About the Essays (from Wikipedia):
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts”) contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a direct influence on writers the world over, including René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, Isaac Asimov, and perhaps William Shakespeare (see “Influences” section below).
In his own time, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author. The tendency in his essays to digress into anecdotes and personal ruminations was seen as detrimental to proper style rather than as an innovation, and his declaration that, ‘I am myself the matter of my book’, was viewed by his contemporaries as self-indulgent. In time, however, Montaigne would be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time, the spirit of freely entertaining doubt which began to emerge at that time. He is most famously known for his skeptical remark, ‘Que sais-je?’ (‘What do I know?’). Remarkably modern even to readers today, Montaigne’s attempt to examine the world through the lens of the only thing he can depend on implicitly—his own judgment—makes him more accessible to modern readers than any other author of the Renaissance. Much of modern literary non-fiction has found inspiration in Montaigne and writers of all kinds continue to read him for his masterful balance of intellectual knowledge and personal story-telling.
* Wherever your life ends, it is all there. The advantage of living is not measured by length, but by use; some men have lived long, and lived little; attend to it while you are in it. It lies in your will, not in the number of years, for you to have lived enough.
* Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness.
* Everyone calls barbarity what he is not accustomed to.
* If you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved
* When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?
* Life in itself is neither good nor evil, it is the place of good and evil, according to what you make it.
* The continuous work of our life is to build death.
* If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because it was he, because it was I.
* Kings and philosophers defecate, and so do ladies.
* I enter into discussion and argument with great freedom and ease, inasmuch as opinion finds me in a bad soil to penetrate and take deep root in. No propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, whatever contrast it offers to my own. There is no fancy so frivolous and so extravagant that it does not seem to me quite suitable to the production of the human mind.
* Our religion is made to eradicate vices, instead it encourages them, covers them, and nurtures them.
* Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses.
* Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.
* The clatter of arms drowns the voice of law.
* No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.
* Montaigne’s axiom: “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known.”
* Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.
* I have gathered a garland of other men’s flowers, and nothing is mine but the cord that binds them.
* No man is a hero to his own valet.
* The only thing certain is nothing is certain.
* The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.
* Whether the events in our life are good or bad greatly depends on the way we perceive them.
* I believe it to be true that dreams are the true interpreters of our inclinations; but there is art required to sort and understand them.