MICHEL EYQUEM DE MONTAIGNE, LORD OF MONTAIGNE (/mɒnˈteɪn/ ; French: ; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592) was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance , known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre . His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with serious intellectual insight; his massive volume Essais contains some of the most influential essays ever written.
Montaigne had a direct influence on Western writers, including
In his own lifetime, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author. The tendency in his essays to digress into anecdotes and personal ruminations was seen as detrimental to proper style rather than as an innovation, and his declaration that, "I am myself the matter of my book", was viewed by his contemporaries as self-indulgent. In time, however, Montaigne would come to be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time, the spirit of freely entertaining doubt which began to emerge at that time. He is most famously known for his skeptical remark, "Que sçay-je?" ("What do I know?", in Middle French ; now rendered as Que sais-je? in modern French).
Remarkably modern even to readers today, Montaigne's attempt to examine the world through the lens of the only thing he can depend on implicitly—his own judgment—makes him more accessible to modern readers than any other author of the Renaissance. Much of modern literary non-fiction has found inspiration in Montaigne and writers of all kinds continue to read him for his masterful balance of intellectual knowledge and personal storytelling.
* 1 Life * 2 Essais
* 3 Montaigne\'s influence on psychology
* 3.1 Child education
* 4 Related writers and influence * 5 References * 6 Further reading * 7 External links
Château de Montaigne, a house built on the land once owned by Montaigne's family. His original family home no longer exists, though the tower in which he wrote still stands. Portrait of Michel de Montaigne by Dumonstier around 1578. The Tour de Montaigne (Montaigne\'s tower ), mostly unchanged since the 16th century, where Montaigne's library was located
Montaigne was born in the
Although there were several families bearing the patronym "Eyquem" in
Guyenne, his father's family is thought to have had some degree of
Spanish and Portuguese Jewish ) origins. While his mother,
Antoinette López de Villanueva, was a convert to Protestantism. His
maternal grandfather, Pedro Lopez, from
His mother lived a great part of Montaigne's life near him, and even survived him, but is mentioned only twice in his essays. Montaigne's relationship with his father, however, is frequently reflected upon and discussed in his essays.
Montaigne's education began in early childhood and followed a pedagogical plan that his father had developed, refined by the advice of the latter's humanist friends. Soon after his birth, Montaigne was brought to a small cottage, where he lived the first three years of life in the sole company of a peasant family, in order to, according to the elder Montaigne, "draw the boy close to the people, and to the life conditions of the people, who need our help". After these first spartan years, Montaigne was brought back to the château. The objective was for Latin to become his first language.
The intellectual education of Montaigne was assigned to a German tutor (a doctor named Horstanus, who could not speak French). His father hired only servants who could speak Latin, and they also were given strict orders always to speak to the boy in Latin. The same rule applied to his mother, father, and servants, who were obliged to use only Latin words he himself employed, and thus acquired a knowledge of the very language his tutor taught him. Montaigne's Latin education was accompanied by constant intellectual and spiritual stimulation. He was familiarized with Greek by a pedagogical method that employed games, conversation, and exercises of solitary meditation, rather than the more traditional books.
The atmosphere of the boy's upbringing, although designed by highly refined rules taken under advisement by his father, created in the boy's life the spirit of "liberty and delight" to "make me relish... duty by an unforced will, and of my own voluntary motion...without any severity or constraint"; yet he would have everything to take advantage of his freedom. And so a musician woke him every morning, playing one instrument or another, and an épinettier (with a zither ) was the constant companion to Montaigne and his tutor, playing a tune to alleviate boredom and tiredness.
