This website is a journal of sorts, not unlike
Michel de Montaigne’s Complete Essays.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of
the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight.
It seems like everyone at some point stumbles across Montaigne. You don’t read Montaigne in high school, or in college, or in casual references in the media. Reading Montaigne is like drinking coffee; you can get it at Dunkin'® Donuts, Starbucks™ or Whole Foods©, or you can brew your own — Pour Over/Drip: Chemex®; Plunger/Press: French Press; Percolate/Stovetop:
Moka Pot; Vacuum: Siphon; (and many more).
By the way, Dunkin'® is a coffee company, not a donut company. Doughnuts are apparently a garnish. My personal favorite is an apple fritter, clocking in at 510 calories. But that is another essay.
Coffee can be: tall or short; hot or cold; black or blond (I take coffee in my milk); caffeinated or decaffeinated; brewed or instant; whole or ground; or simple or complex (at the same time). Montaigne’s essays are the same. You don’t need to know anything to drink coffee; connoisseurs pour over every drop.
Montaigne can be: long or short; personal or impersonal; original French or the Charles Cotton (1685–6) English translation (later edited by William Carew Hazlitt in 1877); first, second, third, fourth or fifth edition; aristocratic or common; a single entry or all 107 chapters; or simple or complex (at the same time). You don’t need to know anything to read Montaigne, but knowing something helps:
The Author to the Reader
Reader, thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all either to thy service or to my glory. My powers are not capable of any such design. I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like, the knowledge they had of me. Had my intention been to seek the world’s favour, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed beauties: I desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own genuine, simple, and ordinary manner, without study and artifice: for it is myself I paint. My defects are therein to be read to the life, and any imperfections and my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me. If I had lived among those nations, which (they say) yet dwell under the sweet liberty of nature’s primitive laws, I assure thee I would most willingly have painted myself quite fully and quite naked. Thus, reader, myself am the matter of my book: there’s no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure about so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore farewell.
— From Montaigne, the 12th June 1580
Reader, this is an honest book. It warns you straight away that I wrote it only with myself and those around me in mind, never once considering what use you could have for it or how interesting it would make me look. I would not have the strength for that kind of work. I wrote it for my family and my friends so that once I am gone (which may be soon) they may find in it again remnants of my personality and thoughts, and remember me in a more complete and life-like way. Had I been seeking public attention, I would have made myself look better and presented myself more carefully. But I want you to see me as I am, in a plain, natural, and ordinary way, free of pretense and artifice. I am the one depicted here. My faults and my very self are exposed for all to see, at least as much as public conventions will let me. Had I lived among those nations, which (they say) still live under the sweet liberty of nature’s primitive laws, I assure you I would easily have painted myself quite fully and quite naked. So, reader, here I am, the subject of my book, and I see no reason why you should spend your free time on so unimportant and pointless a topic. Farewell, then; from Montaigne, March 1st, 1580.