Wikipedia Montaigne Essays Notes

Essays book 2

Michel Eyquem de MONTAIGNE (1533 - 1592), translated by Charles COTTON (1630 - 1687)

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre. He is also known as the father of Modern Skepticism. His pieces became famous for his apparent effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography. His main work, Essais (translated literally as "Attempts" but traditionally as "Essays"), contains some of the still most widely influential essays ever written. This is the second volume of that important work. (Summary adapted from the Wikipedia by Leni)

Genre(s): Essays, Early Modern

Language: English

Group: Essays by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

SectionChapterReaderTime
Play 01 01 - OF THE INCONSTANCY OF OUR ACTIONS Malone
00:25:10
Play 02 02 - OF DRUNKENNESSMalone
00:34:16
Play 03 03 - A CUSTOM OF THE ISLE OF CEA Malone
00:50:10
Play 04 04 - TO-MORROW'S A NEW DAY Malone
00:08:12
Play 05 05 - OF CONSCIENCE Malone
00:13:54
Play 06 06 - USE MAKES PERFECT Cynthia Moyer
00:38:48
Play 07 07 - OF RECOMPENSES OF HONOUR Malone
00:13:05
Play 08 08 - OF THE AFFECTION OF FATHERS TO THEIR CHILDREN, part 1 Malone
00:36:30
Play 09 09 - OF THE AFFECTION OF FATHERS TO THEIR CHILDREN, part 2Malone
00:32:16
Play 10 10 - OF THE ARMS OF THE PARTHIANS Malone
00:10:49
Play 11 11 - OF BOOKS Malone
00:47:20
Play 12 12 - OF CRUELTYCynthia Moyer
00:57:05
Play 13 13 - OF JUDGING OF THE DEATH OF ANOTHER Cynthia Moyer
00:23:10
Play 14 14 - THAT OUR MIND HINDERS ITSELF April Gonzales
00:02:56
Play 15 15 - THAT OUR DESIRES ARE AUGMENTED BY DIFFICULTY Malone
00:21:53
Play 16 16 - OF GLORY Cynthia Moyer
00:50:51
Play 17 17 - OF PRESUMPTION, part 1 Cynthia Moyer
00:38:47
Play 18 18 - OF PRESUMPTION, part 2Cynthia Moyer
00:38:19
Play 19 19 - OF PRESUMPTION, part 3Cynthia Moyer
00:42:17
Play 20 20 - OF GIVING THE LIE Malone
00:15:24
Play 21 21 - OF LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE Malone
00:13:42
Play 22 22 - THAT WE TASTE NOTHING PURE Malone
00:12:20
Play 23 23 - AGAINST IDLENESS Malone
00:14:30
Play 24 24 - OF POSTING Kajo
00:03:39
Play 25 25 - OF ILL MEANS EMPLOYED TO A GOOD END Malone
00:12:24
Play 26 26 - OF THE ROMAN GRANDEUR Kajo
00:04:40
Play 27 27 - NOT TO COUNTERFEIT BEING SICK Kajo
00:06:14
Play 28 28 - OF THUMBS April Gonzales
00:03:11
Play 29 29 - COWARDICE THE MOTHER OF CRUELTY Cynthia Moyer
00:33:43
Play 30 30 - ALL THINGS HAVE THEIR SEASONKajo
00:06:22
Play 31 31 - OF VIRTUE Rapunzelina
00:20:11
Play 32 32 - OF A MONSTROUS CHILD Julia Niedermaier
00:04:35
Play 33 33 - OF ANGER Malone
00:24:56
Play 34 34 - DEFENCE OF SENECA AND PLUTARCH Malone
00:22:04
Play 35 35 - THE STORY OF SPURINA Malone
00:24:28
Play 36 36 - OBSERVATION ON A WAR ACCORDING TO JULIUS CAESAR Malone
00:28:53
Play 37 37 - OF THREE GOOD WOMEN Rapunzelina
00:21:36
Play 38 38 - OF THE MOST EXCELLENT MEN Rapunzelina
00:18:56
Play 39 39 - OF THE RESEMBLANCE OF CHILDREN TO THEIR FATHERS, part 1Malone
00:52:17
Play 40 40 - OF THE RESEMBLANCE OF CHILDREN TO THEIR FATHERS, part 2Malone
00:49:44
Play 41 41 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 1Malone
00:47:06
Play 42 42 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 2Cynthia Moyer
01:03:55
Play 43 43 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 3Cynthia Moyer
01:09:38
Play 44 44 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 4Cynthia Moyer
01:04:53
Play 45 45 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 5Cynthia Moyer
01:08:58
Play 46 46 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 6Cynthia Moyer
01:03:28
Play 47 47 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 7Cynthia Moyer
00:49:34
Play 48 48 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 8Cynthia Moyer
00:58:03
Play 49 49 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 9Cynthia Moyer
01:08:49
Play 50 50 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 10Cynthia Moyer
01:06:24
Play 51 51 - APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND SEBOND, part 11Cynthia Moyer
01:00:13

