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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first esssayist
This book contains all the wisdom you will ever need. Buy it and read an essay a day, and your life will be enriched for the better. This book packs in so much erudition, wit, truth, love - even comedy that it will be the best friend you've ever had, and keep you company until you die.
Anecdote after anecdote, this book is relentless in information. You could...
Published on 16 Feb 2006 by Dan

versus
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Penguin Version for Kindle: No table of Contents, as of April 2013
Just a word of caution about the Penguin version on Kindle: there is no table of contents. If you want to open the book at a specific page then you have to press for every page turn, or have put a bookmark there, or know what you are searching for.

Basically, you cannot browse, you have to read it cover to cover, turning one page at a time.

Which...
Published 16 months ago by Oli Grünfeld


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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first esssayist, 16 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
This book contains all the wisdom you will ever need. Buy it and read an essay a day, and your life will be enriched for the better. This book packs in so much erudition, wit, truth, love - even comedy that it will be the best friend you've ever had, and keep you company until you die.
Anecdote after anecdote, this book is relentless in information. You could study it for a lifetime and barely scratch the surface. But I propose that one should read it for leisure, whereby the selection of one essay a day, even a week, will unmeasurably enrich and empower the reader, making them more humane, fair and accepting in their wordly judgements and decisions.
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightened consciousness, 21 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Michel de Montaigne is considered by many to be the inventor of the literary form of the essay, so the collection from which these excerpts come is important in several ways. Montaigne was a humanist and a skeptic in his philosophical approach, and essentially looked at his own experience as the first topic for examination always.
The book of Essays was one he worked on periodically throughout his life, issuing different editions, the first of which appeared in 1580. Montaigne's style of writing is sometimes stream-of-consciousness, sometimes structured in more formal styles.
Montaigne's stated task in his preface to the reader is for self-examination, but it becomes very clear that Montaigne sees himself as an 'everyman' character. He strives for full-disclosure; indeed, he writes that were he another culture 'which are said to live still in the sweet freedom of nature's first laws', then he might have appeared naked.
This is a complete set of the Essays, together with a helpful introduction and notes for reading. As Montaigne added to his essays periodically, they are not necessarily in the order he wrote them, but this collection has preserved their order according to his standards.
Montaigne's essays show a pessimism and skepticism, perhaps based on the kinds of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants going on, in France and elsewhere, as well as the periodic flare of plague. He was a humanist who saw cultures as having value internal to themselves and preferred to not universalise morals, laws and other ideas.
Montaigne was sometimes conventional in thought (seeing marriage as necessary for children, and distrusting the idea of romantic love), but other times he was very much a free thinker (particularly when it came to religious dogma or absolutist kinds of philosophical paradigms). Montaigne had respect for those who followed religious codes and ways of life, but distrusted those who tried to impose such ideas upon others.
Montaigne added to his essays twice in major ways, but did not strive for consistency or systematic ways of thinking - he declined to remove previous essays if they contradicted new writings.
Montaigne is perhaps the most important French philosopher prior to the Enlightenment. His essays remain popular because they have a sense of the modern and the current about them.
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91 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someting about everything., 6 Oct 2000
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
The beauty of Montaigne and this edition of his "Complete Essays" is the sheer breadth of knowledge that the man shares with us.
This is a book about living.As relevant now as it was then , Montaigne takes us a journey inside his soul and by doing so lets us see how a great man attempts to accumulate knowledge so as to live better.
Read this book and be touched by the thoughts of a truly great man.Utilising the wisdom of figures such as Socrates, Seneca, Aristotle, Plato, he speaks to us conversationally .
It is like having an intellectual friend to ask the trickiest questions in this life.
Enjoy
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 3 Sep 2007
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
It's difficult to overstate the brilliance of this book. Montaigne's essays (or 'trials', or 'attempts') have something for everyone: they're enlightening, they're touching, and frequently they're laugh-out-loud funny. It seems absurd to call a 1300-page book an easy read, but Screech's modern translation makes the Renaissance writer accessible to all. The index comes in handy too, since the titles Montaigne gives his essays are often misleading.

