A lord in his own castle, Montaigne had the money and education to assemble a deep library. When he could, he’d retire from the world, go up into his own tower, read the history of humanity and great ideas, and then write out his own responses. Uninterrupted by the stresses of the day, and a strong believer in himself, he thought things through, recorded his thoughts in scores and scores of sometimes tentative, short, and subjective pieces(“attempts,” he called them), and then had the audacity to publish these thoughts for the whole literate world to read. Rather blogger-esque, wouldn’t you say?
And, wait, there’s more resemblance: unsatisfied with his previously published thoughts (think blog posts), Montaigne would write new ones, sometimes just editing, and reworking old ones, and sometimes conflicting with his older ones. Through time, as in a decent blog, you can see the evolution of Montaigne’s thinking.
And one more way we’re tight, the Renaissance man and me (and you, I suspect): a blog post has “referentiality,” by which I mean his writing makes constant allusions and connections to sources and other things the author has read–beyond the immediate text. In this way, you could say that Montaigne‘s essays “hyper-link” the text for the reader.
Here is one of my favorite Montaigne quotations:
C’est une épineuse entreprise, et plus qu’il ne semble, de suivre une allure si vagabonde que celle de nôtre esprit; de pénétrer les profondeurs opaques de ses replis internes; de choisir et arrêter tant de menus de ses agitations. It translates, “It is a thorny undertaking, and more so than it seems, to follow a movement so wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate the opaque depths of its innermost folds, to pick out and immobilize the innumerable flutterings that agitate it.
A thorny undertaking: just what an intrepid blogger attempts with each post!