Montaigne's Aversion to Art

Gavin Shulman '05, English 171, Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists, Brown University, 2003

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Continuously and consistently throughout his essay Montaigne demerits the value of art or any form of aesthetic improvement. Whether it be in regards to nature:

Neither is it reasonable that art should gain the pre-eminence of our great and powerful mother nature. We have so surcharged her with the additional ornaments and graces we have added to the beauty and riches of her own works by our inventions, that we have almost smothered her; yet in other places, where she shines in her own purity and proper lustre, she marvellously baffles and disgraces all our vain and frivolous attempts.

Or whether it be in regards to the truth:

For your better-bred sort of men are much more curious in their observation, 'tis true, and discover a great deal more; but then they gloss upon it, and to give the greater weight to what they deliver, and allure your belief, they cannot forbear a little to alter the story; they never represent things to you simply as they are, but rather as they appeared to them, or as they would have them appear to you, and to gain the reputation of men of judgment, and the better to induce your faith, are willing to help out the business with something more than is really true, of their own invention.

Or whether it just be in regards to all things:

"All things, says Plato, — [Laws, 10.] — are produced either by nature, by fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by the one or the other of the former, the least and the most imperfect by the last."

Montaigne definites reveals a resistance, an averstion to any sort of artistic adorning on the simple, the natural, the truth.


The question then is, Does this translate into his writing?

Is Montaigne writing an article here we can consider artistic?

Or is it purely non-fiction, the simple truth? Is this what he is striving for?

Would Montaigne object to his work being considered in an artistic light?

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Last modified 14 September 2002