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However, to consider Montaigne as a writer rather than as a philosopher can be a way of ignoring a disturbing thinker.
He received the decoration of the Order of Saint-Michel, a distinction all the more exceptional as Montaigne's lineage was from recent nobility.
On the title page of the first edition (1580) of the , we read: “Essais de Messire Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l'ordre du Roy, & Gentilhomme ordinaire de sa chambre.” Initially keen to show off his titles and, thus, his social standing, Montaigne had the honorifics removed in the second edition (1582).
Yet, it is also so resistant to interpretation that it reveals the limits of each interpretation.
Critical studies of the have, until recently, been mainly of a literary nature.
In 1580, he undertook a journey to Italy, whose main goal was to cure the pain of his kidney stones at thermal resorts.
The journey is related in part by a secretary, in part by Montaigne himself, in a manuscript that was only discovered during the XVIII, and forgotten soon after.
Till the end of the XIX century, the copy text for all new editions was that of 1595; Fortunat Strowski and shortly after him Pierre Villey dismissed it in favor of the “Bordeaux copy”, a text of the 1588 edition supplemented by manuscript additions.
The unity of the work and the order of every single chapter remain problematic.
While Montaigne was taking the baths near Pisa, he learnt of his election as Mayor of Bordeaux.
He was first tempted to refuse out of modesty, but eventually accepted (he even received a letter from the King urging him to take the post) and was later re-elected.