Standing Won’t Do

In response to:

The Hidden Lesson of Montaigne from the March 24, 2011 issue

To the Editors:

I enjoyed very much Mark Lilla’s review of Sarah Bakewell’s book on Montaigne [NYR, March 24]. It gave me a whole new perspective on his work and purposes. However, when I read Bakewell I was jarred (slightly) by her claim that Montaigne preferred to make love standing up, and surprised to find that claim repeated by Lilla. Montaigne includes his preference in the essay “On Experience” in a long list of such preferences (such as not having a haircut after dinner), each item introduced by “ni.” The abridged sentence (with old spelling) is: “Et sans m’essayer, ne puis, ny dormir sur jour,…ny faire des enfans, qu’avant le sommeil: ny les faire debout…,” which in Florio’s translation is: “And without long practise I can neither sleepe by day,…nor get children but before I fall asleepe, and that never standing…” [emphasis added].

Jay Dowling
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
University of Texas at Dallas
Richardson, Texas