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Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1344 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (September 7, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446043
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

About the Author

Born in 1533, Montaigne studied law and spent a number of years working as a counsellor before devoting his life to reading, writing and reflection. He died in 1586. Dr M.A. Screech is regarded as the world's greatest authority on Montaigne.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

146 of 152 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2x" on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Montaigne wrote what he called "essays", in the sense of "attempts" - he was trying to find out what he thought about stuff. It helped that he'd read a great deal, led a pretty full life and had known some interesting people, although one of his great virtues is that he seems to have found them more interesting than they themselves probably thought they were.
Pascal struggled all his life with the example of Montaigne. The problem for Pascal was that he was only really concerned with one thing - God's grace - and he was scandalised that Montaigne didn't seem to find it that big a deal. MM will write as readily about theological disputes and poetry as he will about sex, forgetfulness and his own stupidity. Apart from anything else, he was perhaps the first person to observe that nobody can pretend that his s*** doesn't stink (I can't remember the exact page, but then there _are_ over a thousand.)
There's a lifetime's reading in here. For such a big fat classic of a book it reads like it was written yesterday, although if it _had_ been written yesterday, he'd've been all over Hello! magazine by now.
Wisdom is maybe underrated these days, but Montaigne isn't just spouting off. This is not a 16th century evening with Morrie. You can see him thinking. He _encourages_ you. (What a great word "encourage" is.) It's not that bad for about fourteen quid.
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148 of 158 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE - THE COMPLETE ESSAYS. Translated and Edited with an Introduction and Notes by M. A. Screech. lviv + 1284 pp. (Penguin Classics). London : Penguin Books, 1993 and Reissued. ISBN 0-14-044604-4 (pbk.)
Those who discover Montaigne should count themselves very lucky. There are so many authors competing for our attention today, so many brilliant and less than brillliant men and women both contemporary and of the past, so many poets, novelists, philosophers, thinkers of every stripe, that Montaigne's voice can easily get lost in the general racket, like the voice of a single cricket on a noisy summer's night.
But Montaigne's voice is well worth singling out for special attention, like that one cricket whose song is especially musical, because there has never been anyone quite like him, nor anyone who has produced such a wealth of sensible observations on life and everything that goes to make it up.
We love Montaigne for his humanity, his wisdom, his clear insight into human nature, his tolerance of our weaknesses and failings, his love and compassion for all creatures whether man, animal, or plant, his calm, gentle and amiable voice, his stately and dignified progress as he conducts us through the vast repository of his mind. But above all we love him for his plain good sense.
Despite his distance in time, we can open these essays almost anywhere and immediately become engrossed. Some of what he says, particularly about our weaknesses and failings, may not be particularly welcome to some, though the open-minded will acknowledge its self-evident truth. Montaigne was not afraid to speak his mind, and as a man who was interested in almost everything, his observations range from the curious through to the truly profound.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By James A Cameron on March 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Be VERY careful when reading reviews. The Penguin reviews are for a different translation. This can be very important. Sample from Cotton translation: "It is an ordinary thing with several nations at this day to wound themselves in good earnest to gain credit to what they profess; of which our king, relates notable examples of what he has seen in Poland and done towards himself."
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on March 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Montaigne. He has lessons for us all, I've found.

Some of the lessons are hard. He writes about everything, but most of all, he writes about himself. There is a painful clarity to his work - but that cliche term does nothing to properly explain what it is he accomplishes with his writing.

At thirty-three, Montaigne decided to retire to his home and write. He had vague ideas about writing a gentleman's book on warfare, and the first few essays reflect that. But, as he progressed, he kept going on little side journeys into his own thoughts and opinions. At first, Montaigne reigned himself in, struggling to stay true to the path he had decided for himself.

Happily for us, he failed.

He abandoned the idea of writing for gentlemen - though there are still slight evidences of this throughout the work. Instead, he decided to focus on the one thing he knew better than anybody else in the entire world - Montaigne. Who else could know more, or would bother to take as much time exploring this one man than the man himself? And why not explore his own mind - every day, he has to live and deal with the advantages and disadvantages, the habits and the thoughts, the opinions and the ironies of being Montaigne. Thus, he decided, it was worth exploring. In his view, there was nothing more important than understanding one's self. If you cannot understand yourself, how can you expect to understand anybody else?

There are moments of 'painful clarity', as I said above. Montaigne discusses (his) impotence, his imperfect marriage, the disappointments he has created in others, the times when he did not do what he should. But he also talks about how he can make himself a better person, and how, in a lot of ways, he is an admirable person.
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