They are also the direct antitheses to the scepticism of Montaigne and Pascal, to the materialism of Gassendi and Hobbes, and to the superstitious anthropomorphism which defaced the reawakening sciences of nature.
And the doctrine found acceptance among some whom it enabled to get rid of the difficulties raised by Montaigne and those who allowed more difference between animal and animal than between the higher animals and man.
De Montaigne, P. Charron.
But he was not a blind follower of the system; he wished for unlimited freedom of trade in many,cases; and he was in advance of his more eminent contemporary Montaigne in perceiving that the gain of one nation is not necessarily the loss of another.
But the gossip, not discouraged by Terence, lived and throve; it crops up in Cicero and Quintilian, and the ascription of the plays to Scipio had the honour to be accepted by Montaigne and rejected by Diderot.
Montaigne 2 applies to him the phrase of Horace: "Liquidus puroque simillimus amni."
Montaigne said of him,"I give the palm to Jacques Amyot over all our French writers, not only for the simplicity and purity of his language in which he surpasses all others, nor for his constancy to so long an undertaking, nor for his profound learning.
Thus he tells us that Montaigne is the first French author whom an English gentleman is ashamed not to have read.
MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE (1533-1592), French essayist, was born, as he himself tells us, between eleven o'clock and noon on the 28th of February 1533.
The patronymic of the Montaigne family, who derived their title from the château at which the essayist was born and which had been bought by his grandfather, was Eyquem.
Malvezin (Michel de Montaigne, son origine et sa famille, 1875) proved the existence of a family of Eyquems or Ayquems before the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II.
Montaigne is not far from Bordeaux, with which the Eyquem family had for some time been connected.
Montaigne was not only put out to nurse with a peasant woman, but had his sponsors from the same class, and was accustomed to associate with it.
These details of his education (which, like most else that is known about him, come from his own mouth) are not only interesting in themselves, but remind the reader how, not far from the same time, Rabelais, the other leading writer of French during the Renaissance, was exercising himself, though not being exercised, in plans of education almost as fantastic. At six years old Montaigne was sent to the college de Guienne at Bordeaux, then at the height of its reputation.
At thirteen Montaigne left the college de Guienne and began to study law, it is not known where, but probably at Toulouse.
Finally, in 1571, as he tells us in an inscription still extant, he retired to Montaigne to take up his abode there, having given up his magistracy the year before.
On first coming to live at Montaigne he edited the works of his deceased friend Etienne de la Boetie, who had been the comrade of his youth, who died early, and who, with poems of real promise, had composed a declamatory and school-boyish theme on republicanism, entitled the Contr' un, which is one of the most over-estimated books in literature.
Garrulous after a fashion as Montaigne is, he gives us no clear idea of any original or definite impulse leading him to write the famous Essays.
Late in the 18th century a journal was found in the château of Montaigne giving an account of this journey, and it was published in 1774; part of it is written in Italian and part dictated in French, the latter being for the most part the work of a secretary or servant.
Montaigne was not altogether delighted at his election to the mayoralty, which promised him two years of responsible if not very hard work.
It was his business, if not exactly his duty, to preside at the formal election of his successor, the marechal de Matignon; but there was a severe pestilence in Bordeaux, and Montaigne writes to the jurats of that town, in one of the few undoubtedly authentic letters which we possess, to the effect that he will leave them to judge whether his presence at the election is so necessary as to make it worth his while to expose himself to the danger of going into the town in its then condition, "which is specially dangerous for men coming from a good air, as he does."
However this may be, Montaigne had difficulty enough during this turbulent period, all the more so from his neighbourhood to the chief haunts and possessions of Henry of Navarre, who actually visited him at Montaigne in 1584.
Montaigne is one of the few great writers who have not only perfected but have also invented a literary kind.
Montaigne, however, followed with the perfect independence that characterized him.
During this revolution only two writers of older date held their ground, and those two were Rabelais and Montaigne - Montaigne being of his nature more generally readable than Rabelais.
Like all the greatest writers except Shakespeare, Montaigne thoroughly and completely exhibits the intellectual and moral complexion of his own time.
Rabelais, who died when Montaigne was still in early manhood, exhibits the earlier and rising spirit, though he needs to be completed on the poetical side.
With Montaigne begins the age of disenchantment.
The predisposing circumstances which affected Montaigne were thus likely to incline him to scepticism, to ethical musings on the vanity of life and the like.
Montaigne is far too much occupied about all sorts of the minutest details of human life to make it for a moment admissible that he regarded that life as a whole but as smoke and vapour.
Perhaps the only actual parallel to Montaigne in literature is Lamb.
Montaigne (Essais, lib.
"At Rome," Montaigne tells us, "a large sum of money was lost on the Change by this prognostication of our ruin."
His literary taste was conventional, including the standard British writers, with a preference for Shakespeare among the poets, Berkeley among the philosophers, and Montaigne (in Cotton's translation) among the essayists.
"Viret," note D), though the deistic standpoint had already been foreshadowed to some extent by Averroists, by Italian authors like Boccaccio and Petrarch, in More's Utopia (1515), and by French writers like Montaigne, Charron and Bodin.
Many distinguished Portuguese teachers returned from abroad to assist the king at the same time, among them Ayres Barbosa from Salamanca, Andre de Gouveia of the Parisian college of St Barbe, whom Montaigne dubbed " the greatest principal of France," Achilles Estago and Diogo de Teive.
To speak of Montaigne is to speak of the best as well as the first of essayists.
He has been represented as a determined apologist of intellectual orthodoxy animated by an almost fanatical "hatred of reason," and possessed with a purpose to overthrow the appeal to reason; as a sceptic and pessimist of a far deeper dye than Montaigne, anxious chiefly to show how any positive decision on matters beyond the range of experience is impossible; as a nervous believer clinging to conclusions which his clearer and better sense showed to be indefensible; as an almost ferocious ascetic and paradoxer affecting the credo quia impossibile in intellectual matters and the odi quia amabile in matters moral and sensuous; as a wanderer in the regions of doubt and belief, alternately bringing a vast though vague power of thought and an unequalled power of expression to the expression of ideas incompatible and irreconcilable.
The influence exercised on him by Montaigne is the one fact regarding him which has not been and can hardly be exaggerated, and his well-known Eatretion with Sacy on the subject (the restoration of which to its proper form is one of the most valuable results of modern criticism) leaves no doubt possible as to the source of his "Pyrrhonian" method.
At the death of Montaigne, in 1592, Charron was requested in his will to bear the Montaigne arms.
Usually, and so far correctly, it is coupled with the Essays of Montaigne, to which the author is under very extensive obligations.
Equally sceptical with Montaigne, and decidedly more cynical, he is distinguished by a deeper and sterner tone.