1902 Encyclopedia > Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne
French essayist
(1533-92)




MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE (1533-1592), essayist, was born, as he himself tells us, between eleven o’clock and noon on 28th February 1533. The patronymic of the Montainge family, who derived their title from the chateau at which the essayist was born and which had been bought by his grandfather, was Eyquem. It was believed to be English origin, and the long tenure of Gascony and Genuine by the English certainly provided abundant opportunity for the introduction of English colonists. But the elaborate researches of M. Malvézin have proved the existence of a family of Eyquems or Ayquems before the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine of Henry II. of England, though no connexion between this family, who were Sieurs de Lesparre, and the essayist’s ancestors can be made out. Montaigne is not far from Bordeaux, and in Montaigne’s time was in the province of Perigord. It is now in the arrondissement of Bergerac and the department of Dordogne. The Eyquem family had for some time been connected with Bordeaux. Indeed, though they possessed more than one estate in the district, they were of doubtful and certainly very recent nobility. Pierre Eyquem, Montaigne’s father, had been engaged in commerce (a herring-merchant Scaliger calls him), had filled many municipal offices in Bordeaux, and had served under Francis I. in Italy as a soldier. The essayist was not the eldest son, but the third. By the death of his eldest brothers, however, he became head of the family. He had also six younger brothers and sisters. His father appears, like many other men of the time, to have made a hobby of education. Michel was not a strong boy, indeed he was all his life a valetudinarian, and this may have specially prompted his father to take pains with him. At a time when the rod was the universal instrument of teaching it was almost entirely spared to Montaigne. He was, according to the French fashion common at all times, put out to nurse with a peasant woman. But Pierre Eyquem added to this the unusual fancy of choosing his son’s sponsors from the same class, and of accustoming him to associate with it. He was taught Latin orally by servants who could speak no French, and many curious fancies were tried on him, as, for instance, that of waking him every morning by soft music. But he was by no means allowed to be idle. A plan of teaching him Greek, still more out of the common way than his Latin course, by some kind of mechanical arrangement, is not very intelligible, and was quite unsuccessful. These details on his education (which, like most else that is known about him, come from his own mouth) are not only interesting in themselves, but remind the reader how, not far from the same time, the other greatest writer of French during the Renaissance was also exercising himself, though not being exercise, in plans of education almost as fantastic. At six years old (for the father’s reforming views in education do not seem to have disgusted him with the extremely early age at which it was then usual to begin school training) Montaigne was sent to the Colléde de Guienne at Bordeaux, then at the height of its reputation, having more than double the number of scholars (two thousand) that even the largest English public school has usual boasted. Among its masters were Buchanan, afterwards the teacher of James I., and Muretus, one of the first scholars of the age. These, with their colleague Guérente, composed Latin plays for their pupils to act, and are held to have given no small impulse to the production of the classical French tragedy of the Pléiade. Montaigne remained at school seven years, and, like almost all Frenchmen of all time, retained no pleasant or complimentary memory of it. At thirteen he left the Collége de Guienne and began to study law, it is not known where, but probably at Toulouse, the most famous university, despite its religious intolerance, of the south of France. Of his youth, early manhood, and middle life extremely little is known. Allusions to it in the Essays are frequent enough, but they are rarely precise. In 1548 he was at Bordeaux during one of the frequent riots caused by the gabelle, or salt tax. Six years afterwards, having attained his majority, he was made a counselor in the Bordeaux parliament. In 1558 he was present at the siege of Thionville. Like his father, he certainly served in the army, for he has frequent allusions to military experiences. He was also much about the court, and he admits very frankly that in his youth he led a life of pleasure, if not exactly of excess. In 1566 he married Fancoise de la Chassaigne, whose father was, like himself, a member of the Bordeaux parliament. Three years later his father died, and he succeeded to the family possessions. Finally in 1571, as he tells us in an inscription still extant, he retired to Montaigne to take up his abode there. This was the turning-point of his life.

