On Essays and Essaying

In his essay, “On Books,” Michel de Montaigne opens with a precise concision of the essay form, whereby he writes that he has “no doubt that . . .[he] often speaks of things which are better treated by masters of the craft, and with more truth,” whereby he end-stops the line with a period, only to begin the next with the following revelation of form by stating that what he is writing is “simply a trial of my natural faculties . . . [,]” which by way of continuing, we understand he means “his reasonings, ” or his rational faculties. Humans are the reasoning animal. We must return to the point made elsewhere in this Review that all essays are trials of ideas. And any idea not put on trial in this way becomes more like a rock thrown in a riot, than words considered and filtered through Reason. We do remember that the word ‘essay’ comes from the French essayer, which means, to test or to try, what you do with a pair of shoes or a car from the showroom?


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