Montaigne on Ketchup-Flavoured Cheetos

In his famous work, Essays, Michel de Montaigne, channelling the Epicureans, wrote that, “All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim. (Book I: On the Power of Imagination).” And I have to admit that what we euphemistically call “junk food” is a widespread pleasure that many of us enjoy these days. Of course, Montaigne, ever the skeptic, also wrote, “Que sais … (more–>)

Montaigne on Ice Cream

No, Michel de Montaigne did not write about ice cream. I just used his name to entice you into this musing. But given the wide variety of topics he did write about, you’d think he might have at least penned a few words on it. Had it been available in his time, that is. It would suit his style to muse on its flavours, texture, ingredients, and … (more–>)

Musings on Montaigne’s Cannibals

Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals contributed at least some of the content and ideas in Shakespeare’s late play, The Tempest. A speech by the recently-shipwrecked counsellor Gonzalo in Act 2, Sc.1 about creating a utopian community on the island is lifted almost word-for-word from this essay.* Montaigne’s other essays might have added to other of The Bard’s plays as well, although we can’t be sure when he … (more–>)

Back to Montaigne

When I find myself in times of trouble, I go back to read Montaigne. Seeking words of wisdom, Read some more… (to the tune of Let It Be, with apologies to the Beatles) I was up late these last few nights reading Michel de Montaigne into the wee, dark hours. Although I used to read him rather frequently and found him an inspiration for several posts, … (more–>)

Montaigne and The Block

I do love reading Michel de Montaigne.  And writing about him. In 2014 alone, I wrote ten separate posts about him and his famous book, Essays. But since then, my reading habits moved on to other writers and topics. I hadn’t actually been reading Montaigne in the past few years, but recently while sorting some of my books, I found him again. I started re-reading the … (more–>)

Montaigne on Friendship, Liars and Politics

“I am seeking the companionship and society of such men as we call honourable and talented,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay, On the Three Kinds of Social Intercourse (Book III, 3). “It is, when you reflect on it, the rarest of all our forms…” Montaigne was musing in his essay and others on the nature of not simply friendship, but on what attracted people … (more–>)

Montaigne: The Depravity of Our Morals

“Our judgments follow the depravity of our morals and remain sick,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay On Cato the Younger (Essay XXXVII, Book I, Screech translation, Penguin Classics, 2003). That’s quite a condemnation.* Montaigne opens that essay by quietly commenting, “I do not suffer from that common failing of judging another man by me.” Would that we all had his strength, not to judge … (more–>)

Translating Montaigne

With two printed versions of Montaigne’s essays (translations by Donald Frame and M. A. Screech) and a couple of online editions available to me, I thought I might offer some examples of how individual translations have captured Montaigne’s writing and let you judge which you think is clearer and crisper for reading today. I chose, somewhat at random, some lines from Book 1, Essay 50: Of … (more–>)

Montaigne’s cat and Descartes’ reality

“When I play with my cat,” wrote French philosopher and essayist, Michel de Montaigne, “Who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.*” That statement encompasses two very distinct paths of contemplation. First is one of animal sentience. The recognition that animals are conscious, that they are sentient creatures, with feelings and intelligence, not simply biological machines, is fairly new. … (more–>)

Montaigne and Machiavelli

Michel de Montaigne mentioned Machiavelli only twice in his Essays, both in Book Two. This tells us he was aware of the latter, but not whether he was intimately familiar with his works. Nor does it tell us which of Machiavelli’s writings he is referring to (by this date, all of Machiavelli’s major works were in print). Machiavelli himself had died in 1527, some 50 or … (more–>)

Montaigne’s words on anger

“There is no passion that so shakes the clarity of our judgment as anger,” Montaigne wrote in Book II of his Essays (Chapter 31). “It is a passion that takes pleasure in itself and flatters itself.” That strikes me a very Buddhist statement, a comment lifted from the Dhammapada, although Montaigne was a solid Catholic. It certainly has a similar wisdom. I have seen that anger … (more–>)

Montaigne’s library

I read yesterday that Montaigne had a library of 1,000 books, of which he was very proud. It was his retreat – the room he went to where he wanted to get away from things and write. Machiavelli, too, had a study with a small collection of books he treasured, albeit a much smaller selection. Both, however, treasured the classic Greek and Roman authors, the wisdom … (more–>)

Finding my muse in Montaigne

Muse: a source of inspiration; especially a guiding genius; the imaginary force thought to provide inspiration to poets, writers, artists, etc. A muse, for modern writers, is that indefinable force that drives us to write. It’s part imagination, part inspiration. I suspect there’s a heady brew of psychology and biology at work, too. Why write instead of, say, paint? Or sculpt? Or compose? I don’t know. … (more–>)

Wild Fruits

When he died of tuberculosis in his mother’s home, in 1862, 44-year-old Henry David Thoreau had already made his mark on the world with the publication of several books and numerous essays, including Civil Disobedience, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, The Maine Woods, A Yankee in Canada, and his classic, Walden, or Life in the Woods. I trust we’re all familiar with Thoreau’s … (more–>)

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