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Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld

Francois, the second duc de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marsillac (1613-1680) belonged to one of the most illustrious families of the French noblesse. He spent much of his life in the military. After retiring, he recovered from his various wounds suffered during battle, and later wrote Maxims, as well as his Memoirs.

La Rochefoucauld is also noted for his romances. His life is marked by four various periods, each of which was occupied with an association and obsession with a different woman.

Maxims was first released in 1665 in its first edition, but La Rochefoucauld made various revisions, additions, and subtractions over time and consequently released five revised editions, the last of which came out in 1678. A sixth edition was released thirteen years after his death, in 1693, and included fifty new maxims the editor attributed to Rochefoucauld.

Maxims is considered one of the most notable and widely read works of literature in history. It also has a somewhat notorious reputation, due to its various not-so-flattering portrayals of human nature.

Rousseau spoke of it as, “a sad and melancholy book,” but also remarked, “it is usually so in youth when we do not like seeing man as he is.”

In one of his letters, Lord Chesterfield said, “Till you come to know mankind by your experience, I know no thing nor no man that can in the meantime bring you so well acquainted with them as Le Duc de la Rochefoucauld. His little book of maxims, which I would advise you to look into for some moments at least every day of your life, is, I fear, too like and too exact a picture of human nature. I own it seems to degrade it, but yet my experience does not convince me that it degrades it unjustly.”

Addison spoke of Rochefoucauld “as the great philosopher for administering consolation to the idle, the curious, and the worthless part of mankind.”

Swift said, “As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew From Nature—I believe them true. They argue no corrupted mind in him; the fault is in mankind.”

The Maxims are independent judgments on different relations of life, different affections of the human mind, and so forth, from which, taken together, the general view may be deduced or rather composed. With a few exceptions they represent the matured result of the reflection of a man deeply versed in the business and pleasures of the world, and possessed of an extraordinarily fine and acute intellect, on the conduct and motives which have guided himself and his fellows. In uniting the four qualities of brevity, clearness, fulness of meaning and point, La Rochefoucauld has no rival.

La Rochefoucauld describes himself as active, melancholy, reserved, skilled, fond of conversation, fond of reading, excessively critical, fond of argument, fond of self-improvement and hearing his friends candidly tell him of his faults, emotionally controlled, and very respectful and chivalrous to women.

Of women he also says, “when their intellect is cultivated, I prefer their society to that of men: one there finds a mildness one does not meet with among ourselves, and it seems to me beyond this that they express themselves with more neatness, and give a more agreeable turn to the things they talk about.”

Although in his Maxims he portrays people as motivated by self-love, Rochefoucauld, says of himself, “I love my friends; and I love them to such an extent that I would not for a moment weigh my interest against theirs. I condescend to them, I patiently endure their bad temper.”

However, he also adds, “But, also, I do not make much of their caresses, and I do not feel great uneasiness in their absence.”

Quotes

Our virtues are usually just disguised vices.

What we call virtues are often just a collection of casual actions and selfish interests that chance or our own industry manages to arrange. It is not always from valor that men are valiant, or from chastity that women are chaste.

Self-love is the greatest of flatterers.

Self love is more cunning than the most cunning man in the world.

The passions possess a certain injustice and self interest which makes it dangerous to follow them, and in reality we should distrust them even when they appear most trustworthy.

In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions; so that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.

Philosophy easily triumphs over past evils and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.

Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.

We often boast of our passions, even the most criminal ones; but envy is such a timid and shameful passion that we never dare to admit it.

Jealousy is in some measure just and reasonable, since it wants to keep possession of a good that we own, or that we believe we own; as opposed to envy, which is a fury that cannot stand the good fortune of others.

Our evil actions do not attract as much persecution and hatred as our good qualities.

Pride is for the most part the same in everybody—the only difference is in the method and manner of showing it.

We promise according to our hopes; we perform according to our fears.

Interest speaks all sorts of tongues and plays all sorts of characters; even that of disinterestedness.

Interest blinds some and makes some see.

Those who apply themselves too closely to trifling things often become incapable of great things.

A man often believes he is leading when he is [actually being] led; while his mind seeks one goal, his heart unknowingly drags him towards another.

We are never as happy or as unhappy as we suppose.

To establish ourselves in the world we do everything to appear as if we were established.

Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, these are more often a result of chance than of great design.

It would seem that our actions have lucky or unlucky stars to which they owe a great part of the blame or praise that is given them.

There are no accidents so unfortunate from which skilful men will not draw some advantage, nor so fortunate that foolish men will not turn them to their hurt.

Fortune turns all things to the advantage of those on whom she smiles.

The happiness or unhappiness of men depends at least as much on their dispositions as it does on their fortunes.

Sincerity is an openness of heart that is found in very few people. What we usually see is only an artful disguise [people put on] to win the confidence of others.

The aversion to lying is often a hidden ambition to render our words credible and weighty, and to attach a religious aspect to our conversation.

Truth does not do as much good in the world, as its counterfeits do evil.

There is no praise we have not lavished upon Prudence; and yet she cannot assure to us the most trifling event.

A clever man ought to so regulate his interests that each will fall in due order. Our greediness so often troubles us, making us run after so many things at the same time, that while we too eagerly look after the least we miss the greatest.

What grace is to the body, good sense is to the mind.

If there is a pure love, exempt from the mixture of our other passions, it is that which is concealed at the bottom of the heart and of which even ourselves are ignorant.

There is no disguise that can long hide love where it exists, nor feign it where it does not.

There are few people who would not be ashamed of being beloved when they love no longer.

If we judge of love by the majority of its results, it rather resembles hatred than friendship.

We may find women who have never indulged in an intrigue, but it is rare to find those who have intrigued but once.

Neither love nor fire can subsist without perpetual motion; both cease to live so soon as they cease to hope, or to fear.

True love is like a ghost: everyone speaks of it, but few have seen it.

In the majority of men, the love of justice is simply the fear of suffering injustice.

Silence is the safest policy/resolve for he who distrusts himself.

81

We can love nothing but what agrees with us, and we can only follow our taste or our pleasure when we prefer our friends to ourselves; nevertheless it is only by that preference that friendship can be true and perfect.

We can love nothing except what we base on our own selves, and when we prefer our friends to ourselves, we are just following our own taste or pleasure. Nevertheless, it is only by that preference that friendship can be true and perfect.

82

Reconciliation with our enemies is simply/but a desire to better our condition, a weariness of war, or the fear of some unlucky accident/thing-from-occurring.