Buy a copy and keep it on your bedside table. The Essays make ideal night time reading.

Edit: I can't help but notice that in the 'Customers Who Bought This Item...' section, everything listed is a set text on a certain Open University course. I nevertheless remain hopeful that the glowing reviews on this page will be read by a few who aren't already obligated to buy this particular translation!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Complete Humanist, 23 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Unlike Francis Bacon's (1561-1626), Montaigne's essays, written while Bacon was still a boy, are reflexive, personal and eccentric. Both founding fathers of this diffuse genre habitually announce a topic, and then write on it, but where Bacon is terse Montaigne is rambling. Bacon is general, where his predecessor is personal, typified by a comparison of the two men's essays on Solitude and Friendship.

Both men share the need to cite authorities, naturally Greek or Latin, and both enjoy pronouncing moral maxims. `Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wilde beast, or a God,' declares Bacon. Man needs a friend to open his heart to, says Bacon, referring to Caesar and Brutus and others such as Tiberius Caesar who built a temple to friendship.

Montaigne, in Chapter 38 of the Essays, drifts from his alleged topic of Solitude to speak at length of officials who serve themselves rather than the public. He then regales the reader with an account of Albuqurque, Viceroy of the Indies, who rescued a boy in a shipwreck only to save his own skin, using the boy as a shield `that the boy's innocence might serve to protect him.' Whither Solitude? He then proceeds to quote Virgil, Horace and Diogenes Laertius, giving the reader a discourse on reason and prudence, concluding that travel is not the answer to a man's problems, for he always carries them with him: `If a man do not first discharge both himself and his mind of the burden with which he finds himself oppressed, motion will but make it press the harder and sit the heavier, as the lading of a ship is of less encumbrance when fast and bestowed in a settled posture.' All this to say that although it may broaden the mind, a man cannot escape his problems through travel. His 46 page essay on Solitude - glancing at Lucan, Cato, Juvenal, Diogenes Laertius, Charondas, Antisthenis, Horace, Virgil, Persius, Lucretius, Seneca, St Augustin, Tibullus, Terence, Quintillian, Arcesilaus, Democritus, Cicero, Pliny and others - is an exhaustive but rough guide to classical learning - and a rough ride for the reader compared to slick-skater Bacon with his jewelled aphorisms. Wordy but worthy is the Mayor of Bordeaux who retired from public office to concentrate on writing his landmark Essais in 1570.

Although steeped in the classics - almost every statement is supported by Latin authority - Montaigne prefigures the modern essay in his frequent relapse into personal anecdote and reference to contemporary events such as, in `Friendship,' the Siege of Rouen (1562) and the assassination of the Duc de Guise (1563). He also speaks of a brother for whom he has little affection, quoting Plutarch in support, who declared of his brother, `I never make the more account of him for coming out of the same hole.' All this is to illustrate his thesis that blood relatives, even fathers and sons, are not necessarily spiritual kin.

While an orthodox Christian, Montaigne is not above questioning belief, asking pertinently: `How many things were yesterday's articles of faith that today appear no other than fables?' Typically, Montaigne puts the question where Bacon would give the answer. The Essais are literally trials or explorations of a topic; as he says in his final book: `En fin, toute cette fricassée que je barbouille icy n'est qu'un register des essais de ma vie.' (Roughly translated, `Ultimately, all the medley that I serve up here is but a record of the trials of my life.') Thus Montaigne introduces a new genre into literature, one to be exploited by stylists such as Johnson, Lamb, Hazlitt and countless others.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, 14 Aug 2004
By 
Thomas Pots "T Pots" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
In light of the staggering literary and intellectual content of this book, reviewing it runs the risk of being trite about it. It is a phenominal work that, in reading it, draws as much enlightnement from within the reader as it does from the page. And that, I believe, is what makes this book important beyond the realms of philosophy: In reading it I grew; I learned about myself as much from within as without, and on that humble basis I recommend it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to dip into for unexpected pleasures, 23 April 2011
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Montaigne's essays (c.1570s) are often random, possibly rambling, and yet full of unexpected pleasures. Drawing on his classical reading particularly, perhaps, Seneca and Cicero, Montaigne captures his thoughts in silky, enlightening and entertaining style.

