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Durham University

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Publication details for Prof John O'Brien

O'Brien, John (2014). Montaigne, Sir Ralph Bankes and other English readers of the Essais. Journal of the Society for Renaissance Studies 28(3): 377-391.

Author(s) from Durham


This article deals with a hitherto unknown and unpublished early modern English manuscript account of Montaigne's Essais by Sir Ralph Bankes (1631?–77) of Kingston Lacy in Dorset. Bankes's account covers a range of features in Montaigne's work: crucial elements of self-portraiture such as judgement, but also his attitude to women and doctors. These characteristics are analysed and compared first with Montaigne's own pronouncements about the aspects Bankes selects and secondly with two other short accounts from the seventeenth century: by Sir William Cornwallis and John Locke. The similarities and differences between the accounts provide evidence of the intellectual networks to which they belonged, only parts of which have so far received investigation. It is argued that the interest of Bankes's account lies in its independence from the tradition of Florio's Montaigne. This article thus contributes to our understanding of the early modern English reception of the French text of the Essais.