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[THIS KINDLE BOOK QUALITY IS GUARANTEED: It has been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.] The Essays of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record "some traits of my character and of [THIS KINDLE BOOK QUALITY IS GUARANTEED: It has been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.] The Essays of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record "some traits of my character and of my humours." The Essays were first published in 1580 and cover a wide range of topics. BONUS : • The Essays of Montaigne Audiobook. • Biography of Michel de Montaigne . ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: Rutilus classics publishes great works of literature at an affordable price. Our books have been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.


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[THIS KINDLE BOOK QUALITY IS GUARANTEED: It has been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.] The Essays of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record "some traits of my character and of [THIS KINDLE BOOK QUALITY IS GUARANTEED: It has been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.] The Essays of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record "some traits of my character and of my humours." The Essays were first published in 1580 and cover a wide range of topics. BONUS : • The Essays of Montaigne Audiobook. • Biography of Michel de Montaigne . ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: Rutilus classics publishes great works of literature at an affordable price. Our books have been carefully edited with a fully interactive content.

30 review for The Essays of Montaigne (Illustrated) + Free AudioBook

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    "To learn that one has said or done a foolish thing, that is nothing; one must learn that one is nothing but a fool, a much more comprehensive and important lesson". There is sheer joy for me in that sentence. It opens up a new starting point in life, not one of humility but of humour. There is basic honesty about one's own ridiculousness, but also an honesty about the validity and value of one's own experience and life, as clumsy and awkward as this may be. The honesty and directness about his ow "To learn that one has said or done a foolish thing, that is nothing; one must learn that one is nothing but a fool, a much more comprehensive and important lesson". There is sheer joy for me in that sentence. It opens up a new starting point in life, not one of humility but of humour. There is basic honesty about one's own ridiculousness, but also an honesty about the validity and value of one's own experience and life, as clumsy and awkward as this may be. The honesty and directness about his own life can make reading Montaigne like settling down and listening to an old friend talk, about how he started off preferring white wine, grew over the years to prefer red and then some time later drifted back to white again, or about how he managed to trick a friend on his wedding night so he could overcome his fear of being unable to perform and consummate the marriage or how as he has grown older he has taken to wearing thicker and heavier hats to keep his head warm. It allows a for a remarkably intimate connection with somebody from a very different time. The material is varied, the subject of the essay, like many a students' first attempts, simply a jumping off point for a long ramble interrupted by quotations. Over the years as he continues to write the essays become more confident and frequently longer, but they are bound together by his way of thinking about himself and his society. A way of thinking that often turns back to thinking about thinking in the broadest sense as in "when I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me". This can give the sense that he is looking in on his society as a stranger. For example in his contrast between the crowds of people eager to see the savage cannibals brought over from Brazil with savagery of the ongoing wars of religion in his native France. Possibly this is not so surprising as we learn in another essay that his Father had him brought up by a German teacher of Latin with the intention that Latin should be his first language (view spoiler)[If his wet-nurse was not involved in this Gascon may have been the first language he was actually exposed to (hide spoiler)] . The result of Montaigne's Father's decision was that his family, their retainers and tenants all had to themselves to learn at least some Latin in order to talk to the young Montaigne as a child. The impression is that he grew up as a foreigner in his own country. This of course could come across as tragic but the effect is comic. Montaigne notes the peasants in his area are still using Latin names for tools, it is as though Montaigne's father involved them all in a great game, on the basis of a singular educational notion, that are all still playing years later. Something of this playfulness matures in the son into an openness that allows him to see the peculiarity of his own point of view and to appreciate how far it is shaped by where he happens to stand.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teenagers - perhaps hundreds of thousands - sit in front of laptops, writing essays. It is the most dreaded homework assignment for many of them, and if they go on to college, it will be the assignment most cited as making them lose sleep, their printer to break, their grandmother to die, their car to break down, etc. etc. Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teachers and professors count and recount the remaining essays in their grad Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teenagers - perhaps hundreds of thousands - sit in front of laptops, writing essays. It is the most dreaded homework assignment for many of them, and if they go on to college, it will be the assignment most cited as making them lose sleep, their printer to break, their grandmother to die, their car to break down, etc. etc. Tonight, all across America, tens of thousands of teachers and professors count and recount the remaining essays in their grading pile. It is their most dreaded teaching activity. It is painstaking. It is grammar. It is word by word. In 1580, Michel de Montaigne, the world's first essayist and self-acknowledged inventor of the genre, set out to "attempt." Attempt what? He did not know, nor did he care whether he succeeded. He wanted only to write to understand himself better. And who better to do it? As he writes, he is the world's greatest expert on the subject! And there is no subject more important to him! And so, he isn't bothered if his essay on experience turns into an essay on farting. Farting is experience, after all! And he will also write what his mustache smells like, and that he likes scratching the insides of his ears, and that we say bless you after we sneeze because the air is coming out of our heads, not our butts (and he'll write, don't laugh! I read it in Socrates!) He needs the high of books and the low of lived bodily experience to express himself - and the goal here is to express himself and to understand himself. There is no other goal. He is not practicing his grammar or making a logical argument or finding three examples of imagery in Ovid. No. It's just an attempt. Compare to the hamburger essays that we force down our childrens' throats these days (the standardized 5-paragraph essay is sometimes even called the hamburger essay - it's got bread (fluff!), you see, at the beginning and end, and three ingredients or examples). We say this hamburger should look like these hamburgers. Say the same thing at the beginning and the end - do not attempt anything. Nothing should change. Nothing is tried, tested. Everything should be so logical, correct. Do not explore. Just do these three things. Do them again and again, and most importantly, do them like this on the test. It saddens me to see this form die at the hands of standardized testing. To attempt to write about ones experiences or things one has read - with no expectations, except the expectation of a journey through the mind, where one may bump into all sorts of wonders and miraculous objects and familiar or unfamiliar skeletons. But no. Sorry kids - hamburgers for everyone!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    so easy to read again and again. if you let him, montaigne will be your buddy for life. this is the great-great-great grandfather of the best blog on life you've read. so easy to read again and again. if you let him, montaigne will be your buddy for life. this is the great-great-great grandfather of the best blog on life you've read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Luís

