Books: The Self-Assured Man

MONTAIGNE: A BIOGRAPHY by Donald M. Frame. 408 pages. Harcourt, Brace & World. $10.

No author perhaps more richly deserves a new appraisal than Michel de Montaigne. Four centuries have passed since, pent in his tower study outside Bordeaux, he set down the Essays that were to transport his name to literature's firmament. Immured in an age that was largely brutal, incurious and ignorant, he managed to convey a message and a spirit so lively and civilized that they have come down through the centuries virtually unscathed.

Montaigne's very motto—"What Do I Know?"—appeals to these inquiring times. His convictions have a contemporary ring....

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