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death of Charles IX (May, 1574), and the two which relate to
Estienne dc la Boetie (37 and 38) belong to the year 1574.
The famous Essay On the Education of Children, in which
Montaigne gives an account of his own education with other
personal reminiscences, is as late as 1579.

In the sixth Essay of the Second book, On Practice,
written at the latest in 1574 1 , Montaigne, after relating
at considerable length the effects of a severe fall from his
horse, concludes with " Everyone, as Pliny says, is an
excellent discipline unto himself, provided that he has the
capacity to pry into himself closely. I am not writing as a
teacher, but as a student : it is not another man's lesson, it is
my own 2 ." At the beginning of the eighth Essay of the same
book, De F affection des peres aux en/ants, addressed to
M me d'Estissac, he says that the idea of writing at all was put
into his head by the melancholy humour, very foreign to his
nature, which solitude had bred in him, and that, finding
himself totally unprovided with a subject, he had taken
himself for his argument. A little further on in the very
interesting Essay On Books{ll. 10), he warns his readers not to
look for learning in his book. ' : These are but my fancies by
which I endeavour not to make things known, but to make
myself known."

It is not however till the seventeenth Essay, On Presumption,
that he gives us a full-length portrait of himself. Hitherto he
had confined himself chiefly to his opinions ; now, after some
apologies and an appeal to the authority of the Latin satirist
Lucilius, he boldly launches forth in a detailed description of
his appearance and character. But he is not quite easy about

1 He begins his narrative with, Pendant nos troisiemes troubles (1568 — 1570)
i'/i deusiemes (1567 — 1568), and says further on Me sens encore, quatre ems apres,
de la secousse de cete froissure (ed. of 1580).

- Cc n'est pas icy ma doctrine, e'est mon estude, et n'est pas la lecon d'autruy,
e'est la mienne. The chapter ends here in the ed. of 1580; in that of 15N8 he
added three or four pages on the subject of self-portraiture.



it, for the next Essay, On giving the lie, opens with a fresh
apology, or rather with a justification of his design. It may
be objected, he says, that though autobiography is excusable,
even desirable, in a great man, no one cares to hear about an
ordinary man. " This is very true, but it does not concern
me. I am not erecting a statue to set up in the market-place,
or in a church, or in any public place : it is to be hidden in
the corner of a library, for the entertainment of someone
who has a particular interest in making my acquaintance;
a neighbour, a relation, a friend who will take pleasure in
renewing my acquaintance in my portrait 1 ."

There is much the same account of his book in the words
addressed to M me de Duras which form an envoi to the
original edition, and in the short but famous preface. In the
former he disclaims all pretension to be a man of letters ;
je suis mo ins faiseur de livres, que de nulle autre besogne. The
only object of his foolish lucubrations (ces inepties) is to
represent him as he naturally is. In the preface, he says that
his book is for the particular benefit of his relations and
friends : C'est moy que je peins ; Je suis moy-mesmes la matiere
de mon livre. But, as we have seen, this design of drawing his
own portrait had been of very gradual growth, and it is only
in one Essay, that On Presumption, that he has given full play
to its execution.

His book was a great success, and immediately after his
return from his travels he saw a second edition through the
press, in which besides correcting the typographical error> "I
the first he inserted a few additional passages-'. It appeared
in 1582. During the intervals of leisure which his office "i
Mayor allowed him he doubtless continued his design, but it
can only have been after the expiration of his second term ol

1 In the preceding Essay (11. 17), which must have been written immediately
before this one, Montaigne speaks of himself a '•'"• ' * l <>

vielksse aiant franchi les quarante aits. M. Bonnefon takes this t<> imply that
the essay was written about 1573, when lie was forty, but it may surely imply any
date up to 1576 or even later.

