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Montaigne, Michel Eyquem

Montaigne Montaigne, Michel Eyquem, 1533-92, French essayist. Montaigne was one of the greatest masters of the essay as a literary form. Born at the Château of Montaigne in Périgord, he was the son of a rich Catholic landowner and a mother of Spanish Jewish descent. Montaigne's father, ambitious for his son's education, permitted him to hear and speak only Latin until he was six. After seven years at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux, he studied for the law, held a magistracy until 1570, and was (1581-5) mayor of Bordeaux. From 1571 to 1580, in retirement and ostensibly aloof from the political and religious quarrels of France, he wrote the first two books of his Essais (1st ed. 1580). The third book of Essais and extensive revisions and additions to the first two was published in 1588 and again, with more revisions, in 1595. The essays, which were trials or tests of his own judgment on a diversity of subjects, show the change in Montaigne's thinking as his examination of himself developed into a study of humankind and nature.

Reproduced with permission from The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Copyright © 2000 Columbia University Press. All Rights Reserved.

©2001 The University of Chicago