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Michel De Montaigne

Michel De Montaigne

The father of Modern Skepticism, Michel De Montaigne was an influential and key figure of the French Renaissance. He is best known for his essays which are considered to be the best of all times. Montaigne is also associated with establishing the essay as a recognized genre in literature. He was the first person to use the word ‘essay’ to describe his writings. Today, it can be said that Montaigne was the first blogger. His brilliantly written essays are admired for their effortless mix of serious intellectual thoughts and humorous anecdotes. Montaigne’s huge volume of essays, Essais is still considered to be the finest collection of essays which influenced many other famous writers such as René Descartes, Isaac Asimov and William Shakespeare.

Essais, the large collection of short essays by Michel De Montaigne was published in 1580. The essays are a reflection of Montaigne’s personality, his interests and learning. They describe humans, particularly Montaigne himself. Be it highlighting his poor memory, solving matters without the intervention of unnecessary emotions, attempting to get rid of worldly commitments to prepare for death or revealing his hatred for religious conflicts, Montaigne expressed his thoughts freely through his essays. The honesty in his tone makes the pieces all the more interesting to read. In his writings, Montaigne explores the various aspects of human nature and life by writing and guiding the reader on various aspects of life such as the art of conversation, raising children, tackling loss and grief, handling sexual desire, reading, preparing for and understanding the reality of death.

Michel De Montaigne was born into a rich minor nobility family in Chteau de Montaigne, France on February 28, 1533. Montaigne’s father laid down a very organized plan of education for his son to follow. He was given excellent classical education. His tutors and servants were instructed to speak to the young boy in Latin only in order for him to learn the language. Montaigne was sent to study at the prestigious Collège de Guyenne boarding school moving on to study law in Toulouse after which he began his legal career. Montaigne served as counselor Court des Aides of Périgueux and was later appointed as counselor of the Parlement in Bordeaux in 1557. From 1561 to 1563, Montaigne was courtier at the court of Charles IX. During his years at the Bordeaux Parliament, Montaigne met Étienne de la Boétie, with whom he formed a close and lasting friendship. The death of Boétie left a painful void in Montaigne’s life. It is said, Montaigne began writing to cope with the loss of his friend.

Although against his will and under pressure of his family, Montaigne married Françoise de la Cassaigne. They had six children of which only one survived beyond childhood. Better known as a statesman than a writer, Montaigne resigned from public life in 1571. He isolated himself, spending much of his time in his library where he began writing his legendry essays. Michel De Montaigne died on September 13, 1592 at the age of 59. The humanities branch of the University of Bordeaux is named, Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3, after him.

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