The Complete Essays

Written by: Michel de Montaigne, M.A. Screech

The Complete Essays Book Cover
Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential figures of the Renaissance, singlehandedly responsible for popularising the essay as a literary form. This Penguin Classics edition of The Complete Essays is translated from the French and edited with an introduction and notes by M.A. Screech.

In 1572 Montaigne retired to his estates in order to devote himself to leisure, reading and reflection. There he wrote his constantly expanding 'assays', inspired by the ideas he found in books contained in his library and from his own experience. He discusses subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But, above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women in general. The Essays are among the most idiosyncratic and personal works in all literature and provide an engaging insight into a wise Renaissance mind, continuing to give pleasure and enlightenment to modern readers.

With its extensive introduction and notes, M.A. Screech's edition of Montaigne is widely regarded as the most distinguished of recent times.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1586) studied law and spent a number of years working as a counsellor before devoting his life to reading, writing and reflection.

If you enjoyed The Complete Essays, you might like Francois Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Screech's fine version ... must surely serve as the definitive English Montaigne'
A.C. Grayling, Financial Times

'A superb edition'
Nicholas Wollaston, Observer
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The Complete Essays Reviews

Gregory
Although i just started this book, I am amazed,,, especialy the section, "An Apology for Raymond Sobund" a very amazing view of thoughts we share in time, in ancient times and how we try to organize our understanding of living. Really trying to read this from an orgainized viewpoint and structure.
This is an excellent book about us: today, yesterday and in the future, how - is the way M Montaigne expresses some of the great good we all possess contain, and how the not so-good can confuse our abil Although i just started this book, I am amazed,,, especialy the section, "An Apology for Raymond Sobund" a very amazing view of thoughts we share in time, in ancient times and how we try to organize our understanding of living. Really trying to read this from an orgainized viewpoint and structure.
This is an excellent book about us: today, yesterday and in the future, how - is the way M Montaigne expresses some of the great good we all possess contain, and how the not so-good can confuse our ability to be, to be a real person. I would like to own this it is such a great read....peace to all . . . : )
Can't wait to read it again....
Sara
This collection of essays provides a fascinating window into life in 16th century Europe, with its wars, plagues, lack of medicine and other deep differences from modern life. Montaigne's conclusions themselves weren't life-altering, but I appreciate both his candor about himself and the vast store of knowledge that informs the essays. his obsession with all things cruel and bloody from Greek and Roman history were regularly stomach turning for me, but life in his era was full of similar constan This collection of essays provides a fascinating window into life in 16th century Europe, with its wars, plagues, lack of medicine and other deep differences from modern life. Montaigne's conclusions themselves weren't life-altering, but I appreciate both his candor about himself and the vast store of knowledge that informs the essays. his obsession with all things cruel and bloody from Greek and Roman history were regularly stomach turning for me, but life in his era was full of similar constant trauma, so the references felt justified. Interesting read.
Victor Negut
It is rare to read a book so entrancing. Montaigne certainly had a way with words. I can’t say that his essays stand the test of time. Some of them certainly do; I am thinking in particular his view of death as well as his commitment to rational thought. Other parts are not so informative but the entertainment value is always there:

“It is good to have often to do with women as it evacuates the gravel, it is also bad to have often to do with women because it heats, tiers and weakens the reins”

If It is rare to read a book so entrancing. Montaigne certainly had a way with words. I can’t say that his essays stand the test of time. Some of them certainly do; I am thinking in particular his view of death as well as his commitment to rational thought. Other parts are not so informative but the entertainment value is always there:

“It is good to have often to do with women as it evacuates the gravel, it is also bad to have often to do with women because it heats, tiers and weakens the reins”

