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image of Montaigne

François Quesnel, “Montaigne”, c. 1590, drawing reprinted with permission from the Montaigne Studies website

Michel de Montaigne

The question is not who will hit the ring, but who will make the best runs at it.

Given the huge breadth of his readings, Montaigne could have been ranked among the most erudite humanists of the XVI th century. But in the Essays , his aim is above all to exercise his own judgment properly. Readers who might want to convict him of ignorance would find nothing to hold against him, he said, for he was exerting his natural capacities, not borrowed ones. He thought that too much knowledge could prove a burden, preferring to exert his “natural judgment” to displaying his erudition.

3. A Philosophy of Free Judgment

4. montaigne’s scepticism, 5. montaigne and relativism, 6. montaigne’s legacy from charron to hobbes, 7. conclusion, translations in english, secondary sources, translations, related entries.

Montaigne (1533–1592) came from a rich bourgeois family that acquired nobility after his father fought in Italy in the army of King Francis I of France; he came back with the firm intention of bringing refined Italian culture to France. He decorated his Périgord castle in the style of an ancient Roman villa. He also decided that his son would not learn Latin in school. He arranged instead for a German preceptor and the household to speak to him exclusively in Latin at home. So the young Montaigne grew up speaking Latin and reading Vergil, Ovid, and Horace on his own. At the age of six, he was sent to board at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux, which he later praised as the best humanist college in France, though he found fault with humanist colleges in general. Where Montaigne later studied law, or, indeed, whether he ever studied law at all is not clear. The only thing we know with certainty is that his father bought him an office in the Court of Périgueux. He then met Etienne de La Boëtie with whom he formed an intimate friendship and whose death some years later, in 1563, left him deeply distraught. Tired of active life, he retired at the age of only 37 to his father’s castle. In the same year, 1571, he was nominated Gentleman of King Charles IX’s Ordinary Chamber, and soon thereafter, also of Henri de Navarre’s Chamber. He received the decoration of the Order of Saint-Michel, a distinction all the more exceptional as Montaigne’s lineage was from recent nobility. On the title page of the first edition (1580) of the Essays , we read: “Essais de Messire Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l’ordre du Roy, & Gentilhomme ordinaire de sa chambre.” Initially keen to show off his titles and, thus, his social standing, Montaigne had the honorifics removed in the second edition (1582).

Replicating Petrarca’s choice in De vita solitaria , Montaigne chose to dedicate himself to the Muses. In his library, which was quite large for the period, he had wisdom formulas carved on the wooden beams. They were drawn from, amongst others, Ecclesiastes , Sextus Empiricus, Lucretius, and other classical authors, whom he read intensively. To escape fits of melancholy, he began to commit his thoughts to paper. In 1580, he undertook a journey to Italy, whose main goal was to cure the pain of his kidney stones at thermal resorts. The journey is related in part by a secretary, in part by Montaigne himself, in a manuscript that was only discovered during the XVIII th century, given the title The Journal of the Journey to Italy , and forgotten soon after. While Montaigne was taking the baths near Pisa, he learnt of his election as Mayor of Bordeaux. He was first tempted to refuse out of modesty, but eventually accepted (he even received a letter from the King urging him to take the post) and was later re-elected. In his second term he came under criticism for having abandoned the town during the great plague in an attempt to protect himself and his family. His time in office was dimmed by the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants. Several members of his family converted to Protestantism, but Montaigne himself remained a Catholic.

Montaigne wrote three books of Essays . (“Essay” was an original name for this kind of work; it became an appreciated genre soon after.) Three main editions are recognized: 1580 (at this stage, only the first two books were written), 1588, and 1595. The last edition, which could not be supervised by Montaigne himself, was edited from the manuscript by his adoptive daughter Marie de Gournay. Till the end of the XIX th century, the copy text for all new editions was that of 1595; Fortunat Strowski and shortly after him Pierre Villey dismissed it in favor of the “Bordeaux copy”, a text of the 1588 edition supplemented by manuscript additions. [ 1 ] Montaigne enriched his text continuously; he preferred to add for the sake of diversity, rather than to correct. [ 2 ] The unity of the work and the order of every single chapter remain problematic. We are unable to detect obvious links from one chapter to the next: in the first book, Montaigne jumps from “Idleness” (I,8) to “Liars” (I,9), then from “Prompt or slow speech” (I,10) to “Prognostications” (I,11). The random aspect of the work, acknowledged by the author himself, has been a challenge for commentators ever since. Part of the brilliance of the Essays lies in this very ability to elicit various forms of explanatory coherence whilst at the same time defying them. The work is so rich and flexible that it accommodates virtually any academic trend. Yet, it is also so resistant to interpretation that it reveals the limits of each interpretation.

Critical studies of the Essays have, until recently, been mainly of a literary nature. However, to consider Montaigne as a writer rather than as a philosopher can be a way of ignoring a disturbing thinker. Indeed, he shook some fundamental aspects of Western thought, such as the superiority we assign to man over animals, [ 3 ] to European civilization over “Barbarians”, [ 4 ] or to reason as an alleged universal standard. A tradition rooted in the 19th century tends to relegate his work to the status of literary impressionism or to the expression of a frivolous subjectivity. To do him justice, one needs to bear in mind the inseparable unity of thought and style in his work. Montaigne’s repeated revisions of his text, as modern editions show with the three letters A, B, C, standing for the three main editions, mirror the relationship between the activity of his thought and the Essays as a work in progress. The Essays display both the laboriousness and the delight of thinking.

In Montaigne we have a writer whose work is deeply infused by philosophical thought. One verse out of sixteen in Lucretius’ De natura rerum is quoted in the Essays . [ 5 ] If it is true, as Edmund Husserl said, that philosophy is a shared endeavor, Montaigne is perhaps the most exemplary of philosophers since his work extensively borrows and quotes from others. Montaigne managed to internalize a huge breadth of reading, so that his erudition does not appear as such. He created a most singular work, yet one that remains deeply rooted in the community of poets, historians, and philosophers. His decision to use only his own judgment in dealing with all sorts of matters, his resolutely distant attitude towards memory and knowledge, his warning that we should not mix God or transcendent principles with the human world, are some of the key elements that characterize Montaigne’s position. As a humanist, he considered that one has to assimilate the classics, but above all to display virtue, “according to the opinion of Plato, who says that steadfastness, faith, and sincerity are real philosophy, and the other sciences which aim at other things are only powder and rouge.” [ 6 ]

Montaigne rejects the theoretical or speculative way of philosophizing that prevailed under the Scholastics ever since the Middle Ages. According to him, science does not exist, but only a general belief in science. Petrarch had already criticized the Scholastics for worshiping Aristotle as their God. Siding with the humanists, Montaigne develops a sharp criticism of science “à la mode des Geométriens”, [ 7 ] the mos geometricus deemed to be the most rigorous. It is merely “a practice and business of science”, [ 8 ] he says, which is restricted to the University and essentially carried out between masters and their disciples. The main problem of this kind of science is that it makes us spend our time justifying as rational the beliefs we inherit, instead of calling into question their foundations; it makes us label fashionable opinions as truth, instead of gauging their strength. Whereas science should be a free inquiry, it consists only in gibberish discussions on how we should read Aristotle or Galen. [ 9 ] Critical judgment is systematically silenced. Montaigne demands a thought process that would not be tied down by any doctrinaire principle, a thought process that would lead to free enquiry.

If we trace back the birth of modern science, we find that Montaigne as a philosopher was ahead of his time. In 1543, Copernicus put the earth in motion, depriving man of his cosmological centrality. Yet he nevertheless changed little in the medieval conception of the world as a sphere. The Copernican world became an “open” world only with Thomas Digges (1576) although his sky was still situated in space, inhabited by gods and angels. [ 10 ] One has to wait for Giordano Bruno to find the first representative of the modern conception of an infinite universe (1584). But whether Bruno is a modern mind remains controversial (the planets are still animals, etc). Montaigne, on the contrary, is entirely free from the medieval conception of the spheres. He owes his cosmological freedom to his deep interest in ancient philosophers, to Lucretius in particular. In the longest chapter of the Essays , the “Apologie de Raymond Sebond”, Montaigne conjures up many opinions, regarding the nature of the cosmos, or the nature of the soul. He weighs the Epicureans’ opinion that several worlds exist, against that of the unicity of the world put forth by both Aristotle and Aquinas. He comes out in favor of the former, without ranking his own evaluation as a truth.

As a humanist, Montaigne conceived of philosophy as morals. In the chapter “On the education of children”, [ 11 ] education is identified with philosophy, this being understood as the formation of judgment and manners in everyday life: “for philosophy, which, as the molder of judgment and conduct, will be his principal lesson, has the privilege of being everywhere at home”. [ 12 ] Philosophy, which consists essentially in the use of judgment, is significant to the very ordinary, varied and “undulating” [ 13 ] process of life. In fact, under the guise of innocuous anecdotes, Montaigne achieved the humanist revolution in philosophy. He moved from a conception of philosophy conceived of as theoretical science, to a philosophy conceived of as the practice of free judgment. Lamenting that “philosophy, even with people of understanding, should be an empty and fantastic name, a thing of no use and no value”, [ 14 ] he asserted that philosophy should be the most cheerful activity. He practised philosophy by setting his judgment to trial, in order to become aware of its weaknesses, but also to get to know its strength. “Every movement reveals us”, [ 15 ] but our judgments do so the best. At the beginning of the past century, one of Montaigne’s greatest commentators, Pierre Villey, developed the idea that Montaigne truly became himself through writing. This idea remains more or less true, in spite of its obvious link with late romanticist psychology. The Essays remain an exceptional historical testimony of the progress of privacy and individualism, a blossoming of subjectivity, an attainment of personal maturity that will be copied, but maybe never matched since. It seems that Montaigne, who dedicated himself to freedom of the mind and peacefulness of the soul, did not have any other aim through writing than cultivating and educating himself. Since philosophy had failed to determine a secure path towards happiness, he committed each individual to do so in his own way. [ 16 ]

Montaigne wants to escape the stifling of thought by knowledge, a wide-spread phenomenon which he called “pedantism”, [ 17 ] an idea that he may have gleaned from the tarnishing of professors by the Commedia dell’arte . He praises one of the most famous professors of the day, Adrianus Turnebus, for having combined robust judgment with massive erudition. We have to moderate our thirst for knowledge, just as we do our appetite for pleasure. Siding here with Callicles against Plato, Montaigne asserts that a gentleman should not dedicate himself entirely to philosophy. [ 18 ] Practised with restraint, it proves useful, whereas in excess it leads to eccentricity and insociability. [ 19 ] Reflecting on the education of the children of the aristocracy (chapter I, 26, is dedicated to the countess Diane de Foix, who was then pregnant), Montaigne departs significantly from a traditional humanist education, the very one he himself received. Instead of focusing on the ways and means of making the teaching of Latin more effective, as pedagogues in the wake of Erasmus usually did, Montaigne stresses the need for action and playful activities. The child will conform early to social and political customs, but without servility. The use of judgment in every circumstance, as a warrant for practical intelligence and personal freedom, has to remain at the core of education. He transfers the major responsibility of education from the school to everyday life: “Wonderful brilliance may be gained for human judgment by getting to know men”. [ 20 ] The priority given to the formation of judgment and character strongly opposes the craving for a powerful memory during his time. He reserves for himself the freedom to pick up bits of knowledge here and there, displaying the “nonchalance” or unconcern intellectually, much in the same way that Castiglione’s courtier would use sprezzatura in social relationships. Although Montaigne presents this nonchalance as essential to his nature, his position is not innocent: it allows him to take on the voice now of a Stoic, and then of a Sceptic, now of an Epicurean and then of a Christian. Although his views are never fully original, they always bear his unmistakable mark. Montaigne’s thought, which is often rated as modern in so many aspects, remains deeply rooted in the classical tradition. Montaigne navigates easily through heaps of classical knowledge, proposing remarkable literary and philosophical innovations along the way.

Montaigne begins his project to know man by noticing that the same human behavior can have opposite effects, or that even opposite conducts can have the same effects: “by diverse means we arrive at the same end”. [ 21 ] Human life cannot be turned into an object of rational theory. Human conduct does not obey universal rules, but a great diversity of rules, among which the most accurate still fall short of the intended mark. “Human reason is a tincture infused in about equal strength in all our opinions and ways, whatever their form: infinite in substance, infinite in diversity” [ 22 ] says the chapter on custom. By focusing on anecdotal experience, Montaigne comes thus to write “the masterpiece of modern moral science”, according to the great commentator Hugo Friedrich. He gives up the moral ambition of telling how men should live, in order to arrive at a non-prejudiced mind for knowing man as he is. “Others form man, I tell of him”. [ 23 ] Man is ever since “without a definition”, as philosopher Marcel Conche commented. [ 24 ] In the chapter “Apologie de Raimond Sebond”, Montaigne draws from classical and Renaissance knowledge in order to remind us that, in some parts of the world, we find men that bear little resemblance to us. Our experience of man and things should not be perceived as limited by our present standards of judgment. It is a sort of madness when we settle limits for the possible and the impossible. [ 25 ]

Philosophy has failed to secure man a determined idea of his place in the world, or of his nature. Metaphysical or psychological opinions, indeed far too numerous, come as a burden more than as a help. Montaigne pursues his quest for knowledge through experience; the meaning of concepts is not set down by means of a definition, it is related to common language or to historical examples. One of the essential elements of experience is the ability to reflect on one’s actions and thoughts. Montaigne is engaging in a case-by-case gnôti seauton , “know thyself”: although truth in general is not truly an appropriate object for human faculties, we can reflect on our experience. What counts is not the fact that we eventually know the truth or not, but rather the way in which we seek it. “The question is not who will hit the ring, but who will make the best runs at it.” [ 26 ] The aim is to properly exercise our judgment.

