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Montaigne's English JourneyReading the Essays in Shakespeare's Day$

William M. Hamlin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199684113

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199684113.001.0001

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Maximizing Montaigne

Maximizing Montaigne

(p.129) 6 Maximizing Montaigne
Montaigne's English Journey

William M. Hamlin

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses the seventeenth-century vogue of distilling Montaigne's Essays into aphoristic form, assimilating Montaignian thought into vernacular-wisdom literature. It relies not only on early modern commonplace books and study notes which extract and condense ideas from Montaigne's Essays as translated by Florio, but also upon a previously-unknown anonymous English translation of portions of Montaigne which dates from the mid-seventeenth century. Aphoristic adaptation provides an exceptionally clear instance of Montaignian reception among early modern English readers. But the impulse toward compressed extraction also helps significantly to explain the gradual demise of Florio's translation and the appearance, in 1685, of Cotton's tighter, plainer, more thoroughly censored, and far less exuberant rendering of the Essays.

Keywords:   Montaigne, manuscript studies, early modern reading, commonplace books, marginalia, translation, wisdom literature, maxims, aphorisms, Florio

‘There is no subject so vaine, that deserveth not a place in this rapsodie’ (F23; M69). So notes Montaigne at the outset of one of his earliest chapters, ‘Of Ceremonies in the enterview of Kings’, wherein he suggests that social etiquette can become a form of servitude if too strictly observed, but that familiarity with good manners is nonetheless quite useful at times, and thus a generally desirable attribute. Displaying the juxtaposition of conflicting perspectives so fundamental to the composition of the Essays, this brief chapter also provides one of the rare deployments, in Montaigne's original French, of the word ‘rapsodie’ (M69)—a word that clearly appealed to John Florio.1 Derived from Greek and denoting a literary miscellany or disjointed collection of textual materials (OED, 3a, 3b), this word makes its most famous early modern appearance in Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the Prince accuses his mother of having committed a deed that ‘from the body of contraction plucks | The very soul, and sweet religion makes | A rhapsody of words’ (3.4.45–7). Gertrude's adultery, in Hamlet's metaphor, obliterates the connective textuality that gives meaning and beauty to religious discourse, atomizing it into a mere jumble of signifiers whose relations to one another and to external reality are rendered desperately tenuous. Such an understanding of ‘rhapsody’ would of course seem entirely inappropriate as a general characterization of Montaigne's Essays, but the word, nonetheless, struck Florio as peculiarly apt for the ‘mingle-mangle’ of Montaignian thought (F595; M1040). He used it, for instance, in translating the comparatively neutral phrase ‘mes pieces’ in ‘Of Bookes’ (F236; M429), and he perhaps inadvertently associated Montaigne's project with the tradition of the commonplace book in his rendition of a passage from ‘Of Phisiognomy’: ‘These rapsodies [“pastissages”] of common places, wherewith so many stuffe their studie, serve not greatly but for vulgar subjects, and serve but to shew and not to direct us’ (F629; M1003).2 Montaigne does indeed suggest, earlier in the same chapter, that to some readers his book will seem a mere ‘nosegay of strange floures’, offering nothing authentically traceable to its author but ‘the thred to binde them’ (F629; M1102).3 He also admits that while he keeps no commonplace book, he nonetheless transports the ‘sentences (p.130) that please [him]’ directly into his ‘composition’ (F62; M141).4 Elsewhere, however, he insists that despite his ‘filchings’ (F68; M152), his book is entirely original: ‘It is the only booke in the worlde of this kinde, and of a wylde extravagant designe’ (F223; M404); ‘I never sp[e]ake of others, but that I may the more speake of my selfe’ (F68; M153). Like bees that produce honey from pollen, Montaigne is the sort of writer, he implies, who can transform fragments ‘borrowed of others’ into ‘a perfect peece of worke, altogether his owne’ (F71; M157).

Modern scholars broadly agree that habits of commonplace reading and thinking played a significant role in the genesis of Montaigne's vast book. Ann Moss, for instance, reminds us that the Essays ‘have commonplaces for their titles, collect quotations, organize them into complex patterns over which Montaigne has perfect mastery, and use them for example, authority, and ornament’.5 What she calls ‘the most uncommon of commonplace books’ is thus deeply dependent upon a tradition of appropriative reading that construes certain textual traces as more important, representative, or serviceable than others. The criteria by which these constructions are determined vary from one individual to another, but they are also necessarily conditioned by broad social norms and thereby bear the potential not only to sensitize but to desensitize readers, discouraging them from seizing upon ideas which lack clear cultural sanction. It is scarcely surprising, for instance, that Hamlet wishes to note in his ‘tables’ that ‘one may smile and smile and be a villain’ (1.5.108–9): the recognition of hypocrisy is a long-privileged phenomenon in early modern Europe, even if Hamlet himself has met with little in the way of dissembling.6 But less conventional thoughts, or ideas lacking the stamp of classical precedent or current cultural authority, might well pass unnoticed by many readers schooled in the practices of commonplace thinking. Indeed this is one of several criticisms that have been leveled at commonplacing as a humanist pedagogical tool: it predisposes students to collect, catalogue, and regurgitate mainly those materials which have already been identified as important, thereby entrenching conventional wisdom to such a degree that original thinking is tacitly discouraged.7

This, of course, was not Montaigne's problem. If, as he says, he kept no ‘store-house’ (F62; M141) for the preservation of sententiae and notable quotations, he must at least have had excellent organizational skills and a somewhat better memory than that for which he normally gives himself credit: the Essays contain well over a thousand borrowings from Greek and Latin sources, not to mention numerous extracted passages in Italian and French.8 More crucially, however, Montaigne's avoidance of methodical commonplacing undoubtedly aided him insofar as it freed him from the obligation of distributing material according to traditional, predetermined (p.131) topoi. Moss is quite right to note that many of the Essays’ chapter titles are identical to standard headings in commonplace books (e.g., ‘Of Feare’, ‘Of Presumption’, ‘Of Vanitie’), but ultimately it is not Montaigne's adherence to routine trajectories of thought but his departures therefrom that have secured his continued readership over the centuries. For Montaigne, in other words, commonplacing functioned not as a slavish pedagogical habit but as a complex heuristic that enabled generative cognition through such tactics as negation, juxtaposition, recontextualization, ironic illustration, rearrangement of poetic lines, and other creative deployments of source material.9 If Montaigne's Essays may with any accuracy be characterized as a commonplace book, they embody that characterization at a level of such virtuosity that they transform the genre, certainly revealing their roots in humanist educational practice but just as certainly exposing the inadequacies of that practice when confronted with an exceptionally independent intelligence. In effect, then, Florio does Montaigne a disservice by encouraging the impression that the Essays may be understood as a ‘rapsodie’. Montaigne himself moves steadily away from such an understanding, instead coming to view his book as an authentic exposition of his character and judgement, unified if multifaceted in its efforts to lay bare the movements of his mind.10 We are undoubtedly intrigued by the varied ways in which he deploys extracted quotations and epigrammatic thought, but we are still more fascinated by the manner in which he surrounds these materials with himself.

How, then, was Montaigne studied and appropriated by early English readers familiar with humanist pedagogy and trained in the tactics of commonplace extraction? What did these readers find of particular interest in the Essays, how did they represent it to themselves, and what did they alter, amplify, minimize, suppress, or ignore? A useful way to begin investigating such questions is to move briefly to the outset of the eighteenth century so as to examine the anonymous Abstract of the Most Curious and Excellent Thoughts in Montaigne's Essays (London, 1701), an English translation of the Pensées de Montaigne, propres à former l’esprit et les moeurs, published in Paris the previous year.11 We must immediately acknowledge that this digest was assembled just twenty-four years after the Essais had been placed on the papal Index of Prohibited Books; it was thus a sanitized version of Montaigne designed to satisfy ecclesiastical censors while still preserving some sense of the original text.12 But because Charles Cotton's new English rendition of Montaigne had already undergone three printings by 1700, it is fair to assume that the Abstract, while not a homegrown English abridgement of the Essays, could nonetheless count on an established and receptive audience of English readers, and indeed we see in the work's ‘Advertisement’ that a broad cultural equivalency (p.132) between France and England is implicitly endorsed by the translator. Speaking, for instance, of ‘the pleasure the present Age takes in Choice and Select Thoughts’, this translator confidently asserts that ‘the Reader will here find, without any pains or trouble, every thing pickd out and ready at hand, which may serve either to please or instruct him’ (sig. A3r). Even the best books, after all, ‘have some mixture of ill things’, but in the writings of Montaigne ‘Truth and Falshood, Good and Evil, are almost equally scatter’d ’ (sigs. A2r–A2v). It is therefore necessary ‘to cull out and put together many of the good Maxims in Montaigne's Works, where they are often spoil’d by a mixture of bad Things, or at least stifled under a confus’d heap of Rubbish’ (sigs. A2v–A3r).

Besides the suggestion of readerly indolence conveyed by these remarks, we also encounter a rather patronizing tone on the part of the abstractor, particularly in the assumption that he is ideally positioned to ‘cull out’ the best bits of Montaigne. If this is true, it is true in part because he has read the entire book—something which his audience presumably has not done, but which if undertaken might yield substantially different gatherings of ‘Thoughts’, not to mention different contexts within which to contemplate their utility and merit. I do not mean to ignore the presupposition of trans-historical truth-value embedded in the abstractor's reasoning; clearly he believes that all readers, ultimately, will agree in their evaluation of that which is good and true in Montaigne, and that which is evil and false. Nor do I wish to downplay the constraints imposed by Vatican censorship. But on a less theoretical plane our anonymous abstractor conspicuously disregards Montaigne's repeated insistence that perception is relative and that judgement, as a consequence, is complex and variable. In other words, by standards frequently articulated in the Essays and central to their cumulative insight, this abstractor would be better off not attempting his task unless he happens to be one of those rare individuals suited by temperament, native ability, exceptional learning, and long experience to embark upon a project requiring such unusually discerning judgement.

Not in the least deterred, however, he undertakes his work with impressive vigour, offering reinforcement for the enabling assumptions of his mission by claiming that ‘the Thoughts I have put into this Abstract, are, for the most part, not only independent one upon another, but very judicious, and withal entertaining’ (sig. A3r). The Essays’ 107 chapters are then reduced to sixty-one brief summaries, concluding with a coda of potpourri entitled ‘Thoughts upon divers Subjects’. ‘De la force de l’imagination’, ‘De Democritus et Heraclitus’, ‘Que nostre desir s’accroist par la malaisance’, and other important essays are eliminated entirely, and the enormous ‘Apologie de Raimond de Sebonde’ is condensed into thirteen pious pages, its discussion of Pyrrhonism completely expunged.13 The chapter ‘De la cruauté ’ (p.133) is rechristened ‘Of Vertue’, ‘De l’Experience’ becomes ‘Of Laws’, and ‘Coustume de l’Isle de Cea’—Montaigne's meditation on suicide—is neutralized into the bland summary ‘Of Death’. Indeed there are two chapters entitled ‘Of Death’, two ‘Of Religion’, and two ‘Of Moderation’. The sexually-oriented material within ‘Sur des vers de Virgile’ is discarded, and what little that remains is merged with fragments from the three preceding chapters into an improbable mélange called ‘Of Vertue and Wisdom in common Conversation’. Montaigne's forthright first-person voice in such essays as ‘De l’Oysiveté’ vanishes without a trace, and an amusing digression on French contentiousness in ‘Couardise mere de la cruauté ’ is extracted from its immediate context and exalted into a chapter of its own: ‘Of the Indiscretion of the French’. To an extraordinary degree, then, our abstractor trusts his own assertion that Montaigne's ‘Thoughts’ are ‘independent one upon another’ and may therefore be plucked out, classified, and recombined in multiple new arrangements. The result, not surprisingly, borders on the grotesque, both in the French Pensées and the English Abstract. Any sense of a unique mind working through the complex testimonials of perception, experience, reason, and authority is utterly annihilated. The ‘Thoughts’ may be attributed to Montaigne, but Montaigne is absent from the thought.

Far more intriguing are various seventeenth-century manuscript allusions to the Essays, along with several large compilations of Montaignian rumination that survive in British and American archives. At some point before 1618, for instance, the English jurist Sir Anthony Benn (1569/70–1618) observes in one of his many unpublished essays that

I am of Montaynyes mynde, an honest mann is not accomptable for the vices and enormytyes of his calling provided he be no party to the same . . . They that will lyve in this world must not disesteeme of them selves nor theyr calling nor refuse to make theyr honest benefitt thereof.14

Lifted more or less directly from Florio's rendition of the chapter ‘How one ought to governe his will ’, this remark shows not only that Benn agrees with Montaigne but that he has chosen a passage alluding quite specifically to legal matters: ‘To be an advocate or a Treasurer, one should not be ignorant of the craft incident to such callings. An honest man is not comptable for the vice and foly [sic] of his trade’ (F605; M1057). Benn's emphasis, however, differs sharply from Montaigne's, for his interest lies principally in justifying a career in jurisprudence. Montaigne, by contrast, claims that ‘We must live by the worlde, and such as we finde it, so make use of it’ largely in order that he may introduce a crucial qualification: ‘But the judgement of an Emperour should be above his Empire; and to see and consider the same as a strange accident. He should know (p.134) howe to enjoy himselfe aparte’ (F605; M1057). Hearkening back to ideas first articulated in such chapters as ‘Of Custome’ and ‘Of Solitarinesse’, Montaigne's insistence on an autonomous and critical private consciousness is here ignored by Benn. Elsewhere, however, Benn demonstrates his familiarity with this key Montaignian theme. In an essay entitled ‘Discretion’ he determines that he will bear himself ‘outwardly for public reverence according to that the present tymes require, but within my heart only I will judge of the truth of things as they are, not as they personate’.15 Here, echoing a thought from ‘Of Custome’ (F52; M122), Benn more fully displays the extent of his acquaintance with the Essayes.

