The sixteenth century: from Rabelais to Montaigne

French Literature - A Beginner’s Guide - Carol Clark 2011

The sixteenth century: from Rabelais to Montaigne

It was in the sixteenth century that French literature began to take forms more familiar to us today, with the appearance of printed prose fiction, printed collections of poetry and a literature of reflection to which Michel de Montaigne first gave the name of essays.

Printing had come to France in the 1470s, soon after its invention in Germany. The main centres of the new business were Paris, particularly the university district where print shops soon supplanted the traditional trade of manuscript copying, and Lyon. At first the majority of books printed were in Latin, the language of scholarship and the Church, but certain houses soon developed a trade in vernacular works as well. Their biggest output was of works of devotion — books of hours, saints’ lives, guides to a good death and the like — but more practical works like almanacs, guides to planting and home medical hints also seem to have sold well. An entertainment literature also began to develop in the form of jest-books, collections of comic or tragic tales and reworked prose versions of the tales of chivalry. The new techniques for rapid reproduction of books soon outran the available copy, and material to print and sell was dug up from all possible sources. It is not at all unusual to see a work decades or even centuries old described on a sixteenth-century title-page as ’nouvellement composé’. As well as weighty and handsome versions of the old romances, meant for the well-to-do lay market, little works of pamphlet size (’chapbooks’) were also printed to be sold by itinerant pedlars (chapmen). The stories found in these books are usually far-fetched adventures, told in comically exaggerated style. One such group of tales concerned a family of giants, created by Merlin the Enchanter to serve King Arthur in battle: a kind of downmarket spin-off from the chivalric world of the matière de Bretagne. It is from this unlikely context that the first great work of French prose fiction, the Pantagruel and Gargantua of Rabelais, was to emerge.


We know little of the early life of François Rabelais (?1494—1552): even his date of birth has been placed as early as 1483 and as late as 1494. By 1520 he was already a professed Franciscan monk, but we do not know at what age he joined the order: possibly even as a boy. What is certain is that whatever early education he received would have been in a clerical context, and in Latin. By the time we first hear of him, he is trying to learn Greek, and petitioning the pope to be allowed to transfer to the Benedictines, who were more sympathetic to humanist as well as to purely theological studies. The move to the Benedictines did not, it seems, cure François’ restlessness, since by 1530 he was on leave of absence from his monastery, studying medicine at the Faculty in Montpellier. The subject at this time was, of course, largely studied out of classical texts (Rabelais himself was to lecture on Hippocrates and Galen), but more practical approaches were coming to be considered: dissection was beginning to be used, and Rabelais is credited with designing a device for setting and straightening broken legs. In 1532 he was appointed chief doctor at the Hôtel-Dieu, the main hospital at Lyon.

It was while at the Hôtel-Dieu that he published his first fictional work, the Horribles et espouventables faicts et prouesses du tresrenomme Pantagruel of 1532. It is an odd little book, sixty-four 11x15cm leaves (128 pages) of blackletter (about 40,000 words), weighing only a couple of ounces. The decoration of the title-page (Figure 1) had first been used for a serious legal textbook, but then re-used for a satirical account of the progress of the new disease, syphilis (the Triumphe de haulte et puissante Dame Verolle). Obviously syphilis was a topical subject for humour, and there are plenty of jokes about it in the Pantagruel as well. But the main structure of the story is thoroughly traditional. Like many chansons de geste (the ones called Enfances of this or that hero) it recounts the birth, infancy, childhood, education and first feats of arms of the giant prince Pantagruel, up to his entry into his kingdom. Much of the humour is based on the giant’s huge size, which, however, varies greatly from one chapter to another. But there is also much topical satire, and a degree of unbridled fantasy unmatched in any fiction of the time, or probably of any other.

Who could have considered such a book worth buying? Not serious fathers of families, but perhaps young men, students or apprentices hoping for the social and sexual success that came from having a fund of stories and jokes to draw on in male or mixed company. Certainly this is how Rabelais promotes his first book in the tongue-in-cheek prologue to Pantagruel: he reminds his readers what faith they had placed in the Grandes et inestimables chroniques de l’énorme géant Gargantua (a chapbook published some months before), and how they had won the favour of ladies by telling them long, exciting stories taken from that work. Gentlemen, he says, can also cheer themselves up on unsuccessful hunting trips by telling over Gargantua’s adventures. The book could be medically valuable as well, the narrator says. (We remember that medical hints were an important sub-genre of early printed literature, but Rabelais, as a university-educated doctor, would have had little respect for these). Wrapped in hot cloths and applied to the face, he says, the book will cure toothache! But its chief value has been to people taking the sweating cure for syphilis: stuck in their tubs, ’their only consolation was to be read to out of the said book’. Now he, the author, ’your humble slave’; is offering us another book of the same type, ’except that it is a little more truthful and credible than the other’. In fact, it is immensely more far-fetched and improbable.