The Essays (French: Essais, pronounced [esɛ]) of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record "some traits of my character and of my humours." The Essays were first published in 1580 and cover a wide range of topics.[1]

Style[edit]

Montaigne wrote in a rather crafted rhetoric designed to intrigue and involve the reader, sometimes appearing to move in a stream-of-thought from topic to topic and at other times employing a structured style that gives more emphasis to the didactic nature of his work. His arguments are often supported with quotations from Ancient Greek, Latin and Italian texts such as De rerum natura by Lucretius[2] and the works of Plutarch.

Content[edit]

Montaigne's stated goal in his book is to describe himself with utter frankness and honesty ("bonne foi"). The insight into human nature provided by his essays, for which they are so widely read, is merely a bi-product of his introspection.Though the implications of his essays were profound and far-reaching, he did not intend, nor suspect his work to garner much attention outside of his inner circle[3], prefacing his essays with, "I am myself the matter of this book; you would be unreasonable to suspend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject [4]."

Montaigne's essay topics spanned the entire spectrum of the profound to the trivial, with titles ranging from "Of Sadness and Sorrow" and "Of Conscience" to "Of Smells" and "Of Posting" (referring to posting letters). Montaigne wrote at a time preceded by Catholic and Protestant ideological tension. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, protestant authors consistently attempted to subvert Church doctrine with their own reason and scholarship. Consequently, Catholic scholars embraced skepticism as a means to discredit all reason and scholarship and accept Church doctrine through faith alone[5]. Montaigne never found certainty in any of his inquiries into the nature of man and things, despite his best efforts and many attempts[5]. He mistrusted the certainty of both human reason and experience. He reasoned that while man is finite, truth is infinite; thus, human capacity is naturally inhibited in grasping reality in its fullness or with certainty[5]. Though he did believe in the existence of absolute truth, an attribute which distinguishes him from a pure skeptic, he believed that such truth could only be arrived at by man through divine revelation, leaving us in the dark on most matters[5]. He finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features, which resonates to the Renaissance thought about the fragility of humans. According to the scholar Paul Oskar Kristeller, "the writers of the period were keenly aware of the miseries and ills of our earthly existence". A representative quote is "I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself."

He opposed European colonization of the Americas, deploring the suffering it brought upon the natives.

Citing the case of Martin Guerre as an example, he believes that humans cannot attain certainty. His skepticism is best expressed in the long essay "An Apology for Raymond Sebond" (Book 2, Chapter 12) which has frequently been published separately. We cannot trust our reasoning because thoughts just occur to us: we don't truly control them. We do not have good reasons to consider ourselves superior to the animals. He is highly skeptical of confessions obtained under torture, pointing out that such confessions can be made up by the suspect just to escape the torture he is subjected to. In the middle of the section normally entitled "Man's Knowledge Cannot Make Him Good," he wrote that his motto was "What do I know?". The essay on Sebond defended Christianity. Montaigne also eloquently employed many references and quotes from classical Greek and Roman, i.e. non-Christian authors, especially the atomistLucretius.

Montaigne considered marriage necessary for the raising of children, but disliked the strong feelings of romantic love as being detrimental to freedom. One of his quotations is "Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside desperate to get out."

In education, he favored concrete examples and experience over the teaching of abstract knowledge that is expected to be accepted uncritically. Montaigne's essay "On the Education of Children" is dedicated to Diana of Foix.

English journalist and politician J. M. Robertson argued that Montaigne's essays had a profound influence on the plays of William Shakespeare, citing their similarities in language, themes and structures[6].

The remarkable modernity of thought apparent in Montaigne's essays, coupled with their sustained popularity, made them arguably the most prominent work in French philosophy until the Enlightenment. Their influence over French education and culture is still strong. The official portrait of former French president François Mitterrand pictured him facing the camera, holding an open copy of the Essays in his hands.[7]

Chronology[edit]

Montaigne heavily edited Essays at various points in his life. Sometimes he would insert just one word, while at other times he would insert whole passages. Many editions mark this with letters as follows:

  • A: passages written 1571–1580, published 1580
  • B: passages written 1580–1588, published 1588
  • C: passages written 1588–1592, published 1595 (posthumously)[8][9]

A copy of the fifth edition of the Essais with Montaigne's own "C" additions in his own hand exists, preserved at the Municipal Library of Bordeaux (known to editors as the "Bordeaux Copy").[10] This edition gives modern editors a text dramatically indicative of Montaigne's final intentions (as opposed to the multitude of Renaissance works for which no autograph exists). Analyzing the differences and additions between editions show how Montaigne's thoughts evolved over time. Remarkably, he does not seem to remove previous writings, even when they conflict with his newer views.

The Essays[edit]

English translations[edit]

  • John Florio (1603)
  • Charles Cotton (1685–6)
    • Later edited by William Carew Hazlitt (1877)
  • George B. Ives (1925)
  • E.J. Trechmann (1927)
  • Jacob Zeitlin (1934–6)
  • Donald M. Frame (1957–8)
  • J.M. Cohen (1958)
  • M.A. Screech (1991)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^Montaigne, Michel de (1580). Essais de messire Michel de Montaigne,... livre premier et second (I ed.). impr. de S. Millanges (Bourdeaus). Retrieved 1 June 2017 – via Gallica. 
  2. ^"Titi Lucretii Cari De rerum natura libri sex (Montaigne.1.4.4)". Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  3. ^"Guide to the Classics: Michel de Montaigne's Essay". Observer. 2016-11-15. Retrieved 2018-02-17. 
  4. ^Kritzman, Lawrence. The Fabulous Imagination: On Montaigne's Essays. Columbia University Press. 
  5. ^ abcdScreech, Michael (1983). Montaigne & Melancholy: The Wisdom of the Essays. Penguin Books. pp. 1–5. 
  6. ^Robertson, John (1909). Montaigne and Shakespeare: And Other Essays on Cognate Questions. University of California. pp. 65–79. 
  7. ^Mitterrand.org
  8. ^Montaigne, Michel de. The Complete Essays. Trans. M. A. Screech. London: Penguin, 2003 (1987), p. 1284
  9. ^Les Essais (1595 text), Jean Céard, Denis Bjaï, Bénédicte Boudou, Isabelle Pantin, Hachette, Pochothèque, 2001, Livre de Poche, 2002.
  10. ^Montaigne, Michel de (1588). Essais de Michel seigneur de Montaigne. Cinquiesme edition, augmentée d'un troisiesme livre et de six cens additions aux deux premiers (5 ed.). A Paris, Chez Abel L'Angelier, au premier pillier de la grand Salle du Palais. Avec privilege du Roy. Retrieved 1 June 2017 – via Gallica. 
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