Michel de Montaigne image

Michel de Montaigne


It has been said that his health was never strong, and it had been further weakened by the hard living (in both senses of that phrase) which was usual at the time. He resolved, accordingly, to retire to a life of study and contemplation, though he did not in the least seclude himself, and indulged in no asceticism expected careful diet. Montaigne was a large country house unfortified (in which circumstance it astute possessor saw rather safety than danger from the turbulence of the religious wars), and its owner’s revenues, without being large, appear to have been easy. He neither had nor professed any enthusiastic affection for his wife, but he lived on excellent terms with her, and bestowed some pains on the education of the only child (a daughter) who survived infancy. In his study which he has minutely described, he read, wrote, dictated, mediated, inscribed moral sentences, which still remain on the walls and rafters, and in other ways gave himself up to learned ease. He was not new to literature. In this father’s lifetime, and at his request, he had translated the Theologia Naturalis of Raymond de Sebonde, a Spanish schoolman. On first coming to live at Montaigne he edited the works of his deceased friend Etienne de la Boétie, who had been the comrade of his youth, who died early, and who, with poems of real promise, had composed a declamatory and schoolboyish theme on rebulicanism, entitled the Contr’ Un, which is one of the most over-estimated books in literature. But the years of his studios retirement were spent on a work of infinitely greater importance. Garrulous after a fashion, as Montaigne is, he gives us no clear idea of any original or definite impulse leading him to write the famous Essays. It is very probable that if they were at first intended to have any special form at all it was that of a table-book or journal, such as was never more commonly kept than in the 16th century. Bu the author must have been more or les conscious of an order existing in the disorder of his thoughts, and this may have induced him to keep them apart in chapters, or lat least under chapter-headings, and at the same time not to cut them up into mere pensées. It is certainly very noticeable that the earlier essays, those of the first two books, differ from the later in one most striking point, in that of length. Speaking generally, the essays of the third book average fully four times the length of those of the other two. This of itself would suggest a difference in the system of composition. For the present, however, we may confine ourselves to the first two books. These appeared in 1580, when their author was forty-seven years old.

They contain, as at present published, no less than ninety-three essays, besides an exceedingly long apology for the already-mentioned Raymond Sebonde, which amounts to about a quarter of the whole in bulk, and differs curiously from its companions in matter no less than in scale. The book begins with a short avis (address to the reader), opening with the well-known words, "C’est icy un livre de bon foy lecteur," and sketching in a few lively sentences the character of meditative egotism which is kept up throughout. His sole object, the author says, is to leave for his friends and relations a mental portrait of himself, defects and all; he cares neither for utility nor fame. The essays then begin without any attempt to explain or classify their subjects. Their titles are of the most diverse character. Sometimes they are proverbial sayings, or moral adages, such as: "Par divers moyens on arrive à pareille fin" "Qu’il ne faut jugesr de notre heur qu’aprés la mort", "Le profit de’ I’on est le dommage de I’aultre." Sometimes they are headed like the chapters of treatise on ethics: "De la tristesse", "De I’oisiveté", "De la peur", "De l’amitié." Sometimes a fact of some sort which has awaked a train associations in the mind of the writer serves as a title, such as: "On est puni de s’opiniastrer à une place sans raison", "De lab bataille de Dreux", &c. Occasionally the titles seem to be deliberately fantastic, as: "Des puces", "De I’usage de se vestir." Sometimes, though not very often, the sections are in no proper sense essays, but merely commonplace book entries of singular facts or quotations with hardly any comment. These point to the haphazard or indirect origin of them which has been already suggested. But generally the essay-characteræthat is to say, the discussion of a special point, it may be with wide digressions and divergenceædisplays itself. The digressions are indeed constant, and sometime have the appearance of being absolutely wilful. The nominal title, even when most strictly observed, is rarely more than a starting-point; and, though the brevity of these first essays for the most part prevents the author from journeying very far, he contrives to get to the utmost range of his tether. Quotations are very frequent. These are the principal external characteristics of the book; its internal spirit had better be treated when it can be spoken of completely.





