Essais de morale. Volume troisième (French Edition)

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Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a product review. Get to Know Us. Delivery and Returns see our delivery rates and policies thinking of returning an item? See our Returns Policy. Similarly, idleness was an art to master, a mark of culture and nobility, and thus a sign of distinction. Despite his desire to liberate himself from the public sphere, Montaigne's declared intention to practice idleness in earnest thus remained firmly attached to the realm of social practices in his world.

While Montaigne probably began composing the first chapters of the Essais around , he had not entirely forsaken public service for letters. Montaigne's military service probably took place between and Increasingly, the modern court was redefining the aristocrat's role as courtier rather than soldier. The old social order ruled by an aristocratic warrior class was being replaced by the modern state's reliance on a corps of elite functionaries, the so-called robe nobility. Nevertheless, Montaigne and many of his contemporaries continued to exalt the noble life of arms over more-modern careers with the bureaucratic state.

For Montaigne, Spartans were infinitely more noble than Athenians. While he was composing the early chapters of the Essais , Montaigne was also called upon to act as a negotiator during a period of intermittent civil war. The fourth war of religion took place between and and the fifth between and From to Montaigne served as a negotiator between Henri de Navarre, leader of the Protestant armies, and Henri duc de Guise, the charismatic leader of the Catholic League.

Although he does not address his diplomatic service directly in the Essais , the art of negotiation is a theme running through the early chapters of the first book, as some of their titles suggest: The full title of the first English translation of the Essais emphasized its political dimension: The Essayes, or Morall, politike and millitarie discourses of Lo. Amid his military and diplomatic service, Montaigne became gentleman of King Charles IX's chamber in In he became gentleman of Henri de Navarre's chamber. Montaigne recorded both events in his family's livre de raison household record.

In a Renaissance livre de raison the head of the family registered the dates of important public and private events, such as births, deaths, and marriages, as well as distinctions received and public offices held. Montaigne's family's livre de raison was Michael Beuther's Ephemeris historica , a small book published in The format of this book accommodated its intended function as both an agenda and a household record. One page was devoted to each day of the year: Never intended for publication, this book has been an invaluable source of information on Montaigne's life.

The early chapters of the Essais were composed in the immediate wake of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, 24 August With so many prominent Huguenots attending the Paris wedding, the king authorized a massacre of the sleeping Protestants, hoping to strike a decisive blow to their cause by eliminating many of their leaders. In Paris the bodies of the slain were thrown into the Seine, which was said to turn red with blood.

By the end of the night, there were 3, victims out of a total Parisian population of about , The same scenes of horror followed in other cities in the kingdom: Orleans, Lyon, Rouen, and Toulouse. On 3 October, Protestants in Bordeaux were massacred. Following the massacre in Paris, Henri de Navarre was forced to abjure and held as a prisoner at court for the next few years. Indeed, royal legislation that followed the events imposed a silence covering the horror of the massacres.

Montaigne, for his part, seems to attempt to obliterate their memory. Several pages from his livre de raison, including that specific date, have been torn out. In the Essais Montaigne never refers directly to the St. The pages of the Essais , however, do not gloss over human brutality or rationalize royal policies. The first chapter in book 1 concludes with the spectacle of Alexander the Great massacring the inhabitants of Thebes. The last words of the chapter are: In "De la phisionomie" Montaigne evokes the dangers of using religious sentiment to justify inhumanity: Such was the political and religious climate as Montaigne was beginning the as-yet-untitled Essais.

Evidence suggests that Montaigne was reading Seneca at the time. The Epistles to Lucilius was one of his favorite books, and the early chapters cite and paraphrase it abundantly. For example, in "De la solitude" "Of solitude" there are at least thirty quotations and allusions. With its lessons of self-mastery in the face of adversity, Seneca's Stoic philosophy must have seemed well suited to the times. At roughly the same time as Montaigne was composing the Essais , his brother-in-law, Pressac, had undertaken the first French translation of Seneca's epistles , which Montaigne never mentions in the Essais.