Montaigne’s thinking baffles our most common categories. The vision of an ever-changing world that he developed threatens the being of all things. “We have no communication with being”. [ 27 ] We wrongly take that which appears for that which is, and we indulge in a dogmatic, deceptive language that is cut off from an ever-changing reality. We ought to be more careful with our use of language. Montaigne would prefer that children be taught other ways of speaking, more appropriate to the nature of human inquiry, such as “What does that mean ?”, “I do not understand it”, “This might be”, “Is it true?” [ 28 ] Montaigne himself is fond of “these formulas that soften the boldness of our propositions”: “perhaps”, “to some extent”, “they say”, “I think”, [ 29 ] and the like. Criticism on theory and dogmatism permeates for example his reflexion on politics. Because social order is too complicated to be mastered by individual reason, he deems conservatism as the wisest stance. [ 30 ] This policy is grounded on the general evaluation that change is usually more damaging than the conservation of social institutions. Nevertheless, there may be certain circumstances that advocate change as a better solution, as history sometimes showed. Reason being then unable to decide a priori , judgment must come into play and alternate its views to find the best option.

With Cornelius Agrippa, Henri Estienne or Francisco Sanchez, among others, Montaigne has largely contributed to the rebirth of scepticism during the XVI th century. His literary encounter with Sextus produced a decisive shock: around 1576, when Montaigne had his own personal medal coined, he had it engraved with his age, with “ Epecho ” , “I abstain” in Greek, and another Sceptic motto in French: “ Que sais-je ?”: what do I know ? At this period in his life, Montaigne is thought to have undergone a “sceptical crisis”, as Pierre Villey famously commented. In fact, this interpretation dates back to Pascal, for whom scepticism could only be a sort of momentary frenzy. [ 31 ] The “Apologie de Raimond Sebond”, the longest chapter of the Essays , bears the sign of intellectual despair that Montaigne manages to shake off elsewhere. But another interpretation of scepticism formulates it as a strategy used to confront “fideism”: because reason is unable to demonstrate religious dogmas, we must rely on spiritual revelation and faith. The paradigm of fideism, a word which Montaigne does not use, has been delivered by Richard Popkin in History of Scepticism [ 32 ] . Montaigne appears here as a founding father of the Counter Reformation, being the leader of the “Nouveaux Pyrrhoniens”, for whom scepticism is used as a means to an end, that is, to neutralize the grip that philosophy once had on religion.

Commentators now agree upon the fact that Montaigne largely transformed the type of scepticism he borrowed from Sextus. The two sides of the scale are never perfectly balanced, since reason always tips the scale in favor of the present at hand. This imbalance undermines the key mechanism of isosthenia , the equality of strength of two opposing arguments. Since the suspension of judgment cannot occur “casually”, as Sextus Empiricus would like it to, judgment must abstain from giving its assent. In fact, the sources of Montaigne’s scepticism are much wider: his child readings of Ovid’s Metamorphosis , which gave him a deep awareness of change, the in utramque partem academic debate which he practised at the Collège de Guyenne (a pro and contra discussion inherited from Aristotle and Cicero), and the humanist philosophy of action, dealing with the uncertainty of human affairs, shaped his mind early on. Through them, he learned repeatedly that rational appearances are deceptive. In most of the chapters of the Essays , Montaigne now and then reverses his judgment: these sudden shifts of perspective are designed to escape adherence, and to tackle the matter from another point of view. [ 33 ] The Essays mirror a discreet conduct of judgment, in keeping with the formula iudicio alternante , which we still find engraved today on the beams of the Périgord castle’s library. The aim is not to ruin arguments by opposing them, as it is the case in the Pyrrhonian “antilogy”, but rather to counterbalance a single opinion by taking into account other opinions. In order to work, each scale of judgment has to be laden. If we take morals, for example, Montaigne refers to varied moral authorities, one of them being custom and the other reason. Against every form of dogmatism, Montaigne returns moral life to its original diversity and inherent uneasiness. Through philosophy, he seeks full accordance with the diversity of life: “As for me, I love life and cultivate it as God has been pleased to grant it to us”. [ 34 ]

We find two readings of Montaigne as a Sceptic. The first one concentrates on the polemical, negative arguments drawn from Sextus Empiricus, at the end of the “Apology”. This hard-line scepticism draws the picture of man as “humiliated”. [ 35 ] Its aim is essentially to fight the pretensions of reason and to annihilate human knowledge. “Truth”, “being” and “justice” are equally dismissed as unattainable. Doubt foreshadows here Descartes’ Meditations , on the problem of the reality of the outside world. Dismissing the objective value of one’s representations, Montaigne would have created the long-lasting problem of “solipsism”. We notice, nevertheless, that he does not question the reality of things — except occasionally at the very end of the “Apology” — but the value of opinions and men. The second reading of his scepticism puts forth that Cicero’s probabilism is of far greater significance in shaping the sceptical content of the Essays . After the 1570s, Montaigne no longer read Sextus; additions show, however, that he took up a more and more extensive reading of Cicero’s philosophical writings. We assume that, in his early search for polemical arguments against rationalism during the 1570s, Montaigne borrowed much from Sextus, but as he got tired of the sceptical machinery, and understood scepticism rather as an ethics of judgment, he went back to Cicero. [ 36 ] The paramount importance of the Academica for XVI th century thought has been underlined by Charles B. Schmitt. [ 37 ] In the free enquiry, which Cicero engaged throughout the varied doctrines, the humanists found an ideal mirror of their own relationship with the Classics. “The Academy, of which I am a follower, gives me the opportunity to hold an opinion as if it were ours, as soon as it shows itself to be highly probable” [ 38 ] , wrote Cicero in the De Officiis . Reading Seneca, Montaigne will think as if he were a member of the Stoa; then changing for Lucretius, he will think as if he had become an Epicurean, and so on. Doctrines or opinions, beside historical stuff and personal experiences, make up the nourishment of judgment. Montaigne assimilates opinions, according to what appears to him as true, without taking it to be absolutely true. He insists on the dialogical nature of thought, referring to Socrates’ way of keeping the discussion going: “The leader of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates, is always asking questions and stirring up discussion, never concluding, never satisfying (…).” [ 39 ] Judgment has to determine the most convincing position, or at least to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each position. The simple dismissal of truth would be too dogmatic a position; but if absolute truth is lacking, we still have the possibility to balance opinions. We have resources enough, to evaluate the various authorities that we have to deal with in ordinary life.

The original failure of commentators was perhaps in labelling Montaigne’s thought as “sceptic” without reflecting on the proper meaning of the essay. Montaigne’s exercise of judgment is an exercise of “natural judgment”, which means that judgment does not need any principle or any rule as a presupposition. In this way, many aspects of Montaigne’s thinking can be considered as sceptical, although they were not used for the sake of scepticism. For example, when Montaigne sets down the exercise of doubt as a good start in education, he understands doubt as part of the process of the formation of judgment. This process should lead to wisdom, characterized as “always joyful”. [ 40 ] Montaigne’s scepticism is not a desperate one. On the contrary, it offers the reader a sort of jubilation which relies on the modest but effective pleasure in dismissing knowledge, thus making room for the exercise of one’s natural faculties.

Renaissance thinkers strongly felt the necessity to revise their discourse on man. But no one accentuated this necessity more than Montaigne: what he was looking for, when reading historians or travellers such as Lopez de Gomara’s History of Indies , was the utmost variety of beliefs and customs that would enrich his image of man. Neither the Hellenistic Sage, nor the Christian Saint, nor the Renaissance Scholar, are unquestioned models in the Essays . Instead, Montaigne is considering real men, who are the product of customs. “Here they live on human flesh; there it is an act of piety to kill one’s father at a certain age (…).” [ 41 ] The importance of custom plays a polemical part: alongside with scepticism, the strength of imagination (chapter I,21) or Fortune (chapters I,1, I,24, etc.), it contributes to the devaluation of reason and will. It is bound to destroy our spontaneous confidence that we do know the truth, and that we live according to justice. During the XVI th century, the jurists of the “French school of law” showed that the law is tied up with historical determinations. [ 42 ] In chapter I,23, “On custom”, Montaigne seems to extrapolate on this idea : our opinions and conducts being everywhere the product of custom, references to universal “reason”, “truth”, or “justice” are to be dismissed as illusions. Pierre Villey was the first to use the terms “relativity” and “relativism”, which proved to be useful tools when commenting on the fact that Montaigne acknowledges that no universal reason presides over the birth of our beliefs. [ 43 ] The notion of absolute truth, applied to human matters, vitiates the understanding and wreaks havoc in society. Upon further reflexion, contingent customs impact everything: “in short, to my way of thinking, there is nothing that custom will not or cannot do”. [ 44 ] Montaigne calls it “Circe’s drink”. [ 45 ] Custom is a sort of witch, whose spell, among other effects, casts moral illusion. “The laws of conscience, which we say are born from nature, are born of custom. Each man, holding in inward veneration the opinions and the behavior approved and accepted around him, cannot break loose from them without remorse, or apply himself to them without self-satisfaction.” [ 46 ] The power of custom, indeed, not only guides man in his behavior, but also persuades him of its legitimacy. What is crime for one person will appear normal to another. In the XVII th century, Blaise Pascal will use this argument when challenging the pretension of philosophers of knowing truth. One century later, David Hume will lay stress on the fact that the power of custom is all the stronger, specifically because we are not aware of it. What are we supposed to do, then, if our reason is so flexible that it “changes with two degrees of elevation towards the pole”, as Pascal puts it? [ 47 ] For the Jansenist thinker, only one alternative exists, faith in Jesus Christ. However, it is more complicated in the case of Montaigne. Getting to know all sorts of customs, through his readings or travels, he makes an exemplary effort to open his mind. “We are all huddled and concentrated in ourselves, and our vision is reduced to the length of our nose.” [ 48 ] Custom’s grip is so strong that it is dubious as to whether we are in a position to become aware of it and shake off its power.

Montaigne was hailed by Claude Lévi-Strauss as the progenitor of the human sciences, and the pioneer of cultural relativism. [ 49 ] However, Montaigne has not been willing to indulge entirely in relativism. Judgment is at first sight unable to stop the relativistic discourse, but it is not left without remedy when facing the power of custom. Exercise of thought is the first counterweight we can make use of, for example when criticizing an existing law. Customs are not almighty, since their authority can be reflected upon, evaluated or challenged by individual judgment. The comparative method can also be applied to the freeing of judgment: although lacking a universal standard, we can nevertheless stand back from particular customs, by the mere fact of comparing them. Montaigne thus compares heating or circulating means between people. In a more tragical way, he denounces the fanaticism and the cruelty displayed by Christians against one another, during the civil wars in France, through a comparison with cannibalism: “I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead, and in tearing by tortures and the rack a body still full of feeling (…).” [ 50 ] The meaning of the word “barbarity” is not merely relative to a culture or a point of view, since there are degrees of barbarity. Passing a judgment on cannibals, Montaigne also says: “So we may well call these people barbarians, in respect to the rules of reason, but not in respect to ourselves, who surpass them in every kind of barbarity (…).” [ 51 ] Judgment is still endowed with the possibility of postulating universal standards, such as “reason” or “nature”, which help when evaluating actions and behaviors. Although Montaigne maintains in the “Apologie” that true reason and true justice are only known by God, he asserts in other chapters that these standards are somehow accessible to man, since they allow judgment to consider customs as particular and contingent rules. [ 52 ] In order to criticize the changeable and the relative, we must suppose that our judgment is still able to “bring things back to truth and reason”. [ 53 ] Man is everywhere enslaved by custom, but this does not mean that we should accept the numbing of our mind. Montaigne elaborates a pedagogy, which rests on the practice of judgment itself. The task of the pupil is not to repeat what the master said, but, on a given subject of problem, to confront his judgment with the master’s one. Moreover, relativistic readings of the Essays are forced to ignore certain passages that carry a more rationalistic tone. “The violent detriment inflicted by custom” (I,23) is certainly not a praise of custom, but an invitation to escape it. In the same way that Circe’s potion has changed men into pigs, custom turns their intelligence into stupidity. In the toughest cases, Montaigne’s critical use of judgment aims at giving “a good whiplash to the ordinary stupidity of judgment.” [ 54 ] In many other places, Montaigne boasts of himself being able to resist vulgar opinion. Independence of thinking, alongside with clear-mindedness and good faith, are the first virtues a young gentleman should acquire.

