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  Thursday, December 26, 2002

Essays After Montaigne

The Author to the Reader

Reader, loe here a well-meaning Booke. It doth at the first entrance forewarne thee, that in contriving the same I have proposed unto my selfe no other than a familiar and private end: I have no respect or consideration at all, either to thy service, or to my glory: my forces are not capable of any such desseigne. I have vowed the same to the particular commodity of my kinsfolk and friends: to the end, that losing me (which they are likely to do ere long), they may therein find some lineaments of my conditions and humours, and by that meanes reserve more whole, and more lively foster the knowledge and acquaintance they have had of me. Had my intention beene to forestal and purchase the world's opinion and favour, I would surely have adorned myselfe more quaintly, or kept a more grave and solemne march. I desire thereun to be delineated in mine own genuine, simple and ordinarie fashion, without contention, art or study; for it is myselfe I pourtray. My imperfections shall thus be read to the life, and my naturall forme discerned, so farre-forth as publike reverence hath permitted me. For if my fortune had beene to have lived among those nations which yet are said to live under the sweet liberty of Nature's first and uncorrupted lawes, I assure thee, I would most willingly have pourtrayed myselfe fully and naked. Thus, gentle Reader, myselfe am the groundworke of my booke: it is then no reason thou shouldest employ thy time about so frivolous and vaine a subject.

The First Booke
Chapter I By divers Meanes men come unto a like End
Chapter II Of Sadnesse or Sorrowe
Chapter III Our Affections are transported beyond our selves
Chapter IV How the Soule dischargeth her Passions upon false objects, when the true faile it
Chapter V Whether the Captaine of a Place Besieged ought to sallie forth to Parlie
Chapter VI That the Houre of Parlies is dangerous
Chapter VII That our Intention judgeth our Actions
Chapter VIII Of Idlenesse
Chapter IX Of Lyers
Chapter X Of Readie or Slow Speech
Chapter XI Of Prognostications
Chapter XII Of Constancie
Chapter XIII Of Ceremonies in the enterview of Kings
Chapter XIV Men are punished by too-much opiniating themselves in a place without reason
Chapter XV Of the punishment of Cowardise
Chapter XVI A tricke of certaine Ambassadors
Chapter XVII Of Feare
Chapter XVIII That we should not judge of our Happinesse untill after our Death
Chapter XIX That to Philosophise is to learn how to die
Chapter XX On the force of Imagination
Chapter XXI The profit of one man is the dammage of another
Chapter XXII Of customs, and how a received law should not easily be changed
Chapter XXIII Divers events from one selfsame counsell
Chapter XXIV Of Pedantisme
Chapter XXV Of the Institution and Education of Children; to the Ladie Diana of Foix
Chapter XXVI It is follie to referre Truth or Falsehood to our sufficiencie
Chapter XXVII Of Friendship
Chapter XXVIII Nine and twentie Sonnets of Steven de la Boetie, to the Lady of Grammont
Chapter XXIX Of Moderation
Chapter XXX Of the Caniballes
Chapter XXXI That a Man ought soberly to meddle with judging of Divine Lawes
Chapter XXXII To avoid Voluptuousnesse in regard of Life
Chapter XXXIII That Fortune is oftentimes met withall in pursuit of Reason
Chapter XXXIV Of a Defect in our Policies
Chapter XXXV Of the Use of Apparell
Chapter XXXVI Of Cato the younger
Chapter XXXVII How we weepe and laugh at one selfe-same thing
Chapter XXXVIII Of Solitarinesse
Chapter XXXIX A consideration upon Cicero
Chapter XL That the taste of Goods or Evils doth greatly depend on the opinion we have of them
Chapter XLI That a Man should not communicate his Glorie
Chapter XLII Of the Inequalitie that is betweene us
Chapter XLIII Of Sumptuarie Lawes, or Lawes for moderating of Expenses
Chapter XLIV Of Sleeping
Chapter XLV Of the Battell of Dreux
Chapter XLVI Of Names
Chapter XLVII Of the uncertaintie of our Judgement
Chapter XLVIII Of Steeds, called in French Destriers
Chapter XLIX Of ancient Customes
Chapter L Of Democritus and Heraclitus
Chapter LI Of the Vanitie of Words
Chapter LII Of the Parcimonie of our Forefathers
Chapter LIII Of a saying of Cæsar
Chapter LIV Of vaine Subtlities, or subtill Devices
Chapter LV Of Smels and Odors
Chapter LVI Of Praiers and Orisons
Chapter LVII Of Age
The Second Booke
Chapter I Of the inconstancie of our Actions
Chapter II Of Drunkennesse

9:54:41 PM     What do you think? ()

So How About This?

At the end of the year, people may find themselves at home with free time to which they are unaccustomed. Some will catch up on sleep or watching television, some will clean and organize, and some will tinker. I fall into the latter category. I always have things I'd like to do, some grand and some modest. But I never make resolutions or start things whole. I can only start things (like this Weblog) that begin with tinkering. And as my projects begin with tinkering, they also evolve through tinkering.

I'm going to try some changes in this Weblog for two reasons: First, I'd like to write longer entries less frequently; and second, I'd like to structure my writing to facilitate my reading of The Essayes of Montaigne. I find that I do much better with otherwise overwhelming books (like, say, more than 100 essays spread over more than 1,000 pages) if I can develop some sort of structure to support my reading. For instance, tackling Proust in a reading group worked very well for me. But the group wanted to read more manageable books next year (which I completely understand), so I need to find a new structure for Montaigne.

How can a Weblog support reading? Not by becoming the Oprah Winfrey Show. Instead, about twice a week or so, I'm going to try to write my own modest essay on the topic of one of Montaigne's essays, from "By divers Meanes men come unto a like End" to "Of Experience." If anyone would care to follow along, I'll be reading John Florio's translation of 1603 (just because I like the idea of reading the translation that Shakespeare read) with reference to Donald Frame's contemporary translation for clarity where necessary. I promise nothing with respect to the value or quality of my essays.

7:03:00 PM     What do you think? ()

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