In his dedication to Henri III, Pressac emphasized the usefulness of Seneca's lessons for the beleaguered ranks of the nobility in dire need of the constancy taught by Stoic philosophy. Finally, beyond any question of their philosophical content, Seneca's epistles influenced the literary form Montaigne was elaborating. In his Essais Montaigne often expresses admiration for the epistolary form. Several chapters in the Essais are prefaced with dedications to friends, and while he professes little esteem for Cicero , he has abundant praise for the Roman orator and statesman's Letters to Atticus.

The familiar letter seems to have partly shaped the nascent essay, as Rigolot observes. On a more general level, the Essais grew almost organically out of Montaigne's notes on Seneca and, indeed, on many other books. The practice of marginalia writing commentary in the margins was an important factor shaping the genesis of his text.

These annotations shed light on the genesis of the Essais , which in some ways resemble a compendium of ancient philosophy and history. The Essais , however, diverge from the tradition of the compendium in two important ways. First, Montaigne rarely identifies his sources. In the editions published during his lifetime, almost none of the quotes are identified--they are italicized, but Montaigne gives neither the author's name nor the title of the work.

More important, the wisdom of the ancients is not presented as a continuous whole in the Essais. Montaigne's references bring out discrepancies and discord rather than continuity. He weighs the Stoics against the Epicureans, the academics against the skeptics, Socrates against Alexander the Great.

As critics have pointed out, this movement of weighing one idea or one author against another defines the essay as practiced by Montaigne essai comes from exagium [weighing]. Growing partly out of Montaigne's comments on the authors he read, the Essais themselves came to serve both as text and commentary, for Montaigne also wrote comments and additions in the margins of his own text.

The addition of these comments and editorial changes--Montaigne commenting on Montaigne--produced the raw material for the edition. The first serves as a stock for the second, the second for the third" [III, 13] ; he comments about himself and his era in the final chapter of the Essais. Montaigne's brief preface, "Au Lecteur" "To the Reader" , was among the last parts of the Essais he composed for the first edition.

During the Renaissance it was common to leave the prefatory texts such as the dedicatory epistle to the end. They were often printed last to allow an author who might have been working for years on the text to make last-minute changes in the dedicatee or overall presentation of the text. Montaigne signs and dates his preface "de Montaigne, ce premier de Mars mille cinq cens quatre vingts" "from Montaigne, this first day of March, fifteen hundred and eighty". Given the delays that came with getting a manuscript published, Hoffmann estimates that most of the chapters published in were completed before the end of Hoffmann also describes the active role Montaigne played in getting his manuscript published.

Montaigne bore the responsibility for procuring from a mill the paper to be used approximately reams. Beyond the costs of publication, there remained the legal question of rights. This first edition consisted of two books the third book was added for the edition. Montaigne's first official act after publishing his work was to present one of the bound copies to the king. The siege began on 7 July In his livre de raison Montaigne writes that his friend and neighbor Philibert de Gramont was wounded and died four days before Montaigne arrived at the siege.

With a few companions and servants, including an anonymous personal secretary, Montaigne then set out on a seventeen-month trip through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. A few years earlier, in , Montaigne had suffered his first attack of kidney stones. After witnessing his father suffer from this painful illness that finally killed him, Montaigne had long dreaded getting it himself.

Part of his trip was thus apparently intended to be therapeutic--he visited mineral baths along the way and experimented with self-medication by drinking various quantities of different mineral waters. But mainly Montaigne seems to have traveled for the pleasure of traveling. He kept a journal of his trip that he never intended for publication but that was rediscovered in and published for the first time in with the title Journal de voyage de M.

The first part of his Journal de voyage was written by his secretary it was apparently not dictated, since the author uses the third person to refer to Montaigne. The second part, however, is in Montaigne's own hand. He wrote in Italian while he remained in Italian-speaking regions and later in French. Montaigne apparently enjoyed almost all aspects of traveling, from horseback riding and tasting local cuisine to conversing with a wide variety of people he encountered along the way.


