The Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne

Everyone acknowledges the Essays of Michel de Montaigne as one of the glories of civilized thought. But in this volume, Marvin Lowenthal has drawn from his letters, essays, travel writings, and manuscripts to create a biography of his life told in his own words, thereby fulfilling Montaigne’s intention of presenting his self-portrait to the world. For it was Montaigne who wrote, “My book and I are one,” and into his writing he poured the amazing varieties of his perceptions, his unflinching powers of observation and analysis, and his deeply felt love of humanity in all its messy contrariness. Above his desk, on a beam on his ceiling, were inscribed the words “nihil humani alieni mihi puto”: nothing human is alien to me — and nothing was, for into his writing he distilled his tender heart and biting wit, his nonsense and wisdom, his passions and his hates. By collecting and arranging these autobiographical passages into a unified whole, Lowenthal has framed a complete portrait in this rich and rewarding book. All of Montaigne is here: his adventures and love affairs, his marriage, travels, tastes, and opinions. Seldom has so much wit, wisdom, and pure entertainment been packed into a single volume.

Praise for The Autobiography of Michel de Montagine

A country-gentleman of the days of Henry III, who was a wise man in a century of ignorance, a philosopher in an age of fanatics, and who painted in the guise of himself our own follies and frailties, is a man who will be loved forever.
—Voltaire

Montaigne is really the first modern writer — the first who showed that an author might be original and charming, even classical, if he did not try too hard.
—James Russell Lowell

Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers… He had the genius to make the reader care for all that he cares for… I know not anywhere the book that seems less written— cut these words and they would bleed.
—Emerson

That such a man has written truly increases the pleasure of living… It is by his side I would range myself if I had to acclimate myself to this world. —Nietzsche

Marvin Marx Lowenthal was born in Pennsylvania and educated at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. Soon after graduating, he moved to Europe with his wife to document the persecution of the Jews during the rise of the Nazis. The couple moved back to the United States in 1934 when the persecution began to threaten their own safety. Lowenthal published his Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne the following year. He wrote and worked for Zionist causes until his death in New York in 1969.