The result has generally been unfortunate; and I have, in the case of all these interpolations on Cotton’s part, felt bound, where I did not cancel them, to throw them down into the notes, not thinking it right that Montaigne should be allowed any longer to stand sponsor for what he never wrote; and reluctant, on the other hand, to suppress the intruding matter entirely, where it appeared to possess a value of its own. To associate closely his son Michel with the people, and attach him to those who stand in need of assistance, he caused him to be held at the font by persons of meanest position; subsequently he put him out to nurse with a poor villager, and then, at a later period, made him accustom himself to the most common sort of living, taking care, nevertheless, to cultivate his mind, and superintend its development without the exercise of undue rigour or constraint.
Nor is redundancy or paraphrase the only form of transgression in Cotton, for there are places in his author which he thought proper to omit, and it is hardly necessary to say that the restoration of all such matter to the text was considered essential to its integrity and completeness. Cosens, I have had by me, while at work on this subject, the copy of Cotgrave’s Dictionary, folio, 1650, which belonged to Cotton. notes, nor is it too much to presume that it is the very book employed by him in his translation. Michel, who gives us the minutest account of his earliest years, charmingly narrates how they used to awake him by the sound of some agreeable music, and how he learned Latin, without suffering the rod or shedding a tear, before beginning French, thanks to the German teacher whom his father had placed near him, and who never addressed him except in the language of Virgil and Cicero. At six years of age young Montaigne went to the College of Guienne at Bordeaux, where he had as preceptors the most eminent scholars of the sixteenth century, Nicolas Grouchy, Guerente, Muret, and Buchanan.
My warmest thanks are due to my father, Mr Registrar Hazlitt, the author of the well-known and excellent edition of Montaigne published in 1842, for the important assistance which he has rendered to me in verifying and retranslating the quotations, which were in a most corrupt state, and of which Cotton’s English versions were singularly loose and inexact, and for the zeal with which he has co-operated with me in collating the English text, line for line and word for word, with the best French edition. At thirteen he had passed through all the classes, and as he was destined for the law he left school to study that science.
He was then about fourteen, but these early years of his life are involved in obscurity.
John’s charming and able biography, an attempt as difficult as it was useless. [This is translated freely from that prefixed to the ‘variorum’ Paris edition, 1854, 4 vols. This biography is the more desirable that it contains all really interesting and important matter in the journal of the Tour in Germany and Italy, which, as it was merely written under Montaigne’s dictation, is in the third person, is scarcely worth publication, as a whole, in an English dress.] The author of the Essays was born, as he informs us himself, between eleven and twelve o’clock in the day, the last of February 1533, at the chateau of St. His father, Pierre Eyquem, esquire, was successively first Jurat of the town of Bordeaux (1530), Under-Mayor 1536, Jurat for the second time in 1540, Procureur in 1546, and at length Mayor from 1553 to 1556. a mighty good faith in his speech, and a conscience and a religious feeling inclining to superstition, rather than to the other extreme."[Essays, ii.
The besetting sin of both Montaigne’s translators seems to have been a propensity for reducing his language and phraseology to the language and phraseology of the age and country to which they belonged, and, moreover, inserting paragraphs and words, not here and there only, but constantly and habitually, from an evident desire and view to elucidate or strengthen their author’s meaning. He was a man of austere probity, who had “a particular regard for honour and for propriety in his person and attire . 2.] Pierre Eyquem bestowed great care on the education of his children, especially on the practical side of it.
Montaigne freely borrowed of others, and he has found men willing to borrow of him as freely.
But, at the same time, estimating the value and rank of the essayist, we are not to leave out of the account the drawbacks and the circumstances of the period: the imperfect state of education, the comparative scarcity of books, and the limited opportunities of intellectual intercourse.
— To Monsieur, Monsieur de MESMES, Lord of Roissy and Malassize, Privy V. His essays were a sort of literary anatomy, where we get a diagnosis of the writer’s mind, made by himself at different levels and under a large variety of operating influences.
He took the world into his confidence on all subjects.