Other curious extractions from Montaigne include those in notebooks by John Morris (c.1580–1658) and the Reverend John Ward (1629–1681). Morris, in a commonplace book dating from 1604, reveals that he has been reading Montaigne in French when he transcribes a passage from the chapter ‘Observation sur les moyens de faire la guerre, de Julius Caesar’. But the passage suggests an improbable interest on Morris's part. Classified under the subject heading ‘Natationis Laws’, it concerns the ancient Greek respect for swimming: ‘Quand les anciens Grecs vouloyent accuser quelqu’un d’extreme insuffisance ils disoyent en comun proverbe qu’il ne scavoit ne lire ne nager: Cesar quot cette mesme opinion que la science de nager estoit tres utile a la guerre’.16 Of all the remarks Morris might have valued in the Essais—and his commonplace book offers more than one hundred and twenty topical categories, including ‘Amor inter maritus et uxorem’, ‘Amicitia’, ‘Ignorantia’, ‘Libido’, ‘Melancholia’, ‘Religio’, ‘Stultitia’, and ‘Veritas’—this is the sole Montaignian comment he elects to record. The Reverend John Ward, meanwhile, relies on Florio's English translation much later in the century when he observes that ‘Michael Mountaigne will hardly allow any physitian competent for any diseases, but such as hee himself hath past through’.17 Vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon from 1662 to 1681, Ward is best known today as the antiquarian who alleged that Shakespeare died of a fever after drinking too liberally with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton.18 But like many clergymen of the time he was deeply interested in ‘physick’, and his notebooks have been studied in recent decades for their observations regarding European medical practices and the intersections between divinity and natural science.19

John Donne mentions Montaigne in a letter to his father-in-law, Sir George More, around 1603 or 1604, and John Milton may also have Montaigne in mind when he alludes to sumptuary laws in a 1638 letter to his Italian friend Benedetto Buonmattei.20 Robert Ashley (1565–1641), the translator and barrister who bequeathed his huge personal library to the Middle Temple in London, augments his copy of the 1592 Frankfurt edition of Tacitus with Montaigne's shrewd assessment of the Roman (p.135) historian as recorded in the closing pages of ‘De l’art de conferer’; he also inscribes extracts from ‘De l’institution des enfans’ and ‘Des Coches’ into his 1573 edition of Plutarch's Lives.21 But the most illuminating seventeenth-century extractive appropriations of the Essays undoubtedly lie in six substantial manuscript compilations of Montaignian material: four mid-century commonplace books (one anonymous and three by Sir William Drake); a collection of almost three hundred single-sentence aphorisms entitled ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’; and a previously-unknown English translation of selected portions of the first eleven chapters of Book Two.22 Collectively, these documents significantly advance our understanding of the ways in which Montaigne was studied, evaluated, and deployed by seventeenth-century English readers who sought to incorporate large portions of the Essays into compositions of their own. In particular these compilations reveal both (1) the unexpected degree to which Florio's translation establishes basic parameters within which readers form their responses to Montaigne and thereby contribute to the shaping of his English reception, and (2) the remarkable extent to which readers are willing to engage in temporary dialogue with the Essays, augmenting, dismissing, and redirecting various Montaignian ideas, and as a consequence revealing not only their clear reliance upon the essayist's thought but also their own intellectual and ideological independence.

The partial translation of the Essays, which dates from the mid-to-late years of the seventeenth century, is preserved among the Egerton papers at the British Library.23 Occupying sixteen folio pages and written in a sharp, tiny hand, it very likely originated within the extended family of Sir Robert Heath (1575–1649), a royalist judge who died in self-imposed exile at Calais, and who had five sons, all of whom studied at Cambridge.24 To the best of my knowledge, this document constitutes the only substantial English translation of Montaigne that post-dates Florio's 1603 version but pre-dates the publication of Charles Cotton's new rendition in 1685. A peculiar and fascinating text, it bears a superficial resemblance to the Abstract in that it includes only selected passages from the essays it chooses to translate (the first eleven chapters of Book Two), but at the same time it presents these passages in strict sequential order and, unlike the Abstract, never mingles material from one chapter with that from another.25 While we might at first suppose that the document is in fact a Montaignian digest derived from Florio, careful examination of its language demonstrates that this is not the case. Montaigne, for instance, entitles his fourth chapter ‘À demain les affaires’ (M382). In Florio this becomes ‘To morrow is a new day’ (F210), whereas in the Egerton manuscript it is rendered, more literally, as ‘To morrow for busuness’ (fol. 23v). When Montaigne (p.136) writes ‘malitieusement opiniastres’ (M409), Florio responds with ‘maliciously head-strong’ (F225), but our anonymous translator settles for ‘malitiously opiniastre’ (fol. 25v). ‘Platon’ (M364), ‘noblesse’ (M409), ‘en la campaigne’ (M390), ‘cap à pied’ (M427) and ‘les Opuscules de Plutarque’ (M433) remain more or less unchanged in the English manuscript (‘Platon’ [fol. 22v], ‘nobless’ [fol. 25v], ‘in ye champagne’ [fol. 24v], ‘cap a peid’ [fol. 27r], and ‘Plutarchs opuscula’ [fol. 27v]), while in Florio they become more fully anglicized: ‘Plato’ (F200), ‘Nobilitie’ (F225), ‘abroad’ (F216), ‘head to foot’ (F235), and ‘Plutarkes little workes’ (F238). And near the end of the important chapter ‘De la cruauté’, where Montaigne asserts that ‘Nul ne prent son esbat à voir des bestes s’entrejouer et caresser; et nul ne faut de le prendre à les voir s’entredeschirer et desmembrer’ (M455), our translator seriously misconstrues his claim: ‘Naturally wee delight to see beast[s] play wth & caress one another, & are disgusted to see ym teere one another apeaces’ (fol. 29v). Had he been relying upon Florio, he could not have made this mistake, for Florio correctly represents Montaigne's observation (F250). All in all, the impression one takes away from the Egerton manuscript is that the anonymous translator is less than fully prepared to work with the sixteenth-century French of Montaigne: sometimes careless and often lazy in his habits of Englishing, he is clearly an amateur—perhaps a student who has been assigned the task of translating an ample segment of the Essays. But at the same time, he (or his teacher) has chosen to concentrate upon one of the strongest series of chapters in the entire volume, and the resulting patterns of selection and exclusion reveal an impressive effort not only to retain the most substantive portions of Montaigne's ruminative commentary but also to preserve the candid and idiosyncratic first-person voice of the Essays—a choice which in turn enhances the feeling that this translation successfully captures one of the essential features of its source.

In ‘Of the Custome of ye Isle of Cea’ (fols. 23r–23v), for instance, the translator does an excellent job of representing the pro et contra argumentation so characteristic of the Montaignian original. No effort is made to suppress Montaigne's examination of suicide. Key examples are preserved, such as that of the defiant Lacedemonian boy (fol. 23r; M368), and Montaigne's shrewd observation about the comparative ease of collective self-destruction does not escape notice: ‘Tis a less matter yt whole townes should doe this, yn single persons, for the zeale of ioyning wth the company surprises their judgmts’ (fol. 23v; M380).26 It is true that the translator mitigates the force of Montaigne's assertion that ‘Dieu nous donne assez de congé, quand il nous met en tel estat, que le vivre nous est pire que le mourir’ (M369); he writes instead that ‘Many thinke God gives us a passport when hee has put us in a condicion yt to live is worse yn death’ (p.137) (fol. 23r). But in an odd way this phrasing is still true to the larger spirit of the Essays, despite its inaccuracy at the sentence level. Overall, the Egerton translation successfully maintains the dialectic of provisional generalization and qualifying example that is fundamental to Montaigne's discursive practice. And this is equally true in its renditions of such other essays as ‘Of Drunkenness’ (fols. 22r–22v), ‘Of the Parthians Armes’ (fol. 27r), and ‘Of the affection of Parents to yr Children’ (fols. 25v–26v).

The failings of the translation, as I have suggested, lie mostly in the translator's misapprehension of occasional passages in the French. Besides the extract from ‘Of Cruelty’ to which I have already drawn attention, our translator also botches the conclusion of the first chapter in Book Two, ‘Of the Inconstancy of our Actions’ (fol. 22r). Montaigne, having observed that we find ‘autant de difference de nous à nous mesmes, que de nous à autruy’, goes on to state that ‘Ce n’est pas tour de rassis entendement, de nous juger simplement par nos actions de dehors: il faut sonder jusqu’au dedans, et voir par quels ressors se donne le bransle’ (M357–8). The translator, however, reduces the scope of this claim: ‘Tis no act of settled understanding to iudge others by yr outward actions. Wee must search & probe wthin by wt resorts such and such a thing is acted’ (fol. 22r). Montaigne's inclusive locutions—‘de nous juger’ and ‘nos actions’—are abandoned for a more limited focus, and self-scrutiny vanishes from the proposition. Elsewhere, as in ‘Of Conscience’ (fol. 24r), the translator fails to incorporate as much material from the latter half of the essay as would have been desirable, although he certainly conveys Montaigne's doubts about the efficacy of torture as a means of ascertaining truth.27 And in ‘Of usage & Practize’ (fols. 24r–25r), where Montaigne writes that ‘La coustume a faict le parler de soy, vicieux’ (M397), our translator gives only ‘To speake of ones selfe is vitious’ (fol. 24v). The characteristic Montaignian acknowledgement of custom's powerful interposition in human behaviour is entirely effaced.

Yet in this same chapter we observe several of the translator's more perceptive choices, in particular his willingness to retain the insistent first-person voice of Montaigne. Equally evident in his renditions of the two final chapters, ‘Of Bookes’ (fols. 27r–28v) and ‘Of Cruelty’ (fols. 28v–29v), this willingness stands in stark contrast to the Abstract's attempt to depersonalize the Essays, and indeed it grows more pronounced as the translation unfolds. In ‘Of usage & Practize’, for example, we see that our translator becomes increasingly comfortable allowing Montaigne to speak both for and about himself:

To talke of a mans selfe is a vayne thing, unless a man draw thence instruction to him selfe, for every man says Pliny, is to him selfe ye best discipline; (p.138) if hee have ability neerely to discover it. This is not my doctrine but my study. And yt wch is serviceable to mee by communication may perhapse bee serviceable to another. . . . I write not my actions, but my selfe. A man should bee prudent to iudge & conscientious to testify of himselfe. . . . Hee yt so knows him selfe may boldly speake him selfe to others. (fols. 24v–25r; M396–9)28

And in ‘Of Bookes’, Montaigne's project of self-study clearly merges with his interest in the private lives of historical figures. We learn that Cicero's Epistles to Atticus appeal to him because, as he tells us, ‘I have a curiosity of Discovering the naked minde and Judgment of my authors. I had rather know wt Brutus sayd to his friends over night in his tent, yn wt hee sayd next morning at the head of his army’ (fol. 28r; M435–6).

But it is within the Egerton rendition of the chapter ‘Of Cruelty’ that the fascinating singularities of the Essays’ author surface most prominently. Whereas the Abstract completely eliminates Montaigne's first-person voice and suppresses all discussion of cruelty, the Egerton translator deliberately highlights the element of self-observation so pronounced in this chapter:

I by nature & Judgmt hate cruelty, as ye extreame of al vices. I am disgusted at ye crys of a hayre caught by the doggs, though in the violence of the chace. . . . I am not troubled so much for the dead as for the dying, nor so much offended wth those yt rost & eat dead bodys as those yt torment ye liveing. I take all executions of Justice further yn simple death, to bee pur[e]ly crueltys / especially in us yt ought to take care yt yr soules depart in as good & setled condicion as may bee. Wch cannot consist wth provoakeing ym wth unsufferable torments. (fol. 29v; M451–2; Figure 28)29

Still more remarkably, our translator elects to keep Montaigne's memorable assessment of his inveterate moral status: ‘I find in myselfe not so much any vertue, as an accidental innocence from my complexion, my parents, my education, or I know not wt. In many things I am more regular in my manners yn my opinions, and my concupiscence is less debauched then my reason’ (fols. 29r–29v; M449).30 An observation that could not conceivably have been included in the Abstract, this frank judgement serves well as an index of the generally refreshing tenor of the Egerton translation, and it demonstrates that at least one English reader in the mid-to-late seventeenth century felt quite comfortable giving form and voice to the honest, probing, unconventional self at the heart of Montaigne's great book.

At roughly the same time—perhaps just slightly later—another English reader chose to create an entirely different representation of the Essays. Surviving in the Sloane papers at the British Library, this document is (p.139)

                   Maximizing Montaigne

Figure 28. British Library, Egerton MS 2982, fol. 29v. Courtesy of the British Library Board.