If you are pressed for time and need real answers to life’s deepest questions then maybe skip this one. If you enjoy the history of philosophy and outdated wisdom and have a month to kill, than this is definitely for you.
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth :: Difficulties with Girls :: Stanley and the Women :: The Cornish Trilogy: The Rebel Angels; What's Bred in the Bone; The Lyre of Orpheus :: The Knowledge of the Holy
Leopold Benedict
I heard so much praise of Montaigne from different sides (Zweig, Taleb) that I had high expectations. I was impressed by his knowledge of ancient philosophy and literature and his application to his life. He wrote quotes of ancient authors on the ceiling of his bedroom, which is the forerunner of modern post-it notes (I love it!). The glimpses into his elite education (Latin was his mother tongue, he was woken up by a violin player, he had a reader hired to read classic texts to him while eating I heard so much praise of Montaigne from different sides (Zweig, Taleb) that I had high expectations. I was impressed by his knowledge of ancient philosophy and literature and his application to his life. He wrote quotes of ancient authors on the ceiling of his bedroom, which is the forerunner of modern post-it notes (I love it!). The glimpses into his elite education (Latin was his mother tongue, he was woken up by a violin player, he had a reader hired to read classic texts to him while eating) quite interesting. Other than that I found his style a bit rambling and difficult to get into sometimes. Overall, I was not disappointed but I'm not enthusiastic about it either.
Bob
His enjoyment of Tacitus' Annals exactly captures my response to these essays:
"...there are more precepts than stories. It is not a book to read, it is a book to study and learn. It is so full of maxims that you find every sort, both right and wrong. It is a nursery of ethical and political reflections for the provision and adornment of those who hold a place in the management of the world. He always pleads, with solid and vigorous arguments, in a pointed and subtle fashion...lHis service is mo His enjoyment of Tacitus' Annals exactly captures my response to these essays:
"...there are more precepts than stories. It is not a book to read, it is a book to study and learn. It is so full of maxims that you find every sort, both right and wrong. It is a nursery of ethical and political reflections for the provision and adornment of those who hold a place in the management of the world. He always pleads, with solid and vigorous arguments, in a pointed and subtle fashion...lHis service is more suited to a disturbed and sick state, as ours is at present, you would often say that it is us he is describing and decrying." (p. 719)
I've never read anything I've enjoyed more.
Montaigne was not an ordinary man, but because he writes of ordinary things it is possible to experience, as my wife and I wondered one morning listening to "Ein Feste Burg" on "Sing For Joy", what was the aftermath of the Restoration like for normal people? What was it like to live when the new world was, for the European mind, still unknown and in a state of becoming? Or gain perspective on life in near continuous conflict, citizenship in a state polarized by ideology, or society so in flux that the writer mostly looks back at classical models for his conduct of life.
The Essays gives ua all that, together with humor, spite, and a minute self-examination that provides a model for understanding our limits and achieving our hopes. As a "useful book" it provides an essentially endless supply of quotations on all topics:
"To Christians, it is an occasion for belief to encounter something incredible." (p. 368)
"Plato seems to me to have favored this form of philosophizing in dialogues deliberately, to put more fittingly into diverse mouths the diversity and variation of his own ideas." (p. 377)
"In Socrates' opinion, and in mine, too, the wisest way to judge heaven is not to judge it at all." (p. 400)
"Is it possible that Homer meant to say all they make him say, and that he leant himself to so many and such different interpretations that the theologians, legislators, captains, philosophers, every sort of people who treat of sciences, however differently and contradictorily, lean on him and refer to him: the general master for al offies, works, and actions, the general counselor for all enterprises?" (p. 442)
Finally, even a model of style for technical writing. How could something as relatively complex be expressed as simply as: "When rolling a harquebus bullet under the forefinger, the middle finger being entwined over it, we have to force ourselves hard to admit that there is only one, so strongly does our sense represent two to us." (p. 448)
Markus
Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
LES ESSAIS
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 Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
LES ESSAIS
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 imagine. He should be an honorary member of Good Reads.
He seems to have spent his younger years traveling on horseback through Europe, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, in order to study people and traditions and to look for medication to try and heal his malady of kidney stones.
He started writing the Essays in 1572, thirty-nine years old.
From the very beginning of the publications, around 1580 the Essais attracted great attention and fame.
Over the centuries, from these medieval times, thousands of comments and many hundreds of books have been written about the Essais.
I will try to write down a few short comments of my own perception and understanding.
The subjects of the essays are mainly a random selection of the human character and behavior in the various situations of life, and Montaigne’s own personal contributions of strength, weaknesses, and experiences.
From the 107 subjects in his tree books, I will mention just a few: of sadness, of laziness, of liars, of consistency, of fear, of cannibalism, of friendship, of learning how to die, etc.
First, I found the reading difficult, even though my French Edition is praised as modern and easy to read. Progress was slow, almost each sentence needs to be studied, turned around and digested.
Then there are many references on the subjects, in Latin, to Classic authors, like Epicurus, Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Lucrecia, Martial and many others. To a point where you wonder where you read Montaigne’s own ideas and where he draws from his mentors.
As mentioned by the enthusiastic editor of my edition: The Essays seems to have been written for all times, with so much wisdom in one book, it needs to be read over and over again, one will always find something new to be discovered.
The main quality I found, is his poetic style of writing his happy selection of vocabulary, his way of painting each image in beautiful colors.
A soft, friendly, indolent philosophy of life.
Abdul Tabel
This review pertains only to the essay titled "Of Cannibals" by Montaigne.
I enjoyed this particular text because it shows us the perspective of a culture less heard of. A culture that lives in harmony with nature, very primitive and serene. Oh and one more thing, the tribe mentioned is also cannibalistic! Don't let that take away from the good people that they are, though. I believe Montaigne did an exquisite job of portraying a group of people that nobody has heard of, as barbaric as they may s This review pertains only to the essay titled "Of Cannibals" by Montaigne.
I enjoyed this particular text because it shows us the perspective of a culture less heard of. A culture that lives in harmony with nature, very primitive and serene. Oh and one more thing, the tribe mentioned is also cannibalistic! Don't let that take away from the good people that they are, though. I believe Montaigne did an exquisite job of portraying a group of people that nobody has heard of, as barbaric as they may seem initially, and made them look better than first world civilized countries.
In the text the tribe is said to enjoy leisurely activities all day. This is something many of us forget to do while busy pursuing out goals and dreams, and trying to make ends meet. I connected with the native Brazilians via the text because they are very mindful of others and nature, something of which I personally try to do and wish that more people would do as well. They do not hurt animals, and do not overextend on the land that they have, which they feel is ample. They know not of ordinary vices such as lying and stealing, which is something that would be unheard of in our modern time.
It's simple to see that what we've evolved to can actually be considered more barbaric than the act of eating a dead foe in the name of honor. (If you keep an open mind, that is). Montaigne further shows us how corrupt our human kind has become when exposing a few of the native Brazilians to a then modern Europe. The tribesman was shocked at seeing the separation of wealth and how people loomed hungry on the street. Surprise, surprise native Brazilian, that is how our world is to this day. It makes me think, would I enjoy life more in some secluded place knowing nothing but the bare necessities of life?
Erik Moore
I finished it finally. I said "finally" because this was my reading assignment when I was in elementary school almost 22 years ago. I remember that when I first saw it, I scared to read it since it was colorless and thick, boring book. I did not want to saturate my empty but colorful life with this kind of things :)

