by Saul Frampton - £10.99 Faber and Faber (2012)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780571234585 | ISBN 10: 0571234585
In the year 1570, at the age of thirty-seven, Michel de Montaigne gave up his job as a magistrate and retired to his château, situated a few miles north of the Dordogne in south western France, to brood on his own private grief - the deaths of his best friend, his father, his brother, and most recently his first-born child. On the ceiling of his library he inscribed a phrase from Lucretius: There is no new pleasure to be gained by living longer.
But finding his mind agitated rather than settled by this idleness, Montaigne began to write, giving birth to the Essays - short prose explorations of an amazing variety of topics. And gradually, over the course of his writing, Montaigne began to turn his back upon his stoical pessimism. He erased the inscription from Lucretius and engaged in a new philosophy of life, in which living is to be embraced in all its sensory, exuberant vitality. At the heart of Montaigne’s enquiry is his own experience of himself: the smell of his doublet, the pleasures of friendship, the intelligence of his cat and the flavour of his wine.
Saul Frampton offers a celebration of perhaps the most joyful and yet profound of all Renaissance writers. His essays are the first sustained representation of human consciousness in Western literature, and went on to have a huge impact on Shakespeare, and even today offer a users guide to dealing with the complexities of ordinary existence.
(Price & availability last checked: July 2019)