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March 3, 2019


#Classic: Essays by Montaigne

by N@ncy



  1. Michel de Montaigne  explores the human condition
  2. …in a very personal and clever manner.
  3. His essays chart the course of 20 yr of self-investigation.
  4. He pretends to most of the vices.
  5. If there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth.



  1. I enjoyed the most personal essays:
  2. Book I
  3. This selection of essays is ‘the hook’.
  4. They are personal and frank.
  5. Unfortunately there are also many essay in
  6. book II and III  …. I consider ‘duds’.

Happiness not be judged until after our death
Educating children

Book II

  1. …including 140 pages entitled “Apology for Raymond Sebond’
  2. The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” is
  3. three times as long as any other essay that Montaigne wrote
  4. The essay has been seen as an attack on authoritrian religion and
  5. a covert threat to Christian faith.
  6. It was a slog to listen to….and
  7. I just started to do some household chores
  8. …and let the words go in one ear and out the other!
  9. This essay sticks out like a sour thumb
  10. If you encounter this essay and feel as I did
  11. …just skip it!


Affection of fathers for children
On resemblence of children to fathers


Book III (…there were only 3 essays I liked)


Last thoughts

  1. Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.
  2. He does have opinions that still ring true today.
  3. Strong point: Montaigne writes about themes that charm the
  4. reader ( see my list of favorites).
  5. We relate to them.
  6. Strong point: Montaigne’s style is not dry….but daring
  7. …filled with depth and witty observations.
  8. Weak point: don’t approach these essays expecting
  9. that they are an easy read (21st C standard)…they are not!
  10. The book was published 1580 and
  11. …written to one sex only.
  12. A certain nakedness of statement was permitted
  13. …which our manners of a literature addressed
  14. …equally to both sexes, do not allow.
  15. Montaigne could have used the advice of one of his
  16. favorite authors:
  17. “The eloquence that diverts us  to itself harms its content.” (Seneca)
  18. #SomeEssaysBoring
9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wonderful, I just attended a lecture last week on the art and power of the personal essay from Montaigne to Zadie Smith. Many interesting anecdotes shared on the man who invented the form, including his unorthodox childhood, the letter inviting him to be mayor and that his works were banned in France for 200 years. Bravo for persevering with that dud!


    • Mar 3 2019

      Sometimes while listening….I stopped folding the laundry or
      washing the dishes….because Montaigne said something so poignant about
      the fear of death or need for solitutude. These are things that affect all humans,…not only in 1580 but also in 2019. Thanks for you comments and I hope to read more esaays by different writers. I reviewed Zadie Smith “Feel Free” (31 essays) 14 April 2018 on this blog. The other essays I’ve read you can find under CATAGORIES on the top balk of the blog …..scroll down to ‘essays’.
      Bonne journée!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I had a feeling you’d read Feel Free, I’m intrigued after listening to the lecture, it was so great to have someone champion the art of the essay, where the personal and the political come together in a way that provokes readers to engage with the question posed.


  2. Mar 3 2019

    Zadie Smith has written some excellent novels….but I LOVE her essays.
    She makes her point and you just think….”Gosh, that was a great read”. Essays are the ‘forgotten genre’. I think I’ll start reading a collection of essays by ??? today! Thanks for giving me a nudge in that direction, Claire!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Montaigne! He was such a quirky character (Rousseau is another type that comes to mind) and he communicated his thoughts in such a unique way that I couldn’t help being charmed by him. Sometimes I even laughed out loud but he always had something worthwhile to say. Glad you enjoyed the essays (well, most of them) too!


    • Mar 3 2019

      I think there were just too many essays…all in one book!
      Perhaps a selection of the personal ones in an edition would be better.
      I think some readers just ‘give up’ when Montaigne gets a bit too philosophical (long 140 pg essay in book II) and pummels the reader with quotes by Virgil, Horace, Seneca etc.
      All in all I did enjoy some of the essays….very much.


  4. Jennifer Delahunty
    Mar 7 2019

    The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” essay was something that Montaigne wrote to please his father … and so there’s a bunch of back story there and I applaud you for reading it! Even though I gave a lecture on Montaigne, I couldn’t force myself to read that essay. Good on you, as the kids say. If you really want someone to accompany you on your Montaigne journey, read “How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer” by Sarah Bakewell. A beautiful biography of Montaigne with much interpretation/contextualizing of the essays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mar 7 2019

      Thanks so much for you comments…
      I must admit I listened to the long essay while hanging up the laundry, mopping floors and polishing bathrooms. So when I paused I took in a few words!
      I’ve read Bakewell’s bool and enjoyed it. That was one of the triggers to finally struggle through all the essays!



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