- The chief additions are the orthodox declaration at the beginning <.f the
Essay On Prayers (1. 56), an addition u, the Essay < hi Presumption (11. 17). and .1
short account of the Baths he had visited on hi. journey, added to II. .',7-



office and the cessation of the plague that he was able once
more to work at it without interruption 1 . As we have seen, he
sent the new edition to the press early in 1588, and it appeared
in June of that year, "augmented by a Third Book, and by six
hundred additions to the first two books." The Third Book
differs considerably in character from the two earlier ones.
Montaigne writes now like a man who is sure not only of
himself but of his public. The individual Essays are much
longer and he now boldly proclaims his competence to deal
with his subject. " No man ever treated a subject which he
understood better than I do mine ; in this I am the most
learned man alive 2 ." The ninth Essay, On Vanity, and the
thirteenth, On Experience, are rich in details of his life and
character. " I tell the truth, not to my heart's content, but as
much as I dare ; and as I grow older, I grow rather more
daring 3 ." But it is not only in the new Book, but in the
additions to the earlier Books that his greater boldness
appears. A good deal of the new matter, it is true, consists of
quotations, of which he made only sparing use in the earlier
editions, but a very considerable number of the additions
relate to himself.

It has been sometimes said that because many of
Montaigne's quotations are incorrect he must have quoted
from memory. But M lle de Gournay expressly tells us in
her preface to the edition of 1635 that he inserted them book
in hand, and he himself says much the same thing. " I am
for ever rifling passages in books which please me, not in
order to remember them, for I have no memory, but to
transfer them to my book 4 ." But as he used these passages
merely to fortify opinions already formed he made no scruple
in altering them a little if it suited him. His debts are by no
means confined to quotations. He often pillages without

1 He only wrote, he tells us, when he was at home, and cf. III. 5 Pour ct mien
dessein, il me vient aussi h propos, d'escrire ehez may, etc.

ni. 2 (Du repentir). The beginning of this chapter is important for the
understanding of Montaigne's design.

3 ib.

4 1. 24 (added in ed. of 1588) and cf. a passage in III. 1 2.



acknowledgement, taking, as he quaintly says, here a wing and
there a leg, and in one place he speaks of his book as
completely built up with the spoils of Plutarch and Seneca 1 .
Yet for all this the book is one of the most original that was
ever written. As Malebranche says, tout copiste qiiil est il ne
sent point son copiste.

The practice of adding fresh matter to his old Essays was
continued by Montaigne down to his death, so that when he
died a new edition of his book was required in order to present
to the world his final thoughts. To this pious task M me de
Montaigne, with the assistance of Pierre de Brach, devoted
herself with loving care, with the result that in the early
months of 1594, a year and a half after her husband's death,
she was able to send to M lle de Gournay at Paris the ' copy '
of the new edition for publication'-'. It appeared in the course
of the following year, 1595 3 , and it is described on the title-
page as " a new edition found after the author's death, revised
by him, with additions amounting to a third more than the
preceding editions."

Now the public library of Bordeaux possesses a copy of
the 1588 edition evidently prepared for the press by Montaigne
himself. There are minute typographical directions to the
printer, and the margins are filled with additions in his beautiful
writing, which though sometimes very minute is quite easy to
read 4 . It is clear that this is the copy which Montaigne
destined for the press. It is however equal ly clear that by
itself it does not constitute the whole of his text as he left it.
On some of the pages he has completely filled the margins,
and here and there he has added a number which evidently
refers to a separate sheet, either loose or, more probably,
affixed to the printed page by some adhesive substance.

1 I. 32 (opening sentence).

2 R. Dezeimeris in his Recherches sur la recension du /< xte postlimn
Bordeaux, 1866, has elucidated the matter satisfactorily ; Bonnefon in. iv° "•
and 373 ff.) practically agrees with him. A somewhat different view is taken l>y
L. Manchon.

:! Probably quite early in the year; the privilege is dated Oct. 15, 1594-
4 The volume has unfortunately been badly ' ploughed ' by the binder.


Comparing this Bordeaux copy with M lle de Gournay's edition
of 1595 we find a good man}- differences, but these chiefly
occur in the new passages derived from the manuscript. The
comparatively few alterations which Montaigne made in the
actual text of 1 588 have been adhered to by the 1595 editors
with almost complete fidelity 1 . For instance, in the twenty-
eighth Essay of the First book Montaigne has drawn his pen
through all La Boetie's sonnets, and in the 1595 edition the
dedication appears without the sonnets, a manifest absurdity,
but a testimony to the editors' respect for their author.