83

What men term “friendship” is merely a partnership with a collection of reciprocal interests, and an exchange of favors—in fact, it is but a trade in which self-love always expects to gain something.

85

We often persuade ourselves to love people who are more powerful than we are; yet self-interest alone produces the friendship. We do not give our hearts away for the good we wish to do, but for that we expect to receive.

87

Men would not live long in society were they not the dupes of each other.

88

Self-love increases or diminishes our measure of the good qualities of our friends, in proportion to the satisfaction we feel with them; and we judge of their merit by the manner in which they act towards us.

90

In life’s interactions, we please more by our faults than by our good qualities.

101

Ideas often flash across our minds more complete than we could make them after much labor.

102

The head is ever the dupe of the heart.

103

Those who know their minds do not necessarily know their hearts.

105

A man for whom accident discovers sense, is not a rational being. A man only is so who understands, who distinguishes, who tests it.

106

To understand matters rightly we should understand their details; and as that knowledge is almost infinite, our knowledge is always superficial and imperfect.

108

The head cannot play the part of the heart for long.

110

Nothing is given as liberally as advice.

114

We are inconsolable at being deceived by our enemies and betrayed by our friends, yet still we are often content to be thus served by ourselves.

115

It is as easy to unknowingly deceive yourself as to deceive others.

116

Rien n'est moins sincère que la manière de demander et de donner des conseils. Celui qui en demande paraît avoir une déférence respectueuse pour les sentiments de son ami, bien qu'il ne pense qu'à lui faire approuver les siens, et à le rendre garant de sa conduite. Et celui qui conseille paye la confiance qu'on lui témoigne d'un zèle ardent et désintéressé, quoiqu'il ne cherche le plus souvent dans les conseils qu'il donne que son propre intérêt ou sa gloire.

Nothing is less sincere than the way we ask and give advice. The asker seems to pay deference to his friend’s opinion, while in reality he thinks of making his friend approve of his opinion and be responsible for his conduct. The person giving the advice returns the confidence with eager and disinterested zeal, and in doing so he is usually guided only by his own interest or reputation.

Nothing is less sincere than our manner of asking for and dispensing advice. People asking seems to be paying a respectful deference to the sentiments of a friend, even though they are really only getting the friend's approval and making the friend responsible for their actions. The person giving advice repays the confidence with ardent and disinterested zeal, though most often guided only by self-interest or self-glorification.

117

The most subtle of our acts is to simulate blindness/unawareness for snares that we know are set for us. We are never so easily deceived as when trying to deceive.

118

The intention of never deceiving often exposes us to deception.

119

Nous sommes si accoutumés à nous déguiser aux autres qu'enfin nous nous déguisons à nous-mêmes.

We are so accustomed to disguising ourselves to others that we end up disguising ourselves from ourselves.

We are so accustomed to disguising ourselves that we wind up disguising ourselves from ourselves.

120

We often act treacherously more from weakness than from a fixed motive.

121

We frequently do good in order to enable us to do evil with impunity.

122

If we conquer our passions, it is more from their weakness than from our strength.

123

If we never flattered ourselves, we should have but scant/insufficient pleasure.

124

The most deceitful people spend their lives in blaming deceit, so as to use it on some great occasion to promote some great [self-]interest.

125

The daily employment of cunning marks a little mind, it generally happens that those who resort to it in one respect to protect themselves lay themselves open to attack in another.

128

Too great cleverness is but deceptive delicacy, true delicacy is the most substantial cleverness.

129

It is sometimes necessary to play the fool in order to avoid being deceived by cunning men.

132

It is far easier to be wise for others than to be so for oneself.

133

The only good examples are those that make us see the absurdity of bad originals.

134

We are never so ridiculous from the habits we have as from those that we affect to have.

135

We sometimes differ more widely from ourselves than we do from others.

137

When not prompted by vanity, we say little.

[Ultimately, most of what we say is prompted by our vanity.]

138

A man would rather say evil of himself than say nothing.

[We are so vain that, in order to avoid having nothing to say of ourselves, we will often resort to saying evil of ourselves]

139

Une des choses qui fait que l'on trouve si peu de gens qui paraissent raisonnables et agréables dans la conversation, c'est qu'il n'y a presque personne qui ne pense plutôt à ce qu'il veut dire qu'à répondre précisément à ce qu'on lui dit. Les plus habiles et les plus complaisants se contentent de montrer seulement une mine attentive, au même temps que l'on voit dans leurs yeux et dans leur esprit un égarement pour ce qu'on leur dit, et une précipitation pour retourner à ce qu'ils veulent dire; au lieu de considérer que c'est un mauvais moyen de plaire aux autres ou de les persuader, que de chercher si fort à se plaire à soi-même, et que bien écouter et bien répondre est une des plus grandes perfections qu'on puisse avoir dans la conversation.

One reason why we find so few people who are rational and agreeable in conversation is

that there is harldly anyone who does not think more about what he wants to say than about responding to what is said. The most clever and polite people are content with merely seeming attentive—and we can can perceive in their eyes and mind that they are wandering from what is said, and want to return to what they want to say; instead of considering that the worst way to persuade or please others is to try to please ourselves [this way], and that listening well and answering well are some of the greatest charms we can have in conversation.

One of the reasons that we find so few people rational and agreeable in conversation is that most people are thinking about what they want to say, rather than responding to what has been said to them. The most clever and polite people are content with seeming to pay attention, while we see in their eyes and their mind that they are losing track of what is being said and wish to return to what they want to say, without considering that the worst way to please or persuade others is to think only of pleasing ourselves. The greatest pleasure we can have in conversation is to listen and answer well.

142

As it is the mark of great minds to say many things in a few words, so it is that of little minds to use many words to say nothing.

143

We exaggerate the good qualities of others more often due to the estimation of our own feelings than by their merit; and when we praise them, we wish to attract their praise.

144

We do not like to praise, and we never praise without a motive. Praise is flattery, artful, hidden, delicate, which gratifies differently him who praises and him who is praised. The one takes it as the reward of merit, the other bestows it to show his impartiality and knowledge.

145

We often select envenomed praise that, by a reaction upon those we praise, shows faults we could not have shown by other means.

146

Usually we only praise in order to be praised.

147

Few are wise enough to prefer useful censure to treacherous praise.

148

Some reproaches praise; some praises reproach.

149

The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.

[1665 edition: The modesty that pretends to refuse praise is but in truth a desire to be praised more highly.]

150

The desire that urges us to deserve praise strengthens our good qualities; and praise given to wit, valor, and beauty, tends to increase them.

