Apology for Raymond Sebond

Apology for Raymond Sebond

Apology for Raymond Sebond

Apology for Raymond Sebond

Synopsis

Under the pretence of defending an obscure treatise by a Catalan theologian, Montaigne attacks the philosophers who attempt rational explanations of the universe and argues for a sceptical Christianity based squarely on faith rather than reason. The result is the Apology for Raymond Sebond, a classic of Counter-Reformation thought and a masterpiece of Renaissance literature. This new translation achieves both accuracy and fluency, conveying at once the nuances of Montaigne's arguments and his distinctive literary style.

Excerpt

Michel de Montaigne was born in 1533 at the chateau de Montaigne (about 30 miles east of Bordeaux), the son of Pierre Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne, and Antoinette de Louppes (or Lopez), who came from a wealthy (originally Iberian) Jewish family. The many Montaigne children were raised as Catholics, although, unlike Michel, some of them became Protestants. Because of his father's unusual educational ideas, from the age of two to six Michel was taught Latin by a German private tutor who knew no French; thus he learned that language as if it were his native tongue. In 1539 or 1540 Michel de Montaigne entered the Collège de Guyenne at Bordeaux; he dazzled his teachers with his knowledge of Latin, but the experience left him mostly unpleasant memories of the harshness of their pedagogical methods. In 1554, when Pierre Eyquem was elected Mayor of Bordeaux, Montaigne, aged twenty-one, was named counselor to the Cour des Aides at Périgueux, a position newly created by Henry II to assist with tax cases. The Cour was abolished three years later, but it was incorporated into the Parlement of Bordeaux. Thus, in 1557 Montaigne became counselor to the Parlement of Bordeaux, a position he kept until 1570.

During these years Montaigne developed a close friendship with his colleague at the Parlement, the Stoic Etienne de La Boétie; the friendship began in 1557 and ended with La Boétie's death in 1563. Montaigne married Françoise de la Chassaigne in 1565. The marriage produced six daughters over the next eighteen years, but only Léonor, the second daughter, born in 1571, lived beyond infancy. Montaigne's father died in 1568; Pierre Eyquem's property was divided among his five sons and three daughters with some provisions being made for his widow and with Montaigne inheriting the estate and the title Seigneur de Montaigne. In 1569 he published his translation of Raymond Sebond's Natural Theology (2nd revised edition, 1581), which he had undertaken at the request of Pierre Eyquem, [the best father who ever was.] Then in 1570 Montaigne sold his position as counselor in Bordeaux, went to Paris to publish the Latin poems of La Boétie with their French translations and a companion volume of La Boétie's French poetry, and then retired to his estates. Montaigne commemorated his retirement with the following inscription in his library:

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