(p.140) entitled ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’, and it appears to emerge from within the intellectual circle of Sir William Petty (1623–1687), Christopher Merrett (1614–1695), Peter Gunning (1614–1684), and Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723).31 As I have noted in Chapters 3 and 5, the text is a collection of 297 single-sentence English aphorisms derived from Florio's translation rather than from the French original, and it constitutes one reader's effort to distill the wisdom of the Essays into a set of discrete claims, transforming the personal and the idiosyncratic into the impersonal and general. What we may reasonably surmise about this effort is that its creator found Montaigne's ruminations striking and original, yet sufficiently prolix that they merited compression into aphoristic form, severed from the complexity of their Montaignian presentation. Never printed until 2009 and, to the best of my knowledge, never previously noted in any account of Montaigne's reception or influence, these aphorisms warrant careful scrutiny in as much as they demonstrate the thoroughness with which one English reader studied Montaigne and isolated those thoughts that struck him as best befitting a compilation of moral adages.32

A substantial number of the aphorisms represent classic and frequently-quoted Montaignian observations—remarks that will be familiar to any reader who has given more than cursory attention to the Essays. These include such maxims as ‘Every man is a complete map of humanity’ (maxim 152), ‘Enjoyment is chiefly in the imagination’ (231), ‘We never are so much despised as we deserve’ (66), ‘Sensuality is not ambitious’ (174), ‘To an atheist all writings confirm atheism’ (102), ‘Greatness of mind is not in mounting but in ranging & confining it self’ (290), and ‘Custome & Instruction doe chiefly make the difference between men & women’ (188).33 Other observations constitute excellent condensations of Florio's sometimes long-winded renditions of the French. Translating a passage from ‘De la solitude’, for instance, Florio writes that ‘he that can enlighten his soule with the flame of a lively faith and hope, really and constantly, in his solitarinesse, doth build unto himselfe a voluptuous and delicious life, farre surmounting all other lives’ (F122; M249). Maxim 38, by contrast, is pleasantly concise: ‘He that in solitude is accompanied with faith & hope leads a delicious life’.34 Sometimes, indeed, the aphorisms are too concise, neglecting crucial clauses or narrowing the scope of the original perception. ‘Our faces are like & unlike’ (271), for example, scarcely conveys the vigorous acuity of its source in ‘De l’Experience’, which Florio captures well: ‘If our faces were not like, we could not discerne a man from a beast: If they were not unlike, we could not distinguish one man from another’ (F636; M1116). And to say that ‘Our zeal works wonders when it seconds our inclinations’ (101) is to miss all that is memorable in Montaigne's (p.141) initial claim: ‘Our zeale worketh wonders, when ever it secondeth our inclination toward hatred, crueltie, ambition, avarice, detraction, or rebellion’ (F255; M464).35

That the ‘Moral Maxims’ derive from Florio's English rather than Montaigne's French is everywhere evident: a comparison of almost any aphorism with corresponding passages in Florio and the Essais reveals that the adaptor relied heavily on the vocabulary and phrasing of Florio's translation. But that the ‘Maxims’ are not dependent on Charles Cotton's late seventeenth-century rendition of Montaigne is less obvious, since Cotton himself is significantly indebted to Florio.36 For example, in translating a passage from ‘Que le goust des biens et des maux despend en bonne partie de l’opinion que nous en avons’, Florio writes that ‘There is nothing I hate more then driving of bargains: It is a meere commerce of dodging and impudencie’ (F134; M272). Cotton, meanwhile, proffers a version bearing close structural similarities: ‘There is nothing I hate so much, as driving on a Bargain; ’tis a meer Traffick of Couzenage and Impudence’.37 But maxim 44 (‘Driving of bargains is made up of dodging & impudence’) demonstrates that its author relies fundamentally on Florio: he echoes the idiom ‘driving of bargains’ and adopts Florio's ‘dodging’ rather than Cotton's ‘Couzenage’ for the French ‘trichoterie’. Maxims 58 and 96, moreover, constitute exact replications of Florio's wording, whereas in both cases Cotton offers distinctly different translations.38 Additional comparisons reinforce the point.39 Ultimately, then, I do not believe that Cotton's rendition of Montaigne played any part in the genesis of the ‘Moral Maxims’, although I also suspect that both works, in separate ways, took shape as reactions to the verbal copiousness of Florio.

Among the most distinctive features of the ‘Maxims’—and a trait that sharply demarcates its general sensibility from that of the Egerton translation—is a tendency to eliminate the first-person voice of Montaigne, presumably (as in the Abstract) in an effort to confer universality upon the thoughts being expressed. What Florio faithfully renders as ‘I can maintaine an opinion, but not make choise of it’ (F379; M693) acquires categorical proportions in its metamorphosis: ‘Tis easier to maintain an opinion then choose one’ (maxim 125). And where Florio writes that ‘Reading serves me especially, to awake my conceite by divers objects; to busie my judgement, not my memorye’ (F493; M860), our adaptor presents a blunt directive: ‘Read to exercise your judgment not your memory’ (168).40 Here the excision of the first-person voice is accompanied by a shift to the imperative mood—another common feature of the ‘Maxims’.41 Along with the conversion of questions into propositions (e.g., maxims 106, 209) and the suppression of classical authorities on whom Montaigne relies (e.g., Socrates [293], Plato [217], Aristotle [86, 88], (p.142) Seneca [187], and Plutarch [56]), such transformative tactics suggest that the adaptor of these observations sought to minimize their embeddedness in personal, local, and historical contexts, stressing instead their potential for global application.42 Even in so doing, however, he exposed the limitations of his own socio-historical grounding—and nowhere more plainly than in his rendition of one of Montaigne's most scathing comments about sexual double standards. Where Florio writes that ‘we have resigned the most difficult and vigorous devoire of mankinde unto women, and quit them the glory of it, which might stead them as a singular motive to opinionate themselves therein’ (F517; M904), our adaptor gives us merely this: ‘Abstinence is the most troublesome & most active virtue’ (181). Women have been completely expunged from the meditation.

Still, despite its inadequacies, ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’ offers a fascinating glimpse into the mental world of one seventeenth-century English reader who clearly prized the Essayes. We see, for instance, that this reader draws more material from Book Three than from Books One and Two combined; that he finds ‘Of Vanitie’ and ‘Of Experience’ particularly vital sources for aphoristic condensation; and that he pays scant attention to other chapters which are widely admired today, among them ‘Of the Caniballes’, ‘Of Conscience’, ‘Of the force of imagination’, ‘A Custome of the Ile of Cea’, ‘Of the uncertainty of our judgement’, and ‘Of the resemblance between children & fathers’. Sometimes he shifts the emphasis of Montaigne's original point (e.g., maxims 56, 119, 206, 223, 296), and sometimes he offers a different point altogether. What Florio, for instance, renders as ‘the refining of wits in a common wealth, doth seldome make them the wiser’ (F566; M990), becomes something quite distinct in its adaptation: ‘The refining of wit in a Commonwealth doth not promote obedience’ (212). Yet now and then this reader improves upon Florio, as in the following observations: ‘The most dangerous sensuality is applause’ (120; F363; M663); ‘Sicknesse is felt but seldome health’ (254; F610; M1068); ‘Twere good to grow old if we always grew better’ (224; F577; M1009). Unconstrained by the obligations of translation, he is free to sharpen Florio's phrasing and dispense with unnecessary verbiage. One only wishes that he had been more consistently successful in doing so.

Of the 297 aphorisms that make up the ‘Moral Maxims’, eighty-seven derive from passages that Florio chose to italicize in his English translation. In other words, through the standard print-culture mechanism of a type-font shift, roughly three in ten of the extracts eventually included in the ‘Maxims’ were already marked as noteworthy before our anonymous compiler laid eyes on them.43 I mention this because I wish to stress how significantly Florio's typographic decisions shaped the English reception of Montaigne. In early French editions of the Essais, the only italicized (p.143) passages (apart from paratextual materials) were those in which Montaigne quoted poets, historians, and philosophers—the vast majority of these quotations being in Latin, with a small number in Greek, Italian, Spanish, and French. Almost nine hundred such passages are set off as indented quotations; hundreds of others fall within the main block of the text.44 Florio preserves this habit of italicization, and with very few exceptions also adheres to Montaigne's pattern of indented versus non-indented quotation. Moreover, as I have shown in Chapter 2, he translates all but twenty-two of the quoted passages. When quotations are indented, his English translations are not italicized, but when his translations appear within the main textual block, Florio virtually always sets them off in italic type, presumably in an effort to make them visually conspicuous. Above and beyond all this, however, Florio makes a further crucial decision: he italicizes hundreds of sentences within Montaigne's own prose.45 Scarcely a page goes by in which readers do not find at least one italicized passage from Montaigne's original French, and many pages offer multiple instances. Consider, for example, the famous closing sentences in the chapter ‘Of Experience’:

It is an absolute perfection, and as it were divine for a man to know how to enjoy his being loyally. We seeke for other conditions, because we understand not the use of ours: and goe out of our selves, forsomuch as we know not what abiding there is. Wee may long enough get upon stilts, for, be we upon them, yet must we goe with our owne legges. And sit we upon the highest throne of the World, yet sit we upon our owne taile. The best and most commendable lives, and best pleasing me are (in my conceit) those which with order are fitted, and with decorum are ranged to the common mould and humane model: but without wonder or extravagancy. Now hath old age neede to be handled more tenderly. Let us recommend it unto that God, who is the protector of health, and fountaine of all wisedome: but blithe and sociall. (F664; M1166)

Nothing within this passage is italicized in the 1595 Paris edition of the Essais on which Florio fundamentally relied. But three of its seven sentences are italicized in Florio's English, and indeed the final aphorism in ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’ is based upon one of them: ‘If we get upon stilts yet we must goe with our own legs’ (297). In short, there can be no doubt that the compiler of the ‘Maxims’ was substantially (if perhaps unconsciously) influenced by typographic and interpretive decisions ultimately attributable to Florio.

Another way of expressing this is that the ‘maximizing’ of Montaigne began in England with the 1603 publication of Florio's translation: it is for all practical purposes inseparable from the initial Englishing of the text. Almost half of John Marston's Montaignian borrowings in The (p.144) Dutch Courtesan, for instance, derive from italicized passages in Florio, among them such memorable remarks as ‘Virtue is a free, pleasant, buxom quality’ (3.1.49; F507), ‘What old times held as crimes are now but fashions’ (3.1.263; F484), ‘Every man's turd smells well in's own nose’ (3.3.46; F557), and ‘Let's ne’er be ashamed to speak what we be not ashamed to think’ (3.1.26–27; F507).46 Florio thus encouraged and guided Marston's aphoristic proclivities in the play. And that he did the same with other readers and writers becomes still more obvious when we consider the commonplace books to which I have earlier referred. Three of these, all attributable to Sir William Drake, serve as the focus of my attention later in this chapter. For the moment, however, I turn to the fourth, a small bound volume dating from about 1650 and now held at the Folger Shakespeare Library.47 The identity of this book's compiler is unknown, but he (or just possibly she) was an exceptionally attentive reader of Montaigne: twenty manuscript leaves, recto and verso, are densely inscribed with extracts drawn from Florio's translation. Among these numerous entries—198 altogether—no fewer than 83 derive from passages italicized in the Essayes.48 Once again, as with Marston and the ‘Moral Maxims’, Florio's choices in textual presentation exert a disproportionate impact upon Montaigne's English reception. In effect, Florio deploys type-font shifts as an overt, if unacknowledged, tactic of commonplacing.49

This is not to deny that the compiler of the Folger manuscript exhibits strongly individual tastes and preferences. He quarries all his extracts from just ten chapters, for instance, and his instinct for selection conforms quite well with that of later readers: half a dozen of these chapters rank among the most celebrated in the book.50 In particular he draws from the massive ‘Apologie of Raymond Sebond’, quoting it eighty times and returning almost obsessively to its discussions of human frailty in the face of inscrutable divine power. He is likewise fascinated by Montaigne's treatments of sexuality and marriage, health and medicine, and the relations between self-knowledge, self-possession, and self-improvement through study and virtuous action. Indeed he shows such thorough acquaintance with Montaigne's varied thoughts on these topics that he glides with ease between chapters, juxtaposing commentary from widely disparate portions of the book. In one extraordinary sequence of borrowings, he intersperses quotations on physical well-being from the ‘Apologie’ among similarly-focused passages in ‘Of the resemblance between children & fathers’ (extracts 144–7). Elsewhere he shifts gracefully between differing Montaignian treatments of sexual moderation (15–16) and the relations between education and virtue (34–40). This is all the more impressive, I should add, because he is clearly working with a first edition of Florio—an edition without a printed index.51

