Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne – what a dude! I enjoyed this book more than any I have read in a long time.

Montaigne invented the essay. He wrote in French and the English word comes from the French ‘essayer’, meaning ‘to try’. These are his stabs at understanding an amazingly wide range of questions and then sharing his thoughts about them.

His first language, amazingly, was Latin, even though he was brought up in 16th century France. His essays are peppered with references to ancient Greece and Rome, which I found delightful, though as an ex-classicist I might be biased.

But the real joy of the book is its companionability. It really does feel like sitting down with a very clever and interesting friend and shooting the breeze.

His learning is worn lightly, however. He makes many serious philosophical points but always with great humour and humanity. So much of the essays is quotable, because he is so full of modesty and good sense.

I cannot recommend these writings highly enough.


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