I could not be able to read of course, I was skipping the pages and I framed myself as I read it. I do not remember what happened after that but this one was in my mind for a long lon I finished it finally. I said "finally" because this was my reading assignment when I was in elementary school almost 22 years ago. I remember that when I first saw it, I scared to read it since it was colorless and thick, boring book. I did not want to saturate my empty but colorful life with this kind of things :)

I could not be able to read of course, I was skipping the pages and I framed myself as I read it. I do not remember what happened after that but this one was in my mind for a long long time.

After reading it, once again I realized that creating a perception about reading a book as a duty completely kills the joy of reading. This is an obvious truth.

Well, reading Montaigne's only and foremost book was my boring homework and I did not read it but if my father or my friend recommended this book to me I would have already finished it when I was 12 years young hyperactive boy.

This book shows the many ways of how important it is to living a life or living your single day as a one good and ethical individual. I am sure if I read it in future maybe in my 40s I will pull tons of lessons out of it again.

Montaigne dedicated his all life for this book and this is his only masterpiece. That is why it can address most of the people in all different times periods. People can easily create a gap between their stories and his stories.

I am adding this book in my favorite list.
Sarah Bilodeau
Montaige . . . the idea is to write these essays as a way of comparing his own experience with that of others . . . the idea of understanding the self through the act of reading and writing. Montaigne was indeed a huge reader which comes through in his essays. **The development of a new style of writing, that of the essay: the authors attempt to grapple with a question using reflection on his own life experience. The idea or treating questions that have alreday been treated by other authors befo Montaige . . . the idea is to write these essays as a way of comparing his own experience with that of others . . . the idea of understanding the self through the act of reading and writing. Montaigne was indeed a huge reader which comes through in his essays. **The development of a new style of writing, that of the essay: the authors attempt to grapple with a question using reflection on his own life experience. The idea or treating questions that have alreday been treated by other authors before him, but risking a personal experience and annalysis to see what new thing he can add to the discourse. "La biggarure des matieres traitees" : comment bien interpreter les choses . . .
TON SIMPLE ET CHALEREUX
GRANDE VARIETE DE SUJETS TRAITES DANS LES ESSAIS
ART DE DIGRESSION
an oral style, the sturcture and order mimcs to some extent the irregular order if thought and inspiration for a writer . . . also of conversation. Indeed, the essays are more like a conversation with the self than they are a specific conclusion on any one topic . . .
The infinite work if introspection is dmeonstrated through the Essays.
Le livre comme mosaique: il y a la baggarure de l'humanite, evoquee par la polyphonie du roman: ex: dans le chapitre: de l'osivete: il cute de nombreux autres auteurs . . .
la primautede l'image
le scepticime: Dans l'essai du livre 2: Apologie a Raimond
Gwen
Book II was nearly as enjoyable as Book I, if not quite.

Notes at the end of Book I. I belong to a wonderful, small study group slowly making our way through Montaigne's complete essays: A colleague who once taught me as a doctoral student, myself, and one of our doctoral students - along with spouses, former students, colleagues, and friends who join occasionally. There is always wine, and occasionally dinner. We use three different translations, including one in modern French (the doc student Book II was nearly as enjoyable as Book I, if not quite.