Pierre Charron was Montaigne’s friend and official heir. In De la sagesse (1601 and 1604), he re-organized many of his master’s ideas, setting aside the most disturbing ones. His work is now usually dismissed as a dogmatic misrepresentation of Montaigne’s thought. Nevertheless, his book was given priority over the Essays themselves during the whole XVII th century, especially after Malebranche’s critics conspired to have the Essays included in the Roman Index of 1677. Montaigne’s historical influence must be reckoned through the lens of this mediation. Moreover, Charron’s reading is not simply faulty. According to him, wisdom relies on the readiness of judgment to revise itself towards a more favorable outcome: [ 55 ] this idea is one of the most remarkable readings of the Essays in the early history of their reception.

The critical conception of the essay was taken up by the English scientist and philosopher Francis Bacon, who considered his own Essays as “fragments of [his] conceits” and “dispersed meditations”, aiming to stimulate the reader’s appetite for thinking and knowledge rather than satisfying it with expositions of dogmas and methods. [ 56 ] Even in his more scientific works, such as The Advancement of Learning , Bacon’s writing was inconclusive. He posited that this open and fragmentary style was the best way to inspire further thought and examination: “Aphorisms, representing a knowledge broken, do invite men to inquire further”. [ 57 ] Bacon’s reflections allow us to appreciate the scientific value of Montaigne’s Essays, insofar as they are incomplete works, always calling for subsequent reflections by the author and the reader, thus inspiring and promoting the development of ideas and the advancement of research.

The influence Montaigne had on Descartes has been commented upon by many critics, at least from the XIX th century on, within the context of the birth of modern science. As a sceptic, calling into question the natural link between mind and things, Montaigne would have won his position in the modern philosophical landscape. The scepticism in the “Apologie” is, no doubt, a main source of “solipsism”, but Descartes cannot be called a disciple of Montaigne in the sense that he would have inherited a doctrine. Above all, he owes the Périgourdin gentleman a way of educating himself. Far from substituting Montaigne for his Jesuit schoolteachers, Descartes decided to teach himself from scratch, following the path indicated by Montaigne to achieve independence and firmness of judgment. The mindset that Descartes inherited from the Essays appears as something particularly obvious, in the two first parts of the Discours de la méthode . As the young Descartes left the Collège de La Flèche, he decided to travel, and to test his own value in action. “I employed the rest of my youth to travel, to see courts and armies, to meet people of varied humors and conditions, to collect varied experiences, to try myself in the meetings that fortune was offering me (…).” [ 58 ] Education, taken out of a school context, is presented as an essay of the self through experience. The world, as pedagogue, has been substituted for books and teachers. This new education allows Descartes to get rid of the prejudice of overrating his own customs, a widespread phenomenon that we now call ethnocentrism. Montaigne’s legacy becomes particularly conspicuous when Descartes draws the lesson from his travels, “having acknowledged that those who have very contrary feelings to ours are not barbarians or savages, but that many of them make use of reason as much or more so than we do”. And also : “It is good to know something of different people, in order to judge our own with more sanity, and not to think that everything that is against our customs and habits is ridiculous and against reason, as usually do those who have never seen anything.” [ 59 ] Like Montaigne, Descartes begins by philosophizing on life with no other device than the a discipline of judgment: “I was learning not to believe anything too firmly, of which I had been persuaded through example and custom.” [ 60 ] He departs nevertheless from Montaigne when he will equate with error opinions that are grounded on custom. [ 61 ] The latter would not have dared to speak of error: varied opinions, having more or less authority, are to be weighed upon the scale of judgment. It is thus not correct to interpret Montaigne’s philosophy as a “criticism of prejudice” from a Cartesian stance.

In recent years, critics have stressed the importance of the connection between Montaigne and Hobbes for the development of a modern vision of politics, rooted in a criticism of traditional doctrines of man and society. At the time when Shakespeare was writing his plays, the first English translation of Montaigne’s Essays by John Florio (1603) became a widely-read classic in England. As a former student of Magdalen Hall (Oxford) and Saint John’s College (Cambridge), and as a young tutor and secretary to aristocratic and wealthy families, Thomas Hobbes had many opportunities to read Montaigne in the libraries he frequented. In his capacity as tutor, he traveled widely in Europe and spent several sojourns in France, before the English Civil War forced him into exile in Paris (1641–1651). During this period, Hobbes moved in skeptical and libertine circles and met scholars such as Sorbière, Gassendi, and La Mothe Le Vayer, all influenced by a shared reference to Montaigne’s skepticism. Historical documents and comparative research confirm the relevance of Montaigne’s influence on Hobbes’s work, from Elements of Law to Leviathan . [ 62 ] The two authors share a philosophical conception of man as driven by desire and imagination, and relentlessly striving for self-conservation and power. Montaigne identified human life with movement and instability, and pointed to the power that our passions have to push us toward imaginary future accomplishments (honor, glory, science, reason, and so on). [ 63 ] In Leviathan , Hobbes builds on this position to assert, as a general inclination of all mankind, “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceases only in death”. [ 64 ] This shared anthropology shows the extent to which Montaigne and Hobbes refute the Scholastic and Renaissance anthropocentric idea of man as a rational being at the summit of creation. On the contrary, they underline his instinctive and passionate nature, which eventually leads to violence and conflict wherever the political community collapses. This negative anthropology is to be understood in the light of the historical experience of the civil wars upsetting both their countries. [ 65 ] The threat of political turmoil imbued both Montaigne and Hobbes’ lives. Whereas Hobbes quoted the ancient saying homo homini lupus , and described the human condition outside the civil state as a war “where every man is enemy to every man”, [ 66 ] Montaigne seemed to go further, “having learned by experience, from the cruelty of some Christians, that there is no beast in the world to be feared by man as man”. [ 67 ] In order to avoid the outburst of violence, they both recognize the necessity of laws and obedience, a necessity that does not rely on any ontological or moral foundation. The normative force of law results from its practical necessity, as it is the rational condition of life in society. [ 68 ] As Montaigne wrote: “Now laws remain in credit not because they are just, but because they are laws”. [ 69 ] Questioning the Aristotelian vision of politics as a natural goal for humanity, Montaigne and Hobbes pointed out the man-made nature of civil authority, as founded in the need to preserve life and peace, avoiding violence and war.

Montaigne cultivates his liberty by not adhering exclusively to any one idea, while at the same time exploring them all. In exercising his judgment on various topics, he trains himself to go off on fresh tracks, starting from something he read or experienced. For Montaigne this also means calling into question the convictions of his time, reflecting upon his beliefs and education, and cultivating his own personal thoughts. His language can be said to obey only one rule, that is, to be “an effect of judgment and sincerity,” [ 70 ] which is the very one that he demands from the pupil. His language bears an unmistakable tone but contradicts itself sometimes from one place to another, perhaps for the very reason that it follows so closely the movements of thought.

If being a philosopher means being insensitive to human frailties and to the evils or to the pleasures which befall us, then Montaigne is not a philosopher. If it means using a “jargon”, and being able to enter the world of scholars, then Montaigne is not one either. Yet, if being a philosopher is being able to judge properly in any circumstances of life, then the Essays are the exemplary testimony of an author who wanted to be a philosopher for good. Montaigne is putting his judgment to trial on whatever subject, in order not only to get to know its value, but also to form and strengthen it.

He manages thus to offer us a philosophy in accordance with life. As Nietzsche puts it, “that such a man has written, joy on earth has truly increased…If my task were to make this earth a home, I would attach myself to him.” Or, as Stefan Zweig said, in a context which was closer to the historical reality experienced by Montaigne himself : “Montaigne helps us answer this one question: ‘How to stay free? How to preserve our inborn clear-mindedness in front of all the threats and dangers of fanaticism, how to preserve the humanity of our hearts among the upsurge of bestiality?’”

  • Essais , F. Strowski (ed.), Paris: Hachette, 1912, Phototypic reproduction of the “Exemplaire de Bordeaux”, showing Montaigne’s handwritten additions of 1588–1592.
  • Essais , Pierre Villey (ed.), 3 volumes, Alcan, 1922–1923, revised by V.-L. Saulnier, 1965. Gives the 3 strata indications, probable dates of composition of the chapters, and many sources.
  • Michel de Montaigne. Les Essais , J. Balsamo, C. Magnien-Simonin & M. Magnien (eds.) (with “Notes de lecture” and “Sentences peintes” edited by Alain Legros), Paris, “Pléiade”, Gallimard, 2007. The Essays are based on the 1595 published version.
  • La Théologie naturelle de Raymond Sebond , traduicte nouvellement en François par Messire Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l’ordre du Roy et Gentilhomme ordinaire de sa chambre . Ed. by Dr Armaingaud, Paris: Conard, 1935.
  • Le Journal de Voyage en Italie de Michel de Montaigne . Ed. by François Rigolot, Paris: PUF, 1992.
  • Lettres . Ed. by Arthur Armaingaud, Paris, Conard, 1939 (vol. XI, in Œuvres complètes , pp. 159–266).
  • The Essayes , tr. by John Florio. London: V. Sims, 1603.
  • The Essays , tr. by Charles Cotton. 3 vol., London: T. Basset, M. Gilliflower and W. Hensman, 1685–1686.
  • The Essays , tr. by E.J. Trechmann. 2 vol., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1927.
  • Michel de Montaigne. The Complete Works. Essays, Travel Journal, Letters, tr. by Donald M. Frame , Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958, renewed 1971 & 1976.
  • The Complete Essays , tr. by M.A. Screech, London/New York: Penguin, 1993.
  • The Journal of Montaigne’s Travels , tr. by W.G. Watters, 3 vol., London: John Murray, 1903.
  • The Diary of Montaigne’s Journey to Italy in 1580 and 1581 , tr. by E.J. Trechmann. London: Hogarth Press, 1929.
  • Auerbach, Erich, 1946, “l’humaine condition” (on Montaigne) in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans . Willard Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003 (originally pub. Bern: Francke).
  • Burke, Peter, 1981, Montaigne , Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Compayré, Gabriel, 1908, Montaigne and the Education of the Judgment, trans. J. E. Mansion, New York: Burt Franklin, 1971.
  • Conche, Marcel, 1996, Montaigne et la philosophie , Paris: PUF.
  • Desan, Philippe, 2017, Montaigne: A Life , Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • ––– (ed.), 2007, Dictionnaire de Montaigne , Paris: Champion.
  • ––– (ed.), 2016, The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne , Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Ferrari, Emiliano, & Gontier, Thierry, 2016, L’Axe Montaigne-Hobbes: anthropologie et politique , Paris: Classiques Garnier.
  • Frame, Donald M., 1984, Montaigne: A Biography , New York: Harcourt/ London: Hamish Hamilton, 1965/ San Francisco: North Point Press.
  • Friedrich, Hugo, 1991, Montaigne , Bern: Francke, 1949; Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Fontana, Biancamaria, 2008, Montaigne’s Politics: Authority and Governance in the Essays , Geneva: Princeton University Press.
  • Hoffmann, Georges, 1998, Montaigne’s Career , Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Horkheimer, Max, 1938, Montaigne und die Funktion der Skepsis , Frankfurt: Fischer, reprinted 1971.
  • Imbach, Ruedi, 1983, “‘Et toutefois nostre outrecuidance veut faire passer la divinité par nostre estamine’, l’essai II,12 et la genèse de la pensée moderne. Construction d’une thèse explicative” in Paradigmes de théologie philosophique , O. Höffe et R. Imbach (eds.), Fribourg.
  • Ulrich Langer, 2005, The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Leake, R.E., 1981, Concordance des Essais de Montaigne , 2 vol., Genève: Droz.
  • Paganini, Gianni, 2008, Skepsis. Le débat des modernes sur le scepticisme , Paris: Vrin.
  • Popkin, Richard, 1960, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes , Assen: Van Gorcum.
  • –––, 1979, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza , Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • –––, 2003, The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle , Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Schmitt, Charles B., 1972, Cicero scepticus : A Study of the Influence of the Academica in the Renaissance , The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Screech, Michael, 1983, Montaigne & Melancholy — The Wisdom of the Essays , London: Duckworth.
  • –––, 1998, Montaigne’s Annotated Copy of Lucretius, A transcription and study of the manuscript, notes and pen-marks , Geneva: Droz.
  • Skinner, Quentin, 2002, Visions of Politics (Volume 3: Hobbes and Civil Science), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Starobinski, Jean, 2009, Montaigne in Motion , University of Chicago Press.
  • Supple, James, 1984, Arms versus Letters, The Military and Literary Ideals in the Essays , Cambridge: Clarendon Press.
  • Thompson, Douglas, 2018, Montaigne and the Tolerance of Politics , Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Tournon, André, 1983, La glose et l’essai , Paris: H. Champion, reprinted 2001.
  • Zweig, Stefan, 1960, Montaigne [written 1935–1941] Frankfurt: Fischer.
How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.

Other Internet Resources

  • The complete, searchable text of the Villey-Saulnier edition , from the ARFTL project at the University of Chicago (French)
  • Montaigne Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum , Philippe Desan, ed., (University of Chicago).
  • Portrait Gallery , in Montaigne Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum
  • Montaigne’s Essays John Florio’s translation (first published 1603, Ben R. Schneider (ed.), Lawrence University, Wisconsin, from The World’s Classics, 1904, 1910, 1924), published at Renascence Editions, U. Oregon
  • Essays of Michel De Montaigne , translated (1685–1686) by Charles Cotton, edited by William Carew Hazlitt, London: Reeves anbd Turner.

