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Title: The 'Characters' of Jean de La Bruyère
Author: La Bruyère, Jean de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The 'Characters' of Jean de La Bruyère" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

  Transcriberʼs note:

  Due to the error in the numbering of the chapters in the original
  (no chapter number II and no chapter number for chapter “OF FASHION”),
  chapters have been renumbered as follows:






  _Three hundred copies of this book printed for England, and two
  hundred, with an American imprint, for sale in that country. No more
  will be printed._

  _No. 13_

[Illustration: JEAN DE LA BRUYÈRE]







  With an Introduction, a Biographical Memoir
  and Notes











  INTRODUCTION                        _11_

  BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR                 _26_

  PREFACE                               i

  OF WORKS OF THE MIND                  7

  OF PERSONAL MERIT                    39

  OF WOMEN                             58

  OF THE AFFECTIONS                    86


  OF THE GIFTS OF FORTUNE             132

  OF THE TOWN                         164

  OF THE COURT                        183

  OF THE GREAT                        221


  OF MANKIND                          271

  OF OPINIONS                         328

  OF FASHION                          377

  OF CERTAIN CUSTOMS                  403

  OF THE PULPIT                       442

  OF FREETHINKERS                     459





  JEAN DE LA BRUYÈRE       _Frontispiece_

  MONTAIGNE                            23

  DESCARTES                           151

  LE BRUN                             236

  LOUIS XIV.                          270

  WILLIAM III.                        374

  BOSSUET                             453


  THE AUTHOR                            i

  STUDY                                 7

  TIRED OUT                            39

  THE TOILETTE                         58

  AFFECTION                            86

  SOCIETY                             100

  RUSTIC COURTSHIP                    132

  THE TUILERIES                       164

  THE COURT                           183

  THE GREAT                           221

  THE PRICE OF GLORY                  245

  THE CONSULTATION                    271

  DIFFERENT OPINIONS                  328

  THE BIRD-FANCIER                    377

  NOBLE AND CITIZEN                   403

  MONK PREACHING                      442

  BELIEF                              459



It is a common practice for translators to state to the public that the
author they are going to introduce, and whom they sometimes traduce,
is one of the greatest men of the age, and that already for a long
time a general desire has been felt to make the acquaintance of such a
master-mind. It would be an insult to French scholars to speak thus of
La Bruyère, for the merits of his “Characters” are known; but, for the
benefit of those who are not so well acquainted with our author, I may
state that he is neither so terse, epigrammatic, sublime, nor profound
as either Pascal or La Rochefoucauld are, but that he is infinitely
more readable, as he is always trying to please his readers, and now
and then sacrifices even a certain depth of thought to attain his

La Bruyère takes good care to tell us that he has not imitated any
one; Pascal “makes metaphysics subservient to religion, explains the
nature of the soul, its passions and vices; treats of the great and
serious motives which lead to virtue, and endeavours to make a man a
Christian;” La Rochefoucauldʼs “mind, instructed by his knowledge
of society, and with a delicacy equal to his penetration, observed
that self-love in man was the cause of all his errors, and attacked
it without intermission, wherever it was found; and this one thought,
multiplied as it were in a thousand different ways by a choice of words
and a variety of expression, has always the charm of novelty.”[1] Our
author, on the contrary, openly declares: “I did not wish to write any
maxims, for they are like moral laws, and I acknowledge that I possess
neither sufficient authority nor genius for a legislator.”[2]

What is the plan and idea of the book of “Characters?” Let La Bruyère
himself answer this: “Of the sixteen chapters which compose it, there
are fifteen wholly employed in detecting the fallacy and ridicule
to be found in the objects of human passions and inclinations, and
in demolishing such obstacles as at first weaken, and afterwards
extinguish, any knowledge of God in mankind; therefore, these chapters
are merely preparatory to the sixteenth and last, wherein atheism is
attacked, and perhaps routed, wherein the proofs of a God, such at
least as weak man is capable of receiving, are produced; wherein the
providence of God is defended against the insults and complaints of

La Bruyère is not a speculative moralist, but an observer of the
manners of men, or, as he likes to call himself a philosopher, and
above all a Christian philosopher, such as a friend of Bossuet ought
to be. He was the first to make morality attractive, and to paint
characters in a literary and delicate manner; he does not dogmatise,
and above all shows neither personal hatred nor venom; in other words,
to use his own expressions, he “gives back to the public what it
lent”[4] him.

Underneath the literary man people often look for the man, with all
his passion, his likes and dislikes; hence the many “Keys” of the
“Characters,” published during the authorʼs lifetime and after his
death, in which all kinds of allusions were attempted, and all sorts of
hypothetical explanations ventured on.

Of the concocters of the “Keys” La Bruyère speaks as follows:

“They make it their business, if possible, to discover to which of
their friends or enemies these portraits can apply; they neglect
everything that seems like a sound remark or a serious reflection,
though almost the whole book consists of them; they dwell upon nothing
but the portraits or characters, and after having explained them
in their own way, and after they imagine they have found out the
originals, they publish to the world long lists, or, as they call them,
‘Keys,’ but which are indeed ‘false keys,’ and as useless to them as
they are injurious to the persons whose names are deciphered, and to
the writer who is the cause of it, though an involuntary one.”[5]

And yet some of these “Keys” have been of great use to modern
commentators, and served to elucidate several traits in the
“Characters” which otherwise would not have been discovered.

It would be ridiculous to deny that La Bruyère never had any particular
personage in view in delineating a certain character, but, as he
himself says: “If I might be allowed to be a little vain, I should be
apt to believe that my “Characters” have pretty well portrayed men in
general, since they resemble so many in particular; and since every one
thinks he finds there his neighbour or his countryman. I did indeed
paint after the life, but did not always mean to paint, in my book of
“Characters,” one individual or another. I did not hire myself out to
the public to draw only such portraits as should be true and like the
originals, for fear that sometimes they would be thought incredible,
and appear feigned or imaginary ones. Becoming yet more difficult I
went farther, and took one lineament from one person and one from
another, and from these several lineaments, which might be found in one
and the same person, I drew some likely portraits, studying not so much
to please the reader by describing the characters of certain people,
or, as the malcontents would say, by satirising them, as to lay before
him what faults he ought to avoid, and what examples to follow.”[6]

Our author, therefore, did not wish to depict individuals, but men
in general; for man is the same in all seasons and at all times, and
is swayed by the same motives and passions, though they exercise a
different influence in various ages, produce different results amongst
many races, and do not even act in precisely the same manner in divers
centuries, climates, and under heterogeneous circumstances. He had
no intention of presenting a series of historical events,[7] but of
depicting Frenchmen at the end of the seventeenth century as they
lived, breathed, and moved; not animated by violent likes and dislikes,
as those of the Ligue or the Fronde were, nor filled by the importance
of their own overweening individualities. When we read him, we behold
in our mindʼs eye the subdued subjects of Louis XIV., slavishly obeying
the “Roi Soleil,” admitting the King can do no wrong, becoming devout
to please His Majesty and Madame de Maintenon, inaugurating the reign
of courtly hypocrisy, embracing the principle of one religion in one
state, and seeing the royal sun gradually decline, and the star of
William III. in its ascendancy.

The notes of the present edition are necessary, I imagine, to assist
in illustrating the life of a past age, for “no usages or customs
are perennial, but they vary with the times.... Nothing can be more
opposed to our manners than all these things; but the distance of
time makes us relish them.” The “Characters” themselves, as well as
the notes, represent a “history of ... times,” when the usual custom
was “the selling of offices; that is to say, the power of protecting
innocence, punishing guilt, and doing justice to the world, bought with
ready money like a farm.” They will also make my readers acquainted
with “a great city,” which at the end of the seventeenth century was
“without any public places, baths, fountains, amphitheatres, galleries,
porticoes, or public walks, and this the capital of a powerful
kingdom; they will be told of persons whose whole life was spent in
going from one house to another; of decent women who kept neither
shops nor inns, yet had their houses open for those who would pay for
their admission,[8] and where they could choose between dice, cards,
and other games, where feasting was going on, and which were very
convenient for all kinds of intercourse. They will be informed that
people crowded the street only to be thought in a hurry; that there
was no conversation nor cordiality, but that they were confused, and,
as it were, alarmed by the rattle of coaches which they had to avoid,
and which drove through the streets as if for a prize at some race.
People will learn, without being greatly astonished, that in times
of public peace and tranquillity, the inhabitants went to church and
visited ladies and their friends, whilst wearing offensive weapons; and
that there was hardly any one who did not have dangling at his side
wherewith to kill another person with one thrust.”[9]

La Bruyère, though a shrewd observer, has the daring of an innovator,
but always remains very guarded in his language. When now and then
his feelings get the better of him, he expresses his opinions like a
man, and attacks the vices of his age with a boldness which none of
his contemporaries has surpassed. Nearly the whole of his chapter “Of
the Gifts of Fortune” is an attack on the financiers; in the chapter
“Of the Great,” he certainly does not flatter the courtiers, whilst he
himself never pretends to be anything else but “a plebeian,”[10] and
almost always sides with his own class. If he flatters the king, it
is because he thinks him necessary to the state, and, perhaps, also
because he wishes to have a defender against the many enemies his book
had raised up. He was, moreover, very cautious, and in the endless
alterations he made in the various editions of the “Characters,”[11]
published during his lifetime, he but seldom envenomed the barb he
had shot, or boasted of it if he did so.[12] Though he touched on all
the passions of men, he did not set one class against another, a task
which was left to the so-called philosophical authors of the eighteenth

The style of La Bruyère has been praised by competent judges for its
conciseness and picturesqueness; he always employs the right word in
the right place, is correct in his expressions, varied in his thoughts,
highly imaginative, and, therefore, maybe called a perfect literary
artist.[13] A few words and expressions, which I have noticed, have
become antiquated, or have changed their meaning, but the “Characters”
will still, I think, be read for many ages, be found very entertaining,
and, what cannot be said of the works of every classical French author,
will be better liked the more they are read. If sometimes one of the
characters is portrayed with too many details, it is because it is
taken not from one man, but composed of a series of shrewd and clever
observations made on different personages; and hence our author calls
them “Characters,” and not “portraits.”

Since La Bruyèreʼs death many editions of the “Characters” have
appeared; I have collated and compared the best of them, amongst
which those edited by Mons. G. Servois and Mons. A. Chassang have
laid me under great obligations. I am indebted to these two editions
for many of the notes, and for a few to those of MM. Destailleur and

Several imitations of the “Characters” have also been published,
amongst others a _Petit la Bruyère, ou Caractères et mœurs des
enfants de ce siècle_, and a _Le la Bruyère des domestiques, précédé
de considérations sur Pétat de domesticité en général_, both by that
voluminous author, Madame de Genlis, a _Le la Bruyère des jeunes
gens_, and a similar work for _jeunes demoiselles_, which attract the
attention by the oddity of their titles.

La Bruyèreʼs “Characters” have also been translated several times into

1. A translation seems to have been published in London as early as

2. The “Characters of Theophrastus,” translated from M. Bruyèreʼs
French version by Eustace Budgell, Esq., London, 1699; and another
edition of the same work published in 1702.[15]

3. The “Characters of Theophrastus,” together with the Characters of
the Age, by La Bruyère, with a prefatory discourse and key: London,

4. The “Characters, or the Manners of the Age,” by Monsieur de la
Bruyère of the French Academy, made English by several hands, with
the “Characters of Theophrastus,” translated from the Greek, and a
prefatory discourse to them, by Monsieur de la Bruyère, the third
edition, corrected throughout, and enlarged, with the Key inserted in
the margin: London, Leach, 1702.

5. The Works of Monsieur de la Bruyère, containing: I. The Moral
Characters of Theophrastus; II. The Characters, or the Manners of the
Present Age; III. M. Bruyèreʼs Speech upon his Admission into the
French Academy; IV. An Account of the Life and Writings of M. Bruyère,
by Monsieur Coste, with an original Chapter of the Manner of Living
with Great Men, written after the method of M. Bruyère, by N. Rowe,
Esq. This translation seems to have been very successful, for the sixth
edition, the only one I have seen, was published in two volumes in
1713: London, E. Curll.

6. The Moral Characters of Theophrastus, by H. Gaily: London, 1725.

7. The Works of M. de la Bruyère, in two volumes, to which is added the
Characters of Theophrastus, also The Manner of Living with Great Men,
written after the manner of Bruyère, by N. Rowe, Esq.: London, J. Bell,

I have consulted the edition mentioned in No. 2, and printed in 1702,
in which the attacks of La Bruyère on William III. in the Chapter
“Of Opinions,” §§ 118 and 119, are omitted; the sixth edition of the
“Characters,” given in No. 5, and published in 1713; and the edition
referred to in No. 7.

In the “Advertisement concerning the new edition” of 1713, printed with
the “Characters,” it is stated, “We procured the last English edition
to be compared verbatim with the last Paris edition (which is the
ninth), and ... all the Supplemental Reflections ... we got translated,
and added to this present edition; and that it might be as complete
as possible, we have not scrupled to translate even those parts which
at first sight may perhaps disoblige some who have a just veneration
for the memory of our Glorious Deliverer, the late King William.” La
Bruyèreʼs speech upon his admission into the French Academy was in this
edition “made English by M. Ozell.”

In the edition of 1776, the “parts” reflecting on William III. are
again omitted. It greatly differs from the one of 1713, and is
dedicated to the Right Honourable Henry, Earl of Lincoln, Auditor of
the Exchequer, Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, &c. &c.

Many faults may be found in the old translations, but I have
endeavoured to amend them; and I never scrupled to adopt any
expressions, turn of thought, or even page of any or every translation
of my predecessors, whenever I found I could not improve upon them.

Translations of the “Characters” have appeared in several other
languages; four of these were published in German, the last one
printed in 1872, whilst already the final chapter of La Bruyèreʼs book
“Of Freethinkers” had come out in a German dress in 1739; moreover,
La Bruyèreʼs book has been translated twice into Italian, once into
Spanish, and once into Russian.

The imitations of the “Characters” into English are—

1. “The English Theophrastus, or the Manners of the Age, being the
modern Characters of the Court, the Town, and the City,” by Boyer:
London, 1692 and 1702.

2. The Chapter “Of the Manner of Living with Great Men,” written after
the method of M. Bruyère, by N. Rowe, mentioned already.

3. Imitations of the Characters of Theophrastus: London, 1774.

I imagine that the author of the “English Theophrastus” was M. Abel
Boyer, the compiler of the well-known dictionary, born at Castres in
1664, who fled to England at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,
and died at Chelsea in 1729.

The direct influence of La Bruyèreʼs writings on English literature
is not easily to be traced. Swift may, possibly, have studied him,
though he never mentions him,[17] and so may, perhaps, Anthony Cooper,
third earl of Shaftesbury,[18] “who spoke French so fluently, and
with so perfect an accent, that in France he was often mistaken for
a native.”[19] I venture to think that Addison and Steele were also
acquainted with our Frenchman;[20] but the English author who in
expression, turn of thought, art of delineating character, and in his
mixture of seriousness and familiarity, is most like him, is a doctor
of divinity, R. South, Prebendary of Westminster, and Canon of Christ
Church, and yet he wrote before La Bruyère, and therefore cannot have
imitated him.[21]

I am not aware La Bruyère knew English, though his successor at the
French Academy states that he spoke several foreign languages;[22] he
was well acquainted with German, Italian, and I think also Spanish;
nor do I know if any of Dr. Southʼs sermons were published separately
before La Bruyère wrote, and if he, therefore, could have seen them. I
should imagine he never read any of them.

Six portraits, which adorn these volumes, have been specially etched
for this edition by M. B. Damman, whilst the portrait of La Bruyère,
and the vignettes at the head of each chapter, have been drawn and
etched by M. V. Foulquier.

In the biographical memoir of La Bruyère, I have only stated what is
known of him, which is very little.







For a long time it has generally been taken for granted that our author
first saw the light at Dourdan, a small town in the department of
Seine-et-Oise, but it has only lately been discovered that he was born
in Paris in the month of August 1645. His father, Louis de la Bruyère,
was _contrôleur des rentes de la ville_, a sort of town-tax collector,
whilst his mother, Elizabeth Hamonin, belonged to a respectable family
of Parisian burgesses. His grandfather and great-grandfather on the
fatherʼs side, declared partisans of the Ligue, were both exiled from
France when Henri IV. came to the throne. Perhaps, therefore, the
feelings our author entertained for the people may be explained by
atavism. A younger brother of his father and our authorʼs godfather, a
very wealthy man, and most likely a money-lender, as well as interested
in the farming of certain taxes, seems to have produced no favourable
impression on his god-son, for the latter always attacks the farmers of
the revenue.

Jean de la Bruyère was educated at the Oratorians in Paris, and two
years before his father died, in the month of June 1664, took his
degree of licentiate at law at the University of Orléans. He became
an advocate, but in 1673, when twenty-eight years old, he forsook
the bar, and bought for about 24,000 _livres_ the post of _trésorier
des finances_ in the Caen district, in Normandy. There were fifteen
_trésoriers_ at Caen, of whom only some were obliged to reside there,
but all became ennobled by virtue of their office, and received as
non-residents a yearly salary of about 2500 _livres_. La Bruyère
had bought this treasurership of a certain Joseph Metezeau, said to
have been a relative by marriage of Bossuet, but this is not at all
proved; and in 1686, about two years before he was going to publish
the “Characters,” and when already he had been for some time one of
the teachers of the Duke de Bourbon, a grandson of the Prince Louis de
Condé, he sold again his post for 18,000 _livres_ to Charles-François
de la Bonde, Seigneur dʼIberville.

On the recommendation of Bossuet, La Bruyère, in 1684, had been
appointed teacher of history to the Duke de Bourbon; and remained
with the Condés for twelve years, until the day of his death. He
instructed his pupil not only in history, but also in geography,
literature, and philosophy; yet his lessons appear to have produced no
great impression, and moreover, they did not last very long, for the
youthful duke married in 1685 a daughter of Madame de Montespan and
Louis XIV.,[23] and La Bruyère received then the appointment of _écuyer
gentilhomme_ to Henri Jules, Duke of Bourbon, the father of his former

Why La Bruyère ever accepted the post of teacher, and afterwards of
“gentleman in waiting,” cannot be elucidated at the present time; he
may have suffered reverses of fortune, which compelled him to gain a
livelihood, but in any case he made the best use of his residence with
a noble family, by studying the personages whose vices and ridicules
he so admirably portrayed. Living with the Condés at their hotel at
Paris, at their country seats at Chantilly and Saint Maur, or when
they were visiting the Court, at Versailles, Marly, Fontainebleau, or
Chambord, amidst the noble and high-born of the land, without being
considered one of them, he had the best opportunity of penetrating the
characters of those men who strutted about in gaudy trappings, and
lorded it over the common herd, whilst soliciting offices or dignities;
and for observing that these men were neither superior in feelings nor
intellect to the “common people.”[24]

All his reflections and observations he arranged under a certain number
of headings, called the whole of them “Characters,” and read some
passages to a few of his friends, who seem not to have been greatly
smitten by them. But this did not discourage La Bruyère; he translated
into French the “Characters” of Theophrastus, a Greek philosopher of
the peripatetic school, the successor of Aristotle as the head of the
Academy, who seems to have lived until about the year 285 B.C., wrote
a prefatory discourse to them, in which he displayed more satirical
power than in any of his other works,[25] and resolved to publish his
translation, and to print as a kind of appendix his own “Characters”
at the end of it. One day,[26] whilst La Bruyère was sitting in the
shop of a certain bookseller, named Michallet, which he visited almost
daily, and was playing with the shop-keeperʼs little daughter, he
took the manuscript of the “Characters” out of his pocket, and told
Michallet he might print it if he liked, and keep the profits, if there
were any, as a dowry for his child. The bookseller hesitated for some
time, but finally published it, and the sale of it was so large that he
brought out one edition after another as quick as he could.

It is certain that the publication of the “Characters” in 1688 made its
author many enemies, but he calmly pursued the even tenor of his way,
and increased the number of his paragraphs during the remaining portion
of his life.[27]

In 1691 he endeavoured to be elected a member of the French Academy,
and to become the successor of Benserade,[28] but failed, thanks to
the number of his enemies, amongst whom probably Fontenelle and Thomas
Corneille, the nephew and brother of the great poet Pierre Corneille,
were the most active; yet in 1693 he was elected without having made
the usual visits to the Academicians to solicit their votes,[29]
though his friends, Racine, Boileau, the secretary of state, de
Pontchartrain,[30] and others, used all their influence to ensure his

The speech he delivered at his reception seems not to have given
general satisfaction, for La Bruyère defended the partisans of the
classical and attacked those of the modern school, proclaimed Boileau
a judicious critic, and hardly admitted Corneille to be the equal of
Racine. This speech, preceded by a very satirical preface,[31] in which
he ridiculed his enemies under the name of “Theobalds,” was published
with the eighth edition of the “Characters.”

But if he had bitter enemies he had also warm friends, amongst whom,
besides the illustrious men I have already named, must be reckoned:
Phélypeaux, the son of de Pontchartrain; the Marquis de Termes;
Bossuet, and his nephew the Abbé Bossuet; Fénelon; de Malesieu;
Renaudot; de Valincourt; Regnier-Desmarais; La Loubère, and Bouhier,
nearly all present or future members of the French Academy; the poet
Santeuil, and the historian Caton de Court.

We hardly know anything for certain of the character of La Bruyère
except by the glimpses we get now and then in his book, or by what is
told of him in some of the letters and writings of his friends and
enemies. He was unmarried, and seems to have been a man of a modest
disposition, fond of his books and his friends, polite in his manners,
and willing to oblige. I imagine he must have felt it sometimes hard
to be dependent on so fantastic, suspicious, half-demented a man as
was the father of his former pupil, above all, after the death of the
great Condé, which took place on the 8th of December 1686,[32] and also
to have disliked being made now and then the butt of courtiers[33] his
mental inferiors, but aristocratic superiors; hence he was often silent
for fear of being laughed at.[34]

He was scarcely fifty when, according to some reports, he became
suddenly deaf; a few days afterwards, during the night of the 10th of
May 1696, he died of an attack of apoplexy at the hotel of the Condés
at Versailles.

In 1699 were published some _Dialogues sur le Quiétisme_, attributed to
La Bruyère; but as the editor, the Abbé du Pin, admitted he had partly
altered them, as well as added some of his own, it is difficult to
judge what was the original share of our author in their composition.

Only twenty-one authenticated letters of La Bruyère are in existence,
of which seventeen are in the collection of the Duke dʼAumale, at



  “Admonere voluimus, non mordere; prodesse, non lædere; consulere
  moribus hominum, non officere.”[35]

The subject-matter of this work being borrowed from the public, I now
give back to it what it lent me; it is but right that having finished
the whole work throughout with the utmost regard to truth I am capable
of, and which it deserves from me, I should make restitution of it.
The world may view at leisure its picture drawn from life, and may
correct any of the faults I have touched upon, if conscious of them.
This is the only goal a man ought to propose to himself in writing,
though he must not in the least expect to be successful; however, as
long as men are not disgusted with vice we should also never tire of
admonishing them; they would perhaps grow worse were it not for censure
or reproof, and hence the need of preaching and writing. Neither
orators nor authors can conceal the joy they feel on being applauded,
whereas they ought to blush if they aim at nothing more than praise
in their speeches or writings; besides, the surest and least doubtful
approbation is a change and regeneration in the morals of their readers
and hearers. We should neither write nor speak but to instruct; yet,
if we happen to please, we should not be sorry for it, since by those
means we render those instructive truths more palatable and acceptable.
When, therefore, any thoughts or reflections have slipped into a book
which are neither so spirited, well written, nor vivid as others,
though they seem to have been inserted for the sake of variety, as a
relaxation to the mind, or to draw its attention to what is to follow,
the reader should reject and the author delete them, unless they are
attractive, familiar, instructive, and adapted to the capacity of
ordinary people, whom we must by no means neglect.

This is one way of settling things; there is another which my own
interest trusts may be adopted; and that is, not to lose sight of my
title, and always to bear in mind, as often as this book is read,
that I describe “The Characters or Manners of the Age;” for though
I frequently take them from the court of France and from men of my
own nation, yet they cannot be confined to any one court or country,
without greatly impairing the compass and utility of my book, and
departing from the design of the work, which is to paint mankind in
general, as well as from the reasons for the order of my chapters,
and even from a certain gradual connection between the reflections
in each of those chapters. After this so necessary precaution, the
consequences of which are obvious enough, I think I may protest against
all resentment, complaint, malicious interpretation, false application
and censure, against insipid railers and cantankerous readers. People
ought to know how to read and then hold their tongues, unless able to
relate what they have read, and neither more nor less than what they
have read, which they sometimes can do; but this is not sufficient—they
must also be willing to do it. Without these conditions, which a
careful and scrupulous author has a right to demand from some people,
as the sole reward of his labour, I question whether he ought to
continue writing, if at least he prefers his private satisfaction to
the public good and to his zeal for truth. I confess, moreover, that
since the year MDCLXXXX, and before publishing the fifth edition, I was
divided between an impatience to cast my book into a fuller and better
shape by adding new Characters, and a fear lest some people should say:
“Will there never be an end to these Characters, and shall we never
see anything else from this author?” On the one hand several persons
of sound common-sense told me: “The subject-matter is solid, useful,
pleasant, inexhaustible; may you live for a long time, and treat it
without interruption as long as you live! what can you do better? The
follies of mankind will ensure you a volume every year.” Others,
again, with a good deal of reason, made me dread the fickleness of the
multitude and the instability of the public, with whom, however, I have
good cause to be satisfied; they were always suggesting to me that for
the last thirty years, few persons read except for the pleasure of
reading, and not to improve themselves, and that, to amuse mankind,
fresh chapters and a new title were needed; that this sluggishness had
filled the shops and crowded the world with dull and tedious books,
written in a bad style and without any intelligence, order, or the
least correctness, against all morality or decency, written in a hurry,
and read in the same way, and then only for the sake of novelty; and
that if I could do nothing else but enlarge a sensible book, it would
be much better for me to take a rest. I adopted something of both those
advices, though they were at variance with one another, and observed an
impartiality which clashed with neither. I did not hesitate to add some
fresh remarks to those which already had doubled the bulk of the first
edition of my book;[36] but, in order not to oblige the public to read
again what had been printed before, to get at new material, and to let
them immediately find out what they only desired to read, I took care
to distinguish those second additions by a peculiar mark ((¶));[37]
I also thought it would not be useless to distinguish the first
augmentations by another and simpler mark (¶), to show the progress
of my “Characters,” as well as to guide the reader in the choice he
might be willing to make. And lest he be afraid I should never have
done with those additions, I added to all this care a sincere promise
to venture on nothing more of the kind. If any one accuses me of
breaking my word, because I inserted in the three last editions[38] a
goodly number of new remarks, he may perceive at least that by adding
new ones to old, and by completely suppressing those differences
pointed out in the margin, I did not so much endeavour to entertain
the world with novelties, as perhaps to leave to posterity a book of
morals more complete, more finished, and more regular. To conclude, I
did not wish to write any maxims, for they are like moral laws, and I
acknowledge that I possess neither sufficient authority nor genius for
a legislator. I also know I have transgressed the ordinary standard of
maxims, which, like oracles, should be short and concise.[39] Some of
my remarks are so, others are more diffuse; we do not always think of
things in the same way, and we describe them in as different a manner
by a sentence, an argument, a metaphor, or some other figure; by a
parallel or a simple comparison; by a story, by a single feature, by a
description, or a picture; which is the cause of the length or brevity
of my reflections. Finally, those who write maxims would be thought
infallible; I, on the contrary, allow any one to say that my remarks
are not always correct, provided he himself will make better ones.




(1.) After above seven thousand years,[40] during which there have been
men who have thought we come too late to say anything that has not been
said already, the finest and most beautiful ideas on morals and manners
have been swept away before our times, and nothing is left for us but
to glean after the ancients and the ablest[41] amongst the moderns.

(2.) We should only endeavour to think and speak correctly ourselves,
without wishing to bring others over to our taste and opinions;[42]
this would be too great an undertaking.

(3.) To make a book is as much a trade as to make a clock; something
more than intelligence is required to become an author. A certain
magistrate was going to be raised by his merit to the highest legal
dignity; he was a man of subtle mind and of experience, but must needs
print a treatise of morality, which was quickly bought up on account of
its absurdity.[43]

(4.) It is not so easy to obtain a reputation by a perfect work as
to enhance the value of an indifferent one by a reputation already

(5.) A satirical work or a book of anecdotes[44] handed about privately
in manuscript from one to another, passes for a masterpiece, even when
it is but middling; the printing ruins its reputation.

(6.) Take away from most of our works on morality the “Advertisement
to the reader,” the “Epistle dedicatory,” the “Preface,” the “Table of
contents,” and the “Permission to print,” and there will scarcely be
pages enough left to deserve the name of a book.

(7.) In certain things mediocrity is unbearable, as in poetry, music,
painting, and eloquence. How we are tortured when we hear a dull
soliloquy delivered in a pompous tone, or indifferent verses read with
all the emphasis of a wretched poet!

(8.) Some poets in their tragedies employ a goodly number of big
sounding verses, which seem strong, elevated, and filled with lofty
sentiments.[45] They are listened to anxiously, with eyes raised
and gaping mouths, and are thought to please the public; and where
they are understood the least, are admired the most; people have no
time to breathe, they have hardly time to exclaim and to applaud.
Formerly, when I was quite young, I imagined those passages were clear
and intelligible to the actors, the pit, and the galleries; that the
authors themselves understood them, and that I must have been very dull
not to understand what it was all about. But now I am undeceived.

(9.) Up to the present time there exists hardly any literary
masterpiece which is the joint labour of several men.[46] Homer wrote
the Iliad,[47] Virgil the Æneid, Livy the Decades, and the Roman
orator[48] his Orations.

(10.) There is in art an acme of perfection, as there is in Nature
one of goodness and completeness. Any one who feels this and loves
art possesses a perfect taste; but he who is not sensible of it, and
loves what is below or above that point, is wanting in taste. Thus
there exists a good and a bad taste, and we are right in discussing the
difference between them.

(11.) Men have generally more vivacity than judgment; or, to speak more
accurately, few men exist whose intelligence is combined with a correct
taste and a judicious criticism.

(12.) The lives of heroes have enriched history, and history has
adorned the actions of heroes; and thus I cannot say whether the
historians are more indebted to those who provided them with such noble
materials, or those great men to their historians.

(13.) A heap of epithets is but a sorry commendation. Actions alone,
and the manner of relating them, speak a manʼs praise.

(14.) The whole genius of an author consists in giving accurate
definitions and in painting well. Only Moses,[49] Homer, Plato, Virgil,
Horace, excel all other writers in their expressions and their imagery:
to express truth is to write naturally, forcibly, and delicately.

(15.) People have been obliged to do with style what they have done
with architecture; they wholly abandoned the Gothic style, which the
barbarians introduced in their palaces and temples,[50] and brought
back the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. That which was only seen
amongst the ruins of ancient Rome and time-honoured Greece has become
modernised, and now shines forth in our porticoes and colonnades. So,
in writing, we can never arrive at perfection, and, if possible,
surpass the ancients, but by imitating them.

How many centuries have elapsed before men were able to come back to
the taste of the ancients in arts and sciences, and, finally, took up
again a simple and natural style.

A man[51] feeds on the ancients and intelligent moderns; he squeezes
and drains them as much as possible; he stuffs his works with them;
and when at last he becomes an author and thinks he can walk alone, he
lifts up his voice against them, and ill-treats them, like those lusty
children, grown strong through the healthy milk on which they have been
fed, and who beat their nurses.

An author of modern times usually proves the ancients inferior to us in
two ways: by reason and examples. The reason is his own opinion, and
the examples are his own writings.[52]

He confesses that the ancients, though they are unequal and incorrect,
have a great many beautiful passages; he quotes them, and they are so
fine, that his criticism is read only for their sake.

Some able men declare in favour of the ancients against the moderns;
but we doubt them, as they seem to be judges in their own cause, for
their works are so exactly written after the model of antiquity, that
we cannot accept their authority.[53]

(16.) We ought to like to read our works to those who know how to
correct and appreciate them.

He who will not listen to any advice, nor be corrected in his writings,
is a rank pedant.

An author ought to receive with the same moderation all praises and all
criticisms on his productions.

(17.) Amongst all the various expressions which can render our
thoughts, there is but one which is correct. We are not always so
fortunate as to hit upon it in writing or speaking, but, nevertheless,
such a one undoubtedly exists, and all others are weak, and do not
satisfy a man of culture who wishes to make himself understood.

A good author, who writes carefully, often finds that the expression he
has been looking for some time, and which he did not know, proves, when
found at last, to be the most simple, the most natural, and the one
which was most likely to present itself to him spontaneously at first.

Fanciful authors often touch up their works. As their temper is not
always the same, and as it varies on every occasion, they soon grow
indifferent about those very expressions and terms they liked so much
at first.

(18.) The same common-sense which makes an author write good things,
makes him dread they are not good enough to deserve reading.

A shallow mind thinks his writings divine; a man of sense imagines he
writes tolerably well.

(19.) Aristus says, “I was prevailed upon to read my works to
Zoilus,[54] and I did so. At first he liked them, before he had leisure
to disapprove of them; he commended them coldly in my presence, and
since then, has not said one word in their favour to any one. I excuse
him, and desire no more from any author; I even pity him for listening
to so many fine things which were not his own.”

Those men who through their rank are exempt from an authorʼs jealousy,
have either other passions or necessities to distract them, and to
make them indifferent towards other menʼs conceptions. Almost no one,
whether through disposition, inclination, or fortune, is willing to
relish the delight that a perfect piece of work can give.

(20.) The pleasure of criticism takes away from us the pleasure of
being deeply moved by very fine things.

(21.) Many people perceive the merit of a manuscript which is read to
them, but will not declare themselves in its favour until they see what
success it has in the world when printed, or what intelligent men will
say about it. They do not like to risk their opinion, and they want to
be carried away by the crowd, and dragged along by the multitude. Then
they say that they were amongst the first who approved of that work,
and the general public shares their opinion.[55]

Such men lose the best opportunities of convincing us that they are
intelligent, clever, and first-rate critics, and can really discover
what is good and what is better. A fine work falls into their hands;
it is an authorʼs first book, before he has got any great name; there
is nothing to prepossess any one in his favour, and by applauding his
writings one does not court or flatter the great. Zelotes,[56] you are
not required to cry out: “This is a masterpiece; human intelligence
never went farther; the human speech cannot soar higher; henceforward
we will judge of no oneʼs taste but by what he thinks of this book.”
Such exaggerated and offensive expressions are only employed by
postulants for pensions or benefices, and are even injurious to
what is really commendable and what one wishes to praise. Why not
merely say—“Thatʼs a good book?” It is true you say it when the whole
of France has approved of it, and foreigners as well as your own
countrymen, when it is printed all over Europe, and has been translated
into several languages, but then it is too late.

(22.) Some people, after having read a book, quote certain passages
which they do not thoroughly understand, and moreover completely change
their character by what they put in of their own. Those passages, so
mutilated and disfigured that they are nothing else but their own
expressions and thoughts, they expose to censure, maintain them to be
bad, and the world agrees with them; but the passage such critics think
they quote, and in reality do not, is not a bit the worse for it.[57]

(23.) “What is your opinion about Hermodorusʼ book?”—“That it is
wretchedly written,” replies Anthymus.—“Wretchedly written! what do
you mean, sir?”—“Just what I say,” he continues; “it is not a book,
at least it does not deserve to be talked about”—“Have you read
it?”—“No,” replies Anthymus. Why does he not add that Fulvia and
Melania have condemned it without reading, and that he is a friend of
those two ladies?

(24.) Arsène,[58] from the height of his own wisdom, contemplates men,
and from the eminence he beholds them seems frightened as it were at
their littleness. Commended, extolled, and raised to the skies by
certain persons who have reciprocally promised to admire one another,
he fancies, though he has some merit, that he has as much as any man
can have, which he never will; his mind being occupied and filled with
sublime ideas, he scarcely finds time to pronounce certain oracles;
raised by his character above human judgments, he leaves to vulgar
souls the merit of leading a regular and uniform life, being answerable
for his variations to none but to a circle of friends who worship them.
They alone know how to judge, to think, to write, and they only ought
to write; there is no literary work, though ever so well received
by the world and universally liked by men of culture, which he does
approve of, nay, which he would condescend to read; he is incapable of
being corrected by this picture, which will not even be read by him.

(25.) Theocrines[59] knows a good many useless things; he is singular
in his sentiments, and less profound than methodical; he only exercises
his memory, is absent-minded, scornful, and seems continually laughing
to himself at those whom he thinks his inferiors. By chance I one day
read him something of mine: he heard it out, and then spoke about some
of his own writings. “But what said he of yours?” youʼll ask me. “I
have told you already; he spoke to me only of his own.”

(26.) The most accomplished literary work would be reduced to nothing
by carping criticism, if the author would listen to all critics and
allow every one to erase the passage which pleases him the least.

(27.) Experience tells us, that if there are ten persons who would
strike a thought or an expression out of a book, we could easily
find a like number who would insist upon its being put back again.
The latter will exclaim: “Why should such a thought be suppressed?
it is new, fine, and wonderfully well expressed.” The former, on the
contrary, will maintain, “that they would have omitted such an idea,
or have expressed it in another way.” “In your work,” say the first,
“there is a very happy phrase which depicts most naturally what you
meant to say.” The second maintain “that a certain word is venturesome,
and moreover does not give the precise meaning you perhaps desired to
give.” It is about the same thought and the same word those people
argue; and yet they are all critics, or pass for such. What then can an
author do but venture, in such a perplexity, to follow the advice of
those who approve of the passage.

(28.) A serious-minded author is not obliged to trouble his head about
all the foolish sayings, the obscene remarks, and bad words that are
uttered, or about the stupid constructions which some men put on
certain passages of his writings; much less ought he to suppress them.
He is convinced that let a man be never so careful in his writings, the
insipid jokes of wretched buffoons are an unavoidable evil, since they
often only turn the best things into ridicule.

(29.) If certain men of quick and resolute mind are to be believed,
words would even be superfluous to express feelings; signs would be
sufficient to address them, or we could make ourselves be understood
without speaking. However careful you may be to write closely and
concisely, and whatever reputation you may have as such, they will
think you diffuse. You must allow them to supply everything and write
for them alone. They understand a whole phrase by reading the first
word, and an entire chapter by a single phrase. It is sufficient for
them to have heard only a bit of your work, they know it all and
understand the whole. A great many riddles would be amusing reading to
them; they regret that the wretched style which delights them becomes
rare, and that so few authors employ it. Comparisons of a river flowing
rapidly, though calmly and uniformly, or of a conflagration which,
fanned by the winds, spreads afar in a forest, where it devours oaks
and pine-trees, gives to them not the smallest idea of eloquence. Show
them some fireworks[60] to astonish them, or a flash of lightning to
dazzle them, and they will dispense with anything fine or beautiful.

(30.) What a prodigious difference is there between a fine work and one
that is perfect or regular. I am not aware whether a single one of the
latter kind still exists. It is perhaps less difficult for uncommon
minds to hit upon the grand and the sublime than to avoid all kinds of
errors. The _Cid_, at its first appearance, was universally admired; it
rose in spite of power and politics, which attempted in vain to crush
it. People of rank and the general public, though always divided in
their opinions and feelings, were in favour of it; they learned it by
heart so as to anticipate the actors who were performing it. The _Cid_,
in short, is one of the finest poems ever written, and one of the best
criticisms on any subject is that on the _Cid_.[61]

(31.) When, after having read a work, loftier thoughts arise in your
mind and noble and heartfelt feelings animate you, do not look for
any other rule to judge it by; it is fine and written in a masterly

(32.) Capys,[63] who sets up for a judge of style and fancies he writes
like Bouhours[64] and Rabutin,[65] disagrees with public opinion, and
is the only person who says that Damis[66] is not a good author. Damis
is of the same opinion as a large number of people, and says artlessly,
as well as the public, that Capys is a dull writer.

(33.) It is the business of a newsmonger to inform us when any book is
published; if it is printed by Cramoisy,[67] and with what type; if
it is well bound, and on what paper, and at what price it is sold; he
ought even to know what the booksellerʼs sign is; but it is foolish in
him to pretend to criticise it.

The highest point a newsmonger can reach is to reason in a vague manner
on politics.

A newsmonger lies down at night quietly, after having received some
information, but it is spoiled overnight, and he is obliged to throw it
away when he wakes in the morning.[68]

(34.) A philosopher[69] wastes his life in observing men, and wears
himself out in exposing vice and folly. If he shapes his thoughts into
words, it is not so much from his vanity as an author as to place
entirely in its proper light some truth he has discovered, that it may
make the desired impression. Yet some readers think they repay him with
interest if they say, with a magisterial air, “that they have read his
book, and that there is some sense in it;” but he does not mind their
praise, for he has not laboured and passed many sleepless nights to
obtain it: he has higher aims, and acts from nobler motives: he demands
from mankind greater and more uncommon results than empty praise, and
even than rewards; he expects them to lead better lives.

(35.) A fool reads a book and does not understand it; a man of ordinary
mind reads it and fancies he perfectly understands it; a man of
intelligence sometimes does not wholly understand it; he perceives
what is really obscure and what is really clear, whilst witlings[70]
imagine those passages obscure which are not so, and think they do not
understand what is really intelligible.

(36.) In vain an author endeavours to obtain admiration by his
works. A fool may sometimes admire him, but then he is only a fool;
an intelligent man has within him the germs of all truth and of all
sentiments; nothing is new to him; he admires few things, but he finds
that many things deserve some praise.

(37.) I question if it be possible to write more clever letters in a
more agreeable manner and in a better style than those of Balzac[71] or
Voiture;[72] but they are void of those sentiments which have swayed
us since their time and originated with the ladies. That sex excels
ours in this kind of writing; from their pens flow naturally those
turns and expressions which often are with us the effects of tedious
labour and troublesome research; they are fortunate in the selection
of their wordings, which they employ so cleverly, that though they are
not new, they have all the charm of novelty, and seem only designed for
the use they put them to; they alone can express an entire sentiment
in a single word, and render a delicate thought as delicately; their
arguments are connected in an inimitable manner, follow one another
naturally, and are only linked together by the sense. If the ladies
wrote always correctly, I might affirm that perhaps the letters of some
of them would be among the best in our language.[73]

(38.) Terentius[74] wanted nothing but to be less cold. What purity!
what preciseness! what polish! what elegance! what characters! Molière
wanted nothing but to avoid the vulgar tongue and barbarisms and to
write elegantly.[75] What fire! what artlessness! what original and
good jokes! how well he imitates manners! what imagery! and how he
lashes what is ridiculous! But what an author might have been formed of
these two comic writers!

(39.) I have read Malherbe and Théophile.[76] They both understood
nature, with this difference: the first, in a nervous and uniform
style, displays at one and the same time whatever is beautiful, noble,
ingenuous and simple, and depicts or describes it; the other, without
choice or accuracy, with a loose and uneven pen, some times overloads
his descriptions, goes into too many details, and analyses too much;
sometimes he imagines certain things,[77] exaggerates, outstrips what
is true in nature, and becomes a romancer.

(40.) In both Ronsard[78] and Balzac, each in their kind, are found a
sufficient number of good and bad things to form after them very great
men either in verse or prose.

(41.) Marot,[79] by his phraseology and style, seems to have written
after Ronsard wrote; there is very little difference, except in a few
words, between the style of the former and our present style.

(42.) Ronsard and his contemporaries have done more harm than good to
style; they delayed its progress towards perfection, and exposed it
to the danger of being always defective and of never becoming perfect
again. It is astonishing that Marotʼs works, which are so natural and
easy, have not made of Ronsard, so full of rapture and enthusiasm, a
greater poet than he or Marot ever were; and that, on the contrary,
Belleau, Jodelle, and du Bartas[80] were soon followed by a Racan[81]
and a Malherbe, and that the French language was no sooner vitiated
than it recovered.


(43.) Marot and Rabelais[82] are inexcusable for scattering so much
filth in their writings: they both had genius and originality enough
to be able to do without it, even for those who seek rather what is
comical than what is admirable in an author. Rabelais above all is
incomprehensible: his book is a mystery, a mere chimera; it has a
lovely womanʼs face, with the feet and tail of a serpent or of some
more hideous animal; it is a monstrous jumble of delicate and ingenious
morality and of filthy depravation. Where it is bad, it excels by far
the worst, and is fit only to delight the rabble; and where it is good,
it is exquisite and excellent, and may entertain the most delicate.

(44.) Two writers have condemned Montaigne[83] in their works. I am
of their opinion, and believe him not always free from blame; but it
seems that none of these two can see anything good in him. One of these
thinks too little to enjoy an author who thinks a great deal; the other
thinks with too much subtlety to be pleased with thoughts that are

(45.) A grave, solemn, and correct style will go a long way. Amyot and
Coëffeteau[85] are read, but who else of their contemporaries? The
phraseology and the expression of Balzac have become less antiquated
than those of Voiture; but if the style, the intelligence, and
originality of the latter are not modern nor in anything resemble our
present writers, it is because it is easier not to pay any attention to
him than to imitate him, and because the few who follow him could never
overtake him.

(46.) The H ... G ...[86] is distinctly less than nothing, and there
are a good many works like it. There is as much trickery required to
grow rich by a stupid book as there is folly in buying it; a man would
never know the peopleʼs taste if he did not venture sometimes on some
great piece of silliness.

(47.) We perceive that an opera is an outline of a magnificent
spectacle, of which it serves to give an idea.

I cannot understand how the opera, with such perfect music and quite a
regal expenditure, has been able to tire me.[87]

There are some passages in an opera which make us long for others; it
sometimes happens we wish it was all over: this is the fault of the
decorations, or of a want of action or interest.

An opera is not even to this day a poem, for it contains nought but
verses; nor is it a spectacle, since machinery has disappeared through
the dexterous management of Amphion and his kindred;[88] it is a
concert of voices assisted by instruments. We deceive ourselves and
acquire a bad taste when we state, as has been done, that machinery is
only an amusement fit for children and suitable for puppet-shows.[89]
Machines increase and embellish poetical fiction and maintain among
the spectators that gentle illusion in which the entire pleasure
of a theatre consists, to which it also adds a feeling of wonder.
There is no need of flights, or cars, or changes when _Bérénice_ or
_Pénélope_[90] are represented, but they are necessary in an opera, as
the characteristic of such a spectacle is to enchant the mind as well
as the ear and the eye.

(48.) Some busybodies[91] have erected a theatre and machinery,
composed ballets, verses, and music; theirs is the whole spectacle,
even to the room where the performance was held, from the roof to the
very foundation of the four walls. Who has any doubt that the hunt
on the water,[92] the delights of “La Table,”[93] the marvels of the
Labyrinth[94] were also invented by them? I think so, at least, by the
agitation they are in and by the self-satisfied air with which they
applaud their success. Unless I am deceived, they have not contributed
anything to a festival so splendid, so magnificent, and so long kept
up, and which one person planned and paid for; so that I admire two
things: the ease and quietness of him who directed everything, and the
fuss and gesticulations of those who did nothing.[95]

(49.) The critics, or those who, thinking themselves so, decide
deliberately and decisively about all public representations, group
and divide themselves into different parties, each of whom admires a
certain poem or a certain music and damns all others, urged on by a
wholly different motive than public interest or justice. The ardour
with which they defend their prejudices damages the opposite party as
well as their own set. These men discourage poets and musicians by a
thousand contradictions, and delay the progress of arts and sciences,
by depriving them of the advantages to be obtained by that emulation
and freedom which many excellent masters, each in their own way and
according to their own genius, might display in the execution of some
very fine works.[96]

(50.) What is the reason that we laugh so freely in a theatre but are
ashamed to weep? Is it less natural to be melted by what excites pity
than to burst into laughter at what is comical? Is it the alteration of
our features that checks us? It is more visible in immoderate laughter
than in the most passionate grief; and we avert our faces when we
laugh or weep in the presence of people of rank, or of all those whom
we respect. Is it because we are reluctant to let it be seen we are
tender-hearted, or to show any emotion, especially at an imaginary
subject, and by which it seems we are imposed upon? But without quoting
those austere men, or those who do not care for the opinions of the
world,[97] who think that excessive laughter or tears betray weakness,
and who forbid both, what is it that we look for in tragedy? Is it to
laugh? Is truth not depicted there as vividly as in comedy? And have we
not to feel that those things are realities in either case before we
are moved? Or is it so easily to be pleased, and is no verisimilitude
needed? It is not thought odd to hear a whole theatre ring with
laughter at some passage of a comedy, but, on the contrary, it implies
that it was funny, and very naturally performed; therefore the extreme
restraint every one puts on himself not to shed tears and the affected
laughter with which one tries to disguise them, clearly prove that the
natural result of lofty tragedy should be to make us all weep without
concealment and publicly, and without any other hindrance than wiping
our eyes; moreover, after we have agreed to indulge in our passion,
it will be found there is often less room to fear we should weep in a
theatre than that we should be tired out there.

(51.) Tragedy, from its very beginning, oppresses the spectatorʼs
feelings, and, whilst being acted, scarcely allows him liberty to
breathe and leisure to recover, or if it leaves him some respite,
it is only to be plunged again into fresh abysses and new alarms.
Through pity he is led to terror, or reciprocally through terror to
pity; it leads him through tears, sobs, uncertainty, expectation,
fear, surprises and horror to a catastrophe. It should not, therefore,
be a collection of pretty sentiments, tender declarations, gallant
conversations, agreeable pictures, soft words, or something comical
enough to produce laughter, followed, in truth, by a final scene
in which the “mutineers” do not listen to reason,[98] and in which
for decencyʼs sake there is at last some blood spilled, and some
unfortunate manʼs life taken.[99]

(52.) It is not sufficient for the manners of the stage not to be
bad; they should be decent and instructive. Some comical subjects are
so low, so mean, or even so dull and so insignificant, that a poet
should not be permitted to write about them, nor could an audience by
any possibility be diverted by them. A peasant or an intoxicated man
may furnish some scenes for a farce writer; but they can scarcely be
personages of true comedy; for how can they be the basis of the main
action of a comedy? Perhaps it may be said that “such characters are
natural.” Then, according to a similar rule, the attention of an entire
audience may be occupied by a lackey whistling, or a sick person on his
bed-chair, or by a drunken man snoring and being sick; for can anything
be more natural?[100] An effeminate dandy rises late, spends part of
the day at his toilet, looks at himself in the glass, perfumes himself,
puts patches on his face, receives his letters and answers them. But
such a character brought on the stage, made to stop for any length of
time, during one or two acts, and depicted as natural and as like the
original as possible, will be as dull and as tedious as it well can

(53.) Plays and novels, in my opinion, may be made as useful as they
are pernicious. They exhibit so many grand examples of constancy,
virtue, tenderness and disinterestedness; so many fine and perfect
characters, that when young people cast their eyes on what they see
around them and find nothing but unworthy objects, very much inferior
to those they just admired, it is not to be wondered at that they
cannot have the least inclination for them.

(54.) Corneille cannot be equalled where he is excellent; he shows
then original and inimitable characteristics, but he is unequal. His
first plays[102] are uninteresting and heavy, and did not lead us to
expect that he would afterwards soar to such a height, just as his
last plays make us wonder at his fall from such a pinnacle. In some of
his best pieces there are unpardonable errors in the characters of the
drama[103]—a declamatory style which arrests the action and delays it,
and such negligence in his versification and in his expressions that
we can hardly understand how so great a man could be guilty of them.
His highest individual quality is his sublime genius, to which he is
beholden for some of the most beautiful verses ever read; for the plots
of his plays, in which he sometimes ventures to transgress the rules
of the ancients; and finally, for his catastrophes. In this he does
not always follow the taste of the Greeks and their grand simplicity;
on the contrary, he delights in crowding the stage with events, which
he almost always disentangles successfully; and is above all to be
admired for his great variety and the little similarity of his plots
in the large number of dramas he has written. It seems that Racineʼs
plays are more like one another, and that they lead up a little more
to the same ending; but he is uniform, lofty in style, and everywhere
the same, as well in the plots and incidents of his plays, which are
sound, regular, rational and natural, as in his versification, which is
correct, rich in its rhythm, elegant, melodious,[104] and harmonious.
He is an exact imitator of the ancients, whom he carefully follows
in their distinctness and simplicity of action, and like Corneille,
not lacking the sublime and marvellous, the moving and the pathetic.
Where can we find greater tenderness diffused than in _Le Cid_,
_Polyeucte_, and _Les Horaces_?[105] What grandeur do we not observe in
Mithridates, lʼorus, and Burrhus![106] Both poets were well acquainted
with terror and pity, those favourite passions of the ancients, which
the dramatic authors were fond of producing on the stage; as Orestes
in the _Andromaque_ of Racine, _Phèdre_ of the same author, as well as
_Œdipus_ and the _Horatii_ of Corneille clearly prove. If, however,
it is allowable to draw some comparison between them, and distinguish
what are the peculiarities of each of them, as is generally discovered
in their writings, I should probably say: Corneille enthralls us by his
characters and ideas; Racineʼs coincide with ours; the one represents
men as they ought to be, the other as they are. There is in the first
more of what we admire and what we ought even to imitate; and in the
second more of what we perceive in others or feel within ourselves.
Corneille elevates, surprises, controls and instructs us; Racine
pleases, affects, moves and penetrates us. The former employs the most
beautiful, the most noble, and the most commanding arguments; the
latter depicts the most praiseworthy and the most refined passions.
One is full of maxims, rules, and precepts; the other of taste and
feeling. Our mind is kept more occupied by Corneilleʼs tragedies, but
by Racineʼs we are more softened and moved. Corneille is more moral,
Racine more natural.[107] The one seems to imitate Sophocles, the
other Euripides.[108]

(55.) What the people call eloquence is the facility some persons have
of speaking alone and for a long time, aided by extravagant gestures,
a loud voice, and powerful lungs. Pedants also will not recognise
eloquence except in public orations, and can see no distinction between
it and a heap of figures, the use of big words and flowing periods.