Between the publication of the first two books of essays in 1580 and the publication of the third in 1588, Montaigne’s life as distinguished from his writings becomes somewhat better known, and somewhat more interesting. He had, during the eight years of composition of his first volume, visited Paris occasionally and traveled for health or please to Cauterets, Eaux Chaudes, and elsewhere. Charles IX., apparently, had made him one of his gentlemen in ordinary, and perhaps conferred on him the order of St Michael. The fiercest period of the religious wars, save that yet to come of the League, passed over him without harming him, though not without subjecting him to some risks. But his health grew worse and worse, and he was tormented by stone and gravel. He accordingly resolved to journey to the baths of Lucca. Late in the 18th century a journal was found in the chateau of Montaigne, giving an account of this journey, and it was published in 1774; part of it is written in Italian and part dictated in French, the latter being for the most part the work of a secretary or servant. Whatever may be the biographical value of this work, which has rarely been reprinted with the Essays themselves, it is almost entirely destitute of literary interest. Written, moreover, according to its own showing merely for the author’s own eye, it contains abundance of details as to the medicinal effect of the various baths which he visited, details which may be said to superfluous to a medical reader, and disgusting to any other. The course of the journey was first northwards to Plombiéres, then by Basel to Augsburg and Munich, then through Tyrol to Verona and Padua in Italy. Montaigne visited most of the famous cities of the north and centre, staying five months at Rome, and finally establishing himself at the baths of Lucca for nearly as long a time. There he received news of his election as mayor of Bordeaux, and after some time journeyed home-wards. The tour contains much minute information about roads, food, traveling, &c., but the singular condition in which it exists, and the absence of a really good critical edition hitherto, make it rather difficult to use it as a document. The freak of writing part of it in a strange dog-Italian is not uncharacteristic of Montaigne, but the words of his last and best editors, MM. Courbet and Royer, who speak of the letters as "I’unique complément des essais," seem to indicate that they are not of those who accept the published Voyage as authentic. Of the fact of the journey there is no doubt whatever.

Montaigne (as was not unnatural in a man of his temperament, who had for some years, if not for the greater part of his life, lived solely to please himself) was not altogether delighted at his election to the mayoralty, which promised him two years of responsible if not very hard work. The memory of his father, however, and the commands of the king, which seem to have been expressed in a manner rather stronger than a mere formal confirmation, induced him to accept it; and he seems to have discharged it neither better nor worse than an average magistrate. Indeed, he gave sufficient satisfaction to the citizens to be re-elected at the close of his term, and it may be suspected that the honour of the position, which was really one of considerable dignity, and importance, was not altogether indifferent to him. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that nothing in his office became him like the leaving of it, for it was at the close of his second tenure that the he gave the only sign of the demoralizing effect which his sometimes alleged by severe moralists to come of the half epicurean, half sceptical philosophy which he undoubtedly professed. It was his business, if not exactly his duty, to preside at the formal election of his successor, the maréchal de Matignon; but there was a severe pestilence in Bordeaux, and Montaigne writes to the jurats of the town, in one of the new undoubtedly authentic letters which we possess, to the effect that he will leave them to judge whether his presence at the election is so necessary as to make it worth his while to expose himself to the daughter of going into the town in its then condition, "which is specially dangerous for men coming from a good air as he does." That is to say, the chief magistrate of one of the greatest towns in France not only declined to visit it because of sickness prevailing there, but had left it to itself at a time when nearly half the population perished and when, according to the manners of the age, civil disturbance was almost sure to follow accordingly. Attempts have been made to justify Montaigne, and it may be at least said that he at no time pretended to unselfish heroism; but it is to be feared that the facts and the inference drawn from them admit of no dispute. At the least, Montaigne’s conduct must be allowed to contrast very little to his advantage with that of Rotrou in the next century under somewhat similar circumstances though in a position of much less responsibility. It may, however, be urged in Montaigne’s favour that the general circumstances of the time, where they did not produce reckless and foolhardy daring, almost necessarily produced a somewhat excessive caution. The League was on the point of attaining its greatest power; the extreme Calvinist and Navarrese party, on the other side, was (as may be seen in Agreppa d’Aubigné) no less fanatical than the League itself, and the salvation of France seemed to lie in the third party of politiques, or trimmers, to which Montaigne belonged. The capital motto of this party was that of the Scotch saying, "Jouk and let the jaw gang by," and the continual habit of parrying and avoiding political danger might be apt to extend itself to dangers other than political. However this may be, Montaigne had difficulty enough during this turbulent period, all the more so from his neighbourhood to the chief haunts and possessions of Henry of Navarre. He was able, however, despite the occupations of his journey, his mayoralty, and the pressure of civil war and pestilence, which was not confined to the town, to continue his essay writing, and in 1588, after a visit of some length to Paris, the third book of the Essays was published, together with the former ones considerably revised. The new essays, as has been remarked, differ strikingly from the older ones in respect of length; there being only one which confines itself to the average of those in the first two books. The whimsical unexpectedness of the titles, moreover, reappears in but two of them: "Des coches" and "Des boiteux." They are, however, identical with the earlier ones in spirit, and make with them a harmonious wholeæa book which has hardly been second in influence to any of the modern world.