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Michel de Montaigne and the Art of the Personal Essay

Montaigne invented the essay genre after deciding he wanted to write a literary self-portrait of himself. This turned out to be an impossible task.

chateau st michel de montaigne

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is one of France’s most celebrated literary giants . Born into a noble Catholic family from South West France, he spent many years sitting in Bordeaux’s parliament. But after 15 years working in the legal and political sphere, Montaigne retired to his country estate in Dordogne.

It was here, inside a small library within one of his chateau towers , that Montaigne began writing the Essays . He published the first two volumes of these essays in 1580, followed by a third in 1588. Within their pages he wrote chapters of varying lengths (sometimes only a few paragraphs, sometimes hundreds of pages long) on a wide array of topics ranging from architecture to child-rearing. His writing style was unusual in the 16th century for its complete honesty and informality.

The Essays: Michel de Montaigne’s Personal and Historical Context

Michel de Montaigne portrait

Before we dive into the essays themselves, it’s helpful to understand Montaigne’s mindset when he first began writing in 1571. The nobleman had already suffered a series of personal tragedies by the time he put quill to parchment. His close friend Étienne de la Boétie passed away in 1563, followed by Montaigne’s beloved father Pierre only a few years later in 1568.

In fact, Montaigne was arguably surrounded by death throughout his life. He and his wife Françoise had several children, but only one daughter, Léonore, survived childhood. Furthermore, France was embroiled in a bloody civil war between Catholic and Protestant factions for much of the latter half of the 16th century. This violence reached the walls of Montaigne’s chateau on many occasions. Montaigne himself was twice accosted by spies and soldiers who wanted to kidnap or kill him, but in both cases he managed to talk his way out of trouble.

chateau michel de montaigne

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In this context of grief and bloody violence, Montaigne began to look inwardly to himself. After all, his external reality, which was filled with family tragedy and religious massacres, didn’t seem to be making much sense. It’s hardly surprising that in his famous preface to the Essays , the author expresses a belief that his own death will occur fairly soon. Therefore his writing will serve as a legacy, a reminder of his character and personality once he is dead.

This is where the unique nature of Montaigne’s writing comes into play.  In the Essays he wants to try and pin down his own thoughts and feelings on paper, amid the uncertainty and violence of the world around him. He accepts that there are plenty of things he knows very little about, which is why he often defers to other people by including direct quotations from ancient philosophers and historians in his writing. But what he can do is draw on his own experience, i.e. his memories, personal events etc. and combine it with the books and philosophies that have shaped him, in order to try and sketch a self-portrait of himself.

The Essays were printed and widely disseminated throughout Europe, bringing Michel de Montaigne a large degree of fame during his lifetime. He continued to write and rewrite previous editions of his work, resulting in several versions of the Essays in circulation. Eventually, after some brief periods of travel across France and Italy, ill health confined Montaigne to his chateau once again. He died of quinsy at the age of 59.

The Unique Composition of the Essays

montaigne portait

As you may have guessed, the Essays (in French: Essais ) are an unusual collection of writing. The word ‘essay’ itself comes from the French verb ‘essayer’ i.e. ‘to attempt’. Each chapter is Montaigne’s attempt to explore a particular topic, whether it be child-rearing or suicide , by capturing the natural flow of his thoughts as they enter his mind. In a chapter on politeness, for example, he might begin by discussing a famous quote on being polite, then compare this with what various philosophers say on the matter, before finally reflecting on his own attitude towards politeness.

Despite being a member of the upper classes, Montaigne discusses historical events and philosophical questions alongside personal anecdotes and health issues (including his bowel movements and napping schedule!). Although it’s now a common literary genre, this free-flowing essay form was completely new to 16th century audiences. The Essays represented the origins of an entirely new way of writing.

What makes Michel de Montaigne’s writing even more unique was his insistence on constantly revising what he had already published. In later editions, he added hundreds of annotations (sometimes several paragraphs long) or hastily deleted sentences and quotes he no longer liked. In fact, this constant rewriting highlights just how difficult it is to paint a literary self-portrait. Our ideas and opinions on subjects are constantly changing over the course of our lifetime. The Essays are a record of how Montaigne’s own mindset evolved as he grew older, read more books and experienced even more of life.

Montaigne and the Act of (Re)writing

michel de montaigne essays frontispiece

Indeed, the rewriting process feeds into this problem which Montaigne encounters during his writing. In a chapter entitled ‘On Repentance’, he ends up discussing how difficult he finds it to record himself through the medium of writing: “I can’t pin down my object. It is tumultuous, it flutters around” (Montaigne, 2007). Then he asserts one of his most famous dictums: “I don’t paint the being. I paint the passage” (Montaigne, 2007). Here he illustrates what he believes to be one of the key conditions of human existence: that all human beings are constantly in flux.

Michel de Montaigne can never truly give a single self-portrait of himself through his writing. Because he, like us, is constantly changing over time. His body is aging, his emotions change from day to day, his favorite authors and philosophers evolve as he reads more books. He cannot write the ‘being’ because it’s constantly in flux, so he can only record the ‘passage’ of himself as it changes from day to day, minute to minute.

The Philosophical Significance of the Essays

english edition montaigne essays

So if we’re constantly in flux, how can we ever do what a philosopher wants to do best and try to find truth? After all, Montaigne acknowledges that learning and attempting to find truth in the world is often portrayed as the most distinguished way to spend one’s time: “We are born to seek out truth…the world is nothing but a school of learning” (Montaigne, 2007).

Montaigne suggests that we humans possess a strong desire to fulfill our curiosity. Furthermore, when Michel de Montaigne discusses truth, he often uses verbs such as ‘to seek’ or ‘to search’ but never claims to have finally ‘found’ the truth. This suggests that he believes truth-seeking to be an open-ended journey, one which will never quite be fully realized. This is mirrored in the writing of the Essays themselves, which were edited and re-edited by their author, before subsequently spawning a long tradition of academic scholarship which still debates the meaning of Montaigne’s writing today.

portrait michel de montaigne dumonstier

In a temporal world , learning and accessing truth is challenging. Montaigne often uses the French word branle (which roughly translates as ‘inconstant movement’) to describe time. Time’s inconstancy affects us every single day. Montaigne points out that each new day brings new feelings and flights of imagination, leading us to flit between different opinions. Time’s inconstancy isn’t just reflected in the external world i.e. through the changing seasons, but it also affects the inner essence of our being. And we humans allow ourselves to drift along in this way, stating an opinion then changing it an hour later, for the entirety of our lives on earth: “It’s nothing but inconstancy” (Montaigne, 2007).

When it comes to pinning down a literary self-portrait, Montaigne struggles due to the impermanence of living in time: “If I speak of myself in different ways, it’s because I view myself differently” (Montaigne, 2007). However, his commitment to writing and rewriting his thoughts shows his determination to try and find truth in the world despite all of its uncertainty. Even though human beings exist in temporal flux, we still have a brain and rational tools which allow us to live in time. Truth-seeking means doing what Montaigne is doing with his writing: drawing on your own experience and writing down your thoughts to try and know yourself. After all, the one thing that humans can reliably claim to know about is themselves.

Michel de Montaigne’s Literary and Philosophical Legacy

michel de montaigne 1590 portrait

The Essays are celebrated due to their inventive nature. In the end, Montaigne didn’t care that he would never be able to represent himself faithfully through writing. He accepts that this is the way of the world, and puts quill to parchment anyway. Scholar Terence Cave once described the Essays as “the richest and most productive thought-experiment ever committed to paper” (Cave, 2007). Furthermore, as stated above, the clue is in the name essay , which means ‘attempt’: as he reflects on the French civil war or the nature of custom, his thoughts shift and change. He is trying, and that’s all we can ever do.

Montaigne has also defied classification as a philosopher. Sometimes he favors Stoicism as a world view, at other times he prefers the Skeptics. And unlike many philosophers who are seeking a way to live in the world , Michel de Montaigne refuses to give a final judgment on whatever topic he is writing about. His personal anecdotes and moral reflections always lead towards open-ended conclusions. He doesn’t seek to provide his readers with absolute answers to life’s major questions. What he does do is attempt to record himself searching for those answers in vain.

Bibliography

Terence Cave, How to Read Montaigne (London: Granta, 2007)

Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais , ed. by Jean Balsamo, Michel Magnien & Catherine Magnien-Simonen (Paris: Gallimard, 2007)

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By Rachel Ashcroft MSc Comparative Literature, PhD Renaissance Philosophy Rachel is a contributing writer and journalist with an academic background in European languages, literature and philosophy. She has an MA in French and Italian and an MSc in Comparative Literature from the University of Edinburgh. Rachel completed a PhD in Renaissance conceptions of time at Durham University. Now living back in Edinburgh, she regularly publishes articles and book reviews related to her specialty for a range of publications including The Economist.

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Francis Bacon as an Essayist

Francis Bacon is the first great English essayist who enjoys a glorious reputation and considered to be the father of English essay . He remains for the sheer mass and weight of genius. His essays introduce a new form of composition into English literature.

Three Editions of Bacon’s Essays

Bacon sponsored this new literary form in English with the publication of his ten essays in 1597. It grew to thirty-eight in the edition of 1612. The number reached fifty-eight in the final issue of 1625. These essays are the results of his direct observations of men and matters.

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Father of English Essay – Francis Bacon!

Last updated on February 14th, 2023 at 01:27 am

The “father of the English essay” is often considered to be Francis Bacon. He was an English philosopher, statesman, and writer who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Bacon is best known for his essays, which are considered to be some of the earliest examples of the form in English literature. In his essays, Bacon explored a wide range of topics, including love, death, truth, anger, friendship, and more. He was known for his concise, direct writing style and his ability to convey complex ideas in simple, easy-to-understand language. Through his essays, Bacon helped establish the essay as a literary form, and he remains an important figure in the history of English literature.

Table of Contents

Francis Bacon

During the transition from the Renaissance to the early modern era, Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) was one of the most influential people in natural philosophy and the study of scientific methods.  Bacon is regarded as the father of English essay. He introduced this genre into the English language and literature by importing it from French writer Michel de Montaigne. No less important than the innovative act of importing this form was his own personal contribution to its enrichment and development. He is additionally referred to as the Father of Modern English Prose. In addition to these two very outstanding accomplishments, Bacon was a diligent classical scholar with an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge. He was a distinguished empirical scientist, a distinguished lawyer, and a significant statesman. He was a member of parliament and a superb orator. Bacon’s intellect was not entirely lofty and magnificent despite his diversity.

Francis Bacon – Notable Work & Contributions

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Francis Bacon is widely considered the father of the English essay. He was a prolific writer and his essays, which were first published in 1597, are considered to be some of the earliest examples of the form in English literature. Bacon’s essays are characterized by their conciseness, directness, and their ability to convey complex ideas in simple language. He explored a wide range of topics in his essays, including love, death, truth, anger, friendship, and more.

Bacon’s essays helped establish the essay as a literary form, and his writing style and approach to essay writing influenced subsequent generations of writers. He is often credited with popularizing the essay as a form of writing and making it accessible to a wider audience.

Bacon’s essays remain widely read and studied to this day, and his contributions to the development of the English essay continue to be recognized and celebrated. He remains an important figure in the history of English literature and his essays are considered to be classic examples of the form.

Major Works-

Francis Bacon was a prolific writer and produced a number of important works in a variety of fields. Some of his major works include:

  • Essays: Bacon’s essays were first published in 1597 and are considered some of the earliest examples of the essay form in English literature. He wrote about a wide range of topics, including love, death, truth, anger, friendship, and more.
  • The Advancement of Learning: This work was published in 1605 and is considered one of Bacon’s most important philosophical works. In it, he outlines his views on the importance of learning and the role of science in the advancement of knowledge.
  • Novum Organum: This work was published in 1620 and is considered one of Bacon’s most important scientific works. It lays the foundation for the scientific method and argues for the importance of observation and experimentation in the pursuit of knowledge.
  • The New Atlantis: This work was published in 1627 and is considered one of Bacon’s most important works of fiction. It is a utopian novel that explores Bacon’s vision of a perfect society based on the principles of science and reason.
  • The History of the Reign of King Henry VII: This work was published in 1622 and is considered one of Bacon’s most important works of history. It is a comprehensive history of the reign of King Henry VII and is noted for its balanced and impartial approach to its subject.

These work, which are still read and studied worldwide, show Bacon’s enormous intellectual range and his enduring influence on philosophy, science, and literature.

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Francis Bacon as Father of English Essay

Francis Bacon is regarded as the “Father of English Essay” for several reasons:

  • Pioneering work: Bacon wrote some of the earliest examples of the essay form in English literature, and his essays helped establish the essay as a recognized literary genre.
  • Writing style: Bacon’s essays are characterized by their conciseness, directness, and clear expression of complex ideas. He was known for his ability to convey his thoughts in simple and easily understandable language.
  • Range of topics: Bacon wrote about a wide range of topics in his essays, from love and death to truth and anger. This broad scope helped to popularize the essay as a form of writing that could be used to address a variety of subjects.
  • Influence: Bacon’s essays had a profound impact on subsequent generations of writers, who were inspired by his writing style and approach to essay writing. His work continues to be widely read and studied to this day, and his contributions to the development of the English essay are widely recognized.
  • Legacy: Bacon’s essays remain classic examples of the essay form, and he remains an important figure in the history of English literature. His contributions to the development of the essay have been widely celebrated, and he is regarded as the “Father of the English Essay” for his pioneering work in this field.