It seems that logic is the art of making some truth prevail, and that
eloquence is a gift of the soul which renders us master of the hearts
and minds of other men, so that we suggest to them, or persuade them,
to do whatever we please.

Eloquence may be found in conversations and in all kind of writings; it
is rarely found when looked for, and sometimes discovered where it is
least expected.

Eloquence is to the sublime what the whole is to its part.

What is the sublime? It does not appear to have been defined. Is it
a figure of speech? Does it spring from figures, or at least from
some figures of speech?[109] Does the sublime enter into all kinds of
writings, or are grand subjects only fit for it?[110] Can an eclogue
display anything but fine simplicity, and familiar letters as well as
conversation anything but great delicacy? Are simplicity and delicacy
not the sublime of those works of which they are the perfection? What
is this sublime? Where does it begin?[111]

Synonyms are several words or various phrases which are the precise
equivalents of each other. An antithesis is an opposition of two truths
which throw light on one another. A metaphor or a comparison borrows
from a foreign matter a sensible and natural image of a truth.[112]
A hyperbole exaggerates truth to enable the mind to understand it
better. The sublime paints nothing but the truth, and that only in
noble subjects; it depicts all its causes and effects; it is the
most meritorious expression or image of this truth. Ordinary minds
cannot find the only right expression, and, therefore, use synonyms.
Young men are dazzled by the lustre of an antithesis, and employ it.
Sensible people, who delight in exact imagery, of course, are led away
by comparisons and metaphors. Sharp people, full of fire, and carried
away by a lively imagination beyond all bounds and accuracy, cannot be
satiated with hyperboles. As for the sublime, even among the greatest
geniuses, only the highest can reach it.

(56.) Every author who wishes to write clearly should put himself in
the place of his readers, examine his own work as something new to
him, which he reads for the first time, is not at all concerned in,
and which has been submitted to his criticism; and then be convinced
that no one will understand what is written merely because the author
understands it himself, but because it is really intelligible.

(57.) People write only to be understood, but they should, at least, in
their writings produce very beautiful things. They ought to have a pure
style, and, in truth, employ a suitable phraseology; moreover, their
phrases should express noble, intense, and solid thoughts, and contain
a very fine meaning. A pure and clear style is thrown away on a dry,
barren subject, without either spirit, use, or novelty. What avails
it to any reader to understand easily and without any difficulty some
frivolous and puerile subject, not seldom dull and common, when he is
less in doubt about the meaning of the author than tired with his work?

If we aim at being profound in certain writings, if we affect a polite
turn, and sometimes too much delicacy, it is merely because we have a
good opinion of our readers.

(58.) The disadvantage of reading books written by people belonging to
a certain party or a certain set is that they do not always contain the
truth. Facts are disguised, the arguments on both sides are not brought
forward in all their strength, nor are they quite accurate; and what
wears out the greatest patience is that we must read a large number of
harsh and scurrilous reflections, tossed to and fro by serious-minded
men, who consider themselves personally insulted when any point of
doctrine or any doubtful matter is controverted. Such works possess
this peculiarity, that they neither deserve the prodigious success they
have for a certain time, nor the profound oblivion into which they fall
afterwards, when the rage and contention have ceased, and they become
like almanacks out of date.[113]

(59.) It is the glory and the merit of some men to write well, and of
others not to write at all.

(60.) Some persons have been writing regularly for the last twenty
years; they have faithfully observed all rules of composition, enriched
the language with new words, thrown off the yoke of Latinism, and given
to style a pure French phraseology; they have almost recovered that
harmony which Malherbe and Balzac first discovered, and which since
then so many authors allowed to be lost; they have, in short, given to
our style all the clearness it is capable of, and this will gradually
lead to it becoming easily understood.[114]

(61.) There are some artists[115] or men of ability whose intelligence
is as extensive as the art or science they profess; they repay with
interest, through their genius and inventive powers, what they borrowed
from it and from its first principles; they stray from art to ennoble
it, and deviate from its rules if they do not make use of them to
attain the grand and the sublime; they walk alone and unaccompanied,
but they soar very high and are very penetrating, always certain of
the advantages sometimes to be obtained by irregularity, and assured
of their success. Careful, timorous, and sedate minds not alone
never obtain those advantages, but they do not admire them nor even
understand them, and are much less likely to imitate them; they dwell
peaceably within the compass of their sphere, go up to a certain point,
which is the limit of their capacity and knowledge, but penetrate no
farther, because they see nothing beyond it; they are at best but the
first of a second class and excel in mediocrity.

(62.) If I may venture to say so, there are certain inferior or
second-rate minds, who seem only fit to become the receptacle,
register, or storehouse of all the productions of other talents;[116]
they are plagiarists, translators, compilers; they never think,
but tell you what other authors have thought; and as a selection
of thoughts requires some inventive powers, theirs is ill-made and
inaccurate, which induces them rather to make it large than excellent.
They have no originality, and possess nothing of their own; they only
know what they have learned, and only learn what the rest of the world
does not wish to know; a useless and dry science, without any charm
or profit, unfit for conversation, nor suitable to intercourse, like
a coin which has no currency. We are astonished when we read them, as
well as tired out by their conversation or their works. The nobility
and the common herd mistake them for men of learning, but intelligent
men rank them with pedants.

(63.) Criticism is often not a science but a trade, requiring more
health than intelligence, more industry than capacity, more practice
than genius. If it is exercised by a person of less discernment than
culture, and treats of certain subjects, it will spoil the readerʼs
judgment as well as that of the author criticised.

(64.) I would advise an author who can only imitate,[117] and who is
modest enough to tread in the footsteps of other men, to choose for his
models writings that are full of intelligence, imagination, or even
learning: if he does not come up to his originals, he may at least come
somewhat near them, and be read. He ought, on the contrary, to avoid,
as a rock ahead, the imitation of those authors who have a natural
inclination for writing, employ phrases and figures of speech which
spring from the heart, and who draw, if I may say so, from their inmost
feelings all they express on paper. They are dangerous models, and
induce those who endeavour to follow them to adopt a cold, vulgar, and
ridiculous style. Indeed, I should laugh at a man who would seriously
imitate my tone of voice, or endeavour to be like me in the face.

(65.) A man born a Christian and a Frenchman is constrained when he
uses satire, for he is forbidden to exercise it on great subjects;
sometimes he commences to write about them, but then turns to trifling
topics, which he enhances by the splendour of his genius and style.[118]

(66.) The turgid and puerile style of Dorilas and Handburg[119]
should always be avoided. In certain writings, on the contrary, a man
sometimes may be bold in his expressions, and use metaphorical phrases
which depict his subject vividly, whilst pitying those who do not feel
the pleasure there is in employing and understanding them.

(67.) He who only writes to suit the taste of the age, considers
himself more than his writings. We should always aim at perfection,
and then posterity will do us that justice which sometimes our
contemporaries refuse us.

(68.) We ought never to turn into ridicule a subject that does not lend
itself to it; it spoils our taste, vitiates our judgment as well as
other menʼs; but we should perceive ridicule where it does exist, show
it up delicately, and in a manner which both pleases and instructs.

(69.) “Horace or Boileau have said such a thing before you.”—“I take
your word for it, but I have used it as my own. May I not have the same
correct thought after them, as others may have after me?”




(1.) What man is not convinced of his inefficiency, though endowed with
the rarest talents and the most extraordinary merit, when he considers
that at his death he leaves a world that will not feel his loss, and
where so many people are ready to supply his place?

(2.) All the worth of some people lies in their name; upon a closer
inspection it dwindles to nothing, but from a distance it deceives us.

(3.) Though I am convinced that those who are selected to fill various
offices, every man according to his talents and his profession, perform
their duties well, yet I venture to say that perhaps there are many
men in this world, known or unknown, who are not employed, and would
perform those duties also very well. I am inclined to think so from the
marvellous success of certain people, who through chance alone obtained
a place, and from whom until then no great things were expected.

How many admirable men, of very great talent, die without ever being
talked about! And how many are there living yet of whom one does not
speak, nor ever will speak!

(4.) A man without eulogists and without a set of friends, who
is unconnected with any clique, stands alone, and has no other
recommendations but a good deal of merit, has very great difficulty in
emerging from his obscurity and in rising as high as a conceited noodle
who has a good deal of influence!

(5.) No one hardly ever thinks of the merit of others, unless it is
pointed out to him. Men are too engrossed by themselves to have the
leisure of penetrating or discerning character, so that a person
of great merit and of greater modesty may languish a long time in

(6.) Genius and great talents are often wanting, but sometimes only
opportunities. Some people deserve praise for what they have done, and
others for what they would have done.

(7.) It is not so uncommon to meet with intelligence as with people who
make use of it, or who praise other personsʼ intelligence and employ it.

(8.) There are more tools than workmen, and of the latter more bad
than good ones. What would you think of a man who would use a plane to
saw, and his saw to plane?

(9.) There is no business in this world so troublesome as the pursuit
of fame: life is over before you have hardly begun your work.

(10.) What is to be done with Egesippus who solicits some employment?
Shall he have a post in the finances or in the army? It does not
matter much, and interest alone can decide it, for he is as able to
handle money or to make up accounts as to be a soldier. “He is fit for
anything,” say his friends, which always means that he has no more
talent for one thing than for another, or, in other words, that he is
fit for nothing. Thus it is with most men; in their youth they are
only occupied with themselves, are spoiled by idleness or pleasure,
and then wrongly imagine, when more advanced in years, that it is
sufficient for them to be useless or poor for the commonwealth to be
obliged to give them a place or to relieve them. They seldom profit by
that important maxim, that men ought to employ the first years of their
lives in so qualifying themselves by their studies and labour, that
the commonwealth itself, needing their industry and their knowledge as
necessary materials for its building up, might be induced, for its own
benefit, to make their fortune or improve it.

It is our duty to labour in order to make ourselves worthy of filling
some office: the rest does not concern us, but is other peopleʼs

(11.) To make the most of ourselves through things which do not depend
on others but on ourselves alone, or to abandon all ideas of making the
most of ourselves, is an inestimable maxim and of infinite advantage
when brought into practice, useful to the weak, the virtuous, and
the intelligent, whom it renders masters of their fortune or their
ease; hurtful to the great, as it would diminish the number of their
attendants, or rather of their slaves, would abate their pride, and
partly their authority, and would almost reduce them to the pleasures
of the table and the splendour of their carriages; it would deprive
them of the pleasure they feel in being entreated, courted, solicited;
of allowing people to dance attendance on them, or of refusing
any request; of promising and not performing; it would thwart the
disposition they sometimes have of bringing fools forward and of
depressing merit when they chance to discern it; it would banish from
courts plots, parties, trickery, baseness, flattery, and deceit; it
would make a court, full of agitation, bustle, and intrigue, resemble
a comedy, or even a tragedy, where the wise are only spectators; it
would restore dignity to the several conditions of men, serenity to
their looks, enlarge their liberty, and awaken in them their natural
talents as well as a habit for work and for exercise; it would excite
them to emulation, to a desire for renown, a love for virtue; and
instead of vile, restless, useless courtiers, often burdensome to the
commonwealth, would make them clever administrators, exemplary heads of
families, upright judges or good financiers, great commanders, orators,
or philosophers; and all the inconvenience any of them would suffer
through this would be, perhaps, to leave to their heirs less treasures,
but excellent examples.

(12.) In France a great deal of resolution, as well as a widely
cultivated intellect, are required to decline posts and offices, and
thus consent to remain in retirement and to do nothing. Almost no one
has merit enough to play this part in a dignified manner, or solidity
enough to pass their leisure hours without what is vulgarly called
“business.” There is, however, nothing wanting to the idleness of a
philosopher but a better name, and that meditation, conversation, and
reading should be called “work.”

(13.) A man of merit, and in office, is never troublesome through
vanity. The post he fills does not elate him much, because he thinks
that he deserves a more important one, which he does not occupy, and
this mortifies him. He is more inclined to be restless than to be
haughty or disdainful; he is only uncomfortable to himself.

(14.) It goes against the grain of a man of merit continually to dance
attendance, but for a reason quite the opposite of what some might
imagine. His very merits make him modest, so that he is far from
thinking that he gives the smallest pleasure by showing himself when
the prince passes, by placing himself just before him, and by letting
him look at his face; he is more apt to fear being importunate, and
he needs many arguments based on custom and duty to persuade himself
to make his appearance; while, on the contrary, a man who has a good
opinion of himself, and who is usually called a conceited man,[120]
likes to show himself, and pays his court with the more confidence as
it never enters into his head that the great people by whom he is seen
may think otherwise of him than he thinks of himself.

(15.) A gentleman[121] repays himself for the zeal with which he
performs his duty by the pleasure he enjoys in acting thus, and does
not regret the praise, esteem, and gratitude which he sometimes does
not receive.

(16.) If I dared to make a comparison between two conditions of life
vastly different, I would say that a courageous soldier applies himself
to perform his duty almost in the same manner as a tyler goes about his
work; neither the one nor the other seeks to expose his life, nor are
diverted by danger, for to them death is an accident of their callings,
but never an obstacle. Thus the first is scarcely more proud of having
appeared in the trenches, carried some advanced works or forced some
intrenchment, than the other of having climbed on some high roof, or on
the top of a steeple. Both have but endeavoured to act well, whilst an
ostentatious man gives himself endless trouble to have it said that he
has acted well.

(17.) Modesty is to merit what shade is to figures in a picture; it
gives it strength and makes it stand out. A plain appearance is to
ordinary men their proper garb; it suits them and fits them, but it
adorns those persons whose lives have been distinguished by grand
deeds; I compare them to a beauty who is most charming in _négligé_.

Some men, satisfied with themselves because their actions or works have
been tolerably successful, and having heard that modesty becomes great
men, affect the simplicity and the natural air of truly modest people,
like those persons of middling size who stoop, when under a doorway,
for fear of hurting their heads.

(18.) Your son stammers; do not think of letting him make speeches;
your daughter, too, looks as if she were made for the world, so never
immure her among the vestals.[122] Xanthus, your freedman, is feeble
and timorous; therefore do not delay, but let him instantly leave
the army and the soldiers.[123] You say you would promote him, heap
wealth on him, overwhelm him with lands, titles, and possessions: make
the most of your time, for in the present age they will do him far
more credit than virtue. “But this will cost me too much,” you reply.
“Ah, Crassus, do you speak seriously? Why, for you to enrich Xanthus,
whom you love, is no more than taking a drop of water from the Tiber;
and thus you prevent the bad consequences of his having entered a
profession for which he was not fit.”

(19.) It is virtue alone which should guide us in the choice of our
friends, without any inquiry into their poverty or riches; and as we
are resolved not to abandon them in adversity, we may boldly and freely
cultivate their friendship even in their greatest prosperity.

(20.) If it be usual to be strongly impressed by things that are
scarce, why are we so little impressed by virtue?

(21.) If it be a happiness to be of noble parentage, it is no less so
to possess so much merit that nobody inquires whether we are noble or

(22.) From time to time have appeared in the world some extraordinary
and admirable men, refulgent by their virtues, and whose eminent
qualities have shone with prodigious brilliancy, like those uncommon
stars of which we do not know why they appear, and know still less what
becomes of them after they have disappeared. These men have neither
ancestors nor posterity; they alone are their whole race.

(23.) A sensible mind shows us our duty and the obligation we lie under
to perform it, and if attended with danger, to perform it in spite of
danger; it inspires us with courage or supplies the want of it.

(24.) He who excels in his art, so as to carry it to the utmost height
of perfection, goes in some measure beyond it, and becomes the equal
of whatever is most noble and most transcendental: thus V ... is an
artist, C ... a musician, and the author of _Pyrame_ a poet; but
Mignard is Mignard, Lulli is Lulli, and Corneille is Corneille.[124]

(25). A man who is single and independent, and who has some
intelligence, may rise above his fortune, mix with the world, and
be considered the equal of the best society, which is not so easily
done if encumbered. Marriage seems to place everybody in their proper
station of life.

(26.) Next to personal merit, it must be owned that from eminent
dignities and lofty titles men derive the greatest distinction and
lustre; and thus a man who will never make an Erasmus[125] is right
when he thinks of becoming a bishop.[126] Some, to spread their fame,
heap up dignities, decorations,[127] bishoprics, become cardinals,
and may want the tiara; but what need for Trophime[128] to become a

(27.) You tell me that Philemonʼs[129] clothes blaze with gold, but
that metal also shone when they were in the tailorʼs shop. His clothes
are made of the finest materials; but are those same materials less
fine in the warehouse or in the whole piece? But then the embroidery
and trimmings make them still more magnificent. I praise, therefore,
the skill of his tailor. Ask him what oʼclock it is, and he pulls out
a watch, a masterpiece of workmanship; the handle of his sword is an
onyx,[130] and on his finger he wears a large diamond which dazzles
our eyes and has no flaw. He wants none of all those curious nicknacks
which are worn more for show than service, and is as profuse[131] with
all kinds of ornaments as a young fellow who has married a wealthy old
lady. Well, at last you have excited my curiosity: I should, at least,
like to see all this finery: send me Philemonʼs clothes and jewels; but
I do not wish to see him.

You are mistaken, Philemon, if you think you will be esteemed a whit
the more for your showy coach, the large number of rogues who follow
you, and those six horses that draw you along; we mentally remove all
splendour which is not properly yours, to reach you personally, and
find you to be a mere conceited noodle.

Not but that a man is sometimes to be forgiven who, on account of his
splendid retinue, his rich clothes, and his magnificent carriage,
thinks himself of more noble descent and more intelligent than he
really is; for he sees this opinion expressed on the countenances and
in the eyes of those who speak to him.[132]

(28.) At court, and often in the city, a man in a long silken cassock
or one of very fine cloth,[133] with a broad cincture tied high
upon his stomach, shoes of the finest morocco leather, and a little
skull-cap of the same material, with well-made and well-starched bands,
his hair smoothed down, and with a ruddy complexion; who, besides,
remembers some metaphysical distinctions, explains what is the _lumen
gloriæ_, and what it is to behold God face to face,[134] is called a
doctor.[135] A man of humble mind, who is immured in his study, who
has meditated, searched, compared, collated, read or written all his
lifetime, is a man of learning.[136]

(29.) With us a soldier is brave, a lawyer learned; we proceed no
farther. Among the Romans a lawyer was brave and a soldier learned; a
Roman was a soldier and a lawyer.

(30.) A hero seems to have but one profession, namely, to be a soldier,
whilst a great man is of all professions—a lawyer, a soldier, a
politician or a courtier; put them both together and they are not worth
an honest man.[137]

(31.) In war it is very difficult to make a distinction between a hero
and a great man, for both possess military virtues. It seems, however,
that the first should be young, daring, unmoved amidst dangers and
dauntless, whilst the other should have extraordinary sense, great
sagacity, lofty capacities, and a long experience. Perhaps Alexander
was but a hero, and Cæsar a great man.[138]

(32.) Æmilius[139] was born with those qualities which the greatest
men do not acquire without guidance, long study, and practice. He had
nothing to do in his early years but to show himself worthy of his
innate talents, and to give himself up to the bent of his genius. He
has done and performed deeds before he knew anything; or rather, he
knew what was never taught him. I dare say it: many victories were
the sport of his childhood. A life attended by great good fortune
as well as by long experience, would have gained renown by the mere
actions of his youth.[140] He embraced all opportunities of conquest
which presented themselves, whilst his courage and his good fortune
created those which did not exist; he was admired for what he has
done, as well as for what he could have done. He has been looked upon
as a man incapable of yielding to an enemy, or giving way to numbers
or difficulties; as a superior mind, never wanting in expediency or
knowledge, and seeing things which no one else could see; as one who
was sure to lead to victory when at the head of an army; and who
singly was more valuable than many battalions; as one who was great in
prosperity, greater when fortune was against him,—the being compelled
to raise a siege[141] or to beat a retreat have gained him more honour
than a victory, and they rank before his gaining battles or taking of
towns,—as one full of glory and modesty. He has been heard to say, “I
fled,” as calmly as he said, “We beat the enemy;” he was a man devoted
to the State,[142] to his family, to the head of that family;[143]
sincere towards God and men, as great an admirer of merit as if he had
not been so well acquainted with it himself; a true, unaffected, and
magnanimous man, in whom none but virtues of an inferior kind were

(33.) The offspring of the gods,[145] if I may express myself so, are
beyond the laws of nature, and, as it were, an exception to them. They
expect almost nothing from time or age; for merit, in them, precedes
years.[146] They are born well informed, and reach manhood before
ordinary men abandon infancy.

(34.) Short-sighted men, I mean those whose minds are limited and
never extend beyond their own little sphere, cannot understand that
universality of talent one sometimes observes in the same person. They
allow no one to possess solid qualities when he is agreeable; or, when
they think they have perceived in a person some bodily attractions,
such as agility, elasticity, and skill, they will not credit him with
the possession of those gifts of the mind, perspicacity, judgment, and
wisdom; they will not believe what is told in the history of Socrates,
that he ever danced.

(35.) There exists scarcely any man so accomplished, or so necessary
to his own family, but he has some failing which will diminish their
regret at his loss.

(36.) An intelligent man, of a simple and straightforward character,
may fall into some snare, for he does not think that anybody would
spread one for him or select him in order to deceive him. This
assurance makes him less cautious, and he is caught by some rogues
through this failing. But the latter will not be so successful when
they attempt it a second time; such a man can only be deceived once.

If I am a just man, I will be careful not to offend any one, but above
all not to offend an intelligent man, if I have the smallest regard for
my own interests.

(37.) There exists nothing so subtle, so simple, and so imperceptible
which is not revealed to us by a something in its composition. A
blockhead cannot enter a room, nor leave it, nor sit down, nor rise,
nor be silent, nor stand on his legs like an intelligent man.

(38.) I made the acquaintance of Mopsus[147] through a visit he made
me without knowing me previously; he asks people whom he does not know
to present him to others to whom he is equally unknown; he writes
to ladies whom he only knows by sight. He introduces himself into a
company of highly respectable people, though he is a perfect stranger
to them, and without waiting till they address him, or feeling that
he interrupts them, he often speaks, and that in an absurd manner.
Another time he enters a public meeting, sits down anywhere, without
paying any regard to others or to himself; and if removed from a place
destined for a Minister of State, he goes and seats himself in the seat
of a duke and peer of the realm; he is the laughing-stock of the whole
company, yet the only person who keeps his countenance. He is like a
dog that is driven out of the kingʼs chair and jumps into the pulpit.
He looks with indifference, without any embarrassment or without any
shame, upon the worldʼs opinion; he and a blockhead have the same
feelings of modesty.

(39.) Celsus[148] is not of a very high birth, but he is allowed to
visit the greatest men in the land; he is not learned, but he is
acquainted with some learned men; he has not much merit, but he knows
people who have a great deal of it; he has no abilities, but he has a
tongue that serves him to be understood, and feet that carry him from
one place to another. He is a man made to run backwards and forwards,
to listen to proposals and to talk about them, to do this officially,
to exceed the duties of his post, and even to be disowned; to reconcile
people who fall out the first time they see one another; to succeed
in one affair and fail in a thousand; to arrogate all the honour of
success to himself, and cast all the blame of a failure on others.
He knows all the scandal and the tittle-tattle of the town; he does
nothing but only repeats and hears what others do; he is a newsmonger,
he is even acquainted with family secrets, and busies himself about
the greatest mysteries; he tells you the reason why a certain person
was banished and another has been recalled; he knows why and wherefore
two brothers have quarrelled,[149] and why two ministers have fallen
out.[150] Did he not predict to the former the sad consequences of
their misunderstanding? Did he not tell the latter their union would
not last long? Was he not present when certain words were spoken? Did
he not enter into some kind of negotiation? Would they believe him?
Did they mind what he said? To whom do you talk about those things?
Who has had a greater share in all court intrigues than Celsus? And
if it were not so, or if he had not dreamed or imagined it to be so,
would he think of making you believe it? Would he put on the grave and
mysterious look of a man newly returned from an embassy?

(40.) Menippus[151] is a bird decked in various feathers which are
not his. He neither says nor feels anything, but repeats the feelings
and sayings of others; it is so natural for him to make use of other
peopleʼs minds that he is the first deceived by it, and often believes
he speaks his own mind or expresses his own thoughts when he is but
the echo of some man he just parted with. He is bearable[152] for a
quarter of an hour, but a moment after he flags, degenerates, loses the
little polish his shallow memory gives him, and shows he has nothing
more left.[153] He alone ignores how very far he is from the sublime
and the heroic; and having no idea of the extent of his intelligence,
ingenuously believes that he possesses as much as it is possible
for any man to have, and accordingly assumes the air and manners of
one who has nothing more to wish for nor to envy any one. He often
soliloquises, and so little conceals it, that the passers-by see him
and think he is always making up his mind, or is finally deciding some
matter or other. If you bow to him at a certain time, you perplex
him as to whether he has to return the bow or not; and, whilst he is
deliberating, you are already out of his sight. His vanity, which has
made him a gentleman, has raised him above himself, and made him what
naturally he is not. When you behold him, you can judge he has nothing
to do but to survey himself, so that he may perceive everything he
wears suits him, and that his dress is not incongruous; he fancies all
menʼs eyes are upon him, and that people come to look on him one after

(41.) A man who has a palace of his own, with apartments for the
summer and the winter season, and yet sleeps in an _entresol_ in the
Louvre,[154] does not act thus through modesty; another, who, to
preserve his elegant shape, abstains from wine and eats but one meal
a day, is neither sober nor temperate; whilst it may be said of a
third, who, importuned by some poor friend, finally renders him some
assistance, that he buys his tranquillity, but by no means that he is
liberal. It is the motive alone that gives merit to human actions, and
disinterestedness perfects them.

(42.) False greatness is unsociable and inaccessible; as it is sensible
of its weakness, it conceals itself, or at least does not show itself
openly, and only allows just so much to be seen as will carry on the
deceit, so as not to appear what it really is, namely, undoubtedly
mean. True greatness, on the contrary, is free, gentle, familiar, and
popular; it allows itself to be touched and handled, loses nothing by
being seen closely, and is the more admired the better it is known. Out
of kindness it stoops to inferiors, and recovers, without effort, its
true character; sometimes it unbends, becomes negligent, lays aside
all its superiority, yet never loses the power of resuming it and of
maintaining it; amidst laughter, gambols, and jocularity it preserves
its dignity, and we approach it freely, and yet with some diffidence.
It is noble, yet sympathetic, whilst inspiring respect and confidence,
and makes us view princes as of lofty, nay, of very lofty rank, without
making us feel that we are of inferior condition.[155]

(43.) A wise man is cured of ambition by ambition itself; his aim is so
exalted that riches, office, fortune, and favour cannot satisfy him. He
sees nothing good and sufficiently efficient in such a poor superiority
to engage his affections and to render it deserving of his cares and
his desires; he has to use some effort not to despise it too much. The
only thing that might tempt him is that kind of honour which should
attend a wholly pure and unaffected virtue; but men but rarely grant
it, so he does without it.

(44.) A man is good who benefits others: if he suffers for the good he
does, he is still better; and if he suffers through those to whom he
did good, he has arrived at such a height of perfection that nothing
but an increase of his sufferings can add to it; if he dies through
them, his virtue cannot stand higher; it is heroic, it is complete.




(1.) The male and female sex seldom agree about the merits of a woman,
as their interests vary too much. Women do not like those same charms
in one another which render them agreeable to men: many ways and means
which kindle in the latter the greatest passions, raise among them
aversion and antipathy.

(2.) There exists among some women an artificial grandeur depending on
a certain way of moving their eyes, tossing their heads, and on their
manner of walking, which does not go farther; it is like a dazzling wit
which is deceptive, and is only admired because it is superficial. In a
few others is to be found an ingenuous, natural greatness, not beholden
to gestures and motion, which springs from the heart, and is, as it
were, the result of their noble birth; their merit, as unruffled as it
is efficient, is accompanied by a thousand virtues, which, in spite
of all their modesty, break out and display themselves to all who can
discern them.

(3.) I have heard some people say they should like to be a girl, and a
handsome girl, too, from thirteen to two-and-twenty, and after that age
again to become a man.

(4.) Some young ladies are not sensible of the advantages of a happy
disposition, and how beneficial it would be to them to give themselves
up to it; they enfeeble these rare and fragile gifts which Heaven has
given them by affectation and by bad imitation; their very voice and
gait are affected; they fashion their looks, adorn themselves, consult
their looking-glasses to see whether they have sufficiently changed
their own natural appearance, and take some trouble to make themselves
less agreeable.

(5.) For a woman to paint herself red or white is, I admit, a smaller
crime than to say one thing and think another; it is also something
less innocent than to disguise herself or to go masquerading, if she
does not pretend to pass for what she seems to be, but only thinks of
concealing her personality and of remaining unknown; it is an endeavour
to deceive the eyes, to wish to appear outwardly what she is not; it is
a kind of “white lie.”

We should judge of a woman without taking into account her shoes and
head-dress, and, almost as we measure a fish, from head to tail.[156]

(6.) If it be the ambition of women only to appear handsome in their
own eyes and to please themselves, they are, no doubt, right in
following their own tastes and fancies as to how they should beautify
themselves, as well as in choosing their dress and ornaments; but if
they desire to please men, if it is for them they paint and besmear
themselves, I can tell them that all men, or nearly all, have agreed
that white and red paint makes them look hideous and frightful; that
red paint alone ages and disguises them, and that these men hate as
much to see white lead on their countenances as to see false teeth in
their mouths or balls of wax to plump out their cheeks;[157] that they
solemnly protest against all artifices women employ to make themselves
look ugly; that they are not responsible for it to Heaven, but, on the
contrary, that it seems the last and infallible means to reclaim men
from loving them.

If women were by nature what they make themselves by art; if they were
to lose suddenly all the freshness of their complexion, and their faces
to become as fiery and as leaden as they make them with the red and the
paint they besmear themselves with, they would consider themselves the
most wretched creatures on earth.

(7.) A coquette is a woman who never yields to the passion she has for
pleasing, nor to the good opinion she entertains of her own beauty; she
regards time and years only as things that wrinkle and disfigure other
women, and forgets that age is written on her face. The same dress,
which formerly enhanced her beauty when she was young, now disfigures
her, and shows the more the defects of old age; winning manners and
affectation cling to her even in sorrow and sickness; she dies dressed
in her best, and adorned with gay-coloured ribbons.

(8.) Lise[158] hears that people make fun of some coquette for
pretending to be young and for wearing dresses which no longer suit a
woman of forty. Lise is as old as that, but years for her have less
than twelve months; nor do they add to her age; she thinks so, and
whilst she looks in the glass, lays the red on her face and sticks on
the patches, confesses there is a time of life when it is not decent to
affect a youthful appearance, and, indeed, that Clarissa with her paint
and patches is ridiculous.

(9.) Women make preparations to receive their lovers, but if they are
surprised by them, they forget in what sort of dress they are, and
no longer think of themselves. They are in no such confusion with
people for whom they do not care; they perceive that they are not well
dressed, bedizen themselves in their presence, or else disappear for a
moment and return beautifully arrayed.

(10.) A handsome face is the finest of all sights, and the sweetest
music is the sound of the voice of the woman we love.

(11.) Fascination is despotic; beauty is something more tangible and
independent of opinion.

(12.) A man can feel his heart touched by certain women of such perfect
beauty and such transcendent merit that he is satisfied with only
seeing them and conversing with them.

(13.) A handsome woman, who possesses also the qualities of a man of
culture, is the most agreeable acquaintance a man can have, for she
unites the merits of both sexes.

(14.) A young lady accidentally says many little things which are
clearly convincing, and greatly flatter those to whom they are
addressed. Men say almost nothing accidentally; their endearments are
premeditated; they speak, act, and are eager to please, but convince

(15.) Handsome women are more or less whimsical; those whims serve as
an antidote, so that their beauty may do less harm to men, who, without
such a remedy, would never be cured of their love.

(16.) Women become attached to men through the favours they grant them,
but men are cured of their love through those same favours.

(17.) When a woman no longer loves a man, she forgets the very favours
she has granted him.

(18.) A woman with one gallant thinks she is no coquette; she who has
several thinks herself but a coquette.

A woman avoids being a coquette if she steadfastly loves a certain
person, but she is not thought sane if she persists in a bad choice.

(19.) A former gallant is of so little consideration that he must give
way to a new husband; and the latter lasts so short a time that a fresh
gallant turns him out.

A former gallant either fears or despises a new rival, according to the
character of the lady to whom he pays his addresses.

Often a former gallant wants nothing but the name to be the husband of
the woman he loves; if it was not for this circumstance he would have
been dismissed a thousand times.

(20.) Gallantry in a woman seems to add to coquetry. A male coquette,
on the contrary, is something worse than a gallant. A male coquette and
a woman of gallantry are pretty much on a level.

(21.) Few intrigues are secret; many women are not better known by
their husbandsʼ names than they are by the names of their gallants.

(22.) A woman of gallantry strongly desires to be loved; it is enough
for a coquette to be thought amiable and to be considered handsome.
This one seeks to form an engagement; that one is satisfied with
pleasing. The first passes successively from one engagement to another;
the second has at one and the same time a great many amusements on her
hands. Passion and pleasure are predominant in the first; vanity and
levity in the second. Gallantry is a weakness of the heart, or perhaps
a constitutional defect; coquetry is an irregularity of the mind.
A woman of gallantry is feared; a coquette is hated. From two such
characters might be formed a third worse than any.

(23.) A weak woman is one who is blamed for a fault for which she
blames herself; whose feelings are struggling with reason, and who
should like to be cured of her folly, but is never cured, or not till
very late in life.

(24.) An inconstant woman is one who is no longer in love; a giddy
woman is one who is already in love with another person; a flighty
woman neither knows if she loves or whom she loves; and an indifferent
woman is one who loves nobody.

(25.) Treachery, if I may say so, is a falsehood told by the whole
body; in a woman it is the art of arranging words or actions for the
purpose of deceiving us, and sometimes of making use of vows and
promises which it costs her no more to break than it did to make.

A faithless woman, if known to be such by the person concerned, is but
faithless; if she is believed faithful, she is treacherous.

The benefit we obtain from the perfidy of women is that it cures us of

(26.) Some women in their lifetime have a double engagement to keep,
which it is as difficult to violate as to conceal; in the one nothing
is wanting but a legal consecration, and in the other nothing but the

(27.) If we were to judge of a certain woman by her beauty, her youth,
her pride, and her haughtiness, we could almost assert that none but
a hero would one day win her. She has chosen to fall in love with a
little monster deficient in intelligence.[159]

(28.) There are some women past their prime, who, on account of their
constitution or bad disposition, are naturally the resource of young
men not possessing sufficient wealth. I do not know who is more to be
pitied, either a woman in years who needs a young man, or a young man
who needs an old woman.[160]

(29.) A man who is looked upon with contempt at court, is received
amongst fashionable people[161] in the city, where he triumphs over a
magistrate in all his finery,[162] as well as over a citizen wearing
a sword; he beats them all out of the field and becomes master of the
situation; he is treated with consideration and is beloved; there is
no resisting for long a man wearing a gold-embroidered scarf[163] and
white plumes; a man who talks to the king and visits the ministers.
He kindles jealousy amongst men as well as amongst women; he is
admired and envied; but in Versailles, four leagues from Paris, he is

(30.) A citizen is to a woman who has never left her native province
what a courtier is to a woman born and bred in town.

(31.) A man who is vain, indiscreet, a great talker and a mischievous
wag, who speaks arrogantly of himself and contemptuously of others,
who is boisterous, haughty, forward, without morality, honesty, or
common-sense, and who draws for facts on his imagination, wants
nothing else, to be adored by many women, but handsome features and a
good shape.

(32.) Is it for the sake of secrecy, or from some eccentricity, that a
certain lady loves her footman and Dorinna her physician?[165]

(33.) Roscius treads the stage with admirable grace: yes, Lelia, so he
does; and I will allow you, too, that his limbs are well shaped, that
he acts well, and very long parts, and that to recite perfectly he
wants nothing else, as they say, but to open his mouth. But is he the
only actor who is charming in everything he does? or is his profession
the noblest and most honourable in the world? Moreover, Roscius cannot
be yours; he is anotherʼs, or, if he were not, he is pre-engaged.
Claudia waits for him till he is satiated with Messalina. Take
Bathyllus, then, Lelia. Where will you find, I do not say among the
knights you despise, but among the very players, one to compare with
him in rising so high whilst dancing or in cutting capers? Or what do
you think of Cobus, the tumbler, who, throwing his feet forward, whirls
himself quite round in the air before he lights on the ground? But,
perhaps, you know that he is no longer young? As for Bathyllus, you
will say, the crowd round him is still too great, and he refuses more
ladies than he gratifies. Well, you can have Draco, the flute-player;
none of all his profession swells his cheeks with so much decency as he
does whilst playing on the hautboy or the flageolet; for he can play
on a great number of instruments; and he is so comical that he makes
even children and young women laugh. Who eats or drinks more at a meal
than Draco? He makes the whole company intoxicated, and is the last
to remain comparatively sober. You sigh, Lelia. Is it because Draco
has already made his choice, or because, unfortunately, you have been
forestalled? Is he at last engaged to Cesonia, who has so long pursued
him, and who has sacrificed for him such a large number of lovers,
I might even say, the entire flower of Rome? to Cesonia, herself
belonging to a patrician family, so young, so handsome, and of so noble
a mien? I pity you, Lelia, if you have been infected with this new
fancy which possesses so many Roman ladies for what are called public
men, whose calling exposes them to the public gaze. What course will
you pursue, then, since the best of their kind are already engaged?
However, Brontes, the executioner,[166] is still left; everybody speaks
of his strength and his skill; he is young, broad-shouldered and
brawny, and, moreover, a negro, a black man.[167]

(34.) A woman of fashion looks on a gardener as a gardener, and on a
mason as a mason; but other women, who live more secluded, look upon
a mason and a gardener as men. Anything is a temptation to those who
dread it.[168]

(35.) Some ladies are[169] liberal to the Church as well as to their
lovers; and being both gallant and charitable, are provided with seats
and oratories within the rails of the altar, where they can read their
love-letters, and where no one can see whether they are saying their
prayers or not.

(36.) What kind of a woman is one who is “spiritually directed”? Is she
more obliging to her husband, kinder to her servants, more careful of
her family and her household, more zealous and sincere for her friends?
is she less swayed by whims, less governed by interest, and less fond
of her ease? I do not ask if she makes presents to her children who
already are opulent, but if, having wealth enough and to spare, she
provides them with the necessaries of life, and, at least, gives them
what is their due? Is she more exempt from egotism, does she dislike
others less, and has she fewer worldly affections? “No,” say you, “none
of all those things.” I repeat my question again: “What kind of a woman
is one who is ‘spiritually directed?’” “Oh! I understand you now; she
is a woman who has a spiritual director.”[170]

(37.) If a father-confessor and a spiritual director cannot agree
about their line of conduct, what third person shall a woman take to be

(38.) It is not essential that a woman should provide herself with a
spiritual director, but she should lead such a regular life as not to
need one.

(39.) If a woman should tell her father-confessor, among her other
weaknesses, those which she has for her director, and the times she
wastes in his company, perhaps she might be enjoined as a penance to
leave him.

(40.) Would I had the liberty of shouting, as loud as I could, to those
holy men who formerly suffered by women: “Flee from women; do not
become their spiritual directors, but let others take care of their

(41.) It is too much for a husband to have a wife who is a coquette and
sanctimonious as well; she should select only one of those qualities.

(42.) I have deferred it for a long time, but after all I have suffered
it must come out at last; and I hope my frankness may be of some
service to those ladies who, not deeming one confessor sufficient to
guide them, show no discrimination in the choice of their directors.
I cannot help admiring and being amazed on beholding some people who
shall be nameless; I open my eyes wide when I see them; I gaze on them;
they speak and I listen; then I inquire, and am told certain things,
which I do not forget. I cannot understand how people, who appear to me
the very reverse of intelligent, sensible, or experienced, and without
any knowledge of mankind, or any study of religion and morality, can
presume that Heaven, at the present time, should renew the marvels of
an apostolate, and perform a miracle on them, in rendering such simple
and little minds fit for the ministry of souls, the most difficult and
most sublime of all vocations. It is to me still more incomprehensible
if, on the contrary, they fancy themselves predestined to fill a
function so noble and so difficult, and for which but few people are
qualified, and persuade themselves that in undertaking it they do but
exercise their natural talents and follow an ordinary vocation.

I perceive that an inclination of being intrusted with family secrets,
of being useful in bringing about reconciliations, of obtaining various
appointments, or of procuring places to people,[171] of finding all
doors of noblemenʼs houses open, of eating frequently at good tables,
of driving about the town in private carriages, of making pleasant
excursions to charming country-seats, of seeing several persons of
rank and quality concern themselves about our life and health, and of
employing for others and ourselves every worldly interest,—I perceive,
I say so again, that for the sake of those things solely has been
invented the specious and inoffensive pretence of the care of souls,
and an inexhaustible nursery of spiritual directors planted in this

(43.) Devotion[172] with some people, but especially with women, is
either a passion, or an infirmity of age, or a fashion which must be
followed. Formerly such women divided the week in days for gambling,
for going to a theatre, a concert, a fancy-dress ball, or a nice
sermon. On Mondays they went and lost their money at Ismenaʼs; on
Tuesdays their time at Climèneʼs, and on Wednesday their reputation at
Célimèneʼs; they knew overnight what amusements were going on the next
day, and the day after that; they thus enjoyed the present, and knew
what pleasures were in store for them; they wished it were possible to
unite them all in one day, for this was then the sole cause of their
uneasiness and all they had to think about; and if they sometimes went
to the Opera, they regretted they had not gone to any other theatre.
But with other times came other manners; now, they exaggerate their
austerity and their solitude; they no longer open their eyes, which
were given them to see; they do not make any use of their senses, and
what is almost incredible, but little of their tongues; and yet they
think, and that pretty well of themselves and ill enough of others;
they compete with each other in virtue and reformation in a jealous
kind of way; they do not dislike being first in their new course of
life, as they were in the career they lately abandoned out of policy or
disgust. They used gaily to damn themselves through their intrigues,
their luxury and sloth, and now their presumption and envy will damn
them, though not so merrily.[173]

(44.) Hermas, were I to marry a stingy woman, she will be sure not
to ruin me; if a woman fond of gambling, she may enrich me; if a
woman fond of learning, she may teach me; or if prim and precise, she
will not fly into a rage; if a passionate one, she will exercise my
patience; if a coquette, she will endeavour to please me; if a woman of
gallantry, she will perhaps be so gallant as to love me; but tell me,
Hermas, what can I expect if I were to marry a devout woman[174] who
would deceive Heaven, and who really deceives herself?

(45.) A woman is easily managed if a man will only give himself the
trouble. One man often manages a great many; he cultivates their
understanding and their memory, settles and determines their religious
feelings, and undertakes even to regulate their very affections. They
neither approve nor disapprove, commend or condemn, till they have
consulted his looks and his countenance. He is the confidant of their
joys and of their sorrows, of their desires, jealousies, hatred, and
love; he makes them break with their gallants, embroils and reconciles
them with their husbands, and is useful during the intervals. He looks
after their business, solicits for them when they have lawsuits, and
goes and sees the judges;[175] he recommends them his physician, his
tradesmen, his workmen; he tries to find them a residence, to furnish
it, and he orders also their carriages. He is seen with them when they
drive about in the streets, and during their walks, as well as in their
pew at church and their box at the theatre; he goes the same round of
visits as they do, and attends on them when they go to the baths, to
watering-places, and on their travels; he has the most comfortable
apartment at their country-seat. He grows old, but his authority does
not decline; a small amount of intelligence and the spending of a good
deal of leisure time suffice to preserve it; the children, the heirs,
the daughter-in-law, the niece, and the servants, are all dependent on
him. He began by making himself esteemed, and ends by making himself
feared. This old and necessary friend dies at last without being
regretted, and about half a score of women he tyrannised over recover
their liberty at his death.

(46.) Some women have endeavoured to conceal their conduct under a
modest exterior; but the most any one of them has obtained by the
closest and most constant dissimulation has been to have it said, “One
would have taken her for a Vestal virgin.”

(47.) It is a proof positive that a woman has an unstained and
established reputation if it is not even sullied by the familiar
intercourse with some ladies who are unlike her, and if, with all the
inclination people have to make slanderous observations, they ascribe a
totally different reason to this intimacy than similarity of morals.

(48.) An actor overdoes his part when on the stage; a poet amplifies
his descriptions; an artist who draws from life heightens and
exaggerates passions, contrasts, and attitudes; and he who copies
him, unless he measures with a pair of compasses the dimensions and
the proportions, will make his figures too big, and all parts of
the composition of his picture by far larger than they were in the
original. Thus an imitation of sagacity becomes pretentious affectation.

There is a pretended modesty which is vanity, a pretended glory which
is levity, a pretended grandeur which is meanness, a pretended virtue
which is hypocrisy, and a pretended wisdom which is affectation.

An affected and pretentious woman is all deportment and words; a
sensible woman shows her sense by her behaviour. This one follows her
inclination and disposition, that one her reason and her affections;
the one is formal and austere, the other is on all occasions exactly
what she ought to be. The first hides her weaknesses underneath
a plausible outside; the second conceals a rich store of virtue
underneath a free and natural air. Affectation and pretension shackle
the mind, yet do not veil age or ugliness, but often imply them;
common-sense, on the contrary, palliates the imperfections of the body,
ennobles the mind, gives fresh charms to youth, and makes beauty more

(49.) Why should men be blamed because women are not learned? What
laws, edicts, or regulations prohibit them from opening their eyes,
from reading and remembering what they have read, and from introducing
this in their conversation and in their writings? Is their ignorance,
on the contrary, not owing to a custom introduced by themselves; or to
the weakness of their constitution, or to the indolence of their mind,
or the care of their beauty, or to a certain flightiness which will
not allow them to prosecute any continuous studies, or to a talent and
aptitude they only have for needlework, or to an inattention caused
by domestic avocations, or to a natural aversion for all serious and
difficult things, or to a curiosity quite distinct from that which
gratifies the mind, or to a wholly different pleasure from that of
exercising the memory? But to whatever cause men may ascribe this
ignorance of women, they may consider themselves happy that women, who
rule them in so many things, are inferior to them in this respect.

We look on a learned woman as we do on a fine piece of armour,
artistically chiselled, admirably polished, and of exquisite
workmanship, which is only fit to be shown to connoisseurs, of no use
whatever, and no more apt to be used for war or hunting than a horse
out of a riding-school is, though it may be trained to perfection.

Whenever I find learning and sagacity united in one and the same
person, I do not care what the sex may be, I admire; and if you tell
me that a sensible woman hardly thinks of becoming learned, or that
a learned woman is hardly ever a sensible woman, you have already
forgotten what you have just read, namely, that women are prevented
from studying science by certain imperfections. Now you can draw your
own conclusions, namely, that those who have the fewest imperfections
are most likely to have the greatest amount of common-sense, and that
thus a sensible woman bids fairest to become learned; and that a
learned woman could never be such without having overcome a great many
imperfections, and this is the very best proof of her sense.[176]

(50.) It is very difficult to remain neutral when two women, who are
both our friends, fall out through some cause or other in which we are
not at all concerned; we must often side with one or lose both.

(51.) There are certain women who love their money better than their
friends, and their lovers better than their money.

(52.) We are amazed to observe in some women stronger and more violent
passions than their love for men, I mean ambition and gambling. Such
women render men chaste, and have nothing of their own sex but the

(53.) Women run to extremes; they are either better or worse than men.

(54.) Most women have hardly any principles;[178] they are led by their
passions, and form their morals and manners after those whom they love.

(55.) Women exceed the generality of men in love; but men are their
superiors in friendship. Men are the cause that women do not love one

(56.) There is some danger in making fun of people. Lise, who is more
or less in years, in trying to render a young woman ridiculous, has
changed so much as to become frightful. She made so many grimaces and
contortions in imitating her, and now has grown so ugly, that the
person she mimicked cannot have a better foil.

(57.) In the city many male and female nincompoops have the reputation
of being intelligent; at court many men who are very intelligent are
considered dolts; and a beautiful woman who has some intelligence will
hardly escape being called “foolish” by other women.

(58.) A man keeps another personʼs secret better than his own; a woman,
on the contrary, keeps her own secrets better than any other personʼs.

(59.) There is no love, however violent, raging in the heart of a young
woman, but there is still some room left for interest and ambition.

(60.) There comes a time when the wealthiest women ought to marry; they
seldom let slip the first opportunity without repenting it for many a
day; it seems that the reputation of their wealth diminishes in the
same proportion as their beauty does. On the contrary, every thing
is favourable to young girls, even menʼs opinions, for they attribute
to them every accomplishment, to render them still more desirable.

(61.) To how many girls has a great beauty been of no other use but to
make them expect a large fortune!

(62.) Handsome girls are apt to gratify the revenge of the lovers
they have ill-treated, by giving their hand to ugly, old, or unworthy

(63.) Most women judge of the merits and good looks of a man by the
impression he makes on them, and very rarely allow either of those
qualities to a person who is indifferent to them.

(64.) A man who is anxious to know whether his appearance is changed,
and if he begins to grow old, needs only to consult the eyes of any
fair one he addresses, and the tone of her voice as she converses with
him, and he will then learn what he dreads to know. But it will be a
severe lesson to him!

(65.) A woman who always stares at one and the same person, or who is
for ever avoiding to look at him, makes us conclude but one and the
same thing of her.

(66.) Women are at little trouble to express what they do not feel; but
men are still at less to express what they do feel.

(67.) It sometimes happens that a woman conceals from a man the love
she feels for him, while he only feigns a passion he does not feel.

(68.) Suppose a man indifferent, but intending to declare to a woman
a passion he does not feel, it may be doubted whether it would not be
easier for him to deceive[179] a woman who loves him than one to whom
he is indifferent.

(69.) A man may deceive a woman by a pretended inclination, but then he
must not have a real one elsewhere.

(70.) A man storms and rails at a woman who no longer cares for him,
but he finds consolation; a woman is not so vociferous when she is
forsaken, but she remains unconsolable for a longer time.

(71.) Sloth in women is cured either by vanity or love; though, in
vivacious women, it is an omen of love.

(72.) It is certain that a woman who writes letters full of passion
is agitated, though it is not so sure that she is in love. A deep and
tender passion is more likely to become dejected and silent; and the
greatest and most stirring interest a woman can feel whose heart is no
longer free, is less to convince her lover of her own affection than to
be assured of his love for her.

(73.) Glycera[180] does not love her own sex; she hates their
conversation and their visits; she gives orders to be denied to them,
and often to her male friends, who are not many, whom she treats very
abruptly, keeps within limits, and whom she never allows to transgress
the bounds of friendship. She is absent-minded when they are present,
answers them in monosyllables, and seems to seek every opportunity of
getting rid of them; she dwells alone, and leads a very retired life
in her own house; her gates are better guarded and her rooms are more
inaccessible than those of Montauron or dʼEsmery.[181]

Only Corinna is expected and admitted at all hours, embraced several
times, caressed, and addressed with bated breath, though they are
alone in a small room; whatever she says is attentively listened
to; complaints are poured into Corinnaʼs ears about another person;
everything is told her, though nothing is new to her, for she possesses
the confidence of that other person as well. Glycera is seen with
another lady and two gentlemen at a ball, in the theatre, in the
public gardens, on the road to Venouse,[182] where people eat fruit
early in the season; sometimes alone in a sedan-chair on the way to
the grand suburb,[183] where she has a splendid fruit-garden, or else
at Canidiaʼs[184] door, who possesses so many rare secrets, promises
second husbands to young wives, and tells them also when and under
what circumstances they will obtain them. Glycera appears commonly in
a low and unpretentious head-dress, in a plain morning gown, without
any stays, and in slippers; she is charming in this dress, and wants
nothing but a little colour. People remark, nevertheless, that she
wears a splendid brooch, which she takes special care to conceal from
her husbandʼs eyes. She cajoles and caresses him, and every day invents
some new pretty names for him; the “dear husband” and his wife have but
one bedroom, and would not sleep in any other room. The morning she
spends at her toilet and in writing some urgent letters; a servant[185]
enters, and speaks to her in private; it is Parmenion, her favourite,
whom she upholds against his masterʼs dislike and his fellow-servantsʼ
jealousy. Who, indeed, delivers a message or brings back an answer
better than Parmenion? who speaks less of what should not be mentioned?
who opens a private door with less noise? who is a more skilful guide
up the back-stairs? or more cleverly leads a person out again the same

(74.) I cannot understand how a husband who gives way to his freaks
and his temper, who, far from concealing his bad qualities, shows, on
the contrary, only his worst, who is covetous, slovenly in his dress,
abrupt in his answers, impolite, dull and taciturn, can expect to
defend successfully the heart of a young wife against the attacks of
a gallant who makes the most of dress, magnificence, complaisance,
politeness, assiduity, presents, and flattery.[186]

(75.) A husband seldom has a rival who is not of his own making, and
whom he has not introduced himself to his wife at one time or other; he
is always praising him before her for his fine teeth and his handsome
countenance; he encourages his civilities and allows him to visit at
his house; and next to the produce of his own estate, he relishes
nothing better than the game and the truffles his friend sends him. He
gives a supper, and says to his guests: “Let me recommend this to you;
it is sent by Leander and costs me nothing but thanks.”

