Translated by Thomas Whichello
First published online 10th March, 2016, at www.thomaswhichello.com
François de La Rochefoucauld, born in 1613, died in 1680, was a French nobleman, soldier, and writer of genius. He holds an eminent place in the history of literature, and that chiefly owing to the publication of his maxims: they were “read with avidity” when they first appeared; in the eighteenth century, they were “known by heart”; and the great Voltaire declared, that this book was one of the works which had done most to form the French nation to a correct taste, and to “a justness of thought and expression”; and that it had contributed more than any other since the Renaissance to cause them “to indulge themselves in originality of thought, and to improve the vivacity, precision, and delicacy, of French composition.” The original work was first officially published in the year 1665 under the title “Réflexions, ou sentences et maximes morales.” It was carefully revised several times, and reached its fifth and final authorized edition in 1678. This translation was made by the author some time in the year 2014, and revised in 2016. The French text used, with the exception of the case of maxim 211, which is translated from the edition of 1665, is that contained in the book “La Rochefoucauld, Collected Maxims and Other Reflections,” by E. H. Blackmore, A. M. Blackmore, and Francine Giguère, of Oxford World’s Classics, published in 2008.
These maxims, in my opinion, represent a generally accurate depiction of the heart of man; but our inward recognition of the truthfulness of the picture they paint ought, I think, to make us feel repentance for it, and endeavour to do all that in us lies to rise above the follies and deceits, the passions and the vices, which they delineate. They lay bare our souls, but as they generally are, not as they either ought to be nor must be: for the power to correct our moral faults lies in our own wills. On the one hand, they are useful instructors that serve to make us more wary against the snares and deceits of this world; and on the other, we may employ them as a kind of manual by which to repair our own heart: first, by our candidly comparing our own inward self with the vicious states and habits of mind which they call to our attention, and then by our attempting to correct the same.—Besides the above considerations, there are many maxims of general prudence and profound wisdom scattered throughout this collection from which much is to be learned.
“As Rochefoucauld drew his maxims from nature, I believe them true. They argue no corrupted mind in him; the fault is in mankind.” — Jonathan Swift
“Till you come to know mankind by your own 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 Rochefoucault: 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.” — Lord Chesterfield
“The censure that has so heavily fallen upon Rochefoucauld is founded on his proneness to assign a low and selfish motive to human actions, and even to those which are most usually denominated virtuous. It is impossible to dispute the partial truth of this charge. Yet it may be pleaded, that many of his maxims are not universal even in their enunciation; and that, in others, where, for the sake of a more effective expression, the position seems general, we ought to understand it with such limitations as our experience may suggest. His malignity is always directed against the false virtues of mankind, but never touches the reality of moral truths.” — Henry Hallam
“Our virtues, most often, are only vices disguised.”
1.—What we presume to be virtue is often nothing more than an assemblage of various actions and interests which fortune, or our industry, knows how to arrange; and it is not always because of bravery or chastity that men are brave, and women chaste.
2.—Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.
3.—Whatsoever discoveries we may make in the regions of self-love, there remain in those parts many unexplored lands.
4.—Self-love is more cunning than the most cunning man in the world.
5.—We have no more control over the duration of our passions than we do over the duration of our very lives.
6.—Passion often makes fools of the most clever men, and the most foolish men clever.
7.—Those great and brilliant actions that dazzle the eyes of men are represented by politicians as being the effects of great designs; but they are usually the results of temper and the passions. Thus the war between Augustus and Antony, which is supposed to be due to the ambition they both had of making themselves the masters of the world, was perhaps nothing more than an effect of jealousy.
8.—The passions are the only orators that always persuade. They are, so to speak, an art which comes from nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man who has passion is more persuasive than the most eloquent that has it not.
9.—The passions possess a kind of injustice and self-interest which make it dangerous to follow them, and we must be on our guard against them even when they appear to be most reasonable.
10.—There is in the human heart a perpetual generation of passions, so that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.
11.—The passions often beget their contraries. Avarice sometimes produces prodigality, and prodigality avarice; we are often firm through weakness, and bold through timidity.
12.—Whatsoever care we may take to cover our passions with appearances of piety and honour, they always appear through these veils.
13.—Our self-love suffers more impatiently the condemnation of our tastes than of our opinions.
14.—People are not only prone to lose their remembrance of benefits and injuries: they hate even those to whom they are obliged, and cease to hate those that have done them outrages. The labour required to reward good, and revenge evil, appears to them a servitude to which they can hardly submit.
15.—The clemency of princes is often nothing more than a policy to win the affection of their peoples.
16.—There is a kind of clemency we make a virtue of which is practised, sometimes from vanity, sometimes from idleness, often from fear, and almost always from all the three combined.
17.—The supposed moderation of people in prosperous circumstances arises from the calm which their good fortune gives to their temper.
18.—Moderation is a fear of falling under the envy and contempt which are justly deserved by those who become intoxicated with their own good fortune; it is a vain ostentation of the strength of our minds; and, in short, the moderation of men, even in their highest elevation, is a desire to appear greater than their fortune.
19.—We all of us have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of other people.
20.—The supposed constancy of the wise is but the art of shutting up their agitation in their hearts.
21.—Men who are condemned to die sometimes affect a constancy and a contempt of death which are, in reality, simply a fear of envisaging it: so that one may say that this constancy and contempt are to their minds, what the blindfold is to their eyes.
22.—Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.
23.—Few people really know death. They do not ordinarily suffer it out of resolution, but from mere stupidity and custom; and the greater part of men die simply because they cannot prevent themselves from dying.
24.—When great men allow themselves to be worn down by the length of their misfortunes, they show us that they resisted them in the first place only by the strength of their ambition, and not by that of their soul; and that, besides the great vanity they share, heroes are made like other men.
25.—Greater virtues are needed to sustain prosperity than adversity.
26.—We can look fixedly on neither the sun nor death.
27.—We are often vain about even the most criminal of our passions; yet envy is a timid and shameful passion, which we never dare to confess.
28.—Jealousy is in some sense just and reasonable, because it only tries to preserve a good which either belongs to us, or which we believe belongs to us; whereas envy is a fury that cannot endure the good of others.
29.—The evil that we do does not draw upon us so much persecution and hatred as our good qualities.
30.—We possess greater real strength than the power of will to use it; and it is often in order to excuse ourselves that we imagine things to be impossible.
31.—If we had no faults ourselves, we should not take so much pleasure in noticing those of others.
32.—Jealousy feeds upon doubts; and it either becomes madness, or ends, as soon as we pass from doubt into certainty.
33.—Pride always indemnifies itself, and loses nothing even when it renounces vanity.
34.—If we did not have pride ourselves, we should not complain about that of others.
35.—Pride is the same in all men, and differs only in the means and manner of revealing itself.
36.—It seems that Nature, which has so wisely arranged the organs of our body to render us happy, has also given us pride, in order to spare us the pain of becoming acquainted with our imperfections.
37.—Pride shares a greater part than the goodness of our hearts in the reprimands we give to those who commit faults; and we do not reprove so much in order to correct them, as in order to persuade them that we are ourselves exempt from those faults.
38.—We make promises according to our hopes, and keep them according to our fears.
39.—Self-interest speaks all sorts of languages and plays all sorts of characters, even that of disinterestedness.
40.—Self-interest, which blinds some, brings light to others.
41.—Those who apply themselves too much to little things, ordinarily become incapable of great ones.
42.—We do not possess enough strength to follow all our reason.
43.—Man often believes that he leads while he is the one being lead; and while his mind aims at one goal, his heart drags him insensibly along towards another.