FAQs on the Father of English Essay

Francis Bacon is widely considered to be the “Father of the English Essay.”

Bacon’s prose is distinguished by its brevity, vividness, and terseness. Concreteness, vividness, clarity, control, and force are all present in plenty. His essays are advice pieces written in short, oppositional, and epigrammatic phrases. His essays were dubbed “separated meditations” by him.

Bacon’s essays are known for their conciseness, directness, and their ability to convey complex ideas in simple language.

Bacon wrote about a wide range of topics in his essays, including love, death, truth, anger, friendship, and more.

Bacon is considered the “Father of the English Essay” because he wrote some of the earliest examples of the essay form in English literature and helped establish the essay as a recognized literary genre. He was known for his concise and direct writing style and his ability to convey complex ideas in simple language. His contributions to the development of the English essay continue to be widely recognized and celebrated.

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"Of Studies" by Francis Bacon

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Francis Bacon, the first major English essayist , comments forcefully in "Of Studies" on the value of reading, writing, and learning.

"Of Studies" is an aphoristic  essay. Notice Bacon's reliance on parallel structures (in particular, tricolons ) throughout. Then, compare the essay to Samuel Johnson 's treatment of the same theme more than a century later in "On Studies".

The Life of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon is considered a Renaissance man. He worked as a lawyer and scientist throughout his life (1561-1626.)

Bacon's most valuable work surrounded philosophical and Aristotelian concepts that supported the scientific method. Bacon served as an attorney general as well as lord chancellor of England and received his education from several universities including Trinity College and the University of Cambridge.

Bacon wrote over 50 essays beginning with "Of" in the title and following the concept, such as " Of Truth ", "Of Atheism", and " Of Discourse ".

Francis Bacon Facts

Bacon's uncle was the lord keeper for Queen Elizabeth I. He helped symbolize the approvals for key documents. Additionally:

  • Bacon is known as the father of the scientific method which was influenced by his own Baconian method based on reason and observation.
  • Around 1621, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of bribery.
  • He died of bronchitis in 1626 after going in the snow in Highgate, London.

Interpretations of "Of Studies'"

Bacon's essay expresses several comments in "Of Studies" that can be interpreted as the following:

  • Studying is helpful for better understanding and provides knowledge that develops experience, as well as a character that grows.
  • Reading provides delight and fun, ornament and showing off, and the ability to succeed.
  • Bacon expanded upon different fields of study depending on one's goal; for example, to master clarity with language, study poetry.

"Of Studies" Excerpt

"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores [Studies pass into and influence manners]. Nay, there is no stone or impediment in the wit but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores [splitters of hairs]. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt."

Bacon published three editions of his essays (in 1597, 1612, and 1625), and the last two were marked by the addition of more essays. In many cases, they became expanded works from earlier editions. This is the best-known version of the essay "Of Studies", taken from the 1625 edition of "Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral".

Version From the First Edition (1597)

"Studies serve for pastimes, for ornaments, for abilities; their chief use for pastimes is in privateness and retiring; for ornaments in discourse; and for ability in judgment; for expert men can execute, but learned men are more fit to judge and censure. To spend too much time in them is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humor of a scholar; they perfect nature, and are themselves perfected by experience; crafty men contemn them, wise men use them, simple men admire them; for they teach not their use, but that there is a wisdom without them and above them won by observation. Read not to contradict nor to believe, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some are to be read only in parts, others to be read but curiously, and some few to be read wholly with diligence and attention. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready, and writing an exact man; therefore, if a man write little, he had need of a great memory; if he confer little, he had need of a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not know. Histories make wise men; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend."

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Bacon as an Essayist | Bacon’s Prose Style | Bacon as a father of English Prose

Bacon as an Essayist

Francis Bacon was a famous Essayist of the 16th century and also known as the father of English prose. The collection of his essays was also titled “Essays” which was first published in 1597 and later its second edition was published in 1812 and 1625 respectively.

Bacon as an essayist penned in a methodical way, taking their subject-matter from a collection of perspectives, analyzing them, and writing in distinct prose style, using aphorisms to clearly make a point. He enclosed such subjects as study, love, health, work, truth, travel, friendship, beauty, anger, and so on.

Read more: Renaissance in English Literature

Francis Bacon believed that a person’s mind and personality are expressed through his writing. Therefore if a person had a muddled, unclear and cryptic writing style, then that was an indication that his mind was also disordered and confused. Furthermore if a person’s writing skill was clear, simple and straightforward then that was an indication that his mind was also transparent and uncomplicated. This is very much evident in Bacon’s writings too as he employs short, concise, and aphoristic writing technique in his essays. 

Table of Contents

Bacon’s aphoristic style as an essayist

An aphoristic technique signifies the close-packed and concise style of writing. An aphorism is a terse sentence, conveying the idea in the least possible words. Certainly, Bacon’s essays are replete with such aphorism. His essays amalgamate knowledge with utmost conciseness. The brief, epigrammatic pearl of wisdom in his essays has turned into well-liked mottoes and household verbalism. There are numerous aphoristic lines that we find in his essays. For example in the essay “Of Truth”: “A mixture of lie doth ever add pleasure.” (Francis Bacon, Of Truth).

Through this sentence Bacon wishes to forward the concept that the truth gets more appealing when mingled with a lie in it. Therefore, most of the times, when we wish to protect a lie; we use this pronouncement of Bacon. 

Bacon’s essay “Of Friendship” reveals Bacon’s pithy and laconic style: “For a crowd is not a company and faces are but a gallery of pictures.” (Francis Bacon, Of Friendship).

Read more: Humanism renaissance in English Literature

All the aphorisms of Bacon’s essays amazed us by their freshness and novelty. Every aphoristic sentence seizes us. His laconic style grabs our attention. Basically, they all gratify, excite and delight us because they all consist of priceless ideas, advice, and lessons. 

Bacon’s use of allusions and quotations in his essays:

The learning spirit of renaissance is very much evident in Bacon’s writings. Bacon employs allusions and references carried from varied origins, chronicles, past records, ancient Greek and Roman writers, classical tales, and the Bible. Bacon employs the references of Montaigne and Pilate in his essay “Of Truth” . Similarly in “Of Friendship” Bacon mentions Aristotle. Bacon uses references and allusions so as to elucidate his purpose more distinctly and this also makes Bacon’s prose style more erudite and enriching.

Bacon as a philosopher and a moralist:

As Bacon’s essays show, Bacon is not only a philosopher but also a moralist . A Philosopher is a person who is intensely focused on seeking truth, on the other hand, a moralist is a person who educates human beings on the difference between what is virtuous and what is evil, and encourages them to go in the right direction only. Bacon comes out in this twofold role in numerous essays that he has penned. In his essay “Of Truth,” Bacon states that truth is the ultimate virtue for mankind. In the context of the Bible, Bacon claims that in the first place God made light and the last thing that God made was rational faculty that God gave to mankind. First God passed off light upon substance; then he passed off light upon man, and subsequently, God has been always giving light into the faces of people whom he selects for his unique favor. After explaining all these, we can conclude that these are the investigations of a philosopher-cum-moralist . The main purpose of writing all these essays was that Bacon wanted to teach the importance of truth to his readers.

Bacon’s essays are a storehouse of practical knowledge:

Bacon is regarded as one of the earliest empiricists, building his concepts on investigation of actual life not from prejudices or received facts. Bacon’s essays are a storehouse of practical knowledge. Practical knowledge is a type of knowledge that is compulsory for attaining worldly success. Bacon instructs us on how to advance in this world. Bacon also explains to us how to flourish in life and become wealthy. For example, Bacon writes his “Of Friendship” clearly from a utilitarian point of view. Bacon makes us aware of the “uses” of friendship. A friend simplifies our apprehension and his counsel is most dependable. A friend can take necessary action for us in such circumstances in which we personally cannot take action. Bacon hints to indicate that we require friends only for our worldly contentment and success. It is also noteworthy that he illustrated his essays as “Counsels, civil and moral” which suggests that he wanted his essays to give such instruction to his readers as could assist them in achieving prosperity in civil life while concurrently recognizing certain primary moral values. 

Conclusion:

Francis Bacon also wrote a philosophical work called “Novum Organum” which was his commentary on logic and syllogism. In this work Bacon proposes a new method of logic: he feels to be better to the old method of syllogism.  Bacon was a genuine Renaissance man as he shared his wisdom and knowledge in many different fields like philosophy, science, logic and politics. His technique of essay writing is not adamant and authoritative but willingly he’s own and amiable. For instance in one of his essays “Of Envy” , Bacon does not start with an announcement of envy being dangerous and damaging of pleasure. His style permits him to investigate such topics with an experimental eye that connects experiences to meaning and then only finally unveils his insight and judgment on the topic. To conclude we can say that Bacon was the acute observer of life. Bacon’s essays reflect his vast experience and understanding of men and situations and also of the universe. 

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BACON AS AN ESSAYIST

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Who was Francis Bacon and what was his contribution to English Literature?

Francis Bacon was a busy man of affairs. Known popularly as “The father of English Essays”, his essays have an evergreen freshness and an intellectual power.

Biography of Bacon

At the age of 12, he went to Cambridge, but left the university early, declaring the whole plan of education to be irrational. He demanded 3 things: The free investigation of nature, the discovery of facts instead of theories, and the verification of results by experiments rather by argument. Today we call it science, but at that time it was revolutionary.

father of a essay

Contribution In English Literature

Bacon used to write in the Elizabethan Era. He has given us a true picture of the English society of his time. We remain indebted for the aphorisms his essays carry. They are filled with sensuousness and wit. He does not talk plainly about what he favors, rather he presents a balance sheet of advantages and disadvantages.

Best of His Quotes

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content, to begin with, doubts, he shall end in certainties.”

“Reading maketh a full man, writing an exact man".

“Age appears best in four things:   old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”

Such wisdom packed quotes can come out of essays of a famous philosopher and essayist like Bacon. Where else would you get such treasures of knowledge?

Ridhi Arora

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Short stories, literary essays, india today english lit 1, francis bacon, the father of english essays—his prose style, introduction: .

Bacon is regarded as the father of English essays. The great title is attributed to him on the ground of his great contribution to English essay. But the term father gives the sense of the originator also. In this sense this title seems unjustified, because there was essay even before Bacon. But the form was different. It was a sort of lecture given by a great scholar to display his learning. Under the impression the readers are fools. Bacon gave a new direction to English essay. He made the essay a form to discuss topics of day to day life. It was the period of Renaissance. Therefore, Bacon wrote essays on the problems related to his contemporary society. It is his universality that his thoughts are of great importance even in this computer age.

 Francis Bacon, the Father of English Essays—His Prose Style

Bacon's Contribution to the English Essay: 

Bacon's contribution to English essay can never be overvalued. Bacon has dedicated his essays to the Duke of Buckingham. There is a long list of Bacon's essays. The most important of these are: Of Truth, Of Death, Of Unity in Religion, Of Revenge, Of Adversity, Of Simulation and Dissimulation. Of Parents and Children, Of Marriage and Single Life, Of Envy, Of Love, Of Great Place, Of Boldness, Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature, Of Nobility, Of Seditions and Troubles, Of Atheism , Of Superstition, Of Travel, Of Empire, Of Counsel, Of Delays, Of Cunning, Of Wisdom for a Man's Self, Of Innovations, Of Dispatch, Of Seeming Wise, Of Friendship, Of Expense, Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates, Of Regiment of Health, Of Suspicion, Of Discourse, Of Plantations, Of Riches, Of Prophecies, Of Ambition, Of Mosques and Triumphs, Of Nature in Men, Of Custom and Education, Of Fortune, Of Usury, Of Youth and Age, Of Beauty, Of Deformity, Of Building, Of Gardens, Of Negotiating, Of Followers and Friends, Of Suitors, Of Studies, Of Faction, Of Ceremonies and Respects. Of Praise, Of Vain - glory, Of Honour and Reputation, Of Judicature, Of Anger, Of Vicissitude of Things, Of Fame. Bacon's essays seem to justify what Pope says regarding him.

Great Ideas of Practical Wisdom: 

Bacon was a utilitarian. His essays are full of great ideas of practical wisdom. For example, throughout the essay of Studies, Bacon shows his practical wisdom and comprehensiveness. Generally people give importance to either technical knowledge or practical experience but Bacon recognizes importance to both and advises to consult an experienced man if the work is at a small scale, and technically trained or learned man for managing a work at a large scale . Generally people think studies are always useful but Bacon advises to avoid excess of studies. He recognises importance of natural talent, training and practical experience. Generally people think all books are equally important but Bacon advises to study books according to their importance. He recognises importance of original texts and notes. Generally people think that reading is the only way of learning but Bacon advises to give importance to conference and writing also. Bacon shows how different subjects affect our mind also. 

