The Essays of Michel de Montaigne - Vol. 1

The Essays of Michel de Montaigne - Vol. 1

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The Essays of Michel de Montaigne - Vol. 1

The Essays of Michel de Montaigne - Vol. 1

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The Essays of Montaigne, which are at once the most celebrated and the most permanent of his productions, form a magazine out of which such writers as Bacon and Shakespear did not disdain to help themselves; and indeed, as Hallani observes, the Frenchman’s literary importance largely results from the share which his mind had in influencing other minds, coeval and subsequent. But, at the same time, estimating the value and rank of the Essayist, we are not to leave out of the account the drawbacks and the circumstances of the period: the imperfect state of education, the comparative scarcity of books, and the limited opportunities of intellectual intercourse.

Montaigne freely borrowed of others, and he has found men willing to borrow of him as freely. We need not wonder at the reputation which he with seeming facility achieved. He was, without being aware of it, the leader of a new school in letters and morals. His book was different from all others which were at that date in the world. It diverted the ancient currents of thought into new channels. It told its readers with unexampled frankness, what its writer’s opinion was about men and things, and threw what must have been a strange kind of new light on many matters but darkly understood. Above all, the Essayist uncased himself, and made his intellectual and physical organism public property. He took the world into his confidence on all subjects. His essays were a sort of literary anatomy, where we get a diagnosis of the writer’s mind, made by himself at different levels and under a large variety of operating influences.

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