completely different ones than the Great Books chooses to read. I don't know what it means, but it's curious.

I'm now making my way through the last third of the selected essays.


message 39: by Cleo (new) - added it

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 274 comments Okay, ladies, if anyone could help me out, I'd appreciate it. I'm trying to finish off the SWB selected essays by the end of the year, and Bookworm listed one called On Virtue. Well I can't find it anywhere. I've looked in two different volumes and it's not there. I looked online and I can't see a reference to it. Often in translation, the title name can be different, depending on the translator. Does anyone know if it's named something else?


back to top