(p.145) Like the compiler of ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’, the author of the Folger commonplace book often selects passages which over the centuries have come to be regarded as quintessentially Montaignian. These include such extracts as ‘The greatest thing of ye world, is for a man to know how he may be his owne’ (34), ‘There is nor continencie nor vertue, where no resistance is to the contrary’ (16), ‘The Soules of Emperors & Coblers are all cast in one same molde’ (173), and ‘It hath happened unto those yt are truely learned, as it happeneth unto ears of Corne, wch as long as they are empty, grow & raise their head aloft, upright & stout; but if they once become full & bigg, wth ripe corne, they begin to humble & droope downward’ (103).52 He also tends to diminish or eliminate the first-person voice of Montaigne. The question, for instance, that appears in Florio as ‘Are not we most brutish, to terme that worke beastly which begets, and which maketh us?’ (F527; M921) is altered, slightly but tellingly, to ‘Are not those most brutish, to terme yt worke beastly wch begets, & wch maketh us?’ (24).53 And whereas Florio scrupulously retains the names of Montaigne's quoted sources, the Folger author usually suppresses these names, neglecting to mention Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, and Plutarch on multiple occasions.54 In particular he seems eager to omit the name of Raymond Sebond, who figures prominently in two passages chosen for extraction (160, 166). The Pyrrhonian argumentation of Sextus Empiricus is likewise eliminated (109, 110), perhaps because our author wishes to represent Montaigne's Christian devotion as entirely uninfluenced by sceptical contemplation.55

Indeed it is hardly surprising that Sebond's name is withheld; as a Roman Catholic theologian he would have summoned little respect from a reader as ardently Protestant as the Folger compiler reveals himself to be. Quoting twice from the Geneva Bible—once from the text of 1 Corinthians 15:53 (117) and once from a marginal gloss to Genesis 2:25 (60)—this reader also proffers a concise paraphrase of Acts 15:9: ‘Grace & faith doth purify ye heart’ (61).56 Considerations of divine grace are in fact central to his mental and spiritual world. While Florio writes that ‘women communicate their partes as much as a man list to wantonize with them: but to physicke them bashfulnesse forbids them’ (F98; M204), our compiler insists on a crucial qualification: ‘It is women, communicate their parts as much as a man list to wantonize with them: but to phisicke them bashfulnes forbids them: as grace ye othr to wantonize’ (8; my emphasis). Similar alterations may be observed in extracts 52 and 55.57 And when Montaigne argues that marital sexuality should be ‘a voluptuousnesse somewhat circumspect and conscientious’ (F98; M204–5), the Folger author adds that such pleasure should never be ‘transported beyond ye bounds of reason’ (11). One suspects that the ‘reason’ in which he displays (p.146) his confidence is construed as a subsidiary component of the prevenient grace with which he and his fellow Protestant believers would have understood themselves to be endowed.

Reason indeed figures prominently in our compiler's selections, and although he draws heavily on the ‘Apologie’ he tends to minimize its trenchant critique of ratiocination. To be sure he quotes Montaigne on the ‘imbecility of our reasons’ (196) and agrees with him that ‘reason & humane discourse, is as ye Lumpish & barren matter; & ye Grace of GOD is ye forme thereof’ (165). But at the same time he stresses that once ‘our heart [is] ruled, & our soule commanded by faith, reason willeth, yt she draw all our othr parts to ye service of her intent’ (158). Reason's fallibility, in other words, is hugely diminished—perhaps almost eliminated—by the providential gift of grace and the consequent presence of sustained, active faith. The dichotomy posited in extract 100, ‘It is an occasion to induce Christians to beleeve, when they chance to meet wth an incredible thing, yt it is so much ye more according unto reason, by how more it is agt [i.e., against] humane reason’, essentially vanishes when our rational faculties are properly subordinated to grace. Under such circumstances, the ‘rules of reason’ (54) may be trusted to guide the ‘conduct of our inclinations’ (121) and serve as the ‘cheefe direction’ (67) of our speech and public communication. And in old age, when people often become ‘inutile, irkesome, & importunate to others’, a man should ‘flatter, court & cherish him selfe, & above all, . . . governe him selfe, respecting his reason, & fearing his conscience’ (41).58

If the author of the Folger commonplace book displays uncommon faith in reason, he is considerably more cautious when it comes to the Montaignian endorsement of nature. Certainly, as we have seen in Chapter 2, he is content to quote the essayist on the merits of temperate sexual pleasure: ‘Philosophy contends not against naturall delights, so yt due measure be ioyned therewth; & alloweth ye moderation not ye shunning of them’ (29; cf. extracts 5, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16). And in his contemplations of health and ‘physicke’ he is quite prepared to admit that ‘The essentiall, ye maneagable, & palpable goods, of peace, rest, security, innocency, & Health wch is ye goodliest & richest present, nature can impart to us’ (176).59 But one of his borrowings from ‘Of the affection of fathers to their Children’ presents a substantially qualified perspective on the matter of attending to nature's guidance: ‘Since it hath pleased God to endow us wth some capacity of discourse, yt as beasts we should not servil[el]y be subiected to common lawes, but rather wth judgment & voluntary liberty apply our selves unto them; we ought somewhat to yeeld to yt simple authority of Nature: but not to suffer hir tyrrannically to carry-us away’ (121). Once again it is reason that allows us to examine and manage our (p.147) natural impulses. And ‘[w]hereas nature hath pr escribed unto beasts certaine seasons, & bounds for their naturall lusts & voluptuousnes, shee hath given-us at all houres, & occasions ye full raines of them: unless our nature be rectifyed & o[r]dered by reason & grace’ (178; my emphasis). In copying this passage, the Folger compiler has contributed a final clause not to be found in Florio: eleven words that drastically change the tenor of the original Montaignian thought. For while Montaigne argues that the rational faculties in which we pride ourselves are scarcely worth the passions and appetites that tend to accompany them (F281; M511–12), our compiler stresses that it is precisely reason that controls the lusts to which we are naturally predisposed: reason, that is, as animated and directed by grace. What we are granted by this extract, in effect, is a purified Montaigne, a Montaigne in whom nature is fully acceptable only when ‘rectifyed’ through supernatural means. The Folger commonplace author is thus unwilling to confer upon the realm of natural inclination the same level of trust which it is habitually accorded by Montaigne.

But what is ultimately most remarkable about this author's habit of extraction is the very fact that he persists in studying and quoting a writer whose devotional allegiance is so thoroughly distinct from his own. It is certainly true that Florio and his aristocratic dedicatees were also ardent Protestants, but as I have suggested earlier, an implicit recognition of class affinity may well have mitigated the force of devotional variance.60 At any rate, there can be little doubt that the voluntary, self-conscious representation and augmentation of multiple extracts from Montaigne should be understood as tacit assent to the fundamental interest and value of their claims. The Folger compiler is deeply familiar with the Essayes; he has read the translation with scrupulous attention and is therefore able to exhibit graceful, recursive movement within and among those chapters that interest him most. If he alters Montaignian thought, he nonetheless does so because he finds intrinsic merit in that thought. Sometimes, indeed, his additions are indistinguishable from phrasing we might have expected in the original: ‘A well-composed & peaceable marriage [is] flouted at by meer worldlings’ (18).61 Sometimes they build upon Florio in much the same way that Florio builds upon Montaigne: ‘The good yt comes of Study (or at least yt should come) is to prove better, wiser, & honester, & more content, & thankfull ’ (35; my emphasis).62 But when Montaigne strays too far from the precincts of divinity within which the Folger author feels most at home—even in a chapter such as the ‘Apologie’—we find telling textual alterations that reestablish this author's sense of identity, allegiance, and control. Where Florio writes that ‘this world is a most holy Temple’ (F256; M467), for instance, our compiler makes a single change, replacing the demonstrative with the personal pronoun and transforming (p.148) observation into prayer: ‘thy world is a most holy Temple’ (163; my emphasis). It is a change, however, that aids us immensely in any effort to imagine the outlook and metaphysical perspective of this unknown student of Montaigne.

In sharp contrast to the anonymity of the Folger compilation, the authorship of the manuscripts I now wish to discuss is anything but a mystery. Part of the Ogden bequest at University College London, these three volumes derive from a large collection of notebooks and papers surviving within the estate of Sir William Drake (1606–1669), son of Joan Tothill and Francis Drake of Esher, and grandson of William Tothill, a clerk of Sir Francis Bacon's.63 Educated in the mid-1620s at Christ Church, Oxford and at London's Middle Temple, Drake served as a lawyer and member of Parliament before being knighted in 1641, the year he was also named Baronet of Shardeloes.64 From 1643 until 1660 he spent much of his time on the Continent, perhaps for his health or perhaps to avoid social upheaval in England, but after the Restoration he returned to his manor house in Buckinghamshire and lived there until his death, never marrying. His manuscripts, recovered at Shardeloes in 1943 by Alan Keen, were initially ascribed to Sir Francis Bacon, with William Tothill serving as presumptive amanuensis. But in 1976 Stuart Clark argued conclusively that these writings must be attributed to Drake.65 Indeed, fifteen of the fifty-four volumes, all of them commonplace books, are inscribed in Drake's own hand, and twenty-two of the others, written in a different hand, nonetheless display strong organizational and thematic commonalities with those in the first group. Drake also contributes occasional notes to many of the volumes which are not primarily in his hand, and various dates jotted in the margins further demonstrate that Bacon could not possibly have been responsible for the volumes’ composition: ranging from 1627 to the early 1660s, these dates correspond precisely to the span of Drake's life from early adulthood to shortly prior to his death.

The majority of the fifty-four volumes are commonplace books, but the Drake archive also consists of miscellaneous correspondence, memoranda, legal records, compilations of parliamentary debates, and printed books augmented with longhand annotations. The diversity of Drake's interests is thus impressive, and the range of his reading is enormous. He draws material from classical writers as diverse as Plato and Aristotle, Herodotus and Thucydides, Homer and Virgil, Seneca and Plutarch, Ovid, Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, Diogenes Laertius, and Pliny the Younger. Among modern European authors he particularly favors Machiavelli and Guicciardini, but he also relies upon Erasmus, Vives, Savonarola, Sarpi, Aretino, Bodin, Cardano, de Thou, Lipsius, Joseph Scaliger, Pierre Charron, (p.149) and Montaigne. English writers are likewise well represented: poets such as Chaucer, Spenser, Jonson, Cowley, and Suckling; humanists such as Roger Ascham, John Barclay, and Henry Savile; legal authorities such as Sir Edward Coke; and, above all, the polymath Sir Francis Bacon.66 Drake comments upon extracts in Latin and Italian as well as in English; he prepares multiple lists of proverbs, aphorisms, and similes; he compiles indexes, he cross-references texts, and he continually volunteers distinctive observations upon the materials he has gathered. All of which, not surprisingly, enables us to develop a complex, well-rounded sense of his personal character, the uses to which he puts his reading, and the ways in which contemporary politics and history impinge upon his understanding and interpretation of texts. In the words of Kevin Sharpe, who has conducted the most comprehensive study of the Drake manuscripts, ‘the fifty-four volumes constitute the greatest archival resource we have to chart how an early modern English gentleman read, and how reading shaped his mental universe’.67

Sharpe is careful not to over-generalize the conclusions of his investigation: he is well aware of the methodological drawbacks of micro-history and the case study as forms of historical enquiry, particularly with regard to issues of representativeness and typicality. Indeed he is confident that Drake is not a typical English reader. Nowhere in the archive, for instance, do we find any reference to courtesy manuals, heraldry guides, or treatises on horticulture and husbandry—the kinds of books, in other words, that often drew the attention of early modern English gentlemen who were educated but did not consider themselves scholars.68 Drake, on the contrary, was clearly an unusual reader—quite obsessive in some respects—and Sharpe demonstrates in impressive detail the ways in which he moves quickly from one text to another, gathering illustrations, comparing perspectives, offering polyglot commentary, and perpetually assessing what we might term the practical use-value of differing bits of counsel and analysis. Because Drake's most powerful and sustained interest lies in political theory—especially realpolitik in an era when immense respect is still accorded to the traditional formulations of Christian humanism—it is not surprising that he returns with great frequency to writers such as Tacitus, Guicciardini, Bacon and, in particular, Machiavelli, whose works he apparently read in manuscript translations predating the printed English versions of Edward Dacres.69 Sharpe thus argues that Drake adopts a ‘Machiavellian worldview’, indeed becoming a kind of Hobbesian theorist avant la lettre.70 At the same time, however, Sharpe stresses that the value of his study lies not only its Geertzian ‘thick description’ of the reading practices of an exceptional individual, but also in its potential to reformulate important historical questions: above all, questions concerning (p.150) the ways in which human values—political and otherwise—were constructed, assimilated, and revised in the light of early modern habits of reading.71

Among Sharpe's specific findings is that Drake's commonplace books seldom offer ‘extended, unbroken notes on a single text’.72 He examines several instances where such undivided focus is evident—in Drake's responses, for instance, to Jonson's Sejanus (1605) and to Cowley's ‘Ode upon the Blessed Restoration and Return of His Sacred Majesty’ (1660)—and he shows how Drake scrutinizes these works primarily for their relevance to issues posed by contemporary political events.73 But while he notes that Drake had read Montaigne, he understandably devotes little attention to the Englishman's reactions to the Essays.74 Montaigne of course was not an admirer of Machiavelli, and in general his book is far less oriented toward political history and theory than are the majority of the works on which Drake tends to concentrate. Nonetheless, the three commonplace books in which Drake extracts and discusses material from Montaigne reveal that he read the Essays during at least two different periods of his life—the middle 1630s and the late 1640s—and that he gave relatively sustained attention to them. This in turn suggests that he found them intriguing and perhaps even valuable in certain respects, despite their lack of focus on the issues that most concerned him.