    Going through The Essays, getting lost in them to find oneself there, trying everything to always come back to oneself, to this man who, the first, chooses only to study himself to try to understand a little nothing of this that it is, is a unique reading experience. We see, alive, the thought of a man constructed, small essays from the first book, which compile others' ideas, of these old models, Seneca, Plutarch, Lucretia, that we are gradually forgetting. To the long and tortuous all-out refl Going through The Essays, getting lost in them to find oneself there, trying everything to always come back to oneself, to this man who, the first, chooses only to study himself to try to understand a little nothing of this that it is, is a unique reading experience. We see, alive, the thought of a man constructed, small essays from the first book, which compile others' ideas, of these old models, Seneca, Plutarch, Lucretia, that we are gradually forgetting. To the long and tortuous all-out reflections of the third book, which, by concentrating on the essential, on Michel de Montaigne, the only thinkable object, escapes towards all the great human themes, vanity, usefulness and honest, will, experience. It is that, for Montaigne, nothing is stable, nothing is final, nothing resolved once and for all, not even his own identity, that he can only graze by deforming it, in a continuous movement. This failure, if it was one, could have resulted in absolute pessimism. But Montaigne is not relatively modern. He sees that everything is relative, vague and elusive. Still, Montaigne continues to sink into himself, finds nothing concrete there, clings to the established order, to Nature, to wisdom Divine. He questions everything while being deeply conservative; he breaks all fashionable ideas and adheres to custom, without being fooled; he only wants to think from himself and ceaselessly cites the past references. In short, Montaigne is both excessive and wise, witty and crude, ancient and modern, dead and alive. His Essays are what can be writing most active and most human.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Humility is a good quality. Montaigne could have used a little bit of it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roz Milner

    Any Montaigne is more or less something I'd recommend (aside from his distasteful opinions towards women, he's remarkably timeless), so I'm concerned here mostly with the edition I read: J.M. Cohen's older translation for Penguin Classics, which has been reissued with as Montaigne: Essays. It's maybe a little stuffy, but it's a charming translation, well annotated with lots of notes (mostly to identify and translate the various quotes Montaigne sprinkled throughout his text). The introduction is Any Montaigne is more or less something I'd recommend (aside from his distasteful opinions towards women, he's remarkably timeless), so I'm concerned here mostly with the edition I read: J.M. Cohen's older translation for Penguin Classics, which has been reissued with as Montaigne: Essays. It's maybe a little stuffy, but it's a charming translation, well annotated with lots of notes (mostly to identify and translate the various quotes Montaigne sprinkled throughout his text). The introduction is good too, providing a nice history of the author and this book's legacy. There's only a couple of things I found lacking: there isn't a ton of context for the way Montaigne composed his text (although maybe a commentary is asking too much for an introduction) and it's a pretty short abridgement, containing just 26 essays, some of them quite short. It does include some of the more famous ones, though: On Friendship, On Cannibals, On Experience (easily my favorite of the collection) and On the Art of Conversation. There's also a fun one on smells, too. I'd recommend it to someone interested in reading Montaigne but is wary of tackling the complete essays. And if you're like me, you'll quickly want to move on from this to a more complete collection (like The Complete Works published by Everyman's Library).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Conor

    My copy was only a selection, but it was good. He provides a unique perspective with an approachable style, based on a deep respect for the classics and informed by his unique upbringing and the chaotic age in which he lived. At times very funny, at times profound, I think everyone should read at least some of these.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    If all students, no matter at what point between kindergarten and PhD, knew how rambling and disjointed the original essays as de Montaigne wrote the literary tradition into existence, teachers would have a much harder time instilling need for the basic five-paragraph structure. It is like he is actively trying to stray off-topic, disconnecting title and theme almost as soon as the ink had dried on the page. On the plus side, much of his focus is on the fascinating details of daily life in sixte If all students, no matter at what point between kindergarten and PhD, knew how rambling and disjointed the original essays as de Montaigne wrote the literary tradition into existence, teachers would have a much harder time instilling need for the basic five-paragraph structure. It is like he is actively trying to stray off-topic, disconnecting title and theme almost as soon as the ink had dried on the page. On the plus side, much of his focus is on the fascinating details of daily life in sixteenth century France. Of course, all pretence of his well-lived and unstudied life is lost whenever he recalls some facet of knowledge about Julius Caesar or Socrates. As for the non-presence of notable women, and the reduced roles for wives and mothers, it is a wonder the renaissance ever happened.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I am proofreading this book in French through Free Literature, published by Librarie de Paris, 1907. Premier Volume: The original file was provided by Internet Arquive. I am proofreading this book in French through Free Literature, published by Librarie de Paris, 1907. Premier Volume: The original file was provided by Internet Arquive.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    What went wrong? I read two books about Montaigne's Essays before I actually read the essays themselves. Wouldn't you think I'd love the essays even more than the books I read about the essays? I didn't. I found the essays tedious, honestly. Maybe it was just the translations? I don't know, but I couldn't get to the end of this book quickly enough. What went wrong? I read two books about Montaigne's Essays before I actually read the essays themselves. Wouldn't you think I'd love the essays even more than the books I read about the essays? I didn't. I found the essays tedious, honestly. Maybe it was just the translations? I don't know, but I couldn't get to the end of this book quickly enough.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott Gates

