Monday, October 31, 2011

Montaigne’s mirror

The Essays by Montaigne, but also his report of his journey through Europe, keep holding your interest, how often you read them. And not only is it interesting to read what Montaigne wrote himself, it is also interesting to read what others have written about him and his books. Therefore, not only you can find Montaigne’s Essays always on the table in my study, ready to be opened (instead of somewhere hidden between the books in my book cases), but now and then I read also one of those comments on Montaigne that I happen to come accross, and I do not find it annoying when someone tells me about Montaigne what I had read already in one of the other comments. So, no wonder that I have a little library of Montaigne commentaries. The latest one I added was Saul Frampton’s When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know She Is Not Playing with Me?, and this quotation – for the title is a quotation from the Essays – says already a lot about the man Montaigne was: A man who was looking at the daily things of the world around him and who asked surprising questions about it. Moreover he was a man with an eye for cultural differences, which becomes especially clear from his travel journey (which was written for personal use, however, not for publication). My remarks about Montaigne are not original, I know it, but it is always nice to discover things anew, even when “everybody” knows them, and to be pointed to facts that many other people know already but just you don’t. It is way of developing your mind. In order to show richness of Montaigne’s thoughts, I give here a few quotations from the Essays. I have no pretention that they are the most important ones or are a kind of summary of the work. The Essays simply cannot be summarized. I took just a few passages that I had underlined in the book, and I did not underline many other passages which are by far more worth to be stressed. Just read them, enjoy them and think about them.
***
- Of course, you know this one already, but in case you don’t: When seated upon the most elevated throne in the world, we are but seated upon our breech.
- Many faults escape our eye, but the infirmity of judgment consists in not being able to discern them, when by another laid open to us.
- Things most unknowne are fittest to be deified.
- He that should fardle-up a bundle or huddle of the fooleries of mans wisdome, might recount wonders.
- Why, in giving your estimate of a man, do you prize him wrapped and muffled up in clothes?  He then discovers nothing to you but such parts as are not in the least his own, and conceals those by which alone one may rightly judge of his value.
- Miracles appear to be so, according to our ignorance of nature, and not according to the essence of nature.
- In truth, custom is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress.
- In truth, it is not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice.
- Of all the follies of the world, that which is most universally received is the solicitude of reputation and glory.
- The conduct of our lives is the true mirror of our doctrine.

4 comments:

Montaigne said...

Hey HBD

Attempting to summarise Montaigne's essays here; let me know what you think

http://essaysbymontaigne.blogspot.com/

HbdW said...

Hello and thank you for your reaction. However, I say that the Essays as a whole cannot be summarized, while your project is summarizing the separate essays. Very useful and important but a different thing.
H.

Montaigne said...

ah yes, very true. Enjoying your blog, keep up the good work !

HbdW said...

Thanks :)