Van Gogh’s famous letters transform our understanding of one of the most haunting figures in western culture.
Translated by Professor M. A. Screech
Selected and introduced by Sarah Bakewell
Selected and introduced by Sarah Bakewell
The Folio Society presents an exquisite gold-and-leather hardback of Essays by Renaissance nobleman and thinker Michel de Montaigne.
‘Montaigne straddles the old and the new worlds … His aperçus and obiter dicta have the power to delight still; his honesty with himself, his resistance to self-congratulation, is timeless, and precious’
How to get on with people, how to deal with violence, how to bring up children, how to live? These questions obsessed Renaissance nobleman and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, whose free-roaming explorations of his own thoughts and experiences were unlike anything written before. Wise but questioning, witty and idiosyncratic, and incredibly modern in outlook, Montaigne’s thoughts are still relatable 400 years after his death. And now Folio has produced a fitting tribute with an edition, beautifully adorned in gold and leather, featuring an exclusive selection of his best essays – chosen by acclaimed Montaigne biographer Sarah Bakewell – showing the vast variety and originality of his work, from short, quirky pieces to longer investigations of sex, writing and friendship. Bakewell has also provided a comprehensive and insightful introduction on the man, his life, his work and his everlasting influence.
Quarter-bound in blocked leather with blocked cloth sides
Set in Arno Pro with Dawnora Initials
Black & white frontispiece
Printed in two colours throughout
Gilded page edges
11˝ x 6¾˝
The First and Greatest Philosopher on Life
Michel de Montaigne, often called ‘the first modern man’, was one of the most influential figures of the Renaissance, singlehandedly responsible for popularising the essay as a literary form. In 1571, Montaigne retired from ‘the slavery of the court and of public duties’ to his estates in order to devote himself to reflection, reading and writing. The result was 20 years of observations distilled into what he called ‘essais’, and an instant bestseller.
What had Montaigne produced that struck such a chord, not just with the French public but also his contemporaries abroad, including Shakespeare, Descartes and Pascal? The answer is in his questions: What is it to be a human being? Why do other people behave as they do? Why do I behave as I do? Why do animals behave as they do? He considered his feelings; how it felt to be angry or excited, grumpy or lustful. He sought to understand the problem with memory – that one could have a brilliant idea and then forget it immediately – he looked for answers on how to love, or how to manage one’s boring responsbilities. Sarah Bakewell aptly describes him as ‘a brilliant psychologist, but also a moral philosopher in the fullest sense of the word. He did not tell us what we should do, but explored what we actually do.’ And his appeal continues centuries later because we are all still concerned with the one question Montaigne sought to answer: how does one live?
How to Live
Sarah Bakewell is a renowned historical biographer and the author of How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (2010). For this Folio edition she has selected essays that represent the huge variety and originality of Montaigne’s work, from short, quirky pieces to longer investigations on sex, writing, friendship and education. In this exclusive collection you will find ‘On Fear’, ‘On the custom of wearing clothing’ and ‘On Books’, as well as profound statements on ‘How our mind tangles itself up’ and ‘How the soul discharges its emotions against false objects when lacking real ones’. There is humour, contradiction and a humble acceptance of man’s lack of knowledge.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne: sixteenth-century seigneur, sometime magistrate and mayor of Bordeaux, early retirer, and the creator of the genre for which he also created the word: essay
In addition, Bakewell’s detailed introduction provides the historical and biographical context behind the man who would become a defining influence on literature in the century that followed. She elaborates on the continued interpretations of his work – ‘He is so motley and inconsistent that he lends himself to almost any interpretation, and each generation has hand-picked a Montaigne to fit their own image, making him in turn a wise Stoic, a challenging Sceptic, a proto-Enlightenment freethinker, an amiable companion for the Victorian reader’s fireside (so long as one ignores the sexy bits), and a subversive twentieth-century postmodernist’ – and discusses the many imitators that followed him, even today ‘in the blogways of the internet’.