154

Fortune cures us of many faults that reason could not.

155

There are some people who only disgust with their abilities; there are persons who please even with their faults.

156

There are persons whose only merit consists in saying and doing stupid things at the right time, and who ruin all if they change their manners.

58

Flattery is base coin to which only our vanity gives currency.

159

It is not enough to have great qualities; we should also have the management of them.

160

However brilliant an action, it should not be esteemed great unless the result of a great motive.

161

A certain harmony should be kept between actions and ideas if we desire to estimate [or develop] the effects that they [can] produce.

162

The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than real brilliancy.

163

Numberless arts appear foolish whose secret motives are most wise and weighty.

A countless number of acts that appear foolish have secret motives that are very wise and weighty.

164

It is much easier to seem fitted for posts we do not fill, than for those we do.

165

Ability wins us the esteem of the true individuals, luck that of the people.

166

The world oftener rewards the appearance of merit than merit itself.

168

However deceitful hope may be, yet she carries us on pleasantly to the end of life.

169

Idleness and fear keeps us in the path of duty, but our virtue often gets the praise.

171

As rivers are lost in the sea so are virtues in self.

173

There are different kinds of curiosity: one springs from [self-]interest, which makes us desire to know everything that may be profitable to us; another from pride, which springs from a desire of knowing what others are ignorant of.

175. Constancy in love is a perpetual inconstancy which causes our heart to attach itself to all the qualities of the person we love in succession, sometimes giving the preference to one, sometimes to another. This constancy is merely inconstancy fixed, and limited to the same person.

176. There are two kinds of constancy in love, one arising from incessantly finding in the loved one fresh objects to love, the other from regarding it as a point of honor to be constant.

182. Vices enter into the composition of virtues as poison into that of medicines. Prudence collects and blends the two and renders them useful against the ills of life.

183. For the credit of virtue we must admit that the greatest misfortunes of men are those into which they fall through their crimes.

184

We admit our faults in order to repair by our sincerity the evil we have done in the opinion of others.

[In the edition of 1665 this maxim stands as No. 200. We never admit our faults except through vanity.]

191

We may say vices wait on us in the course of our life as the landlords with whom we successively lodge; and if we traveled the road twice over, I doubt if our experience would make us avoid them.

When our vices leave us, we flatter ourselves with the idea we have left them. 192

There are relapses in the diseases of the mind as in those of the body; what we call a cure is often no more than an intermission or change of disease. 193

194

The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body. Whatever care we take to heal them, the scars ever remain, and there is always danger of their reopening.

195

What often prevents us from abandoning a single vice is we have so many/the many we have.

There are people of whom we can never believe evil without having seen it. Yet there are virtually none in whom we should be surprised to see it. (197)

198. We exaggerate the glory of some people to detract from that of others, and we should praise Prince Conde and Marshal Turenne much less if we did not want to blame/belittle them both.

199

The desire to appear clever often prevents our being so.

Virtue would not go far without vanity to escort her. (200)

He who thinks he has the power to be content without the world greatly deceives himself, but he who thinks that the world cannot be content without him deceives himself even more. (201)

Counterfeit honest people [would-be gentleman] disguise their faults both to themselves and others; truly honest people [true gentlemen] know them perfectly and acknowledge them. (202)

203. He is really wise who is nettled at nothing.

The true gentleman never claims superiority in anything.

206

He is a truly good person who desires always to bear the inspection of good people.

Folly follows us at all stages of life. If one appears wise, it is only because his folly is proportioned to his age and fortune/circumstances. (207)

208

There are foolish people who know and who skillfully use their folly.

210

In growing old, we become more foolish and more wise.

211. There are people who are like farces, which are praised but for a time.

Some people are like

[The last clause is added from Edition of 1665.]

212

Most people judge men only by success/fashionable-appeal or by fortune.

213

Love of glory, fear of shame, greed for fortune, the desire to make life agreeable and comfortable, and the wish to depreciate others—these are often the causes of the bravery so vaunted among men.

214

Valor in common soldiers is a perilous method of earning their living.

216

Perfect valor is to do without witnesses what one would do before all the world.

217

Intrepidity is an extraordinary strength of soul that raises it above the troubles, disorders, and emotions that the sight of great perils can arouse in it. By this strength, heroes maintain a calm aspect and preserve their reason and liberty in the most surprising and terrible predicaments.

219

Most men expose themselves in battle just enough to save their honor. Few wish to do so more than that, or to make sure that the purpose that they expose themselves for succeeds.

225

What makes false reckoning, as regards gratitude, is that the pride of the giver and the receiver cannot agree as to the value of the benefit.

Lucky people are often bad hands at correcting their faults; they believe that they are right when luck backs up their vice or folly. 227

It is great folly to wish only to be wise. 231

In afflictions, there are various kinds of hypocrisy.

In one, under the pretext of weeping for one dear to us, we bemoan ourselves, since we regret her good opinion of us, and deplore the loss of our comfort, pleasure, and consideration. Thus the dead have the credit of tears shed for the living. I affirm that this is a kind of hypocrisy that in these afflictions deceives itself.

There is another kind that is not so innocent, because it imposes on all the world—that is, the grief of those who aspire to the glory of a noble and immortal sorrow. After Time, which absorbs all, has obliterated what sorrow they had, they still obstinately obtrude their tears, sighs and groans; they wear a solemn face, and try to persuade others by all their acts, that their grief will end only with their life. This sad and distressing vanity is commonly found in ambitious women. Since their sex closes to them all paths to glory, they strive to render themselves celebrated by showing an inconsolable affliction.

There is yet another kind of tears arising from but small sources, which flow easily and cease as easily—that is, when one weeps in order to achieve a reputation for tenderness, be pitied, be bewept, or, even to avoid the disgrace of not weeping! (233)

When we obstinately oppose current opinions, it is more often from pride than from ignorance: we find the first places taken, and we do not want to be in the last ones. (234)

We are easily consoled at the misfortunes of our friends, when these enable us to prove our tenderness for them. (235)

237

No one should be praised for his goodness if he has does not have sufficient strength to be wicked—for all other goodness is but too often an idleness or powerlessness of will.

238

It is not so dangerous to do wrong to most men, than to do them too much good.

Doing wrong to others is often less dangerous than doing them too much good.

239

Nothing flatters our pride so much as the confidence of the great—for we regard it as the result of our worth, without remembering that it is generally but vanity or the inability to keep a secret.

Flirtation is at the bottom of woman’s nature, though all do not practice it, some being restrained by fear, others by sense. (241)

242

We often bore others when we think we cannot possibly bore them.