This translation by Michael Screech (Penguin Classics) renders Montaigne into simple, dignified English - though the general reader might find the textual annotations a trifle irritating as they are inserted within the text to indicate the varying editions.

That aside, this is a book well worth keeping handy to dip into as you never quite know what you might stumble across - so not a cover-to-cover read, but perhaps a friendly companion for life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Thoughtful, 28 July 2010
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Based on Montaigne's own life, observations and his readings of the Classics, this is a massive philosophical ramble covering every subject under the sun. Parts of it are great fun and he makes some interesting points but take the shorter volume if you want to stay with it.

This book comes in two flavours, `The Complete Essays' at 1,269 pages and `The Essays, A selection,' which is a mere 480 pages. You need to be very enthusiastic to tackle the longer work and the flavour and guts of Montaigne is readily obtainable from the shorter volume.

Written over a twenty-year period between 1572 and 1592, the Essays are a lopping ramble covering Montaigne's opinions on a vast range of subjects. Chapter headings include `On the resemblance of children to their fathers', `On the art of conversation,' `Observations on Julius Caesar's methods of waging war,' `On sadness,' `On liars,' `On vanity' and so on. Montaigne happily ignores the chapter heading and allows one idea to lead to another until finally coming back to his point. He had been brought up with Latin as his first language and freely quotes from the classics and antiquity but his wonky memory frequently lets him down so that he mis-quotes and mis-recalls. Nonetheless his use of examples from history to make his points is thrilling against the pedestrian nature of modern soft philosophy books.

Montaigne is an attractive character. He tries not to be vain or arrogant, recognizes his faults of poor memory, unsociability and disinterest in the ordinary run of life. He has retired from the French court to his estates in provincial Gascony in order to write these essays and seems surprised when they are a publishing hit. Not least because he talks mainly about himself, and this would have been unusual at the time. He is an educated and thoughtful man but with a streak of fun and sense of the absurd so that his writing is generally light and easy to read. There is much to be enjoyed here and many of his thoughts and observations are worth spending a moment or two to reflect on.

However, the book is not without several flaws. First, whilst human nature has not altered so much down the centuries, parts of this book are antique and of historical interest only - how to bring up children, for example, is a hoot. Secondly, Montaigne flip-flops around issues so that on the one hand he believes this but on the other hand something else. Partly this was to avoid church censorship but largely I felt it reflects a not very decisive mind. Finally, his rambling stops being amusing after a while and instead turns wearisome by the end.

This is not ideal as a book to read cover to cover. It's probably more fun to dip into at random from time-to-time and take from it what you can. To have 1,269 pages of mixed philosophy winking at you every evening can become a bit of a drag and I certainly enjoyed the first half far more than the second.

Montaigne was an inspiration for a number of other philosophers so worth a go if you are interested in that art. He is also deeply routed in French culture, so it's quite a practical thing for Francophiles.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not what i expected, 2 Mar 2005
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
the book was far from what i expected in the respect that the perspective he wrote from is totoally original, thought provoking, entertaining and enlightning. the fact that it is the size of the old and new testament put together is not ominous, but a delight. it is a pleasure to have by my bedside to know that i can 'dip' into it any time i am at home, a shame as i would like to have it with me always.
the added bonus of this translated book is that the translator 'screech' is the best man to translate this work, having lived and breathed Michael de M. you really feel like you are talking with the writer. thelatin inserts are fabulous too, and i find myself noting them on pieces of paper!
buy it, you won't regret it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost complete satisfaction, 24 July 2008
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
This is one of the most fantastic privileges a person could have - to listen to, and be touched by - a dead French nobleman from over 400 years ago.

Not only is the work wonderful, the translation is highly consistent and careful over the breadth of the volume - and if you ever needed a book on a desert island, this could be it.

Complete satisfaction may be closely approximated, for some - alledgedly - by a slightly over-ripe banana, I'd suggest this is even closer.
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