In late 1569, a French nobleman named Michel de Montaigne was given up as dead after being flung from a galloping horse. As his friends carried his limp and bloodied body home, Montaigne watched his own life slip away, like some dancing spirit on the “tip of his lips,” only to have it return at the last possible second. This sublime and unusual experience marked the moment Montaigne changed his life. Within a few years, he would be one of the most famous writers in Europe. After his accident, Montaigne went on to write volumes of popular essays, serve two terms as mayor, travel internationally as a dignitary, and serve as a confidante of the king.