    I don’t know if anyone else writing in the 16th century was as candid and self-involved and Montaigne was. Is there anyone else in the 1500s who would say that he’d rather have intercourse with the Muses (and produce literature) than have intercourse with his wife (and produce children). Or, “I centre my affection almost entirely on myself, bestowing only very little on others.... The world always looks outward, I turn my gaze inward.” I think that this intense interest in the self was a relative I don’t know if anyone else writing in the 16th century was as candid and self-involved and Montaigne was. Is there anyone else in the 1500s who would say that he’d rather have intercourse with the Muses (and produce literature) than have intercourse with his wife (and produce children). Or, “I centre my affection almost entirely on myself, bestowing only very little on others.... The world always looks outward, I turn my gaze inward.” I think that this intense interest in the self was a relatively new thing. Perhaps you could relate it to the overturning of the Ptolemaic universe, the translations of the Bible into vernacular languages (and thus more individuals reading it at home as opposed to having it interpreted for them at church), the increasing sense of the arbitrariness of social hierarchies, the overturning of astrology by astronomy, the sense that nothing’s good or bad but thinking makes it so, that we are cut off from foundational moral authority and hence left to our own devices. What came to be called existentialism is just Montaigne-like humanism in sexier (and gloomier) clothes. I mean, look at the existentialism in this passage: “I cannot fix my subject. He is always restless, and reels with a natural inclination. I catch him here, as he is at the moment when I turn my attention to him. I do not portray his being; I portray his passage; not a passage from one age to another or ... from seven years to seven years, but from day to day, minute to minute.... Could my mind find a firm footing, I should not be making essays (trials), but coming to conclusions; it is, however, always in its apprenticeship and on trial.” Most parents I know don’t read Montaigne out loud to their children and there’s good reason in that. In an early essay entitled “On the Power of the Imagination,” he discusses the imagination’s power over the nether regions or privates as they would say in the 16th century (and we still say now). Montaigne has a strange relationship with “this member” and is dismayed by the liberties it takes: “It intrudes tiresomely when we do not require it and fails us so annoyingly when we need it most.” He goes on to have a kind of dialogue with his member, this “noble client,” in which he scolds it for its rebellion. But then this member begins to speak back to Montaigne and points out that the rest of Montaigne’s self really doesn’t have control over other parts of his body either, and yet it is only he, this member, that is always blamed; at which point Montaigne is forced to concede that his penis is right. In the midst of these stimulating thoughts, Montaigne approvingly reminds us of something Pythagoras’s daughter-in-law(!?) once said: “A woman should lay aside her modesty with her petticoat [archaic word for undergarments], and put it on again with the same.” Yes. Montaigne would no doubt agree with Pascal’s “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In the era in which European powers were just beginning to explore, exploit, and enslave other lands, there were those at home who were baffled and dismayed by these nations’ rapacity. Montaigne’s judgment: “I very much fear that we shall have greatly hastened the decline and ruin of this other hemisphere by our contact….” He goes on to say that these peoples were “our” (Europeans’) superiors in terms of religious conduct, loyalty, and honest dealing. Though his writings are riddled with classical (Roman) quotes and other literary authorities, Montaigne maintains a kind of blokish antiintellectualism: “Without lightness, I achieve nothing; application and over-serious effort confuse, depress, and weary my brain.” Or later, when he goes on about how much he values “pleasure, sport, and amusement,” and that he is “almost prepared to say that any other aim is ridiculous.” Or this: “In my youth I studied out of ostentation; a little later to gain wisdom; now for pleasure; but never for the sake of learning.” He held that philosophers should always be happy and merry-making, schoolrooms should be strewn with leaves and flowers, and that it’s better for instructors to be too lax than too disciplined. Montaigne is maybe at his best when he teases out the thoughts of ancient philosophers. In “On Physiognomy” he advocates a Spinoza-like focus on this life (as opposed to the idea of an afterlife). Aristotle said that philosophy was learning to die. But Montaigne retorts, “If you do not know how to die, never mind. Nature will give you full and adequate instruction on the spot.” Life should not be troubled by thoughts of death, for the “slow courage” that’s required when thinking about unknowable death is futile to cultivate. While we’re alive, knowing how to live should be the aim. Montaigne sounds very straightforward and rational here, but he's speaking against hundreds of years of philosophy and of course religion. And there are some sublime passages in these essays, such as this one from “On Experience,” a truly beautiful expression of the literary life: “It is nothing but personal weakness that makes us content with what others, or we ourselves, have discovered in this hunt for knowledge; a man of great ability will not be satisfied with it. There is always room for someone to improve on us; indeed, for us to improve on ourselves; and there is always a different road to follow. There is no end to our investigations; our end is in the other world. It is a sign of failing powers or of weariness when the mind is content. No generous spirit stays within itself; it constantly aspires and rises above its own strength. It leaps beyond its attainments. If it does not advance, and push forward, if it does not strengthen itself, and struggle with itself, it is only half alive. Its pursuits have no bounds or rules; its food is wonder, search, and ambiguity.” When you finish, you feel as if you’re parting from a friend.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Layla ライラ