Notes at the end of Book I. I belong to a wonderful, small study group slowly making our way through Montaigne's complete essays: A colleague who once taught me as a doctoral student, myself, and one of our doctoral students - along with spouses, former students, colleagues, and friends who join occasionally. There is always wine, and occasionally dinner. We use three different translations, including one in modern French (the doc student who keeps us in motion is a Quebecois). It's a perfect way to study and enjoy these 16th-centurey "attempts" at making meaning out of classical literature, philosophical pondering and then-current events. Recently I heard this definition of the essay by a writer of some controversy, and I thought it described Montaigne's books very well: "An essay is an attempt, Jim, nothing else. And fundamentally for centuries, that’s all it’s been. Even etymologically, “essay” means an attempt. And so, as a writer of essays my interpretation of that charge is that I try, that I try to take control of something before it is lost entirely to chaos. That’s what I want to be held accountable for as a writer." (http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/feb/24...)
Jennifer
Reading Montaigne's essays has been a long project, inspired by hearing Sarah Bakewell talking about her book How to Live on the radio and later reading it.

It is not an easy task for the modern day reader without a familiarity with the classics. Added to this, the print was tiny, the volume vast. Arguably it is a book to dip into but the essays are quite varied in length and density so you couldn't tell yourself you'd just read one a day for example.

And yet it was a refreshing experience. Monta Reading Montaigne's essays has been a long project, inspired by hearing Sarah Bakewell talking about her book How to Live on the radio and later reading it.

It is not an easy task for the modern day reader without a familiarity with the classics. Added to this, the print was tiny, the volume vast. Arguably it is a book to dip into but the essays are quite varied in length and density so you couldn't tell yourself you'd just read one a day for example.

And yet it was a refreshing experience. Montaigne is funny, earthy, often very modern and enlightened yet also of his time. Clearly traumatised by the French civil wars, he is working out his place in life, what really matters. A good deal more penetrably than many a trendy current self-help book. He wanders off the subject without being incoherent. Some of it is very poignant and it seems sad that there is so little about his wife and his only surviving child, a daughter.

It has been like having a conversation with a garrulous but entertaining and wise old friend and I was sorry it was time to go. A book to keep on my bookshelf and pick up again from time to time. I had to stop noting down brilliant phrases as there were just too many of them.
Nathan
This is a challenging yet very rewarding book to read, if you can get through it. Writing in 16th Century France, with a horrendous civil war in the backdrop, Montaigne composed these Essays, the first of its type, after shutting himself up in his chateau. His main objective was to study himself and be as brutally honest as possible. To illustrate his points, Montaigne uses a plethora of quips and quotes from the ancients as well as many of his contemporaries. Herein lies the challenge. You real This is a challenging yet very rewarding book to read, if you can get through it. Writing in 16th Century France, with a horrendous civil war in the backdrop, Montaigne composed these Essays, the first of its type, after shutting himself up in his chateau. His main objective was to study himself and be as brutally honest as possible. To illustrate his points, Montaigne uses a plethora of quips and quotes from the ancients as well as many of his contemporaries. Herein lies the challenge. You really should know a little of the French civil war to understand what is driving many of his thoughts and to understand the context of his opinions. And you should have a basic understanding of some ancient literature - such as Plutarch, Seneca, Plato, Virgil - if you want to truly grasp the mindset underlying his thought. In my opinion, if you have those two prerequisites, you will learn a lot from this book. These essays, which frequently digress from the main and even sub- points, provide some of the most honest and wise writing this world has ever seen. This book is definitely worth the challenge.
Renée
Awesome collection of essays of de Montaigne. Provided me with a good insight in the values and lifestyle of the 16th century in France, the things that are of all times and the things specific to that time. It especially made me put the medical world into perspective. I always complain about doctors not knowing what is wrong with me and only being able to see disease when youre pretty much dying from it, but back then half of the population died and doctors pretty much had no idea what they wer Awesome collection of essays of de Montaigne. Provided me with a good insight in the values and lifestyle of the 16th century in France, the things that are of all times and the things specific to that time. It especially made me put the medical ´world´ into perspective. I always complain about doctors not knowing what is wrong with me and only being able to see disease when you´re pretty much dying from it, but back then half of the population died and doctors pretty much had no idea what they were doing so I feel more at ease now.
Or the fact that being a good person was more important back then, now it is all about being succesfull in all areas of life by finding a partner and a job that fulfills all our needs. Which is an illusory somewhat selfish way of life that makes us more important than we are.

I also wished I could bring de Montaigne alive and show him genetics and the way sperm and egg form a human being, because he was asking himself questions about that and we now have answers they didn´t have back then.