One of these commonplace books, Ogden MS 7(7), is inscribed entirely in Drake's own hand, while the other two, Ogden MSS 7(10) and 7(21), are primarily in the hand of his amanuensis (thought by Sharpe to be Thomas Ken), although the last of these still presents a significant number of contributions by Drake.75 Ogden MS 7(7) seems to have been drafted between about 1632 and 1637, a period when Drake had finished his formal education but was still comparatively young—a man passing through his later twenties. The notes devoted to Montaigne in Ogden MS 7(21) derive from roughly the same period, and are likewise written by Drake. Ogden MS 7(10), however, which is inscribed principally by Drake's assistant, yields dates from more than a decade later, particularly from 1648. By then Drake had reached his early forties, served as a member of Parliament, witnessed momentous socio-political change in England, and spent several years abroad. It is scarcely surprising, then, that the Montaignian entries in this notebook exhibit significantly different emphases from those in the other two, indeed providing suggestive evidence of altered preoccupations on Drake's part, and in particular of a movement away from the pervasive concern with self-advancement so characteristic of his earlier responses.

Like the author of the Folger commonplace book and the compiler of ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’, Drake relies not on a French edition of (p.151) Montaigne but on Florio's English translation. To be precise, he draws from either the 1613 or 1632 edition of the Essayes, but not from the first edition of 1603.76 And like the Folger author and the ‘Maxims’ compiler he is substantially influenced by Florio's habits of italicization: twenty-one of the forty-six extracts traceable to specific passages in the Essayes are taken from sections either partly or wholly italicized in Florio.77 This is not to imply that Drake fails to exercise personal choice in his selections, but rather that these selections, like those of the other compilers I have discussed, exhibit a statistically demonstrable bias toward the textual emphases signaled by Florio's use of italic typeface—emphases presumably indicative of Florio's own judgements regarding the comparative value of differing portions of Montaigne. Drake also shares with the author of the ‘Maxims’ an impressive ability to lend aphoristic vigour to thoughts which in Florio's English assume more diffuse expression. Summarizing commentary from the opening of Montaigne's chapter on the education of children, for example, he notes that ‘Tis the French fault to have a generall & shapelesse form[,] a smack of every thing in Generall, but nothing to the purpose in particular’ (MS 7[10], fol. 41v; M150). And synthesizing ideas from the same chapter as well as from the much later ‘Of three commerces or societies’, he writes as follows: ‘The ablest mynds are the most supple and apliable to all understandings[,] most communicative, and open to all men’ (MS 7[7], fol. 50v; M173–4, M859–62).78

Yet it is precisely in a maxim such as the one I have just quoted that we begin to see not only the ways in which Drake habitually adapts his source material but, more importantly, the characteristic features that differentiate his earlier from his later contemplations of Montaigne. As Sharpe has observed, Drake's commonplace books often reveal a mind that is at once inquisitive, ambitious, independent, self-absorbed, and chillingly utilitarian in its attitude toward other human beings; the extracts from Montaigne in Ogden MS 7(7) fully corroborate this perception.79 In a sequence of borrowings from ‘Of three commerces’, for instance, Drake systematically augments Florio's wording with clauses on self-interest and personal advantage:

Life is a motion (saith Montagne) unequall and multiforme[.] It is not to be a freind but to be a slave to one selfe to be to[o] much adicted to a mans naturall inclinations that he cannot bend and turne himselfe for his end and purpose. (MS 7[7], fols. 49r–49v; M859; my emphasis)

We must somtymes when we see advantage to be gotten lend our selves to weake and vulgar capacities. That wisdom is unsavorie and pedantick that cannot conforme itselfe to common Insipience. (MS 7[7], fol. 49v; M861; my emphasis)

(p.152) It is a weaknes of sperit of a man that makes him disagree from a thousand of his owne condition, for this weaknes and coldnes of converse robs us of the freindship of many by whome we might gaine both reputation, riches, and knowledge. (MS 7[7], fol. 49v; M861; my emphasis)80

The passages I have italicized are nowhere to be found in Florio, and they lend an Iago-esque inflection to Drake's otherwise accurate paraphrases. Similarly, when Drake turns to the chapter ‘A tricke of certaine Ambassadors’, he follows up a quotation from Montaigne with pragmatic advice to himself:

It is wisdom to reduce those we conferre withall to speake of that wherin they are most conversant and skillfull. (MS 7[7], fol. 51v; M74)

This is when we desier to profit ourselves and with men excellent in some kynd. (MS 7[7], fol. 51v)

But when a man would be thought able where he is weake, let him never talke of learning before scollers but matters of Action or state, when with men of experience let him talke of bookes and learning. When he desiers to please and humor let him talk of that which he sees the party most delighted in. When we desier to conceale our partes (as among our envious companions) be silent or talke simply. (MS 7[7], fol. 51v)

The element of cautious, prudential calculation here is unmistakable—and it is entirely characteristic of Drake's early responses to the Essayes. Even when he creates a textual bricolage, weaving together material derived from multiple chapters, he still manages to convey the image of a man consumed with politic self-advancement:

It is good to have a countenan[c]e and outward shew open and communicative to all, a close and reserved mynd[,] and a discreetly silent toung. To heare much to know much to speak litle to iudge of all. Twas sayd of Epamanondas that their was never man that knew more and spake lesse. Now for our converse in the generall these rules are to be observed[.] ffirst to seeke aquaintain[c]e and discourse with men of action and ability which much confirmes and strengthens the understanding[.] The second not to wonder or much contradict the opinions of another, how strange so ever, and contrary to ordinary opinions[.] Thirdly not to feare or be troubled with the rude cariage or uncivill speeches of men wherunto a man of action must harden and accustome himselfe. His cariage must be with as litle trouble and stir as may be, to carie an even respect to all strangers without to[o] much indearing himselfe. To have the boldnes and courage to give hard words and to endure them, to correct and be corrected[.] It is a betraying pleasure to be still among such as yeeld to flatter and aplaude us in all things. (MS 7[7], fols. 51r–51v)

In this case, drawing from ‘Of the institution and education of Children’, ‘Of the inequalitie that is betweene us’, ‘Of the worthiest and most excellent men’, and quite possibly from ‘Of the Arte of conferring’ and ‘Of Experience’, Drake transforms a diverse assemblage of anecdotes and observations into (p.153) a shrewd list of ‘rules’ for social intercourse. It is difficult to imagine a less Montaignian appropriation of Montaigne.

A separate tendency in Drake's early borrowings from the Essayes is that of radical excision, and the best example again comes from an entry in Ogden MS 7(7). Still working with material drawn from ‘Of three commerces’ (the chapter in which Montaigne claims that friendship, sexual love, and reading are his ‘most favoured and particulare employments’ [F499; M871]), Drake expresses his assent to an ideal of adaptability, in effect revealing his optimism about the human potential for transcending personal habit and inclination:

It is a signe of a high and sublime wit, to be able to discourse with men of all matters as of building hunting travaile war proceedings of the tymes & and entertaine with delight a mere scholler a Carpenter a Souldier a gardner, to stoope to the meanest understandings to take up knowledge in any kynd. He must somtymes lend himselfe to those he is with and affect ignorance. All discourses should be alike to an able mynd[.] He should not care though they wanted ether weight or depth so that grace and pertinency and a carelesse audacity be not wanting, so they be mixt with goodnes liberty cheerfulnes and kyndnes[.] It is not only in the discourse of lawes and affaires of state that our sperit shewes its largnes strength grace and vigor[.] It shewes them as much in private conferences and oftentymes familiar discourse is as pertinent and conducing to our ends as weighty and somtymes more. (MS 7[7], fols. 49v–50r; M862–5)

The problem with this summary is not that it misrepresents the argumentative trajectory of Montaigne's chapter, but that it omits the most salient and telling examples proffered by the essayist. Montaigne claims that scholars serve as the best contemporary illustration of people who fail to stoop to common understanding, instead ‘making continuall muster, and open showe of their skill’ (F494; M863). In France they have done this so persistently with ‘Ladyes’ that aristocratic women have now taken on ‘an affected . . . fashion of speaking and writing’ (F494; M863)—and Montaigne finds this deplorable. Such women, he asserts, have merely learned to ‘hide and shrowd theyr formes under forraine and borrowed beawties’ (F495; M863). In short, Montaigne's discussion of scholars, gentlewomen, and ostentatious learning pulls together multiple strands of reflection in his essay, and it points toward the deeper reason, not elsewhere articulated, as to why personal flexibility is such an important and desirable attribute to cultivate. Drake thus engages in surgical removal of some of the most crucial commentary in Montaigne's chapter, displaying an utter lack of interest in the issue of women's education and reducing a classic instance of digressive Montaignian analysis to mere prescription without adequate justification.

(p.154) If Drake's encounters with the Essayes in the mid-1630s are distinctive primarily in their revelations of intense self-interest and their blithe disregard of many topics broached by the author, his return to Montaigne in the late-1640s is far more objective in tenor, though at the same time comparatively anemic. It is true that he appears to have read more widely in the book, contemplating a greater range of issues and quoting from it with greater frequency. In the end, however, he reveals much less about himself than in his earlier notes. In part this may be due to the fact that he is now writing by deputy: his scribe, possibly Thomas Ken, has become responsible for copying quotations, and as an inevitable consequence there are fewer overt indications of Drake's own personality in the resulting textual record. But as Sharpe points out, the relationship between Drake and his assistant ‘was obviously one of intimacy and trust’; the later commonplace books still reveal a ‘continuity of content and tone [which] suggests that Drake's amanuensis faithfully copied the passages his master marked or dictated, and his observations on those passages’.81 If this is true—and I suspect that in large part it is—then Drake's concern with opportunistic self-advancement seems to have diminished by the time of his second reading of Montaigne. In general he seems less preoccupied with himself, more concerned with the social, ethical, and even spiritual dimensions of the world he inhabits.

This is not to deny that Drake's entries on Montaigne in Ogden MS 7(10) still hearken back to several of the issues important to him in his earlier commonplace notes. To observe, for example, that ‘The honour wee receive of those wch feare and stand in awe of us is noe true honour’ (MS 7[10], fol. 43r) is to be concerned with precisely the sort of worldly wisdom that attracted Drake's attention in his twenties. Nor is it surprising to see his inclusion of Montaigne's anecdote about the ‘Milesian wench’ (F312; M568) who tripped up the philosopher Thales so as to ‘put him in minde that hee should not amuse his thoughts about matters above the clowds before he had provided for & wel-considered those at hi[s] feet’ (MS 7[10], fol. 43v). Indeed, many of Drake's entries in Ogden MS 7(10) are concerned with learning and education, although I believe that in general they suggest greater nuance than is evident in his earlier considerations of these topics.82 And when Drake turns to the brief Montaignian chapter that had once seized the attention of John Marston—‘The profite of one man is the domage of another’—he quotes a passage which indisputably displays his continued interest in the sometimes brutal realities of intercommunal existence:

The merchant thrives not but by the licentiousnesse & ryot of youth, the husbandman by dearth of corne, the Architect by the ruine of houses; the Lawyer by Suites and controversies: honour itselfe & practice of Religious (p.155) Ministers is drawne from our death & vices. Noe phisitian delighteth in the health of his owne friend; nor noe Souldier is pleased with the peace of his owne Country. (MS 7[10], fol. 41r; F46; M110)

Like Marston before him, who appropriates precisely these words for a speech by Cocledemoy in The Dutch Courtesan (1.2.35–50), Drake seems never to lose his fascination with the spectacle of human desire and self-assertion in a competitive social marketplace.83

At the same time, however, Ogden MS 7(10) provides suggestive traces of new or emerging concerns on Drake's part. The ignorance and collective frailty of humankind, one of Montaigne's great preoccupations, is emphasized both in a key quotation from the ‘Apologie’—‘Man that praesumeth of his knowledge knowes not what knowledge is’ (MS 7[10], fol. 43r; F258; M470)—and in a passage where Montaigne illustrates how fortune may confound the devious schemes of men:

Caesar Borgia is an eminent example of Gods Justice; who being resolved to poyson Adrian Cardinall of Cornetta wth whom Pope Alexander his father & hee were to suppe that night in the Vatican, sent certaine bottles of empoysoned wine before, & gave his Butler great charge to have a speciall care of it. The Pope coming thither before his sonne & calling for some drinke: the Butler supposing the wine had been soe carefully commended to him for the Goodnesse immediately presented some unto the Pope who whilest hee was drinking his sonne came in & never imagining his bottles had been toucht, tooke the Cuppe and pledged his father; soe that the pope died presently, & the sonne after hee had been long time tormented wth sicknesse recovered to another worse fortune. (MS 7[10], fol. 42v; my emphasis)

The phrase concerning ‘Gods Justice’ does not in appear in Florio or Montaigne (F109; M226). It is Drake who supplies it, thereby suggesting a concern with providence and transcendental reality not particularly evident in his earlier responses to the Essayes. Similarly, after quoting the opening lines of the important chapter ‘That a man ought soberly to meddle with iudging of divine lawes’, Drake pursues his exploration of this familiar Montaignian theme by implying tacit agreement with the idea that humans are perpetually beset by presumption—and above all by the presumption that they understand God's will:

Things unknown are the true scope of imposture; to this purpose Plato said wisely that it is an easier matter to please speaking of the nature of the Gods than of men, whence it followeth that nothing is soe firmely beleeved as that which is least understood. (MS 7[10], fol. 42r; M222)

Hee, censures the presumption of men who seek[e] into the secrets of Gods will & decrees the incomprehensible springes of his workes. (MS 7[10], fol. 42r; M222)

(p.156) I censure a common custome among us, which is to ground & establish our Relligion upon the prosperitie of our enterprises. Our beleife hath other sufficient foundacions & need not bee authorized by events. (MS 7[10], fol. 42r; M222–3)

The emphasis here on the ‘foundacions’ of Christian belief, while it does not overtly contradict anything in Ogden MS 7(7), nonetheless signals a shift in Drake's characteristic habits of attention.84 It is not that he examines Montaigne's complex discussions of faith, doubt, and divine inscrutability with sustained energy or in any real depth. But the excerpted passages in Ogden MS 7(10) still reveal that he is reading from chapters untouched in the earlier commonplace books, among them ‘Of Custome’, ‘Of Pedantisme’, ‘Of the inequalitie that is betweene us’ and, of course, the ‘Apologie’. When he notes that ‘The least prick of a needle and passion of the minde is able to deprive us of the pleasure of the worlds Monarchy if our mindes bee not planted above these sublunary things’ (MS 7[10], fol. 42v; M285; my emphasis), he almost certainly communicates an altered perspective and perhaps a sense of modified priorities: the ten words I have italicized are entirely his own.