Around the year 1539, Montaigne was sent to study at a prestigious
boarding school in Bordeaux, the Collège de
Guyenne , then under the
direction of the greatest Latin scholar of the era,
George Buchanan ,
where he mastered the whole curriculum by his thirteenth year. He then
began his study of law at the
University of Toulouse in 1546 and
entered a career in the local legal system. He was a counselor of the
Court des Aides of
Périgueux and, in 1557, he was appointed counselor
Parlement in Bordeaux (a high court). From 1561 to 1563 he was
courtier at the court of Charles IX ; he was present with the king at
the siege of Rouen (1562) . He was awarded the highest honour of the
French nobility, the collar of the Order of St. Michael, something to
which he aspired from his youth. While serving at the Bordeaux
Parlement, he became very close friends with the humanist poet
Étienne de la Boétie
Montaigne married Françoise de la Cassaigne in 1565, probably in an arranged marriage. She was the well-got daughter and niece of merchants of Toulouse and Bordeaux. They had six daughters, but only the second-born, Léonor, survived infancy. Little is known about their marriage, a few words only escaping from Montaigne himself on the subject – he wrote of his daughter Léonor, "All my children die at nurse ; but Léonore, our only daughter, who has escaped this misfortune, has reached the age of six and more without having been punished, the indulgence of her mother aiding, except in words, and those very gentle ones." His daughter married François de la Tour and later Charles de Gamaches and had a daughter by each.
FRENCH LITERARY HISTORY
* Medieval * Renaissance * 17th * 18th * 19th * 20th century * Contemporary
* Chronological list * Writers by category * Essayists * Novelists * Playwrights * Poets * Short story writers * Children\'s writers
* France * French language * Literature * French/Francophone literature
* v * t * e
Following the petition of his father, Montaigne started to work on the first translation of the Catalan monk Raymond Sebond 's Theologia naturalis , which he published a year after his father's death in 1568 (In 1595, Sebond's Prologue was put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum for its declaration that the Bible is not the only source of revealed truth). After this, he inherited the family's estate, the Château de Montaigne, to which he moved back in 1570, thus becoming the Lord of Montaigne. Another literary accomplishment was Montaigne's posthumous edition of his friend Boétie's works.
In 1571, he retired from public life to the Tower of the Château ,
his so-called "citadel", in the
In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, his birthday, Michael de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life, now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.
During this time of the Wars of Religion in France, Montaigne, a
Roman Catholic, acted as a moderating force, respected both by the
Catholic King Henry III and the Protestant
Henry of Navarre
In 1578, Montaigne, whose health had always been excellent, started suffering from painful kidney stones , a sickness he had inherited from his father's family. Throughout this illness, he would have nothing to do with doctors or drugs. From 1580 to 1581, Montaigne traveled in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, partly in search of a cure, establishing himself at Bagni di Lucca where he took the waters. His journey was also a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Loreto , to which he presented a silver relief depicting himself and his wife and daughter kneeling before the Madonna, considering himself fortunate that it should be hung on a wall within the shrine. He kept a fascinating journal recording regional differences and customs and a variety of personal episodes, including the dimensions of the stones he succeeded in ejecting from his bladder. This was published much later, in 1774, after its discovery in a trunk which is displayed in his tower.
During Montaigne's visit to the Vatican, as he described in his
travel journal, the
Essais were examined by
Sisto Fabri who served as
Master of the Sacred Palace under
Pope Gregory XIII
While in the city of
Montaigne continued to extend, revise, and oversee the publication of
Essais. In 1588 he wrote its third book and also met the writer Marie
de Gournay , who admired his work and later edited and published it.
Montaigne called her his adopted daughter. King Henry III was
assassinated in 1589, and Montaigne then helped to keep Bordeaux loyal
Henry of Navarre
Montaigne died of quinsy at the age of 59, in 1592 at the Château de Montaigne. The disease in his case "brought about paralysis of the tongue", and he had once said "the most fruitful and natural play of the mind is conversation. I find it sweeter than any other action in life; and if I were forced to choose, I think I would rather lose my sight than my hearing and voice." Remaining in possession of all his other faculties, he requested mass, and died during the celebration of that mass.
He was buried nearby. Later his remains were moved to the church of
His fame rests on the Essais, a collection of a large number of short subjective treatments of various topics published in 1580, inspired by his studies in the classics, especially by the works of Plutarch and Lucretius . Montaigne's stated goal is to describe humans, and especially himself, with utter frankness. Montaigne's writings are studied as literature and philosophy around the world.
