Michel de Montaigne is best imagined on horseback; firstly, because that was how he traveled around his own lands and between his estate and Bordeaux, as well as elsewhere in France—to Paris, Rouen, or Blois, and even farther afield (during his great journey in 1580 he traveled through Switzerland and Germany all the way to Rome). But he should also be pictured this way because he never felt more comfortable anywhere than in the saddle; it was here that he found his equilibrium, his seat:
Travel is in my opinion a very profitable exercise; the soul is there continually employed in observing new and unknown things, and I do not know, as I have often said a better school wherein to model life than by incessantly exposing to it the diversity of so many other lives, fancies, and usances, and by making it relish a perpetual variety of forms of human nature. The body is, therein, neither idle nor overwrought; and that moderate agitation puts it in breath. I can keep on horseback, tormented with the stone as I am, without alighting or being weary, eight or ten hours together.
First of all, traveling enables us to experience the world’s diversity, and Montaigne insists that there is no better education. Traveling shows us the richness of nature, proves the relativity of customs and beliefs, and shakes up our certainties; in short, it teaches us skepticism, which was Montaigne’s fundamental doctrine. Read More