Periodical Essay Notes

A "periodical" is any publication that comes out regularly or occasionally (i.e. The are also know as "serials." A "magazine" is a periodical with a popular focus, i.e. TV Guide, Sports Illustrated, The Journal of Anthropological Research, The World Almanac, and the phone book are all periodicals.There is an inexpressible frankness and sincerity, as well as power, in what he writes.

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It follows it into courts and camps, into town and country, into rustic sports or learned disputations, into the various shades of prejudice or ignorance, of refinement or barbarism, into its private haunts or public pageants, into its weaknesses and littlenesses, its professions and its practices—before it pretends to distinguish right from wrong, or one thing from another. The writers I speak of are, if not moral philosophers, moral historians, and that’s better: or if they are both, they found the one character upon the other; their premises precede their conclusions; and we put faith in their testimony, for we know that it is true.

Montaigne was the first person who in his Essays led the way to this kind of writing among the moderns.

In treating of men and manners, he spoke of them as he found them, not according to preconceived notions and abstract dogmas; and he began by teaching us what he himself was.

In criticizing books he did not compare them with ‘rules and systems, but told us what he saw to like or dislike in them.

There is no one to whom the old Latin adage is more applicable than to Montaigne, There has been no new impulse given to thought since his time.

Among the specimens of criticisms on authors which he has left us, are those on Virgil, Ovid, and Boccaccio, in the account of books which he thinks worth reading, or (which is the same thing) which he finds he can read in his old age, and which may be reckoned among the few criticisms which are worth reading at any age.* *Note: As an instance of his general power of reasoning, I shall give his chapter entitled “One Man’s Profit is another’s Loss,” in which he has nearly anticipated Mandeville’s celebrated paradox of private vices being public benefits: [From: One Man’s Profit is another’s Loss]: Demades, the Athenian, condemned a fellow-citizen, who furnished out funerals, for demanding too great a price for his goods: and if he got an estate, it must be by the death of a great many people: but I think it a sentence ill grounded, forasmuch as no profit can be made, but at the expense of some other person, and that every kind of gain is by that rule liable to be condemned.They contain original research, conclusions based on data, footnotes or endnotes, and often an abstract or bibliography.The Journal of Physical Chemistry, The Chaucer Review, The Milbank Quarterly, and Labor History are examples of journals.It makes up its general accounts from details, its few theories from many facts.It does not try to prove all black or all white as it wishes, but lays on the intermediate colors, (and most of them not unpleasing ones,) as it finds them blended with ‘the web of our life, which is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.’ It inquires what human life is and has been, to shew what it ought to be.Nearly all the thinking of the two last centuries of that kind which the French denominate , is to be found in Montaigne’s Essays: there is the germ, at least, and generally much more.He sowed the seed and cleared away the rubbish, even where others have reaped the fruit, or cultivated and decorated the soil to a greater degree of nicety and perfection.It is in morals and manners what the experimental is in natural philosophy, as opposed to the dogmatical method.It does not deal in sweeping clauses of proscription and anathema, but in nice distinctions and liberal constructions.THE PROPER STUDY OF MANKIND IS MAN I now come to speak of that sort of writing which has been so successfully cultivated in this country by our periodical Essayists, and which consists in applying the talents and resources of the mind to all that mixed mass of human affairs, which, though not included under the head of any regular art, science, or profession, falls under the cognizance of the writer, and comes home to the business and bosoms of the general motto of this department of literature.


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