The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

Montaigne 1.40

Well I wot that when I heare some give themselves to dwell on the phrase of my Essayes, I would rather have them hold their peace: They doe not so much raise the words as depresse the sense; so much the more sharply by how much more obliquely. Yet am I deceived if some others take not more hold on the matter; and how well or ill soever, if any writer hath scattered the same, either more materiall, or at least thicker on his paper: That I may collect the more, I doe but huddle it; the arguments or chiefe heads. Let me but adde what followes them, I shall daily increase this volume. And how many stories have I glanced at therein, that speake not a word, which whosoever shall unfold may from them draw infinite Essayes? Nor they, nor my allegations doe ever serve simply for examples, authoritie, or ornament. I doe not only respect them for the use I draw from them. They often (beyond my purpose) produce the seed of a richer subject and bolder matter, and often, collaterally, a more harmonious tune, both for me, that will expresse no more in this place, and for them that shall hit upon my tune.

—Montaigne (‘A Consideration upon Cicero’, trans. Florio)

In Trechmann’s edition, this particular essay contains a flurry of editorial footnotes, as the translator felt Montaigne went too far in some of his criticisms of Cicero and the younger Pliny – in particular their focus on style rather than substance. But everything in Montaigne is a peculiar collection of mirrors, at times reflecting the writer, at others the reader, and sometimes even the subject matter.


(last revised: 26 January 2023)

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