Montaigne’s rule for reading: pursue pleasure

Effort was just what he himself claimed never to make, either in reading or writing. “I leaf through now one book, now another,” he wrote, “without order and without plan, by disconnected fragments.” He could sound positively cross if he thought anyone might suspect him of careful scholarship. Once, catching himself having said that books offer consolation he hastily added, “Actually I use them scarcely any more than those who do not know them at all.” And one of his sentences starts, “We who have little contact with books …” His rule in reading remained the one he had learned from Ovid: pursue pleasure. “If I encounter difficulties in reading,” he wrote, “I do not gnaw my nails over them; I leave them there. I do nothing without gaiety.”

Sarah Bakewell, How to Live, p. 68

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One thought on “Montaigne’s rule for reading: pursue pleasure

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