But Drake soon returns to the sublunary sphere. While it may be true that he evinces no scepticism about the realm of divinity, he is unquestionably sceptical about the practices of earthly divines. In an acerbic augmentation of Montaigne's claim that ‘tis not in the knowledge but in the application of learning that makes a wise man’ (MS 7[10], fol. 41r; F64; M145–6), he asserts that ‘Divinity hath these latter yeares been rather maide an art of living than living well’ (MS 7[10], fol. 41r).85 He also broadens his contemplation of worldly erudition by reproducing Montaigne's anecdote about Lycurgus, in whose thoughtfully composed constitution ‘wee finde noe mention of the masters of Learning but teachers of valour, vertue, & obedience to Magistrats’ (MS 7[10], fol. 41v; F65; M147; my emphasis). As my italics indicate, the final clause here originates neither with Florio nor Montaigne, but with Drake himself. And in a small way I believe this corroborates Sharpe's perception that Drake gradually evolves into a kind of proto-Hobbesian in his vision of the state, routinely insinuating that the best way to counter the rampant self-interest of human beings is to establish powerful sources of social authority and to inculcate tractability and obedience in the population at large.86 Surprisingly enough, however, Drake also conveys a telling awareness of the human potential to rise above purely selfish motives: ‘Hieron complained that hee perceiveth himselfe [deprived] of all mutuall friendshippe, reciprocall society, & familiar conversation wherin consisteth the most perfect & sweetest fruit of humane life’ (MS 7[10], fol. 43r; F144; (p.157) M288). In this borrowing from ‘Of the inequalitie that is betweene us’, Drake returns to a concern with amicable human relations that he had much earlier exhibited in the passages excerpted from ‘Of three commerces’. But he does so without proffering advice on self-advancement through manipulative interaction with others. And in this respect he comes much closer than in any of his previous Montaignian appropriations to endorsing the essayist's own understanding of the inestimable virtues of affectionate friendship and free, uncensored conversation.

Broadly speaking, then, the project of maximizing Montaigne in seventeenth-century England involves minimizing authorial presence, eliminating contexts and discursive movement, depersonalizing the Essays, and imagining (at least ostensibly) that human contemplation may be reduced to isolated ‘thought-bytes’ without incurring significant distortion. In the case of commonplace book extraction, such maximizing shows the remarkable degree to which certain readers are willing to enter into foreshortened dialogue with the Essays: they select, suppress, amplify, and redirect various Montaignian ideas, and in so doing reveal not only their deep reliance upon the essayist but also their own capacity for independent critical thinking. Indeed with Drake and the Folger compiler, commonplacing is inseparably tied to self-fashioning. The two tasks are fused, and the resulting representation of Montaigne is akin to that of an alter ego, a source of thought which, once appropriated, becomes construed as having already exhibited a kind of prior, if imperfect, existence within the self. In effect this amounts to an unacknowledged diminution of authorial autonomy—a diminution also apparent in ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’, though therein disguised through the presentation of Montaignian opinion as trans-historical truth. Ultimately, it is only within the partial translation of Montaigne that we find an effort at representation which, while it still participates in maximizing through its reliance upon extraction and condensation, simultaneously gives sufficient voice to the authorial self that it denies the possibility of ready conflation with readerly identity. We are thereby directed, inevitably and appropriately, back to Montaigne himself.

But to be directed back to Montaigne is to be directed to Florio as well—at least in the era of Shakespeare and Milton, and among the great majority of Montaigne's earliest English readers. For as I have argued throughout this study, Florio is Montaigne's most important reader in seventeenth-century England, the creator of his English voice and the indispensable enabler of manuscript and print response. It is true that Florio likewise engages in the maximization of Montaigne, but he does so in a distinct manner and unique spirit: not with a mind toward (p.158) fragmentation, abridgement, pragmatic application, or personal metamorphosis, but with a sense of encouragement and gentle guidance. If his practice of italicization exerts a disproportionate impact upon the extractive habits of subsequent readers, it is not because he believes that large swaths of the Essays are ‘a confus’d heap of Rubbish’ (Abstract, sig. A3r) or that Montaigne's ‘rapsodies’ require strict management and organizational control. On the contrary, Florio's presentation of Montaigne is indelibly marked by its exuberant acceptance, its warmth and generosity. Florio clearly desires to grant Montaigne the readers that Montaigne himself desires. That he succeeds in doing so stands beyond any reasonable doubt.

One such reader, reacting to Montaigne's claim that ‘every abridgement of a good booke, is a foole abridged’ (F563; cf. M985 [‘un sot abbregé’]), writes in his copy of Florio that ‘The Epitomizing of Books [is] a foolish Undertaking & without Honour to the undertaker’.87 Another asserts, much more globally, ‘Let not a fel[low] be tyed downe to one author’.88 Comments of this sort, inscribed as they are by annotators swept up within the discursive flow of the Essays, illustrate how at least some of Montaigne's English readers corroborate and extend the Frenchman's expressed hostility toward specialist habits of reading—particularly those habits that lead to the creation of abstracts, ‘store-house[s]’, and other forms of synoptic condensation (e.g. F62, F563, F629). Of course Montaigne himself occasionally indulged in just such habits: the ceiling beams of his library serve as suggestive testimony to a turn of mind at least partially sympathetic to commonplacing—a penchant, we might say, for scrupulous collection and directed meditation.89 Still, the overwhelming impression conveyed by the Essays is that Montaigne saw fixity of thought as less intrinsically representative of human consciousness than dynamic flux and movement. And to the extent that maximizing is an attempt at fixing—an effort to articulate, once and for all, the permanent accuracy and relevance of a given perception—it works against the larger predisposition of the Essays toward privileging the fluidity and contextual contingency of human reflection.90

It is not that Montaigne's English annotators fail to inscribe maxims and aphoristic summaries within their copies of Florio. In fact they do this routinely. Abiel Borfet jots the words ‘All that love talk hate chess’ next to Montaigne's confession that he has always avoided this ‘fond-childish’ and ‘time-consuming’ game (F164).91 And Edward Lumsden displays a conspicuous talent for converting Montaignian rumination into tight proverbial form. Not only does he condense diffuse thought into axiomatic expression—‘A shoemaker hath worst shoes’, ‘poore life is worth the money wee paid for yt’, ‘In companie men are apter to utter their owne commodities then gett newe’—but he also contributes apposite (p.159) maxims from his own cultural lexicon: ‘A scald mans head is easily broken’, ‘A still sowe eates all the Draffe’, ‘a vulgar stupiditie is as good as a stoicall impassabilitie’.92 A separate annotator does much the same as he reacts to Montaigne's claim, in ‘Of Presumption’ (F376; M686–7), that he despises dissimulation: ‘He yt will not speake idlely must thinke what he speakes and he yt will not speake falsly must speake what he thinkes’.93 Still another reader, this one responsible for a heavily-marked copy of the 1632 Essayes, consistently amplifies Montaignian opinion. The view, for instance, that ‘obstinacy is the sister of constancy at least in vigor and stedfastnesse’ becomes rephrased as ‘[O]bstinacie in a bad [c]ause is Constancie in a good’.94 And Montaigne's passing reference to the ‘plodding occupation of bookes’ is first assimilated to a pertinent Italian proverb (‘studio est [b]aston di Cottone’) and then translated into a vehement English precept: ‘[St]udy is a staffe of Cotton [that] beates us insensibly’ (Figure 29).95

But if Montaigne's English annotators share certain habits of response with Drake and the anonymous compilers of ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims’ and the Folger commonplace book, their efforts at aphoristic punch and brevity are nonetheless directed toward a visibly different end: not the atomization and reconstitution of the Essays, but the expansion and

                   Maximizing Montaigne

Figure 29. Essayes (London, 1632), Temple University, p. 122. Courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia.

(p.160) enrichment thereof. These readers do not seek to make Montaigne's book more manageable or compact; they are content to let it grow—and they wish to inhabit it themselves. Its inclusiveness attracts them. They see the Essays not as a pristine museum or gallery, but as a working auditorium or theatre: a site of intellectual exploration and debate; a stage for rehearsals of thought, for trials of judgement, for essais. Their marginal annotations, while often contentious, nonetheless enhance Montaigne's book through a prevailing mood of candid and unselfish augmentation. And because these readers volunteer apposite commentary that future readers may also find relevant or stimulating, they contribute to a gradual extension—even an incremental perfection—of the essential Montaignian project. Their questions, comments, and objections are not severed from the textual materials that sponsor their genesis, but jointly preserved with them in a kind of stratigraphic continuity, and they may thus be characterized as embodying a status largely distinct from that of the extracts of Montaigne which survive in maxims, miscellanies, and commonplace books. They are of course still derivative, as are all textual traces generated within the wake of the Essays, whether in Shakespeare, Marston, Drake, Borfet, or any other Montaignian reader. But they coexist with their discursive progenitor and thus cannot function to reform, obscure, or minimize Montaigne. They can only contribute to Montaignian abundance.


(1.) Montaigne uses the word only twice—the other instance being early in ‘Des prieres’ (M335)—whereas Florio uses it five times: at F23; F68 (for ‘centons’ [M153]); F172 (for ‘cette rapsodie’ [M335]); F236 (for ‘mes pieces’ [M429]); and F629 (for ‘pastissages’ [M1103]). The instance at M335, published in the 1595 Paris edition, was deleted by Montaigne in the Bordeaux Copy (1588) and thus does not appear in the Villey-Saulnier text (vol. 1, p. 318).

(p.288) (2.) At least one of Montaigne's early English readers seems to have done the same. Sceptical of the essayist's claims about his defective memory, this reader observes that ‘It seems impossable [sic] that the author of such a Rhapsody as this Book, interlarded wth so many quotations out of poets Historians &c should have had so bad a Memory’ (1613, Dulwich College, p. 15).

(3.) The florilegium, or gathering of textual ‘flowers’, has been described by Carruthers and Ziolkowski as ‘a collection of sayings, maxims, and stories collected from past works . . . [in which] the flowers of (one's extensive) reading [are] gathered up in some orderly arrangement for the purpose of quick, secure recollection in connection with making a new composition’ (Medieval Craft of Memory, p. 5).

(4.) And in ‘Of Pedantisme’ he writes that ‘Even as birds flutter and skip from field to field to pecke up corne or any graine, and without tasting the same, carry it in their bills, therewith to feede their little ones; so doe our pedants gleane and picke learning from bookes, and never lodge it further then their lips . . . Is not that which I doe in the greatest part of this composition, all one and selfe same thing? I am ever here and there picking and culling, from this and that booke, the sentences that please me, not to keepe them (for I have no store-house to reseive them in) but to transport them into this: where, to say truth, they are no more mine, then in their first place’ (F62).

(5.) Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought, p. 213; cf. pp. 167, 198, 209, 212, 248, and 281. See also Cave, How to Read Montaigne, pp. 22–6; Goyet, Le sublime du ‘lieu commun’, esp. pp. 389–97, 691–700; Goyet, ‘The Word “Commonplaces” in Montaigne’, pp. 66–77; Wiesmann, ‘Lieux Communs’ (Dictionnaire, pp. 684–7); Schurink, ‘Manuscript Commonplace Books, Literature, and Reading in Early Modern England’; Crane, Framing Authority; and Cormack and Mazzio, Book Use, Book Theory, pp. 70–3. For valuable accounts of the development of commonplace reading, see Havens, Commonplace Books; Bolgar, The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries, pp. 265–75, 297–301; and Blair, ‘Humanist Methods in Natural Philosophy: The Commonplace Book’. For extensive commentary both on traditions of commonplacing and on one English reader's notebooks, see Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, esp. pp. 69–120, 170–252, 257–62, 277–93, 339; see also Hackel, Reading Material, pp. 175–95; Sherman, Used Books, pp. 127–48; and Dent, John Webster's Borrowing, pp. 12–25, for fascinating accounts of specific readers’ commonplace books. For an important recent study of Montaigne's use of his reading, see Mack, Reading and Rhetoric in Montaigne and Shakespeare, esp. chapters 2 and 3.