44.—Strength and weakness of mind are ill-termed: they signify, in effect, nothing more than the good or ill condition of the organs of our body.
45.—The caprice of our temper is even more bizarre than that of fortune itself.
46.—The attachment or indifference which philosophers have had for life is only a flavour of their self-love, about which we ought no more to dispute than about the taste of the palate or our favourite colours.
47.—Our temper determines the value of every thing that we receive from fortune.
48.—Happiness lies in our personal likings, and not in things in and of themselves: and it is by possessing what we love that we are happy, and not what others love.
49.—We are never so happy nor so unhappy as we imagine.
50.—People who believe they possess merit make an honour for themselves of being unhappy, in order to persuade both others and themselves that they are worthy to be the butt of Fortune.
51.—Nothing ought so much to diminish the satisfaction we have in ourselves as to see that we disapprove of at one time what we approve of at another.
52.—Whatever difference there may appear to be between people’s fortunes, there exists nevertheless a certain compensation of goods and evils which renders them equal.
53.—Whatever great advantages Nature may bestow, it is not she alone, but Fortune along with her that makes heroes.
54.—The contempt which philosophers professed for wealth, was but a hidden desire of getting revenge for their merit upon the injustice of Fortune, by despising those goods of which she had deprived them: it was a secret by which to protect themselves against the degradation of poverty; it was an alternate path by which to gain that consideration which they had not been able to attain through riches.
55.—Hatred of favourites is but a love of favour. We console and soften our irritation at not possessing it by the contempt we show towards those who do; and we refuse to pay them our respects, simply because we are ourselves unable to take from them what attracts the respects of all the world.
56.—To establish ourselves in the world, we do everything we can to appear as though we were already established.
57.—Although men may flatter themselves about their great actions, these are often the result, not of any grand design, but of chance.
58.—Our actions appear to be accompanied (as it were) by lucky or unlucky stars, to which they owe a great part of the praise or blame which is given them.
59.—There are no accidents so unfortunate that clever men may not draw some advantage from them, nor so fortunate that imprudent men may not turn them to their own detriment.
60.—Fortune turns all things to the advantage of those she favours.
61.—The happiness or unhappiness of men depends no less on their own temper than upon Fortune itself.
62.—Sincerity is an openness of heart. We find it in very few people; and what we ordinarily see is only a subtle dissimulation, got up to draw in the confidence of others.
63.—An aversion to lying is often an imperceptible ambition of rendering our testimony more considerable, and of bestowing a kind of religious aspect upon our words.
64.—Truth does not effect so much good in the world as the appearances of her do evil.
65.—There is no end of the praises which men give to prudence. Notwithstanding, she cannot assure us as to the outcome of the least event.
66.—A wise man ought to arrange his interests in their true order of importance. Our greed often disturbs this order by making us pursue so many things at once that, for too much desiring the least important, we miss those that are most so.
67.—Good grace is to the body what good sense is to the mind.
68.—It is difficult to define love. What one can say is that, in the soul, it is a passion to rule; in minds it is a sympathy; and in the body, it is but a hidden and delicate desire of possessing the object of one’s love—after the performance of many mysterious rituals.
69.—If there does exist a pure love, exempt from any mixture with our other passions, it is a kind which is hidden at the bottom of the heart, and which even ourselves know not.
70.—There is no disguise which can long hide love where it exists, nor feign it where it does not.
71.—There are few people who are not ashamed of having loved each other when they no longer do so.
72.—If we judge of love by the greater part of its effects, it more resembles hatred than friendship.
73.—We can find women who have never had an intrigue: but it is rare to find a woman who has only indulged in one.
74.—There is only one kind of love: but there are a thousand imitations.
75.—Love as well as fire cannot subsist without continual motion; and it stops living from the moment it ceases either to hope or fear.
76.—It is with true love as it is with ghosts: everybody talks about it, but few have seen it.
77.—Love lends its name to an infinite number of dealings that are attributed to it, but with which it has nothing more to do than does the Doge with everything that is done in Venice.
78.—Love of justice in most men is merely the fear of suffering injustice.
79.—Silence is the safest course of action for him who doubts himself.
80.—That which makes us so changeable in our friendships, is that it is difficult to know the qualities of the soul, but easy to know those of the mind.
81.—We can love nothing but what has a bearing upon ourselves, and we merely follow our own taste and pleasure when we prefer our friends to ourselves; though it is nevertheless the case that it is by that preference alone that friendship can be true and perfect.
82.—Reconciliation with our enemies is but a desire of bettering our condition, a weariness of war, and a fear of suffering some bad outcome.
83.—What men have called friendship is but association, a reciprocal attention to interests, and an exchange of benefits; nothing more in the end than a trade, by which self-love ever intends to gain something.
84.—It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.
85.—We often persuade ourselves that we love people more powerful than we when, nevertheless, it is self-interest alone which produces our friendship. We do not give our hearts to them for the good we hope to do for them, but for what we wish to receive from them.
86.—Our distrust justifies the deceit of others.
87.—Men would not consent to live in society long if they were not the dupes of one other.
88.—Our self-love increases or diminishes the good qualities of our friends in proportion to the satisfaction they afford us; and we judge of their merit by their manner of behaviour towards us.
89.—Everybody complains of his memory; but when did you ever hear anybody complain about his judgement?
90.—In our dealings with the world, we often please more by our faults than by our good qualities.
91.—The greatest ambition has not the least appearance of being so, when it is found in a state of absolute impossibility of arriving where it aspires.
92.—To undeceive a man preoccupied with his own merit is to do him as ill a service, as he who undeceived that madman of Athens who believed that all the ships arriving at its port were his own.
93.—Old men love to give good precepts in order to console themselves for no longer being able to set bad examples.
94.—Great names debase, not elevate, those who cannot sustain them.
95.—The mark of extraordinary merit is to witness that those who envy it the most are nevertheless constrained to praise it.
96.—A man is sometimes called ungrateful who is less guilty of his ingratitude than the person who did him the benefit.
97.—We are deceived if we believe that the mind and the judgement are two different things. Judgement is but the greatness of the light of the mind: this light penetrates to the bottom of things; it remarks all there is to remark, and catches glimpses at things which seem imperceptible. Thus we must conclude, that it is the extent of the light of the mind which produces all those effects which are attributed to judgement.
98.—Everybody speaks well of his heart, but nobody dares to say the same about his mind.
99.—Politeness of mind consists in thinking thoughts that are honest and refined.
100.—Gallantry of mind is saying flattering things in an agreeable manner.
101.—It often falls out that things present themselves at once to our minds in a more perfect state than we could ever have made them by great application.
102.—The mind is ever the dupe of the heart.
103.—All those who know their minds do not necessarily know their hearts.
104.—Men and things both have their peculiar point of perspective. There are some that must be seen up close in order to judge them well, and others which we never judge so accurately as when we are afar.
105.—That man is not reasonable whom mere chance has caused to discover the reason for something: but he is reasonable who understands it, discerns it, and (so to speak) tastes it.
106.—To know things well it is necessary to know their details: but as these are almost infinite, our knowledge is ever superficial and imperfect.
107.—It is a species of flirtation to draw attention to the fact that we never flirt.
108.—The mind cannot act for long the character of the heart.
109.—Youth changes its tastes by the heat of its blood, and old age retains them by habit.
110.—We give nothing so liberally as advice.
111.—The more a man loves his beloved, the closer he is to hating her.
112.—The flaws of the mind increase with age, like those of the face.
113.—There are good marriages; but no delightful ones.
