Michel de Montaigne
Translated by HyperEssays (2020–24)

To the Reader

Reader, here is an honest book. It warns you straight away that I only meant for it to be private, for my family, and never once considered either your service or my reputation. I do not have the strength for such a design. I wrote it for my relatives 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 life­like 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 first, 1580.2

This preface, corrected by the author himself, was lost in the first printing after his death. It has since been found.3