    ⭒ 4.5 ⭒ A masterpiece, a masterwork, and a luxurious outlet for a thirty soul! Wow! Just wow! Montaigne’s beautiful usage of words and his power of delivery to one’s mind and soul is an astute talent. This book is a resemblance of an endless ocean without a shore. It will stick with me forever, I may reread a lot of essays throughout my whole life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    Montaigne (1533 - 1592) LES ESSAIS For me to understand the classical author, I always try to situate his setting in time. So I find it significant that he wrote this book only about fifty years after the discovery of America. The Medieval Times in Europe. He was a wealthy, well-educated French nobleman living at his family estate, Chateau de Montaigne, in Dordogne, France. There he dwelled in the upper floors of a large round tower, surrounded by over a thousand books. All the classics in Latin I Montaigne (1533 - 1592) LES ESSAIS For me to understand the classical author, I always try to situate his setting in time. So I find it significant that he wrote this book only about fifty years after the discovery of America. The Medieval Times in Europe. He was a wealthy, well-educated French nobleman living at his family estate, Chateau de Montaigne, in Dordogne, France. There he dwelled in the upper floors of a large round tower, surrounded by over a thousand books. All the classics in Latin I imagine. He should be an honorary member of Good Reads. He seems to have spent his younger years traveling on horseback through Europe, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, in order to study people and traditions and to look for medication to try and heal his malady of kidney stones. He started writing the Essays in 1572, thirty-nine years old. From the very beginning of the publications, around 1580 the Essais attracted great attention and fame. Over the centuries, from these medieval times, thousands of comments and many hundreds of books have been written about the Essais. I will try to write down a few short comments of my own perception and understanding. The subjects of the essays are mainly a random selection of the human character and behavior in the various situations of life, and Montaigne’s own personal contributions of strength, weaknesses, and experiences. From the 107 subjects in his tree books, I will mention just a few: of sadness, of laziness, of liars, of consistency, of fear, of cannibalism, of friendship, of learning how to die, etc. First, I found the reading difficult, even though my French Edition is praised as modern and easy to read. Progress was slow, almost each sentence needs to be studied, turned around and digested. Then there are many references on the subjects, in Latin, to Classic authors, like Epicurus, Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Lucrecia, Martial and many others. To a point where you wonder where you read Montaigne’s own ideas and where he draws from his mentors. As mentioned by the enthusiastic editor of my edition: The Essays seems to have been written for all times, with so much wisdom in one book, it needs to be read over and over again, one will always find something new to be discovered. The main quality I found, is his poetic style of writing his happy selection of vocabulary, his way of painting each image in beautiful colors. A soft, friendly, indolent philosophy of life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I heard of Montaigne a long time ago, probably from quotations and references in other works, but it was an essay about him in the New Yorker that first got me interested in checking out his works. He is widely considered to be the originator of the essay, and what bookish character does not love good essays? In fact the name of this literary form came from the title of his works (essais = attempts in French), but I think similar things had been done by other, more ancient writers. I am not sure I heard of Montaigne a long time ago, probably from quotations and references in other works, but it was an essay about him in the New Yorker that first got me interested in checking out his works. He is widely considered to be the originator of the essay, and what bookish character does not love good essays? In fact the name of this literary form came from the title of his works (essais = attempts in French), but I think similar things had been done by other, more ancient writers. I am not sure who his heroes were, but he quotes Seneca a lot, along with other Roman classics. Montaigne lived an aristocratic life. He served as mayor of a French city and (I think) as a diplomat. After a certain point he gave up on politics and lived a life of manorial ease, from which he worked on his writings. He took on a wide range of subjects - historical, personal, and instructive. His beloved friend La Boetie (an attorney and scholar who died relatively young) comes up a lot, as do references to wars and power struggles. He spends some time considering appropriate behaviors and methods of education. Other subjects may very well get addressed, but I admit that I did not get through the entire 978 pages. I think the edition I read (a budget priced release on Nook, possibly from Delphi Classics) was probably Charles Cotton's 1877 translation, and it makes for pretty dense reading. A more recent translation might be more enjoyable - it is for that reason that I give this 4 stars instead of 5. This is a brilliant, seminal, fascinating work. Montaigne was more than an erudite voice from the France of the 1500s - he is a very human communicator, who writes with wit and frankness about many subjects (including sex and relationships), and who laid the foundations for the essays that we read and consider and enjoy today,.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I really really liked this book. And I couldn't possibly have liked it more than five years ago because it's so freaking introspective so that's interesting to me. The attitude towards women is ridiculous. I'm amazed at the number of "serious thinkers" who wrote about the importance of education as well as the inferiority of women without noticing, you know, that women didn't get an education. I know just because two points are held in a person's head doesn't mean there's an argument-path between I really really liked this book. And I couldn't possibly have liked it more than five years ago because it's so freaking introspective so that's interesting to me. The attitude towards women is ridiculous. I'm amazed at the number of "serious thinkers" who wrote about the importance of education as well as the inferiority of women without noticing, you know, that women didn't get an education. I know just because two points are held in a person's head doesn't mean there's an argument-path between one point and the other, but how do you miss something like that? Then I tell myself it's not like it's men's job to justify women. Then I reflect with a small amount of humor that these thinkers, especially Montaigne, praise objectivity and nothing makes you more objective towards a man's words than the inclusion in them of a couple choice sentiments about how stupid, you, the reader, are.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I loved this book. I wish I had read it years ago, but then, I wouldn't have been ready to hear the wisdom in it. I wish I had been ready. Montaigne's humility and relaxed attitude towards his many limitations represents for me a philosophy of life and ageing utterly essential to avoiding bitterness as I enter the second half of my life without fully realising many of the dreams of the child I was. This is, as well as a tonic, a beautiful introduction to many ancient Greek and Roman classics. I I loved this book. I wish I had read it years ago, but then, I wouldn't have been ready to hear the wisdom in it. I wish I had been ready. Montaigne's humility and relaxed attitude towards his many limitations represents for me a philosophy of life and ageing utterly essential to avoiding bitterness as I enter the second half of my life without fully realising many of the dreams of the child I was. This is, as well as a tonic, a beautiful introduction to many ancient Greek and Roman classics. I especially like the special place in Christianity late medieval scholars found in their world schema for truly noble and beautiful pagan philosophers of the ancient world. Montaigne has solved a verbal puzzle gnawing at my mind 20 plus years regarding friendship. Properly composing our lives is the fundamental masterpiece for every life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    I won't lie and say that this was a complete breeze to get through, but it is highly readable for essays written at the end of the 16th century. I don't know if that speaks to Montaigne or the translator more, but we'll at least partially assume Montaigne. His style and approach are certainly interesting. I just can only get so interested in a book of essays. I won't lie and say that this was a complete breeze to get through, but it is highly readable for essays written at the end of the 16th century. I don't know if that speaks to Montaigne or the translator more, but we'll at least partially assume Montaigne. His style and approach are certainly interesting. I just can only get so interested in a book of essays.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Alvarez

    This book is worth thousands of dollars in therapist fees. Written 500 years ago yet it feels as if Montaigne is across the table from you like a sage friend that's always there for you. This book is worth thousands of dollars in therapist fees. Written 500 years ago yet it feels as if Montaigne is across the table from you like a sage friend that's always there for you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Land

