Michel de Montaigne

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Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533—1592) was a French essayist, philosopher and politician. Living during the Renaissance period, he is usually considered the originator of the modern essay genre.


His father gave him a tutor to converse with him only in Latin. He had little or no Greek, but was able to read Plutarch in a French translation, on which he drew heavily.

The Essays

He initially withdrew from public life in 1570, and the first edition of his Essais, in two books, appeared in 1580. He divided the work into "chapters", but they were recognized as individual pieces, and the word "essay" came into use for works of this type. He re-emerged into the world, first in a tour of Italy, then as Mayor of Bordeaux, then as someone caught up in the troubles besetting France. The 1588 edition of his work included a third book. He carried out further revisions of his work, which were not published until after his death.