246

What seems generosity is often but a disguised ambition that despises small interest in order to run after a greater one.

249

There is at least as much eloquence in the voice, eyes, and air of a speaker as in his choice of words.

250

True eloquence consists in saying all that should be said, not all that could be said.

251

There are people whose faults become them, and others whose very virtues disgrace them.

Humility is often a feigned submission that we employ in order to supplant others—a device of pride to that lowers us to raise us; and truly pride transforms itself in a thousand ways, and is never so well disguised and more able to deceive than when it hides itself under the form of humility. (254)

256

In all aspects of life, we affect a part and an appearance to seem to be what we wish to be—and thus the world is merely composed of actors.

The pleasure of love is in loving; we are happier in the passion we feel than in that we inspire. (259)

There is no passion wherein self-love reigns so powerfully as in love; and one is always more ready to sacrifice the peace of the loved one than his own. (262)

A narrow mind begets obstinacy. And, we do not easily believe what we cannot see. (265)

We deceive ourselves if we believe that there are violent passions like ambition and love that can triumph over others. For idleness, languishing as she is, does not often fail in being mistress; she usurps authority over all the plans and actions of life; imperceptibly consuming and destroying both passions and virtues. (266)

A quickness in believing evil without having sufficiently examining it—this is the effect of pride and laziness. We wish to find the guilty, but we do not wish to trouble ourselves in examining the crime. (267)

We credit judges with having the meanest motives, and yet we desire our reputation and fame should depend upon the judgment of men, all of whom—either from their jealousy, pre-occupation, or want of intelligence—are opposed to us. And yet, it is merely for the sake of making these men decide in our flavor, that we peril in so many ways both our peace and our life. (268)

No man is clever/discerning enough to know all the evil he does. (269)

272

Nothing should so humiliate men who have deserved great praise, as the care they have taken to acquire it by the smallest means.

To men who have deserved high praise, nothing should be more humbling than the lengths to which they will still go to get credit for petty things.

There are people who the world approves of who have no merit besides their vices useful in social life. (273)

275

Natural goodness, which boasts of being so apparent, is often smothered by the least interest.

276

Absence extinguishes small passions and increases great ones, as the wind will blow out a candle, and blow in a fire.

Women often think they love when they do not love. The business/excitement of a love affair, the emotion of mind/emotional reaction that sentiment induces, the natural bias/wish towards the [experience of the] pleasure of being loved, the difficulty of refusing—these persuade them that they have real passion, when they have but flirtation. (277)

278. What makes us so often discontented with those who transact business for us is that they almost always abandon the interest of their friends for the interest of the business, because they wish to have the honor of succeeding in that which they have undertaken.

279. When we exaggerate the tenderness of our friends towards us, it is often less from gratitude than from a desire to exhibit our own merit.

280. The praise we give to new comers into the world arises from the envy we bear to those who are established.

281

Pride, which inspires, often serves to moderate envy.

282

Some disguised lies so resemble truth, that we should judge badly were we not deceived.

Some lies are disguised so well to resemble the truth, that we should be poor judges of truth if not to be deceived by them.

284

There are wicked people who would be much less dangerous if they were wholly without goodness.

285

Magnanimity is sufficiently defined by its name; nevertheless, one can say it is the good sense of pride, the most noble way of receiving praise.

286

It is impossible to love a second time those whom we have really ceased to love.

287

Fertility of mind does not furnish us with so many resources on the same matter, as the lack of intelligence/discernment makes us hesitate at each thing our imagination presents, and hinders us from at first discerning which is best.

There are matters/troubles and maladies that at certain times remedies only serve to make worse; true skill consists in knowing when it is dangerous to use them. (288)

302

Only in minor matters are we usually bold enough not to trust appearances.

We may forgive those who bore us; we cannot forgive those whom we bore. (304)

Interest, which is accused of all our misdeeds, often should be praised for our good deeds. (305)

306

We find very few ungrateful people when we are able to confer favors.

310

Sometimes, occasions occur in life which demand you to be a little foolish in order to skillfully extricate yourself.

Sometimes there are accidents/occasions in our life, the skillful extrication from which demands a little folly.

311

If there be men whose folly has never appeared, it is because it has never been closely looked for.

If there are men whose folly has never appeared, it is only because it has never been looked for closely.

312

Lovers are never tired of each other,—they always speak of themselves.

319

If we take the liberty to dwell on their faults, we cannot long preserve the feelings we should hold towards our friends and benefactors.

If we take the liberty to dwell on the faults of our friends and benefactors, we cannot long preserve the feelings we should hold towards them.

321

We are nearer loving those who hate us, than those who love us more than we desire.

325

We often comfort ourselves by the weakness of evils, for which reason has not the strength to console us.

327

We own/admit to small faults in order to persuade others that we do not have great ones.

328

Envy is more irreconcilable than hatred.

329

We believe, sometimes, that we hate flattery —we only dislike the method.

331

It is more difficult to be faithful to a mistress when one is happy, than when we are ill-treated by her.

332

Women do not know all their powers of flirtation.

338

When our hatred is too bitter, it places us below those whom we hate.

343

To be a great man one should know how to profit/exploit-advantages of/by every phase of fortune/chance.

347

We hardly find any persons of good sense, save those who agree with us.

We rarely ever perceive others as being sensible, except for those who agree with us.

[We find very few people of good sense, except those who are of our own opinion.]

354

There are certain defects which, well mounted, glitter like virtue itself.

[There are certain faults which placed in a good light please more than perfection itself.]

357

Little minds are too much wounded by little things; great minds see all and are not even hurt.

360

We are more humiliated by the least infidelity towards us, than by our greatest towards others.

366

However we distrust the sincerity of those whom we talk with, we always believe them more sincere with us than with others.

367

There are few virtuous women who are not tired of their part.

[There are many virtuous women who are weary of the part they have played.]

368

[A good woman is a hidden treasure; he who discovers her will do well not to boast about it.]

370

There are not many cowards who know the whole of their fear.

372. Most young people think they are natural when they are only boorish and rude.

373

Some tears after having deceived others deceive ourselves.

374

[If we think we love for love’s sake we are much mistaken.]

375

Ordinary men commonly condemn what is beyond them.

378

We may bestow advice, but we cannot inspire the conduct.

[We give advice, but we cannot give the wisdom to profit by it.]

380

Fortune makes visible our virtues or our vices, as light does objects.

Chance/fortune makes our virtues or our vices visible [just] as light does to objects.

384

We should only be astonished at still being able to be astonished.