All in all a really good book.
Jackson Cyril
If one surveys the whole scope of English Literature, one encounters in previous centuries great authors, from Bacon down to Woolf, who wrote upon various topicks with Wit and Erudition and strove to communicate their accumulated Wealth of Experience through this rather formless form, the essay. Montaigne, who both invented the form and (I think) employ'd it best, is worth reading (and rereading-- for one can ne'er claim to have 'read' Montaigne) for his acute eye, wealth of knowledge and experi If one surveys the whole scope of English Literature, one encounters in previous centuries great authors, from Bacon down to Woolf, who wrote upon various topicks with Wit and Erudition and strove to communicate their accumulated Wealth of Experience through this rather formless form, the essay. Montaigne, who both invented the form and (I think) employ'd it best, is worth reading (and rereading-- for one can ne'er claim to have 'read' Montaigne) for his acute eye, wealth of knowledge and experience, easy style and judicious mind: here is a first-class mind weighing in on matters Banal and Insipid, and elevating the Quotidian to the Divine. Pope claimed that "the proper study of Man is Man", and perhaps had Montaigne in mind while doing so.
Jim
So I haven't read all of this, but many of the essays by this 16th century French nobleman are insightful, beautiful, baffling, hilarious and incredibly candid. Particularly good are "On the imagination," where Montaigne discusses methods for combating erectile dysfunction and "On the cannibals" where he takes a surprisingly progressive, even radical stance on non-European peoples. The translation is very readable and many of the essays are very short (2-5 pgs) making this a good volume to brows So I haven't read all of this, but many of the essays by this 16th century French nobleman are insightful, beautiful, baffling, hilarious and incredibly candid. Particularly good are "On the imagination," where Montaigne discusses methods for combating erectile dysfunction and "On the cannibals" where he takes a surprisingly progressive, even radical stance on non-European peoples. The translation is very readable and many of the essays are very short (2-5 pgs) making this a good volume to browse through in spare moments.
Anne Slater
Reading the French version for my French reading group.
My Lord, how easy is this prose! Why did I think it was going to be difficult? It is simplicity incarnate

And I keep thinking, every Unitarian should read Montaigne for his thought process(es). Had he been born 300 years later, he would have become a Transcendentalist or whatever they were called in France if they had Transcendentalists in France.

Alas, there are only a negligible number of paragraphs in the French text...
Amrahs Jarihd
If you could see my brain while I'm reading this book, you'd see light bulbs going off, fireworks exploding, and hear squeals of delight. Montaigne turns his mind inside out for our view, and in trying to read the nooks and crannies of his mind, we read our own. In baring himself to the most intimate introspection, Montaigne sketches a map of the mind for all of us. An absolute treat of a book! A book that renews itself again and again and people from one era after another draw reflect upon.
Daniel Toker
Again, I'm not sure I'm "allowed" to rate or review this book, as I only read excerpts, but I liked what I read.

Montaigne's was a penetratingly modern mind. This is one of those timeless books, with thoughts and observations that can apply to any age.

I particularly liked the last essay, "On Experience." The final point: we are human, we are limited, and that's perfectly fine. That's a very profound ending for such a long book by such a brilliant thinker.
Sophie
I got halfway through reading this via DailyLit (instalments delivered daily to my inbox) but the translation they were using is very hard work and the daily instalment format doesn't really work for Montaigne. One needs to read each essay in one go and dip in and out, rather than just read the whole thing from cover to cover. I have really enjoyed his thoughts and writing but will continue with this in hard format.
Pam
The Complete Essays are written in "Small Print"! Very interesting person,Montaigne.He retired to his Estate in South-West France in 1572.The Essays he wrote are considered to be among the most idiosyncratic and personal works in all Literature,and provide an engaging insight into a wise Renaissance mind.He writes only about HIMSELF,which was unheard of in his time.Mmm,not so much today as everyone writes a personal auto-bio.