Figure 1 Rabelais, Pantagruel, 1532, title-page

Rabelais’ prologue makes fun of contemporary prologues and title-pages with their recurring claims of usefulness. But it allows us to notice one thing that is not misleading: the way in which most people’s experience of fiction, and in fact of poetry also, was not yet a matter of silent, private reading, but was embedded in a social context — being read to or reading to others, selecting and interpreting elements from printed fiction for one’s own oral performance. The use of printed fiction in these ways did not wholly die out until well into the nineteenth century.

Pantagruel was followed by a ’prequel’ Gargantua (1534), which brings back the hero of the original chapbook, the Grandes et inestimables chroniques, but takes him from the mists of Arthurian antiquity and places him in a more modern context, his youth just preceding the invention of printing. The same enfances structure is used as in Pantagruel, but the babyhood and early childhood of the hero are treated at much greater length: Gargantua is the first work of fiction to show any but the most perfunctory interest in this stage of life — perhaps because of the scope it gave for the scatological humour dear to Rabelais’s heart. The young Gargantua’s studies are also treated at unusual length, allowing for much satire of the still medieval University of Paris. Then follow the call to arms, the mighty battles of thousands of cavalry and infantry — all fought, for some reason, over some twenty square miles of the rural region of France where Rabelais grew up — and the triumphal entry into adulthood.


Chapter XVI of Gargantua sees the young prince arriving to study in Paris with his tutor, page and servants, and ends with them ’refreshing’ themselves with a banquet and wine. Chapter XVII purports to explain how the city got its name —’par rys’ (for a joke) and ’Paris’ sound the same in French — though it was already being referred to by that name by characters in the story long before Gargantua’s arrival there. Such deliberate inconsistencies are characteristic of Rabelais’ storytelling. Giant tales usually credit the giants with having created various landscape features and/or having given them their names (as here, in Chapter XV, the plain of Beauce).

Comment Gargantua paya sa bienvenue es Parisiens et comment il print les grosses cloches de l’eglise Nostre Dame.

Chapitre XVII

Quelques jours après qu’ilz se feurent refraischiz, il visita la ville et fut veu de tout le monde en grande admiration, car le people de Paris est tant sot, tant badault et tant inepte de nature, qu’un basteleur, un porteur de rogatons, un mullet avecques ses cymbales, un vielleur au milieu d’un carrefour, assemblera plus de gens que ne feroit un bon prescheur evangelicque.

Et tant molestement le poursuivirent qu’il feut contrainct soy reposer suz les tours de l’eglise Nostre Dame. Auquel lieu estant, et voyant tant de gens à l’entour de soy, dist clerement :

’Je croy que ces marroufles voulent que je leur paye ici ma bienvenue et mon proficiat. C’est raison. Je leur voys donner le vin, mais ce ne sera que par rys.’

Lors, en soubriant, destacha sa belle braguette, et, tirant sa mentule en l’air, les compissa si aigrement qu’il en noya deux cens soixante mille quatre cens dix et huyt, sans les femmes et petiz enfans.

Quelque nombre d’iceulx evada ce pissefort à legiereté des pieds, et quand furent au plus hault de l’Université, suans, toussans, crachans et hors d’haleine, commencerent à renier et jurer, les ungs en cholere, les aultres par rys: ’Carymary, carymara! Par saincte Mamye, nous sommes baignez par rys!’ Dont fut depuis la ville nommée Paris.

How Gargantua celebrated his arrival with the Parisians and how he took away the great bells of the church of Notre Dame

Chapter XVII

After they had rested for a few days, he went out to see the town and was seen with great amazement by everyone, for the population of Paris is so foolish, so idly curious and so naturally stupid that a tumbling actor, a pardoner, a mule with its bells or a fiddler in the middle of a crossroads will draw a bigger crowd than a good gospel preacher could hope to do.

