Quotations by Montaigne, Michel de


Lucius Arruntius killed himself, he said, to escape both the future and the past.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“A Custom of the Island of Cea,” Essays (1588) [tr. Frame (1958)]
Added on 29-Aug-16 | Last updated 29-Aug-16
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When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Apology for Raymond Sebond,” Essays (1588) [tr. D. Frame (1958)]
Added on 16-Jan-09 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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He who imposes his argument by bravado and command shows that it is weak in reason.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Cripples,” Essays (1588) [tr. D. Frame (1958)]

Alt. trans.: "He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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Miracles arise from our ignorance of nature, not from nature.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Custom,” Essays (1588) [tr Frame (1958)]
Added on 24-Oct-11 | Last updated 24-Oct-11
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The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose; all other things, to reign, to lay up treasure, to build, are, at most, but little appendices and props.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Experience,” Essays, Vol 3, ch. 13 [ed. Hazlitt, tr. Cotton]
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Added on 6-Apr-15 | Last updated 6-Apr-15
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If falsehood, like truth, had but one face, we would be more on equal terms. For we would consider the contrary of what the liar said to be certain. But the opposite of truth has a hundred thousand faces and an infinite field.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Liars,” Essays, Vol. I, ch. 9 (1575)

Alt trans. [C. Cotton (1877)]: "If falsehood had, like truth, but one face only, we should be upon better terms; for we should then take for certain the contrary to what the liar says: but the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand forms, and a field indefinite, without bound or limit."

Alt trans. [Florio (1603)]: "If a lie had no more faces but one, as truth had, we should be in farre better termes than we are: For whatsoever a lier should say, we would take it in a contrarie sense. But the opposite of truth has many shapes, and an undefinite field."

Added on 13-Jul-09 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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Especially in an age as corrupt and ignorant as this, the good opinion of the people is a dishonor.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Repentance,” Essays (1588) [tr. Frame (1958)]
Added on 12-Jul-12 | Last updated 12-Jul-12
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There is a sort of gratification in doing good which makes us rejoice in ourselves.

Montaigne - gratification - wist_info

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Repentance,” Essays (1588) [tr. Frame (1958)]
Added on 24-Nov-15 | Last updated 24-Nov-15
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The eloquence that diverts us to itself harms its content.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of the Education of Children,” Essays (1588) [Tr. D. Frame (1958)]
Added on 3-Dec-09 | Last updated 3-Dec-09
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There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thoughts under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Vanity,” Essays (1588) [tr. Frame (1958)]

Alt. trans.: "No man is so exquisitely honest or upright in living but that ten times in his life he might not lawfully be hanged."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Sep-10
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I want death to find me planting my cabbages.

Montaigne - cabbages - wist_info

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“That to Philosophize Is to Learn to Die,” Essays (1588) [tr. D. Frame (1958)]
Added on 24-Jul-09 | Last updated 23-Nov-15
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But when all is summed up, a man never speaks of himself without loss; his accusations of himself are always believed; his praises never.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“The Art of Conversation,” Essays, Vol. 3, ch. 8 (1588) [tr. Cotton (1877)]
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Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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We cannot do without it, and yet we disgrace and vilify the same. It may be compared to a cage, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair to get out.

[Il en advient ce qui se veiod aux cages: les oyseaux qui en sont dehors, desperent d’y entrer: et d’un pareil soing en sortir, ceuix qui sont au dedans.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Upon Some Verses of Virgil,” Essays (1580-88)

On marriage. For more discussion of others who have used this metaphor, see here.

Alt. trans.: "We cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it. It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out." [tr. Cotton (1877)]

Alt. trans.: "Though we cannot live without it, yet we do nothing but decry it. We see the same with birdcages: the birds outside despair to get in, and those within despair to get out. [Autobiography, ch. 6 "This Discreet Business of Marriage," tr. Lowenthal (1935)]

Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Nothing is as firmly held as what man knows least.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Confidence in others’ honesty is no light testimony of one’s own integrity.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Whosoever lies shows that he despises God and fears men.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Hath God obliged himself not to exceed the bounds of our knowledge?