Good,so far!I'm a sucker for LONG,LABORIOUS,Tiny-printed Works!
Robert Szymanski
Montaigne is in the same class as Shakespeare and Cervantes, in depth and complexity of thought, invention, and masterful style. And he also demands a certain reading ability and a high degree of concentration. My own background in Latin, the Greek and Roman Classics, and philosophy hold me in good stead as I read these essays. And I appreciate Montaigne's skepticism and self-awareness,both of which my own Buddhist practice finds congenial.
Gustavo Barbosa Ferreira
This is a very interesting work, in which the author discusses a wide range of subjects. By doing so, he allows the contemporary reader to have a comprehensive overview of the main lines of thought existing in French in Montaigne's times. It is also very relevant as a work of philosophy, for it synthesises many ideas of previous philosophers and givin an accessible language, creating an important precedent for later writers.
Tehsin Bhayani
Loved the book. Reading Montaigne is like listening to an old wise uncle has so much knowledge to share but goes nutty from time to time. Montaigne goes into several pages of tangents every now and then, but as long as you can tolerate that and put some of his unevolved thoughts on women and religion in the context of the age in which he lived, there are some profound thoughts and words wisdom in the areas of self-development, fortune, ethics, and character.
lindsie
Everybody loves "On Friendship", but the gallstone essays are worth the price of both volumes. For better or worse, I think of them every time something hurts. He's just so wonderfully flawed, and subjective, and corporeal.
Nico
If you are ever in doubt about your life or you are crestfallen and desperate - grap this book and start reading one of the essays, either on death or fashion,...and yoù`ll soon come to realize that you are not alone and that some hundred years before you an educated man had wonderful thoughts. If you are ever in doubt about your life or you are crestfallen and desperate - grap this book and start reading one of the essays, either on death or fashion,...and yoù`ll soon come to realize that you are not alone and that some hundred years before you an educated man had wonderful thoughts.
Maria Madrid
"What of our inconsistent actions? It undermines the instability of our character too. For one, are we not judged based on character by the actions we make? So since there is no same action taken by man, there is no such thing as an individual character distinguished in one person." 8/29/2001
Samantha
For about a year now, these old essays have been a source of logical sense, inner calm, and food for thought (food that does not include high pie in the sky, to which I am allergic). More therapeutic than therapy, at least for me. Now that I've finished them all, I think I'll start over again.
Sidney Gaskell
I haven't actually read it all, had to return it to the library(1360 pages in one day, don't think so). But I'm going to keep an eye out for a cheap copy in a book shop so I can keep reading it. It is very interesting.
Jan
I'm not an expert on Montaigne, but his essays have personality. It's an art that he puts enough of himself in his writings without pointing fingers at himself, while he rambles on about all kinds of topics.
Raymond Rose
This book is always at my bedside... if your after some sound grounding in human nature you can't go far wrong with this... despite the span of years between ourselves and Montaigne. Mind you, it's not an easy read you need to do some unpacking!
Mario Russo
The sensation that I have after the Montaigne's essays are a similar feeling that I got after the Confessions of St. Augustine. An intimate and timeless voyage through the mind of man who lived many centuries before.
Sara
This was assigned as part of my studies in non-fiction course. Montaigne has a sharp sense of humor, and his essays are overall very enjoyable. Also, while I often have the attention span of a goldfish, I appreciated the wide variety of topics he broached.
Claire
I think this is a "desert island book" for me. I only read the seven essays that are included on my Great Works Project plan but will keep reading on my own. Montaigne isn't always right and he isn't always structured or concise, but he is fascinating.
Victoria
I bought an old used copy of these essays, translated into English by E.J. Trechmann and published by Oxford University Press. I haven't read all of them. It is the kind of book that a person can fruitfully dip into at any time.
Ben Doeh
The original essayist. With unparalleled vivacity, Montaigne explores a miscellany of topics, penetrating the conduct and condition of his world and his self.

Yet I take away a star for the rambling and irrelevance, which mars the reading experience in between stunning sections of great insight.
Anoma
Read a few and enjoyed them. Want to read more/again. Maybe put this on the "want to read" shelf?
Kelly Ambrose
The particular translation I read was not good. I've read others and enjoyed them much more. I had a different version of this book than the one listed on Goodreads.
Maxim
If you dont want to waste your 'precious' time with the books, just give a last chance for this masterpiece. All walks of your life, Michel will be guide for you...
Jonathan Davis
A bit like pulling an infected tooth with defective pliers. Painful, tough to get through,but ultimately rewarding. And with a bit less screaming. Just a bit.
Leslie
My favorite Spanish-Portugese Jewish Renaissance philosopher who likes to essay on such topics as his cat, being wasted, thumbs, and "That to study philosophy is to learn to die."
Josh
You must read the Donald Frame translation. It is perfect.
Chrisanne
Raymond Sebond apology. An absolute treasure!
Lynda
This is the 3rd time I read this book. Sometimes there are authors who seem to be speaking to you personally. Strangely enough, this long dead man speaks to me.
Jen
Montaigne is a total bad-ass! Loved reading these!!
Boris
All I can say, when I'm going to finish my first time with the complete edition of this peak of human intelligence is that this book is the best friend any human may have.
Tayva Case
Surprisingly accessible, some deep thoughts, some funny. Good stuff.
Great Book Study
I'm not done with this book, but I'm done with this book.
Donovan
I had pecked around in the writings of the man who invented the personal essay for 20 years before I finally read them all in chronological order.
Maggie
a turning point in my life... to experience montaigne actively shaping his identity and capturing his being on paper was amazing
Rico
Read it in French and I reread some of my preferred essays from time to time.
Chris
1400 pages, two months later, I conquered Montaigne.
Nick Short
Many references were lost on me which made some essays hard to follow, but still really good.
Chester Kisiel
This one of the great classics of western thought; it is a veritable gold mine of ideas and thoughts that can be dipped into time and time again.
Büşra
Excellent masrerpiece! Recommend everybody to read it.
Leonard Meyer
Yuck Really. Descartes or Thoreau more my speed.
Pascale Cervantes
One of my favorite book while in High School. Eye opening book about the World.
Angie
One star because I can't make myself finish this book.
Astralzeeke
Can't get enough of this.A chapter a day is a good dose.
Vicki
One of my favorite books--I return to his essays again and again.
Myr
had to read for like twelve pages about his flaccid dick, so...
Josef Humbartz
The essays of a grumpy retired French politician in the countryside in 1500. Seems like life is JUST as annoying now.
Rebecca
I admit that I skip or skim the essays about horses and coaches. But usually I'm 100% in.
Justin Holiman
Excellently written albeit somewhat tedious to get through all his reasoning in a manner that does it justice.
Ijon Titchy
Que caminamos a lomos de gigantes, ya lo tenía claro. Y Montaigne lo puntualiza en cada párrafo, en cada página de este compendio de ideas, opiniones y reflexiones de lo más variado y heterogéneo (por momentos incluso heterodoxo... para lo que era el siglo XVI). Inserta cada dos por tres, entre las parrafadas que suelta sobre prácticamente cualquier tema (uno de los más tratados es la preparación para la muerte, y cómo esta no es otra cosa que una continuación natural de la vida; no llego al ext Que caminamos a lomos de gigantes, ya lo tenía claro. Y Montaigne lo puntualiza en cada párrafo, en cada página de este compendio de ideas, opiniones y reflexiones de lo más variado y heterogéneo (por momentos incluso heterodoxo... para lo que era el siglo XVI). Inserta cada dos por tres, entre las parrafadas que suelta sobre prácticamente cualquier tema (uno de los más tratados es la preparación para la muerte, y cómo esta no es otra cosa que una continuación natural de la vida; no llego al extremo de afirmar que fuera para él una obsesión, pero sí que le dedica muchas páginas), docenas y docenas de citas de autores clásicos griegos y latinos, para apuntalar su personal e intransferible punto de vista acerca de un tema: él mismo.

