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Montaigne's English Journey examines the genesis, early readership, and multifaceted impact of John Florio's exuberant translation of Michel de Montaigne's Essays. Published in London in 1603, this book was widely read in seventeenth-century England: Shakespeare borrowed from it as he drafted King Lear and The Tempest, and many hundreds of English men and women first encountered Montaigne's tolerant outlook and disarming candour in its densely-printed pages. Literary historians have long been fascinated by the influence of Florio's translation, analysing its contributions to the development of the English essay and tracing its appropriation in the work of Webster, Dryden, and other major writers. William M. Hamlin, by contrast, undertakes an exploration of Florio's Montaigne within the overlapping realms of print and manuscript culture, assessing its importance from the varied perspectives of its earliest English readers. Drawing on letters, diaries, commonplace books, and thousands of marginal annotations inscribed in surviving copies of Florio's volume, Hamlin offers a comprehensive account of the transmission and reception of Montaigne in seventeenth-century England. In particular he focuses on topics that consistently intrigued Montaigne's English readers: sexuality, marriage, conscience, theatricality, scepticism, self-presentation, the nature of wisdom, and the power of custom. All in all, Hamlin's study constitutes a major contribution to investigations of literary readership in pre-Enlightenment Europe.
William M. Hamlin, Professor of English, Washington State University
William M. Hamlin teaches English at Washington State University. Specialising in early modern literature, he has published widely on Shakespeare, Montaigne, Renaissance drama, and philosophical scepticism. His books include Tragedy and Scepticism in Shakespeare's England and The Image of America in Montaigne, Spenser, and Shakespeare, and he has been the recipient of research fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Huntington Library, and the British Academy.