Michel De Montaigne

Michel De Montaigne

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (; February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592) was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre, and commonly thought of as the father of modern skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts" or "Trials") contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a direct influence on writers the world over, including René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, Isaac Asimov, and possibly on the later works of William Shakespeare.

In his own time, 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 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; modern French Que sais-je?). 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 story-telling.

Read more about Michel De MontaigneLife, Essais, Related Writers and Influence, Quotations

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Famous quotes by michel de montaigne:

    Nature should have been pleased to have made this age miserable, without making it also ridiculous.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    Whoever will imagine a perpetual confession of ignorance, a judgment without leaning or inclination, on any occasion whatever, has a conception of Pyrrhonism.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    I, who travel most often for my pleasure, do not direct myself so badly. If it looks ugly on the right, I take the left; if I find myself unfit to ride my horse, I stop.... Have I left something unseen behind me? I go back; it is still on my road. I trace no fixed line, either straight or crooked.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)