114.—We are inconsolable at being deceived by our enemies, and betrayed by our friends; yet we are often satisfied with being deceived and betrayed by our very selves.
115.—It is as easy to deceive ourselves without our perceiving it, as it is difficult to deceive others without their perceiving it.
116.—Nothing is less sincere than our manner of asking and receiving advice. He who asks for it appears to have a respectful deference for the sentiments of his friend, although he thinks of nothing but making him approve his own, and of laying on him the burden of responsibility for his conduct; and he who advises seemingly repays the confidence he receives with an ardent and disinterested zeal, although most frequently, in the advice he gives, he has no other end but his own self-interest or glory.
117.—The subtlest subterfuge is to know how to pretend to fall into traps which others have set for us; and a person is never so easily deceived as when he imagines that he is deceiving others.
118.—The intention never to deceive, exposes us to being often deceived.
119.—So accustomed do we become to disguising ourselves from others that, at length, we disguise ourselves from ourselves.
120.—We betray more often from weakness than out of a resolute intention to betray.
121.—Men often do good in order to commit evil with impunity.
122.—If we do resist our passions, it is more from their weakness than from our strength.
123.—We should experience little pleasure if we never flattered ourselves.
124.—The most cunning people pretend all their lives to reprimand cunning, in order themselves to make use of it on some great occasion and in some concern of great self-interest.
125.—The regular use of cunning is the mark of a small mind; and it almost always happens that he who makes use of it to cover himself in one respect, uncovers himself in another.
126.—Cunning and treachery are given rise to by mere incompetence.
127.—The best way to be deceived is to think ourselves more cunning than others.
128.—Too-great refinement is false delicacy, and true delicacy lies in solid refinement.
129.—To be foolish sometimes suffices to guard us against the deceit of the cunning.
130.—Weakness is the only fault that cannot be corrected.
131.—The smallest fault of that species of women who are abandoned to forming romantic attachments is—to form romantic attachments.
132.—It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
133.—The only good copies are those which make us see the ridiculousness of bad originals.
134.—We are never so ridiculous in our personal qualities, as in those which we pretend to have.
135.—We are sometimes as different from ourselves as we are from others.
136.—There are people who would never have loved, if they had never heard others speaking of it.
137.—We speak little when vanity does not induce us to do so.
138.—We love better to speak ill of ourselves than to say nothing about ourselves at all.
139.—One reason why we find so few people who appear reasonable and agreeable in conversation, is that there is almost no one who does not think more about what he wishes to say than about pertinently replying to what is said to him. The most clever and complaisant are content to show an outwardly attentive appearance, while at the same time we perceive, in their eyes and mind, that they are, on the one hand, drifting away from what we say, and, on the other, are precipitous to return to what they wish to say; instead of considering that this business of searching so strongly to please their own selves, is a bad way either of pleasing others or of persuading them; and that listening and answering well are two of the greatest perfections of conversation that one can possess.
140.—A witty man would often be at a loss without the company of fools.
141.—We often boast that we are never bored: so vain are we, that we will not recognize that we may ever make bad company, even to our own selves.
142.—As it is the character of great minds to make many things understood in few words; so small minds, on the contrary, have the gift of speaking much, and saying nothing.
143.—It is rather from an esteem for our own sentiments that we exaggerate the good qualities of others, than from an esteem for their merit; and we desire to attract praise to ourselves even when it appears that we are giving it to others.
144.—We do not like to praise, and never do praise without a motive. Praise is a kind of cunning, hidden, and subtle flattery, which satisfies the giver and the receiver in different ways. The one takes it as a recompense of his merit; the other gives it to bring his fairness of mind and good judgement into notice.
145.—We often make use of poisonous praise which brings faults to light that we should not have dared to uncover by other means.
146.—We usually praise only in order to be praised.
147.—Few people are wise enough to prefer censure which is useful to praise which is treacherous.
148.—There are reproaches which praise, and praises which slander.
149.—The refusal of praise is a desire to be praised twice.
150.—The desire to deserve the praise we receive strengthens our virtue; and that praise which is given to intelligence, to courage, and to beauty, actually contributes to increase them.
151.—It is more difficult to prevent ourselves from being governed than it is to govern others.
152.—If we did not flatter ourselves, the flattery of others could never harm us.
153.—Nature makes merit, and Fortune puts it to work.
154.—Fortune corrects us of many faults which reason could never have helped.
155.—There are some who are disgusting in their merits, and others who please with their faults.
156.—There are people whose sole merit consists in saying and doing stupid things in a useful way, and who would ruin all if they changed their conduct.
157.—The glory of great men must always be measured according to the means by which they have acquired it.
158.—Flattery is a kind of counterfeit currency, which is put in circulation only by our vanity.
159.—It is not enough to possess great qualities: it is also necessary to manage them carefully and not wastefully.
160.—However brilliant an action may be, it ought never to pass for a great one if it is not the effect of a great design.
161.—We must maintain a certain proportion between our actions and our plans, if we would draw from them all the results which they are capable of producing.
162.—The art of knowing how to put mediocre qualities to good use wins praise, and often gains men a greater reputation than true merit.
163.—There is an infinity of ways which appear ridiculous, but whose hidden reasons are very wise and weighty.
164.—It is easier to appear worthy of a position we do not possess than of one we do.
165.—Our merit gains the esteem of good men; our fortune, that of the majority of people.
166.—The world more often rewards the appearance of merit than it does the thing itself.
167.—Avarice is more opposed to economy than is liberality.
168.—Hope, deceitful as it is, serves, at least, to guide us to the end of life by an agreeable path.
169.—While it is idleness and timidity that retain us in our duty, our virtue takes all the credit.
170.—It is difficult to judge whether an unblemished, sincere, and honest course of action is the result of personal integrity or cunning.
171.—Virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.
172.—If we examine well the various effects of indifference, we shall find that it causes us to fail our duty even more frequently than does our self-interest.
173.—There are various kinds of curiosity: one is that of self-interest, on account of which we desire to learn what may be useful to us; another that of pride, arising from the desire to know what others do not.
174.—It is better to employ our mind in bearing misfortunes which actually happen to us, than in predicting those which could occur in future.
175.—Constancy in love is a perpetual inconstancy, which causes our heart successively to attach itself to all the various qualities belonging to the one we love, now giving preference to one, now to another: so that this constancy is merely a kind of inconstancy which has stopped at, and confined itself to, the same person.
176.—There are two kinds of constancy in love: the one arises from our continually finding new things to love in our beloved; the other, from the fact that we make it a point of honour to be constant.
177.—Perseverance is worthy neither of blame nor praise, for it merely consists in the duration of our tastes and feelings, which we can neither take from nor give to ourselves.
178.—What makes us love to make new acquaintances, is not so much a weariness with the old, nor the pleasure of change, as a disgust with not being admired enough by those who know us too well, and a hope of being more so by those who do not know us so well.
179.—We sometimes complain of the fickleness of our friends, in order to justify our own fickleness by anticipation.
180.—Our repentance is not so much regret for the evil we have done, as fear of the evil which may yet happen to us in future.
181.—There is one kind of inconstancy which arises from levity or weakness of mind, making it in this way receive all the opinions of others; and another, more excusable, which arises out of a disgust with the general state of things.
182.—Vices enter into the composition of virtues as poisons into that of remedies. Prudence assembles and tempers them, and makes profitable use of them against all the evils of life.
183.—We are forced to admit, to the honour of virtue, that the greatest evils which befall mankind are those they bring upon themselves by their crimes.
