Dingo the Dissident

THE BLOG OF DISQUIET : Qweir Notions in the Armpit of Diogenes by DINGO the DISSIDENT binge-thinker since February 2008.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Those of us who ever considered the question

of how best to live,
have nearly all come across the Essays
of Michel de Montaigne, and admired
his judicious and rational integrity
both in what he wrote and in how he acted
in different official and clandestine capacities
in a time of plagues and civil war.

But his travel diary is less well-known
and equally delightful.  In his year-long journey
(mostly on horseback) through Eastern France,
Southern Germany and Switzerland
to Rome, and via Lucca up through Southern France
back home (near Bergerac), he eagerly noted
local customs, local food (regretting that he hadn't
brought his cook with him) and the peaceful
variations of religion in the places that he passed.
Towns that were part of the Holy Roman Empire
allowed freedom of faith, whereas those ruled
by the Austrian Habsburgs were Catholic.
Some towns in Switzerland were Lutheran,
others followed Zwingli and were more puritan,
but almost nowhere were statues decapitated
or removed, nor organs smashed,
unlike Atlantic Europe north of the Pyrenees.
Some towns could not be entered, due to fear of plague.

And all the time M. de Montaigne, never writing
in the first person, commented on architecture,
vineyards, dress, behaviour, wildlife, beds and linen,
cutlery and comfort, and especially on all the spas
he visited to ease the bladder- and urethral pain
caused by the chronic kidney-stones which killed him 
(like his father) but never complaining.
He was a one-man 16th century TripAdvisor,
but very much more entertaining.

see Fausta Garavina (Paris 1983): Montaigne, Journal de Voyage (with notes and translation into Italian)

and Waters, W.G. (William George): The journal of Montaigne's travels in Italy by way of Switzerland and Germany in 1580 and 1581 [Reprint 2020] Volume: 1 (1903)

and Marvin Lowenthal (New York 1935). The Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne: Comprising the Life of the Wisest Man of his Times: his Childhood, Youth, and Prime; his Adventures in Love and Marriage, at Court, and in Office, War, Revolution, and Plague; his Travels at Home and Abroad; his Habits, Tastes, Whims, and Opinions. Composed, Prefaced, and Translated from the Essays, Letters, Travel Diary, Family Journal, etc., withholding no signal or curious detail. 

Montaigne's own vineyards (which are still producing wine) yielded up to ten thousand bottles a year.

Outrageously, there is no other English translation of his travel-diary.

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