(76.) A certain wife seems to have annihilated or buried her husband,
for he is not so much as mentioned in this world;[187] it is doubted
whether such a man be alive or dead. In his family his only use is
to be a pattern of timid silence and of implicit submission. He has
nothing to do with jointure or settlement; if it were not for that,
and his not lying-in, one would almost take him for the wife and her
for the husband. They are for months in the house together without any
danger of meeting one another; in reality they are only neighbours.
The master of the house pays the cook and his assistants, but the
supper is always served in my ladyʼs apartment. Often they have nothing
in common, neither bed, board, nor even the same name; they live in
the Greek or Roman fashion; she keeps her name, and he has his; and
it is only after some time, and when a man has been initiated in the
tittle-tattle of the town, that at last he comes to know that Mr. B ...
and Madam L ... have been man and wife these twenty years.[188]

(77.) Another wife, who does not give her husband any uneasiness on
account of her disorderly behaviour, repays herself for it by worrying
him about her high birth, her connections, the dowry she has brought
him, her enchanting beauty, her merits, and by what some people call
“her virtue.”

(78.) There are few wives so perfect as not to give their husbands at
least once a day good reason to repent of ever having married, or at
least of envying those who are unmarried.

(79.) Dumb and stupefied grief[189] is out of fashion; women weep, are
garrulous, and so concerned about their husbandsʼ death that they do
not forget to harp on every one of the details.

(80.) Is it impossible for a husband to discover the art of making his
wife love him?

(81.) An insensible woman is one who has not yet met the person whom
she is to love. In Smyrna there lived a very handsome young lady, named
Emira, yet better known throughout the town for her strict conduct
than for her beauty, and above all, for the indifference she showed
for all men, whom, as she said, she beheld without any danger, and
without any greater emotions than when in the company of her female
friends and her brothers. She could not believe a thousandth part of
all the follies ascribed to love at all times; and those which she saw
herself, seemed to her unaccountable. Friendship was the only feeling
she knew, and her first experience of it was through a youthful and
charming maiden, who pleased her so much that she only thought how to
continue it, never imagining that any other inclination could ever
abate that feeling of esteem and confidence in which she now exulted.
All her conversation was about Euphrosyne, for this was the name of
her faithful friend, and the whole town talked about nothing else but
about her and Euphrosyne; their friendship became a proverb. Emira had
two brothers, both young, and so handsome that all the ladies of the
city were in love with them, whilst she herself loved them as a true
sister. One of the priests of Jupiter, who visited at her fatherʼs
house, fell in love with her, and dared to declare his passion, but
was repelled with scorn. A man of a certain age, who, relying on his
noble birth and large estates, had the same assurance, met with the
same repulse. She boasted of this, however; and even when in the
company of her brothers, the priest, and the old noble, declared she
was insensible to love. It seemed that Heaven reserved severer trials
for her; yet these had no other effect but to render her more vain
and to enhance her reputation as a maiden superior to love. Of three
lovers smitten by her charms in succession, and whose affections she
did not dread, the first, in a fit of passion, stabbed himself at her
feet; the second, despairing of ever succeeding in his suit, went to
seek his death in the wars of Crete; and the third ended his days in
languor and passed his nights without sleep. The man who was to avenge
them had not yet made his appearance. The aged noble, who had not been
fortunate in his suit, was cured of his love by reflecting on his age
and on the character of the young lady to whom he paid his addresses;
however, he wished to visit her sometimes, and received her permission
so to do. One day he introduced to her his youthful son, who united
to a charming countenance manners full of dignity. Emira beheld him
with some interest; but as he remained silent in the presence of his
father, she thought he was wanting in intelligence, and could have
wished him more. He saw her afterwards alone, and conversed long enough
and intelligently; but as he did not look at her much, and talked
still less about her and her beauty, she was surprised and somewhat
indignant that such a nice-looking and clever young man should be so
void of gallantry. She spoke of him to her friend, who expressed a
desire to see him. He, then, only looked at Euphrosyne, and praised
her beauty. At this the unfeeling Emira became jealous; she perceived
that Ctesiphon spoke what he really felt, and that he was not only
capable of gallantry, but even of tenderness. From that time she cooled
towards her friend; yet she wished to see the couple together once
more, to make quite sure that her suspicions were well-founded. The
second interview showed her more than she dreaded to see, and changed
her suspicions into certainty. She now avoided Euphrosyne; she no
longer perceived in her that merit which charmed her before; she lost
all pleasure in her conversation; she loved her no longer; and this
alteration made her aware that love had driven friendship from her
heart. Ctesiphon and Euphrosyne saw each other every day, loved one
another, agreed to marry, and, finally, were married. The news spread
through the town, and was talked about the more as it is not often that
two persons who love one another are married. Emira heard of it, and
became desperate; she now felt all the power of love; she again visited
Euphrosyne only for the pleasure of anew beholding Ctesiphon; but that
young husband still remained a lover, and in his new wife found all the
charms of a mistress; he looked on Emira but as a friend of her who was
dear to him. This unfortunate girl could no longer rest, and refused to
take any nourishment; she got weaker and weaker, and at last her mind
became affected; she mistook her brother for Ctesiphon, and spoke to
him as a lover; she recollected herself, and blushed for her error, yet
soon relapsed into greater errors, for which she did not blush, for she
was no longer aware of them. Now she dreads men, but it is too late;
that is the cause of her madness. She has lucid intervals, but these
are the most painful to her. The youth of Smyrna, who saw her formerly
so proud and so void of feeling, now think that the gods have punished
her too severely.[190]




(1.) Pure friendship is something which men of an inferior intellect
can never taste.

(2.) Friendship can exist between persons of different sexes, without
any coarse or sensual feelings; yet a woman always looks upon a man
as a man, and so a man will look upon a woman as a woman. Such a
connection is neither love nor pure friendship, but something out of
the common.

(3.) Love arises suddenly, without any warning, through a natural
disposition or through weakness; one glance of the fair transfixes us,
determines us. Friendship, on the contrary, is formed gradually, in
time, through familiarity and long acquaintance. How much intelligence,
kindness of heart and affection; how many good offices and civilities
are required among friends to accomplish in several years what a lovely
face or a fine hand does in a minute.

(4.) Time, which strengthens friendship, weakens love.

(5.) As long as love lasts, it feeds on itself, and sometimes by those
very means which seem rather likely to extinguish it, such as caprice,
severity, absence, jealousy. Friendship, on the contrary, needs every
assistance, and dies from want of attention, confidence, and kindness.

(6.) It is not so difficult to meet with excessive love as with perfect

(7.) Love and friendship exclude each other.

(8.) A man who is passionately in love neglects friendship, and one
whose whole feelings are for friendship has none to give to love.

(9.) Love begins with love; and the warmest friendship cannot change
even to the coldest love.

(10.) Nothing is more like the most ardent friendship than those
acquaintances which we cultivate for the sake of our love.

(11.) We never love with all our heart and all our soul but once,
and that is the first time we love. Subsequent inclinations are less

(12.) Sudden love takes the longest time to be cured.

(13.) Love, slow and gradual in its growth, is too much like friendship
ever to be a violent passion.

(14.) A man who loves so ardently that he wishes he were able to love
ever so many thousand times more than he does, yields in love to none
but to a man who loves more intensely than he could wish.

(15.) If I were to admit that in the ebullitions of a violent passion
one may love another person better than oneself, whom should I please
most—those who love or those who are beloved?

(16.) Men are not seldom inclined to fall in love, but cannot succeed
in their desire; they seek every opportunity of being conquered, but
fail to meet it, and, if I may say so, are compelled to remain at

(17.) Those who love too violently at first, soon contribute
individually to their loving one another less, and, finally, to their
not loving one another any longer. It is not so easy to decide who is
most to blame for this rupture, the man or the woman. Women accuse men
of being inconstant, and men retort that women are fickle.

(18.) However particular we may be in love, we pardon more faults in
love than in friendship.

(19.) It is a sweet revenge to a man who loves passionately to make an
ungrateful mistress appear still more so, by his very actions.

(20.) It is a sorry circumstance to love when we have not a fortune
large enough to render those whom we love so happy that there is
nothing more they can wish for.

(21.) If a woman with whom we have been violently in love, and who
has not returned our passion, afterwards renders us some important
services, she will hardly meet with anything but ingratitude.

(22.) A lively gratitude denotes a great esteem and affection for the
person who lays us under some obligation.

(23.) To be in the company of those whom we love satisfies us; it does
not signify whether we dream of them, speak or not speak to them, think
of them or think of indifferent things, as long as we are near them.

(24.) Hatred is nearer to friendship than antipathy is.

(25.) It seems that antipathy changes oftener into love than into

(26.) We confide our secret to a friend, but in love it escapes us.

It is possible to enjoy some peopleʼs confidence, and yet not their
affections; he who possesses these needs no trusting, no confidence;
everything is open to him.

(27.) In friendship we only see those faults which may be prejudicial
to our friends; in those whom we love we discern no faults but those by
which we suffer ourselves.

(28.) The first tiff in love, as the first fault in friendship, is the
only one of which we are able to make good use.

(29.) Methinks that if an unjust, eccentric, and groundless suspicion
has been called jealousy, that other jealousy which is just, natural,
founded on reason and on experience, deserves some other name.

Our natural disposition has no small share in jealousy which does not
always spring from a great passion. Yet it is a paradox for a violent
love not to be esoteric.

Our idiosyncrasy often causes no suffering to any one but to ourselves;
but in jealousy we suffer ourselves and give pain to others.

Those women who do not respect any of our feelings and give us so many
opportunities of becoming jealous, should not be worthy of our jealousy
if we were guided rather by their sentiments and conduct than by our

(30.) Coolness in friendship and the slackening of its ties, arise not
without cause; in love there is hardly any other cause for our ceasing
to love but that of having loved to excess.

(31.) It is no more in our power to love always than it was not to love
at all.

(32.) Love receives its death-wound from aversion, and forgetfulness
buries it.

(33.) We perceive when love begins and when it declines by our
perplexity when alone.

(34.) To cease from loving is a distinct proof that the powers of man
are limited and his affections as well.

It is a weakness to love; it is sometimes another weakness to attempt
the cure of it.

We are cured in the same way as we are comforted, for we cannot always
weep nor love with all our heart.

(35.) There should be within the heart inexhaustible sources of grief
for certain losses. It is seldom that either by our virtue or strength
of mind we overcome a great affliction; we weep bitterly and are deeply
moved, but afterwards we are either so weak or so flighty that we
console ourselves.[191]

(36.) When a plain-looking woman is loved, it is certain to be very
passionately; for either her influence on her lover is irresistible, or
she has some secret and more irresistible charms than those of beauty.

(37.) For a long time visits among lovers and professions of love are
kept up through habit, after their behaviour has plainly proved that
love no longer exists.

(38.) To endeavour to forget any one is a certain way of thinking of
nothing else. Love has this in common with scruples, that it becomes
embittered by the reflections and the thoughts that beset us to free
ourselves. If we could do it, the only way to extinguish our passion
would be never to think of it.

(39.) We should like those whom we love to receive all their happiness,
or, if this were impossible, all their unhappiness from our hands.

(40.) To bewail the loss of a person we love is a happiness compared
with the necessity of living with one we hate.

(41.) However disinterested we may be with regard to those we love,
we must sometimes constrain ourselves for their sake, and have the
generosity to accept gifts.

A man may freely accept a gift if he feels as great a pleasure in
receiving it as his friend felt in giving it him.

(42.) To give is to act; we do not suffer any pains by our liberality,
nor by yielding to the importunity or necessity of postulants.

(43.) If at any time we have been liberal to those we loved, whatever
happens afterwards, there is no occasion to think of what we have given.

(44.) It has been said in Latin[192] that it costs less to hate than
to love; or, in other words, that friendship is more expensive than
hatred. It is true that we need not be liberal towards our enemies; but
does revenge cost nothing? Or, if it be so pleasing and natural to harm
those we hate, is it less so to do good to those we love? Would it not
be disagreeable and painful for us not to do so?

(45.) There is a pleasure in meeting the glance of a person whom we
have lately laid under some obligations.

(46.) I do not know whether a benefit conferred upon an ungrateful
person, and thus on a person unworthy of it, does not change its name,
and whether it deserves any gratitude.[193]

(47.) Liberality consists not so much in giving a great deal as in
giving seasonably.

(48.) If it be true that in showing pity and compassion we think
of ourselves, because we fear to be one day or another in the same
circumstances as those unfortunate people for whom we feel, why are the
latter so sparingly relieved by us in their wretchedness?

It is better to expose ourselves to ingratitude than to neglect our
duty to the distressed.

(49.) Experience proves us that if we are effeminate, and indulgent
towards ourselves, and obdurate towards others, we show but one and the
same vice.

(50.) A moiling, toiling man, who shows no mercy to himself, is only
lenient to others by excess of reason.

(51.) Though the charge of maintaining a poor person may be very
burdensome to us, yet a change of fortune, which makes him no longer
our dependent, gives us no great pleasure, in the same way as our joy
at the preferment of a friend is somewhat tempered by the small grudge
we bear him for having become our superior or our equal. Thus we agree
but ill with ourselves, for we should like to have others dependent on
us, but, it must cost us nothing; and we should like to see our friends
prosperous, yet when good fortune comes to them, the first thing we do
is not always to be glad about it.

(52.) People send you invitations, ask you to come to their house,
offer you even board and lodging, nay, their very fortune and their
services; all this costs them nothing; but will they be as good as
their word?

(53.) One faithful friend is enough for a man, and he is very fortunate
to meet with one; yet he cannot have too many which may be of use to

(54.) When we have done all that we can do for certain people in order
to acquire their friendship, and we find we have been unsuccessful,
there is still one resource left to us, which is, not to do anything

(55.) To live with our enemies as if they might one day become our
friends,[194] and to live with our friends as if they might some time
or other become our enemies, is equally opposed to the very nature of
hatred, as well as to the rules of friendship. It may be a political
maxim, it is certainly not a moral one.

(56.) We ought not to make those people our enemies who might have
become our friends, if we had only known them better. We ought to
choose friends of such a high and honourable character that, even
after having ceased to remain our friends, they should not abuse our
confidence, nor make us dread them as our enemies.

(57.) It is pleasant to visit our friends because we like and esteem
them; it is a torture to frequent them because we want them; then we
become applicants.

(58.) We should try and gain the affections of those to whom we wish
to do good rather than of those who could do us some good.[195]

(59.) We do not employ the same means for bettering our position as we
do in pursuing frivolous and fanciful things. We feel a certain kind
of freedom in acting according to our fancy, and, on the contrary, a
certain kind of thraldom in labouring for obtaining a place. It is
natural to desire it ardently and to take little pains to obtain it,
for we think that we deserve it without seeking for it.

(60.) He who knows how to wait for what he desires does not feel very
desperate if he fails in obtaining it; and he, on the contrary, who
is very impatient in procuring a certain thing, takes so much pains
about it, that, even when he is successful, he does not think himself
sufficiently rewarded.

(61.) There are certain people who so ardently and so passionately[196]
desire a thing, that from dread of losing it they leave nothing undone
to make them lose it.

(62.) Those things which we desire most never happen at all, or do not
happen at the right time, and under those circumstances when they would
have given us the greatest pleasure.

(63.) We must laugh before we are happy, or else we may die before ever
having laughed at all.

(64.) Life is short, if we are only said to live when we enjoy
ourselves; and if we were merely to count up the hours we spent
agreeably, a great number of years would hardly make up a life of a few

(65.) How difficult is it to be pleased with any one!

(66.) We imagine that it would be impossible to prevent our feeling
some pleasure if we were present at the death of a wicked man, for then
we could reap the harvest of our hatred, and get from him all that we
could ever hope to get from him, namely, the delight his death causes
us. But when at last this man really dies, and at a time when our
interest will not permit us to rejoice, he dies either too soon or too
late for us.

(67.) It is difficult for a proud man ever to forgive a person who has
found him at fault, and who has good grounds for complaining of him;
his pride is not assuaged till he has regained the advantages he lost
and put the other person in the wrong.

(68.) As our affection increases towards those whom we wish to assist,
so we violently hate those whom we have greatly offended.

(69.) It is as difficult at first to stifle the resentment of a wrong
done to us as to retain it after many years.

(70.) It is weakness which makes us hate an enemy and seek revenge, and
it is idleness that pacifies us and causes us to neglect it.

(71.) It is as much from idleness as from weakness that we allow
ourselves to be controlled.

No man should think of controlling another person all at once, and
without some preliminaries, in some important matter of business which
might be of great consequence to him and to his family; such a person
would at once become aware of the sway and ascendency intended to
be obtained over him, and would throw off the yoke out of shame or
inconsistency. He should be tried first with trifling things, and then
success is certain when attempting greater ones. Some people, who, at
first, scarcely ventured to make a man leave for the country or to let
him return to town, obtained such an influence over him at last, that
he made his will, as they told him, and only left his own son what he
was obliged to leave him.[197]

In order to control a man for any length of time and completely, a
light hand is necessary, so as to let him feel his dependence as little
as possible.

Some people allow themselves to be controlled up to a certain point,
but beyond that they are intractable and ungovernable; suddenly all
influence is lost over their feelings and mind, and neither rough
nor gentle means, force nor address, can reduce them: yet, with this
difference, that some act thus moved by reasoning and conclusive
evidence, and others through inclination and constitution.

There are some men who turn a deaf ear to reason and good advice, and
wilfully go wrong for fear of being controlled.

There are others who allow their friends to control them in trifling
things, and thence presume to control them in things of weight and

Drance[198] would fain pass for a man who rules his master, though
his master and the world know better. For a man in office to talk
incessantly to his employer, a man of high rank, at improper times and
places, to be always whispering or using certain words with mysterious
intent, to laugh boisterously in his presence, to interrupt him when he
speaks, to interfere when others address him, to treat with contempt
those who come to pay their court to his master, or express impatience
till they are gone, to stand near him in too unconstrained an attitude,
to lean with his back against the chimney-mantel as his master does,
to pluck him by his coat, to tread upon his heels, to affect a certain
familiarity and to take such liberties, are signs of a coxcomb rather
than of a favourite.

An intelligent man neither allows himself to be controlled nor attempts
to control others; he wishes reason alone to rule, and that always.

Had I a friend, a man of sense, I should not object to confide in him,
and to be controlled by him in everything, completely and for ever. I
should then be sure of acting rightly without the trouble of thinking
about it, whilst enjoying all the calm of a man swayed by common-sense.

(72.) All passions are deceptive; they conceal themselves as much as
possible from others and from themselves as well. No vice exists which
does not pretend to be more or less like some virtue, and which does
not take advantage of this assumed resemblance.

(73.) We open a book of devotion, and it affects us; we open a book
of gallantry, and that, too, impresses us. If I may say so, it is the
heart alone which reconciles things so opposed to one another, and
allows incompatibilities.

(74.) Men are less ashamed of their crimes than of their weaknesses and
their vanity. The same man who is openly unjust, violent, treacherous,
and a slanderer, will conceal his love or his ambition for no other
reason but to conceal it.

(75.) It rarely happens that a man can say he is ambitious, for if he
has been so once, he remains so; but there comes a time when he admits
he has been in love.

(76.) Men begin with love and end with ambition, and are seldom free
from passion till they die.

(77.) Nothing is easier for passion than to overcome reason, but the
greatest triumph is to conquer a manʼs own interests.

(78.) A man who is swayed by his feelings is more sociable and
agreeable to converse with than one who is swayed by his intelligence.

(79.) There are certain sublime sentiments, certain noble and lofty
actions, for which we are indebted rather to the kindness of our
disposition than to the strength of our mind.

(80.) There is no excess in the world so commendable as excessive

(81.) A man must be completely wanting in intelligence if he does not
show it when actuated by love, malice, or necessity.

(82.) There are certain spots which we admire, others which we love,
and where we long to pass our days.

It seems that our mind, our temper, passions, taste and feelings, are
influenced by the places where we dwell.[199]

(83.) Benevolent persons should be the only ones to be envied, if there
were not a better course open to us, which is, to excel them; thus we
can avenge ourselves pleasantly on those whom we dislike.

(84.) Some people pretend they never were in love and never wrote
poetry; two weaknesses which they dare not own—one of the heart, the
other of the mind.

(85.) During the course of our life we now and then enjoy some
pleasures so inviting, and have some encounters of so tender a nature,
that though they are forbidden, it is but natural to wish that they
were at least allowable. Nothing can be more delightful, except it be
to abandon them for virtueʼs sake.




(1.) A man must be very inert to have no character at all.

(2.) A fool is always troublesome, a man of sense perceives when he
pleases or is tiresome; he goes away the very minute before it might
have been thought he stayed too long.

(3.) Mischievous wags are a kind of insects which are in everybodyʼs
way and plentiful in all countries. Real wit is rarely to be met
with, and even if it be innate in a man, it must be very difficult to
maintain a reputation for it during any length of time; for, commonly,
he that makes us laugh does not stand high in our estimation.

(4.) There are a great many obscene minds, yet more railing and
satirical, but very few fastidious ones. A man must have good manners,
be very polite, and even have a great deal of originality to be able to
jest gracefully and be felicitous in his remarks about trifles; to jest
in such a manner and to make something out of nothing is to create.

(5.) If in ordinary conversation we were to pay great attention to
every dull, vain, and puerile remark, we should be ashamed to speak or
even to listen, and we should perhaps condemn ourselves to a perpetual
silence, which would be more injurious to society than idle talk. We
must, therefore, accommodate ourselves to all intellects, bear as a
necessary evil the spreading of false news, of vague reflections on the
Government or on the interests of princes, listen to the enunciation of
fine sentiments which are always the same, and even allow Arontius[200]
to utter wise saws, and Melinda to speak of herself, her nerves, her
headaches, and her want of rest.

(6.) We meet with persons who, in their conversation, or in the little
intercourse we have with them, disgust us with their ridiculous
expressions, the novelty, and, if I may say so, the impropriety of the
phraseology they use, as well as by linking together certain words
which never came together but in their mouths, and were never intended
by their creators to have the meaning they give to them. In their
conversation they neither follow reason nor custom, but only their own
eccentricity; and their desire always to jest, and perhaps to shine,
gradually changes it into a peculiar sort of dialect which at last
becomes natural to them; they accompany this extraordinary language by
affected gesticulations and a conceited kind of pronunciation. They are
all highly delighted with themselves, and with their pleasant wit, of
which, indeed, they are not entirely destitute; but we pity them for
the little they have, and, what is worse, we suffer through it.

(7.) What do you say? What? I do not understand you. Will you be kind
enough to say it again? I understand you still less. Oh, I guess your
meaning at last; you wish to tell me, Acis, that it is cold! Why donʼt
you say so? You wish to let me know that it rains or snows; say at once
that it rains or snows. You think I am looking well, and you wish to
congratulate me; say that you think I am looking well. But youʼll reply
that it is so plain and clear, anybody might have said it. What does
that signify, Acis? Is it so very wrong to be intelligible in speaking,
and to speak as everybody does? There is one thing, Acis, which you,
and men like you, who utter _phébus_[201] want very much; you have not
the smallest suspicion of it, and I know I am going to surprise you. Do
you know what that thing is? It is wit. But that is not all. There is
too much of something else in you, which is the opinion that you have
more intelligence than other men; this is the cause of all your pompous
nonsense, of your mixed-up phraseology, and of all those grand words
without any meaning. The next time I find you addressing anybody, or
entering a room, I shall pull your coat-tails and whisper to you: “Do
not pretend to be witty; be natural, that is better suited to you; use,
if you can, plain language, such as those persons speak whom you fancy
are without wit; then, perhaps, we may think you have some yourself.”

(8.) Who, that goes into society, can help meeting with certain vain,
fickle, familiar, and positive people who monopolise all conversation,
and compel every one else to listen to them? They can be heard in the
anteroom, and a person may boldly enter without fear of interrupting
them; they continue their story without paying the smallest attention
to any comers or goers, or to the rank and quality of their audience;
they silence a man who begins to tell an anecdote, so that they may
tell it themselves according to their fashion, which is the best; they
heard it from Zamet, from Ruccellaï, or from Concini,[202] whom they do
not know, to whom they never spoke in their lives, and whom they would
address as “Your Excellency,” if ever they spoke to any one of them.
They sometimes will go up to a man of the highest rank among those who
are present, and whisper in his ear some circumstance which nobody
else knows, and which they would not have divulged to others for the
world; they conceal some names to disguise the anecdote they relate and
to prevent the real persons being found out; you ask them to let you
have these names, you urge them in vain. There are some things they
must not tell, and some persons whom they cannot name; they have given
their word of honour not to do so; it is a secret, a mystery of the
greatest importance; moreover, you ask an impossibility. You might wish
to learn something from them, but they know neither the facts nor the

(9.) Arrias has read and seen everything, at least he would lead you
to think so; he is a man of universal knowledge, or pretends to be,
and would rather tell a falsehood than be silent or appear to ignore
anything. Some person is talking at meal-time in the house of a man of
rank of a northern court; he interrupts and prevents him telling what
he knows; he goes hither and thither in that distant country as if he
were a native of it; he discourses about the habits of its court, the
native women, the laws and customs of the land; he tells many little
stories which happened there, thinks them very entertaining, and is
the first to laugh loudly at them. Somebody presumes to contradict
him, and clearly proves to him that what he says is untrue. Arrias is
not disconcerted; on the contrary, he grows angry at the interruption,
and exclaims: “I aver and relate nothing but what I know on excellent
authority; I had it from Sethon, the French ambassador at that court,
who only a few days ago came back to Paris, and is a particular friend
of mine; I asked him several questions, and he replied to them all
without concealing anything.” He continues his story with greater
confidence than he began it, till one of the company informs him that
the gentleman whom he has been contradicting was Sethon himself,
but lately arrived from his embassy.[204]

(10.) In conversation there is a middle course between a certain
backwardness in speaking or a kind of incogitancy which leads us to
wander away from the subject under discussion, so as to make us ask
untimely questions or return silly answers, and between paying too
great attention to the least word said, in order to improve upon it, to
joke about it, to discover in it some mystery hidden to all others, to
find something shrewd and subtle in it, only to have an opportunity of
showing how clever we are.

(11.) Any one who is infatuated with himself and quite convinced he is
very clever, only shows that he has but very little intelligence or
none at all. It is a misfortune for a man to listen to the conversation
of such a person. What a great many affected phrases he has to endure!
How many of those fanciful words which appear of a sudden, live for a
short time, and then are never heard again! If such a person relates
some trifling event, it is not so much to give some information to
his hearers, as merely for the honour of telling it and of telling
it cleverly. He amplifies it till it becomes a romance; he makes the
people connected with it think as he does; he puts his own trivial
expressions in their mouths, and renders them, like himself, very
talkative; he falls then into some parentheses which may pass for
episodes, and by which speaker and hearers forget what the story really
was about. It is difficult to say what might have become of them, had
not somebody fortunately come in to break up the company and put an
end to the narrative.

(12.) Theodectes[205] is heard in the anteroom; the nearer he comes
the more he raises his voice; he enters, he laughs, he shouts, he
vociferates; everybody stops his ears; he is a mere thunderer, and
no less to be dreaded for what he says as for the loud tone in which
he speaks. He becomes quiet and less boisterous only to stammer out
some idle talk and some nonsense. So little regard has he for time,
individuals, or decency, that he offends every one without intending
it; before he has taken a seat he has already insulted the whole
company. When dinner is served, he is the first to sit down, and
always in the place of honour; the ladies are to the right and left
of him, but he eats, drinks, talks, banters, and interrupts every one
at the same time; he has no respect for any one, neither for master
nor guests, and takes advantage of the foolish way they look up to
him. Is it he or Euthydemes who is the host? He assumes all authority
while at dinner; and it is better to give way to him than to quarrel
with him about it. Neither eating nor drinking improve his temper. If
some gambling is going on, and if he wins, he banters his antagonist
and insults him; the laughers are on his side, and there is no sort of
folly they do not overlook in him. At last I leave him and go away,
unable to bear any longer with Theodectes and those who bear with him.

(13.) Troïlus is useful to those who have too much wealth; he eases
them of their onerous superfluity, and saves them the trouble of
hoarding up money, of making contracts, locking trunks, carrying
keys about, and of dreading to be robbed by servants. He assists them
in their pleasures, and afterwards is able to serve them in their
passions; in a short time he regulates and dictates their conduct; he
is the oracle of the house, whose decisions are anxiously expected,
nay, even anticipated and surmised; he orders a slave to be punished,
and he is flogged; another to be freed, and he is set at liberty.
If a parasite does not make him laugh, he perhaps does not please
him, and therefore must be dismissed. The master of the house may
consider himself lucky if Troïlus leaves him his wife and children.
If at table he declares that a certain dish is excellent, the master
and the guests, who did not pay much attention to it, find it also
excellent, and cannot eat enough of it; if, on the contrary, he says
of some other dish that it is insipid, those who were just beginning
to enjoy it dare not swallow the piece they had in their mouths, but
throw it on the floor;[206] every eye is on him, and every one observes
his looks and his countenance before giving an opinion on the wine or
the dishes before them. Do not look for him anywhere else but in the
house of an opulent man, whose adviser he is; there he eats, sleeps,
digests his food, quarrels with his servant, gives audience to those
whom he employs, and puts off his creditors; he lays down the law in
the drawing-room, and receives there the adulation and homage of those
persons, who, more cunning than the rest, only wish to curry favour
with the master through Troïlusʼ intercession. If any one enters who
is unfortunate enough to have a countenance which Troïlus does not
like, he frowns and turns away his head; if a stranger accosts him,
he sits still, and if the latter sits down close to him, he leaves
his seat; if he talks to him, he does not reply, and if he continues
to speak, Troïlus stalks away into another chamber; if the stranger
follows him, he makes for the stairs, and would rather climb from one
storey to another or throw himself out of a window, than encounter
a man whose face and voice he dislikes. Both are very charming in
Troïlus, and he has turned them to good account to insinuate himself or
to overcome a difficulty. At last he considers everything unworthy of
his attention, and he scorns to keep his position[207] or to continue
to please by exercising any of those talents by which he first brought
himself into notice. It is a condescension if sometimes he leaves off
his musings and his taciturnity to contradict, and deigns once a day to
show his wit, though only to criticise. Do not expect him to listen to
what you may have to say, to be courteous, or to commend you, for you
are not even sure that he will permit you to approve him, or allow you
to be polite.[208]

(14.) Do not interrupt a stranger whom you meet by chance in a
stage-coach, at an entertainment, or at any public exhibition; and if
you listen to him, it will not be long before youʼll know who he is;
heʼll tell you his name, his residence, his native country, what his
property is worth, his position, and his fatherʼs, his motherʼs family,
his kindred, his family connections, and even his coat-of-arms; for he
will soon let you know that he is nobly born, and that he has a castle
beautifully furnished, a suitable retinue, and a carriage.[209]

(15.) Some men speak one moment before they think; others tediously
study everything they say, and in conversation bore us as painfully as
was the travail of their mind; they are, as it were, made up of phrases
and quaint expressions, whilst their gestures are as affected as their
behaviour. They call themselves “purists,”[210] and do not venture to
say the most trifling word not in use, however expressive it may be.
Nothing comes from them worth remembering, nothing is spontaneous and
unrestrained; they speak correctly,[211] but they are very tiresome.

(16.) The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out
the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself;
he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly
pleased with you. Most men rather please than admire you; they seek
less to be instructed, and even to be amused, than to be praised and
applauded; the most delicate of pleasures is to please another person.

(17.) Too much imagination is to be avoided in our conversation and in
our writings, as it often gives rise to idle and puerile ideas, neither
tending to perfect our taste nor to improve our conduct. Our thoughts
should originate from sound sense and reasoning, and always be the
result of our judgment.

(18.) It is a sad thing when men have neither enough intelligence to
speak well nor enough sense to hold their tongues; this is the root of
all impertinence.

(19.) To say simply that a certain thing is good or bad, and to state
the reasons for its being so, requires some common-sense and power of
expression, which is not so easily found. A much shorter way is to give
oneʼs opinion peremptorily, which is a convincing proof a man is right
in his statement, namely, that the thing is execrable or wonderful.

(20.) Nothing is more displeasing to Heaven and to men than to confirm
everything said in conversation, and even the most trifling subjects,
with long and disgusting oaths. Whether a gentleman merely says “Yes”
or “No,” he deserves to be believed; his reputation swears for him,
adds weight to his words, and obtains for him every confidence.[212]

(21.) He who continually affirms he is a man of honour and honest as
well, that he wrongs no man but wishes the harm he has done to others
to fall on himself, and raps out an oath to be believed, does not even
know how to imitate an honest man.

An honest man, with all his modesty, cannot prevent people saying of
him what a dishonest man says of himself.

(22.) Cléon[213] talks always rather rudely or inaccurately; he does
either the one or the other; but he says he cannot help it, and that it
is his natural disposition to speak just as he thinks.

(23.) There are such things as to speak well, to speak easily, to
speak correctly, and to speak seasonably. We offend against the last
way of speaking if we mention a sumptuous entertainment we have just
been present at before people who have not had enough to eat; if we
boast of our good health before invalids; if we talk of our riches,
our income, and our fine furniture to a man who has not so much as an
income or a dwelling; in a word, if we speak of our prosperity before
people who are wretched; such a conversation is too much for them, and
the comparison which they then make between their condition and ours is
very painful.

(24.) “As for you,” says Euthyphron,[214] “you are rich, or ought to
be so, for you have a yearly income of ten thousand _livres_,[215]
all from land. I think that glorious! charming! and a man could be
happy with much less.” The person who talks in this fashion has fifty
thousand _livres_ a year, and thinks he has not half what he deserves.
He settles what youʼll have to pay, values what you are worth,
determines what you have to spend; and if he thought you deserved a
better fortune, and even such a one as he himself aspires to, he would
be certain to wish it to you. He is not the only man who makes such
wretched estimations or such odious comparisons; the world is full of

(25.) A person inclined to the usual flattery, and accustomed to praise
and exaggeration, congratulates[216]

Theodemus on a sermon he did not hear, and of which no one had, as
yet, given him an account. He extols his genius, his delivery, and,
above all, his excellent memory, when, in truth, Theodemus had stopped
short in the middle of his sermon, and had forgotten what he wished to

(26.) Some abrupt, restless, conceited men, who are unemployed, and
have no manner of business to call them away, will dismiss you from
their presence in a few words, and only think to get rid of you;
you are still speaking to them, and they are already gone and have
disappeared. They are as impertinent as those people who stop you only
to bore you; but the former are perhaps less irksome.

(27.) To speak and to offend is with some people but one and the same
thing; they are biting and bitter; their words are steeped in gall
and wormwood; sneers as well as insolent and insulting remarks flow
from their lips. It had been well for them had they been born mute
or stupid; the little vivacity and intelligence they have prejudices
them more than dulness does others; they are not always satisfied
with giving sharp answers, they often attack arrogantly those who are
present, and damage the reputation of those who are absent; they butt
all round like rams, for rams, of course, must use their horns. We
therefore do not expect, by our sketch of them, to change such coarse,
restless, and stubborn individuals. The best thing a man can do is to
take to his heels as soon as he perceives them, without even turning
round to look behind him.[218]

(28.) There are persons of such a disposition or character that a man
ought never to be compromised with them; of such persons he should
complain as little as possible, and not even be permitted to vanquish
them in arguments.

(29.) When two persons have had a violent quarrel, of whom one is in
the right and the other is in the wrong, the bystanders, for fear
of being appealed to, or through a certain frowardness which always
seemed to me ill-timed, condemn both. This is an important lesson, and
a weighty and necessary reason for going away, even when a coxcomb is
seen in quite another direction, so as to avoid sharing in his disgrace.

(30.) I hate a man whom I cannot accost or salute before he bows to me,
without debasing myself in his eyes, or sharing in the good opinion
he has of himself. Montaigne would say:[219] “I will have elbow-room:
I will be courteous and affable according to my fancy, without fear
or remorse. I cannot strive against my inclination nor go contrary to
my disposition, which leads me to address myself to every one whom I
meet. If such a person is my equal and not my enemy, I anticipate his
courtesy; I ask him about his temper and his health, I offer him my
services without any haggling, and am not always on my guard, as some
people say. That man displeases me who by my knowledge of his habits
and behaviour deprives me of such liberty and freedom.

How should I remember, as soon as I see him afar off, to put on a
grave and important look, and to let him know that I think I am as good
as he, and better? To do this I must call to mind all my good qualities
and points, and his bad ones, so as to compare them together. This is
too much trouble for me, and I am not at all able of showing such an
abrupt and sudden presence of mind; even if I had been successful at
first, I am sure I should give way and lose my head a second time, for
I cannot put any restraint on myself nor assume a certain haughtiness
for any man.”[220]

(31.) We may be virtuous, intelligent, and well-behaved, and yet be
unbearable. By our manners, which we consider of no consequence, the
world often forms either a good or a bad opinion of us; a little care
to appear obliging and polite will prevent its condemning us. The least
thing is enough to make people believe that we are proud, impolite,
haughty, and disobliging; but, on the other hand, still less is needed
to make them esteem us.

(32.) Politeness does not always produce kindness of heart, justice,
complacency, or gratitude, but it gives to a man at least the
appearance of it, and makes him seem externally what he really should

We may define all the essentials of politeness, but we cannot determine
how and where they should be used; they depend on ordinary habits and
customs, are connected with times and places, and are not the same in
both sexes nor in different ranks of life; intelligence alone cannot
find this out; politeness is acquired and perfected by imitation.
Only some persons are naturally disposed to be polite, as others
are in acquiring great talents and solid virtue. Politeness tends,
undoubtedly, to advance merit and to render it agreeable; a man must
have very eminent qualities to hold his own without being polite.

The very essence of politeness seems to be to take care that by our
words and actions we make other people pleased with us as well as with

(33.) It is an offence against politeness to bestow excessive praise on
a personʼs singing or playing before any other who has sung or played
for you, or to commend another poet in the presence of those who have
read you their verses.

(34.) A man may be giving entertainments and feasts to certain persons,
may make them presents, and let them enjoy themselves, and he may do
this well; but he will do much better by acting according to their

(35.) It is more or less rude to scorn indiscriminately all kinds of
praise; we ought to be proud of that which comes from honest men, who
praise sincerely those things in us which are really commendable.

(36.) An intelligent man, who is naturally proud, abates nothing of his
pride and haughtiness because he is poor; on the contrary, if anything
will mollify him and make him more pliant and sociable, it is a little

(37.) Not to be able to bear with all bad-tempered people with whom the
world is crowded, shows that a man has not a good temper himself: small
change is as necessary in business as golden coin.

(38.) To live with people who have been quarrelling and to whose
complaints you have to listen, is like being in a court of justice
from morning till night listening to pleadings and lawsuits.

(39.) Two persons had all their lives been very intimate with one
another; their incomes were in common, they lived together, and were
never out of one anotherʼs sight. After fourscore years they thought
it was time to part and put an end to their intimacy; they had then
but one day to live, and dared not attempt to pass it together: they
hastened to break before death, as their complacency would hold out no
longer. They would have been good models had they not lived so long,
for had they died one moment sooner, they still would have been good
friends and have left behind them a rare example of perseverance in

(40.) Families are often disturbed by mistrust, jealousy, and
antipathy, while outwardly they seem happy, peaceable, and cheerful,
and we suppose they enjoy a tranquillity which does not exist; there
are very few who can bear investigation. The visit you pay only
interrupts a domestic quarrel which awaits but your departure to break
out afresh.

(41.) In all societies common-sense always gives way first. The most
sensible people often are swayed by a most foolish and eccentric
personage; they study his weakness, his temper, his fancies, and put
up with them; they avoid thwarting him, and everybody gives him his
way; when his countenance betrays he is cheerful, he is commended; they
are grateful to him for not being always insufferable; he is feared,
considered, obeyed, and sometimes beloved.

(42.) None but those persons who have had aged relatives, or those who
have them still, and whose heirs they may become, can tell what they
had, or have now, to endure.

(43.) Cleantes[222] is a very worthy man; he has taken unto himself
a wife, who is the best and most sensible person in the world; both,
in their ways, are the life and soul of the company they keep; a more
straightforward and more polite behaviour than theirs is nowhere to
be met with. They are to part to-morrow, and the deed of separation
is already drawn up at the lawyerʼs. Surely they must possess certain
merits which do not harmonise together and certain virtues which are

(44.) A man may be sure of the dowry, the jointure, and his marriage
settlements, but scarcely of the contract the parents have entered
upon to board and lodge the young couple for a certain time;[223] for
that depends on the frail harmony between the mother-in-law and the
daughter-in-law, which often ends the first year of the marriage.

(45.) A father-in-law loves both his son and daughter-in-law, a
mother-in-law her son and not her daughter-in-law; the latter pays her
back in her own coin.

(46.) What a step-mother loves the least in the wide world are her
husbandʼs children; the fonder she is of her husband the worse
step-mother she shows herself.

Step-mothers make of towns and villages complete deserts, and stock the
country with more beggars, vagrants, servants, and slaves, than poverty

(47.) G ... and H ... are neighbours, living in the country;[224]
their lands are contiguous; they dwell in a secluded and solitary spot.
Far from towns and all intercourse with men, we might have thought
that the dread of being completely estranged from the world and from
all society should have kept up their mutual intimacy; but it is
difficult to say what trifling circumstance has caused their being at
variance, renders them implacable, and transmits their hatred to their
descendants. Relatives, or even brothers, never quarrelled about a
thing of less consequence.

Suppose there were but two men on this habitable globe, the sole
possessors of it, who should divide it between them, even then I am
convinced that soon some cause of disagreement would spring up, though
it were only about boundaries.

(48.) It is often easier as well as more advantageous to conform
ourselves to other menʼs opinions than to bring them over to ours.

(49.) I am now approaching a little town, and I am already on a hill
whence I discover it. It is built on a slope, a river washes its walls
and then meanders through a lovely meadow; a dense forest shelters it
from cold winds and northern blasts. The weather is so bright that I
can count its towers and steeples, and it seems, as it were, painted on
the slope of the hill. I exclaim: “How agreeable must it be to dwell
underneath such a pure sky and in such a delightful abode!” I enter
the town, and have not spent there above two or three nights when I
feel I am just like its inhabitants; I long to get away from it.

(50.) There is a certain thing which has never yet been seen under the
canopy of heaven, and, in all likelihood, never will be: it is a small
town without various parties, where all the families are united and
all relations visit one another without reserve, where a marriage does
not engender a civil war, where there are no disputes about precedence
at the offertory,[225] the carrying of the censer, or the giving of a
cake to the church to be consecrated and distributed during mass, as
well as about processions and funerals: whence gossiping, falsehoods,
and slandering are banished; where the _bailli_ and the president of
the court, the _élus_ and the _assesseurs_[226] are on speaking terms
together; where the dean is well with the canons, the canons do not
disdain the choristers, and the choristers bear with the singing-boys.

(51.) Country people and fools are apt to get angry, and to fancy you
make fun of them or despise them. You should never venture on the most
innocent and inoffensive joke, unless it be with people of culture or

(52.) A man should not pretend to show his talents in the society of
men of rank; their very rank forbids it; nor with people of inferior
degree who repel you by being always on their guard.

(53.) Men of merit discover, discern, and find out each other
reciprocally; he who would be esteemed should frequent persons who are
themselves estimable.

(54.) He who is of so lofty a rank as to be above repartee, ought never
to joke in a racy kind of way.

(55.) There are some little failings which we freely abandon to
censure, and about which we do not dislike being bantered; when we
banter others we should select failings of the same kind.

(56.) It is a foolʼs privilege to laugh at an intelligent man; he is in
society what a jester is at court—of no consequence whatever.

(57.) Banter is often a proof of want of intelligence.

(58.) You fancy a man your dupe, but if he only pretends to be so, who
is the greatest dupe, you or he?

(59.) If you observe carefully those people who praise nobody, who are
always finding fault, and are never satisfied with any one, you will
discover them to be persons with whom nobody is satisfied.

(60.) The proud and disdainful will find precisely in society the
contrary of what they expect, which is to be esteemed.

(61.) The pleasure of social intercourse amongst friends is kept up
by a similarity of morals and manners, and by slender differences in
opinion about science; this confirms us in our sentiments, exercises
our faculties or instructs us through arguments.

(62.) Two persons will not be friends long if they are not inclined to
pardon each otherʼs little failings.

(63.) How many fine and useless arguments are laid before a person in
great affliction to attempt to soothe him! Things from without which
we call events are sometimes too strong for arguments and nature.
Eat, drink, do not kill yourself with grief, think only to live, are
magnificent admonitions, and impracticable as well. If we say to a man
that it is not wise to unsettle his mind so much, do we not tell him in
reality that he is a fool for being so unfortunate?

(64.) Advice which is necessary in all matters of business, is
sometimes hurtful in social affairs to those who give it, and useless
to the persons to whom it is given. You observe, perhaps, faults in
manners and morals which are either not acknowledged, or, perhaps,
considered virtues; you blot out some passages in a composition which
please the author the most, and in which he thinks he has surpassed
himself. By those means you lose the confidence of your friend without
making him better or wiser.

(65.) Not long since certain persons of both sexes formed a society for
intellectual conversation and interchange of ideas.[227] They left to
the vulgar herd the art of talking intelligibly; an expression used by
them, and which was not very clear, was followed by another still more
obscure, which was improved on by others still more enigmatic, which
were always crowned with prolonged applause, so that at last, by what
they were pleased to call refinements, sentiments, turn and delicacy of
expression, they succeeded in becoming unintelligible to others and to
themselves. Common-sense, judgment, memory, or the smallest capacity
were unnecessary in their conversation; all that was wanted was a
certain amount of intellect, and that not of the right sort, but of a
spurious kind, and in which imagination was too predominant.

(66.) I know it, Theobaldus,[228] you have grown old; but would you
have me think you decline, that you are no longer a poet nor a wit,
that you are now as bad a critic of all kind of writings as you are
a wretched author, and that your conversation is neither ingenuous
nor refined? Your careless and conceited behaviour reassures me, and
convinces me of my error. You are the same to-day as you ever were, and
perhaps better; for if you are so brisk and vivacious at your age, what
name, Theobaldus, did you deserve in your youth, when you were the pet
and the caprice of certain ladies who only swore by you, believed every
word you uttered, and then exclaimed, “It is delightful! What has he

(67.) We frequently speak hastily in conversation, often through
vanity and natural inclination, seldom with the necessary caution, and
only anxious to reply to what we have not heard; we follow our own
ideas, and explain them without the smallest deference for other menʼs
arguments; we are very far from finding out the truth, as we are not
yet agreed upon what we are looking for. If any man could hear such
conversations and write them down, he would now and then find many good
things said without the smallest result.

(68.) Some time ago a sort of insipid and puerile conversation was in
fashion, which turned on trivial questions about the affections, and
what people please to call passion or tenderness. The reading of some
novels first introduced this talk amongst the most gentlemanly men in
town and at court, but they soon discarded it, and then the citizens
took it up, as well as puns and plays on words.[229]

(69.) Some city ladies are so refined that they do not know or dare not
pronounce the names of streets, squares, and public places, which they
think are not noble enough to be known. They speak of the _Louvre_,
the _Place Royale_, but they use certain circumlocutions and phrases
rather than mention some names; and if, by chance, such a word escapes
them, it is not without some alteration, and after some changes which
reassure them; they are less natural in this than the ladies at court,
who, when they have occasion to speak of the _Halles_, the _Châtelet_,
or the like, simply say the _Halles_ or the _Châtelet_.[230]

(70.) If people pretend sometimes not to remember certain names which
they think obscure, and affect to spoil them in the pronunciation, it
is through the good opinion they have of their own names.

(71.) When we are in a good temper, and when we can talk as we like,
we often say silly things, which, in truth, we do not pretend to be
anything else, and which are considered very good, because they are
very bad.[231] This inferior kind of joking, fit only for the mob, has
already infected a great part of the youth at court. It is true we
need not fear it will spread further, for it is really too insipid and
coarse to thrive in a country which is the centre of good taste and
politeness. However, it should be rendered distasteful to those who
employ it, for though it is never used seriously, yet it continually
takes the place of better things in their mind and in their ordinary

(72.) Between saying bad things or saying such good things which
everybody knows, and pretending they are quite new, there is so little
difference that I do not know which to choose.

(73.) “Lucanus[232] has said a pretty thing. There is a fine expression
in Claudianus.[233] There is a certain passage in Seneca;”[234] and
then follow a good many Latin words, often quoted before people who
do not know what they mean, though they pretend to understand them.
The right thing would be to have sense and intelligence ourselves, for
then we might dispense with the ancients, or after having read them
carefully, we might still select the best and quote them pertinently.

(74.) Hermagoras[235] knows not who is king of Hungary, and wonders
that no one talks about the king of Bohemia.[236] Speak not to him of
the wars in Flanders or in Holland,[237] or, at least, you must excuse
him from answering any questions about them; he mixes up all dates; he
neither knows when they began nor ended; battles and sieges are all
new to him; but he is very well read in the Titansʼ war, and can tell
you its progress and the most trifling details; nothing has escaped
him; he unravels in the same way the horrible chaos of the Babylonian
and Assyrian monarchies; he knows intimately the Egyptians and their
dynasties. He never saw Versailles, nor ever will; but he has almost
seen the tower of Babel, and counted its steps; he has found out
how many architects were employed about that building, and even has
their names at his fingersʼ ends. He believes Henri IV. to be a son
of Henri III.,[238] and neglects to know anything about the reigning
houses of France, Austria, and Bavaria. He asks what is the use of
studying such trifles; but he can quote to you all the kings of Media
and Babylon, and the names of Apronal, Herigebal, Noesnemordach, and
Mardokampad[239] are to him as familiar as those of Valois and Bourbon
are to us. He has yet to learn that the Emperor[240] is married, but he
can tell you that Ninus[241] had two wives. He hears the king enjoys
perfect health, and this reminds him that Thetmosis, a king of Egypt,
was a valetudinarian, and that he inherited this disposition from his
grandfather, Alipharmutosis.[242] What does he not know? What in all
venerable antiquity is hid from him? He will tell you that Semiramis,
or, as some call her, Serimaris, spoke so much like her son Ninyas,
that their voices could not be distinguished from one another; but he
dare not decide whether the mother had a manly voice like her son, or
the son an effeminate voice like his mother; he will confide to you
that Nimrod was left-handed, and Sesostris[243] ambidexter; that it is
an error to imagine one of the Artaxerxes was called Longimanus[244]
because his arms reached down to his knees, and not because one of his
hands was longer than the other; he adds that though some grave authors
affirm that it was his right hand, he has good grounds to maintain it
was the left hand.

(75.) Ascanius is a sculptor, Hegio an iron-founder, Æschines a fuller,
and Cydias a wit,[245] for that is his trade. He has a signboard, a
shop, work that is ordered,[246] and journeymen who work under him;
he cannot possibly let you have those stanzas he has promised you in
less than a month, unless he breaks his word with Dosithea, who has
engaged him to write an elegy; he has also an idyl on the loom which
is for Crantor, who presses him for it, and has promised him a liberal
reward. You can have whatever you like—prose or verse, for he is just
as good in one as in the other. If you want a letter of condolence,
or one on some personʼs absence, he will write them; he has them even
ready made; step into his warehouse, and you may pick and choose.
Cydias has a friend who has nothing else to do but to promise to
certain people a long time beforehand that he will come to them, and
who, finally, introduces him in some society as a man seldom to be met
with, and exquisite in conversation. Then, just as a vocalist sings
or as a lute-player touches his instrument in a company where it has
been expected, Cydias, after having coughed, puts back his ruffles,
extends his hand, opens his fingers, and very gravely utters his
over-refined thoughts and his sophisticated arguments. Unlike those
persons whose principles agree, and who know that reason and truth
are one and the same thing, and snatch the words out of one anotherʼs
mouths to acquiesce in one anotherʼs sentiments, he never opens his
mouth but to contradict: “I think,” he says graciously, “it is just
the opposite of what you say;” or, “I am not at all of your opinion,”
or else, “Formerly I was under the same delusion as you are now; but,
...” and then he continues, “There are three things to be considered,”
to which he adds a fourth. He is an insipid chatterer; no sooner has he
obtained a footing into any society, than he looks out for some ladies
whom he can fascinate, before whom he can set forth his wit or his
philosophy, and produce his rare conceptions; for, whether he speaks
or writes, he ought never to be suspected of saying what is true or
false, sensible or ridiculous; his only care is not to express the same
sentiments as some one else, and to differ from everybody. Therefore,
in conversation, he often waits till every one has given his opinion
on some casual subject, or one which not seldom he has introduced
himself, in order to utter dogmatically things which are perfectly
new, but which he thinks decisive and unanswerable. “Lucianus[247] and
Seneca,”[248] says Cydias, “come pretty near me; but as for Plato,[249]
Virgil,[250] and Theocritus[251] they are quite below me,” and his
flatterer takes care to confirm him every morning in this opinion. As
Cydias has the same taste and interest as the revilers of Homer,[252]
he quietly expects that mankind will be undeceived and prefer modern
poets to the blind bard; then he will put himself at the head of these
poets, and reserve the second place for a friend.[253] He is, in a
word, a compound of pedantry and formality, to be admired by cits and
rustics, in whom, nevertheless, there is nothing great except the
opinion he has of himself.

