A good epigraph is an excess, something that sloshed over the rim of the essay.
An essay, like an organism, is a provisional order, defined by its eccentricities and accidents—a node through which matter and energy pass.
“Essay” has a history, and is diverse and adaptable, like any vital genre.
The essay is the only literary form which confesses, in its very name, that the rash act known as writing is really a leap in the dark. —GK Chesterton
Patricia Hampl on Montaigne’s near-fatal fall from his horse: “The personal essay was born from that smack upside the head.”
A lesson?— —I just read a mess of an essay comparing two poems—not one compelling or persuasive point. Was nevertheless enlightened thereby.
Borges revolutionized our conception of both the story and the essay by blending and bewildering them. —William Gass
Whatever passes through [the essay], it is never that. It remains itself and continues so, pure motion. —William Carlos Williams
Fallibility is the essence of the essay: fallibility fuels the effort and shapes the form.
There’s no such thing as “the” essay. There are only essays. The essay’s essence is its lack of one—its rejection of the definite article.