Montaigne’s ‘Essays’

Michel de Montaigne wrote the French, literary piece Essays that was first published in 1533. He is known as the first person to use the form of an essay in writing. In his three volumes there are a total of 107 essays. His essays are not related to each other or connected in his books- they consist of single topics. Some of his essays are long and some are short. Therefore, when you begin to read them you will not know how much time it will take to finish reading what you began. It could take five minutes or a half of an hour. Montaigne should have been a bit more consistent with his essays’ length so that the reader could expect what amount of time he would be spending reading them.

Montaigne also was inconsistent in the individual essays themselves. More often than not, Montaigne wrote long run-on sentences that occasionally turned into paragraphs. These sentences were very hard for me to understand and follow along with when I read them. Often times, when I finished a paragraph I did not understand what the paragraph was actually trying to state which made for a longer read time.   Then, on the opposite side of things, Montaigne mixed in short aphorisms that he wrote into his essays. These aphorisms were much easier to understand and they had a better meaning behind them that would most likely stick in your head for a longer period of time. One of my favorite aphorisms that he wrote is, “The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.” Little quotes and sayings like that one tend to stick in your head better than complicated run-on sentences. Montaigne is more known for the aphorisms that he made instead of his long sentences.

His inconsistencies make me wonder if Montaigne ever re-read what he wrote. Did he publish Essays without proof reading it?

If I were given the opportunity to continue to read more of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays I would not read any more. The few essays that I did read from him were hard for me to follow along with. I feel that any additional amount of my time spent reading more of Montaigne’s essays could be put to better use by reading something that I have more of an interest in and that would be more beneficial to me. Long, run-on sentences turned into paragraphs are not my preference for reading material. Call me selfish but I have better uses of my time than to dissect confusing paragraphs.

Thanks to Montaigne, because he invented the essay, we are now able to read many essays about things that people have learned and discovered. In fact, because of his development of the essay, you and I are able to do school projects more easily by writing an essay instead of writing a whole book or taking a test to summarize what we have learned. Now we can simply write an essay!


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