February 28

On the day of his 38th birthday, Michel de Montaigne had the following inscription placed on the crown of the bookshelves of his working chamber:

In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, his birthday, Michael de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life, now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.

In 1580 Montaigne published the fruit of that seclusion in the first edition of his Essais. Here are some of his observations:

“No wind favors him who has no destined port.”

“He who lives not to others, lives little to himself.”

“Philosophy is doubt.”

“Ambition is not a vice of little people.”

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness. ” 

“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” 

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