Clarity of Thought and Expression: 

Bacon's belief in clarity of thought and expression is well exposed in this essay when he adopts the device of classification. He classifies purposes of studies in three parts: 

“Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.”

He brings to light not only advantages of studiers but also its disadvantages that appear when studies are used in excess. Too much study for delight develops idleness; for ornamentation develops artificiality: to take decision wholly by their rules is a bookish approach becomes the whim of a learned man. Studies mature natural talent that is perfected by practical knowledge. Natural talent too requires pruning or trimming. Books express confusing or contradictory ideas that should be limited by experience. Wicked people oppose studies, common or foolish people admire them while wise people use them. 

“Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them.” 

In the same way he classifies followers into two parts: 

1. Followers fit to be disliked 

2. Followers to be liked 

Aphoristic Style: 

Bacon is known for the use of aphoristic style. Of Revenge is an illustration of the compact style of Bacon. Most of the sentences are terse and have that aphoristic quality about them that he is famous for. This essay is a fine illustration of Bacon's style which was unmatchable for pith and pregnancy in the conveyance of his special kind of thought. He in this essay, as elsewhere, has structured out at once a short, crisp, and firmly knit sentence of a type unfamiliar in English pregnant with rich meaning.

Proverbial Style: 

Bacon's proverbial style enables him to make proverbial statements. Here are a few examples of the proverbial style of Bacon taken from Of Revenge: 

1. “For, as for the wrong, it does but offend the law; but the revenge of that kind putteth the law out of office.” 

2. “Therefore, they do but trifle with themselves that labour in past masters.” 

3. “But base and crafty towards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark.”  

4. “This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.” 

Bacon's great wisdom enables him to express thoughts of universal importance. When he expresses these thoughts in aphoristic style so many sentences of the novel seem proverbial. It encourages him to make proverbial statements. The essay, ‘Of Studies’ for example opens with a proverbial statement: 

If anybody talks about studies, he refers to this statement necessarily. The essay is full of such statements that express a general thought which is true to all. 

“To spend too much time in studies is sloth. 

For natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; 

They perfect nature, and are perfected by experienced. 

Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them. 

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” 

Poetic Style: 

Bacon's prose style so often becomes poetic. It is full of poetic imagery. So often he makes use of myth making and sensuous word pictures. The essay Of Followers and Friends opens with the image of a bird. 

“Costly followers are not to be liked; lest while a man maketh his train longer, he maketh his wings shorter.” 

Bacon borrows his images from common life. Bacon uses game imagery and nature imagery. 

“For lookers - on many times see more than gamesters; and the vale best discovereth the hill.” 

Bacon cites the imagery of a hill to confirm the former imagery of players. It suggests a paradox that sometimes, the players fail in knowing their faults but the spectators who remain watching their movements closely, mark the error. Image of a hill does not require any proof for it is a general truth that: 

“The vale best discovereth the hill.” 

Bacon uses water imagery for notes and guides: 

“Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things.” 

For and Against Arguments: 

It is Bacon's style that he introduces arguments for and against the subject. His arguments are always logical. For example, he points out advantages and disadvantages of treating people equally or differently. 

“It is a matter of practical wisdom that man of same rank must be treated equally. If one man is given preference, he becomes rude and others feel dissatisfied. But the case is somewhat different with an able man. He must be treated with respect. It makes the able man respectful to the master and inspires others to improve their ability.”

Bacon is a practical philosopher who does not believe in imposing his thoughts on others. He gives arguments for and against the subject and leaves it to the reader to conclude according to his requirement. For example, he points out advantages as well as disadvantages of studies and its three purposes. 

“Studies provide amusement; help in improving effectiveness of speech; and improve skill and perfection; their main purpose of giving amusement is when we are alone or taking rest. They give effectiveness to conversation or discussion. They make perfect in deciding or managing things. According to Bacon experienced man perform well in special parts. But suggestions of universal importance, details and management of business are done best by trained persons. But his discussion does not end here for incoming lines he warns against the disadvantages of making excessive use of studies. Bacon points out disadvantages of studies if done unwisely. Too much study for delight develops idleness; for ornamentation develops artificiality; to take decision wholly by their rules is a bookish approach becomes the whim of a learned man. Studies mature natural talent that is perfected by practical knowledge. Natural talent too requires pruning or trimming. Books express confusing or contradictory ideas that should be limited by experience. Wicked people oppose studies, common or foolish people admire them while wise people use them. How to use studies is a more important art that is attained by practical experience. Likewise on the one hand suggests reading of books and on the others pleads for natural talent. He points out advantages as well as disadvantages of experienced man. He suggests to read some books with the help of notes or extracts made by others.”

Use of References, Quotations and Latinism: 

As regards its style, this essay shows the usual qualities that are associated with Bacon. Bacon is fond of allusions, quotations, Latin phrases and expressions, and figures of speech. We have here a reference to Ulysses, a well-known hero of Greek mythology. There is a reference to the cruelty and hard - heartedness of Inquisitors who used to be employed to inflict punishment on heretics. There is a quotation from an ancient Greek philosopher, Thales who said, in reply to the question when a man should marry: “A young man not yet, an elder man not at all.” 

Thus, Bacon is rightly called the father of English essay. His contribution to the development of English essay is great. He gave a new style to English essay.

Saurabh Gupta

Saurabh Gupta

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Who is the father of English essay?

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was the first really major English essayist,

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French Jurist, served 1582-1585 on the Parliament of Bordeaux.

The modern essay writer are more intelligent and take care about the students for their career. If the writers are most important person for every college students.

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What is the tone of Lake's essay An Indian Father's Plea?

serious apex

How do you write a conclusion for an English essay?

to help cut off what you are talking about in your essay. the conclusion should tie-up your whole argument which you talked about when writing the essay.

Who is the father of English epic?

William Carey is considered by many to be the father of the English epic. This was a style of story writing in England.

Who is the father of English drama?

William Shakespeare is the father of English drama.

How is superstition or the supernatural used in Julius Caesar the play?

ha trying to write an English essay for smc I see

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Essay on Child is Father of the Man for Students and Children

500+ words essay on child is father of the man.

The famous proverb “Child is Father of the Man” is an element of a poem “My Heart Leaps Up”. William Wordsworth, the poet with the greatest faith in nature wrote the poem in 1802. The proverb can be interpreted as per the perception or analysis one draw from the line. The proverb was used in connection to the “ nature ” with the “humanity”. William wants to throw light on the fact that every grown-up man was a child once. Also, how old a man may grow, there will always be a child present within him. He also gives a message that if this childishness disappears, it is very unfortunate and one must better die!

essay on child is father of the man

Child is Father of the Man – What does it Mean?

One can draw many useful implications on critically analyzing the phrase “ Child is Father of the Man ”. The most important idea is to tell that a person’s conduct as an adult i.e. as a man is formed by his habits he practiced as a child. Also the surroundings, influences, and experiences one undergoes in his childhood leave a deep impact on one’s personality.

Thus, it is necessary that a child finds a healthy environment at home and in other places. Only then his physical, mental and social development will take place in the right direction. Such a child will grow up into a joyful, hopeful and generous man.

On the contrary, a child who has always seen quarrels learns the same. Likewise, hatred and distress among the family members, in the neighborhood and the surroundings have an adverse effect. Hence, he will grow up into a maladjusted personality. He will show disrespect for the family, the society and the culture. Such a person cannot serve society. Also turns out as a rebellious and destructive personality.

A child’s mind absorbs or imitates everything as he sees in his family , school, society, and culture. He does not understand good or bad. Thus, there is a huge responsibility on the part of parents, school, and society. They must focus on instilling values from the very childhood. Only then we can build a man of morals.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

A Part of Man Always Remains a Child

Another expression of the proverb is that no matter what the age a man attains, there is a part in him that will always remain a child. A child, who wants to have merry, wants to laugh. One who wants to sit quietly and enjoy the beauty of nature. Also, the one who wants to meet his friends, enjoy leisure. Also wants to love and be loved, wants to hope. Moreover, honor his belief, to feel blessed, lucky and happy.

A person who has lost the child is an unfortunate one and is better for him to die than to live such an upsetting life!! A man should never lose himself in a busy and dirty city atmosphere . This will later make him tired, alone and frustrated. Hence, he must be a child at heart, no matter how mature he becomes.

Read 500+ Words Essay on Father here.

Childhood is the most significant stage in one’s life. The way of life acquired, the behavior patterns established during this period are hard to change. Moreover, the interests developed, the values adopted as a child remains unchanged. Thus, these are reflected in one’s conduct in his later life too. Hence, each child should be nourished with love and care. Out of the same, a man of greatest ideals is born.

Also, we must provide opportunities to the child inside us cherish the world. We all should take the time to seek pleasure from the small things around us. We must fulfill our childlike desires. Only then, we could rejoice our lives at a later age too.

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English Compositions

Short Essay on My Father [100, 200, 400 Words] With PDF

Essays on ‘Father’ is a very common English writing comprehension test for many exams. In this lesson today, I will discuss how to write short essays on one of the most important people of our life: Father. 

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Short Essay on Father in 100 Words

My father is a kind and caring person. He is my hero. He works hard and takes care of our family. He always motivates me to study well, work hard and chase my dreams. Whenever I am sick, he stays beside me and takes care of me alongside my mother.

My father is a loving husband to my mother and a filial son to his parents. He helps my mother with the household chores and spends a lot of time with my grandparents. He has never differentiated between a son and a daughter and treats me and my sibling equally. On weekends, he takes us out for picnics, movies, and other fun activities. My father is a role model for me. 

Short Essay on Father in 200 Words

My father is an ideal man. He is kind and caring. He works hard and takes care of our family. He is a strong-willed person who doesn’t fear challenges and never gives up. He motivates me to study well and work hard towards my dreams. My father is my best friend. I share all my worries and problems with him and he always comes up with the best solutions. When I am sad, he comforts me and gives me strength. When I am sick, he stays beside me and takes care of me alongside my mother. 

My father is a loving husband and a filial son. He helps my mother with the household work and shares her load. He values her a lot and never fights with her. He also spends a lot of time with my grandparents and takes them to visit their old friends whenever he has time. He also takes us out for family picnics and outings on weekends.

My father has never differentiated between a son and a daughter and treats both me and my sibling equally. He has set an example for us by being an upright, compassionate and genuine human being. He has taught us to be honest, respectful, and kind. My father is my role model and I love him very much. 

Short Essay on Father in 400 Words

My father is the backbone of our family. He is a kind, caring and compassionate person. He is a teacher by profession and is well-respected by his students and colleagues. He works hard and takes care of our family. My father is strong-willed and optimistic. He is not afraid of facing challenges and doesn’t give up no matter how difficult a situation is.

He motivates me to study well and work hard towards my dreams. My father is also my best friend. He listens to whatever I have to say. I can share all my worries and problems with him and he always comes up with the best solutions. When I am not in a good mood, he comforts me. When I am sick, he takes care of me. Even when he returns home tired, he makes sure to sit with us and have a nice talk. 

My father is a generous person. Being a teacher, he has come across many students who want to learn but do not have the financial capacity to support their studies. For them, he has given lessons for free and even helped them financially.

He is very kind to the poor and needy. He helps them and does as much as possible to support them. My father is a helpful person and is always ready to extend a helping hand whenever our neighbours are in some kind of trouble. I am very proud of him. 

My father is an ideal husband and son. He helps my mother with the household chores and shares the load. He values her, listens to her thoughts, ideas and opinions and never fights with her. They always make sure that our home environment is peaceful and harmonious.

My father is also a filial son who spends a lot of time taking care of his parents. He takes my grandparents out to the park and to visit their old friends whenever he has time. On weekends, he takes us out for picnics, movies and other fun activities. When my sibling or I have exams, my father stays up at night to guide us and help us with our studies. 

My father has never differentiated between a son and a daughter and treats both me and my sibling equally. He has taught us to be upright, honest, respectful and kind. He leads by example and has shown us how to be selfless, brave and patient. My father is my role model and I love him dearly. 

Hopefully, from the session above, you have gotten a holistic idea of how you can write short essays on ‘Father’ in a concise form. In this lesson, I have adopted a simplistic approach and easy language to write these essays so that all kinds of students can understand those without any difficulties. If you still have any doubts regarding this session, kindly let me know through some quick comments. 

Join us on Telegram to get the latest updates on our upcoming session. Thank you.

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El Paso libraries and Khalid's Foundation celebrate Father's Day essay winners

by David Ibave

El Paso libraries and Khalid's Foundation celebrate Father's Day essay winners at Westside Branch Library. June 14, 2024. Credit: KFOX14/CBS4

EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14/CBS4) — Ahead of Father's Day, the Great Khalid Foundation celebrated the winners of its Father's Day essay contest.

The El Paso Public Libraries, along with the El Paso R&B singer Khalid's foundation, held a reading and awards ceremony Friday afternoon at the Westside Branch Library located at 125 Belvidere Street, near Coronado High School, to honor the winners of their 2024 Father's Day essay contest winners.

Khalid did not make an appearance, but his mother Linda Wolfe was present and handed the awards to the winners.

Winners received prize packages they could give to their fathers or father figures on Sunday.

Winners also had the opportunity to read their winning essays to attendees.

