Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Lord of Montaigne was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with serious intellectual insight, in his own lifetime, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author. In time, however, Montaigne would come to be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time and he is most famously known for his skeptical remark, Que sçay-je. Much of modern literary non-fiction has found inspiration in Montaigne and writers of all kinds continue to read him for his balance of intellectual knowledge. Montaigne was born in the Aquitaine region of France, on the family estate Château de Montaigne, in a town now called Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne, close to Bordeaux. The family was wealthy, his great-grandfather, Ramon Felipe Eyquem, had made a fortune as a herring merchant and had bought the estate in 1477. His father, Pierre Eyquem, Seigneur of Montaigne, was a French Catholic soldier in Italy for a time and had also been the mayor of Bordeaux. Although there were several families bearing the patronym Eyquem in Guyenne and his mother, Antoinette López de Villanueva, was a convert to Protestantism. His maternal grandfather, Pedro Lopez, from Zaragoza, was from a wealthy Marrano family who had converted to Catholicism and his maternal grandmother, Honorette Dupuy, was from a Catholic family in Gascony, France. His mother lived a part of Montaignes life near him, and even survived him. Montaignes relationship with his father, however, is reflected upon. Montaignes education began in childhood and followed a pedagogical plan that his father had developed, refined by the advice of the latters humanist friends. After these first spartan years, Montaigne was brought back to the château, the objective was for Latin to become his first language. The intellectual education of Montaigne was assigned to a German tutor and his father hired only servants who could speak Latin, and they also were given strict orders always to speak to the boy in Latin. The same rule applied to his mother, father, and servants, who were obliged to use only Latin words he himself employed, Montaignes Latin education was accompanied by constant intellectual and spiritual stimulation. He was familiarized with Greek by a method that employed games, conversation. The atmosphere of the upbringing, although designed by highly refined rules taken under advisement by his father, created in the boys life the spirit of liberty. Duty by an unforced will, and of my own voluntary motion. without any severity or constraint and he then began his study of law at the University of Toulouse in 1546 and entered a career in the local legal system
Image: Michel de Montaigne 1
Château de Montaigne, a house built on the land once owned by Montaigne's family. His original family home no longer exists, though the tower in which he wrote still stands.
Portrait of Michel de Montaigne by Dumonstier around 1578.
The Tour de Montaigne (Montaigne's tower), mostly unchanged since the 16th century, where Montaigne's library was located