The essay in Greek literature
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That the essay is a form of literature created by Montaigne, that it was unknown before him, and is distinctively modern, is a theory generally prevalent among the literary public of our time. But it is altogether contrary to the usual order of things in literature that any of its species should be suddenly created; evolution is a law which applies to other fields of knowledge as well as to science. The drama was a long while in the making, likewise the prose novel, the epic, the critical history. So too it must have been with the essay; it was developed or improved by Montaigne, it could not have been created by him; to assert this is to ascribe a genius to him which he never possessed. Montaigne might however have revived or developed a literary form existing before his time, which then appears in the essay form, and is given the name "essay".
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