Y esto, el centrarse en exclusividad en uno mismo, para la historia (de la literatura, y en general), entiendo que era por entonces revolucionario en más de un sentido. Un burgués de provincias, culto, medianamente adinerado (no era un campesino que necesitase trabajar para vivir, vaya; ya se encarga él de explicarlo por activa y por pasiva; de hecho, en principio se dedicó a la carrera militar), y que se dedica a examinarse a sí mismo desde todos los ángulos, para tratar de llegar al menos aunque sólo sea a media conclusión (ni siquiera una entera). El individuo volvía a ser el centro del Universo, tras la relativa oscuridad del Medievo, (aunque Montaigne propugna siempre el "allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres", rechaza la novedad por la novedad, y ensalza al 'buen ciudadano').

Ahora, el leitmotiv socrático de que en realidad no se puede saber nada, es el motor de todo el pensamiento de Montaigne (y su famoso parafraseo del griego, con su "¿Qué sé yo?"). Y a partir de ahí, una a veces pintoresca, a veces contradictoria (como el ser humano, contradictorio y complejo como sólo una persona puede serlo), y casi siempre divertida puesta al día (entonces) de las corrientes estoica, epicúrea y academicista, para conformar un a modo de naturalismo católico o algo así (cualquier etiqueta es siempre reduccionista, y más en casos así): Montaigne, mucho antes que Pascal, Rousseau y otros pensadores, aboga por seguir las inclinaciones naturales (aunque luego, por otro lado, dice que es la razón la que, bien conducida, nos lleva por el buen camino; y la razón es lo que nos distingue de los animales; en otros ensayos viene a decir que no tiene muy claro, eso sí, que la razón "humana" sea superior a una supuesta "razón animal", y da múltiples ejemplos), porque para el perigordino, todo lo que es natural es bueno y necesario; lo que no deja de ser una visión humanista y muy optimista del ser humano, la verdad.

Puede ser una señal inequívoca de la filosofía montaignana (o como se diga), que los autores más citados, con diferencia, son Platón (sobre todo por lo que escribió acerca de Sócrates), Séneca y Plutarco.

Tomarse las cosas como vienen, disfrutar todo lo que buenamente podamos, carpe diem... Todo tan actual y moderno que produce escalofríos. Hay capítulos/ensayos que han envejecido, lógico, pero la gran mayoría son de total aplicación hoy en día. Hay que tener en cuenta la época de la que hablamos, y que no se podía ni muchísimo menos escribir lo que uno quería (más de uno lo pagó con la vida). Ya nos avisa Montaigne en más de una ocasión de que tenemos que leer entre líneas.

Como dicen los británicos, "hope for the best, prepare for the worst". Y vive el presente.

Qué fácil de decir, qué difícil de hacer.

[Vaya, por momentos hasta parece que sé de qué hablo... Y no, no se puede resumir tantísimo como Montaigne opina, diserta y divaga en tres o cuatro párrafos. La introducción ya avisa de lo fascinante de "Los Ensayos" como prueba, en carne viva, de las oposiciones, dicotomías y cambios de un ser humano en tantísimos terrenos en los que se mueve.