184.—We confess our faults to repair, by the display of our sincerity, the injury they do us by the effect they have upon the minds of others.
185.—There are heroes of evil, as there are of good.
186.—We do not despise all those who have vices; but we do despise those who are without the possession of a single virtue.
187.—The name of virtue is as useful to self-interest as vice itself.
188.—The health of the soul is no less secure than that of the body; and even when we appear far removed from the passions, we are no less in danger of being carried away by them, than we are of taking ill when we are well in body.
189.—It appears that Nature has prescribed to every man, from the moment of his birth, the bounds of both his virtues and his vices.
190.—It is the right of great men alone to possess great faults.
191.—We might say that the vices which wait upon us during the course of our lives, are like landlords with whom we must successively lodge; and I doubt whether our experience would make us avoid them, even if it were permitted to us to travel the same road twice.
192.—When our vices leave us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that it is we who have left them.
193.—There are relapses in the diseases of the soul as in those of the body. What we presume to be our recovery is most often but a short period of respite, or a change of the evil.
194.—The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body: whatever care we may take to heal them, the scars remain, and they are at every moment in danger of re-opening.
195.—What often prevents us from giving ourselves up to one single vice, is that we possess several of them.
196.—We easily forget our faults when they are known to ourselves alone.
197.—There are people whom we cannot believe to have done evil until we see it; but there are none at whom we ought to feel surprised when we do.
198.—We heighten the glory of some men in order to diminish that of others; and we should sometimes praise the Prince and Monsieur de Turenne a great deal less, if we did not wish to reproach them both.
199.—The desire to appear intelligent, often prevents us from actually becoming so.
200.—Virtue would not go so far if vanity did not keep her company.
201.—He who believes that he can make do without any one else in the world, is very mistaken; but he who believes that nobody in the world could make do without him, deceives himself still more greatly.
202.—False gentlemen are those who disguise their faults, both from others and themselves: but true gentlemen are those who know their faults perfectly, and confess them.
203.—The true gentleman is he who vainly glorifies himself in nothing.
204.—Severity of demeanour in women is, as it were, a kind of ornament and a cosmetic which they add to their beauty.
205.—Virtue in women is often a mere love of reputation and repose.
206.—A true gentleman is always willing to be exposed to the view of other gentlemen.
207.—Folly follows us at every period of our life. If a person appears wise, it is simply because his follies have become proportioned to his age and fortune.
208.—There are some fools who, nevertheless, know themselves well, and can skillfully employ their folly.
209.—He who lives without folly is not so wise as he thinks.
210.—In growing old we become more foolish, and more wise.
211.—There are people who resemble certain kinds of popular music, which are sung only for a certain time, however insipid and disgusting they may be, and then forgotten.
212.—The generality of people judge others only by their popularity or their fortune.
213.—Love of glory, fear of shame, the design of making a fortune, the desire of making our life comfortable and agreeable, and the wish to put others on a lower level than ourselves, are often the causes of that bravery so commonly celebrated among mankind.
214.—The bravery of common soldiers is but a dangerous profession they take up to get a living.
215.—Perfect courage and utter cowardice are two extremities at which men rarely arrive. The space between them is vast, and contains all the other various species of courage: and there is no less difference between these as there is between different faces and tempers. There are men who will voluntarily expose themselves to danger at the beginning of an action, but easily slacken, and are put off by its duration. Some are content when they have satisfied the state of their honour as it stands with the world, and perform very little beyond this. We see some who are not always equally the masters of their fear. Others will allow themselves to be drawn into a general panic; others still will join a charge, simply because they do not dare to remain at their posts. We find those whose familiarity with smaller dangers has strengthened their courage, and prepared them to expose themselves to greater ones. Some will brave a sword cut, but fear bullets; others are confident at facing bullets, but fear to fight with swords. All these different kinds of courage unite in this: that night, which increases fear, and hides both good and evil actions, gives men the freedom to act as they please. And here is a more general consideration: That we never see a man who does all that he would be capable of doing, if he were assured of coming back safely. So that it is clear that the fear of death does take something away from courage.
216.—Perfect courage is to do without witnesses what one would do before all the world.
217.—Intrepidity is an extraordinary power of the soul, which raises it above the troubles, disorders, and emotions, which the view of great dangers can excite in it; and it is by this power that heroes maintain a calm composure, and retain the free use of their reason even in the midst of the most surprising and terrible events.
218.—Hypocrisy is a form of homage that vice pays to virtue.
219.—Most men expose themselves in battle just enough to save their honour; but few will always do quite as much as is necessary to make the very plan for which they are exposing themselves succeed.
220.—Vanity, shame, and above all temperament, often give rise to the courage of men, and the virtue of women.
221.—We do not wish to die, but we do wish to acquire glory; and this is why brave men possess greater skill and ingenuity to avoid death, than even knaves do to retain their estates.
222.—There are few people who, from the very first approach of age, do not make us aware of the ways in which their body and mind will decline.
223.—It is with gratitude as it is with keeping the good faith of merchants: it keeps commerce flowing smoothly; and we do not pay because it is just to clear ourselves of our debts, but in order more easily to find people who will lend to us.
224.—Those who pay the bare duties of gratitude cannot, for that reason alone, flatter themselves that they are truly grateful.
225.—What causes our miscalculation about how much gratitude we shall receive in exchange for the favours we give, is that the pride of him who gives, and the pride of him who receives, cannot agree about the price of the benefit.
226.—A too-great eagerness to discharge ourselves of an obligation is a species of ingratitude.
227.—Prosperous people hardly ever rectify their faults: for while Fortune lends her support to their bad conduct, they always believe themselves to be in the right.
228.—Pride does not wish to owe, and self-love does not wish to pay.
229.—The good we have received from a person should make us abide with the evil they have done.
230.—Nothing is so contagious as example, and we never do either great good nor great evil without producing the like. For we imitate good actions by emulation, and evil ones by cause of that in-born wickedness of our nature, which shame keeps prisoner, and example sets free.
231.—It is great folly to decide that we are the only wise person in the world.
232.—Whatever pretext we may invent for the existence of our sorrows, it is often but our own self-interest and vanity that have caused them.
233.—In grief there are various kinds of hypocrisy. In one, under the pretext of mourning the loss of a person who is dear to us, we weep only for ourselves: we feel pain at losing the good opinion they had of us; we weep for the diminution of our good, of our pleasure, of our consideration. Thus the dead have the honour of tears which flow only for the sake of the living. I call this a kind of hypocrisy, because in this species of affliction we deceive ourselves.
There is another kind of hypocrisy which is not so innocent, because it imposes upon the entire world: It is the grief of certain people who aspire to the glory of possessing a beautiful and immortal sorrow. For after Time, which consumes all, has already made what sorrow they did possess to cease, they never desist obstinately to give voice to their cries, their lamentations, and their sighs: they play a mournful part, and labour to persuade others, by their every action, that their displeasure can finish only with their life.
This painful and tiresome vanity is usually found in ambitious women. As their sex bars from them all the common paths to glory, they strive to make themselves celebrated by the show of an inconsolable affliction.
There is still another species of tears which arise only from small sources, and which flow and dry up easily.
Some cry to get a reputation for tenderness; some cry to be pitied; some cry to be cried for; and some cry to avoid the shame of not crying.
234.—It is more often from pride than from ignorance that we so stubbornly oppose ourselves to the most current opinions: we find the first seats already taken on the better side, and do not wish to sit down there last.
235.—We easily console ourselves for the misfortunes of our friends when they serve to throw light on our tenderness for them.