385. It is equally as difficult to be contented when one has too much or too little love.

386

No people are more often wrong than those who will not allow themselves to be wrong.

389

What makes the vanity of others unsupportable is that it wounds our own.

392

We should manage fortune like our health, enjoy it when it is good, be patient when it is bad, and never resort to strong remedies but in an extremity.

397

We have not the courage to say generally that we have no faults, and that our enemies have no good qualities; but in fact we are not far from believing so.

Although we do not have the courage to say that in general, we have no faults and our enemies have no good qualities; in reality, we are not far from believing so.

398

Of all our faults that which we most readily admit is idleness: we believe that it makes all virtues ineffectual, and that without utterly destroying, it at least suspends their operation.

399

There is a kind of greatness which does not depend upon fortune: it is a certain manner what distinguishes us, and which seems to destine us for great things; it is the value we insensibly set upon ourselves; it is by this quality that we gain the deference of other men, and it is this which commonly raises us more above them, than birth, rank, or even merit itself.

There is a kind of greatness that does not depend upon fortune: it is a certain manner that distinguishes us, and which seems to destine us for great things; it is the value we insensibly set upon ourselves; it is by this quality that we gain the esteem of other men, and it is this which commonly raises us more above them, than birth, rank, or even virtue itself.

400

There may be talent without position, but there is no position without some kind of talent.

There may be virtue without position, but there is no position without some kind of virtue.

402

What we find the least of in flirtation is love.

404

It appears that nature has hid at the bottom of our hearts talents and abilities unknown to us. It is only the passions that have the power of bringing them to light, and sometimes give us views more true and more perfect than art could possibly do.

It appears that nature has hid at the bottom of our hearts talents and abilities unknown to us. It is only the passions that have the power of bringing them to light, and sometimes give us truer and more perfect views than art/resourcefulness could possibly make.

405

We reach quite inexperienced the different stages of life, and often, in spite of the number of our years, we lack experience.

We are [often] quite inexperienced as we reach the different stages of life, and we often lack experience even in spite of the number of our years.

409

We should often be ashamed of our very best actions if the world only saw the motives that caused them.

412

Whatever disgrace we may have deserved, it is almost always in our power to reestablish our character.

Conceit causes more conversation than wit. 421

429

Women who love, pardon more readily great indiscretions than little infidelities.

?

Nothing prevents our being unaffected so much as our desire to seem so.

Nothing prevents our being natural as much as our desire to seem so.

432

To praise good actions heartily is in some measure to take part in them.

To praise good actions heartily is in some measure to take part in them.

433

The most certain sign of being born with great qualities is to be born without envy.

434

When our friends have deceived us we owe them but indifference to the tokens of their friendship, yet for their misfortunes we always owe them pity.

436

It is much easier to know men than it is to know a man.

437

We should not judge of a man’s merit by his great abilities, but by the use he makes of them.

We should not judge a man’s virtue by his great abilities, but by the use he makes of them.

438

There is a certain lively gratitude which not only releases us from benefits received, but which also, by making a return to our friends as payment, renders them indebted to us.

There is a certain kind of lively gratitude that not only releases us from benefits we received, but also becomes a return payment to our friends that makes them become indebted to us.

439

We should earnestly desire but few things if we clearly knew what we desired.

440

The cause why the majority of women are so little given to friendship is, that it is insipid after having felt love.

441

As in friendship so in love, we are often happier from ignorance than from knowledge.

442

We try to make a virtue of vices we are loth/unwilling to correct.

444

Old fools are more foolish than young fools.

446

What makes the grief of shame and jealousy so acute is that vanity cannot aid us in enduring them.

448

A well-trained mind has less difficulty in submitting to than in guiding an ill-trained mind.

It is easier for a well-trained mind to submit to an ill-trained mind than to guide it.

449

When fortune surprises us by giving us some great office without having gradually led us to expect it, or without having raised our hopes, it is well nigh impossible to occupy it well, and to appear worthy to fill it.

451

No fools so wearisome as those who have some wit.

453

In great matters we should not try so much to create opportunities as to utilize those that offer themselves.

In great matters, we should not try to create opportunities as much as we should utilize those opportunities that offer themselves.

454

There are few occasions when we should make a bad bargain by giving up the good on condition that no ill was said of us.

460

It would be well for us if we knew all our passions make us do.

It would be beneficial for us to know what all our passions make us do.

462

The same pride which makes us blame faults from which we believe ourselves free causes us to despise the good qualities we have not.

463

There is often more pride than goodness in our grief for our enemies’ miseries; it is to show how superior we are to them, that we bestow on them the sign of our compassion.

There is often more pride than goodness in our grief for our enemies’ miseries; it is to show how superior we are to them that we bestow on them the sign of our compassion.

464

There exists an excess of good and evil which surpasses our comprehension.

469

We never desire earnestly what we desire in reason.

470

All our qualities are uncertain and doubtful, both the good as well as the bad, and nearly all are creatures of opportunities.

473

However rare true love is, true friendship is rarer.

474

There are few women whose charm survives their beauty.

475

The desire to be pitied or to be admired often forms the greater part of our confidence.

The desire to be pitied or admired is often the main reason we confide in others.

478

Fancy/imagination does not enable us to invent so many different contradictions as there are by nature in every heart.

479

Only people who possess firmness can possess true gentleness. In those who appear gentle, it is generally only weakness, which is readily converted into harshness.

480

Timidity is a fault which is dangerous to blame in those we desire to cure of it.

481

Nothing is rarer than true good nature; those who think they have it are generally only pliant or weak.

Nothing is rarer than true good nature; those who are though to have it are usually just easily dominated, or weak.

482

The mind attaches itself by idleness and habit to whatever is easy or pleasant. This habit always places bounds to our knowledge, and no one has ever yet taken the pains to enlarge and expand his mind to the full extent of its capacities.

486

More persons exist without self-love than without envy.

487

We have more idleness in the mind than in the body.

488

The calm or disturbance of our mind does not depend so much on what we regard as the more important things of life, as in a judicious or injudicious arrangement of the little things of daily occurrence.

The calm or disturbance of our mind does not depend so much on what we regard as the more important things of life, as in the prudent or impracticable arrangement of the little things of daily occurrence.

489

However wicked men may be, they do not dare openly to appear the enemies of virtue, and when they desire to persecute her they either pretend to believe her false or attribute crimes to her.

However wicked men may be, they do not dare condemn virtue openly. Thus, when they want to attack virtue, they pretend it is false or charge it with crimes.

