In 1572, Montaigne - nobleman, humanist, and thoroughly Renaissance man - retired to the seclusion of his estate in the Dordogne and started to write. From his pen poured a stream of 'essays' - attempts to capture the observations that came to him on an idiosyncratic range of subjects, from ancient customs, cannibals and books to thumbs, war-horses and the wearing of clothes. He made the study of himself the starting point for investigations into how to live, and wrote with a startlingly modern candour about love, grief, friendship, sex and death. His voice, by turns lively, curious, digressive, ironic and moving, is utterly captivating. The Essays feel less like a work of literature and more like an ongoing conversation with a very well-informed friend.