In 1580, two great writers met in Ferrara, in Italy. It should have been a wonderful moment: Italy’s greatest contemporary poet, Torquato Tasso, author of the epic La Gerusalemma liberata, or Jerusalem Delivered, came face to face with France’s first and greatest literary essayist, Michel de Montaigne. What a conversation they could have had! But the meeting left Montaigne, at least, filled with sorrow for the waste of an opportunity – and of a life. For Tasso, barely recognizable as the great man he had been, was confined in a lunatic asylum. He seems to have been in a semi-catatonic state, and showed no understanding of who his visitor was, or why Montaigne peered at him with so grave a frown.