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:

    Memory is a wonderfully useful tool, and without it judgement does its work with difficulty; it is entirely lacking in me.... Now, the more I distrust my memory, the more confused it becomes. It serves me better by chance encounter; I have to solicit it nonchalantly. For if I press it, it is stunned; and once it has begun to totter, the more I probe it, the more it gets mixed up and embarrassed. It serves me at its own time, not at mine.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    I will follow the good side as far as the fire, but exclusively, if I can.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    Is it reasonable that even the arts should take advantage of and profit by our natural stupidity and feebleness of mind?
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    Tortures are a dangerous invention, and seem to be a test of endurance rather than of truth.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

    The world is but a perennial movement. All things in it are in constant motion—the earth, the rocks of the Caucasus, the pyramids of Egypt—both with the common motion and with their own.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)