During the Memory episode of the BBC Radio 3 program Words and Music, the Olivier Award-winning stage actor Tom Hiddleston read an excerpt from Chapter XVII, Of Presumption, of John Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essays (1603).

You can listen to the monologue Tom Hiddleston read here:

“Memory is an instrument of great service, and without which, judgement wil hardly discharge his duty, wherof I have great want… if I must remember a discourse of any consequence, be it of any length, I am driven to this vile and miserable necessitie, to learne every word I must speake by rote; otherwise I should never do it wel or assuredly, for feare my memory should in my greatest need faile me… And the more I distrust it, the more it troubleth me. It serveth me better by chance, and I must carelesly sollicite her, for if I urge her, she is astonished; and if it once beginne to waver, the more I sound her, the more entangled and intricate she proveth. She wil wait upon me when she list, not when I please.”

You can read the whole chapter here.

John Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essays has been considered a work of art. Published in folio in 1603 in three books, each dedicated to two noble ladies., he wrote a second edition in 1613 and dedicated it to the Queen Anne of Denmark. John Florio translated the Essais into poetic, wildly inventive, but nonetheless idiomatic Elizabethan prose. Now “done into English” the Essayes made a real splash in the minds of the reading public.


Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

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