This influence is almost equally remarkable in point of matter and in point of form, as regards the subsequent history of thought and as regards the subsequent history of literature. The latter aspect may be taken first. Montaigne is one of the few great writers who have not only perfected but have also invented a literary form. The essay as he gave it have no forerunner in literature, and no direct ancestor in the literature of classical times. It is indeed not improbable that it owes something to the body of tractates by different authors and different dates, which goes under the name of Plutarch’s Morals, and it also bears some resemblance to the miscellaneous work of Lucian. But the resemblance is in both cases at most that of suggestion. The peculiar desultoriness and tentative character of the essay proper were alien to the orderly character of the Greek mind, as were also its garrulity and the tendency which it has rather to reveal the idiosyncrasy of the writer than to deal in a systematic manner with the peculiarities of the subject. It has been suggested that the form which the essays assumed was in a way accidental, and this of itself precludes the idea of definite model even if such a model could be found. Beginning with the throwing together of a few stray thoughts and quotations linked by a community of subject, the author by degrees acquires more and more certainty of hand, until he produces such masterpieces of apparent desultoriness and real unity as the essay "Sur des vers de Virgile." In matter of style and language Montaigne’s position is equally important, but the ways which led him to it are more clearly traceable. His favourite author was beyond all doubt Plutarch, and his own explicit confession makes it undeniable that Plutarch’s translator Amyot was his master in point of vocabulary, and (so far as he took any lessons in it) of style. Amyot was unquestionably one of the most remarkable writers of French in the 16th century, and to him more than to any one else is due the beauty of the prose style which marked the second half of that century, a style which, though unequal and requiring to be modified for general use, is at its best the very flower of the language. Montaigne, however, followed with the perfect independence that characterized him. He was a contemporary of Ronsard, and his first essays were published when the innovations of the Pléiade had fully established themselves. He adopted them to a great extent, but with much discriminations, and he used his own judgment in Latinizing when he pleased. In the same way he retained archaic and provincial words with a good deal of freedom, but by no means to excess. In the arrangement as in the selection of his language he is equally original. There is little or no trace in him of the interminable sentence which is the drawback of early prose in all languages when it has to deal with anything more difficult to manage than mere narrative. He has not excessive classicism of style which mars even the fine prose of Calvin, and which makes that of some of Calvin’s followers intolerably stiff. As a rule he is careless of definitely rhythmical cadence, though his sentences are always pleasant to the ear. But the principal characteristic of Montaigne’s prose style is remarkable ease and flexibility. These peculiarities, calculated in themselves to exercise a salutary influence on a language as yet somewhat undisciplined, acquired by accident an importance of an extraordinary kind. A few years after Montaigne’s death a great revolution, as is generally known, passed over French. The criticism of Malherbe, followed by the establishment of the Academy, the minute grammatical censures of Vaugelas, and the severe literary censorship of Boileau turned French in less than three-quarters of a century from one of the freest languages in Europe to one of the most restricted. The Latinisms and Græcisms of the Pléiade were tabooed at the same time with the most picturesque expressions of the older tongue. The efforts of the reformers were directed above all things to weed and to refine, to impose additional difficulties in the way of writing exquisitely, at the same time that, by holding out a strictly-defined model, they assisted persons of little genius and imagination to write tolerably. During the revolution only two writers of older date held their ground, and those two were Rebelais and Montaigne,æ Montaigne being of his nature more generally readable than Rebelais. The Essays, the popularity of which no academic censorship could touch, thus kept before the eyes of the 17th and 18th centuries a treasury of French in which every generation could behold the riches of their ancestors. The study of them influenced all the great prose writers of France, and they could not fail to be influenced in the direction which it was most important that they should take by the racy phrase, the quaint and picturesque vocabulary, and the unconstrained constructions of Montaigne.