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His Journal de voyage reflects his curiosity about the religious practices he observed. He attended synagogues and Protestant churches and engaged many people from different faiths in conversation about religion. Montaigne's interest in religion as an anthropological phenomenon is manifest in the pages of his Journal de voyage as well as in the Essais.

Montaigne's European tour was also an occasion to visit the Roman ruins--a trip to Rome was a kind of humanist pilgrimage during the Renaissance. The only thing remaining from ancient Rome was the sky above, Montaigne reportedly concluded. As for modern Rome--the site of pomp and political intrigue rather than of the philosophy and poetry humanists associated with ancient Rome--as Madeleine Lazard points out, Montaigne did not express bitterness at what Rome had become, as Joachim du Bellay had in Le Premier Livre des antiquitez de Rome , The First Book of the Antiquities of Rome; translated as "Ruines of Rome" and "Visions of Bellay," and "Les Regrets" ; translated as The Regrets , Unlike Du Bellay, Montaigne did not feel "exiled" in Rome.

He enjoyed the cosmopolitan dimension of the city and its constant activity.

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He also visited the Vatican Library, which must have been a sign of favor, since even the French ambassador was not allowed to do so. Montaigne also describes submitting the Essais to the papal censor, a professor of theology at the University of Rome who did not speak French and so relied on help from a French friar. When he arrived in Rome, his books were confiscated at customs, which was at the time a common practice.

All of his books were returned to him aside from a Swiss history, which was kept because its translator was a heretic. When the Essais were returned to him, he learned that six things had been criticized by the censor: During the interview that followed, the explanations for each of the objections that Montaigne offered satisfied the censor. It was left up to Montaigne to redress what was seemingly "in bad taste. In Montaigne received word that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux in absentia, which prompted him to cut short his trip.

He was reelected two years later, which he also noted in his livre de raison. Montaigne thus served as mayor of Bordeaux from to Jacques de Goyon-Matignon arrived in Bordeaux in to serve as the king's lieutenant general in Guyenne. Matignon's was a delicate position to occupy, since the lieutenant general was also responsible to the Protestant Henri de Navarre. Matignon was a zealous Catholic but also known for having saved the lives of Protestants during the St. Since Montaigne was the friend of Henri de Navarre, the basis was laid for effective negotiation between Navarre and the French crown via Matignon and Montaigne.

Montaigne's first term as mayor was relatively tranquil thanks to the Peace of Fleix, which had been concluded in During this time Montaigne made an official visit to court on behalf of the city of Bordeaux. Although the exact reason for his visit is not known, he was able to negotiate the repeal of a tax on commerce entering and leaving the city. Another of Montaigne's actions as mayor concerned a Jesuit orphanage whose minimal budget left the children in dire conditions near starvation. Montaigne intervened to bring the orphanage under municipal administration and insure that it had adequate funding.

This action was characteristic of a broader movement in both Catholic and Protestant cities during the Renaissance to establish charitable institutions run by city administrations. Poor relief had previously been left to private charity and to religious institutions. Although he had assumed what must have been a demanding and absorbing public office, Montaigne did not abandon his literary endeavors. In a second edition of the Essais , with some additions, was published by Millanges in Bordeaux.

The perspective of a Protestant king of France enraged the Catholic League. Moreover, although the Peace of Fleix allowed the Huguenots to keep their surety towns, aside from Cahors, for another six years, tensions mounted as these concessions were slow in coming. In Navarre took by force one such location that had been granted to him but not yet turned over: During this crisis Montaigne was called on to mediate between Navarre and Matignon.

Letters exchanged between Navarre and Montaigne show the former explaining his intentions and entreating Montaigne to plead his case with Matignon. The mounting tensions were deflated in early , as Navarre was allowed to retain Mont-de-Marsan with Matignon reducing the garrisons at Bazas. Over the coming years Montaigne continued to mediate between the French monarch and the Protestant Navarre. In his livre de raison Montaigne notes that he released a stag in his forest to entertain his royal guests with a hunt. Near the end of Montaigne's second term the political context degenerated rapidly in Bordeaux.

