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31 Reviews
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75 of 78 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

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Limited edition, but not in a good way
I downloaded this to read specific essays. Unfortunately, I struggled to find what I was looking for. The table of contents doesn't list essay titles--only their number--so I couldn't find essays by title from the table of contents. I tried finding essay numbers online then comparing. No joy. Only by searching for the title was it possible to find the correct essay...
Published 8 months ago by Duncan


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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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Penguin Version for Kindle: No table of Contents, as of April 2013, 7 April 2013
By 
Oli Grünfeld (DAGENHAM, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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 is crazy in a book of this size.

I have just returned it from my Kindle. If the publisher fixes this issue I'll buy the Kindle version again, the translation was very readable.

(April 2013)
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful book, 27 Jan 2010
By 
hiljean (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
It seems almost impertinent to review this book given the breadth and depth of the essays. And it's almost impossible to exaggerate the pleasure to be had from reading them. It is astonishing how relevant Montaigne's thoughts still are to modern-day life.

As other reviewers have suggested, this is a book to be dipped in to, or read at leisure over a period of time. An essay a day is an excellent idea and for that reason it would make an ideal desert island book. Marvellous (in its true sense - to be marvelled at!).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 14 Feb 2014
By 
Russell James (Gloucestetrshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Essential, that is, for serious readers, meaning readers who don't read trash. But it's not hard to read and, if some of the essays are less gripping than others, the great majority will have something for you to get your teeth into, and will leave you with something worthwhile to think about. Penguin price this at an astounding 20, but I guess you'll find it cheaper than that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless masterpiece., 9 Jan 2014
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I have both a hard copy and an e-edition of this timeless masterpiece and it is a work I feel I have to have by my side at 'all times'. You really should beg, borrow or steal a copy. This translation is first class.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness, somewhere near Bordeaux, 28 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Montaigne, wealthy, accomplished lawyer, devoted wife and daughter, retires from the world, to contemplate himself; or perhaps to regurgitate in quotes all he has read, or perhaps like Tolstoy to complain about his good fortune; and perhaps like Kurtz goes a little crazy doing so.

Imbued with scepticism, unoriginal of thought, and sometimes for our modern selves rather bizarre in his views, and probably a hero to his cat.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 19 Dec 2008
By 
R. Garner (hongkong) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
Appears to be a rather serious read, but Michel is actually a pretty amusing guy and it's an eye opening read into what life really was like back then. More laid back than I certainly had thought, and his views are surprisingly contemporary on many issues.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom in abundance, 4 Dec 2006
By 
M. Warburton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete Essays (Paperback)
One of the great humanists of all time. If you want to learn more about yourself and yourself in relation to others and the world around you, Michel De Montaigne's words offer more than almost any book you may ever read. An honest, beautiful and perspective-enhancing book.
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The Complete Essays
The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne (Paperback - 25 Feb 1993)
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