(76.) Profound ignorance makes a man dogmatical; he who knows nothing
thinks he can teach others what he just now has learned himself;
whilst he who knows a great deal can scarcely imagine any one should
be unacquainted with what he says, and, therefore, speaks with more

(77.) Great things only require to be simply told, for they are spoiled
by emphasis; but little things should be clothed in lofty language,
as they are only kept up by expression, tone of voice, and style of

(78.) I think we generally say things more delicately than we write

(79.) Hardly any other men but born gentlemen or men of culture are
capable of keeping a secret.

(80.) All confidence placed in another is dangerous if it is not
perfect, for on almost all occasions we ought to tell everything or to
conceal everything. We have already told too much of our secret, if one
single circumstance is to be kept back.

(81.) Some men promise to keep your secret and yet reveal it without
knowing they are doing so; they do not wag their lips, and yet they
are understood; it is read on their brow and in their eyes; it is seen
through their breast; they are transparent. Other men do not exactly
tell a thing that has been intrusted to them, but they talk and act in
such a manner that people discover it for themselves. Lastly, there are
some who despise your secret, of whatever importance it may be: “it is
something mysterious which such-a-one has imparted to me and forbade me
to mention it,” and then out it comes.

If a secret is revealed, the person who has confided it to another is
to be blamed.

(82.) Nicander converses with Eliza about the gentle and courteous
way in which he lived with his wife from the day of their marriage to
the hour of her death; he had already said how sorry he was he had no
children by her, and he now repeats it; he talks of the houses he has
in town, and then of an estate he has in the country; he calculates
what it brings him in, draws a plan of the buildings, describes its
situation, expatiates on the conveniency of the apartments as well as
on the richness and elegance of the furniture; he assures her he loves
good cheer and fine horses and carriages, and complains that his late
wife did not care much for play and company. “You are so wealthy,”
said one of his friends to him, “why do you not buy some official
post,[254] or why not a certain piece of ground which would enlarge
your estate?” “People think I am richer than I really am,” replies
Nicander. He neither forgets his birth nor his relatives, and speaks of
his cousin, the superintendent of finances, or of his kinswoman, the
Lord Chancellorʼs wife. He informs

Eliza how discontented he has become with his nearest relatives, and
even with his heirs. “Am I wrong, and have I any cause for doing them
good?” he asks her, and desires her to give her opinion. He then
intimates that he is in a weak and wretched state of health, and speaks
of the vault where he wishes to be interred. He insinuates himself,
and fawns on all those who visit the lady he courts. But Eliza has not
courage enough to grow rich at the cost of being his wife. Whilst he
is thus conversing with her a military man is introduced, and by his
mere presence defeats all the plans of the worthy citizen, who gets up
disappointed and vexed, and goes somewhere else to say that he wishes
to marry for the second time.

(83.) Wise men sometimes avoid the world, that they may not be
surfeited with it.




(1.) A very rich man may eat of his side-dishes, have his walls and
recesses painted, enjoy a palatial residence in the country and another
in town, have a large retinue, even become connected with a duke
through marriage,[255] and make of his son a great nobleman, and all
this will be considered quite right and proper; but to live happy is
perhaps the privilege of other men.

(2.) A lofty birth or a large fortune portend merit, and cause it to be
the sooner noticed.

(3.) The ambition of a coxcomb is excusable, because, after he has made
a large fortune, people will be careful to discover in him some merit
which he never had before, and as great as it is in his own opinion.

(4.) As favour and riches forsake a man, we discover in him the
foolishness they concealed, and which no one perceived before.

(5.) We could never imagine what a strange disproportion a few or a
great many pieces of money make between men, if we did not see it every
day with our own eyes.

Those few or many pieces of money are what determine men to adopt the
profession of arms, of the law, or of the church, for they have hardly
any other vocation.

(6.) Two merchants were neighbours and in the same line of business,
but their success in life was quite different. They each had a
daughter; and these, brought up together, had been as intimate as girls
of the same age and the same condition in life could have been; later,
one of them, driven by want and misery, endeavoured to get a place,
and entered the service of a great lady, one of the highest rank at
court;[256] and this same lady had formerly been her bosom friend.

(7.) If a financier fails in making a lucky stroke, the courtiers say
of him, “He is a mere citizen, a man sprung from nothing, a boor;” but
if he succeeds, they become suitors for his daughterʼs hand.

(8.) Some men in their youth serve an apprenticeship to a certain
trade, to follow a very different one the rest of their lives.[257]

(9.) A man is very plain-looking, dwarfish in size, and wanting in
intelligence;[258] but some one whispers to me that he has an annual
income of fifty thousand _livres_. That concerns him alone, and I shall
never be the better or the worse for it; but people might well consider
me mad if I were to look on such a man in a different light because he
is wealthy, and were to do so involuntarily.

(10.) It is in vain to attempt to turn a very rich blockhead into
ridicule, for the laughers will be on his side.

(11.) N ...[259] has a clownish, rude doorkeeper, who looks somewhat
like a Swiss,[260] a big hall and an anteroom, where people are
obliged to tire themselves out by dancing attendance; at last he makes
his appearance with a serious mien and a solemn gait, hears only a few
words of what is said, and sends people away without seeing them to the
door. However inferior he may seem elsewhere, in his own house he will
attract something very akin to respect.

(12.) I want you, Clitiphon,[261] and this has driven me early from my
bed and room, and brought me to your door. Would to Heaven I had no
occasion to ask you a favour or be troublesome to you! Your servants
tell me you are in your own room, and that it will be at least an hour
before you can see me; I return before that time, and they inform me
you are gone out. What keeps you so deeply engaged, Clitiphon, in the
innermost corner of your residence, that prevents you from seeing
me? You file some papers, you collate some register, you sign your
name or your initials to some documents. I had but one thing to ask
you, and you had only to say “Yes” or “No.” If you wish to become a
curiosity, be of use to those who depend on you, and you will be a
greater curiosity by such conduct than by remaining invisible.[262]
You are a man of importance and overwhelmed with business, but if
you in your turn have need of my services, come to the solitude of
my study, where the philosopher is always to be found, and where you
will not be put off till another day. You will find me turning over
Platoʼs writings “On the spirituality of the soul and its difference
with the body,”[263] or, pen in hand, calculating the distance between
Saturn and Jupiter;[264] admiring the works of the Creator and
endeavouring, by acquiring a knowledge of truth, to rectify my
opinions and to improve my morals. You can enter; all my doors are
open; you will not get tired in my anteroom with waiting for me; you
have no need to let me know beforehand when you are coming; you bring
me something more precious than silver or gold, if it is an opportunity
of being of service to you. Only tell me what you wish me to do for
you? Do you want me to leave my books, my studies, my writings, and
the line I have just begun? I am glad to be interrupted when I can
be of service to you. A moneyed man, a man of business, is like a
bear not yet tamed; there is no seeing him in his den but with the
utmost difficulty; or, rather, he is not to be seen at all, for in the
beginning he is but dimly visible, and afterwards you see no more of
him. A man of letters, on the contrary, is as perceptible[265] as a
pillar in a cross-road; he is to be seen by everybody, at all times
and in all conditions, at table, in bed, without clothes, dressed, in
sickness or in health; he is not a man of importance, and does not wish
to be one.

(13.) Let us not envy a certain class of men for their enormous riches;
they have paid such an equivalent for them that it would not suit us;
they have given for them their peace of mind, their health, their
honour, and their conscience; this is rather too dear, and there is
nothing to be made out of such a bargain.

(14.) The P.T.S.[266] give us all possible sensations one after
another; we first despise them for their low origin, then we envy them,
afterwards fear, hate, and sometimes esteem and respect them; we often
live long enough to finish by pitying them.

(15.) Sosia[267] was first a footman, then an under-farmer of the
revenue, and by extortion, violence, and malversation has now raised
himself to a high post on the ruins of several families. He was
ennobled by virtue of his office, and the only thing he wanted was to
be an honest man;[268] this marvel has been effected by his becoming

(16.) Arfuria[269] used formerly to walk by herself, and go on foot
towards the main entrance of a certain church, in which she heard from
a distance the sermon of a Carmelite friar or of a doctor of divinity,
of whom she saw but the side face, and could not hear many words he

Her virtue was not apparent and her piety as well known as she herself
was. Her husband has become a farmer of the _huitième denier_,[270] and
made a prodigious fortune in less than six years. Now she never comes
to church but in a carriage, wearing a heavy train, which is borne up:
the preacher stops while she seats herself opposite to him, so that
not a single word nor the smallest gesture can escape her. The priests
intrigue among themselves as to who shall be her father-confessor, for
all wish to give her absolution, but the victory remains with the vicar
of the parish.

(17.) Crœsus[271] is carried to the churchyard; and of all the
immense wealth which he acquired by rapine and extortion, and which he
has lavished in luxury and riotous living, there is not enough left
for a decent burial; he died insolvent, without any property, and
consequently without any attendance; neither medicines, nor cordials,
nor physicians were seen about him, nor the most inferior priest to
shrive him.

(18.) Champagne,[272] rising from a prolonged dinner, quite gorged, and
his head full of the agreeable fumes of Avenay or Sillery,[273] signs
an order for a tax to be levied which would have produced a famine in
a whole province, if other means had not been taken. He is excusable;
for how can a man whose digestion is just beginning understand that
people could anywhere die of starvation.

(19.) Sylvanus[274] has with his money bought rank and another name;
he is lord of the same manor where his forefathers had been paying the
_taille_;[275] formerly he was not good enough to be Cleobulusʼ page,
but now he is his son-in-law?

(20.) Dorus[276] is carried in a litter along the Appian Way;[277] his
freedmen and slaves run before him to clear the way and to turn aside
the people; he wants nothing but Lictors;[278] he enters Rome with
quite a retinue, a triumphant foil to the meanness and poverty of his
father Sanga.

(21.) No one makes a better use of his fortune than Periander;[279] it
gives him a certain rank, influence, and authority; people no longer
ask him to be their friend, but they implore his protection. In the
beginning he spoke of himself as “such a man as I am,” but soon he
says “a man of my rank;” for he pretends to be one of these men, and
there are none who borrow money of him, or eat his dinners, which are
exquisite, who dare dispute it. His residence is splendid; the outside
is Doric, and there is no gate but a portico. Is it a private house
or a temple? People are at a loss to know which. He is lord paramount
of the entire precincts; every one envies him, and would rejoice at
his downfall; his wifeʼs pearl necklace has made all the ladies of the
neighbourhood her enemies. Everything in him is of a piece, and nothing
yet belies that grandeur he has acquired, for which he has paid and
does not owe anything. But why did his old and feeble father not die
twenty years ago before Perianderʼs name was ever mentioned? How can
any man ever endure those odious invitations to a funeral[280] which
always reveal the real origin of the deceased, and often put the widows
or the heirs to the blush? How shall he hide them from the eyes of the
envious, malicious, keen-sighted town, and offend a thousand people
who will insist on taking their due places at all funerals? Besides,
what would you have him do? Shall he style his father _Noble homme_ and
perhaps _Honorable homme_, whilst he himself is dubbed _Messire_?[281]

(22.) How many men are like trees, already strong and full grown, which
are transplanted into some gardens, to the astonishment of those people
who behold them in these fine spots, where they never saw them grow,
and who neither know their beginning nor their progress!

(23.) If some dead were to rise again and saw who bore their
illustrious names, and that their ancient lands, their castles, and
their venerable seats were owned by the very men whose fathers had
perhaps been their tenants, what would they think of our age?

(24.) Nothing makes us better understand what trifling things
Providence thinks He bestows on men in granting them wealth, money,
dignities, and other advantages, than the manner in which they are
distributed and the kind of men who have the largest share.

(25.) If you were to enter a kitchen, where all that art and method can
do is employed to gratify your palate, and make you eat more than you
want; if you see how the viands are prepared which will be served up
at the feast; if you observe how they are manipulated, and the various
modifications they undergo before they become first-rate dishes, and
are brought to that neatness and elegance which charm your eyes, puzzle
your choice, and make you decide to taste them all; and then saw the
ingredients of this feast anywhere else than on a well-spread table,
how offended and disgusted you would be! If you were to go behind the
scenes, and count the weights, the wheels, the ropes in “flights” and
in the machinery; if you were to consider how many men are employed in
executing these movements, and how they ply their arms and strain their
nerves, you would ask if these are the prime motors and mainsprings of
so handsome and natural a spectacle, which seems so full of life and so
intuitive, and you would be greatly astonished at such efforts and such
energy. In like manner inquire not too narrowly into the origin of the
fortune of any farmer of the revenue.

(26.) This youth,[282] so ruddy, so florid, and so redolent of health,
is lord of an abbey and of ten other benefices; they bring him in
altogether one hundred and twenty thousand[283] _livres_ a year, which
are paid him in golden coin.[284] Elsewhere there are a hundred and
twenty indigent families who have no fire to warm themselves during
winter, no clothes to cover themselves, and who are often wanting
bread; they are in a wretched and piteous state of poverty. What an
inequality? And does this not clearly prove that there must be a future

(27.) Chrysippus,[285] an upstart, and the first nobleman of his
lineage, thirty years ago limited his aims to two thousand _livres_
a year; this was the height of his desires and the summit of his
ambition; at least he said so, as many still remember. Some time
after, I do not know by what means, he was able to give to one of his
daughters as her dowry as much money as he thought formerly an ample
competency for his whole lifetime. A like sum is put away for each of
his other children, and he has a good many of them; and this is only an
advance of their share in his estate, for a good deal of wealth may be
expected at his death. He is still alive, and though advanced in years,
employs the few days which still remain to him in labouring to become

(28.) Let Ergastus alone, and he will demand a duty from all who drink
some water from the river or who walk on _terra firma_; he knows how to
convert reeds, rushes, and nettles into gold;[286] he listens to all
projects, and proposes everything he hears. The prince gives nothing to
any one but at Ergastusʼ expense, and bestows no favours but what are
his due, for his desire to have and to possess is never appeased. He
would even deal in arts and sciences, and farm out harmony; were his
advice to be taken, the people, for the pleasure of seeing him wealthy,
and with a pack of hounds and a stable, would forget the music of
Orpheus and be satisfied with his.

(29.) Have no dealings with Crito,[287] who only looks after his own
advantages; the snare is always ready spread for those who wish to
acquire his office, his estate, or anything he possesses, for his
conditions will be exorbitant. There is no consideration or arrangement
to be expected from one so wrapt up in his own interest and so inimical
to yours; he will always take a man in if he can.

(30.) Brontin,[288] according to common report, retires from the busy
world, and during a whole week sees none but priests; they enjoy their
meditations, and he enjoys his.

(31.) The people very often have the pleasure of seeing a tragedy
acted, and of beholding expire on the worldʼs stage the most hateful
personages, who did as much harm as they could whenever they appeared,
and whom they heartily detested.

(32.) If we divide the lives of the P.T.S.[289] into two parts, the
first, brisk and active, is wholly occupied in trying to oppress the
people, and the second, bordering on death, is spent in betraying and
ruining one another.

(33.) The man[290] who made your fortune and that of several others
was unable to keep his own, or secure a maintenance for his wife and
children after his death; they live in obscurity and in wretchedness.
You are informed of their miserable condition, but you do not think
of alleviating it; indeed you cannot do so, for you give a good many
dinners, you build a good deal; but out of gratitude you have kept the
portrait of your benefactor, which, it is true, has been removed from
your own private room to the anteroom. You have at least shown him some
respect, for it might have gone to the lumber-room.

(34.) There exists a stubbornness of temper, and another of rank and
condition, which both harden our hearts against the misfortunes of
others, and, I should even say, prevent us from pitying the evils which
befall our own family. A true financier grieves neither for the loss of
friends, wife, nor children.

(35.) “Away, fly; you are not far enough.” “Here,” say you, “I am under
another tropic.” “Pass under the pole and into another hemisphere;
ascend to the stars, if possible.” “I am there.” “Very well; then you
are pretty safe.” I look down and discover on this earth a rapacious,
insatiable, and inexorable man, who, in spite of everything he meets on
his way or may encounter, and at whatever cost to others, will provide
for himself, enlarge his fortune, and wallow in wealth.

(36.) To make oneʼs fortune is so fine a phrase, and of such charming
import, that it is universally used; it is to be met with in all
languages, is pleasing to strangers and to barbarians, is to be found
at court and in the city, has made its way into cloisters and scaled
the walls of convents for both sexes; there is no place so sacred where
it has not penetrated, no desert or solitude where it is unknown.[291]

(37.) A man who knows how to make good bargains or finds his money
increase in his coffers, thinks presently that he has a good deal of
brains and is almost fit to be a statesman.

(38.) A man must have a certain sort of intelligence to make a fortune,
and above all a large fortune; but it is neither a good nor a fine, a
grand nor a sublime, a strong nor a delicate intellect. I am at a loss
to tell exactly what it is, and shall be glad if some one will let me

Custom or experience are of more avail in making our fortune than
intelligence; we think of it too late, and when at last we have made
up our mind to make it, we begin by committing some errors which we
have not always the time to repair; and this, perhaps, is the reason
why fortunes are far from common.

A man of small intellect wishes to get on in life; he neglects
everything, but from morning till evening he only thinks of one thing,
and dreams of it at night, namely, to get on in the world. He begins
early and from his very youth the chase after wealth; if a barrier
in front of him stops the way, he naturally hesitates, and goes to
the right or left, according as he sees an opening or thinks it most
convenient; and if fresh obstacles arise, he returns to the path he
just left, and determines, according to the nature of the difficulties,
sometimes to overcome them, sometimes to avoid them, or to take other
measures as his own interest, custom, and opportunity may direct him.
Does any traveller need such a good head and such great talents to set
out at first on a main road, and if that be crowded or impracticable,
to cross the fields, jump over hedges and ditches, come back into the
former road, and follow it until his journeyʼs end? Does he require so
much intelligence to attain the goal? Is it, then, so wonderful for a
fool ever to become rich or of repute?

There are some stupid, and I may even say weak-minded men, who occupy
handsome posts, and who die rich without any one ever supposing that
they contributed to it in any way whatever by the smallest industry or
their own labour. Somebody directed them to the fountainhead, or,
perhaps, chance alone has led them to it; then they have been asked if
they should like to have some water, and if so, to draw it; and they
have drawn it.[292]

(39.) When we are young we are often poor; either we have not yet
acquired nor inherited anything. We become rich and old at the same
moment; for seldom do men obtain every advantage at one and the same
time. But even if some persons are so fortunate, we ought not to envy
them, since they lose by their death sufficiently to deserve our

(40.) A man is thirty years old before he thinks of making his fortune,
but it is not completed at fifty; he begins to build in his old age,
and dies by the time his house is in a condition to be painted and

(41.) What is the advantage of having a large fortune, unless it be to
enjoy the vanity, industry, labour and outlay of those who came before
us, and to labour ourselves in planting, building, and hoarding for our

(42.) Men open their shops and set out their wares every morning to
deceive their customers; and they close them at night after having
cheated all day.

(43.) A tradesman turns over all his goods, that he may sell you the
worst; he has a certain preparation to give them a lustre, or else
holds these goods in a peculiar light, to conceal their faults and
to make them appear sound; he asks too large a price for them, so as
to sell them for more than they are worth; he has forged mysterious
trade-marks, so that people may believe they get the full value for
their hard cash; he employs a short yard measure, so that the buyer may
obtain as little for his money as possible, and has a pair of scales to
try whether the gold he receives be of full weight.

(44.) In all conditions of life a poor man is a near neighbour to an
honest one,[293] and a rich man is as little removed from a knave; tact
and ability alone seldom procure great riches.

A show of a certain amount of honesty is in any profession or business
the surest way of growing rich.

(45.) The shortest and best way of making your fortune is to let people
clearly see that it is their interest to promote yours.

(46.) Some men,[294] stimulated by the necessities of life, and
sometimes by a desire to gain money or glory, improve their secular
talents or adopt a profession far from reputable, and overlook its
danger and consequences for a considerable time; they leave it
afterwards from secret and devout reasons, which never stirred them
before they had reaped their harvest and enjoyed a comfortable income.

(47.) There exist miseries in this world which wring the very heart;
some people want even food; they dread the winter and are afraid
to live; others eat hothouse fruits; the earth and the seasons are
compelled to furnish forth delicacies; and mere citizens, simply
because they have grown rich, dare to swallow in one morsel what would
nourish a hundred families. Whatever may be brought forward against
such extremes, let me be neither unhappy or happy if I can help it; I
take refuge in mediocrity.

(48.) It is well known that the poor are sad because they want
everything and nobody comforts them; but if it be true that the rich
are irascible, it is because they may want the smallest thing, or that
some one might oppose them.

(49.) A man is rich whose income is larger than his expenses, and he is
poor if his expenses are greater than his income.

There are some men[295] who with an annual revenue of two millions are
yearly still five hundred thousand _livres_ in arrears.

Nothing keeps longer than a middling fortune, and nothing melts away
sooner than a large one.

Great riches are a temptation for poverty.

If it be true that a man is rich who wants nothing, a wise man is a
very rich man.[296]

If a man be poor who wishes to have everything, then an ambitious and a
miserly man languish in extreme poverty.

(50.) Passions tyrannise over mankind, but ambition keeps the others in
abeyance, and makes for a while a man appear to possess every virtue.

I once believed that Tryphon, whom I now know to practise every vice,
was sober, chaste, liberal, modest, and even pious; I might have
believed so still if he had not made his fortune.

(51.) All that a man wishes for is riches and grandeur; he falls very
ill, and death draws near, and though his face be shrivelled and his
legs totter, yet he is still talking of his fortune and his post.

(52.) There are but two ways of rising in the world, either by your
own industry or by the folly of others.

(53.) The features may indicate the natural disposition, habits, and
morals of a man, but it is the expression of the whole countenance that
discovers his wealth; it is written in a manʼs face whether he has more
or less than a thousand _livres_ a year.

(54.) Chrysantes, a wealthy and impertinent man, would think it a
disgrace to be seen with Eugenius, who is a man of merit but poor;
Eugenius entertains the same feelings towards Chrysantes; so there is
no chance of their ever quarrelling together.

(55.) When I see some persons, who formerly were the first to bow to
me, wait, on the contrary, till I salute them, and stand on ceremony
with me, I say to myself, “All this is mighty fine, and I am very glad
things go so well with them; it is quite certain that those gentlemen
live in larger houses, have handsomer furniture and better repasts than
formerly, and that for the last few months they have had a share in a
business by which they have already made some very good profit. Pray
Heaven they may in a short time come even to despise me!”

[Illustration: DESCARTES]

(56.) If thoughts, books, and their authors were depending on the rich
and on those who have made a large fortune, they would all be exiled,
and that without appeal. Such men act superciliously and lord it over
the learned! They keep their dignity with those poor wretches whose
merit has not advanced or enriched them, and who still think and write
sensibly! We must confess that at present the rich predominate, but the
future will be for the virtuous and ingenious. Homer lives still and
will ever flourish, whilst the tax-gatherers and publicans are no
more and are utterly forgotten, and their native country and their very
names are unknown at present. Were there any farmers of the revenue in
Greece? What has become of all those important personages who despised
Homer, who were careful to avoid him, who never bowed to him, or, if
they did so, never called him “Sir,” who did not think him worthy of
being admitted to their tables, who looked on him as a man who was not
rich and had written a book? What will become of the Fauconnets?[297]
Will their names be transmitted to posterity as the name of Descartes
was, who, though born a Frenchman, died in Sweden?[298]

(57.) The same amount of pride which makes a man treat haughtily his
inferiors, makes him cringe servilely to those above him. It is the
very nature of this vice, which is neither based on personal merit nor
on virtue, but on riches, posts, influence, and useless knowledge,
to render a man as supercilious to those who are below him as to
over-value those who are of a loftier rank than they themselves are.

(58.) There are some sordid minds, formed of slime and filth, to whom
interest and gain are what glory and virtue are to superior souls; they
feel no other pleasure but to acquire money and never to lose it; they
are covetous and are always wanting ten per cent.;[299] they only
occupy themselves with their creditors; always dread the lowering or
calling in of certain monies;[300] and are absorbed and immerged in
contracts, deeds, and parchments. Such people are neither relatives,
friends, citizens, Christians, nor perhaps men; they have money.

(59.) Let us first except those noble and courageous minds, if there
are any yet on this earth, who assist those who are in want, contrive
to do good, whom no necessities, nor inequality of rank or fortune,
nor intrigues can separate from those they have once chosen for their
friends; and after having made this remark, let us boldly state a
lamentable truth, which makes us miserable to think about, namely, that
there is not a person in this world, however intimately connected with
us by social ties or by friendship, who likes us, enjoys our society,
has a great many times offered us his services, and sometimes even
rendered us one, who, when swayed by his own interests, would not feel
inwardly disposed to break with us and become our enemy.

(60.) Whilst Orontes[301] is increasing in years, in wealth, and in
income, a girl born in a certain family flourishes, grows up, becomes
very handsome, and enters on her sixteenth year. Orontes, who is then
fifty, of inferior birth, without intelligence and the smallest merit,
has to be entreated to marry that young, handsome, and witty girl, and
is preferred to all his rivals.

(61.) Marriage, which ought to be a source of all felicity, is often
to a man a heavy burden which crushes him through want of fortune. For
his wifeʼs and childrenʼs sake he is sorely tempted to commit fraud,
to tell falsehoods, and obtain illicit gains. It must be a dreadful
situation for any man to have to choose between roguery and indigence.

To marry a widow means, in plain language,[302] to make oneʼs fortune,
though this is not always the case.[303]

(62.) A man who has only inherited sufficient money to live comfortably
as a lawyer wishes presently to become an official, then a magistrate,
and finally a judge.[304] Thus it is with all ranks and conditions of
men straitened or limited in their means, who, after having attempted
several things beyond their power, force, if I may say so, their
destiny; they have neither sense enough to forbear being rich nor to
continue rich.

(63.) Dine comfortably, Clearchus,[305] make a good supper, put some
wood on the fire, buy a cloak, put hangings all round your room, for
you have no love for your heir; you even do not know him; you have not
got any.

(64.) When we are young we lay up for old age; when we are old we save
for death; a prodigal heir first gives us a splendid funeral, and then
lavishes whatever money is left to him.

(65.) After his death a miser spends more money in one day than he
spent in ten years when he was alive; and his heir more in ten months
than the miser could find in his heart to part with during his whole

(66.) When we lavish our money we rob our heir; when we merely save it
we rob ourselves. The middle course is to be just to ourselves and to

(67.) Children, perhaps, would be dearer to their parents and parents
to their children, were it not for the latter being their heirs.

(68.) How wretched is manʼs estate, and how it makes one sick of life!
We have to moil and toil, to watch, to yield, and to be dependent,
to acquire a little money, or else we get it at the last gasp of our
nearest relations. He who can master his feelings so far as not to wish
for his fatherʼs death is an honest man.

(69.) A person who expects to inherit something becomes over-polite; we
are never better flattered, better obeyed, followed, courted, attended,
and caressed than by those who hope to gain by our death, and wish it
may happen soon.

(70.) As far as different places, titles, and inheritances are
concerned, all men look upon themselves as one anotherʼs heirs,
and, therefore, quietly and stealthily wish all their lives for one
anotherʼs death. The happiest man, under such circumstances, is he who
has most to lose by his death, and most to leave to his successor.

(71.) It is said of gambling that it makes all ranks equal; but there
is often such a strange disparity and such a vast, immense, and
profound chasm between this and that condition, that it pains us to
see such extremes meet together.[307] It is like discord in music, like
colours which do not harmonise, like words that clash and jar on our
ears, like those sounds and noises which make us shudder. In a word, it
is a subversion of all order and decency. If any one tells me gambling
is the custom throughout the whole western hemisphere, I reply that
perhaps it is one of the reasons why we are considered barbarians in
another part of the globe, and what the Eastern nations who travel
this way particularly remark of us in their journals. I have not the
smallest doubt that such an excessive familiarity appears to them as
disgusting as their _zombay_[308] and their other prostrations seem to
us incongruous.

(72.) An assembly of the provincial states or a parliament[309] meeting
to discuss a very important matter of business, presents nothing so
grave and serious as a table crowded with gamblers who play very high;
a melancholic severity is depicted on every countenance; implacable
towards one another, and irreconcilable enemies as long as they are
together, they neither regard relationship, connections, birth, or
social distinctions. Chance alone, that blind and stern divinity,
presides over the assembly, and pronounces her opinions like a
sovereign; people show their respect for her by remaining very silent,
and by being more attentive than they are elsewhere. Every passion
seems in abeyance for a while, to give way to one passion only, during
which the courtier neither pretends to be gentle, fawning, polite, nor

(73.) Even the smallest trace of their former condition seems utterly
obliterated in those who have made their fortune by gambling; they lose
sight of their equals, and associate only with persons of the highest
rank. It is true that the fortune of the die or _lansquenet_[310] often
puts them in the same place whence it took them.[311]

(74.) I am not surprised that there are gambling houses, like so many
snares laid for human avarice; like abysses where many a manʼs money is
engulphed and swallowed up without any hope of return; like frightful
rocks against which the gamblers are thrown and perish; that certain
men are sent forth to find out the precise time some person has landed
with newly got prize-money, or who has gained a lawsuit which has
brought him in a goodly sum, or who has received some presents, or who
has had a very lucky run at play; what young man of family has just
come into a large inheritance, or what desperate clerk will venture
the monies of his office on the turn of a card. Truly cheating is
villainous and rascally, but it is an old and well-known trade, and
practised at all times by the men we call professional gamblers. They
have a sign outside their doors, and this may be the inscription: “Here
cheating is done fairly;” for I suppose they do not pretend to be
blameless. Every one knows that if a man gambles in one of these houses
he is certain to lose. What to me is unaccountable, is that there
should always be as many fools as gamblers want, to make a living by

(75.) Thousands have been ruined by gambling, and yet they tell you
very coolly they cannot do without it. What an idle excuse is this!
Is there any violent and shameful passion in existence to which we
cannot apply the same language? Would any one be allowed to say, he
cannot live without stealing, murdering, or rushing into all kinds of
excesses? It is allowable to gamble in a frightful manner, without
intermission, shame, or limit; to have no other aim but the total ruin
of your adversary; to be carried away by a desire for gain, thrown into
despair by losing or consumed by avarice; to risk on the turn of a card
or die your own future and that of your wife and children; or should we
do without it yet? And are there not sometimes worse consequences than
these at the gambling-table, when men are entirely stripped, obliged
to do without clothes and food, and cannot provide these for their

I allow no one to be a knave, but I will allow a knave to play high,
but not an honest man, for it is too silly to expose oneself to a heavy

(76.) There is but one sorrow which is lasting, and that is one
produced by the loss of property; time, which alleviates all others,
sharpens this; we feel it every moment during the course of our lives
when we miss the fortune we have lost.

(77.) The man who spends his fortune without marrying his daughters,
paying his debts, or lending it out on good security, may be well
enough liked by every one except by his wife and children.

(78.) Neither the troubles, Zenobia,[313] which disturb your empire,
nor the war which since the death of the king, your husband, you
have so heroically maintained against a powerful nation, diminish
your magnificence in the least. You have preferred the banks of the
Euphrates to any other country for erecting a splendid building; the
air is healthy and temperate, the situation delightful; a sacred
wood shades it on the west; the Syrian gods, who sometimes visit the
earth, could not choose a finer abode; the adjacent country is peopled
with men who are constantly busy shaping and cutting, coming and
going, rolling or carting away the timber of Mount Lebanon, brass and
porphyry; the air rings with the noise of cranes and machinery; and
that noise instils a hope in the breasts of those who pass that way
to go to Arabia, that, on their return home, they may see that palace
finished, with all the splendour you design to bestow on it before you,
or the princes, your children, make it your dwelling. Spare nothing,
great queen; make use of your gold and of the best workmanship of
first-class artists;[314] let the Phidiasses and Zeuxisses[315] of your
century display the utmost of their skill on your walls and ceilings;
lay out expensive and delightful gardens, so enchanting that they do
not seem created by the hand of man; exhaust your treasures and your
energy in this incomparable edifice; and, after you have brought it to
perfection, one of those herdsmen who dwell in the neighbouring sandy
deserts of Palmyra, and who has enriched himself by farming the tolls
of your rivers, will purchase one day, with ready money, this royal
demesne, and add fresh embellishments to it, so as to render it more
worthy of him and his fortune.[316]

(79.) This palace, this furniture, these gardens, those handsome
waterworks charm you, and on first beholding such a delightful mansion,
you cannot forbear expressing your opinion that its owner ought to
be superlatively happy. He is no more, and he never enjoyed it so
pleasantly and so quietly as you did; he never knew a cheerful day
or a quiet night; he sunk beneath the debts he contracted in adorning
it with those beauties which so delight you. His creditors drove him
from it, and then he turned round his head and looked upon it for the
last time; this affected him so much that it caused his death.[317]

(80.) We cannot avoid observing the strokes of fate or the freaks of
fortune which happen in certain families, and which a hundred years
ago were never heard of because they did not exist. Providence, on a
sudden, bestows its favours on them; and more than once showers on
them wealth, honours, and dignities, so that they bask in prosperity.
Eumolpus,[318] one of those men who never had any ancestors, was
raised so high that he obtained everything he desired during the
course of a long life. Was this owing to the superior intelligence and
to the profound capacity of either father or son, or to favourable
circumstances? Fortune, at last, smiles on them no longer; it leaves
them to sport elsewhere, and treats their descendants as it did their

(81.) The immediate cause of the ruin and overthrow of gentlemen of the
long robe and the sword is that they have to spend their money, not
according to their income, but according to their rank in society.

(82.) If you have omitted nothing towards making your fortune, how
great has been your labour! If you have neglected the most trifling
thing, how lasting will be your repentance!

(83.) Giton has a fresh complexion, a full face, pendulous cheeks,
a steady and resolute look, broad shoulders, a huge chest, a firm
and deliberate gait; he speaks with assurance, must have every word
repeated that is said to him, and is not greatly pleased with what is
told him. He takes a large handkerchief out of his pocket, and blows
his nose with a tremendous noise: he expectorates about the room, and
sneezes very loud; he sleeps by day, by night, and that soundly, for
he snores in company. He takes up more room than any one else at table
or whilst walking, and walks in the middle of the road when with his
equals; he stops and they stop; he goes forward and they go forward;
all are governed by what he does. He interrupts and corrects those who
are talking, but is never interrupted, and people listen to him as long
as he likes to speak, for their ideas are like his, and they take it
for granted that the news he tells them is perfectly true. If he sits
down he throws himself into an easy-chair, crosses his legs, frowns,
pulls his hat over his eyes so as to see no one, or suddenly draws it
back to show a supercilious and bold countenance; he is merry, ever
laughing, impatient, impudent, a freethinker,[319] and a politician
full of secrets about the affairs of the day; he thinks he has talents
and intelligence; he is wealthy.

Phædo has sunken eyes, a reddish complexion, a lean body and an
emaciated countenance; he sleeps very little, and his slumbers are
light; he is absent-minded, pensive, and, with some intelligence, looks
like a dolt; he forgets to say what he knows or to speak about those
incidents with which he is acquainted; if he says something now and
then, he does it badly; he thinks he bores those persons to whom he
addresses himself, and therefore tells his story briefly but coldly, so
that he is never listened to nor taken notice of, for he makes nobody
laugh. He praises and laughs at other personsʼ jests, is of their
opinions, and runs and flies to render them some small services; he
is over polite, and flatters and waits on them; he is close about his
own affairs, and does not always tell the truth about them; he is very
peculiar,[320] scrupulous, and timorous. He steps lightly and softly,
and seems afraid to tread the ground; he walks with his eyes downward,
and dares not raise them to face the passers-by; he never joins in any
conversation, but places himself behind the person who speaks; picks up
by stealth all that has been said, and withdraws if any one looks at
him. He does not take up any room nor fill a place anywhere; he walks
about with his arms close to his body, his hat over his eyes that he
may not be seen, and wraps and folds himself up in his cloak. There is
no street nor gallery so crowded and filled with people, but he finds
a way to get through without jostling, and to steal along unperceived.
If they beg him to sit down, he seats himself on the edge of a chair,
and talks in a low voice and not very distinctly; he freely expresses,
however, his opinion on public affairs, is angry with the age, and but
indifferently pleased with the cabinet and the ministers; he seldom
opens his mouth but to reply; he coughs and blows his nose with his
hat before his face, he almost expectorates on himself, and does not
sneeze till he is alone, or if it does happen, no one hears it, so that
no one has to say “God bless you.” He is poor.[321]




(1.) People in Paris, without giving any notice beforehand, and as if
it were some public assignation, meet every evening on the Cours[323]
or in the Tuileries, to stare around and criticise one another.

They cannot dispense with those very persons whom they do not like and
whom they deride.

They wait for one another in these public walks,[324] and they examine
one another; carriages, horses, liveries, coats of arms, nothing
escapes their gaze; everything is looked at keenly or maliciously, and
they respect or contemn the persons they meet according to the greater
or lesser splendour of their equipages.

(2.) Everybody knows that long bank[325] which borders and confines the
Seine where it joins the Marne on entering Paris; close by men come to
bathe during the heat of the dog-days, and people at a little distance
see them amuse themselves by jumping in and out of the water. Now, as
long as there is no bathing, the city ladies never walk that way, and
when the season is over they walk there no longer.[326]

(3.) In those places of general resort, where the ladies assemble only
to show their fine dresses, and to reap the reward for the trouble they
have taken with their apparel, people do not walk with a companion for
the pleasure of conversation, but they herd together to get a little
more confidence, to accustom themselves to the public, and to keep one
another in countenance against criticisms. They talk but say nothing,
or rather they talk to be taken notice of by those for whose sake they
raise their voices, gesticulate, joke, bow carelessly, and walk up and

(4.) The town is split up into several sets, which, like so many little
republics, have their peculiar laws, customs, dialects, and jests. As
long as such a set remains in force, and as long as the conceit lasts,
nothing is allowed to be well said or well done which it had no hand
in, and it cannot enjoy anything from strangers; it even contemns those
who have not been initiated in its mysteries. An intelligent man, whom
chance has thrown amongst the members of such a set, is a stranger to
them: he is, as it were, in a distant country, where he is ignorant of
the roads, the language, the manners and the laws; he sees a sort of
people who talk, rattle, whisper, burst out laughing, and presently
relapse into a gloomy silence; he does not know what to do, and can
hardly tell where to put in a word, or even when to listen. Some sorry
buffoon is ever at hand who is the head and, as it were, the hero of
such a set, and has always to keep them merry and to make them laugh
before he has uttered a single word. If at any time a woman comes
amongst them, who is not one of them, these jolly fellows are amazed
she does not laugh at things she cannot understand, and appears not to
be amused with some nonsense they would not understand themselves, if
it were not their own; they will not overlook her tone of voice, her
silence, her figure, her dress, her coming or going out of the room.
This same set, however, does not last two years; in the first year are
already sown those seeds of division which break it up the following
year; quarrels about some woman, disputes at play, extravagant
entertainments, which, though moderate at first, soon degenerate into
pyramids of viands and sumptuous banquets, overthrow the commonwealth,
and finally give it a mortal blow, and in a little while there is no
more talk about them than about last yearʼs flies.

(5.) There are in town lawyers belonging to the _grande robe_, and
others to the _petite robe_;[327] and the first take on the second
their revenge for the contempt and the supercilious way in which they
are treated by a court of justice. It is not easy to know where the
_grande robe_[328] begins and the _petite_ ends; there is even a large
number of lawyers who refuse to belong to the second class and who are
yet not considered to be of the first; they will, however, not abandon
their pretensions, but, on the contrary, endeavour, by their sedate
carriage and by the money they spend, to show themselves the equals of
the magistrates; they have often been heard to say that their sublime
duties, the independence of their profession, their eloquence, and
their personal merits, balance at least the bags of money which the
sons of financiers and bankers have paid for their offices.

(6.) You are very inconsiderate to sit musing, or perhaps dozing, in
your carriage. Rouse yourself, and take a book or your papers, and
begin to read; and hardly return the bows of those people who pass you
in their carriages, for they will believe you to be very busy, and say
everywhere that you are hard-working and indefatigable, and that you
read and work even in the streets or on the highroad.[329] You may
learn from a pettifogger that you should ever seem to be immersed in
business, knit your brows and muse most profoundly about nothing at
all; that you should not always have the time for eating or drinking,
and that as soon as you are in the house you should vanish like a
ghost, and betake yourself to your dark private room, hide yourself
from the public, avoid the theatre, and leave that to those who run no
risk in appearing there, though they have hardly the leisure for it, to
the Gomons and the Duhamels.[330]

(7.) There are a certain number of young magistrates with large estates
and fond of pleasure, who have become acquainted with some of those
men who are called at court “dandies;” they imitate them, behave
in a manner unbecoming the gravity of a judge, and believe that on
account of their youth and fortune they have no need to be discreet
or passionless. They borrow from the court the very worst qualities,
appropriate to themselves vanity, effeminacy, intemperance, and
indecency, as if all those vices were their privilege, thus affecting
a character quite the opposite to what they ought to maintain, and, in
the end, according to their wishes, become exact copies of very wicked

(8.) A gentleman of the legal profession is not like the same man
in the city and at court; when he has returned home he resumes his
natural manners, look, and gestures, which he left behind, and is no
longer so embarrassed nor so polite.

(9.) The Crispins join and club together to drive out with six horses
to their carriage, and with a swarm of men in livery, to which each
has furnished his share; they figure at the Cours or at Vincennes[332]
as brilliantly as a newly-married couple, or as Jason who is ruining
himself, or as Thraso who wishes to get married, and who has deposited
the money to buy an important place.[333]

(10.) I hear a good deal of talk about the Sannions; about “the same
name, the same arms, the elder branch, the younger branch, the younger
sons of the second branch; about the first bearing their arms plain,
the second with a label, and the third with a _bordure_ indented.”
Their colour and metal are the same as those of the Bourbons, and, like
them, they bear two and one;[334] it is true these are not “fleurs
de lis,” but they are satisfied; perhaps, in their inmost hearts,
they believe their bearings as noble; at least, they are the same as
those of lords of the highest rank who are quite content with them.
We see them on their mourning hangings,[335] and on the windows of
their chapels, on the gates of their castle, on their justiciary
pillar, where many a man is condemned to be hanged who only deserved
banishment; they are visible anywhere, on their furniture and their
locks, while their carriages are covered with them, and the liveries
of their servants do not disgrace their escutcheon. I should like to
tell the Sannions that their ostentation is too precipitate; that they
should have waited at least until their race had existed a century;
that those persons who knew and conversed with their grandfather are
old and cannot live long, and that, after their death, no one will be
able to say where he kept his shop, and what a very dear one it was.

The Sannions and the Crispins[336] had rather be thought extravagant
than covetous; they tell you a long story of a feast or a collation
they gave, of their losses at play, and express aloud their regrets
they have not lost more. They mention in their peculiar language
certain ladies of their acquaintance; they have ever many pleasant
things to tell each other, are always making new discoveries, and
confide to one another their successes with the fair. One of them,
coming lately to his country-house, hastens to bed, and rises with the
dawn, then puts on his gaiters and a linen suit, and fastens on his
belt and his powder-horn, ties back his hair, takes his gun, and is
a sportsman, if he did but shoot well. He returns at night, wet and
weary, without any game, but goes shooting again on the morrow, and
spends the whole day in missing thrushes and partridges.

Another man[337] speaks of some wretched dogs he has as “his pack
of hounds;” he knows where the meet is held, and goes there; he is
at the starting,[338] and enters the thicket with the huntsmen,
with his horn by his side; he does not ask, like Menalippus, “Do I
enjoy myself?”[339] but he thinks he does; he forgets the law and
all lawsuits, and would be thought an Hippolytus.[340] Menander, who
yesterday was engaged in a lawsuit, paid him a visit, but to-day would
not know again his judge. To-morrow you may see him at court, where
a weighty and capital case is going to be tried; he gets his learned
brethren about him, and informs them that he did not lose the stag, but
that he is quite hoarse with hallooing after the hounds which lost the
scent, or after those sportsmen who were at fault, and that, with half
a dozen hounds, he was in at the death; but the clock strikes, and he
has no more time to talk of the stag being at bay, or of the quarry: he
must take his seat with the other magistrates and administer justice.

(11.) How great is the infatuation of certain men, who, being possessed
of the wealth their fathers acquired by trade, which they have just
inherited, imitate princes in their dress and retinue, and by excessive
expenditure and ridiculous pomp provoke the remarks and sneers of the
whole town they think to dazzle, and thus ruin themselves to be laughed

Some have not even the sorry advantage of having their follies talked
about beyond their immediate neighbourhood, and the only spot where
their vanity is displayed. They do not know in the Ile that André
makes a figure and squanders his patrimony in the Marais.[341] If he
were only better known in town and in the suburbs, perhaps, amongst so
large a number of citizens, who are not all able to judge sensibly of
everything, possibly one of them might declare André has a magnificent
spirit, and give him credit for his banquets to Xanthe and Ariston, and
for his entertainments to Elamire; but he ruins himself obscurely, and
hastens to become poor only for the sake of two or three persons, who
do not esteem him in the least, and though at present he rides in his
coach, in six months he will hardly be able to go on foot.[342]

(12.) Narcissus[343] rises in the morning to lie down at night; he
spends as many hours in dressing as a woman; he goes every day to mass
at the Feuillants or the Minims;[344] is very agreeable in company,
and in his parish they reckon on him to make a third man at ombre or
reversis.[345] He sits for hours together at

Ariciaʼs, where every night he ventures his five or six golden
pistoles;[346] he never misses reading the _Gazette de Hollande_ or
the _Mercure Galant_;[347] he has read Bergerac,[348] Desmarets,[349]
Lesclache,[350] Barbinʼs[351] stories, and some collections of poetry;
he walks with the ladies on the Plaine or the Cours,[352] and is
scrupulously punctual in his visits; he will do to-morrow precisely
what he has done to-day and did yesterday; thus he lives, and thus he
will die.

(13.) “I have seen this man somewhere,” youʼll say,[353] “and, though
his face is familiar to me, I have forgotten where it was.” It is
familiar to many other people, and, if possible, I will assist your
memory. Was it on the Boulevard,[354] in a carriage, or in the large
alley of the Tuileries, or else in the dress-circle at the theatre?
Was it at church, at a ball, or at Rambouillet;[355] or, rather, can
you tell me where you have not seen him, and where he is not to be
met with? If some well-known criminal is going to be executed, or if
there are any fireworks, he makes his appearance at a window at the
town-hall; if some one enters the town in state, you see him in the
reserved seats; if a _carousel_[356] is ridden, he enters and takes his
place on some bench; if the king gives an audience to an ambassador,
he sees the whole procession, is present at the reception, and thrusts
himself in the ranks when it returns. His presence is as essential at
the solemn renewal of the alliance between the Swiss Cantons as that of
the Lord Chancellor or the Helvetian plenipotentiaries.[357] You see
his face on the almanacks amongst the people or the bystanders;[358]
if there is a public hunt going on or a _Saint Hubert_,[359] he will
be present on horseback; they say to him that a camp is going to be
pitched or that a review is going to be held, and off he will start for
Houilles or Achères;[360] he is very fond of the army, the militia,
and war, of which he has seen a good deal, even the taking of Fort
Bernardi.[361] Chamlay knows something of marches, Jacquier of the
commissariate, du Metz of the artillery,[362] but our gentleman is a
looker-on, has grown old in the service of looking-on, and is a
spectator by profession; he does not do anything that a man ought to
do, and he does not know anything that a man ought to know; but he
boasts that he has seen everything that was to be seen, and now does
not regret to die. But what a loss will his death be for the whole
town! Who will inform us, as he did, that the Cours is closed, and
nobody is walking there, that the pond of Vincennes has been filled up
and is now a raised moat, and that no carriage will any more be upset
on that spot? Who will acquaint us when there is a concert, a choral
service in church, or something wonderful to be seen at the fair?
Who will let us know that Beaumavielle[363] died yesterday, and that
Rochois[364] has got a cold and will not be able to sing for a week?
Who will inform us that Scapin bears the “fleur de lis” on his arms,
and who is very glad he does so? Who will pronounce, with the most
boastful emphasis, the name of a mere citizenʼs wife, or who will be
better provided with topical songs? Who will lend to the ladies the
_Annales Galantes_ and the _Journal Amoureux_?[365] Who will sing at
table a whole dialogue of an opera, or the madness of “Roland”[366] in
a _ruelle_, as well as he does?[367] To conclude, since there are in
the city and elsewhere some very foolish people as well as some dull
and idle people, who have nothing to do, who will so exactly suit every
one of them as he did?

(14.) Theramenes[368] was rich and had some merit; some property was
left him, and therefore he is now much wealthier and has a great deal
more merit; all the women set to work to make him their gallant, and
all the young girls to get him for a husband; he goes from house to
house, to make the mothers believe that he is inclined to marry. As
soon as he has taken his seat they withdraw, to leave full liberty
to their daughters to be amiable and to Theramenes to declare his
intentions. Here he is the rival of a magistrate;[369] there he throws
into the shade a military man or a nobleman. The ladies could not
covet more passionately any rosy-cheeked, gay, brisk, witty young
fellow, nor could he be better received; they snatch him out of one
anotherʼs hands, and can hardly find leisure to vouchsafe a smile to
any other person who visits them at the same time. How many gallants
is he going to defeat! how many good matches will be broken off on his
account! Will he bestow his hand on the large number of heiresses who
court him? He is not only the terror of husbands, but the dread of all
these who wish to be so, and to whom marriage is the only resource for
obtaining a sufficient sum to replace the money they paid for their
official situations.[370] A man so happy and so wealthy[371] ought
to be banished from a well-governed city, and the fair sex should be
forbidden, under pain of being considered insane or degraded, to treat
him better than if he were merely a person of merit.

(15.) The people in Paris commonly ape the court, but they do not
always know how to imitate it; they by no means resemble it in those
agreeable and flattering outward civilities with which some courtiers,
and particularly the ladies, affably treat a man of merit, who
possesses nothing but merit. Such ladies never inquire after that manʼs
means or his ancestors; they find him at court, and that is sufficient
for them; they give themselves no airs, they esteem him, and do not
ask whether he came in a carriage or on foot, or whether he has a post,
an estate, or followers; as they are satiated with pomp, splendour, and
honour, they like to recreate themselves with philosophy or virtue.
If a city lady hears the rattling of a carriage stopping at her door,
she is anxious to be acquainted with any person who is in it, and to
be polite to him, without at all knowing him; but from her window she
has caught a glance of a set of fine horses, a good many liveries,
is dazzled by the numerous rows of finely gilt nails,[372] and is
very impatient to behold such a military man or a magistrate in her
apartments. How well will he be received! Sheʼll never take her eyes
off him. Nothing is lost upon her, and she has already given him credit
for the double braces and springs of his carriage, which make it go
easier, and she esteems him the more and loves him the better for them.

(16.) The infatuation of some city women in their wretched imitation of
those at court is more offensive than the coarseness of the women of
the people and the rusticity of country-women, since it is a mixture
of both, and of affectation as well.

(17.) What a cunning contrivance to give during courtship valuable
presents which cost nothing, and which after marriage have to be
returned in kind![373]

(18.) It is sensible and praiseworthy in a man to spend on his
nuptials one-third of his wifeʼs dowry; to begin with deliberately
impoverishing himself by buying and collecting superfluous things; and
already to take from his capital in order to pay Gaultier,[374] the
cabinet-maker, and the milliner!

(19.) Truly it is a charming and judicious custom which, in defiance of
modesty and decency, and through some kind of shamelessness, compels a
newly-married bride to lie on her bed for show, and to render herself
ridiculous for some days, by exposing her to the curiosity of a few men
and women whom she may know, or who may be strangers to her, and who
hasten from all quarters of the town to look on such a sight as long as
it lasts.[375] There is nothing wanting to make this custom seem very
absurd and incomprehensible, except to see it mentioned in print in
some book of travels in Mingrelia.