RECOMMENDED: El Paso community leaders chow down at cereal-eating contest to fight food insecurity

KFOX14/CBS4 spoke with Theodora Ordaz, one of the winners, who said she entered the contest to show her dad how much she appreciates everything he has done for her,

My dad has always done so many great things for me and my family. And sometimes I feel like he sacrifices himself before us. I really wanted to thank him for all he does for us.

Ordaz said the decision was sort of spur of the moment, as she saw the flyer announcing the contest the day before.

Thankfully, it seems like Ordaz's father is the "best dad ever," as she said it took her only one hour to write the winning essay.

Ordaz thanked the Great Khalid Foundation for the opportunity and said she is looking forward to entering both the Mother's and Father's Day contests in 2025.

RECOMMENDED: El Paso and Fort Bliss team up to help veterans transition into city jobs

Sign up to receive the top interesting stories from in and around our community once daily in your inbox.

father of a essay

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Michel de Montaigne: Essais

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father of a essay

Essays , work by the French writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) that established a new literary form, the essay . The first two volumes of the Essais ( Essays ) were published in 1580; a third volume was published in 1588, along with enlarged editions of the first two.

In his Essays , Montaigne wrote one of the most captivating and intimate self-portraits ever given, on a par with the Confessiones (c. 400 ce ; English trans. Confessions ) of the Roman philosopher and theologian St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) and the Confessions (written 1764–70; English trans. Confessions ) of the Swiss-born French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78).

Living, as he did, in the second half of the 16th century, Montaigne bore witness to the decline of the intellectual optimism that had marked the European Renaissance . The sense of immense human possibilities—stemming from the discoveries of travelers to the New World, from the rediscovery of Classical antiquity , and from the opening of scholarly horizons through the works of humanists —was shattered in France when the advent of the Calvinistic Reformation was followed closely by religious persecution and by the Wars of Religion (1562–98). These conflicts, which tore the country asunder, were in fact political and civil as well as religious wars, marked by great excesses of fanaticism and cruelty. At once deeply critical of his time and deeply involved in its preoccupations and its struggles, Montaigne chose to write about himself—“I am myself the matter of my book,” he says in his opening address to the reader—in order to arrive at certain possible truths concerning humanity and the human condition, in a period of ideological strife and division when all possibility of truth seemed illusory and treacherous.

Montaigne saw his age as one of dissimulation, corruption, violence, and hypocrisy, and it is therefore not surprising that the point of departure of the Essays is situated in negativity: the negativity of Montaigne’s recognition of the rule of appearances and of the loss of connection with the truth of being. Montaigne’s much-discussed skepticism results from that initial negativity, as he questions the possibility of all knowing and sees the human being as a creature of weakness and failure, of inconstancy and uncertainty, of incapacity and fragmentation, or, as he wrote in the first of the essays, as “a marvelously vain, diverse , and undulating thing.” His skepticism is reflected in the French title of his work, Essais , or “Attempts,” which implies not a transmission of proven knowledge or of confident opinion but a project of trial and error, of tentative exploration. Neither a reference to an established genre (for Montaigne’s book inaugurated the term essay for the short prose composition treating a given subject in a rather informal and personal manner) nor an indication of a necessary internal unity and structure within the work, the title indicates an intellectual attitude of questioning and of continuous assessment .

Montaigne’s skepticism does not, however, preclude a belief in the existence of truth but rather constitutes a defense against the danger of locating truth in false, unexamined, and externally imposed notions. His skepticism, combined with his desire for truth, drives him to the rejection of commonly accepted ideas and to a profound distrust of generalizations and abstractions; it also shows him the way to an exploration of the only realm that promises certainty: that of concrete phenomena and primarily the basic phenomenon of his own body-and-mind self. This self , with all its imperfections, constitutes the only possible site where the search for truth can start, and it is the reason Montaigne, from the beginning to the end of the Essays , does not cease to affirm that “I am myself the matter of my book.” He finds that his identity, his “master form” as he calls it, cannot be defined in simple terms of a constant and stable self, since it is instead a changeable and fragmented thing, and that the valorization and acceptance of these traits is the only guarantee of authenticity and integrity , the only way of remaining faithful to the truth of one’s being and one’s nature rather than to alien semblances.

Yet, despite his insistence that the self guard its freedom from outside influences and the tyranny of imposed customs and opinions, Montaigne believes in the value of reaching outside the self. Indeed, throughout his writings, as he did in his private and public life, he manifests the need to entertain ties with the world of other people and of events. For this necessary coming and going between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world, Montaigne uses the image of the back room: human beings have their front room, facing the street, where they meet and interact with others, but they need always to be able to retreat into the back room of the most private self, where they may reaffirm the freedom and strength of intimate identity and reflect upon the vagaries of experience. Given that always-available retreat, Montaigne encourages contact with others, from which one may learn much that is useful. In order to do so, he advocates travel, reading, especially of history books, and conversations with friends.

These friends, for Montaigne, are necessarily men. While none can ever replace Étienne de la Boétie, a French civil servant and Montaigne’s closest friend until La Boétie’s death in 1563, it is possible to have interesting and worthwhile exchanges with men of discernment and wit. As for his relations with women, Montaigne wrote about them with a frankness unusual for his time. The only uncomplicated bond is that of marriage , which reposes, for Montaigne, on reasons of family and posterity and in which one invests little of oneself. Love, on the other hand, with its emotional and erotic demands, comports the risk of enslavement and loss of freedom. Montaigne, often designated as a misogynist , does in fact recognize that men and women are fundamentally alike in their fears, desires, and attempts to find and affirm their own identity and that only custom and adherence to an antiquated status quo establish the apparent differences between the sexes. But he does not explore the possibility of overcoming that fundamental separation and of establishing an intellectual equality.

Montaigne extends his curiosity about others to the inhabitants of the New World, with whom he had become acquainted through his lively interest in oral and written travel accounts and through his meeting in 1562 with three Brazilian Indians whom the explorer Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon had brought back to France. Giving an example of cultural relativism and tolerance, rare in his time, he finds these people, in their fidelity to their own nature and in their cultural and personal dignity and sense of beauty, greatly superior to the inhabitants of western Europe , who in the conquests of the New World and in their own internal wars have shown themselves to be the true barbarians. The suffering and humiliation imposed on the New World’s Indigenous peoples by their conquerors provoke his indignation and compassion.

Involvement in public service is also a part of interaction with the world, and it should be seen as a duty to be honourably and loyally discharged but never allowed to become a consuming and autonomy-destroying occupation.

Montaigne applies and illustrates his ideas concerning the independence and freedom of the self and the importance of social and intellectual intercourse in all his writings and in particular in his essay on the education of children. There, as elsewhere, he advocates the value of concrete experience over abstract learning and of independent judgment over an accumulation of undigested notions uncritically accepted from others. He also stresses, throughout his work, the role of the body, as in his candid descriptions of his own bodily functions and in his extensive musings on the realities of illness, of aging, and of death . The presence of death pervades the Essays , as Montaigne wants to familiarize himself with the inevitability of dying and so to rid himself of the tyranny of fear, and he is able to accept death as part of nature’s exigencies , inherent in life’s expectations and limitations.

Montaigne seems to have been a loyal if not fervent Roman Catholic all his life, but he distrusted all human pretenses to knowledge of a spiritual experience which is not attached to a concretely lived reality. He declined to speculate on a transcendence that falls beyond human ken, believing in God but refusing to invoke him in necessarily presumptuous and reductive ways.

Although Montaigne certainly knew the Classical philosophers, his ideas spring less out of their teachings than out of the completely original meditation on himself, which he extends to a description of the human being and to an ethics of authenticity, self-acceptance, and tolerance. The Essays are the record of his thoughts, presented not in artificially organized stages but as they occurred and reoccurred to him in different shapes throughout his thinking and writing activity. They are not the record of an intellectual evolution but of a continuous accretion, and he insists on the immediacy and the authenticity of their testimony. To denote their consubstantiality with his natural self, he describes them as his children, and, in an image of startling and completely nonpejorative earthiness, as the excrements of his mind.

As he refuses to impose a false unity on the spontaneous workings of his thought, so he refuses to impose a false structure on his Essays . “As my mind roams, so does my style,” he wrote, and the multiple digressions , the wandering developments, and the savory, concrete vocabulary all denote that fidelity to the freshness and the immediacy of the living thought. Throughout the text he sprinkles anecdotes taken from ancient as well as contemporary authors and from popular lore, which reinforce his critical analysis of reality; he also peppers his writing with quotations, yet another way of interacting with others—that is, with the authors of the past who surround him in his library. Neither anecdotes nor quotations impinge upon the autonomy of his own ideas, although they may spark or reinforce a train of thought, and they become an integral part of the book’s fabric.

Montaigne’s Essays thus incorporate a profound skepticism concerning the human being’s dangerously inflated claims to knowledge and certainty but also assert that there is no greater achievement than the ability to accept one’s being without either contempt or illusion , in the full realization of its limitations and its richness.

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Guest Essay

An Israeli Hostage’s Parent: This Is Not the Holocaust

An illustration showing a Nazi rally on the left and a damaged building on the right, with broken red threads between.

By Jonathan Dekel-Chen

Dr. Dekel-Chen is a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel, murdered approximately 1,200 people and abducted more than 240 others. One of those kidnapped was my 35-year-old son, Sagui, who lived on Nir Oz, the kibbutz I’ve called home for most of my adult life and which was destroyed during the attack. Sagui is among the 120 hostages still held by Hamas.

That horrific day and the devastation of Gaza caused by Israel’s military response have led to countless references to the Holocaust and related terms: genocide, Nazis, pogroms. Some of Israel’s opponents have loosely and irresponsibly accused Israel of genocide against the Palestinians. My own government has also invoked those terms, mainly to convince Israelis of the magnitude of the threat they face from Hamas.

As the son of a father who survived the Holocaust and a mother who fled Nazi Germany, I find our government’s use of such references to the Nazi genocide to be deeply offensive. As the father of a hostage, I find the use of such language excruciating. And as a professor of history, I am appalled at the inaccuracy of such statements and frightened by their implications for Israeli society.

There is one truth to our leaders’ invoking of the Holocaust: Oct. 7 was indeed the deadliest single day for world Jewry since the Holocaust. The comparison ends there.

By invoking collective memories of the Holocaust, Israeli government ministers and other leaders are effectively absolving themselves of the horrors of that “Black Saturday” — in effect, shirking their own accountability for the massacre and their sacred responsibility to return all the hostages alive.

In fairness to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current ministers, earlier governments have also invoked Holocaust images to mobilize the country. The practice dates back to David Ben-Gurion , Israel’s founding prime minister, and includes Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who compared the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to Hitler in 1982. Since Oct. 7, however, the frequency and intensity of these statements seem far greater.

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The Most Important Thing I Can Do for My Trans Daughter

father of a essay

M y father was neither talkative nor demonstrative. When I was growing up, my mother, who in retrospect probably could’ve used a little more emotional intelligence from him, called him “low-amplitude Dave.” When my wife told him she was pregnant with our first child, he said, simply, “Oh, neat.” I didn’t feel unloved, but if you were to ask my sister and me what he cared about most when we were little, we would’ve answered: chores.

Once, during one of his rare appearances at my Little League games, on a blind swing I hit the only home run of my short career; from the bleachers, he gave me a tiny, taciturn salute, a flick above his brow. Such pride. Approval. It was like the moment at the end of the movie Babe , when James Cromwell turns to his little pink buddy and says, “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.” I’ve dined on that slight gesture for years. I still summon it, occasionally, when I’m feeling low: crack ; that’ll do, pig, that’ll do.

We weren’t close. Could I have used a more dialed-in father? Did I frequently feel adrift and too on my own as a kid? Would I have benefited from some more legible fatherly affection now and then? Probably. But no one is perfect. And as my wife likes to point out, it’s not as though he’s the only one in the family who might consider the way I move through the world genuinely mystifying. The distance between us is not entirely his fault.

Read More: 15 LGBTQ+ Books to Read During Pride

When you become a parent, the world tilts in such unexpected ways, and it seems only natural to think about your own childhood again. It’s such a daunting task—to take care of someone and keep them safe and happy. You’ve got this little, helpless person, and only a certain amount of time to get this right. So: what does it mean to be a good dad? What is one’s basic responsibility as a parent? Old memories come back, unbidden. You sift through them with new eyes, looking for clues, for clarity.

When I was 11, my family sailed for weeks off the coast of Vancouver Island. It was wild up there, and wonderful; we read books, turned over rocks looking for crabs; days passed without seeing other boats or people at all. But five days in, we got caught in gale-force winds, and could do nothing but shelter near a small island on our small sailboat, far from the mainland. I know now that we were, in fact, in real danger, we shouldn’t have been caught out there, and it’s a miracle that something bad didn’t happen. But all I remember is the sound of the wind, the rain, and my parents talking very quietly to one another. My sister and I weren’t worried, even though we should’ve been.

When I think about this now, what I remember most is waking up early, when it was still dark, and hearing my dad topside, checking the anchor, walking the deck, and returning below to unfurl his charts and listen to the weather on the radio. That weather voice filled the silent cabin—it was emotionless, robotic as it called the wind speeds, and I remember my dad, hunched over, making notes on his chart. He noticed I was awake in my sleeping bag, looked over, and smiled; he said nothing, and I listened to the wind until I drifted back to sleep. I was able to do this, I think, because I knew he was there, checking the lines, charting the course, rising to do it again quietly, asking for nothing, a picture of vigilance and pure concentration.