236.—It sometimes seems as though self-love were the dupe of kindness, and that it forgets itself whenever we labour for the benefit of others. And yet to do this is to take the most certain road for arriving at its ends: to lend at interest, under pretext of giving; and indeed, only a subtle and refined way of winning over the generality of mankind.
237.—Nobody deserves to be praised for his goodness if he has not the power to be evil. All other goodness is most often but indolence or weakness of will.
238.—It is not so dangerous to do evil to the generality of men, as it is to do them too much good.
239.—Nothing more flatters our pride than the confidence of the great, because we regard it as an effect of our merit; without considering that it most often arises either from vanity, or from mere inability to keep a secret.
240.—We may say of charm, as considered separately from beauty, that it is a kind of symmetry whose rules we do not know; a secret relationship of a person’s features both one with another, and with both the complexion and the demeanour of the person.
241.—Flirtation is the foundation of woman’s temper; but all of them do not put it into practice, because in some it is restrained by fear, or reason.
242.—We often are bothersome to others, even when we believe ourselves to be absolutely incapable being so.
243.—There are few things impossible in and of themselves; and the application necessary to succeed is more often lacking than the means.
244.—The highest ability consists in knowing the true value of things.
245.—It is great cleverness to know how to hide our cleverness.
246.—What appears to be generosity is often but a kind of disguised ambition which despises small matters of self-interest in order to pursue greater ones.
247.—The fidelity displayed by the generality of mankind is but an invention of self-love to draw in the confidence of others. It is a means of elevating ourselves above others, and making ourselves depositaries of the most important things.
248.—Greatness of soul despises all things to have all things.
249.—There is no less eloquence in the tone of the voice, the eyes, and the air of a person, than in his choice of words.
250.—True eloquence consists in saying, on the one hand all that we ought to say, on the other omitting what we ought not.
251.—There are people whose faults beseem them well, and others whose good qualities disgrace them.
252.—It is as common to change our tastes as it is uncommon to change our inclinations.
253.—Self-interest puts in motion every kind of virtue and of vice.
254.—Humility is often but a pretence of submission which is used to make others submit: it is an artifice of pride which stoops in order to rise; and although pride transforms itself into a thousand different shapes, it is never better disguised, nor better capable of deceiving, than when it cloaks itself under the appearance of humility.
255.—Every feeling expresses itself by its own peculiar tone of voice, gesture, and look; and it is this interrelationship, good or bad, agreeable or disagreeable, that makes people either please or displease.
256.—In every profession, people affect a particular air and appearance in order to seem what they wish others to believe them to be; so that it might be said that the world is made up simply of appearances.
257.—Gravity is a kind of mysterious bearing of the body, got up to hide the defects of the mind.
258.—Good taste is more a production of the judgement than of the wit.
259.—The pleasure of love consists in loving; and we are made happier by the passion we possess than by the passion we inspire.
260.—We are civil because we desire to receive civility, and because we wish to be thought of as polite and well-bred.
261.—The usual sort of education we give to young people doubles their quantity of self-love.
262.—There is no passion where self-love reigns so powerfully as in love; and we are always more readily disposed to sacrifice the peace of our loved one than to lose our own.
263.—What we call generosity is most frequently but the vanity of giving, which we love better than what we part with.
264.—Pity is oftentimes a sense of our own misfortunes in the misfortunes of others. It is a clever prediction of the evils into which we ourselves may fall: we give help to others in order to engage them to do the same for us on similar occasions; and the services which we render them are, properly speaking, benefits which we do to ourselves in advance.
265.—Narrowness of mind begets obstinacy; and we do not easily believe what we cannot see ourselves.
266.—We deceive ourselves if we believe that it is the violent passions alone, like ambition and love, that can triumph over the others. Idleness, as languishing as it is, rarely fails to be the master: it usurps all the plans and actions of our lives, destroying and insensibly consuming both passions and virtues.
267.—A readiness to believe evil without sufficient examination, it is an effect both of pride and of idleness. On the one hand, we desire to find other people guilty; and on the other, we do not wish to take the pains necessary to examine their crimes.
268.—We take exception to judges who are interested in the least degree, and yet we are willing to allow our reputation and our fame to depend on the judgement of men who are completely opposed to us either from jealousy, prejudice, or want of intelligence; and we expose our peace of mind and very life in so many ways, simply in order to get such men to decide in our favour.
269.—There is scarcely a man alive clever enough to know all the evil he does.
270.—An honour acquired is but a deposit, which must be paid off by gaining still more.
271.—Youth is a state of continual intoxication: it is reason in a fever.
272.—Nothing should so humiliate men who have deserved great praise, as the care they take of keeping it up by the meanest ways.
273.—There are people who enjoy the approval of the world whose sole merit consists in their having vices that are useful in the general affairs of life.
274.—The charm of novelty is to love as the flower is to the fruit: it gives to it a lustre that easily fades, and which never returns.
275.—Good nature, which people boast they feel so strongly, is often suffocated by the slightest matter of self-interest.
276.—Absence diminishes moderate passions and magnifies great ones, as the wind blows out candles but kindles fire.
277.—Woman often believes herself in love when she is not. The bustle and business of an intrigue, along with the mental emotions it produces; a natural inclination towards the pleasure of being loved, and the difficulty of refusing, all persuade them that they feel true passion when they are merely indulging in flirtation.
278.—What often makes us dissatisfied with those who transact business for us, is that they almost always abandon the interest of their friends to the self-interested motive of making the negotiation a success; for the success becomes their own by the honour of their having accomplished what they set out to do.
279.—When we exaggerate the tenderness our friends feel for us, it is done less often out of a sense of gratitude as from a desire to make a favourable exhibition of ourselves.
280.—The approbation we bestow on those who are just entering into the world, often arises from the secret envy we bear towards those who are already established.
281.—Our pride, which inspires us with so much envy, also often serves to moderate it.
282.—There are some kinds of disguised falsehood which represent the truth so well, that it would be bad judgement not to permit them to deceive us.
283.—It sometimes requires as great ability to profit from good counsel, as to give it to ourselves.
284.—There are some wicked people who would be less dangerous if they were completely lacking in goodness.
285.—”Magnanimity” [from the Latin magnus, great, and animus, soul, “greatness of soul”] is sufficiently defined by its name; nevertheless we may say, that it is the product of pride with good sense, and that it is the most noble way there is of receiving praise.
286.—It is impossible to love a second time what we have truly ceased to love.
287.—It is not so much fertility of mind which makes us find several answers to the same matter, as it is a want of light in us, which makes us pause over everything which presents itself to our imagination, and prevents us from at once discerning what is best.
288.—There are matters and maladies which remedies, at certain times, make worse; and it is a mark of great ability to know when it is dangerous to employ them.
289.—Affected simplicity is a subtle imposture.
290.—There are more defects of temper than of mind.
291.—Merit, like fruits, has its season.
292.—We may say of men’s tempers, as of most buildings, that they possess different sides, some pleasing, and others displeasing.
293.—Moderation cannot have the credit of combatting and subduing ambition: for the two are never to be found together. Moderation is but the languor and idleness of the soul, as ambition is its activity and heat.
294.—We always love those who admire us; but we do not always love those whom we admire.
295.—It is well that we are not acquainted with all our desires.
296.—It is a difficult thing to love those whom we do not esteem; but it is no less difficult to love those whom we esteem much more than ourselves.
297.—The humours of the body have a common and regular course, which imperceptibly moves and turns our will; they advance together, and successively rule a secret empire within us: so that, unbeknown to us, they play a considerable role in all our actions.