Inspired by his consideration of the lives and ideals of the leading figures of his age, he finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features. He describes his own poor memory, his ability to solve problems and mediate conflicts without truly getting emotionally involved, his disdain for the human pursuit of lasting fame, and his attempts to detach himself from worldly things to prepare for his timely death. He writes about his disgust with the religious conflicts of his time. He believed that humans are not able to attain true certainty. The longest of his essays, Apology for Raymond Sebond, marking his adoption of Pyrrhonism contains his famous motto, "What do I know?"
Montaigne considered marriage necessary for the raising of children, but disliked strong feelings of passionate love because he saw them as detrimental to freedom. In education, he favored concrete examples and experience over the teaching of abstract knowledge that has to be accepted uncritically. His essay "On the Education of Children" is dedicated to Diana of Foix .
Essais exercised important influence on both French and English
literature, in thought and style.
MONTAIGNE\'S INFLUENCE ON PSYCHOLOGY
Though not a scientist, Montaigne made observations on topics in psychology . In his essays, he developed and explained his observations of these topics. His thoughts and ideas covered topics such as thought, motivation, fear, happiness, child education , experience, and human action. Montaigne’s ideas have influenced psychology and are a part of psychology’s rich history.
Child education was among the psychological topics that he wrote about. His essays On the Education of Children, On Pedantry, and On Experience explain the views he had on child education. :61:62:70 Some of his views on child education are still relevant today.
Montaigne’s views on the education of children were opposed to the common educational practices of his day. :63:67He found fault with both what was taught and how it was taught. :62 Much of the education during Montaigne’s time was focused on the reading of the classics and learning through books. :67Montaigne disagreed with learning strictly through books. He believed it was necessary to educate children in a variety of ways. He also disagreed with the way information was being presented to students. It was being presented in a way that encouraged students to take the information that was taught to them as absolute truth. Students were denied the chance to question the information. Therefore, students could not truly learn. Montaigne believed that to truly learn, a student had to take the information and make it their own.
At the foundation Montaigne believed that the selection of a good tutor was important for the student to become well educated. :66 Education by a tutor was to be done at the pace of the student. :67He believed that a tutor should be in dialogue with the student, letting the student speak first. The tutor should also allow for discussions and debates to be had. Through this dialogue, it was meant to create an environment in which students would teach themselves. They would be able to realize their mistakes and make corrections to them as necessary.
Individualized learning was also integral to his theory of child education. He argued that the student combines information he already knows with what is learned, and forms a unique perspective on the newly learned information. :356 Montaigne also thought that tutors should encourage a student’s natural curiosity and allow them to question things. :68He postulated that successful students were those who were encouraged to question new information and study it for themselves, rather than simply accepting what they had heard from the authorities on any given topic. Montaigne believed that a child’s curiosity could serve as an important teaching tool when the child is allowed to explore the things that they are curious about.
Experience was also a key element to learning for Montaigne. Tutors needed to teach students through experience rather than through the mere memorization of knowledge often practised in book learning. :62:67He argued that students would become passive adults; blindly obeying and lacking the ability to think on their own. :354 Nothing of importance would be retained and no abilities would be learned. :62 He believed that learning through experience was superior to learning through the use of books. For this reason he encouraged tutors to educate their students through practice, travel, and human interaction. In doing so, he argued that students would become active learners, who could claim knowledge for themselves.