492

Avarice often produces opposite results: there are an infinite number of persons who sacrifice their property to doubtful and distant expectations, others mistake great future advantages for small present interests.

496

Quarrels would not last long if the fault was only on one side.

500

Some people are so self-occupied that when in love they find a mode by which to be engrossed with the passion without being so with the person they love.

Some people are so self-occupied, that [even] when in love, they find a way to be totally engrossed with the passion without being so with the person they love.

Few things are needed to make a wise man happy; nothing can make a fool content; that is why most men are miserable.

We concern ourselves less with becoming happy than making others believe we are.

Before strongly desiring anything, we should examine the happiness of those who already posses it.

A true friend is the greatest of all goods, and that of which we think least of acquiring.

Lovers do not wish to see the faults of their mistresses until their enchantment is at an end.

The wise man finds it better not to enter the encounter than to conquer.

It is more necessary to study men than books.

There are certain faults, which [when] placed in a good light, please more than perfection itself.

The harm that others do to us is often less than that which we do to ourselves.

It is most difficult to speak when we are ashamed of being silent.

Those faults are always pardonable that we have the courage to avow.

The greatest fault of penetration is not that it goes to the bottom of a matter, but beyond it.

We give advice, but we cannot give the wisdom to profit by it.

Renewed friendships require more care than those that have never been broken.

A man who no one is pleasing is much unhappier than a man who pleases nobody.

We are quick to criticize other people’s faults, but slow to use those faults to correct our own.

Most things are praised or condemned only because it is fashionable to praise or condemn them.

Hope and fear are inseparable.

The power that the women we love have over us is greater than that which we have over ourselves.

What makes us easily believe that others have defects is [the fact] that we all easily believe what we wish.

When we are tired of loving, we are quite content if our mistress should become faithless, since it loosens us from our fidelity.

In the adversity of our best friends, we always find something that is not wholly displeasing to us.

How shall we hope that another person will keep our secret if we do not keep it ourselves?

There are crimes that become innocent and even glorious by their brilliancy, number, or excess; therefore, it happens that public robbery is called “financial skill,” and the unjust capture of provinces is called “a conquest.”

It is very hard to separate the general goodness spread all over the world from great cleverness.

The confidence we have in ourselves arises in a great measure from that which we have in others.

There are fine things that are more brilliant when unfinished than when over-finished.

Women for the most part surrender themselves more from weakness than from passion; and by that reason, bold and pushing men succeed better than others, even though they are not so loveable.

There is an air that belongs to the figure and talents of each individual; we always lose it when we abandon it to assume another. We should try to find out what air is natural to us and never abandon it, but make it as perfect as we can.

This is the reason that the majority of children please—it is because they are wrapped up in the air and manner nature has given them, and are ignorant of any other. They are changed and corrupted when they quit infancy; they think they should imitate what they see, and they are not altogether able to imitate it. In this imitation, there is always something of falsity and uncertainty. They have nothing settled in their manner and opinions. Instead of being in reality what they want to appear, they seek to appear what they are not.

All men want to be different, and to be greater than they are; they seek for an air other than their own, and a mind different from what they possess; they take their style and manner at chance. They make experiments upon themselves without considering that what suits one person will not suit everyone, that there is no universal rule for taste or manners, and that there are no good copies.

Few men, nevertheless, can have unison in many matters without being a copy of each other, if each follows his natural turn of mind. But in general, a person will not wholly follow it. He loves to imitate. We often imitate the same person without perceiving it, and we neglect our own good qualities for the good qualities of others, which generally do not suit us.

I do not pretend, from what I say, that each should so wrap himself up in himself so as to not be able to follow example, or to add to his own, useful and serviceable habits which nature has not given him…

But yet, acquired qualities should always have a certain agreement and a certain union with our own natural qualities, which they imperceptibly extend and increase…

…Change of our fortune [/ circumstances] often changes our air and our manners, and augments the air of dignity, which is always false when it is too marked, and when it is not united and mixed with that which nature has given us. We should unite and blend them together, and thus render them such that they can never be separated.

Article CLXXXI. Conversation

The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is because each thinks more of what he desires to say than of what others say, and we make bad listeners when we want to speak.

However, it is necessary to listen to those who talk. We should give them the time they want… [and never] interrupt them. In fact, we should enter into their mind and taste, illustrate their meaning, praise anything they say that deserves praise, and let them see we praise more from our choice than from agreement with them.

To please others, we should talk on subjects they like and that interest them... The level of seriousness and of complexity we talk with should correspond to the temper and understanding of the persons we talk with, and should readily give them the advantage of deciding without obliging them to answer when they are not anxious to talk.

After having in this way fulfilled the duties of politeness, we can speak our opinions to our listeners when we find an opportunity [to do so]… Above all things, we should avoid frequently talking of ourselves and giving ourselves as an example. Nothing is more tiresome than a man who quotes himself for everything.

We cannot give too great a study to find out the manner and the capacity of those with whom we talk... Then we should fittingly use all the modes above mentioned to show our thoughts to them, and make them, if possible, believe that we take our ideas from them.

… [We should avoid] forced expressions, and never let the words be grander than the matter.

It is not wrong to retain our opinions if they are reasonable…

It is dangerous to seek to always be the leader of the conversation, and to push a good argument too hard when we have found one. Civility often hides half of its understanding, and when it meets with an opinionated man who defends the bad side, spares him the disgrace of giving way.

We are sure to displease when we speak too long and too often of one subject. And when we try to turn the conversation upon subjects that we think more instructive than others, we should enter indifferently upon every subject that is agreeable to others, stopping where they wish...

Every kind of conversation, however witty it may be, is not equally fitted for all clever persons. We should select what is to their taste and suitable to their condition, sex, and talents; and also choose the proper time to say it.

We should observe the place, the occasion, and the temper in which we find the person who listens to us, for there is equally much art in speaking to the purpose as there is in knowing when to be silent. There is an eloquent silence that serves to approve or to condemn; there is a silence of discretion and of respect.

In a word, there is a tone, an air, a manner, which renders everything in conversation agreeable or disagreeable, refined or vulgar. But it is given to few people to keep this secret well. Those who lay down rules too often break them, and the safest we are able to give is to listen much, to speak just enough, and to say nothing that will ever give ground for regret.

Thus having treated of the hollowness of so many apparent virtues, it appropriate to say something on the hollowness of the unconcern for death…

…Everything that could be written has been written to persuade us that death is no evil, and the weakest of men, as well as the bravest, have given many noble examples on which to justify such an opinion; yet I still do not think that any man of good sense has ever yet believed in it. And the pains we take to persuade others as well as ourselves that such an opinion is true amply show that the task of convincing is far from easy.

