(1533—1592) French essayist
French moralist and essayist. He is generally regarded as the inventor of the modern ‘essay’, a genre which he fashioned out of the late medieval ‘compilation’, transforming it into a personal test of ideas and experience. The first two books of his Essais appeared in 1580, the fifth edition, containing the third book, in 1588, and a posthumous edition in 1595. The first English translator was Florio (1603). His influence on European thought and literature was considerable (on writers such as Descartes, F. Bacon, T. Browne, Swift, and Peacock): his essay ‘Des Cannibales’ (i. 31) was a source, via Florio, of Shakespeare's The Tempest.