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Dictionary of World Biography
with the publication of his Letters persanes (1721), he
became famous. The book purports to contain the
letters of two Persians visiting Paris, to each other
and to their friends at home. Witty and frivolous
comment is mingled with serious observations on
the social and political institutions and the various
influences (climate, religion etc.) on the people. In
1726 he gave up his official position at Bordeaux and
settled in Paris with interludes of travel. He visited
England (1729–31) and studied its constitutional
procedures. In his next major work, Considérations
sur les causes de la Grandeur des Romains et de leur
décadence (1734) he tried to explain the greatness and
the decline of the Roman Empire by giving full weight
to economic, cultural, climatic and racial factors the
first time that historic processes had been submitted
to such a scientific examination. The monumental
De l’Esprit des lois (2 volumes, 1748) occupied him
for 20 years and summarised his life’s work. By the
‘spirit’ of the laws he meant the social and natural
(e.g. climatic) conditions which have brought laws
and constitutions into being. The English system of
constitutional government is analysed in detail and
the functions of legislature and executive assessed and
presented for admiration and imitation (although he
exaggerated the separation of powers). France’s rulers
failed to heed the book’s message in time to avert
revolution but its influence was profound in shaping
the intellectual background to political life there and
elsewhere. He coined the terms ‘separation of powers’,
‘checks and balances’ and ‘Byzantine Empire’.
Shackleton, R., Montesquieu: A Critical Biography.
1961.
Montessori,
Maria
(1870–1952).
Italian
educationist. She worked as a doctor in a Rome
asylum teaching mentally handicapped children and
applied this experience to the education of normal
pupils. From 1911 she lectured throughout the world
on the ‘Montessori method’, which emphasised
that young children learn best through spontaneous
activity and under minimal constraint.
Standing, E. M., Maria Montessori, her Life and Work.
1957.
Monteux, Pierre (1875–1964). French conductor.
He conducted *Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris
(1911–14), directing the first performances of
*Stravinsky’s Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring
and *Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe. He was conductor of
the Boston Symphony Orchestra 1919–24, founder
of the Orchestre de Paris 1929–38, and directed the
London Symphony Orchestra 1961–64.
Monteverdi, Claudio (1567–1643). Italian
composer, born at Cremona. Little is known of his
early years but he won fame by his nine books of
madrigals, the first of which appeared in 1587 and
the second in 1590, the year he joined as a player of
the viol the service of Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua,
with whom he stayed until the duke’s death (1612).
In 1613 he became choirmaster of St Mark’s, Venice,
then the most important musical post in Italy.
In 1632 he was ordained. His first opera, La Favola
d’Orfeo (The Legend of Orpheus), was produced at
Mantua for the carnival of 1607. In this work, the
first opera of importance, Monteverdi consolidated
the experiments of the earliest opera composers, the
far less accomplished Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini.
He was the first composer to employ an orchestra and
in his moving vocal music revealed the psychological
possibilities of the operatic medium. Of the many
other operas and ballets of this period the best is
Arianna (1608). The operas of his Venetian period
were destroyed during the sack of Mantua (1630),
but two later works, The Return of Ulysses (1640) and
The Coronation of Poppaea (1642) remain. As the
pioneer of opera (he also introduced opera techniques
into Church music) and composer alike, he is among
the greatest figures in musical history, not only of the
Baroque.
Arnold, D., Monteverdi. 1975.
Montez, Lola (Eliza James, née Gilbert) (1818–
1861). Irish-American dancer and adventuress,
born in Limerick. Claiming Spanish ancestry on
her mother’s side, after a disastrous early marriage
she became a dancer, making her London debut in
1843. She toured Europe and her lovers included
*Dumas père and *Liszt. In 1846 she reached Munich
where the eccentric Bavarian king *Ludwig I became
enthralled and created her Countess of Lansfeld. His
obsession and her role in government contributed to
his forced abdication in the revolution of 1848. She
moved to New York in 1851 and toured Australia
1855–56.
Montezuma II see Moctezuma II
Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester (c.1160–
1218). French nobleman and soldier. He fought in
the Fourth Crusade, led the campaign to exterminate
the Albigensians (Cathars) (1209–15), captured
Carcassone and became ruler of Toulouse. He
claimed the Earldom of Leicester through his mother.
His son, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester
(c.1208–1265), born in Montfort, married (1238) a
sister of the English king *Henry III against whom,
ironically, he was to lead the baronial revolt. He was
Henry’s capable deputy in Gascony (1248–63), but
a grievance that he had not been given royal support
when his actions had been called in question made
him readier to side with his fellow nobles in their
efforts for government reform. By the Provisions of
Oxford (1258) and of Westminster (1259) it was
held that the king should govern through a council of
15 magnates, but de Montfort’s contention that the
barons themselves should be subject to the council
caused a split in their ranks which enabled the king
and his son *Edward to repudiate the Provisions.
Civil war followed, decided by de Montfort’s victory
at Lewes (1264) which left him in command of
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