For many reasons we may be disgusted with life, but for none may we despise it. Not even those who commit suicide regard it as a light matter, and are as much alarmed and startled as the rest of the world if death meets them in a different way than the one they have selected. The difference we observe in the courage of so many brave men is from meeting death in a way different from what they imagined when it shows itself nearer at one time than at another. Thus it ultimately happens that having despised death when they were ignorant of it, they dread it when they become acquainted with it.

If we could avoid seeing it with all its surroundings, we might perhaps believe that it was not the greatest of evils. The wisest and bravest are those who take the best means to avoid reflecting on it, as every man who sees it in its real light regards it as dreadful.

The necessity of dying created all the constancy of philosophers. They thought it but right to go with a good grace when they could not avoid going, and being unable to prolong their lives indefinitely, nothing remained but to build an immortal reputation, and to save from the general wreck all that could be saved.

To put a good face upon it, let it suffice not to say all that we think to ourselves, but rely more on our nature than on our fallible reason, which might make us think we could approach death with indifference.

The glory of dying with courage, the hope of being regretted, the desire to leave behind us a good reputation, the assurance of being freed from the miseries of life and being no longer dependent on the whims of fortune, these are all resources that should not be passed over. But we must not regard them as infallible.

They should affect us in the same proportion as a single shelter affects those who in war storm a fortress. At a distance they think it may afford cover, but when near they find it only a feeble protection. It is only deceiving ourselves to imagine that death, when near, will seem the same as at a distance, or that our feelings which are merely weaknesses, are naturally so strong that they will not suffer in an attack of the rudest of trials. It is equally as absurd to try the effect of self-esteem and to think it will enable us to count as naught what will of necessity destroy it.

And the mind [/ reasoning] that we trust to find so many resources will be far too weak in the struggle to persuade us in the way we wish. For it is this mind that betrays us so frequently, and which, instead of filling us with contempt of death, serves but to show us all that is frightful and fearful. The most it can do for us is to persuade us to avert our gaze and fix it on other objects. Cato and Brutus each selected noble ones. A lackey sometime ago contented himself by dancing on the scaffold when he was about to be broken on the wheel.

So however diverse the motives, they but realize the same result. For the rest it is a fact that whatever difference there may be between the noble and the peasant, we have constantly seen both the one and the other meet death with the same composure. Still there is always this difference, that the contempt the noble shows for death is but the love of fame which hides death from his sight; in the peasant it is but the result of his limited vision that hides from him the extent of the evil, and leaves him free to reflect on other things.

Maxims from the 1665 Edition that were removedby the author in subsequent editions

1665-37

Pride, as if tired of its artifices and its different metamorphoses, after having solely filled the divers parts of the comedy of life, exhibits itself with its natural face, and is discovered by haughtiness; so much so that we may truly say that haughtiness is but the flash and open declaration of pride.

1665-53

When we do not find peace of mind in ourselves, ‘tis useless to seek it elsewhere. (1665, No. 53.)

1665-97

In the adversity of our best friends we always find something which is not wholly displeasing to us.

?

As if it was not sufficient that self-love should have the power to change itself, it has added that of changing other objects, and this it does in a very astonishing manner; for not only does it so well disguise them that it is itself deceived, but it even changes the state and nature of things. Thus, when a female is adverse to us, and she turns her hate and persecution against us, self-love pronounces on her actions with all the severity of justice; it exaggerates the faults till they are enormous, and looks at her good qualities in so disadvantageous a light that they become more displeasing than her faults. If however the same female becomes favorable to us, or certain of our interests reconcile her to us, our sole self interest gives her back the luster which our hatred deprived her of. The bad qualities become effaced, the good ones appear with a redoubled advantage; we even summon all our indulgence to justify the war she has made upon us. Now although all passions prove this truth, that of love exhibits it most clearly; for we may see a lover moved with rage by the neglect or the infidelity of her whom he loves, and meditating the utmost vengeance that his passion can inspire. Nevertheless as soon as the sight of his beloved has calmed the fury of his movements, his passion holds that beauty innocent; he only accuses himself, he condemns his condemnations, and by the miraculous power of self-love, he whitens the blackest actions of his mistress, and takes from her all crime to lay it on himself.

1665-102

The blindness of men is the most dangerous effect of their pride; it seems to nourish and augment it, it deprives us of knowledge of remedies which can solace our miseries and can cure our faults.

1665-174

Natural ferocity makes fewer people cruel than self-love.

1665-192

There are crimes which become innocent and even glorious by their brilliancy, their number, or their excess; thus it happens that public robbery is called financial skill, and the unjust capture of provinces is called a conquest.

1665-213

The pomp of funerals concerns rather the vanity of the living, than the honor of the dead.

1665-252

It is very hard to separate the general goodness spread all over the world from great cleverness.

1665-256

A confidence in being able to please is often an infallible means of being displeasing.

1665-258

The confidence we have in ourselves arises in a great measure from that that we have in others.

1665-262

There are fine things which are more brilliant when unfinished than when finished too much.

1665-301

Women for the most part surrender themselves more from weakness than from passion. Whence it is that bold and pushing men succeed better than others, although they are not so loveable.

1665-305

The most just comparison of love is that of a fever, and we have no power over either, as to its violence or its duration.

?

Men only blame vice and praise virtue from interest.

Refelctions extracted from ms. Letter in the royal library

Letter To Madame De Sablé, Ms., Fol. 211

Interest is the soul of self-love, in as much as when the body deprived of its soul is without sight, feeling or knowledge, without thought or movement, so self-love, riven so to speak from its interest, neither sees, nor hears, nor smells, nor moves; thus it is that the same man who will run over land and sea for his own interest becomes suddenly paralyzed when engaged for that of others; from this arises that sudden dulness and, as it were, death, with which we afflict those to whom we speak of our own matters; from this also their sudden resurrection when in our narrative we relate something concerning them; from this we find in our conversations and business that a man becomes dull or bright just as his own interest is near to him or distant from him.

Letter To M. Esprit, Ms., Fol. 173, MAX. 219

It is a common thing to hazard life to escape dishonor; but, when this is done, the actor takes very little pain to make the enterprise succeed in which he is engaged, and certain it is that they who hazard their lives to take a city or to conquer a province are better officers, have more merit, and wider and more useful, views than they who merely expose themselves to vindicate their honor; it is very common to find people of the latter class, very rare to find those of the former.