(20.) What a painful habit and what a troublesome kind of obligation it
must be for certain persons to be continually anxious of meeting one
another, yet when they meet to have nothing but trifles to say to one
another, and to communicate reciprocally things which were previously
known to both and of no matter of importance to either; to enter a room
merely to leave it again; to go out after dinner,[376] only to come
home in the evening, highly satisfied with seeing in five hours three
Swiss,[377] a woman they hardly knew, and another they scarcely liked.
Whoever will rightly consider the value of time, and how irreparable
its loss is, must lament bitterly such wretched trifling.[378]

(21.) In town, people are brought up in complete ignorance of rural and
country affairs; they can scarcely distinguish flax from hemp, wheat
from rye, and neither of them from meslin; they are satisfied with
eating, drinking, and dressing. Do not mention to a large number of
townsfolk such words as fallowland, staddles, layers, or after-grass,
if you wish to be understood, for they will not think it is their
mother-tongue. Speak to some of them of measures, tariffs, taxes,[379]
and to others of appeals, petitions, decrees, and injunctions; for they
know the world, and above all, what is ugly and vulgar in it; but they
do not know Nature, its beginning, growth, gifts, and bounteousness.
Their ignorance often is voluntary, and based on the conceit they have
of their own callings and talents. There is not a low pettifogger
in his dark and grimy room, his brain teeming with the most wicked
legal quibbles, who does not prefer himself to a husbandman, who,
blest of Heaven, cultivates the land, sows when it is needed, and
gathers a rich harvest; and if at any time the former hears mention
made of the first men or the patriarchs, their rural lives and their
husbandry, he wonders how people could have been living in those days
without lawyers, commissioners, presidents, or solicitors, and cannot
understand how they could ever have done without rolls-offices, courts
of judicature, and refreshment-rooms.

(22.) When the Roman emperors were making their triumphal entries,
they never protected themselves in a more effeminate, easy, and
efficacious manner against the wind, the rain, the dust, and the sun,
than the citizens of Paris do when they are driven from one end of
the town to another. What a difference between their habits and the
mules on which their forefathers rode! The latter did not know how to
deprive themselves of the necessaries of life to get superfluities,
nor to prefer show to substance; their houses were never illuminated
with wax-candles, and they never warmed themselves by a little fire,
for in their time such candles were only used at the altar and in the
Louvre;[380] they never ate a bad dinner in order to keep a carriage;
they were convinced that men had legs given them to walk, and they
did walk. In dry weather they kept themselves clean; in wet they did
not mind to dirty their shoes and stockings, and to cross a street
or passage with the same alacrity as a sportsman rides over ploughed
fields, or a soldier gets wet in the trenches. They had not then
invented the harnessing of two men to carry them in a Sedan chair; then
several magistrates walked to the two courts,[381] and with as good
a grace as Augustus formerly went on foot to the Capitol. Pewter in
those days shone on the tables and the sideboards, brass and iron in
the chimneys, whilst silver and gold lay safe in coffers. Women were
then waited on by women, and there were even women in the kitchen.
Such fine names as “governor” and “governess” were not unknown to our
forefathers, for they knew to whom the children of kings and of great
princes were intrusted;[382] but their children had the same servants
they had, and they themselves were satisfied to superintend their
education. Everything they did was calculated; their expenses were
in proportion to their means; their liveries, their carriages, their
furniture, their household expenses, their town and country houses
were all in accordance with their incomes and their station in life.
Outward distinctions existed, however, amongst them, so that it was
impossible to mistake the wife of an attorney for the wife of a judge,
and a commoner or a mere servant for a nobleman. Less desirous to
spend or enlarge their patrimony than to keep it, they left it entire
to their heirs, led a tranquil life, and died a peaceful death; then,
there was no complaint of hard times, of excessive misery, of scarcity
of money; they had less than we have, and yet they had enough, richer
through their economy and their moderation than through their incomes
or estates. To conclude, in former days people observed this maxim,
that what is splendour, pomp, and magnificence in nobles of high rank,
is extravagance, folly, and stupidity in private gentlemen.[383]




(1.) The most honourable thing we can say of a man is, that he does not
understand the court; there is scarcely a virtue which we do not imply
when saying this.[384]

(2.) A perfect courtier can command his gestures, his eyes, and his
countenance; he is profound and impenetrable; he seems to overlook
every injury; he smiles on his enemies, controls his temper, disguises
his passions, belies his inclinations, and both speaks and acts
against his opinions. Such a quintessence of refinement is usually
called “falsehood,” and is, after all, sometimes of no more use to a
courtierʼs success than frankness, sincerity, and virtue.

(3.) A court is like certain changeable colours; which vary according
to the different lights they are exposed in. He who can define these
colours can define the court.

(4.) A man who leaves the court for a single moment renounces it for
ever; the courtier who was there in the morning must be there at night,
and know it again next day, in order that he himself may be known there.

(5.) A man must appear small at court, and let him be never so vain, it
is impossible to prevent it; but it is the common lot, and the highest
nobles themselves are there of no consequence.

(6.) People who live in the provinces consider the court admirable; but
if they visit it, its beauties diminish, like those of a fine drawing
of perspective viewed too closely.

(7.) It is difficult to get accustomed to the spending of our lives in
ante-chambers, courtyards, or on staircases.

(8.) The court does not satisfy a man, but it prevents him from being
satisfied with anything else.

(9.) A cultured gentleman should have some experience of the court; as
soon as he enters it he will discover a new world, as it were, wholly
unknown to him, where vice and politeness have equal sway, and where
good and evil alike may be of use to him.

(10.) The court is like a marble structure, for the courtiers are very
polished and very hard.

(11.) Sometimes people go to court only to come back again, so that,
on their return, they may be taken notice of by the nobility of their
county or by the bishops of their diocese.

(12.) There would be no use for embroiderers and confectioners, and
they would open their shops in vain, if all the people were modest and
temperate; courts would be deserts and kings almost left alone, if
every one was void of vanity and self-interest. Men are willing to be
slaves in one place if they can only lord it in another. It seems that
at court a proud, imperious, and commanding mien is delivered wholesale
to the great for them to retail in the country; they do exactly what is
done unto them, and are the true apes of royalty.

(13.) Nothing disparages some courtiers so much as the presence of a
prince; their faces are scarcely to be recognised; their features are
altered and their looks debased; the more proud and haughty they are,
the greater is the change in them, because they have suffered a greater
loss; whilst a gentlemanly and modest man bears it much better, as
there is nothing in him to alter.

(14.) Courtly manners are contagious; they are caught at
Versailles,[385] as the Norman accent is at Rouen and Falaise;
we partly find them amongst quartermasters, superintendents, and
confectioners;[386] a man with no very great intellect may become
proficient in them; one with a lofty genius and of solid worth
does not sufficiently value such accomplishments to make it his
principal business[387] to study and acquire them; he contracts them
imperceptibly, and does not trouble himself to get rid of them.

(15.) N ...,[388] in a great flutter, comes up to the kingʼs chamber,
turns everybody aside, and clears the way; he scratches at the door,
nay, almost raps; he gives his name, and the people around him recover
now their breath; after some time he is admitted, but it is with the

(16.) Courts are haunted by certain bold adventurers, of free-and-easy
manners, who introduce themselves, pretend to possess greater abilities
than others in their profession, and are believed on their sole
assertion.[390] In the meanwhile they take advantage of this general
belief, or of the fondness of some men for novelty; they make their
way through the crowd, and reach the ear of the prince, with whom the
courtier sees them talking, whilst he thinks himself happy if he only
obtains a glance. It is not difficult for great people to get rid of
them, for as they are only admitted on sufferance, and are of no
consequence, their dismissal is of no importance: then they disappear,
at once rich and out of favour; and the very men who so lately were
deceived by them are ready to be deceived by others.

(17.) Some men, on entering a room, make but a slight bow, stretch
their shoulders and thrust out their chests like women; they ask you
a question, look another way, and speak in a loud tone, to show that
they think themselves above every one present; they stop, and everybody
gathers around them; they do all the talking, and seem to take the
lead. This ridiculous and simulated haughtiness continues until some
really great person makes his appearance, when they shrink away at
once, and are reduced to their natural level, for which they are all
the better.

(18.) Courts cannot exist without a class of courtiers who can flatter,
are complaisant, insinuating, devoted to the ladies, whose pleasures
they direct, whose weaknesses they study, and whose passions they
flatter; they whisper some naughty words to them, speak of their
husbands and lovers in a proper manner, conjecture when they are sad,
ill, or expect a baby; they head the fashions, refine on luxury and
extravagance, and teach the fair to spend in a short time large sums
on clothes, furniture, and carriages; they wear nothing themselves
but what shows good taste and riches, and will not live in an old
palace till it be repaired and embellished; they eat delicately and
thoughtfully; there is no pleasure they have not tried and of which
they cannot tell you something; they owe their position to themselves,
and they keep it with the same ability they made it. Disdainful and
proud, they no longer accost their former equals, and scarcely bow
to them; they speak when every one else is silent; enter, and at
inconvenient hours thrust themselves into places where men of the
highest rank dare not intrude; and when such men, after long services,
their bodies covered with wounds, filling great posts or occupying high
official positions, do not look so confident, and seem embarrassed.
Princes listen to what these courtiers have to say, who share all their
pleasures and entertainments, and never stir out of the Louvre or the
Castle,[391] where they behave themselves as if quite at home and in
their own house; they seem to be in a thousand different places at
one and the same time; their countenances are sure always to attract
the notice of any novice at court; they embrace and are embraced,
they laugh, talk loud, are funny, tell stories, and are of an easy
disposition; they are agreeable, rich, lend money, but, after all, are
of no importance.[392]

(19.) Would any person not think that to Cimon and Clitandre alone
are intrusted all the details of the State, and that they alone are
answerable for them? The one manages at least everything concerning
agriculture and land, and the other is at the head of the navy.
Whoever will give a sketch of them must express bustle, restlessness,
curiosity, activity, and paint Hurry itself. We never see them sitting,
standing, or stopping; no one has ever seen them walk; for they are
always running, and they speak whilst running, and do not wait for
an answer; they never come from any place, or go anywhere, but are
always passing to and fro. Stop them not in their hurried course,
for you would break their machinery; do not ask them any questions,
or, if you do, give them at least time to breathe and to remember
that they have nothing to do, can stay with you long, and follow you
wherever you are pleased to lead them. They do not, like Jupiterʼs
satellites,[393] crowd round and encompass their prince, but precede
him and give notice of his coming: they rush with impetuosity through
the crowd of courtiers, and all who stand in their way are in danger.
Their profession is to be seen again and again, and they never go
to bed without having acquitted themselves of such an important
duty, so beneficial to the commonwealth. They know, besides, all the
circumstances of every petty accident, and are acquainted with anything
at court people wish to ignore; they possess all the qualifications
necessary for a small post. Nevertheless they are eager and watchful
about anything they think will suit them as well as slightly
enterprising, thoughtless, and precipitate. In a word, they both carry
their heads very high, and are harnessed to the chariot of Fortune, but
are never likely to sit in it.

(20.) A courtier who has not a pretty name ought to hide it under a
better;[394] but if it is one that he dares own,[395] he should then
insinuate that his name is the most illustrious of all names, and his
house the most ancient of all others; he ought to be descended from the
princes of Lorraine, the Rohans, the Châtillons, the Montmorencys,[396]
and, if possible, from princes of the blood; he ought to talk of
nothing but dukes, cardinals, and ministers; to introduce his
paternal and maternal ancestors in all conversations, as well as the
_Oriflamme_[397] and the Crusades; to have his apartments adorned with
genealogical trees, escutcheons with sixteen quarters, and portraits
of his ancestors and of the relatives of his ancestors; to value
himself on his having an old castle with turrets, battlements, and
portcullises; to be always speaking of his race, his branch, his name,
and his arms; to say of a man that he is not a man of rank, of a woman
that she is not of noble extraction;[398] or to ask whether Hyacinthus
is a nobleman when they tell him he has drawn a great prize in the
lottery.[399] If some persons laugh at such absurd remarks, he lets
them laugh on; if others make erroneous comments, they are welcome; he
will always assert that he takes his place after the royal family, and,
by constantly repeating it, he will finally be believed.

(21.) It shows a simple mind to acknowledge at court the smallest alloy
of common blood, and not to set up for a nobleman.

(22.) At court people go to bed and rise only with a view to self; it
is what they revolve in their own minds morning and evening, night and
day; it is for this they think, speak, are silent or act; it is with
this disposition that they converse with some and neglect others, that
they ascend or descend; by this rule they measure all their assiduity,
complaisance, esteem, indifference, or contempt. Whatever progress any
of them seems to make towards moderation and wisdom, they are carried
away by the first motive of ambition along with the most covetous, the
most violent in their desires, and the most ambitious. Can they stand
still when everything is in motion, when everything is stirring, and
forbear running whither every one runs? Such people even think they
only owe their success in life to themselves; and a man who has not
made it at court is supposed not to have deserved it; and this judgment
is without appeal. However, is it advisable for a man to leave the
court without having obtained any advantage by his stay, or should he
remain there without favour or reward? This question is so intricate,
so delicate, and so difficult to decide, that a very large number of
courtiers have grown old without coming to any affirmative or negative
conclusion, and died, at last, without having arrived at any final

(23.) There is nothing at court so worthless and so contemptible as
a man who cannot assist us in the least to better our position; I am
amazed such a person dares appear there.

(24.) A man who sees himself raised far above his contemporaries,
whose rank was formerly the same as his own, and who made their first
appearance at court at the same time as he did, fancies it is a sure
proof of his superior merit, and thinks himself better than those other
people who could not keep up with him; but he forgets what he thought
of himself before he became a favourite, and what he thought of those
who had outstripped him.

(25.) It proves a good deal for a friend, after he has become a great
favourite at court, still to keep up an acquaintance with us.

(26.) If a man who is in favour dares to take advantage of it
before it is all over; if he makes use of a propitious gale to
get on; if he keeps his eye on any vacancies, posts, or abbeys,
asks for them, obtains them, and is stocked with pensions, grants,
and reversions,[400] people will blame him for being covetous and
ambitious, and will say that everything tempts him and is secured by
him, his friends and his creatures; and that through the numberless and
various favours bestowed on him, he, in his own person, has monopolised
several fortunes. But what should he have done? I judge not so much
by what people say, as by what they would have done themselves under
similar circumstances, and that is precisely what he has done.

We blame those persons who make use of their opportunities for
bettering their positions, because we are in a very inferior situation,
and, therefore, despair of being ever in such circumstances that will
expose us to a similar reproach. But if we were likely to succeed
them, we should begin to think they were not so much in the wrong as
we imagined, and would be more cautious in censuring them, for fear of
condemning ourselves beforehand.

(27.) We should not exaggerate things, nor blame the court for evils
which do not exist there. Courtiers never endeavour to harm real merit,
but they leave it sometimes without reward; they do not always despise
it when they have once discerned it, but they forget all about it;
for a court is a place where people most perfectly understand doing
nothing, or very little, for those whom they greatly esteem.

(28.) It would be very wonderful indeed, if among all the instruments I
employ for building up my fortune, some of them were not to miscarry. A
friend of mine who promised to speak for me does not say a single word;
another speaks without any spirit; a third speaks by accident against
my interests, though it was not his intention to do so. One lacks
the will, another sagacity and prudence; and none of them would be
sufficiently delighted in seeing me happy, and do everything in their
power for making me so. Every one remembers well enough what pains he
took in establishing his own position, and what assistance he got in
clearing his way to obtain it. We should not be averse to acknowledge
the services which certain people have rendered us, by rendering to
others some service on similar occasions, if our chief and only care
were not to think of ourselves when we have made our fortune.

(29.) Courtiers never employ whatever intelligence, skill, or
perspicacity they may possess to find out means of obliging those
of their friends who implore their assistance, but they only invent
evasive answers, plausible excuses, or what they call impossibilities
for moving in the matter; and then they think they have satisfied all
the duties which friendship and gratitude require.

No courtier cares to take the initiative in anything, but he will offer
to second him who does, because, judging of others by himself, he
thinks that no one will make a beginning, and that therefore he shall
not be obliged to second any one. This is a gentle and polite way of
refusing to employ his influence, good offices, and mediation in favour
of those who stand in need of them.

(30.) How many men almost stifle you with their demonstrations of
friendship, and pretend to love and esteem you in private, who are
embarrassed when they meet you in public, and at the kingʼs levée, or
at mass at Versailles, look another way, and do all they can to avoid
you. There are few courtiers who have sufficient greatness of soul or
confidence in themselves to dare to honour in public a man of merit but
who does not occupy a grand post.

(31.) I see a man surrounded and followed by a crowd, but he is in
office. I see another to whom every one says a few words, but he is a
court favourite; a third is embraced and caressed even by persons of
high rank, but he is wealthy; a fourth is stared at by all, and pointed
at, but he is learned and eloquent. I perceive one whom nobody omits
bowing to, but he is a bad man. I should like to see a man courted who
is merely good and nothing else.

(32.) When a man is appointed to a new post he is inundated with
praises, which flood the courtyards, the chapel, overflow the grand
staircase, the vestibules, the galleries, and all the rooms of the
palace;[401] he has quite enough of them, and can no longer bear it.
There are not two different opinions about him; those of envy and
jealousy are the same as those of adulation; every one is carried away
by the raging torrent which forces a person to say what he thinks of
such a man, or what he does not think of him, and often to commend a
man of whom he has no knowledge. If such a man has any intelligence,
merit, or valour, he becomes in one moment a genius of the first
order, a hero, a demi-god; he is so extravagantly flattered in all
the portraits painted of him that he appears disagreeably ugly when
compared with any of them; it is impossible for him ever to reach the
point to which servility and adulation would have him rise; he blushes
at his own reputation. But let him not be so firmly established in
the post in which he has been placed as people thought he was, and
the world will without difficulty entertain another opinion. If his
downfall be complete, then the very men who were instrumental in
raising him so high by their applause and praise are quite ready to
overwhelm him with the greatest contempt; I mean, there are none who
will despise him more, blame him with greater acrimony, or deny him
with more contumely than those very men who were most impassioned in
speaking well of him.[402]

(33.) It may be justly said that it is easier to get appointed to an
eminent and difficult post than to keep it.

(34.) We see men fallen from a high estate for those very faults for
which they were appointed to it.

(35.) At court there are two ways of dismissing or discharging servants
and dependants; to be angry with them, or to make them so angry with us
that they leave us of their own accord.

(36.) Courtiers speak well of a man for two reasons: firstly, that he
may know they have commended him; and secondly, that he may say the
same of them.

(37.) It is as dangerous at court to make any advances as it is
embarrassing not to make them.

(38.) There are some people who, if they do not know the name or the
face of a man, make this a pretence for laughing at him. They ask who
that man is; it is not Rousseau, Fabry, or La Couture,[403] for then
they would know him.

(39.) I am told so many bad things of this man, and see so few in him,
that I begin to suspect he has some merit which is so vexatious that it
eclipses the merit of others.

(40.) You are an honest man,[404] and do not make it your business
either to please or displease the favourites. You are merely attached
to your master and to your duty; you are a lost man.

(41.) None are impudent by choice; but they are so constitutionally,
and though it is quite wrong, yet it is natural; a man who is not born
so is modest and cannot easily pass from one extreme to another. It
would be useless to advise such a man to be impudent in order to be
successful; a bad imitation will not do him any good, and would ensure
his failure. Without real and ingenious effrontery there is not doing
anything at court.

(42.) We seek, we hurry, we intrigue, we worry ourselves, we ask and
are refused; we ask again and get what we ask for; but we pretend we
obtained it without ever having asked for it, or so much as thought
about it, and even when we had quite another thing in view. This is an
obsolete style, a silly falsehood, which deceives nobody.

(43.) A man intrigues to obtain an eminent post, lays all his plans
beforehand, takes all the right measures, and is on the point of being
as successful as he wishes; some people are to initiate the business
in hand, others are to second it; the bait is already laid, and the
mine ready to be sprung; and then the candidate absents himself from
the court. Who would dare suspect that Artemon ever aimed at so fine
a post when he is ordered to leave his seat or his government to fill
it?[405] Such an artifice and such a policy has become so stale, and
the courtiers have so often employed it, that if I would impose upon
the world and mask my ambition, I should always be about the prince
to receive from his own hand that favour which I had solicited so

(44.) Men do not like us to pry into their prospects of bettering
their position, or to find out what post they are anxious to occupy,
because, if they are not successful, they fancy their failure brings
some discredit upon them; and if they succeed, they persuade themselves
it redounds more to their credit that the giver thought them worthy
of it than that they thought themselves worthy of it, and, therefore,
intrigued and plotted; they appear decked in their stateliness as well
as in their modesty.[406]

Which is the greater shame, to be refused the post which we deserve, or
to be put into one we do not deserve?

Difficult as it is to obtain a place at court, it is yet harder and
more difficult to be worthy of filling one.

A man had better be asked by what means he obtained a certain post than
why he did not obtain it.

People become candidates for any municipal office, or try to get a seat
in the French Academy,[407] but formerly they endeavoured to obtain a
consulship. Why should a man not labour hard during the early years of
his life to render himself fit for eminent posts, and then ask openly
and fearlessly, without mystery and without any intriguing, to serve
his fatherland, his prince, and the commonwealth?

(45.) I never yet have seen a courtier whom a prince has appointed
governor of a wealthy province, given a first-rate place, or a large
pension, who does not protest, either through vanity, or to show
himself disinterested, that he is less pleased with the gift than with
the manner in which it was given. What is certain and cannot be doubted
is that he says so.

To give awkwardly denotes the churl; the most difficult and unpleasant
part is to give; then, why not add a smile?

There are, however, some men who refuse with more politeness to grant
you what you ask than others know how to give;[408] and some of whom
it has been said that you have to ask them so long, and they give so
coldly and impose such disagreeable conditions on whatever favour you
have to tear from them, that their greatest favour would be to excuse
us from receiving any.[409]

(46.) There are some men at court so covetous that they catch hold of
any rank or condition to reap its benefits; governments of provinces,
offices, benefices, nothing comes amiss to them; they are so situated
that, by virtue of their official position, they can accept any kind of
favour; they are amphibious, live by the church and the sword, and one
day or other will discover the secret of including the law also.[410]
If you ask what those men do at court, you will be told that they
receive and envy every one to whom anything is given.

(47.) A thousand people at court wear out their very existence by
embracing, caressing, and congratulating all persons who have received
favours, and die without having any bestowed on themselves.

(48.) Menophilus[411] borrows his manners from one profession and his
dress from another; he goes masked all the year, though he does not
conceal his countenance; he appears at court, in town, and elsewhere,
always under a certain name and in the same disguise. He is found out
and known by his face.

(49.) There is a highroad or a beaten road, as it is called, which
leads to grand offices, and there is a cross or bye-way which is much
the shortest.

(50.) We run to get a look at some wretched criminals, we line one side
of the street, and we stand at the windows to observe the features
and the bearing of a man who is doomed and knows he is going to die,
impelled by a senseless, malignant, inhuman curiosity. If men were
wise, they would avoid public executions, and then it would even be
considered infamous to be present at such spectacles.[412] If you
are of such an inquisitorial turn of mind, exercise your curiosity
on a noble subject, and look on a happy man on the very day he has
been appointed to a new post, and when he is congratulated on his
nomination; read in his eyes, through his affected composure and
feigned modesty, his delight and latent exultation; observe how quiet
his heart beats and how serene his countenance looks now that he has
obtained all he wished; how he thinks of nothing but his long life
and health; how, at last, his joy bursts forth and can no longer be
concealed; how he bends beneath the weight of his happiness, and how
coolly and stiffly he behaves towards those who are no longer his
equals; he vouchsafes them no answer, and seems not to see them; the
embraces and demonstrations of friendship of men of high rank, whom
he views now no more from a distance, finish his ruin; he becomes
bewildered, dazed, and for a short time his brain is turned. You who
would be happy and in your princeʼs favour, consider how many things
you will have to avoid.[413]

(51.) When a man has once got into office, he neither makes use of his
reason nor of his intelligence to regulate his behaviour and manners
towards others, but shapes them according to his office and his
position; this is the cause of his forgetfulness, pride, arrogance,
harshness, and ingratitude.[414]

(52.) Theonas having been an _abbé_[415] for thirty years, grows
weary of being so any longer. Others show less anxiety and impatience
in being clad in purple than he displays in wearing a golden cross on
his breast;[416] and because no great festival at court has ever made
any alteration in his position,[417] he rails at the times, declares
the state badly governed, and forebodes naught but ill for the future.
Convinced in his heart that in courts merit is prejudicial to a man
who wishes to better his position, he at last makes up his mind to
renounce the prelacy; but some one hastens to inform him that he has
been appointed to a bishopric, and full of joy and conceit at news so
unexpected he says to a friend, “Youʼll see I shall not remain a bishop
for ever; I shall be an archbishop yet.”

(53.) There must be knaves at court[418] about the great and the
Ministers of State, even if those are animated with the best
intentions; but to know when to employ them is a very difficult
question, and requires a certain amount of shrewdness. There are times
and seasons when others cannot fill their places; for honour, virtue,
and conscience, though always worthy of our respect, are frequently
useless, and therefore in certain emergencies an honest man[419] cannot
be employed.

(54.) An ancient author, whose very words I shall take the liberty
to quote,[420] for fear I should weaken the sense of them by my
translation, says: “To forsake the common herd, nay, oneʼs very equals,
to despise and vilify them; to get acquainted with rich men of rank;
to join them in their private amusements, deceits, tricks, and bad
business; to be brazen-faced, shameless, bankrupt in reputation; to
endure the gibes and jokes of all men, and, in spite of all this, not
to fear to go on, and that skilfully, has been the cause of many a
manʼs fortune.”

(55.) The youth of a prince is the making of many courtiers.

(56.) Timantes,[421] still the same, and possessed of that very merit
which at first got him reputation and rewards, has deteriorated in the
opinion of the courtiers, who are weary of respecting him; they bow to
him coldly, forbear smiling on him, no longer accost nor embrace him,
nor take him into a corner to talk mysteriously about some trivial
affair; they have nothing more to say to him. He receives a pension, or
is honoured by being appointed to a new post; and his virtues, almost
dead in their memories, revive whilst their thoughts are refreshed; now
they treat him as they did at the beginning, and even better.

(57.) How many friends, how many relatives of a new Minister, spring
up in a single night! Some men pride themselves on their former
acquaintance, on their having been his fellow-students or neighbours;
others ransack their genealogy, go back to their great-grandfather, and
recall their father and motherʼs side, for in some way or other every
one wishes to be related to him; several times a day people affirm
they are his relatives, and they would even gladly print it. They say
presently: “The Minister is my friend; I am very glad of his promotion,
and I ought to share in it, for he is a near relative of mine.” Would
those silly men, those servile votaries of fortune, those effete
courtiers, have said this a week ago? Has the Minister become a more
virtuous man, or more worthy of his sovereignʼs choice, or were they
waiting for this appointment to know him better?[422]

(58.) What supports me and comforts me when sometimes men of high rank
or my equals slight me, is the feeling that perhaps those very men only
despise my position; and they are quite right, for it is a very humble
one; but they would doubtless worship me if I were a Minister.

Am I suddenly to obtain some post, and do people know it, or foresee
it, because they forestall me and bow to me first?

(59.) A man who tells us he has dined the day before at Tibur, or
is going to have supper there tonight, and repeats it often, who
brings in the name of Plancus[423] about a dozen times during a few
minutesʼ conversation, such as, “Plancus asked me....” or “I said to
Plancus....” is told that very moment that his hero has been snatched
away by sudden death. He starts off at a tangent, gathers around him
the people in the market-place or underneath the porticoes; accuses
the deceased, rails at his conduct, and blackens his administration;
he even denies him a knowledge of those details which the public own
he had mastered, will not allow him to have had a good memory, refuses
to praise him for his steadiness of character and power of work, and
will not do him the honour to believe that among all the enemies of the
State there was one who was Plancusʼ enemy.

(60.) I think it must be a pretty sight for a man of merit to observe
at a meeting, or at a public entertainment, that the very seat which
has been refused him is given up before his face to a man who has
neither eyes to see nor ears to hear,[424] nor sense to know and to
judge, and who has nothing to recommend him but his court-dress as a
favourite,[425] which now he himself is above wearing.

(61.) Theodotus[426] is staid in dress, whilst his countenance, as
theatrical as an actorʼs who has to appear on the stage, harmonises
with his voice, his carriage, gestures, and attitude. He is cunning,
cautious, insinuating, mysterious; he draws near you and whispers, “It
is fine weather; it is thawing.” If he has no grand qualifications,
he has all the little ones, even those which would scarcely become
a youthful _précieuse_.[427] Imagine the application of a child
building a house of cards or catching a butterfly; such is Theodotus,
engaged on an affair of no consequence, and which is not worth any
oneʼs attention; he, however, treats it seriously, and as if it were
of the greatest importance; he moves about, bestirs himself, and is
successful; then he takes breath and rests awhile, as indeed he should,
for he has given himself a good deal of trouble. Some people are
intoxicated, and bewitched with the favour of the great; they think of
them all day, and dream of them all night; they are always trotting
up and down the stairs of a Ministerʼs apartment, go in and come out
of his ante-chamber, but they have nothing to say to him, though they
speak to him; they speak to him a second time, and they are highly
pleased, for they have spoken. Press them, squeeze them, and nothing
will be got from them but pride, arrogance, and presumption; address
them, and they do not answer; they know you not, they look bewildered,
and their brain is turned; their relatives should take care of them and
lock them up, lest in time their folly should drive them frantic, and
make them harm some one. Theodotus has a gentler hobby; he immoderately
loves favour, but his passion is less impetuous, and he worships it
secretly, and fosters and serves it mysteriously; he is ever on the
watch to discover who are the new favourites of the king;[428] if these
wish for anything, he offers to serve them, and to intrigue for them;
and stealthily sacrifices to them merit, connections, friendship,
engagements, and gratitude. If the place of Cassini[429] were vacant,
and a Swiss porter or postillion of a favourite were applying for
it, he would support his pretensions, judge him worthy of the place,
and think him capable of making observations and calculations, and
of discussing about parhelions and parallaxes.[430] Should you like
to know whether Theodotus be an author or a plagiary, original or a
copyist, I will give you one of his works, and bid you read and judge.
Who can decide, from the picture I have drawn, whether he is really
pious, or merely a courtier?[431] I can with more assurance proclaim
whether the stars will be propitious to him. Yes, Theodotus, I have
calculated your nativity; you will obtain an appointment, and that
very soon; so abandon your lucubrations, and print no more any of your
writings; the public begs for quarter.

(62.) Never more expect candour, frankness, justice, good offices,
services, kindness, generosity, steadiness from a man who for some time
has spent all his days at court, and secretly wishes to better his
fortunes. Do you know him by his face or conversation? He no longer
calls things by their proper names; for him there exist no longer any
knaves, rogues, fools, or impertinent people; if by chance he
should say of any man what he thinks of him, that very man might come
to know it, and prevent him from getting on.[432] Though he thinks
ill of everybody, he speaks ill of none, for he only wishes success
to himself, but would make believe that he wishes it to everybody, so
that all may assist him, or at least that nobody may oppose him. Not
satisfied with being insincere himself, he cannot endure that any one
should be otherwise; truth offends his ear; he is indifferent, and
does not care what remarks are made about the court and courtiers, but
because he knows what they mean, he fancies himself an accomplice, and
answerable for them. A tyrant in society and a martyr to his ambition,
he is mournfully circumspect in his conduct and in his language; his
raillery is innocent, but cold and constrained; his laughter is forced,
his demonstrations of friendship deceptive, his conversation desultory,
and his absence of mind frequent: he is profuse in his praises, and,
if I may say so, pours out torrents of them whenever any man in office
and a favourite does or says the smallest thing; but for any other
person he is as sparing with his words as if he were consumptive. He
has different formulas for complimenting people on entering or leaving
a room, as well when he visits as when he is visited, and none of those
who are satisfied with mere appearances and forms of speech ever leaves
him discontented. He aims at getting patrons as well as partisans,
and is a mediator, a confidant, and a go-between; he wishes to rule;
he is as anxious as a novice to do every trifling thing that has to
be observed at court; he knows where a man must stand to be seen; he
can embrace you, share in your joy, ask you one question after another
about your health and your affairs; and while you are answering him,
he loses the thread of his curiosity, interrupts you, and begins
another subject; or if he happens to see some one whom it is necessary
to address in a different way, he finishes his congratulations to you
whilst condoling with the other person; he weeps with one eye and
laughs with the other. Sometimes, in imitation of the Ministers or the
favourite, he speaks in public of trivial things, such as the wind or
the frost, but, on the contrary, is silent and very mysterious about
some important things he does know, and still more so about some he
does not know.

(63.) There is a country[433] where all joy is conspicuous but false,
and all grief hidden but real. Who would imagine that the anxiety to
be present at entertainments, the raptures and applause at Molièreʼs
or Harlequinʼs comedies,[434] the banquets, the chase, the ballets,
and _carrousels_,[435] conceal so much uneasiness, so many cares and
such various interests, so many fears and expectations, so many ardent
passions, and such serious matters of business.

(64.) Court life is a serious, sad game, requiring application; a man
must arrange his pieces and his plans, have a design, pursue it, thwart
his adversaries, now and then venture something, and play capriciously;
yet after all those fancies and contrivances he may be kept in check,
and not seldom be checkmated; whilst often with well-handled men he
may queen it and win the game; the most skilful or the most fortunate
player obtains the victory.

(65.) The wheels, the springs, the movements of a watch are hidden, and
only the hands can be seen gradually going round and finishing their
course. This is a true image of a courtier, who goes over a great deal
of ground, but often returns to the very same point whence he started.

(66.) “Two-thirds of my life are already gone; why, then, should
I perplex myself so much about the remainder? The most brilliant
career neither deserves the anxiety I suffer, nor the meannesses I
accidentally commit, nor the humiliations and mortifications I have to
bear. In thirty years those giants of power whom we can hardly perceive
without raising our heads will be destroyed; I, who am so small, and
those to whom I looked up with so much anxiety and from whom I expected
all my greatness, will have disappeared. The best of all good things,
if such there be in this world, is repose, retirement, and a place you
can call your own.” N ... was of this opinion when he was in disgrace,
but he forgot it in his prosperity.[436]

(67.) A nobleman who resides in his own province, lives free, but
without patronage; if he lives at court he will be patronised, but is a
slave; so one thing compensates for another.

(68.) Xantippus,[437] at the uttermost end of his province, under
an old roof and in a wretched bed, dreamt one night that he saw his
prince, spoke to him, and felt great joy at this; when he awoke he was
melancholy, told his dream, and exclaimed, “What strange fancies a man
may have in his sleep!” Xantippus some time afterwards went to court,
saw the prince, and spoke to him; and then his dream was more than
realised, for he became a favourite.

(69.) Nobody is a greater slave than an assiduous courtier, unless it
be a courtier who is more assiduous.

(70.) A slave has but one master; an ambitious man has as many masters
as there are people who may be useful in bettering his position.

(71.) A thousand men scarcely known appear every day in crowds at the
levée,[438] to be seen by their prince, who cannot see a thousand at a
time; if to-day he only sees those whom he saw yesterday and will see
to-morrow, how many must be unhappy![439]

(72.) Of all those persons who dangle after men of rank, and pay their
respects to them, a few honour them in their hearts, a great number
follow them out of ambition or interest, but the motive of the largest
number is a ridiculous vanity or a silly impatience to be noticed.

(73.) There are certain families who, according to the ways of the
world, and what we call decency, ought never to be reconciled to one
another; however, now they are good friends, for those whom religion
could not induce to lay aside their feuds, interest, without much
trouble, has linked together.

(74.) People say there exists a certain country where old men are
gallant, well-mannered, and polite, young men, on the contrary,
unfeeling, rude, ill-mannered, and impolite; they no longer entertain
a passion for the fair sex at an age when, in other countries, young
men begin to entertain it; and prefer to that sex feasts, revelry, and
ridiculous amours. Amongst those people a man is considered sober and
moderate who is never intoxicated with anything but wine, the excessive
use of which makes it appear insipid; they endeavour by brandy, and by
the strongest liquors, to revive their taste, which is already gone,
and want nothing to complete their excesses but to drink _aquafortis_.
The women of that country hasten the decay of their beauty by their
artifices to preserve it; they paint their cheeks, eyebrows, and
shoulders, which they bare, together with their breasts, arms, and
ears, as if they were afraid of concealing those parts which they think
will please, or of not showing enough of themselves. The countenance of
the inhabitants of this country is not clear, but blurred and shrouded
with a mass of hair that does not belong to them, but which they prefer
to their own, and which is woven into a something to cover their heads,
hanging down half way their bodies, altering all their features, and
preventing people from being known by their natural faces. This nation
has, besides, its God and its king: the high and mighty among them go
at a fixed time every day to a temple they call a church; at the upper
end of that temple stands an altar consecrated to their God, where a
certain priest celebrates some mysteries, called by them holy, sacred,
and formidable. The high and mighty men stand in a large circle at
the foot of the altar, with their back to the priest and the holy
mysteries, and their faces towards their king, who is seen kneeling in
a raised and open pew, and towards whom all minds and all hearts seem
directed. However, a certain kind of subordination is to be observed
whilst this is going on; for this people seem to adore their prince,
and their prince appears to worship God. The natives of this country
call it.... It is situated about forty-eight degrees northern latitude,
and more than eleven hundred leagues by sea from the Iroquois and the

(75.) Whoever will consider that a kingʼs presence constitutes
the entire happiness of courtiers, that their sole occupation and
satisfaction during the whole course of their lives is to see and be
seen by him,[441] will in some measure understand how to behold God may
constitute the glory and felicity of the saints.[442]

(76.) Great noblemen show their respect for their prince; this concerns
them, as they have also their dependants. Courtiers of inferior rank
are more relaxed in those duties, assume a kind of familiarity, and
live like men whose examples none will follow.

(77.) What is there wanting in the youth of the present time? They can
do and they know everything; or at least if they do not know as much as
it is possible to know, they are as positive as if they did.

(78.) How weak are men! A great lord says of your friend Timagenes
that he is a blockhead, but he makes a mistake. I do not require you to
reply that Timagenes is a clever man, but only dare think he is not a

He says also that Iphicrates is a coward; and you have seen him perform
an act of bravery. But do not be uneasy. I do not insist you should
relate it, but, after what you have heard this lord say, still remember
that you saw him perform it.

(79.) To know how to speak to a king is perhaps the sole art of a
prudent and pliant courtier. One word escapes him, which the prince
hears, recollects, and sometimes lodges in his heart; there is no
recalling it; all the care and skill that can be used to explain or
soften it, serves only to impress it the more and to bite it in deeper.
If the courtier has only spoken against himself, though this misfortune
is very unusual, the remedy is at hand; he must take warning by his
fault, and bear the punishment of his levity; but if another be the
victim, he ought to feel dejected and contrite. Is there a better
rule in such a dangerous conjuncture than to talk to our sovereign
of others, of their persons, works, actions, manners, or conduct, at
least with the same reserve, precaution, and care with which we talk of

(80.) I would say that a man who tries to be witty must have a most
wretched character, if it had not been said before.[443] Those persons
who injure the reputation or position of others for the sake of a
witticism deserve to be punished with ignominy; this has not been said
before, and I dare say it.

(81.) There are a certain number of ready-made phrases which we store
and use when we wish to congratulate one another. Though we often utter
them without really feeling what we say, and are received without
gratitude, yet we must not omit them, because, at least, they represent
the very best thing in this world, namely, friendship; and since men
cannot depend on one another in reality, they seem to have agreed to be
satisfied with appearances.

(82.) With five or six terms of art, and nothing else, we set up for
connoisseurs in music, painting, architecture, and gastronomy; we fancy
we have more pleasure than others in hearing, seeing, or eating; we
impose on our fellow-creatures and deceive ourselves.

(83.) At court there are always a certain number of people to whom
a knowledge of the world, politeness, or fortune supply the want of
merit;[444] they know how to enter and to leave a room; they are never
embarrassed in their conversation, because they never engage in one;
they please by their very taciturnity, and make themselves appear of
importance by their prolonged silence, or by uttering, at most, a few
monosyllables; they answer you by a glance, an intonation, a gesture,
and a smile; their understanding, if I may venture on the expression,
is only two inches deep, and if you fathom it, you will soon come to
the bottom.

(84.) There are some men on whom favour lights as it were accidentally;
they are the first it surprises and even alarms; they recollect
themselves at last, and think they are worthy of their good fortune;
and, as if stupidity and fortune were two things incompatible, or as if
it were impossible to be lucky and foolish at one and the same time,
they fancy they are intelligent, and venture, or I should rather say,
are conceited enough, to speak on all occasions, on every possible
subject, and without any regard for their audience. I might add that at
last they become terrible, and disgust every one by their fatuity and
nonsense. This is at least certain; they infallibly discredit those who
assisted them in their promotion.[445]

(85.) What shall we call those who are only shrewd in the opinion of
fools? I know this, that able men rank them with the people they impose

A man must be very shrewd to make other people believe that he is not
so sharp after all.

Shrewdness is neither too good nor too bad a quality, but is something
between a virtue and a vice; there is scarcely any circumstance in
which prudence cannot supply its place, and, perhaps, in which it ought
not to do so.

Shrewdness is a near neighbour of rascality; there is but a step from
the one to the other, and that a slippery one; falsehood only makes the
difference, for add shrewdness to it, and the result is rascality.

Amongst those people who, out of shrewdness, hear everything and talk
little, be sure to talk less; or, if you must talk much, say little.

(86.) You have a just and important business depending on the
consent of two persons; and one of them says to you that he will favour
it provided the other will agree to it, which the latter does, though
he wishes to know what the first intends doing. Meanwhile nothing comes
of it; and months and years roll on to no purpose. You say you are
bewildered, that it is a complete mystery to you, and that all that was
necessary for your success was for these two persons to meet together
and to converse about it. I tell you I see through it all, and it is no
mystery to me; they have met and conversed about your business.

(87.) Methinks a man who solicits for others shows the confidence of a
person asking for justice, whilst he who speaks or acts for himself is
as embarrassed and bashful as if he were asking a favour.

(88.) If a courtier be not continually upon his guard against the
snares laid for him to make him ridiculous, he will, with all
his sagacity, be amazed to find himself duped by people far less
intelligent than he is.

(89.) In life some circumstances may happen when truth and simplicity
prove the best policy.

(90.) If you are in favour, whatever you do is well done; you commit no
faults, and every step you take leads you to the goal; but if you are
not in favour, everything you do is faulty and useless, and whatever
path you take leads you out of the way.

(91.) A man who has schemed for some time can no longer do without it;
all other ways of living are to him dull and insipid.

(92.) Intelligence is requisite to be a schemer; yet a man may have a
sufficient amount of it to be above scheming and plotting, and above
subjecting himself to such things; in such a case he takes other means
for bettering his fortune, or for acquiring a brilliant reputation.

(93.) Fear not, O Aristides, with your sublime intellect, your
universal learning, your well-tried honesty, and your highly
accomplished merits, to fall into disgrace at court, or to lose the
favour of men of high rank so long as they need you.[446]

(94.) Let a favourite watch his actions very narrowly; for if I have to
wait in his anteroom not so long as usual; if his countenance be more
open, his forehead less clouded; if he listens to me more patiently,
and sees me to the door a little farther than he used to do, I shall
think he is tottering, and shall not be mistaken.

Man has but very little strength of mind, for disgrace or
mortifications are needed to make him more humane, pliable, less rude,
and more of a gentleman.

(95.) If we observe certain people at court, their discourses and their
whole conduct show that they think neither of their grandfathers nor
grandchildren; they only care for the present, and that they do not
enjoy, but abuse.

(96.) Straton[447] is born under two planets, equally fortunate and
unfortunate; his life is a romance, but with even less probability.
Adventures he had none, but good and bad dreams in abundance, or, if I
may say so, no dreams come up to his life. Fate has been to none more
kind than to him; he is acquainted with the mean and the extremes of
life; he has made a figure, been in distress, led an ordinary life,
and gone through all vicissitudes. He has made himself valued for
those virtues which he seriously asserted he possessed; he has said of
himself, “I have intelligence and courage,” and every one said after
him, “He has intelligence and courage.” In his good and bad fortune he
has experienced the disposition of courtiers, who said of him perhaps
more good and more ill than ever he deserved. When people praised him
they called him pretty, amiable, rare, wonderful, and heroic; and words
quite the contrary have also been employed to vilify him. His character
is heterogeneous, mixed and confused; his life has been an enigma,
which is not yet wholly solved.

(97.) Favour raises a man above his equals, and disgrace throws him
below them.

(98.) He who one day or other deliberately abandons a great name, a
great authority, or a large fortune, frees himself at once from many
troubles, many restless nights, and sometimes from many crimes.

(99.) The world will be the same a hundred years hence as it is now;
there will be the same stage and the same decorations, though not the
same actors. All who were glad to receive favours, as well as those who
were grieved and in despair for boons that were refused, shall have
disappeared from the boards; others have already made their entrances
who will act the same parts in the same plays, and in their turn make
their exits, whilst those who have not yet appeared one day will also
be gone, and fresh actors will take their places. What reliance is
there to be placed on any actor?

(100.) Whoever has seen the court has seen the most handsome, the
best-looking, and the most decked-out part of the world. He who
despises the court after having seen it, despises the world.

(101.) The city makes a man take a dislike to the country; the country
undeceives him as to the city and cares of the court.

A healthy mind acquires at court a liking for solitude and




(1.) The common people are so blindly prepossessed in favour of the
great, and so enthusiastic about their bearing, looks, tone of voice,
and manners, that if the latter would take it into their heads to be
good, this prepossession would become idolatry.

(2.) If you are intrinsically vicious, O Theagenes[449] I pity you;
if you have become so out of weakness for those men who have an
interest in your being debauched, who have conspired to corrupt you,
and boast already of their success, you will excuse me if I despise
you. But if you are wise, temperate, modest, polite, generous,
grateful, industrious, and besides of a birth and rank which ought to
set examples rather than copy those others give, and to make rules
rather than to receive them, agree with such a class of men, and be
complaisant enough to imitate their disorders, vices, and follies,
after the respect they owe you has obliged them to imitate your
virtues. This is a bitter but useful ironical remark, very suitable
for securing your morals, for ruining all their projects, and for
compelling them to remain as they are, and leave you as you are.

(3.) In one thing great men have an immense advantage over others; they
may enjoy their sumptuous banquets, their costly furniture, their dogs,
horses, monkeys, dwarfs, fools, and flatterers; but I envy them the
happiness of having in their service their equals, and sometimes even
their superiors, in feelings and intelligence.

(4.) Great lords delight in opening glades in forests, in raising
terraces on long and solid foundations, in gilding their ceilings, in
bringing a good deal of water where there was none before, in growing
oranges in hothouses; but they are not anxious to restore peace to
the distracted, to make joyful the afflicted, and to forestall urgent
necessities, or to relieve them.

(5.) The question arises, whether, in comparing the different
conditions of men, their troubles and advantages, we cannot observe
such a mixture or balance of good and evil as seems to place them on
an equality, or at least as makes one scarcely more desirable than
another. Those men who are powerful, rich, and who want nothing may put
the question, but the decision must be left to the indigent.

There is, however, a kind of charm belonging to each of those different
conditions, and which lasts till misery removes it. The great please
themselves in excess, their inferiors in moderation: these delight in
lording and commanding; those are pleased, and even proud, to serve and
to obey: the great are surrounded, complimented, and respected; the
little surround, compliment, and cringe; and both are satisfied.

(6.) Good words cost the great so little, and their rank gives them
such a dispensation for not keeping what they have most solemnly
promised, that they really are moderate in being so sparing of those

(7.) “Such a person,” says some great man, “has grown old and feeble,
and has worn himself out in my service. What can I do for him?” A
younger competitor steps in, and obtains the post which had been
refused to this unfortunate man for no other reason but that he too
well deserved it.

(8.) “I do not know how it happens,” you exclaim with a cold and
disdainful air, “that Philanthes, though he possesses merit,
intelligence, is agreeable, exact in fulfilling his duties, faithful
and fond of his master, is not greatly valued by him, cannot please,
and is not at all liked.”—“Explain yourself; do you blame Philanthes or
the great man whom he serves?”

(9.) It is often more advantageous to quit the service of great men
than to complain of them.

(10.) Who can explain to me why some men get a prize in a lottery and
others find favour with the great?

(11.) The great are so happily situated that in the whole course of
their lives they never feel the loss of their best servants, or of
persons eminent in their various capacities, and from whom they have
obtained all the pleasure and profit they could. As soon as those
unique persons, so difficult to replace, are dead, a host of flatterers
are ready to expose their supposed weaknesses, from which, according to
them, their successors are entirely free; they are convinced that these
successors, whilst possessing all the skill and knowledge of their
predecessors, will have none of their faults; and this is the language
which consoles princes for the loss of worthy and excellent servants,
and makes them satisfied with indifferent ones.[450]

(12.) The great feel a contempt for intelligent men, who have nothing
but intelligence; men of intelligence despise the great, who possess
nothing but greatness; a good man pities them both, if their greatness
or intelligence is not allied with virtue.

(13.) When, on the one hand, I see some brisk, busy, intriguing,
bold, dangerous, and obnoxious persons at the table of the great, and
sometimes intimate with them, and, on the other hand, consider what
difficulty a man of merit has to obtain an interview with them, I am
not always inclined to believe that the wicked are tolerated out of
interest, or that good men and true are looked upon as useless; but I
am rather confirmed in my opinion that rank and sound judgment do not
always go together, and that a liking for virtue and virtuous people is
a distinct quality.

(14.) Lucilius chooses to spend his life rather in being admitted on
sufferance by a few of the great than in being reduced to his living
familiarly with his equals.

The custom of associating with people who are our superiors in rank
ought to have some restrictions; it often requires extraordinary
talents to put it into practice.[451]

(15.) Theophilusʼ disease seems to be incurable; he has suffered
from it these thirty years, and now he is past recovery. He was, is,
and will always be desirous of governing the great; death alone can
extinguish with his life this craving for swaying and ruling other
minds. Is it in him zeal for his neighbourʼs weal, or is he accustomed
to it, or is it an excessive good opinion he has of himself? He
insinuates himself into every palace, and does not stop in the middle
of an apartment, but goes on to a window-niche or a closet; other
people wait to be seen or to have an audience till he has finished
his speech, which lasts generally a goodly time, during which he
gesticulates much. He penetrates the secrets of many families, has
a share in their good or bad fortunes; forestalls many an occasion,
offers his services, and forces himself upon people so discreetly[452]
that he must be admitted. The care of ten thousand souls, for which he
is accountable to Providence as much as for his own, is not sufficient
to employ his time or satisfy his ambition; there are others of a
higher rank, and of more consideration, for whom he is not responsible,
but of whom he officiously takes charge. He listens and watches for
anything that may gratify his spirit of intrigue, meddling and
muddling. A great man has scarcely set foot on shore, but he gets hold
of him, and pounces upon him; and we hear that Theophilus is his guide
and director before we could even suspect he had so much as thought of

(16.) A coldness or incivility from our superiors in rank makes us hate
them; but a bow or a smile soon reconciles us.

(17.) There are some proud men whom the success of their rivals humbles
and mortifies; it is a disgrace which even sometimes makes them return
your bow; but time, which alleviates all things, restores them at last
to their natural disposition.

(18.) The contempt the great feel for the common people renders them so
indifferent to their flattery or praises, that it does not feed their
vanity. In like manner, princes praised continually and unreservedly by
the great and the courtiers, would be more elated if they had a better
opinion of those who praise them.

(19.) The great believe themselves the only persons who are the pink
of perfection, and will hardly allow any sound judgment, ability,
or refined feelings in any of a meaner rank; but they arrogate to
themselves those qualities by virtue of their birth. However, they are
greatly in error in entertaining such absurd prejudices, for the best
thoughts, the best discourses, the best writings, and perhaps the most
refined behaviour, have not always been found among them. They have
large estates and a long train of ancestors, and there is no arguing
about those facts.[454]

(20.) Have you any intelligence, grandeur of mind, capacity, taste,
sound judgment? Can I believe prejudice and flattery which so boldly
proclaim your merit? No! I suspect and reject them. I will not be
dazzled by that look of capacity and grandeur which makes it appear
as if you could act, speak, and write better than any one else; which
makes you so niggardly of bestowing praise, and renders it impossible
to obtain the smallest approbation from you. Hence I naturally infer
that you are a favourite, have influence, and are very wealthy. How
shall we describe you, Telephon?[455] We can only approach you as we do
fire, namely, from a certain distance; and to form an opinion of you
in a sensible and rational manner, we ought to strip you, handle you,
and confront you with your equals. Your confidant, your most intimate
friend, who gives you advice, for whom you give up the society of
Socrates and Aristides, with whom you laugh, and who laughs louder than
yourself, Davus,[456] in short, I know thoroughly; and this is enough
for me to make you out.

(21.) There are some persons who, if they did know their inferiors and
themselves, would be ashamed to be above them.

(22.) If there are but few excellent orators, are there many who
can understand them? If good writers are scarce, are there many who
can read? Thus we are always complaining of the paucity of persons
qualified to counsel kings, and assist them in the administration
of affairs; but if such able and intelligent personages make their
appearance, and act according to their ideas and knowledge, are they
beloved and esteemed as much as they deserve? Are they commended for
what they plan and do for their country? They exist, that is all; they
are censured if they fail, and envied if they succeed. Let us then
blame the people for whom it would be ridiculous to find an excuse. The
great and those in power look on their dissatisfaction and jealousy as
inevitable; and, for this reason, they have been gradually induced not
to take into account and to neglect their opinions in whatever they
undertake, and even to consider this a rule in politics.