And they followed him about in such a tiresome fashion that he was obliged to take refuge on the towers of Notre Dame. Once he was there, looking down and seeing so many people about him, he said in a clear voice, ’I think these clowns want me to thank them for my welcome and give them something to remember me by. That’s only right. Well, the drink’s on me, but the joke will be on them’.

Then, with a big smile, he undid his fine codpiece and, waving his penis in the air, he pissed on them so violently that he drowned two hundred and sixty thousand four hundred and eighteen of them, not counting the women and little children.

Some of them ran fast enough to escape this mighty wave of piss, and when they reached the top of the University hill, sweating, coughing, spitting and out of breath, they began to curse and swear, some in anger and others laughing, saying, ’By the mass, the joke’s on us! Fiddle-de-dee, we’re drowned in pee!’ And so the town was called Paree.]

After Gargantua Rabelais left off writing fiction for twelve years to follow a busy career in medicine and diplomacy, living in Italy for several years as personal physician and secretary to the Cardinal du Bellay. When he returned to fiction it was to take his book in very different directions. He seems still to regard it as all the same book, since the two further volumes published in his lifetime were given the titles of Le Tiers livre and Le Quart livre (of Pantagruel’s Chronicles), and they feature the same cast of characters, but having adventures of a new kind. The Tiers livre marks the greatest departure from his previous style: it contains little of the humour based on size, and none of the bloodthirsty battle sequences, that drove the first two volumes. In the first volume Pantagruel, the giant prince, had acquired a normal-sized sidekick called Panurge, a disreputable perpetual-student character. Panurge vanishes from the action in Gargantua, since that takes place before Pantagruel’s birth: the giant’s sidekick in that volume is a two-fisted monk called Frère Jean des Entommeures. In the Tiers livre, however, in defiance of chronology, Panurge and Frère Jean are brought together as members of Pantagruel’s household: like a comic-book character, Frère Jean does not seem to have got any older and they make a classic brain-and-brawn pairing, constantly arguing. Panurge is now at the centre of the story: he does seem to have aged somewhat, and now announces that it is time for him to marry and settle down. Just one question troubles him: ’Serai-je cocu?’ (Will my wife cheat on me?). In the world of broad comedy that these characters inhabit, there is only one answer to that question: yes. Nevertheless, Pantagruel takes Panurge’s problem seriously, and the band embarks on a series of consultations of various authorities and interpretations of their pronouncements, which occupies the rest of the volume. Wilfully blanking out the answer that is staring him in the face, Panurge remains unconvinced, so the band then takes ship for a journey around the world to try to find and consult the oracle of the Dive Bouteille (the Bottle Goddess). This journey occupies the Quart livre.

It is clear that the two later books deal in comedy of a more intellectual kind, although battle scenes and comedy of size reappear in the Quart livre, alongside a new kind of surreal humour based on word-play. Rabelais died shortly after the publication of the Quart livre in 1552; the characters’ adventures were brought to some kind of conclusion in a Cinquième livre published in 1569 (the Bottle Goddess’s oracular pronouncement is ’TRINCH’ — drink — which seems to please everyone). But this volume is now considered not to be Rabelais’s work, except perhaps for some short sections. It was, however, part of the ’Rabelais’ that Swift, Sterne or Flaubert read and admired.

Court life and religious war

The first half of the sixteenth century had been a period of consolidation of the French monarchy and of peace within the national boundaries, though French armies had been involved in warfare in Italy. The king, François I, and the great nobles replaced their fortified castles with beautiful châteaux in the Renaissance style, and imported Italian painters, sculptors and goldsmiths, including Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini, to adorn them. The arts of music, dancing and ceremonial jousting were brought to a high point in this courtly culture, and the poetry it produced was equally stylised, with the Petrarchan, idealizing vein of love poetry preferred. The greatest poet of this period was Pierre de Ronsard (1524—85), who wrote several volumes of love poetry (mostly sonnets, many soon made available with musical settings for ladies and gentlemen to perform), but also political and even scientific poetry. Some historians of literature refer to this period as ’le beau seizième siècle’. But it came to an abrupt end in 1559 when Henri II, François I’s son, in the course of a splendid tournament and under the eyes of his wife and his mistress, was run through the eye by an opponent’s splintered lance and died shortly afterwards. His heir, the sickly François II (husband of Mary, Queen of Scots) reigned for only a year, and was succeeded by another boy king, Charles IX, aged ten, with their mother Catherine de Médicis (of the Florentine family) as regent. Charles died at twenty-four without issue, to be succeeded by yet another childless brother, Henri III. The Queen Mother was therefore a power behind the throne for thirty years, dying in the same year as the third of her sons to be king was assassinated. A succession of underage kings, leading to a concentration of power in the hands of a woman, was seen as a catastrophe for the nation, and the most powerful nobles took it as the opportunity to assert their own power against that of the throne.

