In 1572 Montaigne retired from public life and began the reading and writing which were to develop into "assays" of his thoughts and opinions. Nobody in Western civilization had ever tried to do what Montaigne set out to do. In a vivid, contemporary style he surprises us with entertaining quotations; he moves swiftly from thought to thought, often digressing from an idea only to return to it triumphantly, having caught up with it elsewhere, and in so doing leads the reader along the criss-cross paths of a journey of discovery. Montaigne set out to discover himself. What he discovered instead was the human race.