The common people hate one another for the injuries they reciprocally
do each other; the great are execrated by them for all the harm they
do, and for all the good they do not, whilst they are also blamed for
their obscurity, poverty, and misfortunes.

(23.) The great think it too much condescension to have the same
religion and the same God as the common people, for how can they be
called Peter, John, or James, as any tradesman or labourer? Let us
avoid, they say, to have anything in common with the multitude; let
us affect, on the contrary, a distinction which may separate us from
them; the people are welcome to the twelve apostles, their disciples,
and the first martyrs, fit patrons for such folks; let them every
year rejoice on some saintʼs day, which each celebrates as if it were
his birthday;[457] but for us great people, let us have recourse to
profane names, and be baptized by such patronymics as Hannibal, Cæsar,
and Pompey, for they were indeed great men; by that of Lucretia, for
she was an illustrious Roman lady; or by those of Rinaldo, Rogero,
Oliviero, and Tancredo,[458] who were paladins and among the most
marvellous heroes of romance; by those of Hector, Achilles, or
Hercules, all demi-gods: even by those of Phœbus and Diana; and who
shall prevent us from calling ourselves Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, or

(24.) While the great neglect to become acquainted not only with the
interests of their princes and with public affairs, but with their
own, while they ignore how to govern a household or a family, boast of
this very ignorance, and are impoverished and ruled by their agents,
while they are satisfied with being dainty in eating and drinking,[460]
with visiting Thais and Phryne,[461] talking of various packs of
hounds, telling how many stages there are between Paris and Besançon or
Philipsburg,[462] some citizens instruct themselves in what is going
on within and without the kingdom, study the art of government, become
shrewd politicians, are acquainted with the strength and weakness of an
entire state, think of bettering their position, obtain a place, rise,
become powerful, and relieve their prince of a portion of the cares
of state. The great, who disdained them, now respect them, and think
themselves fortunate in being accepted as their sons-in-law.[463]

(25.) If I compare the two most opposite conditions of men, I mean
the great and the common people, the latter appear satisfied if they
only have the necessities of life, and the former fretful and poor
amidst superfluities. A man of the people can do no harm; a great man
will do no good, and is capable of doing great mischief; the first
only plans and practises useful things, the second adds to them what
is hurtful. Here rusticity and frankness show themselves ingenuously;
there a malignant and corrupt disposition lies hidden under a veneer
of politeness. If the common people have scarcely any culture, the
great have no soul; the first have a good foundation and no outward
appearances; the latter are all outward appearance and but a mere
superstratum. Were I to choose between the two, I should select,
without hesitation, being a plebeian.

(26.) However able the great at court may be, and whatever skill they
may possess in appearing what they are not, and in not appearing what
they are, they cannot conceal their malice and their inclination to
make fun of other people, and often to render a person ridiculous who
is not really so. These fine talents are discovered in them at the
first glance, and are admirable without doubt to ensnare a dupe or
make a fool of a man who already was one, but are still better suited
to deprive them of the pleasure they might receive from a person of
intelligence, who knows how to vary and adapt his conversation in a
thousand agreeable and pleasant ways, and would do so, if the dangerous
inclination of a courtier to ridicule any one did not induce him to be
very reserved; he, therefore, assumes a grave air, and so effectively
entrenches himself behind it, that the jokers, ill disposed as they
are, cannot find an opportunity of making fun of him.

(27.) Ease, affluence, and a smooth and prosperous career are the cause
why princes can take some delight in laughing at a dwarf, a monkey, an
imbecile, or a wretched story; men less fortunate never laugh but when
they ought to.

(28.) A great man loves champagne and hates wine from La Brie; he gets
intoxicated with better wine than a man of the people; and this is the
only difference between orgies in the two most opposite conditions of
life, that of a lord and of a footman.

(29.) It would seem, at the first glance, that the pleasures of princes
always are a little seasoned with the pleasure of inconveniencing other
people. But this is not so; princes are like other men; they only
think of themselves, and follow their own inclinations, passions, and
convenience, which is quite natural.

(30.) One would think that the first rule of companies, of people in
office and in power, is to provide those who depend on them in their
business with as many obstructions as they dread those dependants might
place in their way.

(31.) I cannot imagine in what a great man is happier than others,
except perhaps in having more often the power as well as the
opportunity of rendering a service; and if such an opportunity occurs,
it seems to me that by all means he ought to embrace it. If it is for
an honest man, he should be afraid of letting it slip; but as it is
right to act thus, he should forestall any solicitation, and not be
seen until thanks are due to him for his success: if it is an easy
thing to render such a service, he should not set any value on it; if
he refuses to assist this honest man, I pity them both.

(32.) Some men are born inaccessible, and yet these are the very men
of whom others stand in need, and on whom they depend; they move about
continually, are as restless as quicksilver, turn on their heels,
gesticulate, shout, and are always in motion. Like those cardboard
temples erected for fireworks during public festivals, they scatter
fire and flames, thunder and lightning; and there is no approaching
them until they are extinguished and have fallen down, and then only
they can be handled, but are of no more use, and good for nothing.

(33.) A Swiss hall-porter, a _valet-de-chambre_, a footman, if they
have no more sense than belongs to their station in life, do no longer
estimate themselves by the meanness of their condition, but by the rank
and fortune of those whom they serve, and without discrimination think
that all people who enter by the door or ascend the staircase where
they are in waiting are inferior to them and their masters; so true is
it that we are doomed to suffer from the great and from all who belong
to them.[464]

(34.) A man in office ought to love his prince, his wife, his children,
and, next to them, men of intelligence; he ought to befriend them,
surround himself with them, and never be without them; he cannot
repay, I will not say with too many pensions or kindnesses, but with
too great an intimacy and too many demonstrations of friendship, the
assistance and the services they render him even when he does not
suspect it. What rumours do they not scatter to the winds? How many
stories do they not prove to be but fable and fiction? How well do
they understand to justify want of success by good intentions, and
demonstrate the soundness of a project and the correctness of certain
measures by a prosperous issue; raise their voices against malice and
envy, and prove that good enterprises proceed from the best of motives;
put a favourable construction on wretched appearances, palliate slight
faults, exhibit only virtues and place them in the best light; spread
on innumerable occasions a report of facts and details which redound
to their patronʼs honour, and make a jest of those who dare doubt it
or advance anything to the contrary. I know it is a maxim with great
men to let people speak, while they themselves continue to act as
they think fit; but I also know that it not seldom happens that their
carelessness in paying attention to what people say of them prevents
them from performing the actions they intended.

(35.) To be sensible of merit, and, when known, to treat it well, are
two great steps quickly to be taken one after another, but of which few
great men are capable.

(36.) You are great, you are powerful, but this is not enough; act in
such a manner that I can esteem you, so that I should be sorry to lose
your favour, or sorry I was never able to obtain it.

(37.) You say of a great man or of a person in office, that he is very
obliging, kind, and delights in being serviceable; and you confirm this
by giving details of everything he has done in a certain business, in
which he knew you took some interest. I understand what you mean; you
succeed without any solicitation, you have influence, you are known to
the ministers of state, you stand well with the great. What else would
you have me understand?

A man tells you, “I think I am not very well treated by a certain
personage; he has become proud since he has bettered his position; he
treats me with contempt and no longer knows me.” You answer, “I have
no reason to complain of him; on the contrary, I must commend him; he
even seems to be to be very civil.” I believe I understand you too.
You would let us know that some person in office has a regard for you,
that in the anteroom he selects you from a large number of cultured
gentlemen from whom he turns aside, to avoid the inconvenience of
bowing to them or smiling on them.

“To commend some one, to commend some great man,” is a nice phrase to
start with, and which doubtless means to commend ourselves, when we
relate all the good some great man has done to us, or never thought of
doing to us.

We praise the great to show we are intimate with them, rarely out
of esteem or gratitude; we often do not know the persons we praise;
vanity and levity not seldom prevail over resentment; we are very
dissatisfied[465] with them, and yet we praise them.

(38.) If it is dangerous to be concerned in a suspicious affair, it is
much more so when you are an accomplice of the great; they will get
clear and leave you to pay double, and for them and for yourself.[466]

(39.) A princeʼs fortune is not large enough to pay a man for a base
complacency, if he considers what it costs the man whom he would
reward; and all his power is not sufficient to punish him, if he
measures the punishment by the injury done to him.

(40.) The nobility expose their lives for the safety of the state and
the glory of their sovereign, and the magistrates relieve the prince of
part of the burden of administering justice to his people. Both these
functions are sublime and of great use, and men are scarcely capable
of performing higher duties; but why men of the robe and the sword
reciprocally despise each other is beyond my comprehension.

(41.) If it be true that the great venture more in risking their lives,
destined to be spent in gaiety, pleasure, and plenty, than a private
person who ventures only a life that is wretched, it must also be
confessed that they receive a wholly different compensation, namely,
glory and a grand reputation. The common soldier entertains no thoughts
of becoming known, and dies unnoticed, among many others; he lived
indeed very much in the same way, but still he was alive; this is one
of the chief causes of the want of courage in people of low and servile
condition. On the contrary, those personages whose birth distinguishes
them from the common people, and who are exposed to the gaze of all
men, to their censures and praises, exert themselves more than they
were predisposed to do, even if they are not naturally courageous;[467]
and this elevation of heart and mind, which they derive from their
ancestors, is the cause of courage being usually found among persons of
noble birth, and is perhaps nobility itself.

Press me into the service as a common soldier, I am Thersites; put
me at the head of an army for which I am responsible to the whole of
Europe, and I am Achilles.[468]

(42.) Princes, without any science or rules, can form a judgment by
comparison; they are born and brought up amidst the best things, with
which they compare what they read, see, and hear. Whoever does not
approach Lulli, Racine, and Le Brun[469] they condemn.

(43.) To talk to young princes of nothing but their rank is an excess
of precaution, while all courtiers consider it their duty and part
and parcel of their politeness to respect them; so that they are less
apt to ignore the regard due to their birth than to confound persons,
and treat all sorts of ranks and conditions of men indifferently, or
without distinction. They have an innate pride which they show when
needed; they only have to be taught how to regulate it, and how to
acquire kindness of heart, culture, gentlemanly manners, and sound

[Illustration: L.F. BRUN]

(44.) It is downright hypocrisy in a man of a certain position not at
once to take the rank due to him, and which every one is willing to
yield; he need not trouble himself to be modest, to mingle with the
crowd that opens and makes way for him, to take the lowest seat at a
public meeting, so that every one may see him there and run to lead him
to a higher place. Modesty in men of ordinary condition is more trying;
if they push themselves into a crowd, they are almost crushed to death,
and if they choose an uncomfortable seat, they may remain there.[470]

(45.) Aristarchus hies to the market-place with a herald and a
trumpeter, who blows on his instrument, so that a crowd comes running
and gathers round him: “Oyez! Oyez! people!”[471] exclaims the herald,
“be attentive; silence! silence! This very Aristarchus, whom you see
before you, is to do a good action to-morrow.” I would have said, in
more simple and less ornate style: “Aristarchus has done well; is he
now going to do better? If so, let me not know that he does well, or at
least let me not suspect that I should be told it.”[472]

(46.) The best actions of men are spoiled and weakened by their
manner of doing them, which sometimes leaves even a suspicion of the
purity of their intentions. Whoever protects or commends virtue for
virtueʼs sake, or condemns and blames vice for the sake of vice,
acts without design, naturally, without any artifice or peculiarity,
pomp or affectation; he neither replies demurely and sententiously,
and still less makes sharp and satirical remarks;[473] he never acts
a part for the benefit of the public, but he shows a good example and
acquits himself of his duty; he is not a subject to be talked about
when ladies visit one another, nor for the _cabinet_,[474] nor amongst
the newsmongers;[475] he does not provide an amusing gentleman with a
subject for a funny story. The good he does is, indeed, a little less
known, but good he does, and what more could he desire?

(47.) The great ought not to like the early ages of the world, for they
are not favourable to them, and they must feel mortified to see that
we are all descended from one brother and sister. All mankind form but
one family, and the whole difference is merely in the nearer or remote
degree of relationship.

(48.) Theognis[476] is very dandified in his dress, and goes abroad
decked out like a lady; he is scarcely out of the house, and already
his looks and countenance are arranged in a studied manner, so that
he is fit to appear in public, and that the passers-by may behold him
gracefully bestowing his smiles on them. If he enters any apartments at
court, he turns to the right, where there is a large number of people,
and to the left, where there are none; he bows to those who are there
and to those who are not; he embraces the first man he meets, presses
his head against his bosom, and then asks his name. Some one wants his
assistance in a very easy matter of business; he waits on Theognis, and
presents his request, to which the latter kindly listens, is delighted
in being of use to him, and entreats him to procure him opportunities
of serving him; but when the other comes to the point, Theognis tells
him it lies not in his power to help him, begs him to fancy himself in
his position, and to judge for himself. The postulant leaves, is seen
to the door and caressed by Theognis, and becomes so embarrassed that
he is almost satisfied with his request being refused.

(49.) A man must have a very bad opinion of mankind and yet know them
well to believe he can impose on them with studied demonstrations of
friendship and long and useless embraces.

(50.) Pamphilus[477] does not converse with the people he meets in the
apartments at court or in the public walks; but some persons would
think by his serious mien and his loud voice that he admits them into
his presence, gives them audience, and then dismisses them. He has a
stock of phrases, at once civil and haughty; an imperious, gentlemanly
kind of civility, which he makes use of without any discrimination; a
false dignity which debases him, and is very troublesome to his friends
who are loth to despise him.

A true Pamphilus is full of his own merit, keeps himself always
in view, and never forgets his ideas about his grandeur, alliances,
office, and dignity; he takes everything belonging to his escutcheon,
and produces it when he wants to show off; he speaks of his order
and his blue ribbon,[478] which he displays or hides with equal
ostentation. A Pamphilus, in a word, would be a great man, and believes
he is one; but he really is not, and is only an imitation one. If
at any time he smiles on a person of the lower orders, or a man of
intelligence, he chooses his time so well that he is never caught in
the fact; and were he unfortunately caught in the least familiarity
with a person neither rich, powerful, nor the friend of a minister of
state, his relative, nor one of his household,[479] he would blush up
to his ears; he is very severe, and shows no mercy to a man who has not
yet made his fortune. One day he sees you in a public walk and avoids
you; the next day he meets you in a less public place, or, if it be
public, in the company of some great man, and he takes courage, comes
up to you, and says, “Yesterday you pretended not to see me.” Sometimes
he will leave you abruptly to go and speak to some lord and to the
secretary of some minister,[480] and sometimes, finding that you are in
conversation with them, he will pass between you and them[481] and take
them away. Meet him at any other time and he will not stop; you must
run and then heʼll speak so loud as to expose you and him to all within
hearing. Thus the Pamphiluses live, as it were, always on a stage;
they are a class nurtured in dissimulation, who hate nothing more than
to be natural, and who are real actors as much as ever Floridor and
Mondori[482] were.

We can never say enough of the Pamphiluses; they are servile and
timorous before princes and ministers; proud and overbearing to people
who are merely virtuous; dumbfounded and embarrassed before the
learned; brisk, forward, and positive before the ignorant. They talk of
war to a lawyer and of politics to a financier; they pretend to know
history among women, are poets among doctors, and mathematicians among
poets. They do not trouble themselves about maxims, and less about
principles; they live at random, are wafted onward and carried away by
a blast of favour and the attractions of wealth; they have no feelings
of their own, but they borrow them as they want them, and the person to
whom they apply is neither a wise, able, nor virtuous man, but a man of

(51.) We nourish a fruitless jealousy and an impotent hatred against
the great and men in power, which, instead of avenging us for their
splendour and position, only adds to our own misery the galling load of
anotherʼs happiness. What is to be done against such an inveterate and
contagious disease of the mind? Let us be satisfied with little, and,
if possible, with less; let us learn to bear those losses which may
occur; the prescription is infallible, and I will try it. Then I shall
refrain from bribing a doorkeeper or from mollifying a secretary;[483]
from being driven from the door by a large crowd of candidates and
courtiers which a ministerʼs house[484] disgorges several times a
day; from repining in an ante-chamber, from presenting to him, whilst
trembling and stammering, a well-founded request; from bearing with his
stateliness, his bitter laugh and his laconism. Now I neither hate nor
envy him any more; he begs nothing of me, nor I of him; we stand on the
same footing, unless perhaps that he is never at rest, and that I am.

(52.) If the great have frequent opportunities of doing us good, they
seldom wish to do so; and if they wanted to injure us it lies not
always in their power; therefore the sort of worship we pay them may
frustrate our expectations, if rendered from other motives but hope or
fear. A man may sometimes live a long while without depending on them
in the least, or being indebted to them for his good or bad fortune.
We ought to honour them, as they are great and we little, and because
there are others less than ourselves who honour us.

(53.) The same passions, the same weaknesses, the same meannesses, the
same eccentricities, the same quarrels in families and among relatives,
the same jealousies and antipathies prevail at court and in town.[485]
You find everywhere daughters-in-law, mothers-in-law, husbands
and wives; divorces, separations, and patched-up reconciliations;
everywhere fancies, fits of passion, partialities, tittle-tattle, and
what is called evil-talking. An observer would easily imagine that the
inhabitants of a small town or of the Rue Saint-Denis were transported
to V ... or to F....[486] In these two last places people display,
perhaps, more pride, haughtiness, and perhaps more decorum in hating
one another; they injure one another with more skill and refinement;
their outbursts of rage are more eloquent, and they insult one another
with more politeness and in a more select phraseology; they do not
defile the purity of the language, they only offend men or blast their
reputations; the outside of vice is handsome, but in reality, I say it
again, it is the same as in the most abject conditions, for whatever is
base, weak, and worthless is found there. These men so eminent by their
birth, by favour, or by their position, these minds so powerful and so
sagacious, these women so polished and so witty, are themselves but
common people, though they despise common people.

The words “common people” include several things; they are a
comprehensive expression, and we may be surprised to see what they
contain and how far they extend. The common people, in opposition to
the great, signify the mob and the multitude; but, as opposed to wise,
able, and virtuous men, they include the great as well as the little.

(54.) The great are governed by sensations; their minds are unoccupied,
and everything makes immediately a strong impression on them. If
anything happens, they talk about it too much; soon after they talk
about it but little, and then not at all, nor ever will; actions,
conduct, execution, incidents are all forgotten; expect from them
neither amendment, foresight, reflection, gratitude, nor reward.

(55.) We are led to two opposite extremes with regard to certain
persons. After their death satires about them are current among the
people, while the churches re-echo with their praises. Sometimes they
deserve neither those libels nor these funeral orations, and sometimes

(56.) The less we talk of the great and powerful the better; if we say
any good of them, it is often almost flattery; it is dangerous to speak
ill of them whilst they are alive, and cowardly when they are dead.




(1.) When we have cursorily examined all forms of government without
partiality to the one of our fatherland, we cannot decide which to
choose; they are all a mixture of good and evil; it is, therefore, most
reasonable to value that of our native land above all others, and to
submit to it.

(2.) Tyranny has no need of arts or sciences, for its policy, which
is very shallow and without any refinement, only consists in shedding
blood; it prompts us to murder every one whose life is an obstacle
to our ambition; and a man naturally cruel has no difficulty in doing
this. It is the most detestable and barbarous way of maintaining power
and of aggrandisement.

(3.) It is a sure and ancient maxim in politics that to allow the
people to be lulled by festivals, spectacles, luxury, pomp, pleasures,
vanity, and effeminacy, to occupy their minds with worthless things,
and to let them relish trifling frivolities, is efficiently preparing
the way for a despotism.

(4.) Under a despotic government the love for oneʼs native land does
not exist; self-interest, glory, and serving the prince supply its

(5.) To innovate or introduce any alterations in a state is more
a question of time than of action; on some occasions it would be
injudicious to attempt anything against the liberties of the people,
and on others it is evident that everything may be ventured on. To-day
you may subvert the freedom, rights, and privileges of a certain town,
and to-morrow you must not so much as think of altering the signboards
of their shops.[488]

(6.) In public commotions we cannot understand how the people can ever
be appeased, nor in quiet times imagine as little what can disturb them.

(7.) A government connives at certain evils in order to repress or
prevent greater ones. There are others which are only evils because
they originally sprang from abuses or bad customs, but these are less
pernicious in their consequences and practice than would be a juster
law or a more reasonable custom. Some kind of evils, which indeed are
very dangerous, are curable by novelty and change: other evils are
hidden and under ground, as filth in a common sewer; these are buried
in shame, secrecy, and obscurity, and cannot be stirred up or raked
about, without exhaling poison and infamy; so that the ablest men
sometimes doubt whether it be more judicious to take notice of them or
to ignore them. The State not seldom tolerates a comparatively great
evil to keep out millions of lesser ills and inconveniences which
otherwise would be inevitable and without remedy. Some there are,[489]
which are greatly complained of by private persons, but which tend to
benefit the public, though the public be only an aggregate of those
self-same private persons; other ills a person suffers which turn to
the good and advantage of every household; others, again, afflict,
ruin, and dishonour certain families, but tend to benefit and preserve
the working of the machinery of the State and of the government.
Finally, there are some which subvert governments and cause fresh ones
to arise on their ruins; and instances can be quoted of others which
have undermined the foundations of great empires, and utterly destroyed
them, merely to diversify and renew the surface of the globe.

(8.) What does the State care whether Ergastes be rich, has a good pack
of hounds, invents new fashions in carriages and dress, and wantons in
superfluities? Is the interest of a private person to be considered
when the interest and convenience of the public are in question? When
the burdens of the people weigh a little heavy, it is some comfort for
them to know that they relieve their prince and enrich him alone; but
they do not think they are obliged to contribute to the fortune of

(9.) Even in the most remote antiquity, and in all ages, war has
existed, and has always filled the world with widows and orphans,
drained families of heirs, and destroyed several brothers in one
and the same battle. Young Soyecourt![490] I mourn your loss, your
modesty, your intelligence, already so developed, so clear, lofty, and
communicative; I bewail that untimely death which carried you off, as
well as your intrepid brother, and removed you from a court where you
had barely time to show yourself; such a misfortune is not uncommon,
but nevertheless should be deplored! In every age men have agreed to
destroy, burn, kill, and slaughter one another, for some piece of
land more or less; and to accomplish this with the greater certainty
and ingenuity, they have invented beautiful rules, which they call
“strategy.” When any one brings these rules into practice, glory and
the highest honours are his reward, whilst every age improves on the
method of destroying one another reciprocally. An injustice committed
by the first men was the primary occasion for wars, and made the
people feel the necessity of giving themselves masters to settle their
rights and pretensions. If each man could have been satisfied with his
own property and had not infringed on that of his neighbours, the world
would have enjoyed uninterrupted peace and liberty.

(10.) They who sit peaceably by their own firesides among their
friends, and in the midst of a large town, where there is nothing to
fear either for their wealth or their lives, breathe fire and sword,
busy themselves with wars, destructions, conflagrations, and massacres,
cannot bear patiently that armies are in the field and do not meet;
or, if in sight, that they do not engage; or, if they engage, that
the fight was not more sanguinary, and that there were scarcely ten
thousand men killed on the spot. They are sometimes so infatuated as to
forget their dearest interests, their repose and security, for the sake
of change, and from a liking for novelty and extraordinary events; some
of them would even be satisfied with seeing the enemy at the very gates
of Dijon or Corbie,[491] with beholding chains stretched across the
streets and barricades thrown up, for the satisfaction of hearing and
of communicating the news.

(11.) Demophilus, on my right, is full of lamentations, and exclaims,
“Everything is lost; we are on the brink of ruin; how can we resist
such a powerful and general league?[492] What can we do, I dare not
say to vanquish, but to make head by ourselves against so many and
such powerful enemies? There never was anything like it as long as
the monarchy has existed! A hero, an Achilles, would have to succumb!
Besides,” adds he, “we have committed some very serious blunders; I
know what I am talking about, for I have been a soldier myself; I have
seen some battles, and have learned a good deal from studying history.”
Then he falls to admiring Olivier le Daim and Jacques Cœur,[493]
who, according to him, were men after his own heart, and ministers
indeed. He retails his news, which is sure to be the most melancholy
and disadvantageous that could be invented. Now a party of our soldiers
has fallen into an ambush, and are cut to pieces; presently some of
our troops, shut up in a castle, surrender at discretion, and are all
put to the sword. Should you tell him that such a report is incorrect,
and wants confirmation, he will not listen to you, but affirms that
a general has been killed, and though it is certain that he has only
been slightly wounded, and you tell him so, he deplores his death, is
sorry for the widow, the children, and the State, and is even sorry
for himself, for he has lost a good friend and an influential person.
He tells you the German horse are invincible, and turns pale if you
but name the Imperial cuirassiers.[494] “If we attack such a place,”
continues he, “we shall be obliged to raise the siege; we shall have to
remain on the defensive without engaging in action, or if we do fight,
we shall certainly be beaten, and then the enemy will be upon the
frontiers.” Demophilus gives them wings, and brings them presently into
the heart of the kingdom; he fancies he already hears the alarm-bells
ring in the towns, and thinks of his property and his estate; he does
not know where to take his money, his movables, and his family, and
whether to escape to the Swiss Cantons or to Venice.

But Basilides, on my left, raises suddenly an army of three hundred
thousand men, and will not abate a single troop; he has a list of all
the squadrons, battalions, generals, and officers, not omitting the
artillery and baggage. All these troops are at his entire disposal;
some he sends into Germany, others into Flanders, reserves a certain
number for the Alps, a smaller quantity for the Pyrenees, and conveys
the rest beyond seas; he knows their marches, he can tell what they
will do, and what they will not do; you would think he had the Kingʼs
ear, or was the ministerʼs confidant. If the enemies are beaten,[495]
and lose about nine or ten thousand men, he positively avers it was
thirty, neither more nor less; for his numbers are always as settled
and certain as if he had the best intelligence. Tell him in the
morning we have lost a paltry village, he not only puts off a dinner
to which the day before he had invited his friends, but does not take
any dinner himself on that day; and if he eats a supper it is without
appetite. If we besiege a town strong through its natural position, and
regularly fortified,[496] well stored with provisions and ammunition,
defended by a good garrison, commanded by a brave general, he tells
you the town has its weak spots, which are badly fortified, is in want
of powder, has a governor who lacks experience, and will capitulate
eight days after the trenches are opened. Another time he runs himself
quite out of breath, and after he has recovered himself a little he
exclaims, “I have some important news for you; our enemies are beaten
and totally routed; the general and principal officers, or at least
the greater part of them, are all killed, or have perished. What a
tremendous slaughter! We certainly have been very lucky!” Then he sits
down and takes a rest, after having told us the news, which only wants
a trifle more confirmation; for it is certain there has been no battle
at all. He assures us further that some prince, dreading our arms, has
abandoned the League and left his confederates in the lurch, and that
a second is inclined to follow his example; he believes firmly, with
the populace, that a third is dead,[497] and names you the place where
he is buried; and even when the common people[498] are undeceived, he
offers to lay a wager it is true. He knows for a fact that T. K. L.
is very successful against the Emperor,[499] that the Grand Turk[500]
is making formidable preparations, and will not hear of peace; and
that the Vizier will once more show himself before Vienna.[501] He
claps his hands and is as delighted as if there were not the smallest
doubt about it. The triple alliance[502] is a Cerberus[503] with him,
and the enemy only so many monsters to be knocked on the head. He
talks of nothing but laurels, palm-branches, triumphs, and trophies;
in conversation he speaks of “our august hero, our mighty potentate,
our invincible monarch,” and whatever you do, you will not get him to
say simply, “The King has a great many enemies; they are powerful,
united, and exasperated; he has conquered them, and I hope he will
always do so.” This style, too bold and decisive for Demophilus, is not
sufficiently pompous or grandiloquent for Basilides; his head is full
of other expressions; he is planning inscriptions for triumphal arches
and pyramids to adorn the capital when the conqueror will enter it; and
as soon as he hears that the armies are in sight of each other, or that
a town is invested, he has his clothes hung out and aired, so that they
should be ready when a _Te Deum_ is sung in the cathedral.[504]

(12.) A business which has to be discussed by the plenipotentiaries or
by the diplomatic agents of crowned heads and republics must needs be
unusually intricate and difficult if its conclusion requires a longer
time than the settling of the preliminaries, nay, even than the mere
regulating of ranks, precedences, and other ceremonies.

A minister or a plenipotentiary is a chameleon or a Proteus;[505]
sometimes, like a practised gambler, he hides his temper and character,
either to avoid any conjectures or guesses, or to prevent any part of
his secret escaping through passion or weakness; and at other times
he knows how to assume any character most suited to his designs, or
which is required, as it may be his interest artfully to appear to
other people as they think he really is. Thus when he intends to
conceal that his master is very formidable or very weak, he is resolute
and inflexible to prevent any large demands; or he is easygoing,
so as to give others an opportunity of making some demands, and so
secure the same liberty. At other times he is either diplomatic and
disingenuous, so as to veil a truth whilst telling it, because it is of
some importance to him to have it divulged but not believed; or else he
is free and open, so that when he wishes to conceal what should not be
known, people should nevertheless believe that he is acquainted with
everything they wish to know, and be convinced that they have been told
everything. In like manner he is fluent and verbose to excite others
to talk, or prevent their saying what he does not wish or ought not to
hear; to speak of many and various things which modify and destroy each
other, and leave the mind hovering between confidence and distrust;
to make amends for an expedient thoughtlessly proposed by suggesting
another; or he is sedate and taciturn to induce others to talk, to
listen for a long time, so that he may afterwards obtain the same
favour himself, speak with authority and weight, and utter promises or
threats which will influence people and produce a strong impression.
He begins and speaks first, the better to discover the opposition and
contradictions, the intrigues and cabals, of foreign ministers about
some proposals he has made, to take his measures and reply to them; and
at another meeting he speaks last, that he may be sure not to speak
in vain, and to be exact, so as perfectly to be aware on what support
he can reckon for his master and his allies, as well as to know what
he ought to ask and what he can get. He knows how to be clear and
explicit, or still better, how to be ambiguous and obscure, and to use
words and phrases with a double meaning, which he can render more or
less forcible as the occasion or his interest may require. He asks for
a little because he will not grant much; he asks for much to make sure
of a little. At first he insists upon getting a few trifling things,
which he afterwards pretends to be of small value, so as not to prevent
him for asking for one of greater value; he avoids, on the contrary, to
gain at first an important point, if it is likely to prevent him from
obtaining several others of less importance, but which, when united,
exceed the other in value. His demands are extravagant, but he knows
beforehand they will be denied, so he is provided with a convenient
excuse for refusing those he knows will be made, and which he does
not wish to grant; as industrious to aggravate the enormity of these
demands, and to let his adversaries admit, if possible, that there
may be reasons why they cannot agree, as to weaken those which they
pretend to have for not granting him what he solicits so urgently;
and as diligent in vaunting and in enlarging upon the little he has
to offer as he is in despising openly the little they are willing to
grant. He pretends to make some extraordinary proposals which beget
distrust, and cause to be rejected what indeed, if accepted, could not
be performed; this also serves to colour his exorbitant demands, and
throws on his antagonists the responsibility of a refusal. He grants
more than is asked, so as to get still more than he gives. You have to
pray, entreat, and beseech him for a long time to obtain some trifling
favour, so as to destroy all expectations and uproot all thoughts of
asking anything more important of him; or, if he is persuaded to grant
it, it is always on such conditions that he may share in its profits
and advantages. He directly or indirectly espouses the interest of an
ally, if he finds it at the same time conducive to the advancing of
his own pretensions; he talks of nothing but peace and alliances, the
public tranquillity and the public interests, and thinks, indeed, only
of his own, or rather of his masterʼs and the Stateʼs he represents.
Sometimes he reconciles some people who were opposed to one another,
and sometimes he divides those who were united; he intimidates the
powerful and encourages the weak; he draws several weak States into a
league against a more powerful one, under the pretence of a balance of
power, and then joins the former to turn the scale; but his protection
and his alliance are always expensive. He knows how to interest those
with whom he treats, and by a dexterous management and by shrewd and
subtle subterfuges he makes them perceive what private advantage,
profits, and honours they may derive through a certain pliability,
which does not in the least clash with their instructions nor with the
intentions of their masters. And in order not to be thought impregnable
on his side, he betrays some anxiety to better his fortunes, and then
receives some proposals which unveil to him the most secret intentions,
the most profound designs, and the last resource of his opponents,
and which he turns to his own advantage. If sometimes he is a loser
by certain stipulations, which have at last been settled, he clamours
loudly; and if he is not, he is still louder, and puts the losers on
their justification and defence. His court has laid down rules of
conduct for his guidance, all his measures are preconcerted, and his
smallest advances arranged beforehand; and yet, whilst subjects of the
greatest difficulty are treated and certain points are most strenuously
contested, he behaves as if his yielding was voluntary, unexpected,
and purely a condescension on his part; he dares even pledge his word
that a certain proposal will be approved of, and that his master will
not disavow his proceedings; he allows false reports to be spread
concerning his instructions, which are represented as very limited,
but he knows he has some private instructions which he never discloses
until obliged to do so, and when it would damage him not to bring them
forward. All his intrigues aim at something solid and substantial,
for which he always is ready to sacrifice punctilios and imaginary
points of honour. He possesses a great deal of coolness, is armed with
courage and patience, and wearies and discourages others, but is never
weary himself! He takes precautions and is hardened against all delays
and procrastination, against all reproaches, suspicions, mistrust,
difficulties, and obstacles, convinced that time and circumstances
will influence the minds of his opponents, and accomplish the desired
end. He goes so far as to pretend he has a secret purpose in breaking
off the negotiations, while he passionately desires their continuance;
but, on the contrary, when he has strict orders to do his utmost to
break them off, he thinks the best way to effect it is to urge they
should be continued and speedily despatched. If some important event
happens, he affects either haughtiness or affability, as it may be to
his advantage or prejudice; and if he is so perspicacious as to foresee
it, he hurries it on or temporises according as the state for whom he
labours dreads or desires it, and acts according to these emergencies.
He shapes his actions to suit time, place, and opportunities, his own
strength or weakness, the genius of the nation he has to deal with, and
the mood and character of the personages with whom he is negotiating.
All his designs and maxims, all the devices of his policy, tend only to
prevent his being deceived, and to deceive others.[506]

(13.) The French nation require their sovereign to be grave in his

(14.) One of the misfortunes of a prince is to be often overburdened
with a secret of which the communication would be dangerous; he is
fortunate if he can meet with a faithful confidant to whom he can
unbosom himself.[508]

(15). A prince can get everything he wants except the pleasures of a
private life: only the charms of friendship and the fidelity of his
friends can console him for such a great loss.

(16.) A monarch who deservedly fills a throne finds it pleasant
sometimes to be less grand, to quit the stage, to leave off the
theatrical cloak and buskins,[509] and act a more familiar part with a

(17.) Nothing is more creditable to a prince than the modesty of his

(18.) No ties of friendship or consanguinity affect a favourite; he may
be surrounded on all sides by relatives and friends, but he does not
mind them; he is detached from everything, and, as it were, isolated.

(19.) The best thing a man can do who has fallen into disgrace is to
retire from the court, for it would be better for him to disappear
than to wander about in society as a former favourite, and to act a
wholly different part from his first one. If he does this and remains
in solitude, his career will be looked upon as marvellous; and though
he dies, as it were, before his time, people will only remember his
splendour and his kindness.

A favourite who has fallen into disgrace can behave still better than
by becoming a hermit and trying to be forgotten, namely, by attempting
some lofty and noble deed, if he can do so, for which he will be
greatly praised, his reputation exalted, or, at least, confirmed; and
by which also it will be clearly proved that he deserved his former
favour, so that people will pity his downfall, and partly blame his

(20.) I do not doubt that a favourite who has a sufficiently powerful
and lofty mind must often feel embarrassed and abashed at the meanness,
littleness, and flattery, at the superfluous cares and frivolous
attentions of those who run after him, follow him, and cling to him,
like the vile creatures they are; no doubt he laughs and sneers at them
in private to make amends for the restraint he has to impose on himself
in public.

(21.) Ye who are in office, ministers of state or favourites, give
me leave to offer you some advice. Do not trust to your progeny to
look after your reputation when you are gone, or expect that they
will preserve the lustre of your name; titles pass away, a princeʼs
favour is evanescent, honours are lost, wealth is spent, and merit
degenerates. It is true you have children worthy of you, and I shall
even add, capable of maintaining the position you leave them; but can
you say the same thing of your grandchildren? Do not believe me, but
cast your eyes for once on some men whom you despise, and who are
descended from the very persons to whom you succeed, though you are
now in such a high position. Be virtuous and humane; and, if you ask
what more is necessary, I will tell you: “Humanity and virtue.” Then
you can command the future and be independent of posterity; then you
can be certain to last as long as the monarchy. And when in ages to
come some people will point out the ruins of your castles, and perhaps
only the spot where they once existed, the thought of your praiseworthy
deeds will still remain fresh in their minds; they will look eagerly
at portraits and medallions of you, and will say, “The man[511] whose
effigies you behold was one who dared to address his prince forcibly
and freely, and was more afraid of injuring than of displeasing him;
he did not oppose his being good and generous, nor his speaking of
his good cities and of his good people. In this other personage whose
portrait you see[512] you will observe strongly marked lineaments and
an austere and majestic air; his reputation increases every year, and
the greatest politicians cannot compete with him. His chief design was
to establish the authority of the prince, and to ensure the lives and
property of the people by destroying the power of the great; from this,
neither the opposition of various parties, conspiracies, treacheries,
the risk of being assassinated, nor his own infirmities, were able to
divert him; he accomplished it, and yet he had leisure to commence
another enterprise, since continued and completed by the best and
greatest of our princes, the extirpation of heresy.”[513]

(22.) The most artful and plausible snare that ever was set for great
men by their men of business, or for kings by their ministers, has been
the advice of liquidating their debts whilst enriching themselves.[514]
Such advice is admirable, such a maxim is useful and productive, and
proves a gold mine and a Peru, at least to those who have hitherto had
the address to instil it into their mastersʼ minds.[515]

(23.) Happy indeed is that nation whose prince appoints the very same
persons for his confidants and ministers whom the people would have
chosen themselves if they could have done so.

(24.) The mastering of the details of business and a diligent
application to the smallest necessities of the state are essential
to a good administration, though, in truth, too much neglected in
these latter times by kings and their ministers; it is a knowledge
greatly to be desired in a prince who is ignorant of it, and highly
to be valued in him who has acquired it.[516] Indeed, what benefits
and what increase of pleasure would accrue to a people by their
prince extending the bounds of his empire into the territories of his
enemies, by their sovereignties becoming provinces of his kingdom, by
his overcoming them in sieges and battles, by neither the plains nor
the strongest fortifications affording any security against him, by
the neighbouring nations asking aid of one another, and entering into
leagues to defend themselves and put a stop to his conquests, by their
leagues being in vain, by his continual advances and triumphs, by their
last hopes being frustrated by the monarch recovering his health,[517]
and thus affording him the pleasure of seeing the young princes, his
grandchildren, maintain and enhance his glory, beholding them lead an
army into the field, take the strongest fortresses, conquer new states,
command old and experienced officers rather by their genius and merit
than by the privilege of their noble birth, observing them tread in
the footsteps of their victorious father and imitate his goodness, his
willingness to learn, his justice, vigilance, and magnanimity. What
signifies it to me, in a word, or to any of my fellow-subjects, that
my sovereign be successful and overwhelmed with glory, through his own
actions as well as through those of his family and servants; that my
country is powerful and dreaded, if, sad and uneasy, I have to live
oppressed and poor; if, while I am secured against any inroads of the
enemy, I am exposed in the public squares or the streets of our cities
to the dagger of the assassin; or if rapine and violence are less to
be feared in the darkest nights amidst the densest forests than in our
streets; if security, order, and cleanliness have not rendered the
residing in our cities so delightful, and have not introduced there
plenty as well as the pleasures of social intercourse; or if, being
weak and defenceless, my property is to be encroached upon by some
great man in the neighbourhood; if there is not a provision made to
protect me against his injustice; if I have not within reach so many
masters, and excellent masters too, to instruct my children in sciences
and arts, which will one day raise their fortunes; if the improvement
of trade will not facilitate my providing myself with more decent
clothing[518] and wholesome food for my sustenance, at a reasonable
rate; if, to conclude, through the care my sovereign takes of me, I am
not as satisfied with my lot as his virtues must needs make him with
his own?

(25.) Eight or ten thousand men are to a prince like money; with
their lives he buys a town or a victory; but, if he can obtain either
at a cheaper rate, and is sparing of them, he is like a man who is
bargaining and knows better than any other the value of money.

(26.) All things succeed in a monarchy where the interests of the state
are identical with those of the prince.

(27.) To call a king the father of his people[519] is not so much to
eulogise him as to call him by his name and to define what he is.

(28.) There exists a sort of interchange or permutation of duties
between a sovereign and his subjects, and between them and him; and
I shall not decide which are most obligatory and most difficult. On
the one hand, we have to determine what are the bounden duties of
reverence, assistance, service, obedience, and dependence, and on the
other what are the indispensable obligations of goodness, justice, and
protection. To say the prince can dispose of the lives of the people,
is to tell us only that through their crimes men have become subjected
to the laws and justice which the king administers; to add that he is
absolute master of all his subjectsʼ goods without any considerations,
without rendering any accounts, or without discussion, is the language
of flattery, the opinion of a favourite who will recant on his

(29.) When on a fine evening a numerous flock of sheep is seen on a
hill quietly browsing thyme and wild thyme, or nibbling in a meadow
the short and tender grass which has escaped the scythe of the reaper,
the careful and diligent shepherd is amongst them; he does not lose
sight of them, but follows them, leads them, changes their pasture;
if they wander, he calls them together; if a hungry wolf approaches,
he sets his dog on to beat him off; he keeps them and defends them;
and when the sun rises he is already in the fields, which he leaves at
its setting. What an amount of care, watchfulness, and assiduity is
needed! Which condition seems to you the most delicious and the most
unfettered, that of the sheep or of the shepherd? Was the flock made
for the shepherd or the shepherd for the flock? This is an artless
representation of a nation and its prince, but then the prince must be

A gorgeous and sumptuous monarch is like a shepherd adorned with
gold and jewels, with a golden crook in his hands, with a collar of
gold about his dogʼs neck, and a silken and golden string to lead him.
What is his flock the better for all this gold, or what avails it
against the wolves?

(30.) How happy is that station which every instant furnishes
opportunities of doing good to thousands of men! how dangerous is that
post which every moment exposes its occupant to injure millions!

(31.) If men in this world cannot feel a more natural, praiseworthy,
and sensible pleasure than to know that they are beloved, and if kings
are men, can they purchase the hearts of their people at too high a

(32.) There are very few general rules and unvariable regulations
for governing well; they depend on times and circumstances, as well
as on the prudence and designs of the rulers. A perfect government
is, therefore, a masterpiece of the intellect; and perhaps it would
be impossible to attain it, if the subjects did not contribute their
moiety towards it by their habits of dependence and submission.

(33.) Those persons who, under a very great monarch, fill the highest
offices, have no very intricate duties to perform, and they do this
without any trouble; everything goes on easily; the authority and the
genius of the prince smoothes their way, rids them of all difficulties,
and makes everything prosper beyond their expectations; their merit
consists in being subordinates.[521]

(34.) If the care of a single family be so burdensome, if a man has
enough to do to answer for himself, what a weight, what a heavy load
must be the charge of a whole realm! Is a sovereign rewarded for all
his anxieties by the pleasures which absolute power seems to afford and
by the prostrations of his courtiers? When I think of the difficult,
hazardous, and dangerous paths he sometimes is forced to tread to
attain public tranquillity; when I think of the extreme but necessary
means he often is obliged to employ to compass a good end; when I am
aware he is accountable to God for the welfare of his people, that good
and evil are in his hands, and that he cannot plead ignorance as an
excuse, I cannot forbear asking myself the question if I should like to
reign? A man who is tolerably happy as a private individual should not
abandon it for a throne, for, even to one who occupies it by hereditary
right, it is almost unbearable to be born a monarch.

(35.) How many gifts Heaven must bestow on a prince for him to become
a good ruler! He must be of royal blood, have an august and commanding
air, a presence to satisfy the curiosity of a crowd anxious to see
the prince, as well as to command respect from his courtiers.[522]
His temper must be always the same; he must be averse to ill-natured
raillery, or, at least, be so sensible as to refrain from it; he
must never threaten, reproach, nor give way to passion, yet he must
be always obeyed; he should be complacent and engaging, so frank and
sincere that all may think they plainly see the bottom of his heart,
which will tend to gain him friends, partisans, and allies; yet he
must be secret, close, and impenetrable in his motives and plans; he
must be very grave and serious in public; be brief, precise, and
dignified in his answers to ambassadors, as well as in his expressions
in council; be careful in choosing fit objects for his favours, and
bestow them with that peculiar charm which enhances them; great must be
his sagacity to penetrate into the minds, qualifications, and tempers
of men, to nominate them to various posts and places, as well as to
select his generals and ministers of state. His opinions should be so
settled, sound, and decisive in matters of state, as immediately to
point out what is the best and most honest thing to do; his mind ought
to be so upright and just as sometimes to decide against himself and in
favour of his subjects, allies, or enemies; so comprehensive and ready
should be his memory as to remember the necessities of his subjects,
their faces, names, and petitions.[523] His capacious intelligence
should not only exercise itself on foreign affairs, commerce, maxims
of state, political designs, extension of the frontiers by conquering
new provinces, and ensuring their safety by numerous and inaccessible
forts; but also look after the affairs of his own kingdom, and study
them in detail; banish from it a false, insidious, and anti monarchical
sect,[524] if such a one exists; abolish all barbarous and impious
customs, if they are to be found there;[525] reform the abuses of
laws and usages, for such may have crept in;[526] render his cities
more safe and comfortable by establishing new police regulations,
more splendid and magnificent by sumptuous edifices; punish severely
scandalous vices; increase the influence of religion and virtue by
his authority and example;[527] protect the Church and clergy, their
rights and liberties;[528] and govern the nation like a father, always
intent on relieving it and making the subsidies as light as those
levied in the provinces[529] without impoverishing them. He must have
great talents for war, be vigilant, diligent, and unwearied, able
to command numerous armies, and be composed in the midst of danger;
he ought to be sparing of his own life for the good of the state,
and prefer its welfare and glory to that very life; his power must
be absolute, to leave no room for indirect influence, intrigues and
factions, and sometimes to lessen that vast distance which exists
between the great and the common people, so that they may be drawn
closer together, and obey that power equally; the knowledge of the
prince should be extensive, that he may see everything with his own
eyes, act immediately and by himself, so that his generals, though
at a distance, are but his lieutenants, and his ministers but his
ministers;[530] he should be sagacious enough to know when to declare
war, when to conquer and make the best use of a victory, when to make
peace, and when to break it; when, sometimes, to compel his enemies to
accept it, according to the various interests at stake; to set bounds
to his vast ambition, and how far to extend his conquests; he should
find leisure for games, festivals, and spectacles; cultivate arts and
sciences, and erect magnificent structures, even when surrounded by
secret and declared enemies. To conclude, he should possess a superior
and commanding genius, which renders him beloved by his subjects and
feared by strangers, and makes of his court, and even of his entire
realm, as it were, one family, governed by one head, living in perfect
unison and harmony with one another, and thus formidable to the rest
of the world. All these admirable virtues seem to me comprised in the
notion of what a sovereign ought to be. It is true we rarely see them
all combined in one man, for too many adventitious qualities, such as
intelligence, feelings, outward appearances, and natural disposition,
must be found at the same time in him; it therefore appears to me that
a prince who unites all these in his single person well deserves the
name of Great.[531]

[Illustration: LOUIS XIV]




(1.) Let us not be angry with men when we see them cruel, ungrateful,
unjust, proud, egotists, and forgetful of others; they are made so; it
is their nature; we might just as well quarrel with a stone for falling
to the ground, or with a fire when the flames ascend.

(2.) In one sense men are not fickle, or only in trifles; they change
their habits, language, outward appearance, their rules of propriety,
and sometimes their taste; but they always preserve their bad morals,
and adhere tenaciously to what is ill and to their indifference for

(3.) Stoicism is a mere fancy, a fiction, like Platoʼs Republic.
The Stoics pretend a man may laugh at poverty; not feel insults,
ingratitude, loss of property, relatives, and friends; look
unconcernedly on death, and regard it as a matter of indifference which
ought neither to make him merry nor melancholy; not let pleasure or
pain conquer him; be wounded or burned without breathing the slightest
sigh or shedding a single tear; and this phantasm of courage and
imaginary firmness they are pleased to call a philosopher. They have
left man with the same faults they found in him, and did not blame
his smallest foible. Instead of depicting vice as something terrible
or ridiculous, which might have corrected him, they have limned an
idea of perfection and heroism of which man is not capable, and they
exhorted him to aim at what is impossible. Thus, the philosopher that
is to be, but will never exist except in imagination, finds himself
naturally, and without any exertions of his own, above all events and
all ills; the most excruciating fit of the gout, the most severe attack
of colic, cannot draw from him the least complaint; Heaven and earth
may be overturned, without dragging him along in their downfall; and
he remains calm and collected amidst the ruins of the universe, whilst
a man really beside himself utters loud exclamations, despairs, looks
fierce, and is in an agony for the loss of a dog or for a China dish
broken into pieces.

(4.) Restlessness of mind, inequality of temper, fickleness of
affections, and instability of conduct, are all vices of the mind,
but they are all different; and, in spite[532] of their appearing
analogous, are not always found in one and the same subject.

(5.) It is difficult to decide whether irresolution makes a man more
unfortunate than contemptible, or even whether it is always a greater
disadvantage to take a wrong step than to take none at all.

(6.) A man of variable mind is not one man, but several men in one; he
multiplies himself as often as he changes his taste and manners; he is
not this minute what he was the last, and will not be the next what he
is now; he is his own successor. Do not ask what is his nature, but
what are his proclivities; nor what mood he is in, but how many sorts
of moods he has. Are you not mistaken, and is it Eutichrates whom you
accost? To-day he is cool to you, but yesterday he was anxious to see
you, and was so demonstrative that his friends were jealous of you.
Surely he does not remember you; tell him your name.