In France, as in England and Germany, the 1520s and 1530s had seen movements of religious reform, and François I had been quite sympathetic to these. But when the Protestants came to acquire political power in some cities, aand certain great nobles joined the reform party, the question of whether to allow the Protestants freedom of worship became more doubtful. After the death of Henri II, political stability appeared threatened, and some of Catherine’s advisers wished to suppress Protestantism by force. The queen at first seemed to favour toleration, but talks with the Protestants broke down and 1562 marked the beginning of the Wars of Religion, a series of civil conflicts that waxed and waned with few interruptions for the next thirty years. They reached a peak of horror in 1572 with the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day, when Catholic mobs turned on the Protestants in Paris and other cities, killing many hundreds of them in a single night.

These decades of religious conflict produced a new religious and polemical literature. It was one of the tenets of the Reform that Christians should read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, and that they should pray and preachers should preach in the vernacular and not in Latin. We therefore find new translations of the Bible into French and French metrical psalms prepared for singing by poets like Clément Marot (1496—1544), otherwise a writer of love poetry and satires. Jean Calvin (1509—1564) translated his Christianae religionis institutio (1536) into French in 1541, using language simple and clear enough for lay people to understand. He also wrote various polemical treatises in even more familiar style (his Traîté des reliques is particularly knockabout). Protestant political thinkers produced angry treatises and Catholic controversialists replied, in French as well as Latin, and polemical poetry was written on both sides. The most memorable work of this kind is Les Tragiques by Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552—1630), an epic treatment in seven books of the sufferings of the Protestants. It was written in the 1580s but could not be published until 1616.


After Rabelais, the other sixteenth-century prose writer who is still widely read in French, and also in English and many other languages, is Michel de Montaigne (1534—92), whose adult life unfolded against this background of religious strife, and who was influenced by it to form a sceptical and individualistic outlook.

We know much more about Montaigne as a person than about Rabelais, partly because at one stage he played a well-documented role in public life, but mostly because a fair part of his book, the Essais, is self-descriptive — something very unusual for the time. He also kept a diary during a journey through Germany and Italy in 1580—82 which was discovered and published in the eighteenth century. Undertaking such a journey simply for pleasure and interest was then also a very unusual thing for a man of his rank and age to do.

Montaigne was the eldest son of a landed family near Bordeaux, where his château of Montaigne can still be visited. His was not an ancient family, however. His great-grandfather had been a Bordeaux merchant called Eyquem; his grandfather was the first to buy land and his father the first to serve the crown as a soldier (both necessary steps on the way to noble status) and to style himself Pierre Eyquem de Montaigne. Michel was the first to drop the Eyquem. His father seems to have intended him to join the noblesse de robe, the intermediary caste of lawyers and civil servants, and many of Montaigne’s lifelong friends did belong to this group. However Michel had other ideas for himself. Having, it is believed, studied the law and certainly served as a magistrate until the age of thirty-seven, he then withdrew to his estate. His plan, however, was not to lead the life of a country squire. He boasts his complete ignorance of, and lack of interest in, estate management. In an inscription on his library wall he describes himself as thoroughly fed up (pertaesus) with the law and about to dedicate himself to the service of the Muses. He is going to read: the classics, modern history, poetry. This he proceeds to do, acquiring in the course of his life some thousand volumes, an enormous number for the time. Some 300 of these survive, with his signature in them and sometimes also marginal notes.

