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Penguin Classics Essays Paperback – Jun 1 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; Reprint edition (June 1 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014017897X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140178975
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #197,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne, was born in 1533, the son and heir of Pierre, Seigneur de Montaigne (two previous children dying soon after birth). He was brought up to speak Latin as his mother tongue and always retained a Latin turn of mind; though he knew Greek, he preferred to use translations. After studying law he eventually became counselor to the Parlement of Bordeaux. He married in 1565. In 1569 he published his French version of the Natural Theology of Raymond Sebond; his Apology is only partly a defense of Sebond and sets skeptical limits to human reasoning about God, man and nature. He retired in 1571 to his lands at Montaigne, devoting himself to reading and reflection and to composing his Essays (first version, 1580). He loathed the fanaticism and cruelties of the religious wars of the period, but sided with Catholic orthodoxy and legitimate monarchy. He was twice elected Mayor of Bordeaux (1581 and 1583), a post he held for four years. He died at Montaigne (1592) while preparing the final, and richest, edition of his Essays.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Feb. 16 2006
Format: Paperback
Michel de Montaigne is considered by many to be the inventor of the literary form of the essay, so the collection from which these excerpts come is important in several ways. Montaigne was a humanist and a skeptic in his philosophical approach, and essentially looked at his own experience as the first topic for examination always.
The book of Essays was one he worked on periodically throughout his life, issuing different editions, the first of which appeared in 1580. Montaigne's style of writing is sometimes stream-of-consciousness, sometimes structured in more formal styles.
Montaigne's stated task in his preface to the reader is for self-examination, but it becomes very clear that Montaigne sees himself as an 'everyman' character. He strives for full-disclosure; indeed, he writes that were he another culture 'which are said to live still in the sweet freedom of nature's first laws', then he might have appeared naked.
This is a complete set of the Essays, together with a helpful introduction and notes for reading. As Montaigne added to his essays periodically, they are not necessarily in the order he wrote them, but this collection has preserved their order according to his standards.
Montaigne's essays show a pessimism and skepticism, perhaps based on the kinds of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants going on, in France and elsewhere, as well as the periodic flare of plague. He was a humanist who saw cultures as having value internal to themselves and preferred to not universalise morals, laws and other ideas.
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By Shweta L KHARE on April 17 2000
Format: Paperback
A wonderful book to have for life. I already have the full version with detailed Essays of Montaigne, but this small paperback version is one which goes with me everywhere. It is my handbook to life and thoughts. I've had this book for long, handed to me by my father. I find all daily life substance and teachings with me when I read these wonderful notes, which are not only the thoughts reflecting a person but almost everyone of us. The chapters 'On the power of the imagination' and 'On the uncertainty of our judgement' relates so much to our own daily thoughts and actions- when I feel I have the power to do everything and then bringing it down to reality ... but the words written here in these chapters again fills me with power and optimism but also with a touch of pragmatism. I find this book thoroughly engrossing and often get back to it. These Essays are what all-time classics are made of.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
85 of 85 people found the following review helpful
A Superior Translation of a Great Writer Feb. 19 2005
By Diego Banducci - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the years I have kept a copy of the Essays by my favorite reading chair to be enjoyed at random, particularly in the middle of the night when Entropy seems to hold the upper hand. They exercise a remarkable calming effect.

Seduced by the idea of having a complete set of all the Essays, I initially opted for the Screech translation, but found it wooden and pedantic. I moved to the Cohen translation, which does not include all of the Essays, but has all of the major ones and is far more enjoyable.
79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Handbook for Life April 17 2000
By Shweta L KHARE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A wonderful book to have for life. I already have the full version with detailed Essays of Montaigne, but this small paperback version is one which goes with me everywhere. It is my handbook to life and thoughts. I've had this book for long, handed to me by my father. I find all daily life substance and teachings with me when I read these wonderful notes, which are not only the thoughts reflecting a person but almost everyone of us. The chapters 'On the power of the imagination' and 'On the uncertainty of our judgement' relates so much to our own daily thoughts and actions- when I feel I have the power to do everything and then bringing it down to reality ... but the words written here in these chapters again fills me with power and optimism but also with a touch of pragmatism. I find this book thoroughly engrossing and often get back to it. These Essays are what all-time classics are made of.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
A Portrait of a Fascinating Bibliomaniac June 11 2005
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"My library is in the third story of a tower; on the first is my chapel, on the second a bedroom with ante-chambers, where I often lie to be alone; and above it there is a great wardrobe...Adjoining my library is a very neat little room, in which a fire can be laid in winter, and which is pleasantly lighted by a window." Montaigne, On Three Kinds of Relationships

From the start, Montaigne (1533-1592) shows his great love of writing about life and his ultimate pleasure: exercising his mind through the discussion of philosophy. He also loved to point out incongruity and excelled in making logical conclusions.

His honesty seems to be his most attractive quality as he addresses the horror and beauty of life. At times he seems to almost be a reporter describing experience, detached and unemotional. Then when he delves into friendship he shows a new depth of emotion.