    Sarah Bakewell, author of an excellent biography of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, has suggested that he might have been the world's first blogger. Here was a man who, 400 years before there was an Internet, wrote 900 pages of musings on anything and everything he encountered—an experience junkie happy to share his personal experiences and observations with anyone willing to read them.What separates Montaigne from the denizens of today's blogosphere is that he wrote with a depth, breadth, insight a Sarah Bakewell, author of an excellent biography of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, has suggested that he might have been the world's first blogger. Here was a man who, 400 years before there was an Internet, wrote 900 pages of musings on anything and everything he encountered—an experience junkie happy to share his personal experiences and observations with anyone willing to read them.What separates Montaigne from the denizens of today's blogosphere is that he wrote with a depth, breadth, insight and humanity that has influenced philosophers, psychologists, poets, playwrights, pedagogues and pundits for 20 generations.Montaigne anticipates by a century Pope's dictum that the proper study of Mankind is Man, and focuses it even more tightly. For him, the proper study of any man is himself—each individual deeply observing and analyzing his own life in his particular social and political milieu.Pope, by detaching from that engagement through the abstractions “Mankind” and “Man,"could risk being an optimist: Montaigne, viewing things in their immediate context, was compelled to be a skeptic. He could only deliver an approximate and provisional answer to the question that immediate reality inevitably poses—"What do I know?"That question, honestly posed and answered, does not lend itself to discovering eternal verities, which troubled Montaigne not at all: he considered ultimate answers beyond the reach of human intellect. His own observations and the quotes from Plutarch, Cicero, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and a score of other sages with which he generously interlards his essays address man in his worldly dealings.His skepticism, though nearly universal, took particular aim at two professions--medicine and science. The former he considered the purview of men who were, at best, well-intentioned ignoramuses and at worst (and more frequently) self-serving charlatans and quacks, all of them far more likely to do their patients harm than good. Since he lived 250 years before the discovery of the microbial origin of infection and disease, he was no doubt right.His discomfort with science, as it existed in his pre-Newtonian day, derived from his belief that it intrudes upon divine prerogatives, summed up in an observation startling to read today: "The plague of man is the opinion of wisdom; and for this reason it is that ignorance is so recommended to us, by our religion, as proper to faith and obedience."Montaigne's ardently avowed Catholicism, including this seeming endorsement of pious ignorance, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. He lived in a time of civil and religious strife in France, at the onset of the Counter Reformation, so making an appropriate declaration of one's religious convictions was wise, if not obligatory. In his case it may have been particularly advisable, since some of his ancestors, possibly on both sides, were Sephardic Jewish converts to Catholicism. The Inquisition had largely switched from torturing and killing suspected nonbelievers to incinerating imagined witches, but it was still very much in business.It is interesting, though, that almost to a man, the sages Montaigne tirelessly quotes are pre-Christian pagans. The Bible is quoted very rarely and major Christian thinkers, like Augustine and Aquinas, not at all.Montaigne's early upbringing and education were unusual, if not unique. The Eyquems were very wealthy. His father, however, sent him to live for the first three years of his life with a peasant family in order to teach him poverty at first hand, then, upon his return to the family home, insisted that everyone in the household, family and servants alike, speak to him only in Latin. Ancient Greek was added soon after as part of his formal education.Montaigne was no coddled aristocrat observing life from the sidelines. In his own day he was respected far more as a statesman skilled at mediating disputes and as an adviser to the powerful than as a writer. He was also, for many years, a magistrate of the city of Bordeaux and, rather to his annoyance, was elected the city's mayor while traveling abroad.In his youth he was something of a rake, and attributed the decade or more of intermittent suffering from kidney stones in his later years to those adolescent excesses, though expressing no apology or regret for having sown his full share of wild oats.Montaigne, indeed, seems to have regretted very little in his life, viewing all of his experiences as source material for his philosophical and psychological ponderings. While he was the principal lab rat in these intellectual experiments, everyone he met contributed something to his studies. He was assisted in his endeavors by a strong empathy—not a comfortable trait in so cruel an age, but one that greatly enriched his perspectivist approach to the world.Though he abandoned his political career and retired to his estate for the last decade of his life to write his Essays, it was not a solitary, monastic retreat that he occupied. He was master of a large estate, with a numerous household of family and servants, peasant farm workers, and troops of tradesmen and artisans to be dealt with.He was also a gregarious soul, and entertained extensively, even when beset by the kidney stones that plagued him so severely. He even took a perverse pride in being able to play host through the pain: “'Tis a pleasure to hear it said of oneself what strength of mind, what patience! Thou art seen to sweat with pain, to turn pale and red, to tremble, to vomit blood…whilst all the while thou entertainest the company with an ordinary countenance…Dost thou call to mind the men of past times, who so greedily sought diseases to keep their virtue in breath and exercise?”Kidney stones had killed his father, so Montaigne fully expected them to kill him as well, but a youthful morbid fear of death had long since given way to a stoic fatalism: “If thou tellest me that it is a dangerous and mortal disease, what others are not so?…But thou dost not die because thou art sick; thou diest because thou art living; death kills thee without the help of sickness.”However, it was to be a sickness that caused his death in 1591—quinsy, a throat abscess usually triggered by tonsillitis. Before the infection claimed his life, it paralyzed his tongue, robbing the man who loved conversation above all amusements, of the power of speech.Despite the archaic style of the Essays, there is probably no more quotable non-sacred text in any language. Montaigne had a first-rate mind and spoke with candor and a fine eye for human frailty, foibles and folly. A few random examples:“It is scarce, by (man’s) natural condition, in his power to taste one pleasure pure and entire; and yet must he be contriving doctrines and percepts to curtail that little he has; he is not yet wretched enough unless by art and study he augment his own misery.”“I find that there is nothing barbarous or savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting that every one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not of use in his own country.”“This age wherein we live, in our part of the world at least, is grown so stupid, that not only the exercise, but the very imagination of virtue is defective, and seems to be no other but college jargon.”“And here is a wonder: we have far more poets than judges and interpreters of poetry. It is easier to write it than to understand it.”“That is not to be called a victory that puts not an end to the war.”“No wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain port.”“Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by the dozen.”“I am of opinion, that though a thing be not foul in itself, yet it cannot but become so when commended by the multitude.”“I do not think that we are so unhappy as we are vain, or have in us so much malice as folly; we are not so full of mischief as inanity; nor so miserable as we are vile and mean.”What helps save Montaigne from the charge of mere cynicism is his willingness to turn his barbs upon himself:“There is not a soul in the world so awkward as mine, and so ignorant of many common things such as a man cannot without shame fail to know.”“No man is free from speaking foolish things; but the worst on’t is, when a man labours to play the fool…This does not concern me; mine slip from me with as little care as they are of little value, and ‘tis the better for them.”“I am seldom consulted, and still more seldom believed, and know no concern, either public or private, that has been mended or bettered by my advice.”For all the shortcomings he acknowledged, however, Montaigne considered his life of relentless self-examination a success: “Were I to live my life over again, I should live it just as I have lived it; I neither complain of the past, nor do I fear the future; and if I am not much deceived, I am the same within as I am without.”The Essays are a work to be read and pondered once, then dipped into occasionally throughout one’s lifetime, confident that the visit will always be well rewarded. No higher praise can be granted any book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Loea

