Montaigne 1533 - 1592 (59)

The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.



Michel de Montaigne was a French thinker and writer best known for his essays, a genre he himself invented and developed. He was born on February 28, 1533 in Bordeaux and was the son of a wealthy family. His father was a merchant who twice served as mayor of Bordeaux. Until the age of 6 he was raised by servants who spoke Latin and ancient Greek to him and later he studied at the College of Bordeaux; from 1546 he began his legal studies at the University of Toulouse. In 1554 he became an adviser to the parliament of Bordeaux taking an active role in the decisions of the local administration. In 1565 he married the daughter of another member of parliament with whom he had 6 daughters; 5 of them died before adultness. His father, whom he had always admired for his erudition and modernity, died in 1568, leaving the head of the family and heir to most of their vast fortune. At that time there were constant civil conflicts between Catholics and protestants, he was a moderate Catholic and made many efforts to pacify the opponents, for this attitude he was honored by both sides.

In 1571, however, disappointed as the conflicts did not subside, he retired to his estate of Chateau de Montaigne to devote himself to study and writing. Influenced by the principles of rationalism and modeled on the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, Montaigne recorded his ideas and observations and created a new literary style, a combination of scientific and creative spirit, the essay. His works were constantly changed and enriched throughout his life, with new ideas and views on man and the society of the time.

In 1580 he published the first two volumes of his Essays and traveled to Paris to present a copy to the king. He then embarked on a long tour of Germany and Italy and in 1581, while in Rome, was informed that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux, so he returned to France and took office at a very difficult time as the city was in the throes of a religious war with fanaticism of the adversaries to sharpen instead of appease. He did well and was re-elected but in 1585 he decided to leave the town hall and return to his estate; in some cases he was in danger and had to flee to neighboring estates as soldiers were looted the countryside and had targeted him (both religious factions considered that he belonged to the opponents). In 1588 the full edition of the essays was published with the addition of a third volume. He died on September 13, 1592 in his estate.