"There is no action or thought of mine in which I do not miss him, as he would have missed me. For just as he infinitely surpassed me in every other talent and virtue, so did he also in the duties of friendship." ~Montaigne, On Friendship

Montaigne's writing is at times a history lesson. He draws from the writings of Ovid, Cicero, Horace, Socrates, Plato, Seneca, Virgil and Petrarch.

His topics are fascinating and get even more interesting when he talks about the custom of wearing clothes, the Platonic paradox or why churches use incense. He explores the power of the imagination, truth and error, friendship, why civilized man is at times no better than a savage in his actions and freely discusses his ideas about education.

I must say that when he discusses books, this topic overflows and ends up in other essays. So, while the chapter on books may seem short, you will still find some excellent quotes later on while reading about the three kinds of relationships or "On Physiognomy," which seems to be more about the plague and death being inevitable and how philosophers contemplate death as a life-long exercise.

I learned a great deal about Socrates and how the Athenians felt when he died and that swans sing when they die. It all seems unrelated, but somehow Montaigne casually introduces topic after topic with great intellectual flair. Finally we happen upon his survival when captured by a band of horsemen. Then, we understand why he has titled this chapter "Physiognomy," because he is saved by the kind look on his face and his firmness of speech.

We also learn about his beautiful library. Later he discusses topics of interest like how Emperors built huge arenas that could be filled with deep water filled with sea monsters. These topics all seem related to his love of research.

While he discusses history at length and loves to add in quotes, he is also a keen observer of human nature. He sees life so clearly and freely says what most people fear will offend. Like that when we find a fault in other people, it might be a fault in our character or how strong we have to be to handle being criticized and why there are remarkable proofs of friendship when someone gives constructive criticism. Of course, many would not agree with this, although our friends do see us rather clearly.

"One must learn to endure what one cannot avoid," becomes more relevant near the end when Montaigne faces his own death. He discusses life so casually and even tells us about what he loves to eat and still doesn't enjoy. Life's simple pleasures are still of utmost importance even when he is suffering greatly with illness.

My blinds had turned golden in the early morning when I finished reading this book. I had the longing to sit by a fireplace and read another book by Montaigne. While it took three days to read the essays, this book almost ended too soon. Reading the essays was like discovering a long lost friend or a book through which we can live vicariously in another time and place.

~The Rebecca Review
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
"Reader, thou hast here an honest book..." May 20 2006
By A.G.West - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Montaigne is considered the father the personal essay. And within them, it seems, there is not a topic he didn't cover. After serving in the Bordeaux Parlement, in 1570 "he retired to his chateau...to read, think, and write." This is where his essays are born, late in his life, and soon to be suffering from kidney stones, which would take his life (he discusses his mistrust of doctors in "Of The Resemblance Of Children To Their Fathers")

The tone of essays reveal someone who was highly skeptical and pessimestic. But you quickly gain a sense of how intelligent and honest this man was. Montaigne, in the preface, implies the essays are written to discover and reveal himself and recommends that no one should waste their "leisure about so frivolous and vain a subject." Although, here he is greatly mistaken. Montaigne, to me, was a genius; and there is so much wisdom one can part with after reading only a few of his essays, as can be seen in his influence over brillant minds like Shakespeare and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Any library would seem bare without him.

Some favorite quotes from his essays:
"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself."

"A man should keep for himself a little back shop, all his own, quite unadulterated, in which he establishes his true freedom and chief place of seclusion and solitude."

"Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom."
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An enlightened consciousness Oct. 9 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Michel de Montaigne is considered by many to be the inventor of the literary form of the essay, so the collection from which these excerpts come is important in several ways. Montaigne was a humanist and a skeptic in his philosophical approach, and essentially looked at his own experience as the first topic for examination always.

The book of Essays was one he worked on periodically throughout his life, issuing different editions, the first of which appeared in 1580. Montaigne's style of writing is sometimes stream-of-consciousness, sometimes structured in more formal styles.

Montaigne's stated task in his preface to the reader is for self-examination, but it becomes very clear that Montaigne sees himself as an 'everyman' character. He strives for full-disclosure; indeed, he writes that were he another culture 'which are said to live still in the sweet freedom of nature's first laws', then he might have appeared naked.

This is a complete set of the Essays, together with a helpful introduction and notes for reading. As Montaigne added to his essays periodically, they are not necessarily in the order he wrote them, but this collection has preserved their order according to his standards.

Montaigne's essays show a pessimism and skepticism, perhaps based on the kinds of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants going on, in France and elsewhere, as well as the periodic flare of plague. He was a humanist who saw cultures as having value internal to themselves and preferred to not universalise morals, laws and other ideas.

Montaigne was sometimes conventional in thought (seeing marriage as necessary for children, and distrusting the idea of romantic love), but other times he was very much a free thinker (particularly when it came to religious dogma or absolutist kinds of philosophical paradigms). Montaigne had respect for those who followed religious codes and ways of life, but distrusted those who tried to impose such ideas upon others.

Montaigne added to his essays twice in major ways, but did not strive for consistency or systematic ways of thinking - he declined to remove previous essays if they contradicted new writings.

Montaigne is perhaps the most important French philosopher prior to the Enlightenment. His essays remain popular because they have a sense of the modern and the current about them.


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