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Montaigne on the World of Books

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montaigne-dumonstier

Ces deux commerces sont fortuites et despendans d’autruy. L’un est ennuyeux par sa rareté; l’autre se flestrit avec l’aage; ainsin ils n’eussent pas assez prouveu au besoing de ma vie. Celuy deslivres, qui est le troisiesme, est bien plus seuret plus à nous. Il cede aux premiers les autres avantages, mais il a pour sa part la constance et facilité de son service. Cettuy-cy costoie tout mon cours et m’assiste par tout. Il me console en la vieillesse et en la solitude. Il me discharge du pois d’une oisiveté ennuyeuse; et me deffaict à toute heure des compaignies qui me faschent. Il emousse les pointures de la douleur, si elle n’est dutout extreme et maistresse. Pour me distraire d’une imagination importune, il n’est que de recourir aux livres; ils me destournent facilement à eux et me la desrobent.

These two engagements are fortuitous, and depending upon others; the one is troublesome by its rarity, the other withers with age, so that they could never have been sufficient for the business of my life. That of books, which is the third, is much more certain, and much more our own. It yields all other advantages to the two first, but has the constancy and facility of its service for its own share. It goes side by side with me in my whole course, and everywhere is assisting me: it comforts me in old age and solitude; it eases me of a troublesome weight of idleness, and delivers me at all hours from company that I dislike: it blunts the point of griefs, if they are not extreme, and have not got an entire possession of my soul.

Michel de Montaigne, De trois commerces, Essais, livre iii, ch iii (1588) in: Œuvres complètes p. 805 (Pléiade ed. 1962)(C. Cotton transl.)

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