298.—Gratitude, in the generality of people, is but a manifestation of a secret desire of receiving greater benefits.
299.—Almost everybody takes pleasure in discharging themselves of small obligations, and many people show gratitude for receiving trifling favours: but there is hardly any one who is not ungrateful for great ones.
300.—There are follies that are caught, like infectious diseases.
301.—There are men enough who profess to despise wealth—but few know how to give it away.
302.—It is generally in small matters alone that we are bold enough not to trust to appearances.
303.—Whatsoever good people may speak of us, their praises never teach us anything new.
304.—We often forgive those who bore us; but never can we forgive those we have bored.
305.—Self-interest, which commonly takes the blame for all our crimes, often deserves praise for producing our good actions.
306.—We find very few ungrateful people for just so long as we remain in a position to grant more benefits.
307.—It is as honourable to feel glory in private as it is ridiculous to display it in the company of others.
308.—Society has made a virtue of moderation, first, to set bounds to the ambition of great men; secondly, to console mediocre ones for their want of fortune and of merit.
309.—There are people destined to be fools, who not only commit follies of their own volition, but whom fortune itself compels to do so.
310.—Predicaments sometimes come to us in our lives which we can get out of only by being a little foolish.
311.—If there are men whose more ridiculous aspects have not yet become apparent, it is because we have not searched for them diligently enough.
312.—What makes lovers and their beloved never get tired of being in each other’s company, is that they are perpetually speaking about themselves.
313.—How is it that our memory is good enough to retain the minutest details of our lives—but not good enough to remember how very many times we have recounted those details to the same person?
314.—The extreme pleasure we take in speaking about ourselves, ought to make us fear that we may be giving scarcely any of it to those who hear us.
315.—What commonly prevents us from letting our friends see the very bottom of our heart, is not so much the mistrust we have of them, as that we have of ourselves.
316.—Weak people cannot be sincere.
317.—It is no great misfortune to oblige an ungrateful man; but it is unbearable to be obliged to a reprobate.
318.—We do find means for curing folly, but never for rectifying a crooked mind.
319.—We cannot keep up the kinds of feelings we ought to maintain towards our friends and benefactors for long, if we allow ourselves the liberty of speaking often about their faults.
320.—By praising princes for having virtues which they do not possess, we may insult them with impunity.
321.—We are closer to loving those who downright hate us, than those who love us more than we desire.
322.—It is they alone who are despicable that fear to be despised.
323.—Our wisdom is no less at the mercy of Fortune than is our wealth.
324.—In jealousy, there is more of self-love than love.
325.—We often console ourselves by weakness for evils about which our reason is powerless to comfort us.
326.—In the eyes of the world, ridicule casts more dishonour upon us than does dishonour itself.
327.—We confess to small faults only for the purpose of persuading others that we do not possess great ones.
328.—Envy is more irreconcilable than hatred.
329.—We sometimes believe that we hate flattery; but truthfully we hate only the manner in which people go about it.
330.—We forgive so long as we love.
331.—It is harder for a man to be faithful to his beloved when he is happy than when he is mistreated by her.
332.—Women are oblivious of how exceedingly much they flirt.
333.—Women cannot be completely severe in their demeanour unless they look upon a person with feelings of aversion.
334.—Women can less easily surmount their proclivity to flirtation than their very passion.
335.—In love, deceit almost always goes farther than mistrust.
336.—There is a certain kind of love whose very excess prevents jealousy.
337.—It is with certain good qualities as it is with the senses: they who are entirely deprived of them, can neither perceive them nor comprehend them.
338.—When our hatred is too lively, it places us beneath those whom we hate.
339.—We feel our good and evil fortune only in proportion to our quantity of self-love.
340.—The intellect of most women serves more to strengthen their folly than their reason.
341.—The passions of youth are scarcely more opposed to salvation than is the tepidness of old age.
342.—The accent of the country where we were born dwells in our mind and heart as it does on our tongue.
343.—To be a great man, we must know how to profit by every accident of Fortune.
344.—Most men, like plants, possess hidden properties, which chance brings to light.
345.—Opportunities make us known to others, and still more to ourselves.
346.—There can be no rule in the mind or heart of a woman, if her temperament does not agree with it.
347.—We find very few sensible people who are not of our own opinion.
348.—When we love, we often doubt our most deeply-held beliefs.
349.—The greatest miracle of love is to cure flirtation.
350.—What makes us feel so bitter towards those who practise deception against us, is that they believe themselves to be more clever than we.
351.—To break with a person is extremely difficult for those who no longer love.
352.—We are almost always bored when we are in the company of those people with whom we are not supposed to be bored.
353.—A gentleman may love like a madman, but never like a fool.
354.—There are certain faults which, when displayed in a flattering light, shine more brightly than virtue itself.
355.—People are sometimes lost to us whose deaths we regret more than we mourn; and sometimes others whose deaths we mourn, but which we scarcely regret.
356.—Generally speaking, we reserve our heartiest praise for those who admire us.
357.—Small minds are too much wounded by little things: great minds see all such things, and are uninjured by them.
358.—Humility is the true proof of the Christian virtues. Without it, we retain all our faults, and they are merely concealed by pride; which not only hides them from others, but often from ourselves.
359.—Infidelity should extinguish love, and we ought to lose all capacity for jealousy at that very moment when we have true reason to feel it. It is they alone who avoid causing jealousy that are worthy of receiving it.
360.—People are more discredited, in our eyes, by the smallest acts of infidelity they commit against us, than by the greatest ones they commit against others.
361.—Jealousy is ever born with love, but it does not always die with it.
362.—Most women do not weep for the deaths of their gallants so much because they loved them, as in order to appear more worthy of being loved.
363.—The damage others do to us does not cause us so much pain as the damage we do to ourselves.
364.—We know well enough that we ought to speak little of our wives; but we are not so well acquainted with the fact that we ought to talk still less about ourselves.
365.—There are good qualities which degenerate into faults though they are natural, and others which are never perfect though they are acquired. Reason, for example, should have taught us how to manage our money and confidence; while Nature ought to have given us kindness and courage.
366.—Whatever distrust we may have as to the sincerity of those with whom we speak, we always believe they are more truthful with us than they are with others.
367.—There are few virtuous women who are not weary of their occupation.
368.—Most virtuous women are like hidden treasures, which are safe only because nobody goes looking for them.
369.—The damage we do to ourselves to prevent ourselves from falling in love, is often more cruel than the very hardness of our beloved.
370.—Few cowards are always acquainted with the full extent of their fear.
371.—It is almost always a fault of one who loves, not to know when he ceases to be loved.
372.—Most young people think they are being natural when they are really crude and ill-mannered.
373.—There are some tears that, after deceiving others, often deceive ourselves.
374.—If we believe we love our beloved for love’s sake alone, we are greatly deceived.
375.—Mediocre minds ordinarily condemn anything that passes beyond their reach.
376.—Envy is destroyed by true friendship, and a habit of flirtation by true love.
377.—The greatest fault of penetration is not to fall short of our end, but to go beyond it.
378.—We may give people good advice, but we cannot produce the conduct.
379.—When our merit declines, our taste declines also.
380.—Fortune makes apparent our virtues and our vices, as light brings objects into view.
381.—To have intensely to struggle to remain faithful to the one we love, is little better than infidelity itself.
382.—Our actions are like the verses in a game of bout-rimés, which any one can make refer to what he pleases. [“The bouts-rimez were the favourites of the French nation for a whole age together, and that at a time when it abounded in wit and learning. They were a list of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list: the more uncommon the rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the genius of the poet that could accommodate his verses to them.”—Joseph Addison, The Spectator No. 60.]