This turn of events came at the end of a series of crises within the city. In May, assassination plots were uncovered against Matignon and Montaigne, who were both accused of being sympathetic to Henri de Navarre by members of the Catholic League. Henri de Navarre wrote Montaigne a letter full of anxiety for the security of the city as well as for Montaigne's own safety. At the same time the city prepared for its annual muster--when all inhabitants able to bear arms were required to turn out for a general review. The presence of so many armed men was potentially explosive, with tensions high and conspiracies afoot.

Municipal authorities foresaw a riot, and Montaigne had cause to fear for his life. The essayist writes of this event in the edition of the Essais. In "Divers evenemens de mesme conseil" "Various outcomes of the same plan" he describes the debate among the city councillors over what course of action to pursue. The general consensus was to allow only a limited display of artillery fire, thereby limiting occasions for assassination or rioting.

Montaigne, however, defended a counterintuitive course. Any sign of fear would be disastrous, he argued. Instead, he pleaded in favor of sending out word that captains should tell their troops to "advertir les soldats de faire leurs salves belles et gaillardes en l'honneur des assistans, et n'espargner leur poudre" "make their volleys fine and lusty in honor of the spectators, and not spare their powder" [I, 24]. Further, he asserted that the municipal authorities should not try to protect themselves from the armed men but should instead walk confidently among them, with their heads held high and an open demeanor.

Underlying Montaigne's plan was a strategic use of confidence based on the idea that behaving with one's potential enemies as though they were friends invites them in turn to behave as friends rather than enemies. Montaigne's strategy was adopted, and it proved successful. During these dangerous times no defense was apparently Montaigne's consistent line of defense. The moderate Catholic views he openly expressed along with his friendship with Henri de Navarre made him suspect to both the Protestants and Catholic League sympathizers in the region.

Montaigne's Essais reveal traces of his sustained reflection on diplomatic survival strategies to be employed when in a position of weakness. Throughout the Essais he reflects on ethical and political choices in various circumstances, evoking not only his own experiences but also episodes from the lives of great generals, diplomats, and statesmen culled from ancient and recent history.

Montaigne went back and inserted an account of his actions as mayor in the midst of an analysis of Caesar's way of handling potential mutiny in the chapter "Divers evenemens de mesme conseil," initially published in the edition--before Montaigne became mayor. In his addition the essayist observes that as mayor of Bordeaux he behaved much as Caesar had done under comparable circumstances.

As the essayist observes, "la crainte et la deffiance attirent l'offence et la convient" "fear and mistrust attract and invite attack" [I, 24]. This last example is emblematic of Montaigne's practice of the essay. The essayist's self-portrait--here, of himself as mayor in a situation of crisis--is inextricably linked to a process of rereading and rewriting. Rereading the analysis he wrote of Caesar prior to , Montaigne later scrutinizes his own actions during the crisis of May in this light.

And in adding the account of his own actions in Bordeaux to the analysis of Caesar's actions, the essayist not only imagines Montaigne and Caesar adopting the same course of action when faced with the same situation but also captures himself in the act of contemplating himself contemplating Caesar. The account of his own actions and thoughts thus emerges in the midst of an ongoing dialogue with his culture and with his own text. His self-portrait is not figured as an attempt to get at the "deepest self," the most profound being in isolation from all exterior influences and all other points of comparison.

The Essais are not intended to represent its author as a still life. Instead, they attempt to capture him in motion--thinking, comparing, acting. It included substantial additions to existing chapters, as well as a third book of thirteen new chapters. The emphasis on self-portraiture is clearly apparent in this edition, in which Montaigne accumulates prosaic details--how he likes to sleep, dine, ride horseback--from his daily life.