It would be impossible, however, for the stoutest defender of the importance of form n literature to assign the chief part in Montaigne’s influences to style. It is the method or rather the manner of thinking of which that style is the garment which has in reality exercised influence on the world. Like all writers except Shakespeare, Montaigne thoroughly and completely exhibits the intellectual and moral complexion of his own time. When he reached manhood the French Renaissance (which was perhaps on the whole the most characteristic example of the phenomenon, the religious element being neither in excess as it was in England and Germany, nor in defect as it had been in Italy) was at high water, and the turn of the tide was beginning. Rebelais, who died when Montaigne was still in early manhood, exhibits the earlier and rising spirit, though he needs to be completed on the poetical side. The Renaissance had, as all revolts against authority must have, a certain sceptical element, but it was not at first by any means eminently sceptical. Despite the half ironical, half warning termination of Pantagruel, an immense confidence and delight, as of the invader of a promised land, fills the pages of Rabelais. He rejoices in his strength, in his knowledge, in his freedom, in the pleasures of the flesh and the spirit. The Montaigne begins the age of disenchantment. By the time at least when he began to meditate his essays in the retirement of his country house ti was tolerably certain that no golden age was about to return. The Reformation had brought not peace but a sword, and the Calvinists were as intolerant as the Catholics. The revival of learning had, whatever its benefits, merely changed the outward guise of pedants instead of extirpating pedantry. The art of printing had multiplied rubbish as well as valuable matter. The discovery of America had brought ruin to the discovered, and disease and discord to the discoverers. The horrors of a disputed succession were already threatening France. These things were enough to make thoughtful men dubious about the blessings of progress and reform; but the extreme dissoluteness which characterized the private life of the time also brought about its natural result of satiety. Physical science had hardly yet emerged to occupy some active minds; scholasticism was dead, while Bacon and Descartes had not arisen; nothing like a theory of politics had been evolved, though Bodin and a few others were feeling after one. As the earlier Renaissance had specially occupied itself with the practical business and pleasures of life, so the later Renaissance specially mused on the vanity of this business and these pleasures. The predisposing circumstances which affected Montaigne were thus likely to incline him to scepticism, to ethical musings on the vanity of life and the like. But to all this there had to be added the peculiarity of his own temperament. This was a decidedly complicated one, and neglect of it has led some readers to adopt a more positive idea of Montaigne’s scepticism than is fully justified by all the facts. The municipality of Rome has put up a tablet on the house occupied by Montaigne during his visit there, which speaks of him as a "founder of the new philosophy." In Italian mouths at the present day this is equivalent to an assertion that Montaigne was an enemy of Christianity. No assumption can be more gratuitous or less borne out by the text of his works and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from them. The attitude which he assumed was no doubt ephectic and critical chiefly. He decorated his study of Montaigne with inscriptions (still, by dint of accidental preservation and restoration not accidental, legible there), most of which are of the most pessimist and sceptical character. Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, Horace, Lucretius, Sextus Empiricus, the fragments of the Greek dramatics and philosophers, are ransacked for epigraphs indicating the vanity of human reason, human wishes, human belief, human thoughts and actions of every kind. In one curious essays (if indeed it is to be called an essay), the "Apologie de Raymond Sebonde," he has apparently amused himself with gathering, in the shape of quotations as well as of reflexions, all that can be said against certainty in æsthetics as well as in dogmatics. But the general tenor of the essays is in complete contrast with this sceptical attitude, at least in its more decided form, and it is worth notice that the motto "Que scai-je?" does not appear on the title page till after the writer’s death. The general disposition, moreover, manifested in these famous writings is very far from being determinedly Pyrrhonist or despairingly misanthropic. Montaigne is far too much occupied about all sorts of the minutest details of human life to make it for a moment admissible that he regarded that life as a whole but as smoke and vapour. He is much too curious of the varieties of belief, and too keenly interested in following them out, to leave himself in peril of the charge that all belief was to him a matter of indifference. The reason of misapprehension of him which is current is due very mainly to the fact that he was eminently a humorist in the midst of a people to whom, since his time, humour has been nearly unknown. But there is more than this. The humorist as a recognized genus almost always passes into the satirist. The temper which has been admirably defined as thinking in jest while feeling in earnest naturally throws itself into opposition, though it may not always take the irreconcilable form of the opposition of Swift. Perhaps the only actual parallel to Montaigne in literature is Lamb. There are difference between them, arising naturally enough from differences of temperature and experience; but both agree in their attitudeæan attitude which is sceptical without being negative, and humorist without being satiric. There is hardly any writer in whom the human comedy appears treated with such completeness as it is in Montaigne. There is discernible in his essays no attempt to map out a complete plan, and then to fill up its outlines. But in the desultory and haphazard fashion which distinguishes him there are few parts of life on which he does not touch. The exceptions are chiefly to be found in the higher and more poetical strains of feeling to which the humorist temperature lends itself with reluctance and distrust, though it by no means excludes them. The French disposition, by a change which has never been sufficient for, and of which the most accurate examination of documents fails fully to detect the reason, had become, after being strongly idealist in the earlier Middle Ages, absolutely positive in the latter, and from this positiveness it have never quite freed itself. This positiveness is already noticeable in Rabelais; it becomes more noticeable still in Montaigne. He is always charming, but he is rarely inspiring, except in a very few passages where the sense of vanity and nothingness possess him with unusual strength. As a general rule, an agreeable grotesque of the affairs of life (a grotesque which never loses hold of good taste sufficiently to be called burlesque) occupies him. There is a kind of anticipation of the scientific spirit in the careful zeal with which he picks up odd aspects of mankind, and comments upon them as he places them in his museum. Such a temperament is most pleasantly shown when it is least personal. The letter to the Bordeaux jurats does not, as has been said, show Montaigne in his best light, nor does another letter to his wife, in which he condoles with her on the death of one of their children in a strain which must have drawn from any woman of sensibility and spirit a torrent of indignant tears. But what is almost offensive in immediate and private relationships becomes not only tolerable but delightful in the impersonal and irresponsible relationship of author to reader. A dozen generations of men have rejoiced in the gentle irony with which Montaigne handles the ludicrum humani sæculi, in the quaint felicity of his selection of examples, and in the real though sometimes fantastic wisdom of his comment on his selections.

