I’ve wanted to read Montaigne’s essays for awhile but the sheer size of the volume has been an obstacle to getting started. My edition, which is trade size and has very small type, runs to 1,336 pages. So leaping in is a commitment, and one I’ve put off for a couple years now.
A friend who knew I was balking gave me Bakewell’s biography of Montaigne a few years back as a kind of stand-in for the real thing I think. He also suggested I just read a few of the essays. This wasn’t what I wanted. I couldn’t explain it, but if I was going to read one or two, I wanted to read them all and in the order Montaigne had arranged them.
Well these past few weeks, I’ve finally taken the plunge and am shocked how much I like them.
The first few essays are rough going. They are impersonal and analyse political hypotheticals that feel disconnected from my world. But slowly things shifted, and by the time Montaigne was talking about lying or speaking slowly or quickly, I’d become caught up in his digressions, his comparisons and his odd leaps from one subject to another.
Several hundred pages in—which barely makes a dint in the book—I’ve realized that I really like the person on display in these essays. If he was like this in real life and alive today, I’d want to be his friend.
I suspect my commonplace book may be univocal for a bit.