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In the chapter "Sur des vers de Virgile" he speaks openly about his sexual preferences, stating that he hopes that this chapter will make his Essais intimate reading for women: Yet, the third book also continues to develop Montaigne's critical gaze on his world. According to Nakam, half of the third book could be considered "Advice to a Prince.

The persecution in France was carried out by secular courts under the authority of the king. Montaigne attacks his former colleagues in the magistrature, while couching his critique in terms that would not offend a royal interlocutor. He uses humor and wit, as well as a salacious anecdote--the legend that lame women make the best sexual partners--as though to mirror the style of conversation at court.

But despite its light tone, the chapter offers an informed critique of the logic used to defend the witch-hunts as well as a denunciation of the inhumanity of the persecution.

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Montaigne advances a skeptical view of demonology, the so-called science of demons that provided the rationale for the witch-hunts. He writes against royal policies as well as against the work of magistrates engaged in the persecution.

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He does not challenge the existence of supernatural occurrences but rather the capacity of human reason to reliably apprehend them. Montaigne attacked the demonologists' claims and denounced the inhumanity of the witch-hunts at a time when skepticism was a dangerous position to defend. In "Des boyteux" Montaigne relates his observations bearing on the case of a condemned witch. He describes passing through the territory of a prince who tried to persuade him of the reality of the threat posed by witches by showing him a dozen or so prisoners accused of witchcraft, including an old woman who was widely held to be a witch.

Montaigne notes that he was allowed to interview this "witch," study the evidence against her, read the recorded confessions, and examine the would-be "mark of the devil" found on her body. He concluded that the woman--a confessed witch sentenced to be burned at the stake--was mad, not guilty of witchcraft. Further, in "De la conscience" "Of conscience" II, 5 he criticizes the reliance in trials on torture to extract confessions, because he understands that pain can push a person to even the most extravagant and fantastic admissions. Montaigne insists that what is said under torture can just as easily be false as true.

Indeed, Montaigne stands as the only major figure of his time to oppose judicial torture unequivocally. When Montaigne went to Paris in June for the publication of his revised and expanded Essais , the capital was in turmoil. Sympathy for the Catholic League and hostility to the king were at their peak. On the Day of the Barricades, 12 May, when crowds erected barricades surrounding the king's troops, the king and his immediate entourage fled the capital to take refuge in Rouen.

On 20 July, having recently returned from Rouen, Montaigne was taken prisoner in Paris. He narrates the event in some of the most detailed entries in his livre de raison, explaining that he was taken from his sickbed and sent to the Bastille, where he learned that he was being held in retribution for the king's arrest of a Catholic League member in Rouen. Montaigne observes in his livre de raison that this day in the Bastille was the first day of imprisonment he had known.

The last few years of Montaigne's life were marked by further political instability. Although the Salic law dictated that Navarre should be king of France, members of the Catholic League advanced their own choice for king. In July Navarre abjured his Protestant faith, claiming, according to legend, that "Paris is worth a mass. In Navarre was crowned king of France in Chartres. The new King Henri IV soon arranged for reconciliation with some of the leaders of the Catholic League while defeating others in battle, thereby bringing to an end the prolonged period of civil war in France.

The Edict of Nantes finally put an end to the wars in when Protestants were granted some measure of religious freedom. Under the Edict of Nantes, Protestant worship was tolerated only on noble estates with tenurial rights of justice; specific places to be designated by royal commissioners; and finally wherever Protestants could prove that their faith had been openly practiced in and Montaigne, however, did not live to see peace restored.

Montaigne worked intensely on the Essais in his final years, making substantial additions as well as some editorial changes to the existing chapters of the edition--the last one published during his lifetime. His most important relationship in his last years--at least as concerned the future of the Essais-- was his friendship with Marie de Gournay, whom he met while he was overseeing the printing of the edition. Although self-taught, Gournay was highly erudite.

