Essays
Michel de Montaigne
Translated by HyperEssays (2020–21)

To the Reader

This, here, is an honest book, Reader. It warns you straight away that I only meant for it to be private, for my family, and never once considered your interest 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 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

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

Notes

  1. 1Michel de Montaigne’s estate, near Bergerac, France.
  2. 2This is the date of the first publication of the Essays by Simon Millanges, in Bordeaux. Abel L’Angelier changed the date in his edition, the first to comprise all three books, to June 12, 1588. In his notes for a revised edition, Montaigne restored the original date.
  3. 3This note appears in Marie de Gournay’s 1598 edition.

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  • Montaigne, Michel de. “To the Reader.” Translated by HyperEssays. HyperEssays.net. Last modified May 23, 2022. https://hyperessays.net/essays/book/fm/chapter/1/