Like Rabelais’s Chronicles, Montaigne’s is a work that took shape over a long period of time. We believe that he started writing what would eventually become the Essais in 1572, but with little idea of what the book would eventually turn into. It was published for the first time in 1580, at Bordeaux, as a work in two volumes, Book I of fifty-six chapters varying between short and medium length, and Book II with short and medium chapters and one disproportionately long one, Book II chapter 12, which is almost a book in its own right. In 1588 a new edition included a Book III of thirteen further chapters, all quite long, and also a great many additions to the existing chapters of Book I and Book II. Even then Montaigne did not stop rereading and rewriting his book. Working on unbound sheets of the 1588 edition, he added a great many further, handwritten observations, seemingly in preparation for a third version of the Essais, which however he did not live to see through the press. It was eventually published in 1595 with a preface by a young woman whom he referred to as his adopted daughter (though formal, legal adoption did not exist in France in his time), Marie de Gournay.

The resulting three books therefore reflect Montaigne’s changing interests and opinions over a period of twenty years. He rarely cut anything he had written, at least after 1580, but added illustrative examples and second and third layers of observation, which sometimes seem to contradict what he has just said (that is, what he had written ten or twenty years previously). The resulting text can be confusing, and most modern editions attempt to separate the various layers of composition with signs like a, b, c or /, //, ///. Readers between 1595 and 1907 had to deal with the text in its unseparated form, however, and do not seem to have found it too daunting.

Book I, chapter 8, De l’oisiveté (About Idleness) describes the early stages of his project of self-education. The result of his at first completely aimless wandering among books, he says, was to fill his head with so many incongruous ideas (’chimères et monstres fantasques’) that he decided — we do not know exactly when — to write down his responses to his reading, at first simply in the order they occurred to him (’les mettre en rolle’). Some of the earliest, shortest, chapters of the Essais do seem to have been put together in this way. But soon he is writing longer, more structured pieces, some of them on traditional debating subjects like death, pain, custom, friendship or the upbringing of children. Right from the beginning, however, his attitude to these subjects, and his style in discussing them, are unorthodox. His approaches are often sceptical, humour intrudes in unlikely places, and instead of quoting his classical authors as authorities, he engages in lively debate with them, even the ones he most admires.

With the passing of time, and particularly after the publication of the 1580 edition and its unexpected success with readers, Montaigne comes to realise that what he has produced is a kind of changing portrait of his mind and its workings, and he begins to say that this was his intention all along. Passages of self-description and self-analysis, and reflections on the process of writing, become more frequent, though they are certainly never preponderant.

At the beginning, Montaigne liked to think of himself as a private person. Why, then, was he using the new technology of print to communicate his thoughts to strangers? At first (II, 17, 1580) he says that it is simply for the benefit of his family, so that they will have a memento of him after he is dead. Printing his book is quicker and simpler than having it copied out by hand. But by the 1590s he is sounding like a modern blogger: his best friend having died, he says, there is no one to whom he can communicate his thoughts by letter, so he is launching them on the print sphere in the hope of finding like-minded readers. In III, 10, he even suggests that such a reader need only write to him and ’I will come and bring him Essays in flesh and blood’.

Something of the kind did in fact happen. Marie Le Jars de Gournay read the Essais in her château in Picardy and, determined to meet the author, travelled to a political conference at Blois where she knew Montaigne would be — an astonishing thing for a young unmarried woman to do at this time. They met and became lifelong friends; Marie returned to Montaigne where she lived with Montaigne’s family, including his mother, serving first as an amanuensis, then a collaborator and finally, with Pierre de Brach, preparing the 1595 edition of the Essais and writing its preface. She continued to be a writer, moved to Paris, never married and, most unusually for a woman at the time, lived by her pen, dying in 1645.

The mention of a political conference reminds us that, so far from being a literary recluse, the Proust of the sixteenth century, Montaigne led an active public life, including being twice elected mayor of Bordeaux and acting as a diplomatic contact between the Catholic King Henri III and his Protestant cousin and eventual successor Henry of Navarre during the Wars of Religion. These wars indeed become the subject of some of the most trenchantly written passages of the Essais. A moderate and traditionalist, despite or perhaps because of his sceptical cast of mind, Montaigne was horrified to see his country dissolved into bloodshed and chaos, all in the name of reform.