    i just wish he would spend less time talking about his kidney stones and more time on women's rights i just wish he would spend less time talking about his kidney stones and more time on women's rights

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    The essays are wonderful, starting at one thing and covering so much else. Yes, "On the Power of Imagination" is about impotence, among other things, and the "Education of Children" covers a wide range of life. No hurry with these, I hope. Can't wait to see what "On Cannibals" is about. The essays are wonderful, starting at one thing and covering so much else. Yes, "On the Power of Imagination" is about impotence, among other things, and the "Education of Children" covers a wide range of life. No hurry with these, I hope. Can't wait to see what "On Cannibals" is about.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    I realize that Montaigne has a reputation for being a quintessential fox (in Isaiah Berlin’s sense), but some of his essays are real dogs nonetheless – wandering endlessly and aimlessly through the fog of his verbiage, and ultimately yielding a pretty measly dosage of ideas. On the other hand, every 20 pages or so we get some pretty tasty morsels of cleverness. It is a type of book you don’t exactly enjoy reading, but a subsequent casual perusal is quite rewarding. I suspect I will keep coming b I realize that Montaigne has a reputation for being a quintessential fox (in Isaiah Berlin’s sense), but some of his essays are real dogs nonetheless – wandering endlessly and aimlessly through the fog of his verbiage, and ultimately yielding a pretty measly dosage of ideas. On the other hand, every 20 pages or so we get some pretty tasty morsels of cleverness. It is a type of book you don’t exactly enjoy reading, but a subsequent casual perusal is quite rewarding. I suspect I will keep coming back to it for quick treats, and its impression on me will keep on improving. Perhaps that is how he fooled the rest of the mankind as well. Below are some of the more memorable insights, some are his, and some he freely attributes to his influencers - Seneca, Cicero, Aristotle, Tacitus, Plutarch… Memory. Given that mine is poor I loved this essay that extolls the benefits of not having a good one. Absence of memory can sharpen judgement, while its presence can mask the otherwise feeble intellect etc. Hey, I’ll take what I can get! Nice bit on truth and error and how over-commitment to reason can blind one to the difference between impossible and improbable. How about this beauty – “Pride and curiosity are two scourges of our souls. The latter prompts us to poke our nose into everything, and the former forbids us to leave anything unresolved and undecided.” My Israeli friends always make fun of American obsession to find a “solution” for middle east problems. Some situations just exist in a worse or better state, and thinking in terms of solutions is completely missing the point. I found Montaigne’s scorn for excellence in trivial matters to be well placed, in his view it is a waste of intellect and is unbecoming of a man of honor. I think that in Taleb’s “skin in the game” ideas he may have explicitly credited Montaigne who professed that virtue is acting well when it is dangerous to do so. Terrific musings on interaction between social norms (“conventions”) and law. The former often prevents us from doing things which are perfectly legal, while the latter gets broken all the time. Making something explicitly illegal can implicitly remove the injunction to obey the underlying convention. Think of Kahneman-flavored experiments of how introducing monetary fines increases the incidence of unwanted behavior that was previously mitigated by social norms. Montaigne warns us not to confuse the decline in ourselves for the decline of the world, but I think Aaron Haspel went deeper with telling us not “mistake the destruction of one’s worldview for the destruction of the world”. Montaigne’s view of conversation as an intellectual debate where you want to seek stronger opponents, and avoid fraternizing with people who admire you is a lesson that we, the moderns, would be wise to relearn. It would seem that Facebook and Twitter are incentivizing us into the opposite direction. On gifts and favors – a benefactor is only welcome if the recipient can repay the favor, otherwise gift-giving breeds contempt. Not good news for welfare state. The ultimate lesson of being shown to be in error is not finding the source of your misjudgment, but fully realizing how prone you are to foolishness in the first place. Complexity and obscurity can only be appreciated when sufficiently thorough knowledge of the subject matter is obtained, leading to Platonic paradox of inquiry – inquiry is unnecessary if you do know, and impossible if you don’t. Montaigne applies this idea to the possibility of us attaining self-knowledge, and the prospects are grim.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick Bond

    When many of us think of essays, we think of those fumbling by-rote exercises that got us through grade school and high school. In Western literary tradition, however, the essay has been used to communicate a wide range of ideas, running from philosophy to art criticism. Some say the genre came into being with the essays of Michel de Montaigne, a statesman of the French Renaissance, whose penchant for practical wisdom made him the "father of modern skepticism." That lofty title probably would hav When many of us think of essays, we think of those fumbling by-rote exercises that got us through grade school and high school. In Western literary tradition, however, the essay has been used to communicate a wide range of ideas, running from philosophy to art criticism. Some say the genre came into being with the essays of Michel de Montaigne, a statesman of the French Renaissance, whose penchant for practical wisdom made him the "father of modern skepticism." That lofty title probably would have sounded silly to Montaigne, who possessed a sort of down-to-earth wisdom that eluded many of his aristocratic contemporaries. He took a very personal approach to writing, having no qualms about making himself the primary topic of discussion. As you read through his essays, you feel an increasing personal connection with the author and after a while his garish spaghetti prose begins to take on a life of its own, much like if you were reading someone's diary. Many people talk of leaving some part of themselves behind after they die, but few have done so as successfully as Montaigne. In fact, death is one of his favorite subjects. He believes that the practice of philosophy is actually the act of preparing oneself to die; or rather, preparing oneself to confront death, as he feels the act of dying little trauma in comparison to the coping process that immediately proceeds it. You might even say he romanticized death, referring to it as the only thing that could not be taken from us. However much someone might torture or abuse us, the inevitability of death is an ultimate saving grace. Whether it can really be cherished as such remains for me to see, but it is difficult to imagine a more optimistic take on mortality that doesn't invoke the supernatural. Another thing that struck me about Montaigne was his description of himself -- he claimed to have an extremely poor memory and was unable to undertake most forms of employment. Coupled with his obsessive devotion to his reading and his inability to maintain casual conversation, I suspect that a modern doctor would have diagnosed him with ADHD. Not that he would have listened, of course, as Montaigne viewed physicians with extreme suspicion. He felt that most forms of treatment did more harm than good and that doctors benefited greatly from what we now understand to be the placebo effect and confirmation bias. He also pointed out how medical practices were frequently changing, and not in small ways... Although there are reasons to have greater faith in modern medicine, some of his concerns still apply today. How often have we been told that a particular food or medicine is good for us, only to have it deemed hazardous years later? Baby formula, DDT, margarine, multivitamins... I've even seen doctors recommend unproven treatments to completely healthy patients! I have no doubt that the medical community is making progress on many fronts, but I think we should admit that there are many areas that are still a crap-shoot. My personal philosophy on medication is to take it only if it proves to cause a significant improvement in my quality of life, while with food and drink, my two rules are to listen to my stomach and take everything in moderation. My impression is that Montaigne would have approved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bria

    I can see why every intellectual you run across recommends him so highly. The admissions he makes about his own personality and quirks are those that, although ostensibly presented as a weakness or failing, are really desired or admired by self-absorbed misanthropes such as myself. When I read Montaigne, who is so highly regarded by the history of literature, confessing to being not only unwilling but unable to perform the small and harmless acts of dissembling or dishonesty that basic human int I can see why every intellectual you run across recommends him so highly. The admissions he makes about his own personality and quirks are those that, although ostensibly presented as a weakness or failing, are really desired or admired by self-absorbed misanthropes such as myself. When I read Montaigne, who is so highly regarded by the history of literature, confessing to being not only unwilling but unable to perform the small and harmless acts of dissembling or dishonesty that basic human interactions require, it lends the same trait in myself legitimacy. My dormant belief that it is actually quite noble to be a poor sport when it comes to small talk, because my interests and mind are so lofty that it is quite beneath me, instead of a flaw in my social abilities, becomes valid when described and shared by such a vaulted figure as Michel de Montaigne. According to the introduction by the translator of this particular collection I read, as well as maybe various comments by the countless others who have referred to Montaigne that I’ve come across, it would be utterly mistaken to take Michel at anything other than his word when he says that he considers these traits genuinely to be, at least in some part, flaws or failings. He maintains a diffident attitude throughout that he is the way that he is, and although it seems that it is not particularly great to be that way, he is perfectly content to be him, and it is true that in some aspects of his social lacking he does consider it to be closer to a virtue than a vice. Everybody seems to agree that Montaigne is singularly honest with both himself and us, with no layers of pretension or false humility. I can’t particularly argue with that, although when all I have to go on are the words he wrote, I don’t consider it unquestionably true, but I’ll grant that it is most likely. I do, however, have my doubts about most other people in the world (myself included, unfortunately, if I’m going to try to emulate Montaigne’s candor) who evidently relate quite strongly to him, and perhaps by mere fact of this shared empathy with him value his essays so highly. So many of the ways in which I find myself feeling, “Michel! It’s as though you are speaking of ME”, are things that I might find myself outwardly presenting as though they are problems, but inwardly applauding myself for being so lacking in superficiality that I can’t even lift a finger to pretend a little for the sake of being pleasant company for people I find uninteresting. And when this ends up being about the very thing of honesty, it becomes an even uglier attitude than it began as, and so I suppose this book is a lesson to me to be a little more honest about my honesty, and to stop pretending to have no pretensions and to, in actuality, drop my pretensions. And if Montaigne is a singular character in his (and our) society in many of these intellectual and interpersonal ways, we can at least be comforted in knowing that he is an absolute textbook case of the standard and expected attitudes about women of his time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jose

    Good translation of a classic. Not a breeze to read but not impossible. Best enjoyed by taking a random essay and just following the author to wherever he decides to digress (the titles of the essays are not as self contained as it would be expected in more modern essay writing). Some chapters are incredibly insightful for a guy from the 16th century. On the Education of Children he is way -way- ahead of his time. I almost skipped the essay on "Cannibalism". That would have been a mistake as it Good translation of a classic. Not a breeze to read but not impossible. Best enjoyed by taking a random essay and just following the author to wherever he decides to digress (the titles of the essays are not as self contained as it would be expected in more modern essay writing). Some chapters are incredibly insightful for a guy from the 16th century. On the Education of Children he is way -way- ahead of his time. I almost skipped the essay on "Cannibalism". That would have been a mistake as it was splendidly lucid about how to address cultural differences with an open mind. Montaigne is very honest but does come across as a bit of a humble-bragger, he loves to explain his "faults" with quite the sharp scalpel but also likes to turn them into crypto-virtues, that is, useful and convenient tools to lead a content and tranquil life in a time of turmoil. He certainly lived very troubled times amidst the Wars of Religion in France so it is surprising to find such a level-headed fellow pondering about life in these essays. I'd advance that he is probably a pioneer not only of essay writing but of the self-help genre. His main advice seems to be less about being your "better self" or "striving for excellence" and more on the "just chill" scale. Regard success and failure with equal doses of skepticism: living and ordered life is a man's main task. His efforts to try to see things from others' point of view is quite the novelty in that time and even if he seems a bit patronizing towards peasants and women, he is always inclined to admire rather than belittle and always starts by questioning prejudice. His subject is ultimately himself though(in every detail from his lack of ambition to kidney stones). On that subject, he is the expert. But he also hopes to extrapolate his keen and honest observations into some general rules for a good life. As a good Renaissance author he enlists the quotes from classic authors to prove or debunk his claims, some appropriate some far fetched. But even doing so he is aware that too much reliance on authority is just borrowed wisdom. I strongly recommend the book "How To live. A Life of Montaigne in Twenty questions and one attempt at an answer " by Sarah Bakewell for a perfect synthesis of the many strands that form Montaigne's thinking. And we DO need more of that kind of honesty in THIS troubled times.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This collection gives a very good sample of Montaigne's essays, which encompass a wide variety of subjects - from cannibals to the education of children - but which are really all about himself. A powerful and original thinker, ahead of his time in many ways (though absolutely of his time in many others, for example in his views on women), Montaigne is chiefly worth reading because of his truthfulness. He doesn't include everything - only as much as he 'dares' - but what he does include is admira This collection gives a very good sample of Montaigne's essays, which encompass a wide variety of subjects - from cannibals to the education of children - but which are really all about himself. A powerful and original thinker, ahead of his time in many ways (though absolutely of his time in many others, for example in his views on women), Montaigne is chiefly worth reading because of his truthfulness. He doesn't include everything - only as much as he 'dares' - but what he does include is admirably free from pretence and hypocrisy. At his finest, he is brilliant and provocative. But he also has a tendency to ramble, and the title of an essay is sometimes only the loosest guide to its content. Occasionally I found myself wondering what his point was... though perhaps to ask that question is to miss the point, as it is his own mind, his own thought processes, that are Montaigne's real subjects. Montaigne is an unusual author in that he recognises his own shortcomings as a writer, and even helpfully points them out to you. One of these is his tendency to over-season his essays with quotes from classical authors, though arguably this contributes to his main aim in writing the Essays by showing the influence they have had on his own thinking. More intriguing are the glimpses you get into his own life - his father's approach to his education, the arrangement of his library, the way he deals with a group of bandits who tried to force entry into his home by a trick (he invites them in). Some of the essays I enjoyed most were those on cannibals, on the education of children, on experience (a kind of summary of Montaigne's approach to life), and on three kinds of relationships - but there are intriguing and surprising thoughts in every essay.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Baclig

    I find it hard to evaluate this book, because after spending so much time with Montaigne's most honest thoughts, I feel so close to him that I feel like I am evaluating a friend. He may have his faults--perhaps too much of a moderate, too readily accepting of his way of life, too detached from the world, for my desires, but on the other hand, so bare in his self-reflection, so learned and yet so humble and thoughtful about even the value of learning, so perceptive of other cultures and levels of I find it hard to evaluate this book, because after spending so much time with Montaigne's most honest thoughts, I feel so close to him that I feel like I am evaluating a friend. He may have his faults--perhaps too much of a moderate, too readily accepting of his way of life, too detached from the world, for my desires, but on the other hand, so bare in his self-reflection, so learned and yet so humble and thoughtful about even the value of learning, so perceptive of other cultures and levels of society, so wise in the predilections and pitfalls of humans as social beings, that one can only read, and absorb. Montaigne's "Essays", written in the 16th century in spurts in the middle-to-old time of his life, are meant to present himself, in all of his tendencies, habits, and beliefs. The essays meander, flitting from discussions of morality, to prescriptions practical matters such as how to raise children, to discourses on the ancient philosophers, to anecdotes from his own life and health, and always again, to reflections on who he is and what is most important. Although I picked up the book for the first of these, I put it down happy to have spent so much time returning to the last. "The man who knows how to enjoy his existence as he ought has attained to an absolute perfection, like that of the gods. We seek other conditions because we do not understand the proper use of our own, and go out of ourselves because we do not know what is within us. So it is no good our mounting on stilts, for even on stilts we have to walk with our own legs; and upon the most exalted throne in the world it is still our own bottom that we sit on."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marti Martinson

    In my best Comic Book Guy voice, "Coolest Renaissance dude, ever." This edition is selections from his three volume work. One could simply quote dozens of dozens of pithy, deep, flighty, comic, or serious sentences, but this should really be READ. The sections on the education of children and parental affection are amazing for being 16th century; they'd be amazing for the 21st. Yes, he is a big old chauvinist in places but he is not hateful. 4 instead of 5 stars..... But I would like to share JUST In my best Comic Book Guy voice, "Coolest Renaissance dude, ever." This edition is selections from his three volume work. One could simply quote dozens of dozens of pithy, deep, flighty, comic, or serious sentences, but this should really be READ. The sections on the education of children and parental affection are amazing for being 16th century; they'd be amazing for the 21st. Yes, he is a big old chauvinist in places but he is not hateful. 4 instead of 5 stars..... But I would like to share JUST 2 quotes: 1) Let my death make no statement that my life has not already made. 2) Super-celestial thoughts and sub-terrestrial conduct are two things, let me tell you, that I have always found to agree very well together. Coolest Renaissance dude, period.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Montaigne is very readable and relevant for being from the 1500s. His thoughts on love and romantic relations made me laugh out loud. 400 years later, not much has change. His essays on education and pedantry are straightforward reminders on what is worth studying and what is mental masturbation. All in all, you can dip into his essays for just a day or a whole week, and you will walk away with something new to think about.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    These essays are soothing to read. Montaigne's tone is so rational and even tempered that the essays or reflections are easy to read and absorb. Best read in doses or installments as you would a magazine. A warning to female readers. The author views women as simply ornamental with subservient existence to men. I presume this was the culture and historical period he lived in but some of the comments are startling, especially so since the author is so moderate and liberal on most subjects. These essays are soothing to read. Montaigne's tone is so rational and even tempered that the essays or reflections are easy to read and absorb. Best read in doses or installments as you would a magazine. A warning to female readers. The author views women as simply ornamental with subservient existence to men. I presume this was the culture and historical period he lived in but some of the comments are startling, especially so since the author is so moderate and liberal on most subjects.

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