383.—The desire to speak about ourselves, and to display our faults in the light in which we wish them to be seen, comprises a great part of our sincerity.
384.—We should be astonished only at the fact that we yet capable of being astonished.
385.—We find it equally difficult to be content both when we feel a great deal of love, and when we feel scarcely any.
386.—There is no class of people who are more frequently wrong, than those who cannot tolerate being wrong.
387.—A fool does not have enough stuff in him to be good.
388.—If vanity does not overthrow the virtues entirely, at the least she shakes them to their foundations.
389.—What makes the vanity of others insupportable to us, is that it wounds our own.
390.—We forsake matters of our very self-interest more easily than our tastes.
391.—Fortune never appears so blind as to those for whom she has never done anything good.
392.—We should govern Fortune as we govern our health: enjoying her when she is good to us, being patient when she is bad, and never making use of desperate remedies without an extreme necessity of so doing.
393.—Vulgar manners are sometimes lost in the army, but they are never lost at court.
394.—We can be more clever than another man—but not more clever than all men.
395.—We are sometimes less unhappy while being deceived by one we love, than at being undeceived.
396.—A woman keeps her first lover for a long time indeed—if she does not get a second.
397.—Generally speaking, we do not have the courage to say that we have no faults, and that our enemies are without the possession of a single good quality; but in reality we are not very far from believing it.
398.—Of all our faults, that about which we are most complacent is idleness. We persuade ourselves that, on the one hand, it is bound up with all the peaceable virtues; and on the other, that it does not entirely destroy the other virtues, but rather merely suspends their operation.
399.—There is a kind of elevation which does not depend on fortune: it is a certain manner which distinguishes us, and seems to destine us for great things; it is a value which we imperceptibly set upon ourselves. It is by this quality that we usurp the deference of other men, and it is by it that we are often set above our birth, our class, and even merit itself.
400.—There is merit without elevation, but there is no elevation without some degree of merit.
401.—Elevation is to merit what fine clothing is to a handsome person.
402.—What we find the least of in love-affairs is love.
403.—Fortune sometimes makes use of our faults to elevate us; and there are many tiresome people whose merit would be poorly rewarded, if we did not wish to buy their absence.
404.—It seems that Nature has hidden talents and abilities at the bottom of our minds that we know not; the passions alone possess the right of bringing them to light, and of sometimes presenting to our view discoveries more certain and perfect than Art could ever achieve.
405.—We arrive completely new at each of the various stages of life, and often lack experience in spite of the number of our years.
406.—Flirtatious women make it a point of honour to be jealous of their lovers, to hide their envy of other women.
407.—It is well that people ensnared by our cunning do not appear so ridiculous to us, as we appear ridiculous to ourselves when we are ensnared by the cunning of others.
408.—The most dangerous folly of old people who were once amiable, is to forget they are no longer so.
409.—We should often feel shame about our greatest actions, if the world were to see the motives that produced them.
410.—The hardest task in friendship is, not to show our faults to our friend, but to make him see his own.
411.—We have few faults that are not more excusable than the means we make use of to conceal them.
412.—Whatever degree of disgrace we may have brought upon ourselves, it is always within our power to re-establish our reputation.
413.—A man cannot please for long who possesses only one species of wit.
414.—Madmen and fools see nothing but through their own temper.
415.—Our intelligence sometimes induces us boldly to act like fools.
416.—That kind of vivacity which increases with age is not far removed from folly.
417.—In love, he who is cured the earliest is always cured the best.
418.—Young women who do not wish to appear flirts, and old men who do not wish to appear ridiculous, should never speak of love as a thing with which they can have anything to do.
419.—We can appear great in an employment that is beneath our merit; but we often appear small in one that is greater than ourselves.
420.—We often believe that we have constancy in suffering our misfortunes, when really we have nothing except despondency; and we suffer them without daring to look them in the face: like cowards, who allow themselves to be killed out of simple fear to defend themselves.
421.—Confidence contributes more to conversation than intelligence.
422.—All the passions make us commit faults; but love makes us commit the most ridiculous ones.
423.—Few people know how to be old.
424.—We often take credit for faults which are opposite to those we really possess: for example, when weak, we boast that we are stubborn.
425.—Penetration has an air of divination about it that more powerfully flatters our vanity than any other quality of the mind.
426.—The charm of novelty, and long-continued habit, however opposed to each other these things may be, prevent us equally from feeling the faults of our friends.
427.—Most friends make us feel disgusted with friendship, and most devotees make us feel disgusted with devotion.
428.—We easily forgive those faults in our friends which do not directly concern ourselves.
429.—Women in love forgive great mistakes more easily than small acts of infidelity.
430.—In the old age of love, as in that of life itself, we live for its evils, but no longer for its pleasures.
431.—Nothing so much prevents us from being natural as a desire to appear so.
432.—In a sense, we take part in great actions when we give them hearty praise.
433.—The truest mark of being born with great qualities, is to be born without envy.
434.—When our friends have deceived us, we no longer owe the signs of their friendship anything but indifference; though we ought always to feel for their misfortunes.
435.—Fortune and temper govern the world.
436.—It is easier to know man in general than to know any one man in particular.
437.—We should not judge the merit of a man by the greatness of his qualities, but by the use he makes of them.
438.—There is a certain kind of lively gratitude which not only acquits us of the benefits we have received, but even puts our friends in our debt for the very debt we have paid them.
439.—We should desire very few things with ardour, if we knew perfectly well the things which we desire.
440.—The reason why most women are so little affected by friendship, is that it is insipid to them once they have felt love.
441.—In friendship as in love, we are often made happier by the things of which we are ignorant than by the things we know.
442.—We try to make a merit of those of our faults which we do not wish to correct.
443.—Even our most violent passions will sometimes allow us a period of respite; but vanity is a constant agitation.
444.—Old fools are more foolish than young ones.
445.—Weakness is more opposed to virtue than vice is.
446.—What makes the pains of shame and jealousy so acute, is that vanity cannot help us to endure them.
447.—Good manners are the least of all the laws, and the most commonly obeyed.
448.—A well-ordered mind finds it less difficult to submit to an ill-regulated one than to lead it.
449.—When fortune surprises us by bestowing on us a great station without having led us there by gradual degrees, or without our having expected it, it is almost impossible to sustain ourselves in our position and to appear worthy of occupying it.
450.—We often add to our pride what we cut away from our faults.
451.—There are no fools so obnoxious as those who possess some degree of wit.
452.—There is no man who believes himself, in every one of his qualities, to be beneath him whom he esteems more than anybody else in the world.
453.—In great affairs we should less apply ourselves to creating opportunities than to profiting from those which naturally arise.
454.—There are few occasions in which we should make a bad trade, if we yielded the good people say of us in exchange for their not speaking ill of us.
455.—However disposed the world may be to judge poorly of things, it favours false merit even more often than it does injustice to true.
456.—There are sometimes fools with wit, but never fools with judgement.
457.—We should gain more by letting the world see what we really are, than by trying to seem what we are not.
458.—Our enemies approach nearer to the truth in the judgements they make of us, than we do of ourselves.
459.—There are many remedies for love, but none are infallible.
460.—It would be well for us if we knew all the things our passions make us do.
461.—Old age is a tyrant who bans upon pain of death all the pleasures of youth.
462.—That same pride which makes us censure faults from which we believe ourselves exempt, also causes us to despise those good qualities which we do not possess.