Montaigne did not very long survive the completion of his book. His sojourn at Paris for the purpose of getting it printed was by no means uneventful, and on his way he stayed for some at Blois, where he met De Thou. In Paris itself he had a more disagreeable experience, being for a short time committed to the Bastille by the Leaguers, as a kind of hostage, it is said, for a member of their party who had been arrested at Rouen by Henry of Navarre. But he was in no real danger. He was well known to and favoured by both Catherine de’ Medici and the Guises, and was very soon released. In Paris, too, at this time he made a whimsical but pleasant friendship. Marie le Jars, Demoiselle de Gournay, one of the most learned ladies of the 16th and 17th centuries, and conceived such a veneration for the author of the Essays that, though a very young girl and connected with many noble families, she traveled to the capital on purpose to make his acquaintance. He gave her the title of his "fille d’alliance" (adopted daughter), which she bore proudly for the rest of her long life. She lived far into the 17th century, and became a character and something of a laughing-stock to the new generation; but her services to Montaigne’s literary memory were, as will be seen, great. Of this other friends in these years of his life the most important were Etienne Pasquier and Pierre Charron. The latter, indeed, was more than a friend, he was a disciple; and Montaigne, just as he had constituted Mademoiselle de Gournay his "file d’alliance," bestowed on Charron the rather curious compliment of desiring that he should take the arms of the family of Montaigne. It has been thought from these two facts, and from an expression in one of her later essays, that the marriage of his daughter Léonore had not turned out to his satisfaction. But family affection, except towards his father, way by no means Montaigne’s strongest point.

