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After studying law he eventually became counselor to the Parlement of Bordeaux. He married in 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 and , a post he held for four years.

Introduction to Montaigne (vs Populists)

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Vintage Paperback. Language see all. Not Specified. Topic see all. Publisher see all. Region see all. Guaranteed Delivery see all. The history of his early married life vies in obscurity with that of his youth. His biographers are not agreed among themselves; and in the same degree that he lays open to our view all that concerns his secret thoughts, the innermost mechanism of his mind, he observes too much reticence in respect to his public functions and conduct, and his social relations.

Michael, which was, as he informs us himself, the highest honour of the French noblesse. According to Lacroix du Maine, Montaigne, upon the death of his eldest brother, resigned his post of Councillor, in order to adopt the military profession, while, if we might credit the President Bouhier, he never discharged any functions connected with arms.

However, several passages in the Essays seem to indicate that he not only took service, but that he was actually in numerous campaigns with the Catholic armies. Let us add, that on his monument he is represented in a coat of mail, with his casque and gauntlets on his right side, and a lion at his feet, all which signifies, in the language of funeral emblems, that the departed has been engaged in some important military transactions.


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At the time to which we have come, Montaigne was unknown to the world of letters, except as a translator and editor. We may suppose that he began to compose the Essays at the very outset of his retirement from public engagements; for as, according to his own account, observes the President Bouhier, he cared neither for the chase, nor building, nor gardening, nor agricultural pursuits, and was exclusively occupied with reading and reflection, he devoted himself with satisfaction to the task of setting down his thoughts just as they occurred to him.

Those thoughts became a book, and the first part of that book, which was to confer immortality on the writer, appeared at Bordeaux in Montaigne was then fifty-seven; he had suffered for some years past from renal colic and gravel; and it was with the necessity of distraction from his pain, and the hope of deriving relief from the waters, that he undertook at this time a great journey. As the account which he has left of his travels in Germany and Italy comprises some highly interesting particulars of his life and personal history, it seems worth while to furnish a sketch or analysis of it.

The passage of Montaigne through Switzerland is not without interest, as we see there how our philosophical traveller accommodated himself everywhere to the ways of the country. The hotels, the provisions, the Swiss cookery, everything, was agreeable to him; it appears, indeed, as if he preferred to the French manners and tastes those of the places he was visiting, and of which the simplicity and freedom or frankness accorded more with his own mode of life and thinking.

In the towns where he stayed, Montaigne took care to see the Protestant divines, to make himself conversant with all their dogmas. He even had disputations with them occasionally. He then passed through Brunsol, Trent, where he put up at the Rose; thence going to Rovera; and here he first lamented the scarcity of crawfish, but made up for the loss by partaking of truffles cooked in oil and vinegar; oranges, citrons, and olives, in all of which he delighted.

After passing a restless night, when he bethought himself in the morning that there was some new town or district to be seen, he rose, we are told, with alacrity and pleasure. His secretary, to whom he dictated his Journal, assures us that he never saw him take so much interest in surrounding scenes and persons, and believes that the complete change helped to mitigate his sufferings in concentrating his attention on other points.

When there was a complaint made that he had led his party out of the beaten route, and then returned very near the spot from which they started, his answer was that he had no settled course, and that he merely proposed to himself to pay visits to places which he had not seen, and so long as they could not convict him of traversing the same path twice, or revisiting a point already seen, he could perceive no harm in his plan. As to Rome, he cared less to go there, inasmuch as everybody went there; and he said that he never had a lacquey who could not tell him all about Florence or Ferrara.

He also would say that he seemed to himself like those who are reading some pleasant story or some fine book, of which they fear to come to the end: he felt so much pleasure in travelling that he dreaded the moment of arrival at the place where they were to stop for the night. We see that Montaigne travelled, just as he wrote, completely at his ease, and without the least constraint, turning, just as he fancied, from the common or ordinary roads taken by tourists. The good inns, the soft beds, the fine views, attracted his notice at every point, and in his observations on men and things he confines himself chiefly to the practical side.

The consideration of his health was constantly before him, and it was in consequence of this that, while at Venice, which disappointed him, he took occasion to note, for the benefit of readers, that he had an attack of colic, and that he evacuated two large stones after supper.

He pronounced the Florentine women the finest in the world, but had not an equally good opinion of the food, which was less plentiful than in Germany, and not so well served. He lets us understand that in Italy they send up dishes without dressing, but in Germany they were much better seasoned, and served with a variety of sauces and gravies.

