that can be traced in Prior's late works attests to his philosophical inclinations, and the study of it enlightens a crucial aspect of the reception of the Essais across the Channel after Charles Cottons English translation (1685-86).
His life's work, the Essays (begun in 1571), established the essay as a literary genre and record the evolution of his moral ideas, that I thought I should not need any other book; before that, in Shakspeare; then in Plutarch; then in Plotinus; at one time in Bacon; afterwards in Goethe; even in Bettine; but now I turn the pages of either of them languidly, whilst I still cherish their genius.
His ideas in this essay form the genesis of the European concept of the "noble savage."Montaigne describes a situation in which he was able to meet a few people of this unnamed tribe when they came to France, and tells us that they found it strange that so many people were living in poverty while their king had so much.
He compares the Brazilian tribespeople favorably to Europeans and ends the essay by saying these natives will find that their interactions with the Europeans "will one day cost their happiness and repose." Montaigne’s age was one of adventure and exploration, and many travelers returned to Europe with tales of strange and fascinating people elsewhere.
The core of "Of Cannibals" is Montaigne relaying what he has learned about a tribe of people living in Brazil from a man who lived among them for "ten or twelve years." This includes that they have a well-working system of government, share everything they have with one another, live in nature, fight valiantly in war, enjoy good health, practice a religion free from corruption, and have no words for lying, malice, or greed.
The more Montaigne describes these people, their beliefs, and their everyday lives, the more we find a partial reversal of a common stereotype: while many Europeans would consider them uncivilized, Montaigne finds these people and their way of life to be reasonable and even virtuous, while the Europeans he lives among are much more callous and barbaric.
Not simple, ignorant, and barbarous as some would insist, cannibals live in harmony with nature, employ useful and virtuous skills, and enjoy a perfect religious life and governmental system.
Instead, it is the European who has bastardized nature and her works, while the so-called savage lives in a state of purity.
On the resemblance of children to their fathers Book III1.
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