Montaigne's English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day

By Rothschild, N. Amos | Shakespeare Studies, Annual 2015 | Go to article overview

Montaigne's English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day


Rothschild, N. Amos, Shakespeare Studies


Montaigne's English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day

By William M. Hamlin

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013

"[E]very abridgement of a good booke," Montaigne cautions, "is a foole abridged." Montaigne's warning was sound advice for early modern readers striving to reduce ponderous folios to neat epitomes for their commonplace books, and it remains good counsel for book reviewers--not least one undertaking a review of William M. Hamlin's Montaigne's English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day, a tremendously rich and ambitious "good booke" that dedicates considerable attention to extractive reading and its limitations. Hamlin presents his project as "a descriptive account of English response to Montaigne during the early decades of his presence within the national vernacular and the English readerly imagination" (3). Naturally then, the focal point of Hamlin's book is the first complete translation of Montaigne's Essais into English: John Florio's The Essayes or, Morall, Politike and Militarie Discourses, of Lo[rd] Michaell de Montaigne, the version of Montaigne from which Shakespeare famously borrowed while composing The Tempest, and the volume Ben Jonson more than likely had in mind when a character in his Volpone names Montaigne among the authors from whom "English authors" habitually "steal" (3.4.87-90).

While such renowned appropriators have their place in Hamlin's study, evidence left by humbler, and far more numerous, readers forms the backbone of Hamlin's "descriptive account." Hamlin is no stranger to things Montaignian--the French essayist also features prominently in his earlier monographs Tragedy and Scepticism in Shakespeare's England and The Image of America in Montaigne, Spenser, and Shakespeare--but here he couples that expertise with a methodological approach established by recent scholarship on early modern readership and manuscript culture. Following in particular the work of Heather Jackson (Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books), Heidi Brayman Hackel (Reading Material in Early Modern England), and William Sherman (Used Rooks: Marking Readers in Renaissance England), Hamlin offers a "large-scale case study of Florio's Montaigne during the first hundred years of its existence" with an eye toward the annotations made therein by early modern readers (2-3). To be precise, Hamlin has personally examined three-quarters of the surviving, publicly available copies of Florio's volume--263 of 353 institutional copies of the text's first three editions of 1603, 1613, and 1632--documenting in the process over 7000 annotations in seventeenth-century hands. He has also obtained digital images of relevant marginalia in any copies that he has not inspected in person, and he has compiled a working census of extant volumes (Appendix D). Moreover, Hamlin fleshes out his account of Montaigne's English reception by looking beyond Florio and his annotators. In addition to traditional close analysis of print appropriations by canonical authors, Hamlin considers letters and diary entries that discuss the Essayes, as well as commonplace books that excerpt from them. He even transcribes and edits three relevant manuscripts and includes them as appendices: a previously unknown English translation of large selections from eleven chapters of Book Two of the French Essais (Appendix A), an anonymous commonplace book dating from around 1650 that includes 198 extracts from Florio's Essayes (Appendix B), and "Montaigne's Moral Maxims," a collection of 297 aphorisms derived from Florio's text (Appendix C). Still, it is Florio's vibrant rendering that emerges as the key to the Montaigne's English reception in Hamlin's account. "Florio's Montaigne is not merely an English translation of a remarkable French book, but a reading of the Essays, indeed a reading in the service of a major act of rewriting" (32), Hamlin writes, and the claim is borne out by what follows.

Hamlin demonstrates adroitly the mediating influence of Florio on the early modern English reception of Montaigne in his first chapter, "Florio's Theatrical Montaigne. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Montaigne's English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.