Montaigne suena a la vez clásico y adelantado a su tiempo, en ocasiones. Pero al mismo tiempo es tan machista como lo era su época, por ejemplo; aunque por otro lado, en las páginas en las que se explaya acerca de temas religiosos, se le nota tan moderado y ecuánime como siempre nos cuenta que trataba de ser.

Al fin y al cabo, lo más difícil, y es lo que el gascón trata de esclarecer, es ser consecuente con uno mismo, conducirse racionalmente en la vida de cada uno, sin sobresaltos ni complicaciones, gozando con moderación (muchas veces nos recuerda que tan malo es el exceso como el defecto, incluso para cosas como pueden ser los males), y rehuyendo en la medida de lo posible cualquier embrollo o dificultad. Tener la conciencia tranquila y en equilibrio con el cuerpo (ya lo decían los romanos, que estuvieron en todas antes; y si no ellos, entonces los griegos), y dedicarse a vivir. Y para Montaigne, eso es tan importante o más, y necesita de la misma ciencia/filosofía, que ser alguien conocido gracias a sus gestas, militares, políticas, artísticas, o de la índole que sea. En numerosas ocasiones, Montaigne alaba el tipo de vida de los campesinos y en general la gente sencilla, e incluso llega a medio envidiar la felicidad que pueden alcanzar las personas algo -ejem- obtusas (aunque también se encarga de aclarar que no es esa precisamente la vía más deseable para ser feliz).

Michel de Montaigne se pone bajo la lupa a sí mismo, y acaba hablando sobre las diferencias insalvables entre las culturas y las costumbres de unas y otras, sobre los ejércitos y las tácticas, sobre la muerte (y sobre el suicidio), sobre el amor (a veces con una franqueza sorprendente), la esclavitud, los modales (en la mesa, y en general), las enfermedades, los animales, la diplomacia, la educación que habría que dar a los hijos, las herencias, las creencias y la religión en general, sus héroes (si no recuerdo mal, cita a tres: Sócrates (al que siempre pone como ejemplo de lo que tendría que ser una persona), Alejandro (el Grande) y Epaminondas; que alguien me corrija si no es así: hablo de memoria), sus achaques, y un larguísimo etcétera]
Amni
Montaigne is like that one uncle who feels more like a brother, a comrade, than a patronizing oldie. His level of erudition is almost near ridiculous, and this is reflected in all the different subjects he writes about here.

It wouldn't be unexpected for the reader to expect 9 to 5 Philosophy topics such as Friendship, Anger, Idleness, Imagination, Virtue and their associates, but the reader would be totally surprised by esoteric topics such as Of the punishment of cowardice, That we laugh and cr Montaigne is like that one uncle who feels more like a brother, a comrade, than a patronizing oldie. His level of erudition is almost near ridiculous, and this is reflected in all the different subjects he writes about here.

It wouldn't be unexpected for the reader to expect 9 to 5 Philosophy topics such as Friendship, Anger, Idleness, Imagination, Virtue and their associates, but the reader would be totally surprised by esoteric topics such as Of the punishment of cowardice, That we laugh and cry for the same thing, Of thumbs, and Of the custom of wearing clothes.

For the thinker or the doer or the procrastinator, his is a voice that must be heard.

Suzy
Hundreds of years ago in another country...on another continent....Montaigne wrote short essays about various things on paper with a quill pen. Those essays still beautifully and cleverly capture the essence of so many human experiences, even today for a modern car driving American corporate worker reading it on a Kindle.

Up there with Shakespeare or any of the other ageless "greats" who truly understand the human condition.

Like all of this type of work - the trick is to find a well done and mod Hundreds of years ago in another country...on another continent....Montaigne wrote short essays about various things on paper with a quill pen. Those essays still beautifully and cleverly capture the essence of so many human experiences, even today for a modern car driving American corporate worker reading it on a Kindle.

Up there with Shakespeare or any of the other ageless "greats" who truly understand the human condition.

Like all of this type of work - the trick is to find a well done and modern translation. I have the edition pictured and found it very readable.
David Vidaurre
This is I book that I should have read decades ago, but was a little spooked by its length. It was a mistake to wait, as it usually is. Like when you're reading Balthasar Gracian, you feel stoic wisdom jumping out of every page. It was truly a great primer in classical education. This experience taught me that I should not be scared of War and Peace, Remembrance of Things Past, Paideia and Les Miserables that still are in my reading list.
Joseph Carrabis
Michel de Montaigne's Essays have been influential to me since I first encountered them in my early 20s. I've used them as resource, as guidance, as mirror, sage, to clarify my mind and help me find my voice. Modern readers might find them a tough go, much like Machiavelli's The Prince is tough going for modern readers.
I recommend both books. They're worth it. And you can learn from them. It doesn't get much better than that.
Heidi Thomas
Couldn’t really engage with this book, may try again later
Adam Manning
Beautiful, enthralling, engrossing and entertaining. Loved it, wish I was just starting it and will no doubt be reading again and again forever more.
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