Montaigne’s views on child education continue to have an influence in the present. Variations of Montaigne’s ideas on education are incorporated into modern learning in some ways. He argued against the popular way of teaching in his day, encouraging individualized learning. He believed in the importance of experience over book learning and memorization. Ultimately, Montaigne postulated that the point of education was to teach a student how to have a successful life by practising an active and socially interactive lifestyle. :355
RELATED WRITERS AND INFLUENCE
Student taking notes on Montaigne's Essays at
Thinkers exploring similar ideas to Montaigne include
Edward Capell first made the suggestion in 1780, scholars
have suggested Montaigne to be an influence on Shakespeare. The
latter would have had access to
John Florio 's translation of
Montaigne's Essais, published in English in 1603, and a scene in The
Tempest "follows the wording of Florio so closely that his
indebtedness is unmistakable". However, most parallels between the
two can be explained as commonplaces: as with Cervantes , Shakespeare
's similarities with writers in other nations could be due simply to
their simultaneous study of Latin moral and philosophical writers such
Seneca the Younger ,
The English essayist
William Hazlitt expressed boundless admiration
for Montaigne, exclaiming that "he was the first who had the courage
to say as an author what he felt as a man. ... He was neither a pedant
nor a bigot. ... In treating of men and manners, he spoke of them as
he found them, not according to preconceived notions and abstract
dogmas". Beginning most overtly with the essays in the "familiar "
style in his own Table-
Ralph Waldo Emerson chose "Montaigne; or, the Skeptic" as a subject of one of his series of lectures entitled Representative Men, alongside other subjects such as Shakespeare and Plato. In "The Skeptic" Emerson writes of his experience reading Montaigne, "It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke to my thought and experience." Friedrich Nietzsche judged of Montaigne: "That such a man wrote has truly augmented the joy of living on this Earth". Saint-Beuve advises us that "to restore lucidity and proportion to our judgments, let us read every evening a page of Montaigne."
The American philosopher
Eric Hoffer employed Montaigne both
stylistically and in thought. In Hoffer's memoir, Truth Imagined, he
said of Montaigne, "He was writing about me. He knew my innermost
thoughts." The Welsh novelist
John Cowper Powys
20th-century literary critic Erich Auerbach called Montaigne the first modern man. "Among all his contemporaries", writes Auerbach (Mimesis, Chapter 12), "he had the clearest conception of the problem of man's self-orientation; that is, the task of making oneself at home in existence without fixed points of support".
* ^ Robert P. Amico, The Problem of the Criterion, Rowman pour
verifier cet instrument, il nous y faut de la demonstration ; pour
verifier la demonstration, un instrument : nous voilà au rouet "
Charles Cotton ).
* ^ FT.com "Small Talk: José Saramago". "Everything I’ve read
has influenced me in some way. Having said that, Kafka, Borges, Gogol,
Montaigne, Cervantes are constant companions."
* ^ "Montaigne". Random House Webster\'s Unabridged Dictionary .
* ^ His anecdotes are 'casual' only in appearance; Montaigne
writes: 'Neither my anecdotes nor my quotations are always employed
simply as examples, for authority, or for ornament...They often carry,
off the subject under discussion, the seed of a richer and more daring
matter, and they resonate obliquely with a more delicate tone,' Michel
de Montaigne, Essais, Pléiade, Paris (ed. A. Thibaudet) 1937, Bk. 1,
ch.40, p. 252 (tr. Charles Rosen)
* ^ Buckley, Michael J., At the Origins of Modern Atheism, Yale UP,
1990, p. 69.
* ^ A B Kinnaird, John, William Hazlitt: Critic of Power, Columbia
University Press, 1978, p. 274.
* ^ from Truth Imagined, memoir by Eric Hoffer.
* ^ Sophie Jama, L’Histoire Juive de Montaigne , Paris,
Flammarion, 2001, p. 76.
* ^ "His mother was a Jewish Protestant, his father a Catholic who
achieved wide culture as well as a considerable fortune."
Civilization, Kenneth Clark, (Harper & Row: 1969), p. 161.
* ^ Winkler, Emil (1942). "Zeitschrift für Französische Sprache
* ^ Goitein, Denise R (2008). "Montaigne, Michel de". Encyclopaedia
Judaica. The Gale Group. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
* ^ Introduction: Montaigne's Life and Times, in Apology for
Raymond Sebond, By
Michel de Montaigne
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