Michel de Montaigne
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Considered the inventor of the essay itself, Michel de Montaigne published Essays (Essais, literally "Attempts") in 1850. Known for his skill at merging serious intellectual debate with personal anecdotes, his vast work collects together some of the most influential essays the world has ever seen, shaping the thoughts Blaise Pascal, René Descartes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stefan Zweig, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Isaac Asimov among others. Montaigne stated that his aim in writing these works was to describe humankind, including himself, with complete frankness.
fortitude." And then, as they were holding his mouth open by force to give him a draught, he observed to M. de Belot: "An vivere tanti est?" As the evening approached, he began perceptibly to sink; and while I supped, he sent for me to come, being no more than the shadow of a man, or, as he put it himself, 'non homo, sed species hominis'; and he said to me with the utmost difficulty: "My brother, my friend, please God I may realise the imaginations I have just enjoyed." Afterwards, having waited
death, to render it the more honourable, an invitation that he accepted; and having long tried in vain by the power of his eloquence, which was very great, and persuasion, to divert her from that design, he acquiesced in the end in her own will. She had passed the age of four score and ten in a very happy state, both of body and mind; being then laid upon her bed, better dressed than ordinary and leaning upon her elbow, "The gods," said she, "O Sextus Pompeius, and rather those I leave than those
furniture, not only for the supplying my own need, but, moreover, for ornament and outward show, I have since quite cured myself of. Books have many charming qualities to such as know how to choose them; but every good has its ill; 'tis a pleasure that is not pure and clean, no more than others: it has its inconveniences, and great ones too. The soul indeed is exercised therein; but the body, the care of which I must withal never neglect, remains in the meantime without action, and grows heavy
of our life; as, how we are to live and die, manage our property, love and bring up our children, maintain justice: a singular testimony of human infirmity; and that this reason we so handle at our pleasure, finding evermore some diversity and novelty, leaves in us no apparent trace of nature. Men have done with nature as perfumers with oils; they have sophisticated her with so many argumentations and far-fetched discourses, that she is become variable and particular to each, and has lost her
he who has had them read to him only, and so only knows them. If you see him, you hear him; if you hear him, you see him. God forbid, says one in Plato, that to philosophise were only to read a great many books, and to learn the arts. "Hanc amplissimam omnium artium bene vivendi disciplinam, vita magis quam literis, persequuti sunt." ("They have proceeded to this discipline of living well, which of all arts is the greatest, by their lives, rather than by their reading."—Cicero, Tusc. Quaes.,