Ms., Fol. 310, Max. 494

God has permitted, to punish man for his original sin, that he should be so fond of his self-love, that he should be tormented by it in all the actions of his life.

The labor of the body frees us from the pains of the mind…

It is more easy to extinguish the first desire than to satisfy those which follow.

Lovers do not wish to see the faults of their mistresses until their enchantment is at an end.

It is sometimes pleasing to a husband to have a jealous wife; he hears her always speaking of the beloved object.

The wise man finds it better not to enter the encounter than to conquer.

It is more necessary to study men than books.

?

Man only blames himself in order that he may be praised.

There is nothing more natural, nor more deceptive, than to believe that we are beloved.

A man to whom no one is pleasing is much more unhappy than one who pleases nobody.

Complaisance is essential in society, but it should have its limits, it becomes a slavery when it is extreme.

The reason why so few persons are agreeable in conversation is that each thinks more of what he desires to say, than of what the others say, and that we make bad listeners when we want to speak.

Yet it is necessary to listen to those who talk, we should give them the time they want…We should enter into their mind and taste, illustrate their meaning, praise anything they say that deserves praise, and let them see we praise more from our choice than from agreement with them. …

After having in this way fulfilled the duties of politeness, we can speak our opinions to our listeners when we find an opportunity without a sign of presumption or opinionatedness. …

We cannot give too great study to find out the manner and the capacity of those with whom we talk, so as to join in the conversation of those who have more than ourselves without hurting by this preference the wishes or interests of others.

Then we should modestly use all the modes abovementioned to show our thoughts to them, and make them, if possible, believe that we take our ideas from them. …

It is not wrong to retain our opinions if they are reasonable, but we should yield to reason, wherever she appears and from whatever side she comes, she alone should govern our opinions, we should follow her without opposing the opinions of others, and without seeming to ignore what they say.

It is dangerous to seek to be always the leader of the conversation, and to push a good argument too hard, when we have found one. Civility often hides half its understanding, and when it meets with an opinionated man who defends the bad side, spares him the disgrace of giving way. …

Every kind of conversation, however witty it may be, is not equally fitted for all clever persons; we should select what is to their taste and suitable to their condition, their sex, their talents, and also choose the time to say it. …

There is an eloquent silence which serves to approve or to condemn, there is a silence of discretion and of respect. In a word, there is a tone, an air, a manner, which renders everything in conversation agreeable or disagreeable, refined or vulgar.

There is an air which belongs to the figure and talents of each individual; we always lose it when we abandon it to assume another.

We should try to find out what air is natural to us and never abandon it, but make it as perfect as we can. This is the reason that the majority of children please. It is because they are wrapped up in the air and manner nature has given them, and are ignorant of any other. They are changed and corrupted when they quit infancy, they think they should imitate what they see, and they are not altogether able to imitate it. In this imitation there is always something of falsity and uncertainty. They have nothing settled in their manner and opinions. Instead of being in reality what they want to appear, they seek to appear what they are not.

All men want to be different, and to be greater than they are; they seek for an air other than their own, and a mind different from what they possess; they take their style and manner at chance. They make experiments upon themselves without considering that what suits one person will not suit everyone, that there is no universal rule for taste or manners, and that there are no good copies.

Few men, nevertheless, can have unison in many matters without being a copy of each other, if each follow his natural turn of mind. But in general a person will not wholly follow it. He loves to imitate. We often imitate the same person without perceiving it, and we neglect our own good qualities for the good qualities of others, which generally do not suit us.

I do not pretend, from what I say, that each should so wrap himself up in himself as not to be able to follow example, or to add to his own, useful and serviceable habits, which nature has not given him. Arts and sciences may be proper for the greater part of those who are capable for them. Good manners and politeness are proper for all the world. But, yet acquired qualities should always have a certain agreement and a certain union with our own natural qualities, which they imperceptibly extend and increase. We are elevated to a rank and dignity above ourselves. We are often engaged in a new profession for which nature has not adapted us. All these conditions have each an air which belong to them, but which does not always agree with our natural manner. This change of our fortune often changes our air and our manners, and augments the air of dignity, which is always false when it is too marked, and when it is not united and amalgamated with that which nature has given us. We should unite and blend them together, and thus render them such that they can never be separated.

We should not speak of all subjects in one tone and in the same manner. We do not march at the head of a regiment as we walk on a promenade; and we should use the same style in which we should naturally speak of different things in the same way, with the same difference as we should walk, but always naturally, and as is suitable, either at the head of a regiment or on a promenade. There are some who are not content to abandon the air and manner natural to them to assume those of the rank and dignities to which they have arrived. There are some who assume prematurely the air of the dignities and rank to which they aspire. How many lieutenant generals assume to be marshals of France, how many barristers vainly repeat the style of the Chancellor and how many female citizens give themselves the airs of duchesses.

But what we are most often vexed at is that no one knows how to conform his air and manners with his appearance, nor his style and words with his thoughts and sentiments, that every one forgets himself and how far he is insensibly removed from the truth. Nearly every one falls into this fault in some way. No one has an ear sufficiently fine to mark perfectly this kind of cadence.


Man’s chief wisdom consists in knowing his follies.

I always say to myself, what is the most important thing we can think about at this extraordinary moment.

What causes us to like new acquaintances is not so much wariness of our old ones, or the pleasure of change, as disgust of not being sufficiently admired by those who know us too well, and the hope of being admired more by those who do not know us so much.

We do not wish ardently for what we desire only through reason.

Reason alone is insufficient to make us enthusiastic in any matter.

We torment ourselves rather to make it appear we are happy than to become so.

What causes such a miscalculation in the amount of gratitude which men expect for the favors they have done, is, that the pride of the giver and that of the receiver can never agree as to the value of the benefit.

Minds of moderate caliber ordinarily condemn everything that is beyond their range.

It is our own vanity that makes the vanity of others intolerable to us.

He who thinks he can find in himself the means of doing without others is much mistaken; but he who thinks that others cannot do without him is still more mistaken.

True eloquence consists in saying all that is necessary, and nothing but what is necessary.

Few persons have sufficient wisdom to prefer censure which is useful to them to praise which deceives them.

Whatever distrust we may have of the sincerity of those who converse with us, we always believe they will tell us more truth than they do to others.

The truest mark of being born with great qualities is being born without envy.

When our hatred is too keen it places us beneath those we hate.

Narrowness of mind is often the cause of obstinacy; we do not easily believe beyond what we see.

Nos vertus ne sont, le plus souvent, que des vices déguisés.