The Essais treat every subject under the sun — the old dinner-table taboos of sex (III, 5), politics (I, 23 and in many other places) and religion (I, 56; III, 2), but also the upbringing of children, both boys (I, 26) and girls (III, 5), philosophy (I, 20), history and poetry (II, 10), witchcraft (III, 11), the colonizing of the Americas (I, 20; III, 6), animal intelligence (II, 12) ... In fact, it is quite artificial to assign particular subjects to particular chapters, as any subject can be discussed anywhere. In Book III especially, the titles of chapters give little clue to what they will contain: sex is treated under the heading ’On Some Verses of Virgil’, and the witchcraft trials that disfigured Montaigne’s century in a chapter called ’About Lame People’. Book II chapter 12, purporting to be a defence of Christian belief, is a wonderful grab-bag that includes some of Montaigne’s most eloquent writing on history, politics and religion alongside anecdotes of logical foxes and lovelorn elephants.


Chapter 26 of Book I of Montaigne’s Essais is addressed to a noble lady, pregnant at the time of writing, and offers her advice on the upbringing of her son-to-be — for, says Montaigne, she is ’too spirited to begin otherwise than with a boy’. (He does make some very pertinent comments on the upbringing of girls elsewhere, in chapter 5 of Book III).

Most sixteenth-century treatises on education stress the learning of Latin and Greek, and the importance of reading ancient literature and history as a preparation for one’s own rhetorical performances. Though himself well-read in the classics, Montaigne argues that a noble boy does not need to have a scholar’s upbringing: he will read with a tutor (Montaigne did not approve of schools) and, as soon as he is old enough, also travel with him.

Il se tire une merveilleuse clarté, pour le jugement humain, de la fréquentation du monde. Nous sommes tous contraints et amoncellez en nous, et avons la veuë racourcie à la longueur de nostre nez. On demandoit à Socrate d’où il estoit. Il ne repondit pas ’D’Athenes’, mais : ’Du monde’. Luy, qui avoit son imagination plus pleine et plus estanduë, embrassoit l’univers comme sa ville, jettoit ses connoissances, sa société et ses affections à tout le genre humain : non pas comme nous qui ne regardons que sous nous.

Quand les vignes gelent en mon village, mon prebstre en argumente l’ire de Dieu sur la race humaine, et juge que la pepie en tienne des-jà les Cannibales. A voir nos guerres civiles, qui ne crie que cette machine se bouleverse et que le jour du Jugement nous prend au collet, sans s’aviser que plusieurs pires choses se sont veuës, et que les dix mille parts du monde ne laissent pas de galler le bon temps cependant? [...] A qui il gresle sur la teste, tout l’hemisphere semble estre en tempeste et orage. [...]

Mais qui se presente, comme dans un tableau, cette grande image de nostre mere nature en son entiere magesté; qui lit en son visage une si generale et constante varieté : qui se remarque là dedans, et non soy, mais tout un royaume, comme un traict d’une pointe très-delicate: celuy-là seul estime les choses selon leur juste grandeur.

Ce grand monde, que les uns multiplient encore comme especes soubs un genre, c’est le mirouër où il nous faut regarder pour nous connoistre de bon biais. Somme, je veux que ce soit le livre de mon escholier.

[Human judgment is wonderfully clarified by a knowledge of the world. We are all hemmed in and piled up in ourselves, and cannot see beyond the ends of our noses.

When they asked Socrates where he was from, he replied, not ’Athens’ but ’the world’. He, with his far-ranging imagination, embraced the universe as his home city, sharing his knowledge, his society and his feelings with all of humanity, unlike us who look only at what is under our feet. When the vines freeze in my village, my parish priest preaches God’s wrath against the human race, and imagines they’ve already got the pip in Timbuctoo. When we look at our civil wars, who does not cry out that the whole earth is turned upside down, and the day of judgment has us by the throat, without reflecting that many worse things have happened, and that ten thousand parts of the world are still enjoying life while we suffer? ... Someone with hailstones falling on his head thinks that the whole hemisphere is caught in storm and tempest ...

But the man who holds before him, as if in a picture, that great image of our mother nature in all her majesty; who reads in her face such general and constant change; who sees himself in it, and not just himself but a whole kingdom, as the mark of a tiny brush-point: he alone sees things in their just proportion.

This great world, which some believe to be but one of many such, is the mirror in which we must look to know ourselves rightly. In a word, it is the book I want my pupil to learn from].

Some aspects of sixteenth-century writing therefore look back towards the Middle Ages, while others point forward to the preoccupations of the eighteenth century, and even later times. Lively discussion of some of Montaigne’s ideas is even now in progress on the internet.