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Necessity is a violent school-mistress and teacheth strange lessons.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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Don’t discuss yourself, for you are bound to lose; if you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 25-May-12 | Last updated 25-May-12
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When all is summed up, a man never speaks of himself without loss; his accusations of himself are always believed, his praises never.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Feb-13 | Last updated 13-Feb-13
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I, who am a very earthy person, loathe that inhuman teaching which would make us despise and dislike the care of the body. I consider it just as wrong to reject natural pleasures as to set too much store by them.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays (1580-1588)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-May-13
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We must take note that the games of children are not games in their eyes; and we must regard these as their most serious actions.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 22 (1580-88)
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-16
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The soul that has no fixed goal loses itself; for as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.

[L’âme qui n’a point de but établi, elle se perd: car comme on dit, c;est n’ètre en aucun lieu que d’être partout.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 8 “Of Idleness” (1580-88) [tr. Frame (1943)]
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Alt. trans.: "The soul that has no established aim loses itself, for, as it is said, 'He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere.'" [tr. Cotton (1877)]

Alt. trans.: "When the soul is without a definite aim, she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere." [tr. Screech (1987)]

The proverb referenced is Martial.
Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
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The poverty of goods is easily cured; the poverty of the soul is irreparable.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, ch. 10 “Of Managing the Will” (1588) [tr. Cotton (1877)]
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Alt. trans.: "Poverty of possessions may easily be cured, but poverty of soul never."
Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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Few men are admired by their servants.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, ch. 11 (1580-1588)
Added on 17-Apr-13 | Last updated 17-Apr-13
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No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.

[Si, avons nous beau monter sur des échasses, car sur des échasses encore faut-il marcher de nos jambes. Et au plus élevé trône du monde, si ne sommes assis que sur notre cul.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, ch. 13 (1580) [tr. Zeitlin (1936)]

Alt. trans.: "Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom." [Jacob Zeitlin (1936)]
Added on 4-Feb-08 | Last updated 25-Jan-13
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It is not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, ch. 40 (1588)
Added on 16-Jun-14 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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The man who makes it his business to please the multitude is never done.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
The Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne, ch. 34 [ed. Marven Lowenthal (1935)]
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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We readily inquire, “Does he know Greek or Latin?” “Can he write poetry and prose?” But what matters most is what we put last: “Has he become better and wiser?” We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best.

[Nous nous enquerons volontiers: “Sçait-il du Gre ou du Latin? Estriil en vers ou en prose?” Mais sìl est devenu ou plus advisé, c’estoit le principal, et c’est ce qui demeure derrier. Il falloit sènquerir qui est mieux sçavant, non qui est plus sçavant.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
The Complete Essays, I:25 “On Schoolmasters [Du pédantisme]”
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Added on 30-Oct-17 | Last updated 30-Oct-17
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Just as birds sometimes go in search of grain, carrying it in their beaks without tasting it to stuff it down the beaks of their young, so too do our schoolmasters go foraging for learning in their books and merely lodge it on the tip of their lips, only to spew it out and scatter it on the wind.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
The Complete Essays, I:25 “On Schoolmasters [Du pédantisme]”
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Added on 5-Apr-18 | Last updated 5-Apr-18
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I gladly come back to the theme of the absurdity of our education: its end has not been to make us good and wise but learned. And it has succeeded. It has not taught us to seek virtue and to embrace wisdom: it has impressed upon us their derivation and their etymology. We know how to decline the Latin word for virtue: we do not know how to love virtue. Though we do not know what wisdom is in practice or from experience we do know the jargon off by heart.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
The Complete Essays, II:17 “On Presumption” [tr. Screech (1987)]
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Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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