Often quoted, eloquent essayist and philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) was born on this day in Château of Montaigne in Périgord, France. Raised by aristocrats dedicated to education, young Michel heard and spoke only Latin until age six.
"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself," said Montaigne, whose motto was "Que sais-je?" (What do I know?).
A lawyer, magistrate, counselor to kings, and mayor, this deep thinker left his career to write, retreating to his family's estate. From his tower library, Montaigne carved Latin and Greek quotations on the roof beam. Today this solitarium has become a popular destination for literary travelers.
Montaigne coined the term essay from the French essayer, to try, to test. He elevated the essay--"the dialogue of the mind with itself"--to a true literary form.
He said, "I speak truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little the more as I grow older."
Inspired by Socrates, Cicero, and Homer, Montaigne's first book of essays examined many topics, such as education, mankind, nature, cannibals, and existence. Always he searched for the meaning of his life.
He said, "The journey not the arrival matters."
With introspection that delved into self-knowledge and truth, Montaigne's conversational writing style celebrated the conservative skepticism of the Renaissance era and led the way for later philosophers.
"The most certain sign of Wisdom is a constant cheerfulness," he observed.
More Michel de MONTAIGNE Quotations
Take the time to solve your problems.