(7.) Menalcas[533] goes down-stairs, opens the door to go out, and
shuts it again; he perceives that he has his nightcap on, and on
looking at himself with a little more attention, he finds that he is
but half shaved, that he has fastened his sword on the wrong side,
that his stockings are hanging on his heels, and that his shirt is
bulging out above his breeches. If he walks about, he feels something
strike him all at once in the stomach or in the face, and he cannot
imagine what it is, until he opens his eyes and wakes up, when he finds
himself before the shaft of a cart, or behind a long plank a workman
is carrying. He has been seen to run his head against a blind man, and
to get entangled between his legs, so that both fell backwards. Often
he meets a prince face to face, who wishes to pass; he recollects
himself with some difficulty, and scarcely has time to squeeze himself
up against the wall to make room for him.[534] He searches about,
rummages, shouts, gets excited, calls his servants one after another,
and complains that everything is lost or mislaid; he asks for his
gloves which he holds in his hands, like the woman who asked for the
mask she had on her face. He enters the rooms at Versailles,[535]
and passing under a chandelier, his wig gets hooked on to one of the
brackets and is left hanging, whilst all the courtiers stare and laugh.
Menalcas looks also, and laughs louder than any of them, staring in
the meanwhile at all the company to see what man shows his ears and
has lost his wig.[536] If he goes into town,[537] before he has gone
far he thinks he has lost his way, gets uneasy, and asks some of the
passers-by where he is, who name to him the very street he lives in; he
enters his own house, runs out in haste, and fancies he is mistaken. He
comes out of the _Palais de Justice_, and finding a carriage waiting
at the bottom of the great staircase, he thinks it is his own and
enters it; the coachman just touches the horses with his whip, and
supposes all the while he is driving his master home; Menalcas jumps
out, crosses the courtyard, mounts the stairs, and passes through the
ante-chamber and ordinary rooms into the study; but nothing is strange
or new to him; he sits down, takes a rest, and feels himself at home.
When the real master of the house arrives, he rises to receive him,
treats him very politely, begs him to be seated, and believes he is
doing the honours of his own room; he talks, muses, and talks again;
the master of the house is tired and amazed, and Menalcas as much as
he, though he does not say what he thinks, but supposes the other
is some bore who has nothing to do, and will leave soon—at least he
hopes so, and remains patient; yet it is almost night before he is
undeceived, and that with some difficulty. Another time he pays a visit
to a lady, and imagines that she is visiting him; he sits down in her
arm-chair[538] without any thought of giving it up; it then seems to
him that the lady is somewhat long in her visit, and he expects every
moment that she will rise and leave him at liberty; but as she delays,
he is growing hungry, and night coming on, he invites her to have some
supper with him, at which she bursts out in such loud laughter that
he comes to himself. He marries in the morning, but has forgotten it
at night, and does not sleep at home on his wedding-night; some time
afterwards his wife dies in his arms, and he is present at her funeral;
the next day one of the servants informs him that dinner is on the
table, when he asks if his wife is already dressed and if they have
told her it is served up. He enters a church, and takes a blind man,
always stationed at the door, for a pillar, and the plate he holds in
his hands for a holy-water basin, into which he dips his hands; and
when he makes the sign of the cross on his forehead, he, on a sudden,
hears the pillar speak and beg for alms; he walks through the aisle,
and fancying he sees a praying-chair, throws himself heavily on it;
the chair bends, gives way, and strives to cry out;[539] Menalcas is
surprised to find himself kneeling on the legs of a very little man,
and leaning on his back, with both his arms on his shoulders, his
folded hands extended, taking him by the nose and stopping his mouth;
he is quite confused, withdraws, and goes and kneels elsewhere. He
takes out his prayer-book as he thinks, but he pulls out a slipper
instead, which he had inadvertently put into his pocket before he went
out; he has hardly left the church when a footman runs after him, comes
up to him, and asks him, with a laugh, if he has not got the bishopʼs
slipper; Menalcas produces his, and assures him that he has no other
slippers about him; but, however, after searching he finds the slipper
of his lordship, whom he has just been visiting, had found indisposed
at his fireside, and whose slipper he had pocketed before he took his
leave, instead of one of his gloves he had dropt; so that Menalcas
returns home with one slipper less. One day whilst gambling he lost
all the money he had about him, and, as he wished to continue, he went
into his private room, unlocked a cupboard, took out his cash-box,
helped himself to whatever he pleased, and then thought he put it back
again in its former place; but he heard some barking going on in the
cupboard he just locked, and, quite astonished at this marvellous
occurrence, he opened it again, and burst out laughing on beholding
his dog he had locked up instead of his cash-box. Whilst he is playing
backgammon he asks for something to drink, which is brought him; it is
his turn to play, and, holding the box in one hand and the glass in
the other, and being very thirsty, he gulps down the dice and almost
the box, whilst the water is thrown on the board, and quite wets the
person he is playing with. One day being in a room with a family with
whom he was very intimate, he spits on the bed, and throws his hat on
the ground, thinking he is spitting on the floor and shying his hat
on the bed. Once on the river he asked what oʼclock it was; they hand
him a watch, but it is scarcely in his hands when he forgets both the
time and the watch, and throws the latter into the river as a thing
which bothers him. He writes a long letter, throws some sand on his
paper,[540] and then pours the sand into the inkstand; but that is not
all. He writes a second letter, and after having sealed both, he makes
a mistake in addressing them; one of them is sent to a duke and peer of
the realm, who, on opening it, reads: “Mr. Oliver,—Pray donʼt fail to
send me my provision of hay as soon as you receive this letter.” His
farmer receives the other letter, opens it, has it read to him, and
finds in it: “My lord,—I receive with the utmost submission the orders
which it has pleased your highness,” and so on. He writes another
letter at night, and after sealing it, puts out the light; yet is
surprised to be on a sudden in the dark, and is at a loss to conceive
how it has happened. Coming down the Louvre staircase, Menalcas meets
another person coming up, and exclaims that the latter is the very man
he is looking for; he takes him by the hand, and they go down-stairs
together, cross several courtyards, enter some apartments, and come out
again; he moves about, and returns whence he started; then, looking
more narrowly at the man he has thus been dragging after him for a
quarter of an hour, he wonders who it is, has nothing to say to him,
lets go his hand, and turns another way. He often asks a question,
and is almost out of sight before it is possible to answer him; or
else he will ask you, whilst he is running about, how your father is,
and when you answer him that he is seriously unwell, he will shout
to you that he is very glad to hear it. Another time, if you fall
in his way, he is delighted to meet you, and says he has just come
from your house to talk to you on a certain matter of business; then,
looking at your hand, he exclaims, “Thatʼs a fine ruby you wear; is
it a balass ruby?”[541] and then he leaves you, and goes on his way;
this is the important matter of business he was so anxious to talk to
you about. If he is in the country, he tells some person he must feel
happy he has been able to leave the court in the autumn and to have
spent on his estate all the time the court was at Fontainebleau;[542]
whilst to other people he talks about something else; then, going back
to the first, he says to him, “You have had some very fine weather
at Fontainebleau, and you must have followed the royal hunt pretty
often.” He begins a story which he forgets to finish; he laughs to
himself, and that aloud, at something he is thinking of, and replies
to his own thoughts; he hums a tune, whistles, throws himself into a
chair, sends forth a pitiful whine, yawns, and thinks himself alone.
When he is at a dinner-party he gradually gathers all the bread on his
own plate, and his neighbours have none; and he does the same with the
knives and forks, which do not remain long in their hands. Lately some
large spoons, convenient for helping every one, have been introduced
at certain tables; he takes one of these spoons, plunges it into the
dish, fills it, puts it into his mouth, and is highly astonished to see
the soup he has just taken all over his clothes and linen. He forgets
to drink at dinner, or, if he remembers it, thinks there is too much
wine poured out for him; he flings more than half of it in the face
of a gentleman seated at his right hand, drinks the rest with a great
deal of composure, and cannot understand why everybody should burst
out laughing for throwing on the floor the wine he did not wish to
drink.[543] He keeps his bed a day or two for a slight indisposition,
and a goodly number of ladies and gentlemen visit him, and converse
with him in the _ruelle_;[544] in their presence he lifts up the
blankets and spits in the sheets. He is taken to the Convent of the
Carthusians, where they show him a gallery adorned with paintings,
all executed by the hand of a master;[545] the monk who explains the
subjects persistently expatiates on the life of Saint Bruno, and points
out the adventure with the canon in one of the pictures.[546] Menalcas,
whose thoughts are all the while wandering away from the gallery, and
far beyond it, returns to it at last, and asks the monk whether it is
the canon or Saint Bruno who is damned. Being once, as it happened,
with a young widow, he talks to her of her deceased husband, and asks
of what he died; this conversation renews all the sorrows of the lady,
who, amidst tears and sobs, tells him all the particulars of her late
husbandʼs illness, from the night he first was attacked by fever to
his final agony; whereupon Menalcas, who apparently listens to her
narrative with great attention, asks her if the deceased was her only
husband. One morning he gets it into his head to hurry on everything
for dinner; but he rises before the dessert is brought on, and leaves
his guests by themselves. That day he is sure to be seen everywhere in
town except on the spot where he has made an appointment about the very
business which prevented him finishing his dinner, and made him walk,
for fear it would take too long a time to get the horses and carriage
ready. You may frequently hear him shout, scold, and get in a rage
about one of his servants being out of the way. “Where can that man
be?” says he;

“what can he be doing? what has become of him? Let him never more
present himself before me; I discharge him this very minute!” The
servant makes his appearance, and he asks him, in a contemptuous tone,
where he comes from; the man replies he has been where he was sent
to, and gives a faithful account of his errand. You would often take
Menalcas for what he is not, for an idiot; for he does not listen,
and speaks still less; for a madman, because he talks to himself, and
indulges in certain grimaces and involuntary motions of the head;
for proud and discourteous, because when you bow to him, he may pass
without looking at you, or look at you and not return your bow; for a
man without any feeling, for he talks of bankruptcy in a family where
there is such a blot; of executions and the scaffold before a person
whose father has been beheaded; of plebeians before plebeians who
have become rich and pretend to be of noble birth. He even intends
to bring up his illegitimate son in his house, and pretends he is a
servant; and though he would have his wife and children know nothing
about the matter, he cannot forbear calling him his son every hour of
the day. He resolves to let his son marry the daughter of some man of
business, yet he now and then boasts of his birth and ancestors, and
that no Menalcas has ever made a misalliance. In short, he seems to be
absent minded, and to pay no attention to the conversation going on; he
thinks and speaks at the same time, but what he says is seldom about
what he thinks; so that there is hardly any coherence and sequence in
his talk; he often says “yes” when he should say “no,” and when he
says “no,” you must suppose he would say “yes.” When he answers you so
pertinently, his eyes are fixed on your countenance, but it does not
follow that he sees you; he looks neither at you nor at any one, nor at
anything in the world. All that you can draw from him, even when he is
most sociable and most attentive, are some such words as these: “Yes,
indeed; it is true; very well; really; indeed; I believe so; certainly;
O Heaven!” and some other monosyllables, even not always used on
the right occasions. He never is with those with whom he appears to
be; he calls his footman very seriously “Sir,” and his friend “La
Verdure;”[547] says “Your Reverence” to a prince of the royal blood,
and “Your Highness” to a Jesuit. When he is at mass, and the priest
sneezes, he cries out aloud, “God bless you!” He is in the company
of a magistrate of serious disposition, and venerable by his age and
dignity, who asks him whether a certain event happened in such and such
a way, and Menalcas replies, “Yes, miss.” As he came one day from the
country, his footmen plotted to rob him and succeeded; they jumped down
from behind his coach, presented the end of a torch to his breast, and
demanded his purse, which he gave up.[548] When he came home he told
his friends what had happened, and when they asked for details he said
they had better inquire of his servants, who also were present.

(8.) Impoliteness is not a vice of the mind, but the consequence of
several vices; of foolish vanity, of ignorance of oneʼs duties, of
idleness, of stupidity, of absence of mind, of contempt for others, and
of jealousy. Though it only shows itself outwardly, it is not the less
odious, because it is a fault which is always visible and manifest;
however, it gives more or less offence, according as the motives for
displaying it are more or less offensive.

(9.) If we say of an angry, captious, quarrelsome, melancholy, formal,
capricious person, that it is all owing to his temper, it is not to
find an excuse for him, whatever people may think, but an involuntary
acknowledgment that such great faults admit of no remedy.

What we call good temper is a thing too much neglected among men; they
ought to understand that they should not alone be good, but also appear
to be so, at least if they are inclined to be sociable and disposed to
friendly intercourse; in other words, if they would be men. We do not
require wicked men to be gentle and urbane; in these qualities they
are never wanting, for they employ them to ensnare the simple, and to
find a larger field for their operations; but we wish kind-hearted men
always to be tractable, accessible, and courteous; so that there should
no longer be any reason for saying that wicked men do harm and that
good men make others uncomfortable.

(10.) The generality of men proceed from anger to insults; others act
differently, for they first give offence and then grow angry; our
surprise at such behaviour always supersedes resentment.

(11.) Men do not sufficiently take advantage of every opportunity for
pleasing other people. When a person accepts a certain post, it seems
that he intends to acquire the power of obliging others without using
it; nothing is quicker and more readily given than a refusal, whilst
nothing is ever granted until after mature reflection.

(12.) Know exactly what you are to expect from men in general, and
from each of them in particular, and then mix with the people around

(13.) If poverty is the mother of all crimes, lack of intelligence is
their father.

(14.) A knave can hardly be a very intelligent man; a clear and
far-seeing mind leads to regularity, honesty, and virtue; it is want
of sense and penetration which begets obstinacy in wickedness as well
as in duplicity; in vain we endeavour to correct such a man by satire;
it may describe him to others, but he himself will not know his own
picture; it is like scolding a deaf man. It would be well, please
gentlemen of sense and culture, and avenge everybody, if a rogue were
not so constituted as to be without any feeling whatever.

(15.) There are some vices for which we are indebted to none but
ourselves, which are innate in us, and are strengthened by habit; there
are others we contract which are foreign to us. Sometimes men are
naturally inclined to yield without much difficulty, to be urbane, and
to desire to please; but by the treatment they meet from those whom
they frequent and on whom they depend, they soon lose all moderation,
and even change their disposition; they grow melancholy and peevish to
a degree ere this unknown to them; their temper is completely changed,
and they are themselves astonished at their being rude and tetchy.

(16.) Some people ask why the whole bulk of mankind does not
constitute one nation, and does not like to speak the same language,
obey the same laws, and agree among themselves to adopt the same
customs and the same worship? For my part, observing how greatly
minds, tastes, and sentiments differ, I am astonished to see seven or
eight persons, living under the same roof and within the same walls,
constitute one family.[549]

(17.) There are some extraordinary fathers, who seem, during the whole
course of their lives, to be preparing reasons for their children for
being consoled at their deaths.[550]

(18.) Everything is strange in the dispositions, morals, and
manners of men: one person who during his whole lifetime has been
melancholy, passionate, avaricious, fawning, submissive, laborious,
and egotistical, was born lively, peaceable, indolent, ostentatious,
and with lofty feelings, abhorring anything base; want, circumstances,
and dire necessity have compelled him and caused such a great change.
Such a manʼs inmost feelings can really not be described, for too many
external things have altered, changed, and upset him, so that he is not
exactly what he thinks he is himself or what he appears to be.

(19.) Life is short and tedious, and is wholly spent in wishing; we
trust to find rest and enjoyment at some future time, often at an age
when our best blessings, youth and health, have already left us. When
at last that time has arrived, it surprises us in the midst of fresh
desires; we have got no farther when we are attacked by a fever which
kills us; if we had been cured, it would only have been to give us more
time for other desires.

(20.) A man requesting a favour from another, surrenders himself at
discretion to the personage from whom he expects it, but when he is
quite sure it will be granted, he temporises, parleys, and capitulates.

(21.) It is so usual for men not to be happy, and so essential for
every blessing to be acquired with infinite trouble, that what is
obtained easily is looked upon with suspicion. We can hardly understand
how anything which costs us so little can be greatly to our advantage,
or how by strictly honest means we can so easily obtain what we want;
we may think we deserve our success, but we ought very seldom to depend
on it.

(22.) A man who says he is not born happy may at least become so by the
happiness his friends and relatives enjoy, but envy deprives him even
of this last resource.

(23.) Whatever I may somewhere have said,[551] it is, perhaps, wrong to
be dejected. Men seem born to misfortune, pain, and poverty, and as few
escape this, and as every kind of calamity seems to befall them, they
ought to be prepared for every misfortune.

(24.) Men find it so very difficult to make business arrangements, they
are so very touchy where their smallest interests are concerned, they
are so bristling over with difficulties, so willing to deceive and so
unwilling to be deceived, they place so high a value on what belongs to
themselves, and are so apt to undervalue what belongs to others, that
I admit I cannot understand how and in what way marriages, contracts,
acquisitions, conventions, truces, treaties, and alliances are brought

(25.) Among some people arrogance supplies the place of grandeur,
inhumanity of decision, and roguery of intelligence.

Knaves easily believe others as bad as themselves; there is no
deceiving them, neither do they long deceive.

I would rather at any time be considered a fool than a rogue.

We never deceive people to benefit them, for knavery is a compound of
wickedness and falsehood.

(26.) If there were not so many dupes in this world there would be
fewer of those men called shrewd or sharp, who are honoured for having
been artful enough in deceiving others during the whole course of their
lives, and are proud of having done so. Why should you expect Erophilus
not to presume on himself and his shrewdness, whose breach of faith,
bad actions, and roguery, instead of doing him any harm, have procured
him favours and rewards, even from those whom he has either never
served or to whom he has done an ill turn?

(27.) We hear nothing in the squares and in the streets of great
cities, and out of the mouths of the passers-by, but such words as
“writs, executions, interrogatories, bonds, and pleadings.” Is there
not the smallest equity more left in this world? Or is it, on the
contrary, full of people who coolly ask for what is not due to them, or
who distinctly refuse to pay what they owe?

The invention of legal documents to remind men of what they promised,
and to convince them that they did so, is a shame to humanity.

If you suppress passion, interest, and injustice, how quiet would
the greatest cities be! The necessities of life, and the means of
satisfying them, are the cause of nearly half the difficulties.

(28.) Nothing is of greater assistance to a man for bearing quietly the
wrongs done to him by relatives and friends than his reflections on
the vices of humanity; on the difficulty men have in being constant,
generous, and faithful, or on their loving anything better than their
own interests. He knows the extent of their power, and does not require
them to penetrate solid bodies, to fly in the air, or to give every
one his due; he may dislike mankind in general for having no greater
respect for virtue; but he finds excuses for individuals, and even
loves them from higher motives, whilst he does his best to require
himself as little indulgence as possible.

(29.) There are certain things which we most passionately desire,
and of which the mere thought carries us away and throws us into an
ecstasy: if we happen to obtain them, we are less sensible of them than
we thought we should be, and we enjoy them the less because we aspire
to get some of greater importance.

(30.) There exist some evils so terrible and some misfortunes so
horrible that we dare not think of them, whilst their very aspect
makes us shudder; but if they happen to fall on us, we find ourselves
stronger than we imagined; we grapple with our ill luck, and behave
better than we expected we should.

(31.) Sometimes a pretty house which we inherit, or a fine horse, or
a handsome dog which is given to us, or some hangings, or a clock
presented to us, will alleviate a great grief, and make us feel less
acutely a great loss.

(32.) Suppose men were to live for ever in this world, I do not think I
could discover what more they could do than they do at present.

(33.) If life be wretched, it is hard to bear it; if it be happy, it is
horrible to lose it; both come to the same thing.

(34.) There is nothing men are so anxious to keep, and yet are so
careless about, as life.

(35.) Irene is at great cost conveyed to Epidaurus;[552] she visits
Æsculapius in his temple, and consults him about all her ailings. She
complains first that she is weary and excessively fatigued, and the
god replies that the long journey she just made is the cause of this;
she says that she is not inclined to eat any supper, and the oracle
orders her to eat less dinner; she adds she cannot sleep at night, and
he prescribes her to lie a-bed by day; she complains of her corpulency,
and asks how it can be prevented; the oracle replies she should get up
before noon and now and then use her legs to walk; she declares that
wine disagrees with her, the oracle bids her drink water; she suffers
from indigestion, and he tells her she must diet herself. “My sight
begins to fail me,” says Irene. “Use spectacles,” says Æsculapius. “I
grow weak,” continues she; “I am not half so strong nor so healthy as
I was.” “You grow old,” says the god. “But how,” asks she, “can I get
rid of this disease?” “The shortest way to cure it, Irene, is to die,
as your mother and grandmother have done.” “Son of Apollo!” exclaimed
Irene, “is this all the advice you give me? Is this the skill praised
by all, and for which every one reveres you? What rare and secret
things did you tell me, and what remedies have you prescribed for me,
which I did not know before?” “Why did you not take these, then,” the
god replied, “without coming such a long distance to consult me, and
shortening your days by such a tedious journey?”[553]

(36.) Death happens but once, yet we feel it every moment of our
lives; it is worse to dread it than to suffer it.

(37.) Restlessness, fear, and dejection cannot delay death, but, on the
contrary, hasten it; I only question whether man, who is mortal, should
indulge in much laughing.

(38.) Whatever is certain in death is slightly alleviated by what is
not so infallible; the time when it shall happen is undefined, but it
is more or less connected with the infinite, and what we call eternity.

(39.) When we are sighing for the loss of our past blooming youth,
which will return no more, let us think that decrepitude will come,
when we shall regret the mature age we have reached and do not
sufficiently value.

(40.) The fear of old age disturbs us, yet we are not certain of
becoming old.

(41.) We hope to grow old, and yet we dread old age; or, in other
words, we are willing to live, and afraid to die.

(42.) A man had better yield to nature and fear death, than be engaged
in continual conflicts, provide himself with arguments and reflections,
and be always combating his own feelings in order not to fear it.

(43.) If some persons died, and others did not die, death would indeed
be a terrible affliction.

(44.) A long disease seems to be a halting-place between life and
death, that death itself may be a comfort to those who die and to those
who are left behind.

(45.) Humanly speaking, there is something good in death, namely, that
it puts an end to old age. That death which prevents decrepitude comes
more seasonably than that which ends it.

(46.) Men regret their life has been ill-spent, but this does not
always induce them to make a better use of the time they have yet to

(47.) Life is a kind of sleep; old men have slept longer than others,
and only begin to wake again when they are to die. If, then, they
take a retrospect of the whole course of their lives, they frequently
discover neither virtues nor commendable actions to distinguish one
year from another; they confound one time of their life with another
time, and see nothing of sufficient note by which to measure how long
they have lived. They have dreamt in a confused, indistinct, and
incoherent way; but, nevertheless, they are aware, as all people who
wake up, that they have slept for a long while.

(48.) There are but three events which concern man: birth, life, and
death. They are unconscious of their birth, they suffer when they die,
and they neglect to live.

(49.) There is a time preceding the power of reasoning, when, like
animals, we live by instinct alone, and of which memory retains no
vestiges. There is a second period, when reason is developed, formed,
and might act, if it were not obscured and partly extinguished by vices
of the constitution, and a sequence of passions following one another
till the third and last age; reason then, being in its full strength,
should produce something; but it is chilled and impaired by years,
disease, and sorrow, and rendered useless by the machinery getting old
and out of gear; yet these three periods constitute the whole life of

(50.) Children are overbearing, supercilious, passionate, envious,
inquisitive, egotistical, idle, fickle, timid, intemperate, liars, and
dissemblers; they laugh and weep easily, are excessive in their joys
and sorrows, and that about the most trifling objects; they bear no
pain, but like to inflict it on others; already they are men.

(51.) Children are neither for the past nor the future, but enjoy the
present, which we rarely do.

(52.) There seems to be but one character in childhood; at that age
morals and manners are nearly all the same, and it is only by paying
great attention that we can perceive any difference, which, however,
increases in the same proportion as reason does, whilst the passions
and vices gather strength as well; these alone make men so unlike each
other and so at variance with themselves.

(53.) Children already possess those faculties which are extinct in
old men, namely, imagination and memory, and which are very useful to
them in their little sports and amusements; by the help of these they
repeat what they have heard, imitate what they see done, exercise all
trades, either in busying themselves with many small labours or in
copying the movements and gestures of various workmen; are guests at
a sumptuous feast and entertained most luxuriously; are transported
to enchanted palaces and places; have splendid carriages and a large
retinue, though they are by themselves; are at the head of armies, give
battle, and enjoy the delights of obtaining a victory; converse with
kings and with the greatest princes; are themselves monarchs, have
subjects, possess treasures which they make of leaves or sand; and know
then, what they will ignore in afterlife, to be satisfied with their
fortune and to be masters of their own happiness.

(54.) There are no outward vices, nor bodily defects, which children do
not perceive; they observe them at once, and know how to describe them
in suitable terms, for more exact definitions could not be invented;
but when they become men, they, in their turn, contract the same
imperfections which they ridiculed.

The only anxiety children have is to find out the weaknesses of their
masters, and of the persons they have to obey; as soon as they have
taken once advantage of these, they get the upper hand, and obtain an
influence over these people which they never part with: for what once
deprived these persons of their superiority will always prevent them
recovering it.

(55.) Idleness, indolence, and laziness, vices so natural to children,
disappear as soon as they begin to play; they are then lively,
attentive, exact observers of rule and order, never pardon the least
slip, and several times begin again one and the same thing, in which
they failed; these are sure forebodings that they may, hereafter,
neglect their duties, but will forget nothing that can promote their

(56.) To children everything seems great; courtyards, gardens,
houses, furniture, men, and animals; to men the things of the world
appear so, and, I dare say, for the same reason, because they are

(57.) Children begin among themselves with a democracy, where every
one is master; and what is very natural, it does not suit them for
any length of time, and then they adopt a monarchy. One of them
distinguishes himself from among the rest, either by greater vivacity,
strength, and comeliness, or by a more exact knowledge of their various
sports and of the little laws which regulate them; all the others
submit to him, and then an absolute government is established, but only
in matters of pleasure.

(58.) Who can doubt but that children conceive, judge, and reason
consistently? If only in small things consider they are children, and
without much experience; if they make use of an indifferent phraseology
it is less their fault than their parentsʼ and mastersʼ.

(59.) It destroys all confidence in the minds of children, and
alienates them as well, to punish them for faults they have not
committed, or even to be severe with them for trifling offences; they
know exactly, and better than any one, what they deserve, and seldom
deserve more than they dread; when they are chastised, they know if it
is justly or unjustly, whilst unjust punishments do them more harm than
not to be punished at all.

(60.) Man does not live long enough to be benefited by his faults; he
is committing them during the whole course of his life, and it is as
much as he can do, if, after many errors, he dies at last improved.

Nothing revives more a man than the knowledge that he has avoided doing
some foolish action.

(61.) Men are loath to particularise their faults; they conceal them
or blame some other person for them, and this gives the “spiritual
director”[554] an advantage over the father-confessor.

(62.) The faults of blockheads are sometimes so great and so difficult
to foresee, that wise men are puzzled by them; they are only of use to
those who commit them.

(63.) A party spirit betrays the greatest men to act as meanly as the
vulgar herd.

(64.) Vanity and propriety lead us to act in the same way and in the
same manner as we should do through inclination or a feeling of duty; a
man died lately in Paris of a fever which he got by sitting up at night
with his wife, for whom he did not care.[555]

(65.) All men in their hearts covet esteem, but are loath any one
should discover their anxiety to be esteemed; for men wish to be
considered virtuous; and men would no longer be thought virtuous, but
fond of esteem and praises, and vain, were they to derive any other
advantages from virtue than virtue itself. Men are very vain, and of
all things hate to be thought so.

(66.) A vain man finds it to his advantage to speak well or ill of
himself; a modest man never talks of himself.

We cannot better understand how ridiculous vanity is, and what a
disgraceful vice it is, than by observing how careful it is not to be
seen, and how often it hides itself underneath a semblance of modesty.

False modesty is the highest affectation of vanity; it never shows
a vain man in his true colours, but, on the contrary, enhances his
reputation, through the very virtue which is the opposite of the vice
constituting his real character; it is a falsehood. False glory is the
rock on which vanity splits; it induces a desire in men to be esteemed
for things they indeed possess, but which are frivolous and unworthy of
being noticed; it is an error.

(67.) Men speak of themselves in such a manner, that though they admit
they are guilty of some trifling faults, these very faults imply
noble talents or great qualities. Thus they complain of a bad memory,
though quite satisfied with the large amount of common sense and
sound judgment they possess; submit to being reproached for absence
of mind and musing, imagining them the concomitants of intelligence;
acknowledge being awkward and not able to do anything with their hands,
and comfort themselves for being without these small qualities by the
knowledge of possessing those of the understanding or those innate
feelings which every one allows them. In owning their indolence they
always intimate they are disinterested and entirely cured of ambition;
they are not ashamed of being slovenly, which shows they merely are
careless of little things, and seems to imply that they solely occupy
themselves with solid and important matters. A military man affects
to say that it was rashness or curiosity which carried him into the
trenches on a certain day, or in a dangerous spot, without being on
duty or ordered to do so; and he adds that the general reprimanded him
for it. Thus a man possessing brains or a solid genius and an innate
circumspection which other men endeavour in vain to acquire; a man who
has strengthened his mind by a long experience; to whom the number,
weight, variety, difficulty, and importance of affairs merely procure
some occupation without embarrassing him; who, by his extensive
knowledge and penetration masters all events; who does not consult all
the remarks ever written on the art of governments and politics, but
is, perhaps, one of those sublime minds created to sway others, and
from whose example those rules were first made; who is diverted, by
the great things he does, from those pleasant and agreeable things he
might read, and who, on the contrary, loses nothing by recapitulating
and turning over, as it were, his own life and actions: a man, so
constituted, may easily, and without compromising himself, admit that
he knows nothing of books and never reads.[556]

(68.) Men intend sometimes to conceal their imperfections, or attenuate
the opinion of others about them, by frankly acknowledging them. “I am
very ignorant,” says some man who knows nothing; “I am getting old,”
says a second above threescore; “I am far from rich,” says a third who
is wretchedly poor.

(69.) There is either no such thing as modesty, or it is mistaken for
something quite different, if we think it to be an inward sentiment,
debasing man in his own eyes, and which is a supernatural virtue we
call humility. Man naturally thinks of himself with pride and conceit,
and thinks thus of no one but himself; modesty only aims at modifying
this disposition so that no one shall suffer by it; it is an external
virtue, which commands our looks, gait, words, tone of voice, and
obliges a man ostensibly to act with others as if in reality he did not
despise them.

(70.) There are many people in this world who inwardly and habitually
draw a comparison between themselves and others, always give a
decision in favour of their own merits, and behave accordingly.

(71.) You say, “Men must be modest;” that is what all intelligent men
desire; but then people tyrannise over those who yield through modesty,
and should not crush them when they give way.

Again some say, “People should be quiet in their dress;” intelligent
men do not wish for anything else; but the world requires ornaments,
and we comply with its demands; it runs eagerly after superfluities,
and we display them. Some people value others only for the fine linen
or the rich silks they wear, and we do not always refuse to purchase
esteem, even on those terms. There are some places where every person
shows himself, and where you will be admitted or refused admittance
according as your gold lace is broader or narrower.

(72.) Vanity, and the high value we set upon ourselves, makes us
imagine that others treat us very haughtily, which is sometimes true
and often false; a modest man is not so susceptible.

(73.) We ought not to be so vain and imagine that others are anxious to
have a look at us, and to esteem us, and that our talents and merits
are the topics of their conversations, but we should have so much
confidence in ourselves as not to fancy when people whisper that they
speak ill of us, or laugh only to make fun of us.

(74.) What is the reason that to-day Alcippus bows to me, smiles and
almost throws himself out of his coach to take notice of me. I am not
rich, and on foot; therefore, according to the present fashion, he
ought not to have seen me. Is it not because a person of the highest
rank is with him in his carriage?

(75.) Men are so full of themselves, that everything they do is
connected with self; they like to be seen, to be shown about, even by
those who do not know them, and who, if they omit this, are said to be
proud, for they should guess who and what those men are.

(76.) We never look for happiness within ourselves, but in the opinions
of men we know to be flatterers, insincere, unjust, envious, whimsical
and prejudiced. How eccentric!

(77.) We might think that people laugh only at something really
ridiculous; yet there are certain people who laugh just as much at what
is not so as at what is. If you are foolish and thoughtless, and some
unbecoming expression escapes you, they laugh at you; if you are wise,
and say nothing but what is sensible, and as it should be said, they
laugh at you all the same.

(78.) Those who, by violence or injustice, steal our property, or
rob us of our honour by slander, show effectually that they hate us;
but this is not an undoubted proof that they no longer esteem us;
therefore, it is not impossible that we may forgive them, and, one day
or other, again become their friends. Ridicule, on the contrary, is of
all wrongs the least to be excused, for it is the language of contempt,
and one of the ways in which it is most plainly expressed; it attacks
a man in his last intrenchment, namely, the good opinion he has of
himself; it aims at making him ridiculous in his own eyes; and thus
convinces him that the person who ridicules him is very badly disposed
towards him, so that he resolves never to be reconciled to him.

It is monstrous to consider how easy it is for us to ridicule, censure,
and despise others, and how we enjoy it; and yet how enraged we are
when others ridicule, censure, and despise us.

(79.) Health and wealth prevent men from experiencing misfortunes, and
thus make them callous to their suffering fellow-creatures; whilst they
who already are burdened by their own miseries feel most tenderly those
of others.

(80.) In well-constituted minds,[557] festivals, spectacles, and music
bring more vividly before us, and make us feel the more the misfortunes
of our relatives or friends.

(81.) A great mind is above insults, injustice, grief, and raillery,
and would be invulnerable were it not open to compassion.

(82.) We feel somewhat ashamed of being happy at the sight of certain

(83.) Men have a very quick perception of their smallest advantages and
are as backward in discovering their faults. They never ignore they
have fine eyebrows and well-shaped nails, but scarcely know they have
lost an eye, and not at all when they are wanting in understanding.

Argyra pulls off her glove to show her fine hand, and does not forget
to let us have a peep of her little shoe, which makes us think she has
a small foot; she laughs at serious as well as at funny observations to
show her fine teeth; if she does not hide her ears it is because they
are well shaped; and if she does not dance, it is because she is not
too well satisfied with her waist, which is not very slender. She knows
perfectly well what she is about, with the exception of one thing: she
is always talking, and has not one grain of sense.

(84.) Men do not value very highly the affections of the heart, but
idolise the gifts of body and mind. A person who, in speaking of
himself, would coolly say that he is good, constant, faithful, sincere,
just, and grateful, does not imagine he offends against modesty; but
he would not venture to say that he is sprightly, or that he has fine
teeth or a soft skin; that would be rather too much of a good thing.

It cannot be denied that men admire two virtues, courage and
liberality, because they highly value two things which these virtues
cause us to neglect, namely, life and money; yet no one boasts that he
is courageous or liberal.

No one in speaking of himself will say, especially without any
foundation, that he is handsome, generous, eminent, for men value those
qualities too highly, and so they are satisfied with thinking they
possess them.

(85.) Whatever similarity is apparent between jealousy and emulation,
they differ as much as vice and virtue.

Jealousy and emulation have the same object, which is the prosperity
or merit of another, but with this difference, that the latter is a
voluntary sentiment, as courageous as sincere, which fertilises the
mind and induces it to take advantage of great examples, so that it
not seldom excels what it admires; whilst the first, on the contrary,
is violent in its action, and, as it were, a forced acknowledgment
of a merit it does not possess; it goes so far as even to deny merit
whenever it exists; or, if it is compelled to admit its existence,
refuses to commend it, and envies the reward it receives. Jealousy is
a barren passion, which leaves a man in the same state it finds him,
fills him with high ideas of himself and of his reputation; causes him
to become callous and insensible to the actions and labours of others;
and inspires him with astonishment on perceiving in this world other
talents than his own, or other men with the same talents on which he
prides himself; this disgraceful vice, which by its very excess always
turns to vanity and presumption, does not so much persuade the person
infected with it that he has more intelligence and merit than others,
as that he alone is intelligent and praiseworthy.

Emulation and jealousy are always found in persons practising the same
art, possessing the same talents, and filling the same positions. The
meanest artisans are most subject to jealousy; those persons who follow
the liberal arts or literature, as artists, musicians, orators, poets,
and all who pretend to write, ought not to be capable of anything but

Jealousy is never free from some sort of envy; and these two passions
are often taken for one another. But this is wrong: envy may sometimes
exist without jealousy, as, for example, when a position very superior
to our own, a large fortune, royal favour, or a secretaryship of state
have caused it.

Envy and hatred are always united, and fortify each other in one and
the same person; they can only be distinguished from one another
in this, that the latter aims at the individual, the former at his
position and condition in life.

An intelligent man is not jealous of a cutler who has made a first-rate
sword, nor of a sculptor who has just finished a fine piece of
statuary; he knows there are rules and methods in those arts beyond his
ken; that tools have to be handled with which he is unacquainted, and
of whose very names and shapes he is ignorant; it is sufficient for him
to be aware that he has never served an apprenticeship to such a trade,
and he consoles himself, therefore, that he has not mastered them. But
he may, on the contrary, envy, and even be jealous of a minister of
state, and of those who govern; as if reason and common sense, of which
he has a share as well as they have, are the only things required for
ruling a nation and for the administration of public affairs, and as if
they could take the place of regulations, directions, and experience.

(86.) We meet with few utterly dull and stupid men, but with fewer
sublime and transcendental ones. The generality of mankind hovers
between these two extremes; the gap is filled by a great number of
men of ordinary talents, but who are very useful and serviceable to
the State, and efficient as well as agreeable; as, for example, in
commerce, finances, during war, in navigation, arts, trades, in the
possession of a good memory, in gambling,[558] in society, and in

(87.) All the intelligence of the world is useless to a man who has
none, for having no ideas himself, he cannot be improved by those of

(88.) To feel the want of reasoning faculties is the next thing to
possessing them; a madman cannot have this sensation. Thus the next
best thing to intelligence is the consciousness that we have none,
for then we might do what is considered impossible, and, without
intelligence, neither be a fool nor a fop nor impertinent.

(89.) A man who has not a large amount of intelligence is grave and all
of a piece; he does not laugh, he never jokes nor trifles; and is as
incapable of rising to great things as of suiting himself, by way of
change, to small ones; he hardly knows how to play with his children.

(90.) Everybody says of a coxcomb that he is a coxcomb, but no one
dares to tell him so; he dies without knowing it and without anybody
being avenged on him.

(91.) What a dissonance is there between the mind and the heart! Some
philosophers lead bad lives though they have large stores of “wise
saws;” and some politicians, full of schemes and ideas, cannot govern

(92.) The mind wears out like other things; sciences are its aliment;
they nourish it and wear it out.

(93.) Men of inferior rank are sometimes burdened with a thousand
useless virtues, but they have no opportunities of making use of them.

(94.) We meet with some men who bear with ease the weight of the royal
favour and of power, who get accustomed to their grandeur, and remain
steady though they occupy the highest posts. On the contrary, those men
whom fortune, without any choice or discrimination, has almost blindly
overwhelmed with its blessings, behave insolently and extravagantly;
their looks, their carriage, their tone of voice, and their manner
of receiving people, show for some time the admiration they have for
themselves, as well as for beholding themselves on such an eminence;
they become at last so restless that their downfall alone can tame them.

(95.) A stout and robust fellow, who has a wide chest and a broad pair
of shoulders, carries heavy burdens quickly and gracefully, and has
still one hand at liberty, while a dwarf would be crushed by half his
load. Thus eminent stations make great men yet more great, and little
ones less.

(96.) Some men gain by being eccentric; they scud along in full sail in
a sea where others are lost and dashed to pieces; they are successful
by the very means which would seem to prevent all success; they reap
from their irregularity and folly all the advantages of consummate
wisdom; they are men who devote themselves to other men, to high-born
nobles, for whom they have sacrificed everything, and in whom they
have placed their last hope; they do not serve, but amuse them.
Obsequious men of merit are useful to the great; they are necessary
to them, and grow old whilst retailing their witticisms, for which
they expect to be rewarded as if they had done some noble deeds; by
dint of being funny they obtain posts of great importance, and rise
to the highest dignities by continually buffooning, until finally and
unexpectedly they find themselves in a position they neither dreaded
nor anticipated. Nothing remains of them in this world but an example
of their success, which it would be dangerous to imitate.[559]

(97.) People might expect that certain persons who once performed
some noble and heroic actions known to the entire world, would not be
exhausted by so arduous an effort, and should at least be as rational
and judicious in their behaviour as men commonly are; that they
should be above any meanness unworthy of the great reputation they
have acquired; and that by mixing less with the people they should
not give them an opportunity of viewing them too closely, so that
curiosity and admiration might not change to indifference, and perhaps
to contempt.[560]

(98.) It is easier for some men to enrich themselves with a thousand
virtues than to correct a single vice; it is unfortunate for them that
this vice is often the least suitable to their condition in life,
and renders them highly ridiculous; it weakens their splendid and
grand qualities, and prevents them from becoming perfect and keeping
their reputation stainless. We do not require these men to be more
enlightened and incorruptible, more fond of order and discipline, more
assiduous in doing their duties, more zealous for the public good, or
more solemn in their deportment; we could only desire them to be less

(99.) Some men in the course of their lives alter so much in feeling
and intelligence, that we are sure to make a mistake if we judge
merely of them by what they appeared in their early youth. Some were
pious, wise, and learned, who have been spoiled by the favours fortune
bestowed on them, and are so no longer;[562] others began their lives
amidst pleasures, and devoted all their intelligence in their pursuit,
but, being no longer in favour, they now are religious, wise, and
temperate.[563] These latter commonly become great men, who may be
relied upon; their honesty has been tried by patience and adversity;
they, moreover, show great politeness, which they owe to the society
of ladies, and display in every circumstance, as well as a spirit of
order, thoughtfulness, and sometimes lofty capacities, acquired by
study and the leisure of a shattered fortune.

All menʼs misfortunes proceed from their aversion to being alone; hence
gambling, extravagance, dissipation, wine, women, ignorance, slander,
envy, and forgetfulness of what we owe to God and ourselves.

(100.) Men are sometimes unbearable to themselves; darkness and
solitude unsettle them, and throw them into a state of imaginary dread
and groundless terror; at such a time the least harm that can befall
them is a lassitude of everything.

(101.) Idleness is the mother of listlessness, and chiefly induces men
to hunt after diversions, gambling, and company. He who loves work
requires nothing else.

(102.) Most men employ the first years of their life in making the last

(103.) There are some works which begin with the first letter of the
alphabet and end with the last; good, bad, and indifferent things are
all inserted; nothing of a certain nature is forgotten; and these,
though made up of far-fetched jokes and affectations, are called
“sports of wit.”[564] The same kind of sport also rules our conduct;
a certain matter once commenced must be finished, and we have to go
on till the end. It would have been much better to alter our plan or
entirely to drop it; but it is far more odd and difficult to proceed
with it, and therefore we go on, and are stimulated by contradiction;
vanity encourages us, and takes the place of reason, which abandons and
leaves us. Such eccentricity is even carried on in the most virtuous
actions, and often in some of a religious nature.

(104.) To do our duty is an effort to us, because when we do it we
only perform our obligations, and seldom receive those eulogies which
are the greatest incentive to commendable actions, and support us in
our enterprises. N ... loves to make a display of his charity, so he
is appointed a superintendent of a charity-board, and a steward to its
revenues, whilst his house becomes a public office for the distribution
of them;[565] his doors are open to all clergymen or to Sisters of
Charity;[566] and every one sees and talks about his liberality in
relieving the poor. Who would dare to imagine N ... was not an honest
man, unless it were his creditors?

(105.) Géronte dies of mere decrepitude, and without having made the
will he intended to make for those last thirty years; as he died
intestate, about half a score of relatives share his estate among them.
For a long time he was only kept alive through the care taken of him by
his wife, Asteria, who, though young, always attended on him, never let
him go out of her sight, nursed him in his old age, and at last closed
his eyes. He has not left her money enough to rid her of the necessity
of taking another old man for a husband.

(106.) When people are loth to sell or give up their posts and offices,
even when in extreme old age, it is a token they are possessed of the
notion that they are immortal; or if they think they may die, it is a
sign they love nobody but themselves.[567]

(107.) Faustus is a rake, a prodigal, a freethinker, as well as
ungrateful and passionate; yet his uncle Aurelius neither hates him nor
disinherits him.

Frontin, his other nephew, after twenty years of acknowledged honesty
and of blind complacency for the old man, never gained his favour; and
the only legacy left to him is a small pension, which Faustus, the sole
heir, has to pay him.

(108.) Hatred is so lasting and stubborn, that reconciliation on a
sick-bed certainly forebodes death.

(109.) We insinuate ourselves into the favour of others, either by
flattering those passions which animate them, or by pitying the
infirmities which afflict their bodies; and this is the only way by
which we can show our regard for them; hence the healthy and those who
do not desire anything, are less easy to be swayed.

(110.) Want of vigour and voluptuousness are innate in man and cease
with him, and fortunate or unfortunate circumstances never make him
abandon them; they are the fruits of prosperity or become a solace in

(111.) The most unnatural sight in the world is an old man in love.

(112.) Few men remember that they have been young, and how hard it was
then to live chaste and temperate.

The first thing men do when they have renounced pleasure, through
decency, lassitude, or for the sake of health, is to condemn it in
others. Such conduct denotes a kind of latent affection for the very
things they left off; they would like no one to enjoy a pleasure they
can no longer indulge in; and thus they show their feelings of jealousy.

(113.) It is not the dread of one day wanting money which renders old
men avaricious, for some of them have such a large quantity of it
that this cannot make them uneasy; besides, how can the fear disturb
them of being in want of the common necessities of life when they are
old, since by their own free will they deprive themselves of these to
satisfy their avarice. Neither do they wish to leave great riches to
their children, for they naturally love nobody better than themselves;
moreover, there are many misers who have no heirs. Avarice seems
rather an effect of age and of the disposition of old men, who as
naturally give themselves up to it as they did to pleasure in their
youth, or to ambition in their manhood. Neither vigour, youth, nor
health are needed to become a miser; nor is there any necessity for
people hurrying themselves, nor for those who hoard being in the
slightest degree active; a man has nothing to do but let the money lie
in his coffers, and deny himself everything; this is not very difficult
for old people, who must have some passion or other because they are

(114.) There are some people who dwell in wretched houses, have hardly
any beds, are badly clad and worse fed; who are exposed to all the
severity of the seasons, deprive themselves of the society of their
fellow-creatures, and live in continual solitude; who grieve for the
present, the past, and the future; whose lives are a perpetual penance,
and who have thus discovered the secret of going to perdition by the
most troublesome way: I mean misers.

(115.) The remembrance of their youth remains green in the heart of old
men; they love the places where they lived; and the persons with whom
they then began an acquaintance are dear to them; they still affect
certain words in use when they first began to speak; they prefer the
ancient style of singing and dancing; and boast of the old fashions
in dress, furnishing, and carriages; they cannot bring themselves to
disapprove of those things which served their passions, and are always
recalling them. Can any one imagine these old men would prefer new
customs and the latest fashions, which they do not adopt, and from
which they have nothing to expect, which young men have invented, and
which give them, in their turn, such a great advantage over their

(116.) An old man who is careless in his dress, or else overdressed,
increases his wrinkles, and looks as senile as he really is.

(117.) An old man is proud, disdainful, and unsociable if he is not
very intelligent.

(118.) A courtier of a ripe old age, who is a sensible man and has a
good memory, is an inestimable treasure; he is full of anecdotes and
maxims; he knows a good many curious circumstances of the history of
the age, which are never met with in books; and from him we may learn
such rules for our conduct and manners which can be depended upon,
because they are based on experience.[569]

(119.) Young men can bear solitude better than old people, because
their passions occupy their thoughts.

(120.) Though Philip[570] is rather old, he is over-natty and
effeminate, and only cares for little dainties; he has studied the art
of eating, drinking, sleeping, and taking exercise, and scrupulously
observes the smallest rules he has prescribed for himself, which all
tend to his comfort; even a mistress, if his system allowed him to
keep one, could not tempt him to break them; he is overburdened with
superfluities, to which he is so accustomed that he cannot do without
them. He thus increases and strengthens the ties which bind him to
life, and employs the remainder of it in making its loss more grievous.
Was he not already sufficiently afraid of dying?

(121.) Gnathon[571] lives for no one but himself, and the rest of the
world are to him as if they did not exist. He is not satisfied with
occupying the best seat at table, but he must take the seats of two
other guests, and forgets that the dinner was not provided for him
alone, but for the company as well; he lays hold of every dish, and
looks on each course as his own; he never sticks to one single dish
until he has tried them all, and would like to enjoy them all at one
and the same time. At table his hands serve for a knife and fork; he
paws the meat over and over again, and tears it to pieces, so that if
the other guests wish to dine, it must be on his leavings. He does not
spare them any of those filthy and disgusting habits which are enough
to spoil the appetite of the most hungry; the gravy and sauce run
over his chin and beard; if he takes part of a stew out of a dish, he
spills it by the way over another dish and on the cloth, so you may
distinguish him by his track. He eats with a great deal of smacking and
noise, rolls his eyes, and uses the table as a manger, picks his teeth
and continues eating; he makes every place his home, and will have as
much elbow-room in church and in a theatre as if he were in his own
room. When he rides in a coach, it must always be forward, for he says
that any other seat will make him fall in a swoon, if we can believe
him. When he travels he is always in advance of his companions, so as
to get first to the inn, and choose the best room and the best bed for
himself; he makes use of everybody, and his own and other peopleʼs
servants run about and do his errands; everything is his he lays his
hands on, even clothes and luggage; he disturbs every one, but does
not inconvenience himself for anybody; he pities no one, and knows no
other indispositions but his own, his over-feeding and biliousness; he
laments no personʼs death, fears no oneʼs but his own, and to redeem
his own life, would willingly consent to see the entire human race
become extinct.

(122.) Clito[572] never had but two things to do in his life, to dine
at noon and to eat supper in the evening;[573] he seems only born
for digestion, and has only one subject of conversation, namely, the
_entrées_ of the last dinner he was present at, and how many different
kinds of _potages_[574] there were; he then talks of the roasts and
_entremets_; remembers precisely what dishes were brought up after
the first course, does not forget the side-dishes, the fruit and the
_assiettes_;[575] names all the wines and every kind of liquor he has
drunk; shows himself as well acquainted as a man can possibly be with
culinary language, and makes his hearer long to be at a good dinner,
provided he were not there. He prides himself on his palate which
cannot be imposed upon, and has never been exposed to the terrible
inconvenience of being compelled to eat a wretched stew or to drink
an indifferent wine. He is a remarkable person in his way, who has
brought the art of good living to the highest perfection; there never
will be another man who ate so much and so nicely; he is, therefore,
the supreme arbiter of dainty bits, and it would hardly be allowable
to like anything he did not approve of. But he is no more! When he was
almost dying he still would be carried to the table, and had guests to
dinner on the day of his death. Wherever he may be he is sure to eat;
and should he rise from the grave it will be to eat.

(123.) Ruffinusʼ hair begins to turn grey, but he is healthy; his ruddy
cheeks and sparkling eyes promise him at least twenty years more; he
is lively, jovial, familiar, and does not care for anything; he laughs
heartily, even when he is alone, and without any cause; he is satisfied
with himself, with his family, his little fortune, and calls himself
fortunate. Some time since he lost his only son, a young man of great
promise, who might have become an honour to his family; other people
shed tears, but he did not, and merely said, “My son is dead, and his
mother will soon follow him,” and then he was comforted. He has no
passions, no friends nor enemies; no one troubles him; everybody and
everything suits him; he speaks to those he never saw before with the
same freedom and confidence as to those he calls his old friends, and
very soon tells them his bad jokes and stories. Some people address him
and then leave him, but he does not mind it, and the tale he began to
one person he finishes to another who has just come.

(124.) N ... is less worn with age than disease, for he is not
more than threescore and eight, but he has the gout and suffers
from nephritic colic; he looks quite emaciated and has a greenish
complexion, which forebodes no good; yet he has his lands marled, and
reckons he has no need to manure them these fifteen years; he has some
young wood planted, and hopes that in less than twenty years it will
afford him a delicious shade. He has a house built of free-stone, and
at the corners are iron clasps to make it stronger; he assures you,
coughing, and in a weak and feeble tone of voice, that it will last
for ever. He walks every day among the workmen, leaning on one of his
servantsʼ arms, shows his friends what he has done, and tells them what
he purposes to do. He does not build for his children, for he has none,
nor for his heirs, who are scoundrels and who have quarrelled with him;
he only builds to enjoy it himself, and to-morrow he will be dead.

(125.) Antagoras has a familiar[576] and popular countenance; he is as
well known to the mob as the parish beadle or as the saint carved in
stone adorning the high altar. Every morning he runs up and down the
courts and the offices of parliament,[577] and every evening up and
down the streets and highways of the town. He has had a lawsuit these
forty years, and has always been nearer his death than the end of his
legal troubles. There has not been any celebrated case or any long and
difficult lawsuit tried that he has not had something to do with; his
name is in the mouth of every barrister, and agrees as naturally with
such words as “plaintiff” or “defendant” as an adjective does with a
substantive. He is everybodyʼs kinsman, and disliked by all; there
is scarcely a family of whom he does not complain, or who does not
complain of him; he is perpetually engaged in seizing some property, in
asking for an injunction[578] to prevent the sale of an office[579] or
some stocks, in using the privilege of pleading in certain cases[580]
or of seeing some judgments put into execution; besides this, he is
every day at some meeting of creditors, is appointed chairman of their
committee,[581] and loses money by every bankruptcy; he finds some
spare moments for a few private visits, and like an old gossip[582]
talks about lawsuits, and tells you all the news about them. You leave
him one hour at one end of the town and find him the next at another
end,[583] where he arrived before you, and has been giving again all
the details of his lawsuit. If you yourself are engaged in a lawsuit
and wait early the next morning on your judge,[584] you are sure to
meet Antagoras, who must first leave before you can be admitted.[585]

(126.) Some men pass their long lives in defending themselves and in
injuring other people, and die at last, worn out with age, after having
caused as many evils as they suffered.

(127.) There must, I confess, be seizures of land, distraint
on furniture, prisons, and punishments; but without taking into
consideration justice, law, and stern necessity, it has always
astonished me to observe with what violence some men treat other men.

(128.) Certain wild animals, male and female, are scattered over the
country, dark, livid, and quite tanned by the sun, who are chained, as
it were, to the land they are always digging and turning up and down
with an unwearied stubbornness; their voice is somewhat articulate, and
when they stand erect they discover a human face, and, indeed, are men.
At night they retire to their burrows, where they live on black bread,
water, and roots; they spare other men the trouble of sowing, tilling
the ground, and reaping for their sustenance, and, therefore, deserve
not to be in want of that bread they sow themselves.

(129.) Don Fernando resides in his province, and is idle, ignorant,
slanderous, quarrelsome, knavish, intemperate, and impertinent; but he
draws his sword against his neighbours, and exposes his life for the
smallest trifle; he has killed several men, and will be killed in his

(130.) A provincial nobleman, useless to his country, his family and
himself, often without a roof to cover himself, without clothes or the
least merit, tells you ten times a day that he is of noble lineage,
despises all graduates, doctors, and presidents of parliaments[587] as
upstarts, and spends all his time among parchments and old title-deeds,
which he would not part with to be appointed chancellor.[588]

(131.) Power, favour, genius, riches, dignity, nobility, force,
industry, capacity, virtue, vice, weakness, stupidity, poverty,
impotence, plebeianism, and servility generally are combined in men
in endless variety. These qualities mixed together in a thousand
various manners, and compensating one another in many ways, form the
different states and conditions of human life. Moreover, people who are
acquainted with each otherʼs strength and weakness act reciprocally,
for they believe it their duty; they know their equals, are conscious
that some men are their superiors, and that they are superior to some
others; and hence familiarity, respect or deference, pride or contempt.
This is the reason why, in places of public resort, we see each moment
some persons we wish to accost or bow to, and others we pretend not
to know, and still less desire to meet; and why we are proud of being
with the first and ashamed of the others. Hence it even happens that
the very person with whom you think it an honour to be seen, and
with whom you are desirous to converse, deems you troublesome and
leaves you; and that often the very person who blushes when he meets
others, receives the same treatment when others meet him, and that a
man who treated others with contempt is himself disdained, for it is
common enough to despise those who despise us. How wretched is such a
behaviour; and since it is certain that in this strange interchange
we gain on one side what we lose on another, should we not do better
to abandon all haughtiness and pride, qualities so unsuited to frail
humanity, and make an arrangement to treat one another with mutual
kindness, by which we should at once gain the advantage of never being
mortified ourselves, and the happiness, which is just as great, of
never mortifying others?