At the age of twenty she discovered the Essais and was so impressed that two years later she went to Paris to meet their author. She and Montaigne became close during his last years, with Montaigne apparently dictating parts of the Essais to her. He visited her several times at her estate in Picardy, and they cultivated a correspondence.

Montaigne died on 13 September Although there are no eyewitness accounts of his death, Pasquier wrote of Montaigne's last hours in a letter. According to his description, Montaigne's tongue was paralyzed for the last three days, leaving him unable to speak. Knowing that he was dying, he wrote a request that a few neighbors be summoned to his bedside. He then had mass said in his room.


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Pasquier notes that when the priest came to the elevation of the Corpus Domini, Montaigne lifted himself up from his bed with hands clasped and then expired; Pasquier suggests that this last gesture was a fine mirror of his inmost soul. Pasquier's telling of Montaigne's last hours reflects his century's ideal of the exemplary death, death being the ultimate philosophical test.

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After Montaigne's death, Gournay undertook the task of preparing an edition of the Essais that included the changes and additions he had made since The edition was printed in Paris by L'Angelier in Gournay also presided over the editorial fortunes of the Essais in the first part of the seventeenth century. For instance, while Montaigne rarely cited his sources, Gournay added to her edition references for the many Latin and occasional Greek quotations, a practice twentieth-century editors continued.

She also made some editorial changes to accommodate Montaigne's language to the taste of seventeenth-century readers in the edition. She made these changes reluctantly, for she saw herself as Montaigne's advocate and the guardian of his Essais rather than their modernizer. The history of the Essais has a final, surprising chapter. In the eighteenth century a copy of the edition with Montaigne's notes in his own hand was found.

It was clearly Montaigne's personal copy, and it included changes and additions written in the margins, between the lines, and on top of the printed text. This copy is now commonly referred to as l'Exemplaire de Bordeaux the Bordeaux Copy. Although it is close to Gournay's edition, there are differences between the two versions. There were, thus, at least two different copies: Further complicating the picture, the Bordeaux Copy is incomplete.

Montaigne wrote some of his additions on separate pieces of paper that are now lost, and a bookbinder carelessly cut off part of the margins with Montaigne's notes which were then thrown out. Scholars wishing to ascertain Montaigne's final intentions as expressed on the Bordeaux Copy have thus used Gournay's edition, based on the other copy--probably Montaigne's final copy--as a basis to reconstruct the missing parts of the Bordeaux Copy.

Today the Bordeaux Copy belongs to the French government and is under the jurisdiction of the minister of culture. It is in a climate-controlled box in the Bordeaux Municipal Library. Despite its fragile condition, specialists can still occasionally consult it, although without touching the pages. The Bordeaux Copy is the object of this degree of reverence because it contains the traces of Montaigne's scrupulous reworking and editing of his text; he was not nearly as nonchalant about the task of writing as his comments in the Essais suggest.

One of Michel de Montaigne's most enduring contributions to literature remains the new medium of the essay he fashioned.


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His practice of the essay is a method of inquiry, of searching and questioning. He wrote as part of a continuing dialogue with a tradition that he knew to be fraught with dissension. In the Essais Montaigne cites, paraphrases, and challenges the wisdom of antiquity while pointing to its contradictions. He fashioned a bookish world in which every text invites commentary, and every commentary is potentially a new text eliciting yet another commentary. In this world Montaigne's critical gaze is brought to bear on his always-unfinished self-portrait and on the reality around him, from peasants laboring in the fields to princes enmeshed in the religious, political, and social conflicts of the end of the French Renaissance.

A Biography New York: Madeleine Lazard, Michel de Montaigne Paris: A Collection of Essays, 5 volumes New York: Marcel Conche, Montaigne ou la conscience heureuse Paris: University of California Press, George Hoffmann, Montaigne's Career Oxford: Printed by Abel L'Angelier, Alain Legros, Essais sur poutres: Peintures et inscriptions chez Montaigne Paris: La glose et l'essai Lyons: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, French Essayist - Virginia Krause Brown University.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol.