About the Author
Terence Cave is Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford, Emeritus Research Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance and other studies in early modern French culture.
Read an Excerpt
‘It is the only book of its kind in the world, wild and extravagant
in conception’ (II.8): this is how on one occasion
Michel de Montaigne describes the extraordinary miscellany
of writings which he first published in 1580 and which he
subsequently elaborated and extended until his death in 1592.
The Essais, as he called it, is a highly original outgrowth of
the humanist, Latin-based culture of late Renaissance France.
Michel de Montaigne’s father engaged tutors to speak Latin to
him from his earliest childhood, so that he was virtually bilingual
in French and Latin. His family had made its money in
trade and its aristocratic title was only recently acquired; he
himself had legal training and occupied prominent positions in
the local judiciary and administration. Some three years after
his father died in 1568, he gave up these public duties, at least
for a while, in order to devote himself to his domestic responsibilities.
This ‘retirement’ also had another purpose, however:
it gave him leisure to read, reflect and write, and within a
remarkably short time he was beginning to compose fragments
of what would become the Essais, the only original
composition that he published during his lifetime.
Table of Contents
Series Editor’s Foreword vi
A Note on the Text ix
1 Documenting the Mind 7
2 Essaying 18
3 Philosophies 31
4 Belief 46
5 Thinking with a Conscience 58
6 Travel 72
7 Documenting the Self 83
8 Conversation 96
9 Writing for the Future 106
Suggestions for Further Reading 127