19 August, 2006

My Heroes: (9) Michel de Montaigne


Montaigne was born in Bordeaux, France, the son of a wealthy Catholic landowner & lawyer and a Spanish Jewish mother who was bought up as a Protestant. He virtually invented the essay as a form of writing and he used himself as a subject by means of searingly honest introspection. His writings were originally seen as self-indulgent but he was a strong influence on Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Rousseau and particularly Descartes.

What really draws my attention to him is the broad range of subjects that he wrote about and the very modern style that the essays still seem to have. They are very easy and rewarding to read on topics such as "On the Power of the Imagination" which detours for an hilarious discussion of farting before returning to it's stated topic. (Added 27th August: He was classically educated and his works are peppered with Latin quotations and references, All translated, of course, but it is worth persevering.) He was modest and unassuming, even pondering at one time to consider whether or not, when he played with his cat, it was her playing with him. To give an idea of his scope here are some of his essay titles: "Of Drunkeness", "Of Cannibals", "Of Thumbs", "That To Study Philosophy IsTo Learn To Die", "How we weepe and laugh at one selfe-same thing" and so on.


Blogger jim said...

Incredible that you get so much reading in, Bazza, I envy that, I am spending all day working thru one or two papers, interruptions constantly, meals, I don't know how you do it.

This guy sounds great, a treat to read, those essays sound like little treasures. Maybe I can some day, I will make a note of him and try to get to reading these titles you mention.

On top of that, I would love to do some painting too. Time, Time, Time.

Thanks for the treat.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

I am not sure if I had heard of him. Anyway thanks for filling out the detail.

Even though he hailed from Bored-o he was never bored. Apologies!

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Blogger dumbdodi said...

As Jim said those essays sound like little treasures. Hope to get to read them sometime.

You have a very interesting blog.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Jim: I have a paperback copy of the Essays which I dip into from time to time. I think I may have given the wrong impression about Montaigne and I am going to re-edit the post later in the week.

Rob: Great pun. Don't give up the day job.(I am still thinking about the Normans. It's like a piece of homework that is over due!)

Dumbdodi: Thanks for the visit and comments. You too, have an interesting blog.

Monday, August 21, 2006  
Blogger PARLANCHEQ said...

Wow, I feel so enlightened because I have actually heard of Montaigne. :) But that's only because my son had to read his essays for a college lit class last semester and needed help. I am pretty sure I, myself, went all the way through school without ever reading Montaigne. :(

Monday, August 21, 2006  

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