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A man for all seasons

Sarah Bakewell’s expert life of Montaigne should bring new admirers into contact with one of history’s most remarkable and enduring inner worlds

By AC Grayling   July 2010

How to Live: a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer By Sarah Bakewell (Chatto & Windus, £16.99)

After inheriting his father’s estate in the interior of Aquitaine, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) decided to quit public life as a magistrate in the Bordeaux parlement and devote himself to leisurely study. Instead of leading to the Horatian idyll of self-cultivation he expected, the inactivity and desultory reading led to a nervous breakdown. To steady himself, he began to write.

Since he was neither a military man nor a man of affairs, his only subject matter was…

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