Montaigne was the first to apply the word "grotesque" with reference to literature  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The word grotesque first appears in English as grotesco in John Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays (1632) in the chapter "Of Friendship":

CONSIDERING the proceeding of a Painters worke I have, a desire hath possessed mee to imitate him: He maketh choice of the most convenient place and middle of everie wall, there to place a picture, laboured with all his skill and sufficiencie; and all void places about it he filleth up with antike Boscage [foliated ornament] or Crotesko [grotesque] works; which are fantasticall pictures, having no grace, but in the variety and strangenesse of them. And what are these my compositions in truth, other than antike works and monstrous bodies, patched and hudled up together of divers members without any certaine or well ordered figure, having neither order, dependencie, or proportion, but casual and framed by chance?--(John Florio's translation of Montaigne's essays[1])

After which he cites Horace's famous dictum:

"Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne."

Original French:

CONSIDERANT la conduite de la besongne d'un peintre que j'ay, il m'a pris envie de l'ensuivre. Il choisit le plus bel endroit et milieu de chaque paroy, pour y loger un tableau élabouré de toute sa suffisance ; et le vuide tout au tour, il le remplit de crotesques : qui sont peintures fantasques, n'ayans grace qu'en la varieté et estrangeté. Que sont-ce icy aussi à la verité que crotesques et corps monstrueux, rappiecez de divers membres, sans certaine figure, n'ayants ordre, suite, ny proportion que fortuite ?




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