Read More: 9 Overlooked Moments in LBGTQ+ History

And it’s occurred to me over my years as a parent that perhaps in this memory is the baseline I’ve been looking for, the one thing a father should always be able to do for his kids. Let them know that you understand how to keep them safe, that the anchors are well-set, and that they will be shielded from the very worst weather. Later, perhaps, you can say: such a close call, barely made it out of that one! But at the time, in your little sailboat, with the wind just waiting to dash you on the rocks, the story you wish to tell your children is this: this might be scary, but we will get through this just fine, you are taken care of, do not worry.

My daughter is 12 now. She is happy, open, a glorious weirdo, a truly marvelous kid. And when, two years ago, she told us she was trans, the biggest surprise was how easy it was to hear and receive this information, and how right it felt (to her, to us). The adjustments were small, easily hurtled: her school was welcoming, her friends supportive (there’s a lovely generation coming down the pike, by the way). Her younger brother quickly became the sweetest little gender warrior around. We are lucky not only to have her in our lives, but to live in a community that sees her and celebrates for who she is (doctors, teachers, neighbors, friends). Everyone she meets loves her immediately. I am not kidding about that. It’s a quality she must’ve inherited from her mother, who is 100% less mystifying than me.

But it’s one thing as a parent to feel lucky and settled in how things are in one’s close community, another to know, and be repeatedly reminded of, just how hostile this country is becoming to people like her, and to feel helpless in the face of it. Laws are on the books outlawing gender-affirming care (with more on the way), and there are states to which we cannot, will not, travel for fear of something happening to our daughter while there.

The level of vitriol and hatred directed at trans folks is appalling and terrifying. And why? For what? As a parent, you want to say to your child: walk out into the world, it’s waiting for you. But this country has tipped, and feels on the verge of denying her, wholesale, very basic individual rights. How am I supposed to protect her from that? And how am I supposed to prepare her for a world that seems deeply invested in preventing her from being the person she knows she is and deserves to be?

This is not rhetorical. I’m asking seriously. What do you do? How do you cope with and manage this knowledge as a parent? And then how do you distill it, temper it, for your nearly teenage kid so she understands? And how do you do this without making her more afraid? If you have an answer, you can text me at three in the morning. I’ll be awake.

My daughter and I recently flew to Seattle to see my dad, who is now in memory care. I was ready with her passport at TSA, prepared to watch the pat-downs and tell the screener she was trans if necessary. I was vigilant standing outside the women’s bathroom in case something happened while she was using it. I endured, like all fathers, men of all ages quick-glancing my too-young daughter in a certain way that made me want to scream. We passed through, without the trouble I was ready for.

When we saw my dad in his new room, he reached out to both of us, embraced us. He doesn’t make much sense when he speaks now, but he did know my daughter and saw her as she wishes to be seen, introduced her to all his new friends on the memory floor as his granddaughter, and me as his son, who’s made his life elsewhere. Everything about this place was new to me, unfamiliar, but he seemed at ease.

Read More: The Most Influential People of 2024: Kelley Robinson

I wanted to ask him about his experience of that fierce wind when we were all on the boat, but for some reason I couldn’t. I was just happy to be in the same room, and to hear the texture of his voice, and see him laugh as my daughter told him stories from school he most likely didn’t understand. Once, when I was sitting next to him, he put his arm around me and rubbed my back affectionately for a long time—something he’s never done. My mom’s jaw just about hit the floor. If I could’ve, I would’ve stayed in that moment forever, but it was our last day, and we had to head home.

More dire election news followed us on the concourse televisions as my daughter and I rolled our bags through the crowd. But we chattered away, rode the shuttle that would take us to our gate, ate at the airport restaurants. She was as happy as I’ve seen her, thrilled to have spent time with her grandparents and soon be on another plane. She was already planning what she wanted to see the next time she was in Seattle.

I wonder now, a few months after that visit, what my father would’ve said if I had asked. I imagine he would’ve admitted he was scared, and that we were lucky the boat didn’t sink, and no one was hurt, and isn’t that something? In my new memory of him, the one that lies like good weather over all the rest, is the feeling of his hand on my back. I don’t know how he meant it, but to me it said, simply, and in a way I could finally see: you are loved. 

There is so much outside of our control. We are all, to varying degrees, at the mercy of the elements. But you do get to choose how you secure the lines on your small boats, how you manage your own distress while you wait, and hope. That hand on my back—it laid to rest an uncertainty I’d carried into my adult life. And though my wife and I can make no promises to our daughter about what her future in this country looks like, what we can do is love her, demonstrably and in no uncertain terms. We can take the guesswork out of that equation, at least. And until we see what is coming next, that will have to be enough.

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  1. Michel de Montaigne

    The coat of arms of Michel Eyquem, Lord of Montaigne. Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne (/ m ɒ n ˈ t eɪ n / mon-TAYN; French: [miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ]; 28 February 1533 - 13 September 1592), commonly known as Michel de Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance.He is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre.

  2. Michel de Montaigne

    Michel de Montaigne (born February 28, 1533, Château de Montaigne, near Bordeaux, France—died September 23, 1592, Château de Montaigne) was a French writer whose Essais established a new literary form.In his Essays he wrote one of the most captivating and intimate self-portraits ever given, on a par with Augustine's and Rousseau's.. Living, as he did, in the second half of the 16th ...

  3. Michel de Montaigne

    1. Life. Montaigne (1533-1592) came from a rich bourgeois family that acquired nobility after his father fought in Italy in the army of King Francis I of France; he came back with the firm intention of bringing refined Italian culture to France. He decorated his Périgord castle in the style of an ancient Roman villa.

  4. The Essays of Michel de Montaigne

    Michel de Montaigne - Renaissance, Essays, Philosopher: Montaigne saw his age as one of dissimulation, corruption, violence, and hypocrisy, and it is therefore not surprising that the point of departure of the Essays is situated in negativity: the negativity of Montaigne's recognition of the rule of appearances and of the loss of connection with the truth of being. Montaigne's much ...

  5. The Essay: History and Definition

    Meaning. In the broadest sense, the term "essay" can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction -- an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier. One way to start is to draw a distinction between articles, which are read primarily for the ...

  6. Francis Bacon

    Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban PC (/ ˈ b eɪ k ən /; 22 January 1561 - 9 April 1626), known as Lord Verulam between 1618 and 1621, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England under King James I.Bacon led the advancement of both natural philosophy and the scientific method, and his works remained influential even in the late ...

  7. Michel de Montaigne and the Art of the Personal Essay

    Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is one of France's most celebrated literary giants. Born into a noble Catholic family from South West France, he spent many years sitting in Bordeaux's parliament. But after 15 years working in the legal and political sphere, Montaigne retired to his country estate in Dordogne. It was here, inside a small ...

  8. Know the Father of Modern English Essay

    The "Father of English Essay" is a term used to describe the famous literary personality who made major contributions in the development of English essay as a distinct literary genre. The art of essay writing has a rich tradition in the annals of English literature, boasting a gallery of distinguished contributors.

  9. Montaigne, Father of the Essay

    Montaigne, Father of the Essay Doubters could be jailed or executed for "blasphemy". ... His father was a wealthy merchant whose family had bought the feudal territory of Montaigne, with its noble ...

  10. Francis Bacon as an Essayist

    Notes / Words: 655 / February 20, 2020. Francis Bacon is the first great English essayist who enjoys a glorious reputation and considered to be the father of English essay. He remains for the sheer mass and weight of genius. His essays introduce a new form of composition into English literature.

  11. Essay on My Father for Students and Children

    Essay on My Father: Usually, people talk about a mother's love and affection, in which a father's love often gets ignored. A mother's love is talked about repeatedly everywhere, in movies, in shows and more. Yet, what we fail to acknowledge is the strength of a father which often goes unnoticed. Father's a blessing which not many people ...

  12. English Essay: Origin, Development and Growth

    The defects of Bacon were remedied by Abraham Cowley (1618-1867) who is the first conscious essayist in English literature and has been called, indeed "the father of the English essay". His essays like On Myself, The Garden are the examples of the intimate familiar essay. His style is somewhat heavy but his tone is intimate.

  13. Learn about Francis Bacon

    Francis Bacon is regarded as the "Father of English Essay" for several reasons: Pioneering work: Bacon wrote some of the earliest examples of the essay form in English literature, and his essays helped establish the essay as a recognized literary genre. Writing style: Bacon's essays are characterized by their conciseness, directness, and ...

  14. Francis Bacon's Classic Essay, "Of Studies"

    Bacon is known as the father of the scientific method which was influenced by his own Baconian method based on reason and observation. ... Bacon published three editions of his essays (in 1597, 1612, and 1625), and the last two were marked by the addition of more essays. In many cases, they became expanded works from earlier editions. ...

  15. Bacon as an Essayist

    Francis Bacon was a famous Essayist of the 16th century and also known as the father of English prose. The collection of his essays was also titled "Essays" which was first published in 1597 and later its second edition was published in 1812 and 1625 respectively.. Bacon as an essayist penned in a methodical way, taking their subject-matter from a collection of perspectives, analyzing them ...

  16. Bacon As an Essayist

    INTRODUCTION: Bacon, the father of English essay, is the first great English essayist who enjoys a glorious reputation. ... His essays seem like a collection of short and pithy maxims with tremendous compression. Each sentence can convey a deep and concentrated meaning. Due to this, Bacon's style is called aphoristic. Bacon considered this ...

  17. Who was Francis Bacon and what was his contribution to English Literature?

    Known popularly as "The father of English Essays", his essays have an evergreen freshness and an intellectual power. Biography of Bacon. At the age of 12, he went to Cambridge, but left the university early, declaring the whole plan of education to be irrational. He demanded 3 things: The free investigation of nature, the discovery of facts ...

  18. Francis Bacon, the Father of English Essays—His Prose Style

    Bacon is regarded as the father of English essays. The great title is attributed to him on the ground of his great contribution to English essay. But the term father gives the sense of the originator also. In this sense this title seems unjustified, because there was essay even before Bacon. But the form was different.

  19. Essays (Francis Bacon)

    1696 title page. Essayes: Religious Meditations. Places of Perswasion and Disswasion. Seene and Allowed (1597) was the first published book by the philosopher, statesman and jurist Francis Bacon.The Essays are written in a wide range of styles, from the plain and unadorned to the epigrammatic. They cover topics drawn from both public and private life, and in each case the essays cover their ...

  20. Who is the father of English essay?

    Sir Francis Bacon is considered the father of English essays. He developed the scientific method. Father of modern essay --francis bacon. sir William Shakespeare. Charles Baudelaire, a french poet ...

  21. Essay on Child is Father of the Man for Students

    500+ Words Essay on Child is Father of the Man. The famous proverb "Child is Father of the Man" is an element of a poem "My Heart Leaps Up". William Wordsworth, the poet with the greatest faith in nature wrote the poem in 1802. The proverb can be interpreted as per the perception or analysis one draw from the line.

  22. What Scripture Says About God as Our Father

    The father has two sons, the youngest of whom demanded his portion of the estate before the father has died. This son went off to a distant land and lived like a fool—as a prodigal—blowing his money, consorting with prostitutes, literally ending up in a pig pen. . . Then he finally came to his senses and returned home.

  23. Short Essay on My Father [100, 200, 400 Words] With PDF

    Short Essay on Father in 200 Words. My father is an ideal man. He is kind and caring. He works hard and takes care of our family. He is a strong-willed person who doesn't fear challenges and never gives up. He motivates me to study well and work hard towards my dreams. My father is my best friend. I share all my worries and problems with him ...

  24. The Father of English Essay

    The Father of English Essay - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. The Father of English Essay

  25. Opinion

    Having grown up hearing family stories about my father's lifelong radical politics, Aaron put through a Freedom of Information Act request for the F.B.I. file on David Freedman of Highland Park ...

  26. Opinion

    Ms. Channing is an editorial assistant in Opinion. When I was around 10 years old, my father started hiding bananas in our house. We found them in the dishwasher, in the junk drawer, behind the ...

  27. El Paso libraries and Khalid's Foundation celebrate Father's Day essay

    Ahead of Father's Day, the Great Khalid Foundation celebrated the winners of its Father's Day essay contest. Tue, 18 Jun 2024 12:11:32 GMT (1718712692437) Story Infinite Scroll - News3 v1.0.0 ...

  28. Essays

    Essays, work by the French writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) that established a new literary form, the essay. The first two volumes of the Essais ( Essays) were published in 1580; a third volume was published in 1588, along with enlarged editions of the first two. In his Essays, Montaigne wrote one of the most captivating ...

  29. Opinion

    Dr. Dekel-Chen is a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel, murdered approximately 1,200 people and abducted more than 240 ...

  30. The Most Important Thing I Can Do for My Trans Daughter

    Rutherford is the author of the novel North Sun: The Voyage of the Whaleship Esther, which will be published in 2025. He lives in Connecticut, with his family. My father was neither talkative nor ...