(6.) See, e.g., Tilley, A285, A333, D386, F1, F410, W710.

(7.) For related critical assessments, see, e.g., Greene, The Light in Troy, p. 318; Ong, ‘Typographic Rhapsody’, pp. 429–32; Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind, pp. 246–7; Kristeller, ‘Humanist Moral Philosophy’, p. 281; Mason, Humanism and Poetry in the Early Tudor Period, p. 111; Beal, ‘Notions in Garrison’, esp. p. 137; and Hammond, ‘The Play of Quotation and Commonplace in King Lear’, esp. pp. 78–81.

(p.289) (8.) Tournon emphasizes Montaigne's claim that he kept no ‘store-house’—‘je n’ay point de gardoire’ (M141)—in his argument that the Essais are never dependent upon a previously-compiled gathering of maxims and examples (Montaigne: La glose et l’essai, p. 309). Mack claims that the abundance of quotation and paraphrase in the Essais ‘indicates that Montaigne must have had books before him as he composed and revised’ (Reading and Rhetoric, p. 23); in general Mack sees Montaigne as a more scholarly reader than Montaigne himself is willing to acknowledge.

(9.) For a fascinating instance of the rearrangement of poetic lines, see Coleman, ‘Montaigne's “Sur des vers de Virgile” ’, pp. 138–9. More generally, see Mack's excellent discussion of Montaigne's compositional habits (Reading and Rhetoric, esp. ch. 3).

(10.) Florio does this as well in his preface ‘To the curteous Reader’, where he remarks that ‘Essayes are but mens school-themes pieced together; you might as well say, several texts. Al[l] is in the choise & handling’ (sig. A5v). But in Montaigne's original preface, ‘Au Lecteur’, we read that ‘je suis moy-mesme la matiere de mon livre’ (M27), and elsewhere we find such remarks as these: ‘Qu’on voye en ce que j’emprunte, si j’ay sceu choisir dequoy rehausser ou secourir proprement l’invention, qui vient tousjours de moy’ (M428; cf. F236); ‘Me peignant pour autruy, je me suis peint en moy, de couleurs plus nettes, que n’estoyent les mienne premieres. Je n’ay pas plus faict mon livre, que mon livre m’a faict. Livre consubstantiel à son autheur’ (M703; cf. F385); and ‘Icy nous allons conformément, et tout d’un train, mon livre et moy. Ailleurs, on peut recommander et accuser l’ouvrage, à part de l’ouvrier: icy non: qui touche l’un, touche l’autre’ (M846; cf. F483). See also Losse, ‘From Auctor to Auteur: Authorization and Appropriation in the Renaissance’ and Bauschatz, ‘Montaigne's Conception of Reading in the Context of Renaissance Poetics and Modern Criticism’.

(11.) The volume's full title is An Abstract of the most Curious and Excellent Thoughts in Seigneur de Montaigne's Essays: Very Useful for Improving the Mind, and Forming the Manners of Men. Done into English from the French Original. For its French predecessor, see the descriptions in Sayce and Maskell, pp. 175–6, and Desan, Catalogue, pp. 132–3. See also M. Dreano, La renommée de Montaigne en France au XVIIIe siècle, pp. 21–8. The Pensées are attributed to M. Artaud.

(12.) An earlier digest in French, L’Esprit des Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, had been published in Paris in 1677, but this was never translated into English. See also Guillaume Bérenger's Response a plusieurs injures et railleries, Ecrites contre Michel seigneur de Montagne, dans un livre intitulé La Logique ou l’Art de penser, . . . Avec un beau traité de l’éducation des Enfans, & cinq cens Excellens passages tirez du Livre des Essais, pour montrer le merite de cet Autheur (Rouen, 1667). This book, a defence of Montaigne against the vehement critique of Arnaud and Nicole, has been recently studied and contextualized by Philippe Desan in ‘Les Essais en cinq cents pensées ou la réponse de Guillaume Bérenger aux “injures et railleries” d’Arnaud et Nicole contre Montaigne’.

(p.290) (13.) Other Montaignian chapters excised from the Abstract include ‘How wee weepe and laugh at one selfe-same thing’, ‘Of Steedes’, ‘Of ancient customes’, ‘Of the parcimony of our Forefathers’, ‘Of a saying of Caesar’, ‘Of vaine subtilties’, ‘Of smells and odors’, ‘Of Age’, ‘Of the recompences or rewards of Honour’, ‘Of the Parthians Armes’, ‘Of three good Women’, ‘Of the worthiest and most excellent men’, and ‘Of the resemblance between children & fathers’.

(14.) Bedford Record Office, MS L Lucas Archive L28/46, fol. 29v. Benn wrote many essays in the style of Montaigne, including one on Pyrrhonism which is listed in his table of contents but seems not to have survived (‘Of Pirrho his philosophicall ignorance’). For more on Benn, see Prest, The Rise of the Barristers, and Brooks, ‘Sir Anthony Benn’ (ODNB).

(15.) Bedford Record Office, MS L Lucas Archive L28/46, fol. 10v.

(16.) British Library, Royal MS 12 B.V., fol. 100r. Cf. M779. Here is Florio's translation: ‘When ever the Graecians would accuse or tax any man of extreame insufficiencie, they used this common Proverbe; That he could neyther read nor swimme: And himselfe was of this opinion, that the art of swimming was most necessary and beneficiall in Warre’ (F425).

(17.) Folger MS V.a.294, fol. 42v. This remark refers to a passage in ‘Of Experience’ (F642)—a passage italicized by Florio. William Chillingworth quotes from the same section of the chapter in his preface to The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation (1638); see sig. §§§§2v.

(18.) Stanley Wells, Shakespeare: For All Time, p. 45.

(19.) E.g., Robert Frank, ‘The John Ward Diaries’, and David Harley, ‘Political Post-mortems and Morbid Anatomy in Seventeenth-century England’.

(20.) Life and Letters of John Donne, ed. Edmund Gosse, vol. 1, p. 122; Gosse dates the letter to 1603 or 1604. For comparison, see Donne, Letters to Severall Persons of Honour, p. 106 (‘Michel Montaige saies, he hath seen [as I remember] 400 volumes of Italian Letters’); the specific reference is to ‘A consideration upon Cicero’ (F126). Complete Prose Works of John Milton, ed. Don Wolfe, vol. 1, pp. 329–30. A copy of the 1613 edition of Florio's Montaigne held at Brown University (John Hay Library, 1-Size 1613 M76) bears the signature ‘John Milton’ at the head of the title page, but it strikes me as doubtful that this was the poet's copy of the Essayes.

(21.) Tacitus, In P. Cornelii Taciti Annales et Historias Commentarii ad Politicam et Aulicam Rationem Praecipve Spectantes, ed. Annibale Scoto Placentino (Frankfurt, 1592); Ashley's annotation, covering both recto and verso of a front flyleaf in this volume, is introduced as follows: ‘Ce Jugement de Michel de Montaigne sur l’histoire de cest Autheur au 3 livre des Essais chap 8 de l’Art de conferer’ (cf. M986–9). Plutarch. Plutarchi Chaeronei . . . Vitae comparatae illustrium virorum, Graecorum & Romanorum. Ed. Herman Croeser (Basel, 1573); see O’Brien, ‘Montaigne in Some London Libraries’, pp. 155–6, 159. Ashley was fluent in French and Italian; he almost certainly owned an early French edition of the Essais, though no such book survives in the Middle Temple's current library.

(p.291) (22.) I have also discovered a seventeenth-century manuscript transcription of Book One, chapter 34 from Florio's rendition of the Essayes (‘Of a defect in our Policies’ [F111]). This transcription, located in Sloane MS 649 at the British Library, makes several mistakes but nonetheless remains a fairly accurate rendition of the original (see fols. 31r–32r).

(23.) Egerton MS 2982, fols. 22r–29v. The translation ends in mid-sentence at the bottom of fol. 29v (near the close of the chapter ‘Of Cruelty’), suggesting that additional pages once existed but have now been lost or shuffled into other manuscripts. See Appendix A for a full transcription of this document.

(24.) Heath's sons Edward (1612–1669), John (1614–1691), and Francis (1622–1683) all studied at the Inner Temple and worked as attorneys; all three are represented among the papers in Egerton MSS 2982 and 2983.

(25.) There are two or three instances in this translation where sequential order is momentarily violated, as for example on fol. 29v, where the claim about the Roman taste for cruelty follows rather than precedes Montaigne's opinion that we prefer seeing beasts kill than caress one another.

(26.) In the Abstract, by contrast, Montaigne's original chapter is eviscerated; the resulting summary is entirely one-sided, concluding with the remark that ‘All the Inconveniences in the World are not considerable enough, that a Man should Die to evade them. All things are to be hoped by a Man whilst he Lives’ (p. 104).

(27.) The Abstract eliminates all discussion of torture and the rack, merely leaving us with the impression that Montaigne endorses the existence and power of conscience, both for the guilty and the innocent.

(28.) The Abstract completely misconstrues Montaigne's meaning when it tells us that ‘Every one makes use of Learning to his own advantage, provided he has the Courage, to watch himself so narrowly, that he can apply it to his own Case’ (p. 106). Montaigne is clearly not talking about learning, but about careful self-observation.

(29.) Figure 28 is taken from Egerton MS 2982, fol. 29v. This is the final extant page of the translation.

(30.) It bears noting that in one heavily-annotated copy of Florio, an early reader has generalized this claim, removing Montaigne from overt culpability: ‘in some concupisence lesse sinfull then reason’ (1613, Lyme, p. 237).

(31.) British Library, Sloane MS 2903, fols. 2r–12r. Fol. 1r offers the following description of various manuscripts bound in the volume: ‘Montagnes Moral Maxims. Philosophicall papers Sr Wm Petty Sr Christopher Wren. &c. Mr Lodowick Mr Houghton Mr Gunning Dr Goddard Dr Whitchcote [unreadable word] Dr Merret of the Kings evill by Abr. Hall Esq.’ Dr Merret is almost certainly the physician Christopher Merrett, a member of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians, and the first Harveian Librarian. Mr Gunning is presumably Peter Gunning, Bishop of Ely. The library of Sir Christopher Wren, auctioned in London in 1748–49, did not contain any copies of Montaigne (Munby, ed., Sale Catalogues, vol. 4, pp. 1–43). The maxims are slightly disordered in Sloane, and they also reflect the (p.292) chapter-sequence alteration found in Florio, where Book One, chapter 14 is displaced to Book One, chapter 40—an alteration first introduced in the 1595 Paris edition of the Essais; see Sayce and Maskell, pp. 27–8. All three printings of Florio (and all eight printings of Cotton) perpetuate this displacement.

(32.) See my edition of ‘“Montagnes Moral Maxims”: A Collection of Seventeenth-Century English Aphorisms Derived from the Essays of Montaigne’.

(33.) See Appendix C for a complete transcription of the ‘Moral Maxims’; I cite these maxims by number rather than by folio for the ease of readers. Other classic Montaignian observations include those recorded in maxims 28, 41, 51, 56, 64, 67, 71, 96, 98, 107, 118, 125, 128, 143, 155, 159, 161, 171, 200, 209, 214, 238, 247, 254, 258, 262, 274, 285, 287, 290, 296, and 297.

(34.) Other excellent condensations of Florio include maxims 8, 30, 31, 66, 79, 97, 104, 120, 137, 149, 165, 166, 172, 198, 224, 231, 254, 267, and 277.

(35.) Similar examples of excessive condensation may be found in maxims 62, 68, 95, 132, 143, 147, 148, 163, 179, 181, 206, 223, 242, and 296.

(36.) Cotton's translation was first published in London in 1685–86; subsequent printings appeared in 1693, 1700, 1711, 1738, 1743, 1759, and 1760. My quotations are drawn from the first edition: Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in Three Books, trans. Charles Cotton, 3 vols. (London, 1685–86).

(37.) Essays, trans. Cotton, vol. 1, p. 487.

(38.) Cotton's equivalents of maxims 58 and 96, respectively, are as follows: ‘He who will not give himself leisure to be Thirsty, can never find the true pleasure of Drinking’ (Essays, vol. 1, p. 516); ‘I always interpret the Death, by the Life preceding’ (Essays, vol. 2, p. 156).

(39.) Specifically, maxims 135, 146, 190, 199, 232, 248, 269, and 294.

(40.) This is not to say that the first-person voice is always discarded: see, e.g., maxims 19, 94, 96, 97, 123, 171, 201, 216, 226, 227, 228, 240, 250, 255, and 296.

(41.) Other modulations into the imperative occur in maxims 1, 4, 24, 25, 39, 62, and 241. Additional instances in which the first-person voice is eliminated may be found in maxims 40, 79, 90, 98, 128, 135, 142, 146, 161, 163, 196, 253, and 272.

(42.) Further instances of source removal occur in maxims 56, 73, 185, 249, and 278. And yet in maxim 48 (‘Socrates to one that surprised him playing with children said Censure me not till you are a father’), our compiler identifies Socrates as the speaker, even though this identification is provided neither in Florio (F95) nor in Montaigne's original French (M199).

