Citations de Michel de Montaigne

Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne, 1533-1592

Quotations from Montaigne's Essays
selected and translated by Anthony Weir
with glosses and comments.

Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne
click for more photos _________________________________________________________________________________


'Retain a healthy contempt for your fellow-men, and especially for those who urge you to do so.'

« Méfiez-vous de tout le monde et en particulier de ceux qui conseillent de vous méfier. »


These words are not by Montaigne, but by his inspirational bosom friend and soul-mate Etienne de la Boétie.  Some people think that la Boétie's seminal work,  THE ANTI-DICTATOR, might well have been written by Montaigne.  Its revolutionary message can be summarised thus:  


The great mystery of politics is the obedience given to rulers.
Why do people agree to be looted, exploited, forced to bear arms, and in many other ways allow themselves to be oppressed by tyrants, governments and petty overlords ? 

Not because of fear -  for our consent is required. And that consent can be non-violently withdrawn.


All following quotations
are by Michel de Montaigne himself. 





C'est une absolue perfection, et comme divine, de savoir jouir loyalement de son être....

To know how to enjoy being truly yourself is utter perfection - and  next to divine.
We seek other ways of being because we don't understand how to make use of our own, and we constantly look outside ourselves because we don't realise what is inside.


... la reconnaissance de l'ignorance est l'un des plus beaux et plus sûrs témoignages de jugement que je trouve.

I have found that a person's recognition of his own ignorance is one of the surest and most admirable indications of his good judgement.



Satellite photo

- d'après Google Earth.

La flèche rouge indique la Tour Montaigne.
The red arrow shows Montaigne's tower.


...j'aimerais mieux, à l'aventure, être le second ou le troisième à Périgueux que le premier à Paris.

I would rather, if it were possible, be the second or third most important man in Périgueux than the most important man in Paris.


La Tour de Montaigne • Montaigne's Tower

His library was on the top floor,
and held,
on shelves five high, over a thousand books - which he dipped into for inspiration, rather than reading for mere information which he despised. Books were, of course, extremely expensive, scarcely a hundred years after the invention of the movable-type printing-press.