On the whole from what we know of Pierre de Brach and
M 11 ' de Gournay we have good reason for believing that they
performed their task faithfully and well. Xo doubt in some
cases they may have missed Montaigne's last intention, which
must occasionally have been very difficult to trace through a
scries of erasures- : sometimes too perhaps, as M. Bonnefon
conjectures, M lle de Gournay may have permitted herself to
tone down a word or phrase 3 ; but on the whole we may be
reasonably confident that variants in the text of 1595 from
that of the Bordeaux copy correspond to subsequent alterations
made by Montaigne himself on separate sheets, which no
longer exist to give their testimony 4 .

The practice of adding to his Essays, of inserting a passage
here and a passage there, sometimes to the great detriment
of the clear sequence of thought, is a peculiar feature in

1 Comp. the page of which there is a facsimile in Petit de Julleville, ill. 466
(11. end of c. 15 and beginning of c. 16).

- For instance, they have dated the Jt'is au lecteur June 12, 1580. instead of
March 1, 1580, the manuscript correction for June 12, 1588, of the printed text.
This was corrected by M Ue de Gournay in her edition of 1598. -

:i The passages cited by M. Bonnefon in Rev. cThist. Hit. III. (1896) 85 ff.
hardly support his view.

4 This view is practically the same as that of M. Bonnefon. It is, however,
quite possible, as M. Dezeimeris supposes, that Montaigne had begun to annotate
another copy. In any case I imagine P. de Brach, unless he was a very unpractical
person, began to work on a clean copy. M lle de Gournay says, "/e pourrai
appekr a temom une autre copie qui rate en la ma/sou de Montaigne? which is
evKlentiy the Bordeaux copy. It should be added that M. Dezeimeris has noticed
that some of the corrections in that copy are in the hand of M 11 * de Gournav,
writing no doubt at Montaigne's dictation.



Montaigne's peculiar book. " I add but I do not correct," he
says in the Essay On Vanity (ill. 9), and this is true of the
ideas, if not of the language. It was even true to a great
extent of the language at the time the words were written, for
it was not till after the publication of the 1588 edition that
Montaigne began to concern himself with minute details of
style, even with orthography and punctuation 1 . This practice
adds considerably to the reader's difficulty in getting to
close quarters with the chameleon-like nature of the writer,
and necessitates for those who want to judge him fairly a
constant comparison of the different editions of his book.
Even Montaigne himself complained in the 1588 edition that
his readers did not always understand him aright. Yet he
went on adding to the difficulty by fresh interpolations, or as
he calls them, emblemes supemumeraires, which had eventually
to be published without his final revision'-.

From the foregoing account of the growth of Montaigne's
book it will have appeared that the design of making himself
the subject of it arose gradually in his mind, and that although
by the time he had finished his First and Second books it was
fully matured, it cannot be said to have borne much fruit
until the appearance of the Third book and the additions
made to the earlier ones. Whether this design was, as
Montaigne himself suggests, farouche et extravagant, or, as
Pascal says, un sot projet, it was at any rate a highly original
one : \ And the form which he gave to his design was equally
original. He did not, as so many of his contemporaries did,
write an autobiographical history. He had, as he tells us, a
poor memory, and his object was truth. Moreover he could
not "keep a register of his life by his actions, for fortune

1 Je ne me mesh, ny d ' orthographe, et ordonnt settlement qtCih suivtnt ran
ny de la ponctuation: je nth pen expert en run et en /'autre (ill. 9). Bui in the
Bordeaux copy he gives minute directions about spelling and punctuation to

- See Champion, pp. 276 If.

3 Pasquier's suggestion that Montaigne's book would have been impro>
leaving out all that relates to himself is like saying that Shakespeare's h
would be better without Hamlet.


placed them too low; he therefore kept it by his fancies 1 "; he
recorded his fancies and his impressions, just as they presented
themselves to his mind, not only with regard to external
events, but with regard to his own character. If any circum-
stances in his past life had made a lasting impression upon
him he noted them in his book, not as fragments of past
history, but as permanent acquisitions to his store of mental
or spiritual experience, and not in any chronological or other
order by sequence, but just as they occurred to his ' vagabond '

fancy 2 .

The value of an autobiographical portrait depends largely
upon the good faith and the skill of the painter. Cest mi
livre de bonne foi, lecteur. Even those who have taken the
most unfavourable view of Montaigne's character have no
doubt as to his honesty and sincerity^. Most students of his
book will echo Emerson's remark that "the opinion of an
invincible probity grows into every reader's mind." This is the
character that he bore with his contemporaries. Moreover
the very fact that he does not attempt to give us a finished
portrait makes us all the more ready to believe in its sub-
stantial truth. " Though the features of my portrait change
and alter, they go not altogether astray.... I do not paint the
whole being, but a passing state ; not merely a passing from
one age to another... but from day to day, from minute to
minute.... Whether it be that I am another man, or that I take
hold of the subjects in other circumstances, and from other
points of view, the fact is, that though I contradict myself at

1 At the beginning of the essay On Vanity (in. 9), the most autobiographical
of all the Essays

- M. Champion in objecting that if Montaigne had really wanted to paint
himself he would have written a complete history of his life {Introduction aux
Essais, pp. 56 ff.) seems to lose sight of his peculiar method.

3 Montaigne n' a rien ecrit qui fit t vrai ni qui lui fit plus dlionneur que la
premiere ligne de ses Essais : " Cest ici un livre de bonne foi." G. Guizot, p. 42.
Rousseau however in the first draft of the opening of his Confessions took a different
view, saying, " Je tnets Montaigne a la tete de ces faux sinceres qui veulent tromper
en disant vrai. II se montre. avec des defauts, mais ilne s'en donne que d'aimablcs:
il ny a point dliomme qui n'en ait odieux. Montaigne se peitit ressemblant. mais
de profir (quoted by Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, in. 80). As Desjardins
says, On traite quelquefois avec bien de la durete ceux qu'on imite.


random, I do not contradict the Truth 1 ." And in another
place he says, " I give my mind sometimes one face, and
sometimes another, according to the side on which I turn it.
If I speak of myself in different terms, it is that I am looking
at myself in a different light 2 ."

Fortunately we can place beside the portrait of the Essays
a sketch which is not open to the charge of having been drawn
for the world's inspection. The journal of Montaigne's travels
was evidently written only for his own eyes and those of his
family, and is therefore subject to no deductions either on the
score of personal or of literary vanity. One third of it is
written by a servant, another third in bad Italian, and only
the remaining third by Montaigne himself in French. The
general impression that we get from it is that he was a man
of keen and active intelligence, always on the look-out for
information, especially interested in comparing the social
phenomena of different countries, unprejudiced and tolerant
to a remarkable degree, quick in temper, kindly, not a little
vain, somewhat egotistic, and possibly a little too fond of
having his own way. Surely this character does not differ in
its broad outlines from that presented to us in the Essays.

But while we accept Montaigne's statements that ' his
book is one of good faith ' and that ' he has brought to it the
most sincere and complete accuracy 3 ,' it does not follow that
we should take everything he says quite au pied de la lettre*.
Some allowance must be made for the element of vanity in
his character, some for the fact that, partly from irony, partly
from what M. Faguet happily calls gasconnade a reborns, he
has a tendency to exaggerate his defects; some for his
propensity to indulge in boutades, or humorous and almost
paradoxical sallies; and perhaps most of all for his strong
artistic temperament. Had those critics who have judged
him most hardly, Pascal and Guillaume Guizot, and in a far
less degree Dean Church, united to their close familiarity
with the Essays a better knowledge of his life and times,

i in. 2 . " ii. i (added in 1588).

3 La fidclite . . .la plus sincere el pure qui se troiirc, ill. 1.

4 See Bayle St John, 11. 322.


they might have formed a more favourable estimate of his

On the whole then, though the portrait which Montaigne
has drawn with such deliberation cannot be accepted as
absolutely as the unconscious testimony of a Cellini or a
Pepys, a Cicero or a M me de Sevigne, it is true in its main
features. And it has the great advantage over all those
famous self-revelations, even over that of Pepys, that being
deliberate it goes far more into detail. It is the literal truth
that no document of equal importance for the study of
human nature had ever before been given to the world. It
may even compare with the series of documents on the same
subject which the great English dramatist was on the eve of
producing, and in the production of some of which he was
certainly stimulated by the Essays 1 . For Montaigne's por-
trayal of himself was not the result of mere egotism, or of
an uncontrollable yearning for the sympathy of his fellow-
creatures ; it was a deliberately planned contribution to the
study of man. Chasque hotnme parte la forme entiere de
Vhutnaine condition' 1 . Living, as he did, chiefly in the retire-
ment of his chateau, he had no wide experience of mankind at
first hand ; he knew men chiefly from books, from Plutarch
and his favourite historians. One man alone he knew well,
and that was himself. Moreover he believed himself to be an
ordinary typical man, not, as most egotists do, a unique
specimen of humanity"'.