463.—There is often more of pride than of kindness in pitying the misfortunes of our enemies: it is to make them feel we are above them that we show them our compassion.
464.—There are excesses of good and of evil that pass our sensibility.
465.—Innocence is fortunate if it enjoys as much protection as crime.
467.—Vanity causes us to do more things that are contrary to our taste than does reason.
468.—There are bad qualities which make for great talents.
469.—We never ardently desire what is desired by our reason alone.
470.—All our qualities, good and bad, are uncertain and doubtful, and they are almost always at the mercy of the occasion.
471.—In their first passion, women love their lover; in the others, they love love.
472.—Pride has its oddities, like all the passions. We are ashamed to admit that we are jealous, yet we pride ourselves on having previously felt jealousy, or on being capable of feeling it.
473.—However rare true love may be, it is still less so than true friendship.
474.—There are few women whose merit outlasts their beauty.
475.—The desire to be pitied, or admired, often makes up the greatest motive for the intimate confessions we make.
476.—Our envy always lasts longer than the good fortune of those for whom we feel it.
477.—The same firmness which helps us to resist falling in love, serves also to make love more intense and durable; and weak people who are constantly agitated by their passions, are almost never truly filled with it.
478.—Imagination could not invent so many various contrarieties as there exist naturally in the heart of every man.
479.—It is they alone who possess firmness that can possess true gentleness. People who appear gentle are most often merely weak; which weakness is easily converted into acrimony.
480.—Timidity is a fault which it is dangerous to blame in those whom we wish to cure of it.
481.—Nothing is rarer than true goodness: even those who believe themselves to possess it, are most commonly merely complacent, or weak.
482.—The mind attaches itself from idleness or from habit to whatever is easy or agreeable to it; this habit ever sets boundaries to our knowledge: and no man has ever taken the pains to expand and conduct his mind to the full extent of its capabilities.
483.—We more often gossip from vanity than from malice.
484.—When the heart still stirs with the remnants of a passion, it is more ready to take up a new one than when entirely cured.
485.—Those who have experienced great passions find themselves all their lives both happy, and unhappy, for being cured of them.
486.—There are more people without self-interest than without envy.
487.—There is more idleness in the mind than in the body.
488.—The calm or agitation of our temper does not so much depend upon the most important things of our life, as it does upon the agreeable or disagreeable arrangement of little things that happen to us throughout the day.
489.—However wicked men may be, they would never dare to appear as the open enemies of virtue; and when they wish to persecute the virtuous, they either feign to believe that their virtue is false, or attribute crimes to them.
490.—We often pass from love to ambition, but scarcely ever return from ambition to love.
491.—Extreme avarice almost always takes the wrong path: there is no other passion that hits so wide of the mark, nor over which the present holds so much power to the prejudice of the future.
492.—Avarice often produces effects contrary to what it aims at: There is an infinite number of people who sacrifice all their wealth to doubtful and distant hopes; others despise great future advantages for small matters of interest in the present.
493.—It seems that men do not find they have enough faults as it is: they increase the number still more by adopting certain singular qualities, with which they affect to adorn themselves; and they cultivate these with so much care that, at length, they become natural faults which are no longer within their power to correct.
494.—What makes it evident that men know their faults better than we think, is that they appear never to be in the wrong when we hear them speak about their own conduct: the same self-love which ordinarily blinds them, on this occasion enlightens them, and gives to them a view of themselves that is so correct, that it makes them suppress, or disguise, the slightest things that could possibly be condemned.
495.—Young people just entering into the world should be either bashful or giddy; a knowing air of self-assurance commonly becomes impertinence.
496.—Quarrels would not last for long, if the wrong were only on one side.
497.—It is useless to a woman to be young without being pretty, or pretty without being young.
498.—There are people so light and frivolous that they are as far from having true faults as they are from possessing any substantial qualities.
499.—We do not ordinary count a woman’s first love-affair until she has had a second.
500.—There are people so full of themselves that, when they love, they find a way of being more occupied with the act of loving itself than with the person they love.
501.—Love, agreeable as it is, pleases more by the manner in which it shows itself than by its bare existence.
502.—A little wit with good sense tires less, in the long term, than a great deal of it coupled with a wayward disposition.
503.—Jealousy is the greatest of all evils, and yet the least pitied by those who inspire it.
504.—After having spoken of the falsity of so many apparent virtues, it seems reasonable to say something of the falsity of the contempt of death. I am speaking of that contempt of death which the pagans, without having the hope of a better life, boasted they derived from their native strength.
There is a difference between suffering death with constancy, and despising it. The first is common enough; but I believe that the other is never sincere. And yet everything has been written that could possibly persuade us that death is not an evil; and the weakest of men as well as heroes have given us a thousand celebrated examples in support of this opinion.
I doubt, however, whether any person of good sense ever believed it; and the pains which men have taken to persuade both others and themselves of the notion, make it clear enough that the task is not an easy one.
There are many reasons to be disgusted with life, but there is never reason to despise death: even those who yield their lives to it voluntarily do not consider it so small a thing, and are startled and reject it like others, when it comes to them by another way than that which they have chosen.
The inequalities we observe in the courage of an infinite number of brave men arise from the fact that death reveals itself differently to their imaginations, and appears more present to them at one time than at another. Thus it falls out that, after having despised what they did not know, they fear, at last, what they do know. We must keep ourselves from envisaging it with all its attendant circumstances, if we would not believe it to be the greatest of evils. The cleverest and bravest are those who take up the most honourable pretexts to prevent themselves from considering it: But every man who can see it such as it truly is, discovers it to be a terrible thing.
The necessity of dying was the origin of all the constancy of the philosophers. They thought it best to go with a good grace where nobody could at any rate prevent himself from going; and, not being able to eternalize their lives, there was nothing left for them but to eternalize their reputations, and to save from the shipwreck all that could be salvaged.
Let us be content to put a good face on the matter by not saying to ourselves all that we think about death, and let us have better hope in our temperament than in those weak arguments which make us believe that we can approach it with indifference. The glory of dying with firmness, the hope of being regretted, the desire to leave behind us a great reputation, the assurance of being freed from the miseries of life, and of no longer depending on the caprice of Fortune, are remedies which we ought not to reject; but we ought also not to believe them infallible. They assure us in the same manner that a simple hedge would do so in a war, if we had to storm a position while taking enemy fire. At a distance, we should imagine it might give us cover; but when we drew near, we should find it a feeble protection. It is flattering ourselves to believe that death will appear up close what we had judged it to be from afar, and that our feelings, which are weakness itself, will be of a strong enough temper not to suffer from an attack by the harshest of all trials.
It is also poorly knowing the effects of self-love, to think that it can help us to depreciate what must necessarily destroy it; and reason, in which we trust to find so many resources, is too weak, in this encounter, to persuade us of what we wish. It is reason, on the contrary, that most often betrays us, and which, instead of inspiring us with a contempt of death, serves to unveil to us everything about it which is frightening and terrible. All it can do for us is to advise us to avert our eyes, and to fix them upon other things. Cato and Brutus chose illustrious ones; a servant not too long ago contented himself with dancing on the scaffold where he was about to be killed: thus, although the motives may differ, they produce the same effects. So that it is true that, whatever disproportion there may be between great men and common ones, we have seen them both on a thousand occasions meet death with the same countenance. But there has always been this difference: That, in the contempt which great men show for death, it is the love of glory which hides it from their sight; while in common people, it is merely the effect of their want of intelligence; which prevents them from understanding the greatness of their evil, and leaves them at liberty to think of other things.
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