(43.) To be precise, 29.3 per cent.

(44.) As noted in Chapter 2, I find a total of 877 indented quotations within the Essayes.

(45.) I do not have incontrovertible evidence, of course, that Florio was solely responsible for determining which passages would be italicized in the Essayes, and which would not. What I have, rather, is a demonstrable sense that (p.293) Florio was an active participant in the production of both the 1603 and 1613 editions of the book. As I have noted in Chapter 1, Florio personally corrected at least six copies of the first edition, corrections faithfully reflected in the subsequent edition of 1613, which also contains a new dedication (to Queen Anne) composed by Florio. Had Florio been unhappy with the typographic decisions of the first edition, he presumably would have been able to alter them in the second. But he did not. So at the very minimum I believe that they were tacitly endorsed by Florio; but I strongly suspect that he communicated his preferences to the publisher, Edward Blount, and thence to the printer, Valentine Sims.

(46.) Of Marston's forty-three borrowings from the Essayes, nineteen derive from passages Florio chose to italicize (44.2per cent).

(47.) Folger MS V.a.281. In Appendix B I provide a transcription of fols. 15r–34v, which offer a continuous sequence of 201 discrete extracts, all but three of them (60, 61, and 117) derived from Florio's translation. I have kept the three anomalous entries, as they bear directly on the compiler's reading habits. In the following pages I cite extracts by their number rather than by folio location.

(48.) This amounts to 41.9 per cent. In other words, four of every ten passages chosen for the commonplace book had been ‘pre-selected’, so to speak, by Florio.

(49.) To reinforce this point, I note that the Egerton translation demonstrates no indebtedness whatsoever to Florio's habits of italicization. There are certainly passages within the translation which, when read in their equivalent versions in the Essayes, contain italicized sentences. But the Egerton translator, because he worked from a French text of the Essais, chose his excerpts for translation without being influenced by Florio.

(50.) Specifically, the extracts are drawn from ‘An Apologie of Raymond Sebond’ (80 altogether), ‘Of the institution and education of Children’ (34), ‘Of Solitarinesse’ (23), ‘Upon some verses of Virgill’ (17), ‘Of Moderation’ (15), ‘Of the resemblance between children & fathers’ (13), ‘Of anger and choller’ (9), ‘Of the affection of fathers to their Children’ (5), ‘Of the inconstancie of our actions’ (1), and ‘Of Phisiognomy’ (1). Multiple chapters from all three books of the Essayes are thus represented, which suggests judicious selection on the part of the compiler.

(51.) This may be deduced from an error on fol. 21r. Our compiler writes ‘felicity’, which is the word Florio mistakenly provides in his first edition (F84). But in the errata leaves to this edition Florio corrects the word to ‘facilitie’—a correction duly reflected in the 1613 and 1632 Essayes. The edition of 1632 was the first to be issued with a printed index. For other instances of the Folger author's deft movement between Montaignian chapters, see extracts 59–62, 86–8, 116–18, and 131–2. Both ‘Of Moderation’ and ‘Upon some verses of Virgill’ serve him for discussions of marriage and sexuality; not only ‘Of the resemblance between children & fathers’ but the ‘Apologie’ and ‘Of Solitarinesse’ for treatments of health and medical practice; and ‘Of the institution (p.294) and education of Children’ and ‘Of Phisiognomy’ along with ‘Of Solitarinesse’ for commentary on solitude, self-understanding, and self-possession.

(52.) For further examples, see extracts 22, 24, 25, 58, 63, 66, 70, 83, 94, 100, 109, 110, 119, 127, 148, 172, 176, 180, 193, 195, and 201.

(53.) Other such instances may be found in extracts 37, 85, 126, and 136.

(54.) E.g., extracts 36, 42, 71, 72, 78, 111, 116, 127, 135, 143, 152, 178, and 196.

(55.) Montaigne never mentions Sextus Empiricus by name, but he relies heavily on Sextus's Outlines of Pyrrhonism in several sections of the ‘Apologie’ (esp. F290–6, F305, F326–8, F332–6, and F341–50), and the terms ‘Pyrrhonian’, ‘Pyrrhonisme’, and variants thereof occur on F291, F292, F293, F296, F305, F326, F332, F336, and F341. See Hamlin, ‘The Shakespeare–Montaigne–Sextus Nexus’, and also Tragedy and Scepticism, pp. 60–70.

(56.) In extract 116, taken from the ‘Apologie’, Montaigne quotes a passage from 1 Corinthians 2:9. This prompts our compiler to recall a separate passage from the same epistle (15:51–2) and then to devote his next extract (117) to further quotation from that source: specifically 1 Corinthians 15:53. But of course he relies upon a Protestant Bible, while Montaigne presumably draws from his copy of the Divinae Scripturae veteris ac novi Testamenti (Basel, 1545).

(57.) In the first of these, the compiler adds the parenthetical phrase ‘(wthout grace)’, and in the second he contributes the clause ‘qualified wth grace’.

(58.) For further examples in this vein, see extracts 43, 118, 123, and 178.

(59.) I take the spelling ‘physicke’ from extracts 137 and 140. For other passages which accord high value to nature and natural tendencies, see extracts 136 and 181.

(60.) As further evidence for this claim, consider Florio's paratextual observation (addressed to Lady Anne Harington) that Montaigne's eighth chapter in Book Two (‘Of the affection of fathers to their Children’) is ‘written to the Lady of Estissac (as if it were to you concerning your sweete heire, most motherly-affected Lady Harrington)’ (sig. A2r).

(61.) The phrase ‘meer worldlings’ does not appear in Florio (F522) and corresponds to nothing in the Montaignian original (M913).

(62.) Here the compiler adds five final words to the sentence Florio has offered (F71).

(63.) Specifically, the three volumes are catalogued as Ogden MSS 7(7), 7(10), and 7(21).

(64.) At the Middle Temple, Drake might well have come to know Robert Ashley, who, as we have seen, read Montaigne in French and presumably owned a French edition of the Essais.

(65.) Clark, ‘Wisdom Literature of the Seventeenth Century: A Guide to the Contents of the “Bacon-Tottel” Commonplace Books’.

(66.) A heavily-annotated but fragmentary copy of Bacon's Advancement of Learning indeed forms part of Ogden MS 7(7), one of the commonplace books I discuss below.

(p.295) (67.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, p. 73; cf. p. 269. Sharpe devotes large portions of his book to a fascinating and detailed case study of Drake's reading practices (see esp. pp. 65–163, 257–343). He has also discovered several additional volumes which can now be seen to constitute part of the full archive, including a commonplace book in Drake's hand now held at the Folger (pp. 73–4), a personal journal of Drake's acquired by the Huntington Library in 1993 (p. 74), and a number of other manuscripts and annotated printed books.

(68.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, pp. 257–70.

(69.) Specifically, Machiavels discourses, upon the first decade of T. Livius (London, 1636) and Nicholas Machiavel's Prince (London, 1640). A translation of The Florentine historie, which Drake also read, had been published much earlier (London, 1595). See Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, p. 80, and Clark, ‘Wisdom Literature of the Seventeenth Century’, Part I, pp. 299–302.

(70.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, e.g., pp. 106–7, 115, 118, 333; but see esp. pp. 89–120, passim, including Sharpe's sense of Drake's opposition to conventional Christian humanist opinions regarding statecraft (p. 114).

(71.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, pp. 269–70.

(72.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, p. 258.

(73.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, pp. 259–60.

(74.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, pp. 78, 80, 185, 212, 232, 325.

(75.) Clark, ‘Wisdom Literature of the Seventeenth Century’, Part II, pp. 47–8, 57–8, 63–4; Sharpe, pp. 273–4.

(76.) This can be deduced from Drake's marginal citations to page numbers in Florio. His first entry on Montaigne in Ogden MS 7(7), for example, derives from ‘Montaines Esays p. 458’ and quotes the opening lines of the chapter ‘Of three commerces or societies’. This chapter begins on p. 492 in the 1603 edition of Florio, but on p. 458 in both 1613 and 1632. The pagination of Books Two and Three in the 1603 edition is substantially different from that in the editions of 1613 and 1632; the latter two editions, meanwhile, are extremely close in pagination throughout, though not identical. For simplicity's sake I cite Drake's Montaignian extractions with reference to the Paris 1595 Essais on which Florio primarily relied (using the 2007 Pléiade edition).

(77.) In short, 45 per cent of the total.

(78.) Additional examples of excellent aphoristic condensation in Drake may be found in Ogden MS 7(7), fol. 50v (‘A good naturall wit bred in Action becomes plausible and gracious of it selfe’) and fol. 51r (‘It is wisdom to reduce those we conferre withall to speake of that wherin they are most conversant and skillfull’), as well as in Ogden MS 7(10) fol. 41v (‘To seeke quaint wordes proceeds from a scholasticall & childish Ambition’) and fol. 43r (‘The honour we receive of those wch feare and stand in awe of us is noe true honour’).

(79.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, esp. pp. 89–95.

(80.) I have italicized those portions of these three extracts which represent Drake's own modifications and additions to Montaigne. For further examples in this (p.296) vein, see MS 7(7), fol. 50v (second extract) and fol. 51r (fourth extract). In a passage written in the outer margin of fol. 50r, Drake responds to Montaignian material he has summarized in his previous extract (fols. 49v–50r), noting that ‘Virgill got as much glory of eloquence wit and learning in the expressing of the observations of husbandry as the heroicall acts of Eneas’. Once again we observe Drake's persistent interest in the advantages to be gained from various forms of endeavour—although in this case the advantages accrue to Virgil.

(81.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, p. 273.

(82.) See, e.g., Ogden MS 7(10), fol. 41r (fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth extracts), fol. 41v (first, second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh extracts). Drake quotes several times from ‘Of the institution and education of Children’ in Ogden MS 7(7), but he returns to it in Ogden MS 7(10) and also gives extended attention to its companion chapter, ‘Of Pedantisme’.

(83.) It bears noting that George Wilson, in his copy of the 1632 Florio, takes issue with Montaigne's claim that ‘our inward desires are for the most part nourished and bred in us by the losse and hurt of others’: ‘This is Equivocal: For, where there's no Sense, there can be no hurt; nor, no Injury where there's a Free Concurrence’ (1632, Fullerton, p. 46).

(84.) Sharpe writes that Drake seems ‘orthodox enough’ (p. 108) in the fifteen commonplace books written in his own hand (i.e., those dating from 1627 to about 1645). He adds that ‘For all his conventional Anglican Protestantism, [Drake's] attitude toward religion was essentially and strikingly rational, pragmatic and political’ (p. 110).

(85.) Sharpe likewise stresses that ‘Whatever his private faith, Drake seem to have had little regard for the clergy’ (p. 108).

(86.) Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, esp. pp. 106–7, 130, 170–8, 268, 334.

(87.) 1603, RHUL, p. 563.

(88.) 1603, Pembroke College, Cambridge, p. 71.

(89.) For concise lists of these inscriptions, see ‘Sentences Peintes et Autres Inscriptions de la Bibliothèque de Montaigne’ (M1309–16); and ‘Liste des Sentences Inscrites sur les Travées de la “Librairie” de Montaigne’, in Les Essais, ed. Pierre Villey, rev. V.-L. Saulnier, vol. 1, pp. lxvii–lxxii. For a separate listing and brief discussion, see Gardeau and Feytaud, Le Chateau de Montaigne, pp. 53–62.

(90.) Pascal famously condemns Montaigne for seeking to depict himself through maxims: ‘Le sot projet qu’il a de se peindre! Et cela non pas en passant et contre ses maximes, comme il arrive à tout le monde de faillir, mais par ses propres maximes et par un dessein premier et principal’ (Pensées, p. 322 [fragment 644]). This strikes me, however, as a fundamental misreading of the Essais.

(91.) 1603, Colgate, p. 164.

(92.) 1603, Folger (V.b.327), pp. 65, 32, 72, 506, 507, 607. See also ‘A knowne dog better companie then a strange man whose speech wee understand not’ (p. 17); ‘a horse will stumble sooner in a playne way then in a rugged because (p.297) of taking heed’ (p. 635); ‘A woman like hony better tasted then eaten’ (sig. Ar); ‘sadnesse and pleasure are never asunder but tyed together by the tailes because they cannott bee mixed’ (p. 389).

(93.) 1603, Senate House (S.L. I), p. 376.

(94.) 1632, Temple, p. 406.

(95.) 1632, Temple, p. 122. See also ‘Opinion is that high & mighty Dame wch rules the world & in mans mind doth frame distaste or liking’ (p. 127); and ‘Learning, unto a wise man [is] a Jewell of gold like a bracelet on his right arme, saith Syrac[id]es. [B]ut unto fooles [it is] as fetters on ye [ank]el & like man[a]cles on his right [h]and’ (p. 522). The latter annotation refers to the broad topic of learning and erudition; this anonymous reader often alludes to Siracides, i.e., Jesus ben Sirach, author of Ecclesiasticus. Still another early reader inscribes the following couplet within a copy of 1603: ‘Let noe man his case bemoan [|] Either there's he[aven] or there's non[e]’ (1603, Yale (1978 + 14), p. 21).