Not much is known of him in these later years, and indeed, despite the laborious researches of many biographers, of whom one, Dr. Payen, has never been excelled in preserving devotion, it cannot be said that the amount of available information about Montaigne is large at any time of his life. it would seem that the essayist had returned to his old life of study and meditation and working up this Essays. No new ones were found after his death, but many alterations and insertions. His various maladies grew worse; yet they were not the direct cause of his death. He was attacked with quinsy, which rapidly brought about paralysis of the tongue, and he died on the 11th of September 1592, under circumstances which, as Pasquier reports them, completely disprove any intention, at least on his part, of displaying anti-Christian or anti-Catholic leanings. Feeling himself on the point of death, he summoned divers of his friends and neighbours to his chamber, had mass said before him, and endeavored to raise himself and assume a devotional attitude at the elevation of the host, dying immediately afterwards. He was buried, though not till some months after his death, in a church in Bordeaux, which after some vicissitudes became the chapel of the College. During the Revolution the tomb and, as it was supposed, the coffin were transferred with much pomp to the town museum; but it was discovered that the wrong coffin had been taken, and the whole was afterwards restored to its old position. Montaigne’s widow survived him, and his daughter left posterity which became merged in the noble houses of Ségur and Lur-Saluces. But it does not appear that any male representative of the family survived, and the chateau is not now in the possession of it.

When Mademoiselle de Gournay heard of the death of Montaigne she undertook with her mother a visit of ceremony and condolence of the widow, which had important results for literature. Madame de Montaigne gave her a copy of the edition of 1588, annotated copiously; at the same time, apparently, she bestowed another copy, also annotated by the author, on the convent of the Feuillatns in Bordeaux, to which the church in which his remains lay way attached. Mademoiselle de Gournay thereupon set to work to produce a new ad final edition with a zeal and energy which would have done credit to any editor to any date. She herself worked with her own copy, inserting the additions, marking the alteration, and translating all the quotation. But when she had got this to press she sent the proofs to Bordeaux, where a poet of some note, Pierre de Brach, revised them with the other annotated copy. The edition thus produced has with justice passed as the standard even in preference to those which appeared in the author’s lifetime. Unluckily, Mademoiselle de Gournay’s original does not appear to exist, and her text was said, until the appearance of MM. Courbet and Royer’s edition, to have been somewhat wantonly corrupted, especially in the important point of spelling. The Feuillants copy is in existence, being the only manuscripts or partly manuscript authority for the next. It was edited in 1803 by Naigeon, the disciple of Diderot; but, according to later inquiries, considerable liberties were taken with it. The first edition of 1580, with the various readings of two others which appeared during the author’s lifetime, was reprinted by MM. Dezeimeris and Burckhausen. Hitherto the edition of Le Clerc (3 vols., Paris, 1826-28) and in a more compact form that of Louandre (4 vols., Paris, 1854) have been the most useful. The edition, however, of MM. Courbet and Royer, which is based on that of 1595, will undoubtedly be the standard; but, though the text is complete (Paris, Lemerre, 1873-1877), the fifth volume, containing the biography and in all the editorial apparatus, has unlucky yet (1883) to make its appearance. The edition of Montaigne is France and elsewhere, and the works upon him during the past three centuries, are innumerable. His influence upon his successor has already been hinted at, and cannot here be traced in detail. In one case, however,æthat of Pascalæit is of sufficient importance to deserve mention. Pascal, who has left a special discourse on Montaigne, was evidently profoundly influenced by him, and the attitude towards his teacher is an interesting one. The sceptical method of the essayist is at one tempting and terrible to him. He accepts it in so far as it demolishes the claims of human reason and heathen philosophy, but evidently dreads it in so far as it is susceptible of being turned against religion itself. In England Montaigne was early popular. It was long supposed that the autograph of Shakespeare in a copy of Florio’s translation showed his study of the Essays. The autograph has been disputed, but divers passages, and specially one in The Tempest, show that at first or second hand the poet was acquainted with the essayist. Towards the latter end of 17th century, Cotton, the friend of Isaac Walton, executed a complete translation, which, though not extraordinary, faithful, possesses a good deal of rough vigour. It has been frequently reprinted with additions and alterations. The most noteworthy critical handling of the subject in English is unquestionably Emerson’s in Representative Men. (G. SA.)



The above article was written by George Edward Bateman Saintsbury, M.A.; Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature, Edinburgh University, from 1895; author of A Short History of French Literature, The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory, A Short History of English Literature, etc.



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