He remarked further, that the glasses were singularly small and the wines insipid. After dining with the Grand-Duke of Florence, Montaigne passed rapidly over the intermediate country, which had no fascination for him, and arrived at Rome on the last day of November, entering by the Porta del Popolo, and putting up at Bear. But he afterwards hired, at twenty crowns a month, fine furnished rooms in the house of a Spaniard, who included in these terms the use of the kitchen fire.

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Essays (Montaigne) - Wikipedia

What most annoyed him in the Eternal City was the number of Frenchmen he met, who all saluted him in his native tongue; but otherwise he was very comfortable, and his stay extended to five months. The world, jealous of her, prolonged empire, had in the first place broken to pieces that admirable body, and then, when they perceived that the remains attracted worship and awe, had buried the very wreck itself.

Again, he was apprehensive, seeing the space which this grave occupied, that the whole might not have been recovered, and that the burial itself had been buried. And, moreover, to see a wretched heap of rubbish, as pieces of tile and pottery, grow as it had ages since to a height equal to that of Mount Gurson,—[In Perigord. He Montaigne observed that it was difficult to believe considering the limited area taken up by any of her seven hills and particularly the two most favoured ones, the Capitoline and the Palatine, that so many buildings stood on the site.

He believed that an ancient Roman would not recognise the place again. It often happened that in digging down into earth the workmen came upon the crown of some lofty column, which, though thus buried, was still standing upright. The people there have no recourse to other foundations than the vaults and arches of the old houses, upon which, as on slabs of rock, they raise their modern palaces. It is easy to see that several of the ancient streets are thirty feet below those at present in use.

Sceptical as Montaigne shows himself in his books, yet during his sojourn at Rome he manifested a great regard for religion. He saw a Jewish child circumcised, and wrote down a most minute account of the operation. The court of Muscovy had at that time such limited relations with the other powers of Europe, and it was so imperfect in its information, that it thought Venice to be a dependency of the Holy See. I begged him, on the contrary, to abide by the opinion of the person who had criticised me, confessing, among other matters, as, for example, in my use of the word fortune, in quoting historical poets, in my apology for Julian, in my animadversion on the theory that he who prayed ought to be exempt from vicious inclinations for the time being; item, in my estimate of cruelty, as something beyond simple death; item, in my view that a child ought to be brought up to do everything, and so on; that these were my opinions, which I did not think wrong; as to other things, I said that the corrector understood not my meaning.

The Master, who is a clever man, made many excuses for me, and gave me to suppose that he did not concur in the suggested improvements; and pleaded very ingeniously for me in my presence against another also an Italian who opposed my sentiments. Such is what passed between Montaigne and these two personages at that time; but when the Essayist was leaving, and went to bid them farewell, they used very different language to him.

To excuse themselves for what they had said against my book, they instanced works of our time by cardinals and other divines of excellent repute which had been blamed for similar faults, which in no way affected reputation of the author, or of the publication as a whole; they requested me to lend the Church the support of my eloquence this was their fair speech , and to make longer stay in the place, where I should be free from all further intrusion on their part.

It seemed to me that we parted very good friends.

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Before quitting Rome, Montaigne received his diploma of citizenship, by which he was greatly flattered; and after a visit to Tivoli he set out for Loretto, stopping at Ancona, Fano, and Urbino. He arrived at the beginning of May , at Bagno della Villa, where he established himself, order to try the waters. There, we find in the Journal, of his own accord the Essayist lived in the strictest conformity with the regime, and henceforth we only hear of diet, the effect which the waters had by degrees upon system, of the manner in which he took them; in a word, he does not omit an item of the circumstances connected with his daily routine, his habit of body, his baths, and the rest.

Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, June 8, Montaigne gives it as his reason and justification for enlarging to this extent here, that he had omitted, to his regret, to do so in his visits to other baths, which might have saved him the trouble of writing at such great length now; but it is perhaps a better reason in our eyes, that what he wrote he wrote for his own use. We find in these accounts, however, many touches which are valuable as illustrating the manners of the place. The minute and constant watchfulness of Montaigne over his health and over himself might lead one to suspect that excessive fear of death which degenerates into cowardice.

But was it not rather the fear of the operation for the stone, at that time really formidable? For reason prescribes that we should joyfully accept what it may please God to send us. Therefore the only remedy, the only rule, and the sole doctrine for avoiding the evils by which mankind is surrounded, whatever they are, is to resolve to bear them so far as our nature permits, or to put an end to them courageously and promptly.

He was still at the waters of La Villa, when, on the 7th September , he learned by letter that he had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux on the 1st August preceding.