His interest in human nature was too deeply implanted
not to be innate, but it had been stimulated and cultivated
by intercourse with two authors, Seneca and Plutarch.
" I have had no intercourse with any serious author, except
Plutarch and Seneca, from whom I draw like the daughters

1 The influence of Montaigne on Shakespeare is admirably treated by
J. M. Robertson in his Montaigne and Shakespeare, 1897. He shews that traces
of Shakespeare's reading of Florio's translation (published 1603) first appear in
the Second Quarto of Hamlet (1604) and are especially noticeable in that play
and in Measure for Measure. See also G. Brandes, William Shakespeare (London,
1896) 11. 226—235.

2 ill. 2.

:J See Doumic, Etudes, p. 70.


of Danaus, filling and pouring out incessantly 1 ." Of their
writings he preferred Plutarch's Moralia and Seneca's Moral
Letters. There can be little doubt that in Seneca's case his
choice was a wise one. For the Moral Letters give a better
idea than the formal treatises of his subtle insight into
human nature, and of his skill in discussing ethical questions,
while the informality of their method made them all the more
attractive to Montaigne. La science que fy cherche y est
traictee a pieces disconsues 2 . Moreover Seneca's ethics were
just of the kind to find favour with Montaigne. They may be
described indeed in the very phrase which M. Faguet applies
to Montaigne's ethical creed, as nn stoicisme un pat attcndri.
Not only Seneca's position as a powerful minister, but his
natural sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men, led
him to soften considerably the severity of the Stoic doctrine.

But on the whole Montaigne preferred Plutarch. Plutarqu e
est admirable partout, mais principalement oil iljuge des actions
humaines are the opening words of his Essay On Anger (II. 31),
a subject which both Seneca and Plutarch had treated, and
which therefore suggested the following Essay, A defence of
Seneca and Plutarch. As we have seen, it was in the year
1572, just after Montaigne had begun to write his Essays, that
Amyot's translation of Plutarch's Moralia appeared. We have
seen too how warmly Montaigne acknowledged his debt to the
work, a debt greater indeed than appears at first sight, for he
sometimes incorporated Amyot's translation with hardly the
change of a word into his own essays, the styles of the two
authors blending so harmoniously that it is impossible to distin-
guish them 3 . Plutarch's ethical teaching is as little systematic
and as little rigid as Seneca's; if he nominally belonged to tin-
Academy, he was by no means a strict disciple of that school,
for he revised its precepts in the light of his own common sense
and geniality. For two reasons he must have appealed to
Montaigne more persuasively than Seneca. First there is no

1 I. 25 (added in the 1588 ed.).

2 11. 10. Montaigne also borrowed from Senega's other writings ; I.

almost bodily from his De beneficiis.

3 See A. Delboulle in Rev. cThist. lit/. II. (1895) 004 ff.

T. II. I l



question of his sincerity ; he lived as he taught. Secondly
his teaching is for the ordinary individual ; he deals with the
everyday ailments of the human heart, rather than with great
crises and hidden diseases; he is the family doctor, while
Seneca is the consulting physician \ " Seneca," says Montaigne,
« moves and inflames you more ; Plutarch satisfies you more,
and repays you better ; Seneca is stimulating, Plutarch is a
guide." It was doubtless partly owing to Plutarch's guidance
that Montaigne was led to the study of himself; from the
same teacher he may have learnt to identify virtue with
happiness, and happiness with tranquillity 2 .

But whatever stimulus and guidance Montaigne may have
derived from Seneca and Plutarch he was too independent to
be the disciple of either. To the softened Stoicism of the one
and the modified Platonism of the other he added a third
element in the shape of Epicureanism. Yet he was no
Eclectic. His philosophy of life was primarily for his own
use, and not for that of the world. It had therefore to be
moulded to meet his own needs and his own character. He
and his book grew together. But regarding himself as an
average man he believed that what was good for him would be
good also for other men. Religion had apparently failed as
an ethical guide ; it had made men superstitious without

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