‘Entangled in some notable passage of Lucretius’

Did you thinke you should never come to the place, where you were still going? There is no way but hath an end. And if company may solace you, doth not the whole world walke the same path? (Essais I.20, ‘To philosophise is to learn how to die’, trans. Florio)

The influence on Montaigne of the Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus had long been recognised. Montaigne quotes him extensively in the Essais, particularly in the chapters ‘To philosophise is to learn how to die’ and ‘An apology for Raymond Sebond’. It had even been possible to trace the exact edition of Lucretius’ De rerum natura that Montaigne must have read—that of Denis Lambin, printed in Paris in 1563 or 1564. But, like so many of the thousand volumes that Montaigne tells us were in his library, his copy was not known to survive.

It was only in December 1989 that it finally came to light—an important discovery, revealing a text heavy with Montaigne’s annotations and the date when he finished reading it, 16 October 1564, at the age of thirty-one. It allows us a remarkable insight into the way that Montaigne read and understood Lucretius.

(Click to enlarge the images)

montaigne    montaigne    montaigne