When Montaigne retired to his tower and started scrawling quotes on the ceiling, his only plan was to surround himself with his friends. Then he got the idea of writing the quotes down, then he began commenting on them, then musing about them and mulling them over, and finally, as if by accident, his scribblings grew into his sprawling and wondrous and fecund book.
“Yet exactly who was Montaigne?” Leslie Chamberlain asks. “Not a philosopher,” he replies. He was “more of an observer.”
Montaigne wished to live well, and his thick book of thin essays was to be a great book of his life. If by “philosopher” we mean “lover of wisdom,” if we mean someone who longs, in Robert Nozick’s words, “to grow up more,” then Montaigne couldn’t be otherwise.