In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano.In the 17th century, the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom.During the Age of Enlightenment, essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise of periodical literature, as seen in the works of Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson.
Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education.
Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.
Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch, a translation of whose Œuvres Morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot, Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580.
For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones.