Humanist, skeptic, acute observer of himself and others, Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) was the first to use the term “essay” to refer to the form he pioneered and he has remained one of its most famous practitioners. He reflected on the great themes of existence in his masterly and engaging writings, his subjects ranging from proper conversation and good reading, to the raising of children and the endurance of pain, from solitude, destiny, time and custom, to truth, consciousness, and death. Having stood the test of time, his essays continue to influence writers nearly five hundred years later.
Also included in this complete edition of his works are Montaigne’s letters and travel journal, fascinating records of the experiences and contemplations that would shape and infuse his essays. Montaigne speaks to us always in a personal voice in which his virtues of tolerance, moderation, and understanding are dazzlingly manifest.
Donald M. Frame’s masterful translation is widely acknowledged to be the classic English version.
“[For Montaigne,] talk—often continuous talk—stands at the top of the pyramid of all human activities . . . In their cultivated discontinuties, in their unexpected division into chapters, in their lightness of tone, in their allusiveness and their tumbling into anecdote and into historical gossip, his essays have brought writing as near as it can come to talk among friends.” —from the Introduction by Stuart Hampshire
“A faithful translation is rare; a translation which preserves intact the original text is very rare; a perfect translation of Montaigne appears impossible. Yet Donald Frame has realized this feat. One does not seem to be reading a translation, so smooth and easy is the style; at each moment, one seems to be listening to Montaigne himself—the freshness of his ideas, the unexpected choice of words. Frame has kept everything.” —New York Times Book Review