Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Under the Glass: All the Montaignes



I collected so many fun quotes whilst reading the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. I have a weird relationship with quotes as I feel that wrenched out of the text they change their meaning - even more so when listed as they are here. All I can say is that the quotes I choose almost certainly reflect more about me than about Montaigne or the book itself. I may even go back and write a little more about what some of them mean to me at a later date.

“I was me and he was he.”

“Life is but a school of enquiry.”

“What do I know?”

“I will prevent my death from saying anything not first said by my life.”

“I am better at friendship than at anything else.”

“It is only our words that bind us together and make us human.”

“One of my tailors is a good enough fellow, but I’ve never heard his speak the truth, even if it would help him.”

“The mad curiosity of our nature which wastes time trying to seize hold of the future as though it were not enough to have to deal with the present.”

“Men are tormented, not by things themselves but by what they think about them.” - Epictetus via Montaigne

Pleasure is “fleeting, fluid and perishable.”

“I am the sworn enemy of binding obligations, continuous toil and perseverance.”

“He ought to have brought back a fuller soul, he brings back a swollen one.”

“Teachers are forever bawling into our ears, as though pouring knowledge down a funnel.”

(About quotes) “Spewing up food exactly as you would have swallowed it is evidence of a failure to digest and assimilate it.”

“We are all cramped and confined inside ourselves.”

(About his laziness) “The risk was not that I should do wrong but do nothing. Nobody forecast that I would turn out bad, only useless.”

“I do not think there is as much wretchedness in us as vanity; we are not so wicked as daft; we are not so much full of evil as inanity.”

“Am I playing with my cat, or my cat with me?”

“The natural distemper of man is presumption.”

“Man, totally and thoroughly, is but patches and many-coloured oddments.”

“What does it matter if our arms flail about if our thoughts do not?”

“There is nothing useless in nature, not even uselessness.”

“We wrongly adduce the honour and beauty of actions from their usefulness.”

“I would rather let down my negotiations than let down myself”

(On his frank, honest nature) “That is what makes me stride forward, head erect, open-faced and open-hearted.”

(When being asked for a favour) “Frankly state your boundaries.”

“I am not teaching, I am relating.”

“Life is a rough, irregular progress with a multitude of forms.”

“If anybody says the Muses are mere playthings and pastimes is to debase them, then he does not know as I do the value of plaything or pastime. I could say that any other end is laughable.” 

“Books have plenty of pleasant qualities for those who know how to select them.”

“What enriches a language is its being handled and exploited by beautiful minds.”

“Those who want to fight usage with grammar are silly.”

“There are folk on whom fine clothes sit down and cry.”

“I have a soul so lazy that I do not measure my fortune by its height but by its plesantness.”

“The kind of friendship rejoices in sharp, vigorous exchanges. Just as love rejoiced in bites and scratched which draw blood.” (Montaigne as masochist?)

“There is, in truth, no greater silliness than to be provoked and enraged by the silliness of this world.”

“Every abridgement of a good book is a daft one.”

“I anger when so many behave wickedly, it is praiseworthy to be merely useless.”

“Loving affection has arms long enough to stretch from one end of the world to the other.”

“The names of my chapters do not all encompass the subject matter.”

“I have not seen anywhere in the world a prodigy more miraculous as I am.”

“Life is its own objective.”

“Scratching is one of the most delightful of nature’s bounties.” (He has particularly itchy ears.)

“I who boast that I so sedulously and so individually welcome the pleasures of this life find virtually nothing but wind in them when I examine them in detail. But then we too are nothing but wind. And the wind (more wise than we are) delights in its rustling and blowing, and it is content with its own role without yearning for qualities which are nothing to do with it such as immovability  or density.”

“When I dance, I dance. When I sleep, I sleep; and when I am strolling alone through a beautiful orchard, although part of the time my thoughts are occupied by other things, for part of the time too I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the delight in being alone there, and to me.”

“What great fools we are! ‘He has spent his life in idleness,’ we say. ‘I haven’t done much today.’ - ‘Why! Have you not lived? That is not only the basic of your employments, it is the most glorious.’"

“Upon the highest throne on the earth we are still seated on our arse.”


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