Michel de Montaigne
Translated by HyperEssays (2020–21)

To the Reader

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,1 March 1st, 1580.2


  1. 1Michel de Montaigne’s estate, near Bergerac, France.
  2. 2This is the date Montaigne wrote on his annotated copy of the Essays, the “Bordeaux Copy.” The printed text shows “June 12, 1588.”

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How to cite this page

  • Montaigne, Michel de. “To the Reader.” Translated by HyperEssays. Last modified January 14, 2022.


Translation by HyperEssays (2020–21, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International). • Word count in French editions:  239,  238,  231 (Bordeaux copy  238) • Last modified on January 14, 2022.