The montagne essays
Do you not perceive now that the help you give me has no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering?
I told him that this would shock them. 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.
Montaigne on idleness
Writing in a time of cruel sectarian violence , Montaigne is unconvinced by the ageless claim that having a dogmatic faith is necessary or especially effective in assisting people to love their neighbours : Between ourselves, I have ever observed supercelestial opinions and subterranean manners to be of singular accord … This scepticism applies as much to the pagan ideal of a perfected philosophical sage as it does to theological speculations. He was, without being aware of it, the leader of a new school in letters and morals. But he desired to leave France, nay, and the world, something to be remembered by, something which should tell what kind of a man he was—what he felt, thought, suffered—and he succeeded immeasurably, I apprehend, beyond his expectations. I well foresaw that, if his illness permitted him to express himself, he would allow nothing to fall from him, in such an extremity, that was not replete with good example. We find in these accounts, however, many touches which are valuable as illustrating the manners of the place. It was the 13th September It is not my desire at present discourage you from this course, for I would have no one act in opposition to his conscience; but I wish, having regard to the good repute acquired by your family from its enduring concord—a family than which none can be dearer to me; a family, thank God! Eloquence, rhetorical effect, poetry, were alike remote from his design. By the grace of God, my days so far have known nothing but health and happiness; but in the ordinary course of our unstable human affairs, this could not have lasted much longer; it would have become time for me to enter on graver avocations, and I should thus have involved myself in numberless vexations, and, among them, the troubles of old age, from which I shall now be exempt. I believe that he feels something of what I do on his behalf, and that my services touch and rejoice him. Placed between two extreme parties, ever on the point of getting to blows, he showed himself in practice what he is in his book, the friend of a middle and temperate policy. This will be an inducement to you to continue to cherish towards his memory, your good opinion and goodwill. Those thoughts became a book, and the first part of that book, which was to confer immortality on the writer, appeared at Bordeaux in
But, at the same time, estimating the value and rank of the essayist, we are not to leave out of the account the drawbacks and the circumstances of the period: the imperfect state of education, the comparative scarcity of books, and the limited opportunities of intellectual intercourse.
A representative quote is "I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself. I postponed till now any communication with you on the subject, and perhaps the condition in which you see me address you, may cause my advice and opinion to carry greater authority.
I should also regret it on account of such as have, in my lifetime, valued me, and whose conversation I should like to have enjoyed a little longer; and I beseech you, my brother, if I leave the world, to carry to them for me an assurance of the esteem I entertained for them to the last moment of my existence.
Their wisdom, he suggestswas chiefly evident in the lives they led neither wrote a thing.
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