(132.) Instead of being frightened, or even ashamed, at being called a
philosopher, everybody in this world ought to have a strong tincture of
philosophy;[589] it suits every one: its practice is useful to people
of all ages, sexes, and conditions; it consoles us for the happiness
of others, for the promotion of those whom we think undeserving, for
failures, and decay of strength and beauty; it steels us against
poverty, age, sickness, and death, against fools and buffoons; it will
help us to pass away our life without a wife, or to bear with the one
with whom we have to live.

(133.) Men are one hour overjoyed at trifles, and the next overcome
with grief for a mere disappointment; nothing is more unequal and
incoherent than the emotions stirring their hearts and minds in so
short a time. If they would set no higher value on the things of this
world than they really deserve, this evil would be cured.

(134.) It is as difficult to find a vain man who believes himself as
happy as he deserves, as a modest man who believes himself too unhappy.

(135.) When I contemplate the fortune of princes and of their
Ministers, which is not mine, I am prevented from thinking myself
unhappy by considering, at the same time, the fate of the vine-dresser,
the soldier, and the stone-cutter.

(136.) There is but one real misfortune which can befall a man, and
that is to find himself at fault, and to have something to reproach
himself with.

(137.) The generality of men are more capable of great efforts to
obtain their ends than of continuous perseverance; their occupation
and inconstancy deprives them of the fruits of the most promising
beginnings; they are often overtaken by those who started some time
after them, and who walk slowly but without intermission.

(138.) I almost dare affirm that men know better how to plan certain
measures than to pursue them, how to resolve what they must needs
do and say than to do or to say what is necessary. A man is firmly
determined not to mention a certain subject when negotiating some
business; and afterwards, either through passion, garrulity, or in the
heat of conversation, it is the first thing which escapes him.

(139.) Men are indolent in what is their particular duty, whilst they
think it very deserving, or rather whilst it pleases their vanity, to
busy themselves about those things which do not concern them, nor suit
their condition of life or character.

(140.) There is as much difference between a heterogeneous character
a man adopts and his real character as there is between a mask and a
countenance of flesh and blood.

(141.) Telephus has some intelligence, but ten times less, if rightly
computed, than he imagines he has; therefore, in everything he says,
does, meditates, and projects, he goes ten times beyond his capacity,
and thus always exceeds the true measure of his intellectual power and
grasp. And this argument is well founded. He is limited by a barrier,
as it were, and should be warned not to pass it; but he leaps over
it, launches out of his sphere, and though he knows his own weakness,
always displays it; he speaks about what he does not understand, or
badly understands; attempts things above his power, and aims at what
is too much for him; he thinks himself the equal of the very best men
ever seen. Whatever is good and commendable in him is obscured by an
affectation of doing something great and wonderful; people can easily
see what he is not, but have to guess what he really is. He is a man
who never measures his ability, and does not know himself; his true
character is not to be satisfied with the one that suits him, and which
is his own.

(142.) The intelligence of a highly cultivated man is not always the
same, and has its ebbs and flows; sometimes he is full of animation,
but cannot keep it up; then, if he be wise, he will say little, not
write at all, and not endeavour either to draw upon his imagination, or
try to please. Does a man sing who has a cold? and should he not rather
wait till he recovers his voice?

A blockhead is an automaton,[590] a piece of machinery moved by springs
and weights, always turning him about in one direction; he always
displays the same equanimity, is uniform, and never alters; if you have
seen him once you have seen him as he ever was, and will be; he is at
best but like a lowing ox or a whistling blackbird; I may say, he acts
according to the persistence and doggedness of his nature and species.
What you see least is his torpid soul, which is never stirring, but
always dormant.

(143.) A blockhead never dies; or if, according to our manner of
speaking, he dies at one time or other, I may truly say he gains by it,
and that, when others die, he begins to live. His mind then thinks,
reasons, draws inferences and conclusions, judges, foresees, and does
everything it never did before; it finds itself released from a lump
of flesh, in which it seemed buried without having anything to do,
and without any motion, or at least any worthy of that name; I should
almost say, it blushes to have lodged in such a body, as well as for
its own crude and imperfect organs, to which it has been shackled so
long, and with which it could only produce a blockhead or a fool. Now
it is equal to the greatest of those minds which animated the bodies of
the cleverest or the most intellectual men, and the mind of the merest
clodhopper[591] is no longer to be distinguished from those of Condé,
Richelieu, Pascal, and Lingendes.[592]

(144.) A false delicacy in familiar actions, in manners or conduct,
is not so called because it is simulated, but because it is really
employed in things and on occasions where it is utterly out of place.
On the other hand, a false delicacy in taste or temper is only so when
it is feigned or affected. Emilia screams as loud as she can when a
trifling accident happens, and when she is not a bit afraid; another
lady affectedly turns pale at the sight of a mouse, or is fond of
violets, and swoons at the scent of a tuberose.

(145.) Who would venture and flatter himself to satisfy mankind?
Let no prince, however good and powerful, pretend to do so. Let him
promote their pleasures,[593] let him open his palace to his courtiers,
and even admit them amongst his own followers; let him show them
other spectacles in those very places of which the mere sight is a
spectacle;[594] let him give them their choice of games, concerts,
and refreshments, and add to this magnificent cheer, amidst the most
complete liberty; join with them in their amusements; let the great
man become affable, and the hero humane and familiar, and this would
not be sufficient. Men finally tire of the very things which at
first enraptured them; they would forsake the table of the gods; and
nectar, in time, would become insipid. Through vanity and wretched
over-refinement, they do not hesitate to criticise things which are
perfect; in spite of every exertion, their taste, if we may believe
them, can never be gratified, and even regal expenditure would be
unsuccessful; malice prompts them to do what they can to lessen the
joy others may feel in satisfying them. These same people, commonly so
sycophantic and complaisant, are liable to forget themselves; sometimes
they are scarcely to be recognised, and we see the man even in the

(146.) Affectation in gesture, speech, and manners is frequently the
outcome of indolence or indifference; whereas a great passion or
matters of importance seem to compel a man to become natural.

(147.) Men have no characters, or if they have, it is that of having
no constant and invariable one, by which they may at all times be
known; they cannot bear to be always the same, to persevere either
in regularity or license; and if they sometimes forsake one virtue
for another, they more often get disgusted with one vice through
another vice. Their passions run counter to another, and their foibles
contradict each other; extremes are easier to them than a regular and
natural conduct would be; they dislike moderation, and are extravagant
in good as well as evil things; and when they no longer are able to
stand excesses they relieve themselves by change. Adrastes was such
a profligate libertine that he found it comparatively easy to comply
with the fashion and to become devout; he would have found it much more
difficult to become an honest man.[595]

(148.) What is the reason that some people, who can meet the most
trying disasters with coolness, lose all command over themselves and
fly into a passion at the least inconvenience? Such conduct is not
wise, for virtue is always the same and does not contradict itself;
it is a vice, then, and nothing else but vanity, roused and stirred
up by those events which make a noise in the world and when there is
something to be gained, but which is negligent in all other things.

(149.) We seldom repent talking too little, but very often talking too
much; this is a common and well-known maxim, which everybody knows and
nobody practises.

(150.) To say things of our enemies which are not true, and to lie to
defame them, is to avenge ourselves on ourselves, and give them too
great an advantage over us.

(151.) If men knew how to blush at their own actions, how many crimes,
and not only those that are hidden, but those that are public and well
known, would never be committed!

(152.) If some men are not so honest as they might be, the fault lies
in their bringing up.

(153.) There exists in some people a happy mediocrity of intelligence
which contributes to keep them discreet.

(154.) Rods and ferulas are for children;[596] crowns, sceptres, caps,
gowns, _fasces_, kettledrums, archersʼ dresses for men.[597] Reason and
justice, without their gewgaws, would neither convince nor intimidate;
man who has intelligence, is led by his eyes and his ears.

(155.) Timon, or the misanthrope, may have an austere and savage mind,
but outwardly he is polite, and even ceremonious; he does not lose all
command over himself, and does not become familiar with other men; on
the contrary, he treats them politely and gravely, and in a manner
that does not encourage any freedom to be taken; he does not desire
to be better acquainted with them nor to make friends of them, and is
somewhat like a lady visiting another lady.[598]

(156.) Reason is ever allied to truth, and is almost identical with
it; only one way leads to it, but a thousand roads can lead us astray.
The study of wisdom is not so extensive as that of fools and coxcombs;
he who has seen none but polite and reasonable men, either does not
know men, or knows them only by halves. Whatever difference may be
noticed in disposition and manners, intercourse with the world and
politeness produce the same appearance in all, and externally make men
resemble one another in some way which mutually pleases, and being
common to all, leads us to believe that everything else is in the same
proportion. A man, on the contrary, who mixes with the common people,
or retires into the country, will, if he has eyes, in a short time make
some strange discoveries, and see things which are new to him, and
which he never before imagined existed; gradually and by experience he
increases his knowledge of humanity, and almost calculates in how many
different ways man may become unbearable.

(157.) After having maturely considered mankind and found out the
insincerity of their thoughts, opinions, inclinations, and affections,
we are compelled to acknowledge that stubbornness does them more harm
than inconstancy.

(158.) How many weak, effeminate, careless minds exist without any
extraordinary faults, and who yet are proper subjects for satire! How
many various kinds of ridicule are disseminated amongst the whole human
race, which by their very eccentricity are of little consequence,
and are not ameliorated by instruction or morality. Such vices are
individual and not contagious, and are rather personal than belonging
to humanity in general.




(1.) Nothing is more like a deep-rooted conviction than obstinate
conceit; whence proceed parties, intrigues, and heresies.

(2.) We do not always let our thoughts run on one and the same subject
without varying them: infatuation[599] and disgust closely follow on
one another.

(3.) Great things astonish and small dishearten us; custom familiarises
us with both.

(4.) Two qualities quite opposed to one another equally bias our minds:
custom and novelty.

(5.) There is nothing so mean and so truly vulgar as extravagantly to
praise those very persons of whom we had but very indifferent opinions
before their promotion.

(6.) A princeʼs favour does not exclude merit, nor does it even suppose
its existence.

(7.) We are puffed up with pride and entertain a high opinion of
ourselves and of the correctness of our judgment, and yet it is
surprising we neglect to make use of it in speaking of other peopleʼs
merit; fashion, the fancy of the people or of the prince, carry us
away like a torrent; we extol rather what is praised than what is

(8.) I doubt whether anything is approved and commended more
reluctantly than what deserves most to be approved and praised; and
whether virtue, merit, beauty, good actions, and the best writings
produce a more natural and certain impression than envy, jealousy, and
antipathy. A pious person[600] does not speak well of a saint, but of
another pious person. If a handsome woman allows that another woman is
beautiful, we may safely conclude she excels her; or if a poet praises
a brother poetʼs verses, it is pretty sure they are wretched and

(9.) Men do not easily like one another, and are not much inclined
to commend each other. Neither actions, behaviour, thoughts, nor
expression please them nor are satisfactory; they substitute for what
is recited, told, or read to them what they themselves would have done
in such a circumstance, or what they think and have written on such a
subject; and are so full of their own ideas that they have no room for

(10.) Men are generally inclined to become dissolute and frivolous,
and such a large number of pernicious or ridiculous examples is to
be found in this world, that I should feel inclined to believe that
eccentricity, if kept within bounds and not gone too far, would almost
be like correct reasoning and regular behaviour.

“We must do as others do” is a dangerous maxim, which nearly always
means “we must do wrong” if it is applied to any but external things of
no consequence, and depending on custom, fashion, or decency.

(11.) If men were not more like bears and panthers than men, if they
were honest, just to themselves and to others, what would become of
the law, the text and the prodigious amount of commentaries made on
it; what of petitions and actions,[601] and everything people call
jurisprudence? And to what would those persons be reduced who owe
all their importance and pride to the authority with which they are
invested for seeing those laws executed? If those very men were honest
and sincere, and had no prejudices, the wrangles of the schoolmen,
scholasticism, and all controversies would vanish. If all men were
temperate, chaste, and moderate, what would be the use of that
mysterious medical jargon, a gold-mine for those persons who know how
to use it? What a downfall would it be for all lawyers, doctors, and
physicians if we could all agree to become wise!

We would have been obliged to do without many men great in peace and
war. Several arts and sciences have been brought to a high degree
of exquisite perfection, which, so far from being necessary, were
introduced into the world as remedies for those evils only caused by
our wickedness.

How many things have sprung up since Varroʼs[602] times, of which he
was ignorant! Such a knowledge as Plato or Socrates possessed would now
not satisfy us.

(12.) At a sermon, a concert, or in a picture gallery, we can hear in
different parts of the room quite contrary opinions expressed upon the
very same subject; and hence I draw the conclusion that in all kinds of
works we may venture to insert bad things as well as good ones; for the
good please some and the bad others; and we do not risk much more by
putting in the very worst, for it will find admirers.

(13.) The phœnix of vocal poetry rose out of his own ashes, and in
one and the same day saw his reputation lost and recovered. That same
judge so infallible and yet so decided—I mean the public—changed his
views regarding him, and either was, or is now, in error. He who should
say to day that Q ... is a wretched poet would pronounce as bad an
opinion as he who formerly said he was a good one.[603]

(14.) Chapelain was rich and Corneille was not; _La Pucelle_ and
_Rodogune_ deserved a different fate;[604] therefore, it has always
been a question why, in certain professions, one man makes his
fortune and another fails? Men should look for the reason of this in
their own whimsical behaviour, which, on most important occasions, when
their business, their pleasures, their health, and their life are at
stake, often makes them leave what is best and take what is worst.

(15.) The profession of an actor was considered infamous among the
Romans, and honourable among the Greeks: how is it considered amongst
us? We think of them like the Romans, and live with them like the

(16.) It was sufficient for Bathyllus to be a pantomimist to be courted
by the Roman ladies; for Rhoe to dance on the stage, or for Roscia and
Nerina[605] to sing in the chorus to attract a crowd of lovers. Vanity
and impudence, the consequences of being too powerful, made the Romans
lose a taste for pleasures secretly and mysteriously enjoyed; they were
fond of loving actresses, without any jealousy of the audience, and
shared with the multitude the charms of their mistresses; they only
cared to show they loved not a beauty nor an excellent actress, but an

(17.) Nothing better demonstrates how men regard science and
literature, and of what use they are considered in the State, than
the recompense assigned to them, and the idea generally entertained
of those persons who resolve to cultivate them. There is not a mere
handicraft nor ever so vile a position, that is not a surer, quicker,
and more certain way to wealth. An actor lolling in his coach[607]
bespatters the face of Corneille walking on foot. With many people
learning and pedantry are synonymous.

Often when a rich man speaks and speaks of science, the learned must
be silent, listen, and applaud, at least if they would be considered
something else besides learned.

(18.) A certain boldness is required to vindicate learning before
some persons strongly prejudiced against learned men, whom they call
ill-mannered, wanting in tact, unfit for society, and whom they
send back, stripped in this way, to their study and their books. As
ignorance is easy, and not difficult to acquire, many people embrace
it; and these form a large majority at court and in the city, and
overpower the learned. If the latter allege in their favour the
names of dʼEstrées, de Harlay, Bossuet, Séguier, Montausier, Wardes,
Chevreuse, Novion, Lamoignon, Scudéry, Pellisson,[608] and of many
other personages equally learned and polite; nay, if they dare
mention the great names of Chartres, Condé, Conti, Bourbon, Maine, and
Vendôme,[609] as princes who to the noblest and loftiest acquirements
add Greek atticism and Roman urbanity, those persons do not hesitate
to reply that such examples are exceptional; and the sound arguments
brought forward are powerless against public opinion. However, it seems
that people should be more careful in giving their decisions, and at
least not take the trouble of asserting that intellects producing such
great progress in science, and making persons think well, judge well,
speak well, and write well, could not acquire polite accomplishments.

No very great intelligence is necessary to have polished manners, but a
great deal is needed to polish the mind.

(19.) A politician says: “Such a man is learned, and therefore not
fit for business; I would not trust him to take an inventory of my
wardrobe;” and he is quite right, Ossat, Ximenes, and Richelieu[610]
were learned, but were they men of ability and considered able
ministers? “He understands Greek,” continues our statesman, “he is a
pedant,[611] a philosopher.” According to this argument an Athenian
fruit-woman who probably spoke Greek was a philosopher, and the Bignons
and Lamoignons[612] are mere pedants, and nobody can doubt it, for they
know Greek. How whimsical and crack-brained was the great, the wise,
and judicious Antoninus to say: “That a people would be happy whose
ruler was philosophising, or who should be governed by a philosopher or
a scribbler.”[613]

Languages are but the keys or entrance-gates of sciences, and nothing
more; he that despises the one slights the other. It matters little
whether languages are ancient or modern, dead or living, but whether
they are barbarous or polite and whether the books written in them are
good or bad. Suppose the French language should one day meet with the
fate of the Greek and Latin tongues; would it be considered pedantic to
read Molière or La Fontaine some ages after French had ceased to be a
living language?

(20.) If I mention Eurypilus, you say he is a wit.

You also call a man who shapes a beam a carpenter, and him who builds
a wall a bricklayer. Let me ask you where this wit has his workshop,
and what is his sign? Can we recognise him by his dress? What are his
tools? Is it a wedge, a hammer, an anvil? Where does he rough-hew or
shape his work, and where is it for sale? A workman is proud of his
trade; is Eurypilus proud of being a wit? If he is proud of it, he is
a coxcomb, who debases the natural dignity of his intellect, and has a
low and mechanical mind, which never seriously applies itself to what
is either lofty or intellectual; and if he is not proud of anything,
and this I understand to be his real character, then he is a sensible
and intelligent man. Do you not bestow the title of “wit” on every
pretender to learning and on every wretched poet? Do you not think you
have some intelligence, and if so, no doubt a first-rate and practical
one? But do you consider yourself, therefore, a wit, and would you not
deem it an insult to be called so? However, I give you leave to call
Eurypilus so, and this ironically, as fools do, and without the least
discrimination, or as ignorant people do who console themselves by
irony for the want of a certain culture which they perceive in others.

(21.) I do not wish to hear anything more about pen, ink, or paper,
style, printer, or press! Venture no more to tell me: “Antisthenes, you
are a first-rate author; continue to write. Shall we never see a folio
volume of yours? Speak of all the virtues and vices in one connected
and methodical treatise, without end,” and they should also add,
“without any sale.” I renounce everything that either was, is, or will
be a book! Beryllus swoons when he sees a cat,[614] and I on beholding
a book. Am I better fed or warmer clothed; is my room sheltered against
northern blasts; have I so much as a feather-bed,[615] after having had
my works for sale for more than twenty years? You say I have a great
name and a first-rate reputation: you may just as well tell me that I
have a stock of air I cannot dispose of. Have I one grain of that metal
which procures all things? The low pettifogger[616] swells his bill,
get costs paid which never came out of his pocket, and a count or a
magistrate becomes his son-in-law. A man in a red or filemot-coloured
dress[617] is changed into a secretary, and in a little time is richer
than his master, who remains a commoner whilst he buys a title for
hard cash. B ...[618] enriches himself by some waxwork show; B ...
by selling some bottled river-water.[619] Another quack[620] arrives
with one trunk from the other side of the Pyrenees; it is scarcely
unpacked when pensions rain on him, and he is ready to return whence
he came with plenty of mules and cartloads full of property. Mercury
is Mercury,[621] and nothing else; and as gold alone cannot pay
his go-betweens and his intrigues, he obtains, moreover, favour and
distinctions. To confine myself to lawful gain, you pay a tiler for his
tiles and a workman for his time and labour; but do you pay an author
for his thoughts and writings? and if his thoughts are excellent, do
you pay him liberally? Does he furnish his house or become ennobled by
thinking or writing well? Men must be clothed and shaved,[622] have
houses with doors that shut close; but where is the necessity of their
being well informed? It were folly, simplicity, stupidity, continues
Antisthenes, to set up for an author or a philosopher! Get me, if
possible, some lucrative post which may make my life easy, enable me to
lend some money to a friend, and give to those who cannot return it;
and then I can write for recreation or indolently, just as Tityrus[623]
whistles or plays on the flute; Iʼll have that or nothing, and will
write on those conditions; I will yield to the violence of those who
take me by the throat and exclaim, “You shall write!” I have the title
of my new book ready for them: “Of beauty, goodness, truth, ideas, of
first principles, by Antisthenes, a fishmonger.”

(22.) If the ambassadors of some foreign princes[624] were apes who had
learned to walk on their hind-legs, and to make themselves understood
by interpreters, it could not surprise us more than the correctness
of their answers, and the common sense which at times appears in their
discourse. Our prepossession in favour of our native country and our
national pride makes us forget that common sense is found in all
climates, and correctness of thought wherever there are men. We should
not like to be so treated by those we call barbarians; and if some
barbarity still exists amongst us, it is in being amazed on hearing
natives of other countries reason like ourselves.

All strangers are not barbarians, nor are all our countrymen civilised;
in like manner every country is not savage,[625] nor every town
polished. There exists in Europe, in a large kingdom, a certain place
in a maritime province where the villagers are gentle and affable,
and, on the contrary, the burgesses and the magistrates coarse, with a
boorishness inherited from their ancestors.[626]

(23.) In spite of our pure language, our neatness in dress, our
cultivated manners, our good laws and fair complexion, we are
considered barbarians by some nations.

(24.) If we should hear it reported of an Eastern nation that they
habitually drink a liquor which flies to their head, drives them mad,
and makes them very sick, we should say they are barbarians.

(25.) This prelate seldom comes to court, lives retired, and is never
seen in the company of ladies: he neither plays grand nor little
_primero_,[627] is not present at feasts or spectacles, is not a party
man, and does not intrigue; he is always in his diocese, where he
resides, devotes himself to instructing his people by preaching and
edifying them by his example; spends his wealth in charity, and wastes
away through doing penance; he is strict in the observance of his
duties, but his zeal and piety are like those of the apostles. Times
are changed, and in the present reign he is threatened with a higher
clerical dignity.[628]

(26.) Persons of a certain position, and members of a profession of
great dignity, to say no more,[629] should understand that they are
not to gamble, sing, and be as jocular as other men, so that the world
may talk about them; if they see them so pleasant and agreeable, it
will not be believed that they are elsewhere staid and severe. May
we venture to hint that by acting in such an undignified manner they
offend against those polished manners upon which they pride themselves,
and which, on the contrary, modify outward behaviour and make it suit
any condition of life, cause them to avoid strong contrasts, and never
show the same man in these various shapes as a compound of eccentricity
and extravagance.

(27.) At a first and single glance we ought not to judge of men as
of a picture or statue; there is an inner man, and a heart to be
searched; a veil of modesty covers merit, and a mask of hypocrisy
covers wickedness. Few there are whose discernment authorises them to
decide; it is but gradually, and even then, perhaps, compelled by time
and circumstances, that perfect virtue or absolute vice show themselves
in their true colours.

(28.) A FRAGMENT.... “He said that the intelligence of this fair lady
was like a diamond in a handsome setting,” and, continuing to speak
of her, he added: “Her common sense and agreeable manners charm the
eyes and hearts of all who converse with her, so that they do not know
whether to love or to admire her most; she can be a perfect friend,
or produce such an impression that her admirers feel inclined to
transgress the bounds of friendship. Too young and healthy-looking not
to please, but too modest to affect it, she esteems men only for their
merit, and believes she has only friends; her vivacity and sentiment
surprise and interest us, and though she knows perfectly the delicacies
and niceties of conversation, she sometimes suddenly makes some happy
observations, which give a great deal of pleasure and need not be
answered. She speaks to you like one who is not learned, who is not
certain of anything, and wants to be informed; and she listens to you
as a person who knows a great deal, highly values what you say, and
on whom nothing of what you say is lost. Far from pretending to be
witty by contradicting you, and by imitating Elvira, who had rather
be thought sprightly than a woman of sense and sound judgment, she
adopts your thoughts, thinks they are her own, enlarges on them, and
embellishes them; and makes you pleased you have thought so correctly
and expressed yourself better than you believed you did. She shows her
contempt for vanity in her conversation and in her writings, and never
employs witticisms instead of arguments, for she is aware that true
eloquence is always unaffected. If it is to serve any one and to induce
you to do the same, Arténice leaves to Elvira all pretty speeches and
literary phraseology, and only tries to convince you by her sincerity,
ardour, and earnestness. What she likes above everything is reading, as
well as conversing with persons of merit and reputation, and this not
so much to be known to them, as to know them. We may already commend
her for all the wisdom she will have one day, and for all the merit
she will have in time to come; her behaviour is without reproach; she
has the best intentions, and principles which cannot be shaken, and
are very useful to those who, like her, are exposed to be courted and
flattered. She rather likes to be alone, without, however, altogether
shunning society, and indeed without even being inclined to retirement,
so that perhaps she wants nothing but opportunities, or, as some would
call it, a large stage for the display of all her qualities.[630]

(29.) The more natural a handsome woman is, the more amiable she
appears; she loses nothing by being not in full dress, and without any
other ornaments than her beauty and her youth. An artless charm beams
on her countenance and animates every little action, so that there
would be less danger in seeing her adorned in splendid and fashionable
apparel. Thus an honest man is respected for his own sake, independent
of any outward deportment by which he endeavours to give himself a
graver appearance and to make his virtue more apparent. An austere
look, an exaggerated modesty, eccentricity in dress, and a large
skull-cap, add nothing to his probity nor heighten his merit;[631] they
conceal it, and perhaps make it appear less pure and ingenuous than it

Gravity too affected becomes comical; it is like extremities which join
one another, and of which the centre is dignity; this cannot be called
being grave, but acting the part of a grave man; a person who studies
to assume a serious appearance will never succeed. Either gravity is
natural, or there is no such thing, and it is easier to descend from it
than to attain it.

(30.) A man of talent and of good repute, if he is peevish and austere,
frightens young people and gives them a bad opinion of virtue, as they
are afraid it requires too much austerity, and is too tiresome. If,
on the contrary, he is cheerful and easily accessible, his example
is instructive to them, for it teaches them that men may live happy,
do a good deal of work, and yet be serious without giving up decent
diversions; he thus is an exemplar they can follow.

(31.) We should not judge of men by their countenance; but it may serve
to make a guess at their character.

(32.) A clever look in men is the same as regularity of features among
women; it is a kind of beauty which the vainest endeavour to acquire.

(33.) When a man is known to have merit and intelligence, he is
never ugly, however plain he may be; or if even he is ugly, it leaves
no bad impression.[632]

(34.) A good deal of art is needed to return to nature; a good deal of
time, practice, attention, and labour to dance with the same freedom
and ease we walk with; to sing as we speak; to throw as much vivacity,
passion, and persuasion in a studied speech to be publicly delivered as
in one which we sometimes naturally use, without any preparation, and
in familiar conversation.

(35.) They who without sufficient knowledge have a bad opinion of us,
do not wrong us; they do not attack us, but a phantom of their own

(36.) Some trifling regulations have to be followed in certain places,
some duties have to be fulfilled at certain times, and some decorum has
to be observed by certain persons, which could not be divined by the
most intelligent people, and which custom teaches without any trouble:
we should, therefore, not condemn men who omit these things, as they
have not been taught them, neither should we decide their characters by
the shape of their nails or the curl of their hair; if we do form such
a judgment we shall soon find out our error.

(37.) I doubt whether it be lawful to judge of some men by a single
fault, or if extreme necessity, a violent passion, or a sudden impulse
prove anything.

(38.) If we wish to know the truth about certain affairs or certain
persons, we should believe the very opposite of the reports circulated
about them.

(39.) Unless we are very firm and pay continual attention to what we
utter, we are liable to say “yes” and “no” about the same thing or
person in an hourʼs time, induced to do this merely by a sociable and
friendly disposition, which naturally leads a person not to contradict
men who hold different opinions.

(40.) A partial man is exposed to frequent mortifications; for it is
as impossible for his favourites always to be happy or wise as for
those who are out of his favour always to be at fault or unfortunate;
and, therefore, he often is put out of countenance either through the
failure of his friends, or some glorious deed done by those whom he

(41.) A man liable to be prejudiced who ventures to accept an
ecclesiastical or civil dignity is like a blind man wishing to be an
artist, a dumb man who would be an orator, or a deaf man desiring
to judge a symphony; these are but faint comparisons imperfectly
expressing the wretchedness of prejudice. Besides, prejudice is a
desperate and incurable disease, contaminating all who approach the
patient, so that his equals, inferiors, relatives, friends, and even
the doctors abandon him; it is past their skill to work any cure if
they cannot make him confess what is his disease, and acknowledge that
the remedies to heal it are to listen, to doubt, to inquire, and to
examine. Flatterers, rogues, and slanderers, those who never open their
mouths but to lie or to advance their own interests, are the quacks in
whom he trusts, and who make him swallow all they please; they thus
poison and kill him.

(42.) Descartesʼ rule never to decide on the slightest truth before it
is clearly and distinctly understood is sufficiently grand and correct
to extend to the judgment we form of persons.

(43.) Some men have a bad opinion of our intellect, morals, and
manners; but we are well revenged when we see the worthless and base
character of their favourites.

On this principle a man of merit is neglected and a blockhead admired.

(44.) A blockhead is a man without enough intelligence to be a coxcomb.

(45.) A blockhead thinks a coxcomb a man of merit.

(46.) An impertinent man is an egregious coxcomb; a coxcomb wearies,
bores, disgusts, and repels you; an impertinent man repels, embitters,
irritates, and offends; he begins where the other ends.

A coxcomb is somewhat of an impertinent man and of a blockhead, and is
a medley of both.

(47.) Vices arise from a depraved heart; faults from some defect in our
constitution; ridicule from want of sense.

A ridiculous man is one who, whilst he is so, has the appearance of a

A blockhead is always ridiculous, for that is his character; an
intelligent man may sometimes be ridiculous, but will not be so long.

An error in conduct makes a wise man ridiculous.

Foolishness is a criterion of a blockhead, vanity of a coxcomb, and
impertinence of an impertinent man; ridicule seems sometimes to dwell
in those who are really ridiculous, and sometimes in the imagination of
those who believe they perceive ridicule where it neither is nor can be.

(48.) Coarseness, clownishness, and brutality may be the vices of an
intelligent man.

(49.) A stupid man is a silent blockhead, and is more bearable than a
talkative blockhead.

(50.) What is often a slip of the tongue or a jest from a man of sense
is a blunder when said by a blockhead.

(51.) If a coxcomb would be afraid of saying something not exactly
right he would no longer be a coxcomb.

(52.) One proof of a commonplace intellect is to be always relating

(53.) A blockhead does not know what to do with himself; a coxcomb is
free, easy, and confident in his manners; an impertinent man becomes
impudent; and merit is always modest.

(54.) A conceited man is one in whom a knowledge of certain details,
dignified by the name of business, is added to a very middling

One grain of sense and one ounce[633] of business more than there are
in a conceited man, make the man of importance.

While people only laugh at a man of importance he has no other name;
but when they begin to complain of him he may be called arrogant.

(55.) A gentleman is between a clever man and an honest man, though not
as distant from the one as from the other.[634]

The difference between a gentleman and a clever man diminishes each
day, and will soon disappear altogether.

A clever man does not blaze forth his passions, understands his own
interests, sacrifices many things to them, has acquired some wealth,
and knows how to keep it.

A gentleman is not a highwayman, commits no murders, and, in one word,
has no flagrant vices.

It is very well known that an honest man is a gentleman; but it is
comical to think that every gentleman is not an honest man.

An honest man is neither a saint nor a pretender in religion, but has
only confined himself to being virtuous.

(56.) Genius, taste, intelligence, good sense, are all different, but
not incompatible.

Between good sense and good taste there is as much difference as
between cause and effect.

Intelligence is to genius as the whole is in proportion to its part.

(57.) Shall I call a man sensible who only practises one art, or even
a certain science, in which I allow him to be perfect, but beyond that
displays neither judgment, memory, animation, morals, nor manners; does
not understand me; thinks not, and expresses himself badly; a musician,
for example, who, after he has enraptured me with his harmony, seems
to be shut up with his lute in the same case, and when he is without
his instrument is like a machine taken to pieces, in which there is
something wanting and from which nothing more is to be expected?

Again, what shall I say of a certain talent for playing various games,
and who can define it to me? Is there no need of foresight, shrewdness,
or skill in playing ombre[635] or chess? And if there is, how does it
happen that we see men of hardly any intellect excel in these games,
and others of great talent scarcely show moderate ability, and get
confused and bewildered when they have to move a pawn or play a card?

There is something in this world, which, if possible, is still more
difficult to understand. Some person seems dull, heavy, and stupefied;
he knows neither how to speak, nor to relate what he has just seen;
but, if he puts pen to paper, he can tell a tale better than any man;
he makes animals, stones, and trees talk, and everything which does not
speak; his works are light, elegant, natural, and full of delicacy.[636]

Another is simple, timorous, and tiresome in conversation; he mistakes
one word for another, and judges of the excellence of his work
merely by the money it brings him; he cannot read this work aloud,
nor decipher his own handwriting. But let him compose, and he is not
inferior to Augustus, Pompey, Nicomedes, and Heraclius; he is a king,
and a great king, a politician and a philosopher; he undertakes to make
heroes speak and act; he depicts the Romans, and in his verse they are
greater, and more like Romans, than in their own history.[637]

Should you like to have an outline of another prodigy? Imagine a man,
easy, gentle, affable, yielding, and then all of a sudden violent,
enraged, furious, and capricious; represent to yourself a man simple,
artless, credulous, sportive, and flighty, a grey-haired child; but
let him recollect himself, or rather give himself up to the genius
dwelling within him, and perhaps quite independent of him and without
his knowledge, he will display rapture, lofty thoughts, splendid
imagery, and pure latinity. You may well ask if I speak of one and
the same man? Yes, of Theodas,[638] and of no one else. He shrieks,
is quite agitated, rolls on the ground, rises, shouts, and roars; and
yet amidst this whirlwind of words shines forth a brilliant effulgence
which delights us. To speak plainly, he talks like a fool and thinks
like a wise man; he utters truth in a ridiculous way, and sensible and
reasonable sayings in a foolish manner; people are surprised to hear
common sense arise and bud amidst so much buffoonery, so many grimaces
and contortions. I may say also that he speaks and acts better than
he understands; he has within him, as it were, two souls, which are
unconnected and do not depend on one another, but act each in their
turn and have quite distinct functions. This astonishing picture would
want another touch should I omit to state that he is anxiously craving
for praise, has never enough of it, and is ready to fly at any of his
critics, but in reality is docile enough to profit by their censure.
I begin to imagine I have drawn the portraits of two wholly different
persons; and yet to find a third in Theodas is not quite impossible,
for he is kind-hearted, agreeable, and has excellent qualities.

Next to sound judgment, diamonds and pearls are the rarest things to be
met with.

(58.) One man is well known for his abilities, and is honoured and
cherished wherever he goes, but he is slighted by his household and his
own family, whom he cannot induce to esteem him; another man, on the
contrary, is a prophet in his own country, has a great reputation among
his friends, which does, however, not extend beyond his house, and
prides himself on the rare and singular merit his family—whose idol he
is—believe he is possessed of, but which he leaves at home every time
he goes out, and takes nowhere with him.[639]

(59.) Every one attacks a man whose reputation is rising; the very
persons he thinks his friends hardly pardon his growing merit, or
that early popularity which seems to give him a share of the renown
they already enjoy; they hold out as long as they can, until the king
declares himself in his favour and rewards him; then they immediately
gather in crowds round him, and only from that day he ranks as a man of

(60.) We often pretend to praise immoderately some men who hardly
deserve it, and to raise them, if it were possible, on a level with
those who are really eminent, either because we are tired of admiring
always the same persons, or because their fame, being divided, is less
offensive to behold, and seems to us less brilliant and easier to be

(61.) We see some men carried along by the propitious gale of favour,
and, in one moment, they lose sight of land, and continue their course;
everything smiles on them, and they are successful in whatever they
undertake; their deeds and their works are extolled and well rewarded,
and when they appear they are caressed and congratulated. A firm rock
stands on the coast, and breakers dash against its base; all the blasts
of power, riches, violence, flattery, authority, and favour cannot
shake it. The public is the rock against which these men are dashed to

(62.) It is usual, and, as it were, natural to judge of other menʼs
labour only by the affinity it bears to our own. Thus a poet, filled
with grand and sublime ideas, does not greatly prize an oratorʼs
speech, which is often merely about simple facts; and a man who writes
the history of his native land cannot understand how any person of
sense can spend his whole life in contriving fictions or hunting
after a rhyme; and a divine, immersed in the study of the first four
centuries,[640] thinks all other learning and science sad, idle, and
useless, whilst he perhaps is as much despised by a mathematician.

(63.) A man may have intelligence enough to excel in a particular thing
and lecture on it, and yet not have sense enough to know he ought to be
silent on some other subject of which he has but a slight knowledge; if
such an illustrious man ventures beyond the bounds of his capacity, he
loses his way, and talks like a fool.

(64.) Whether Herillus talks, declaims, or writes, he is continually
quoting; he brings in the prince of philosophers[641] to tell you that
wine will make you intoxicated, and the Roman orator[642] to say that
water qualifies it. When he discourses of morals, it is not he, but the
divine Plato who assures us that virtue is amiable, vice odious, and
that both will become habitual. The most common and well-known things,
which he himself might have thought out, he attributes to the ancients,
the Romans and Greeks; it is not to give more authority to what he
says, nor perhaps to get more credit for learning, but merely for the
sake of employing quotations.

(65.) We often pretend that a witticism is our own, and by doing this
we run the risk of destroying its effect; it falls flat, and witty
people, or those who think themselves so, receive it coldly, because
they ought to have said it, and did not. On the contrary, if told as
anotherʼs, it would meet with a better reception; it is but a jest
which no one is obliged to know; it is related in a more insinuating
manner, and causes less jealousy; it offends nobody; if it is amusing
it is laughed at, and if excellent is admired.

(66.) Socrates was said to be insane, to be “an intelligent madman;”
but those Greeks who gave such a name to so wise a man passed for
madmen themselves. They exclaimed, “What odd portraits does this
philosopher present us with! What strange and peculiar manners does he
describe! In what dreams did he discover and collect such extraordinary
ideas! What colours and what a brush has he! They are only idle
fancies!” They were mistaken—all those monsters and vices were painted
from life, so that people imagined they saw them, and were terrified.
Socrates was far from a cynic; he did not indulge in personalities, but
lashed the morals and manners which were bad.[643]

(67.) A man who has acquired wealth by his knowledge of the world is
acquainted with a philosopher, and with his precepts, morals, and
conduct; but not imagining that mankind can have any other goal in
whatever they do than the one he marked out for himself during his
whole lifetime, he says in his heart, “I pity this rigid critic; his
life has been a failure; he is on a wrong track, and has lost his way;
no wind will ever waft him to a prosperous harbour of preferment;” and,
according to his own principles, he is right in his arguments.

Antisthius says: “I pardon those I have praised in my works, if they
will forget me, for I did nothing for them, as they deserved to be
commended. But I will not so easily pardon forgetfulness in those whose
vices I have attacked, without touching their persons, if they owe
me the invaluable boon of being amended; but as such an event never
happens, it follows that neither the one nor the other are obliged to
make me any return.”

This philosopher continued saying: “People may envy my writings or
refuse them their reward, but they are unable to diminish their
reputation; and if they did, what should hinder me from scorning their

(68.) It is a good thing to be a philosopher, but it does not much
benefit a man to be thought one. It will be considered an insult to
call any one a philosopher till the general voice of mankind has
declared it otherwise, given its true meaning to this beautiful word,
and granted it all the esteem it deserves.

(69.) There is a philosophy which raises us above ambition and
fortune, and not only makes us the equals of the rich, the great, and
the powerful, but places us above them; makes us contemn office and
those who appoint to it; exempts us from wishing, asking, praying,
soliciting, and begging for anything, and even restrains our emotion
and our excessive exultation when successful. There is another
philosophy which inclines and subjects us to all these things for the
sake of our relatives and friends; and this is the better of the two.

(70.) It will shorten and rid us of a thousand tedious discussions
to take it for granted that some persons are not capable of talking
correctly, and to condemn all they have said, do say, or will say.

(71.) We only approve in others those qualities in which we imagine
they resemble us; thus, to esteem any one seems to make him an equal of

(72.) The same faults which are dull and unbearable in others are in
their right place when we have them; they do not weigh us down, and are
hardly felt. One man, speaking of another, draws a terrible likeness
of him, and does not in the least imagine that at the same time he is
painting himself.

If we could see the faults in other people, and could be brought to
acknowledge that we possess the same faults, we would more readily
amend them; it is when we are at a right distance from them, and when
they appear what they really are, that we dislike them as much as they

(73.) A wise manʼs behaviour turns on two pivots, the past and the
future. If he has a good memory and a keen foresight, he runs no
danger of censuring in others what perhaps he has done himself,
or of condemning an action which, in a parallel case, and in like
circumstances, he sees it will be impossible for him to avoid.

(74.) Neither a soldier, a politician, nor a skilful gambler[644]
create luck, but they prepare it, allure it, and seem almost to fix it.
They not only know what a fool and a coward ignore, I mean, to make use
of luck when it does come, but by their precautions and measures they
know how to take advantage of a lucky chance, or of several chances
together. If a certain deal or throw succeeds, they gain; if another
happens, they also win; and often profit by one and the same in various
ways. These sharp men may be commended both for their good fortune and
prudent conduct, and they should be rewarded for their luck as other
men are for their virtue.

(75.) I place nobody above a great politician but a man who does not
care to become one, and who is more and more convinced that it is not
worth troubling himself about what is going on in the world.

(76.) In the best of counsels there is something to displease us; they
are not our own thoughts; and, therefore, presumption and caprice at
first cause them to be rejected, whilst we only follow them through
necessity or after having reflected.

(77.) This favourite has been wonderfully fortunate during his whole
lifetime; he enjoyed an uninterrupted good fortune, was never in
disgrace, occupied the highest posts, was in the kingʼs confidence,
had vast treasures, perfect health, and died quietly. But what an
extraordinary account he will have to render of a life spent as a
favourite, of advice given, of advice which was not tendered or not
listened to, of good deeds omitted, and, on the contrary, of evil ones
committed, either by himself or his instruments; in a word, of all his

(78.) When we are dead we are praised by those who survive us, though
we frequently have no other merit than that of being no longer alive;
the same commendations serve then for Cato and for Piso.[646]

“There is a report that Piso is dead; it is a great loss; he was
an honest man, who deserved to live longer; he was intelligent and
agreeable, resolute and courageous, to be depended upon, generous and
faithful;” add: “provided he be really dead.”

(79.) The way in which we exclaim about certain persons being
distinguished for their good faith, disinterestedness, and honesty is
not so much to their praise as to the disrepute of all mankind.

(80.) A certain person relieves the necessitous, but neglects his own
family and leaves his son a beggar; another builds a new house though
he has not paid for the lead of the one finished ten years before; a
third makes presents and is very liberal, but ruins his creditors. I
would fain know whether pity, liberality, and magnificence can be the
virtues of a man without sense, or whether eccentricity and vanity are
not rather the causes of this want of sense.[647]

(81.) If we wish to be essentially just to others, we should be quick
and not dilatory; to let people wait is to commit an injustice.

Those persons do well, or do their duty, who do what they ought. A man
who allows the world to speak always of him in the future tense, and to
say he will do well, behaves really very badly.

(82.) People say of a great man who has two meals a day, and spends the
rest of his time in digesting what he has eaten, that he starves; all
that they mean to express by this is that he is not rich, or that his
affairs are not very prosperous; the remark about starving might be
better applied to his creditors.

(83.) The culture, good manners, and politeness of persons of either
sex, advanced in years, give me a good opinion of what we call “former

(84.) Parents are over-confident in expecting too much from the good
education of their children, and commit a grievous error if they expect
nothing from it and neglect it.

(85.) Were it true, as several persons affirm, that education does
not alter the heart and constitution of man, and that in reality the
changes it produces transform nothing and are merely superficial, yet I
would still maintain that it is beneficial to him.

(86.) He who speaks little has this advantage, that he is presumed to
have some intelligence, and if he really is not deficient in it, it is
presumed to be first-rate.

(87.) To think only of ourselves and of the present time is a source of
error in politics.

(88.) Next to being convicted of a crime, it is often the greatest
misfortune for a man his being accused of having committed one, and
being obliged to clear himself from the charge. He may be acquitted
in a court of justice and yet be found guilty by the voice of the

(89.) One man faithfully observes certain religious duties and
discharges them carefully, yet he is neither commended nor censured, he
is not so much as thought of; another, after ten yearsʼ utter neglect
of such duties, attends again to them and is commended and extolled.
Every person has a right to his own opinion; I, for my part, blame the
second man for having so long neglected those duties, and think his
reformation fortunate for himself.

(90.) A flatterer has not a sufficiently good opinion of himself or

(91.) Some men are forgotten in the distribution of favours, and we
ask what can be the reason of this; if they had not been forgotten we
should have raised the question why they had received them. Whence
proceeds this dissimilitude? Is it from the character of these persons,
or the instability of our opinions, or rather from both?

(92.) We often hear the question asked, “Who shall be chancellor,
primate,[650] pope?” People go even farther, and, according to their
own wishes or caprice, often promote persons more aged and infirm than
those who at present fill certain posts; and as there is no reason why
any post should kill its occupant, but, on the contrary, often makes
him young again, and reinvigorates his body and soul, it is not unusual
for an official personage to outlive his appointed successor.[651]

(93.) Disgrace extinguishes hatred and jealousy. As soon as a person is
no longer a favourite, and when we do not envy him any more, we admit
that his actions are good, and we can pardon in him any merit and a
good many virtues; he might even be a hero, and not vex us.

Nothing seems right that a man does who has fallen into disgrace; his
virtues and merit are slighted, misinterpreted, or called vices. If
he is courageous, dreads neither fire nor sword, and faces the enemy
with as much bravery as Bayard and Montrevel,[652] he is called a
“braggadocio,” and they make fun of him, for there is nothing of the
true hero about him.

I contradict myself; I own it; do not blame me, but blame those men
whose judgments I merely give, and who are the very same persons,
though they differ so much and are so variable in their opinions.

(94.) We need not wait twenty years to see a general alter his opinion
on the most serious things as well as on those which appear most
certain and true. I shall not venture to maintain that fire in its own
nature, and independent of our sensations, is void of heat,[653] that
is to say, nothing like what we feel in ourselves on approaching it,
lest some time or other it may become as hot as ever it was thought;
nor shall I advance that one straight line falling on another makes
two right angles, or two angles equal to two right angles, for fear
something more or less be discovered, and my proposition be laughed at;
nor, to mention something else, shall I say, with the whole of France,
that Vauban is infallible, and that this is an undoubted fact,[654] for
who will guarantee me but that in a short time it may be hinted that
even in sieges, in which lies his peculiar pre-eminence, and of which
he is considered the best judge, he does not make some blunders, and
is as liable to mistakes as Antiphilus is?[655]

(95.) If you believe people who are exasperated against one another,
and swayed by passion, a scholar is a mere sciolist,[656] a magistrate
a boor or a pettifogger,[657] a financier an extortioner, and a
nobleman an upstart; but it is strange these scurrilous names, invented
by anger and hatred, should become so familiar to us, and that
contempt, though cold and inert, should dare to employ them.

(96.) You agitate yourself, and give yourself a good deal of trouble,
especially when the enemy begins to fly, and the victory is no longer
doubtful, or when a town has capitulated; in a fight or during a siege
you like to be seen everywhere in order to be nowhere; to forestall
the orders of the general for fear of obeying them, and to seek
opportunities rather than to wait for them or receive them. Is your
courage a mere pretence?

(97.) Order your soldiers to keep some post where they may be killed,
and where nevertheless they are not killed, and they prove they love
both honour and life.

(98.) Can we imagine that men who are so fond of life should love
anything better, and that glory, which they prefer to life, is often no
more than an opinion of themselves, entertained by a thousand people
whom either they do not know or do not esteem?[658]

(99.) Some persons who are neither soldiers nor courtiers make a
campaign and follow the court; they do not assist in besieging a town,
but are merely spectators,[659] and are soon cured of their curiosity
about a fortified place, however wonderful; about trenches; the effects
of shells and cannon, about surprises, and the order and success of an
attack of which they catch a mere glimpse. The place holds out, bad
weather comes on, fatigues increase, the mud has to be waded through,
and the seasons have to be encountered as well as the enemy; the lines
may be forced, and we may find ourselves between the town and an army,
and reduced to dire extremities. The besiegers lose heart, begin to
murmur, and ask if the raising of the siege will be of such great
consequence, and if the safety of the State depends on one citadel.
They further add “that the heavens themselves declare against them; and
that it is best to submit, and put off the siege until another season.”
They no longer understand the firmness, and, if they may say so, the
obstinacy of the general, who is not to be overcome by obstacles, but
is stimulated by the difficulty of his undertaking, and watches by
night and exposes his life by day to accomplish his design. But as soon
as the enemy has capitulated, the very men who lost heart boast of the
importance of the conquest, foretell the consequences it will have,
exaggerate the necessity there was in undertaking it, as well as the
danger and shame there would have been in raising it, and prove that
the army opposed to the enemy was invincible.[660]

They return with the court, and as they pass through the towns and
villages, are proud to be looked upon by the inhabitants, who are all
at their windows, as the very men who took the place; thus they triumph
all along the road and fancy themselves very courageous. When they
are home again they deafen you with flanks, redans, ravelins, counter
breastworks,[661] curtains, and covert-ways; give you an account of the
spots where curiosity led them, and where it was pretty dangerous, and
of the risks they ran on returning of being killed or made prisoners;
but they do not say one word about the mortal terror they were in.

(100.) It is no great disadvantage for a speaker to stop short in
the middle of a sermon or a speech; it does not deprive him of his
intelligence, good sense, imagination, morals, and learning; it
robs him of nothing; but it is very surprising that, though it is
considered more or less disgraceful and ridiculous, some men will
expose themselves to so great a risk by tedious and often unprofitable

(101.) Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to
complain of its brevity; as they waste it in dressing themselves, in
eating and sleeping, in foolish conversations, in making up their minds
what to do, and, generally, in doing nothing at all, they want some
more for their business or for their pleasures, whilst those who make
the best use of it have some to spare.

There is no minister of State so busy but he knows he loses two hours
every day, which amounts to a great deal in a long life; and if this
waste is still greater among other conditions of men, what a large loss
is there of what is most precious in this world, and of which every one
complains he has not enough.

(102.) There exist some of Godʼs creatures called men, who have a
spiritual soul, and who spend their whole lives in the sawing of
marble, and devote all their attention to it; this is a very humble
business and of not much consequence; there are other people who are
astonished at this, yet who are of no use whatever, and spend their
days in doing nothing, which is inferior to sawing marble.

(103.) Most men are so oblivious of their souls, and act and live in
such a manner, that to them it seems to be of no use whatever; we
therefore deem it no small commendation of any man to say he thinks;
this has become a common eulogy, and yet it places a man only above a
dog or a horse.

(104.) “How do you amuse yourself? How do you pass your time?” fools
and clever people ask you. If I answer, in opening my eyes, in seeing,
hearing, and understanding, in enjoying health, rest, and freedom, that
is nothing; the solid, the great, and the only advantages of life are
of no account. “I gamble, I intrigue,” are the answers they expect.

Is it good for a man to have too great and extensive a freedom, which
only induces him to wish for something else, which would be to have
less liberty?

Liberty is not indolence; it is a free use of time; it is to choose
our labour and our relaxation; in one word, to be free is not to do
nothing, but to be the sole judge of what we wish to do and to leave
undone; in this sense liberty is a great boon.

(105.) Cæsar was not too old to think of conquering the entire world;
his sole happiness was to lead a noble life and to leave behind him a
great name; being naturally proud and ambitious, and enjoying robust
health, he could not better employ his time than in subjugating all
nations. Alexander was very young for so serious a design; it is
surprising that women or wine did not sooner ruin the undertaking of a
man of such tender years.[662]

(106.) A young prince, of an august race,[663] the love and hope of
his people, granted by Heaven to prolong the felicity of this earth,
greater than his ancestors, the son of a hero who is his exemplar,
has by his divine qualities and anticipated virtues already convinced
the universe that the sons of heroes are nearer being so than other

(107.) If the world is only to last a hundred million years, it is
still in all its freshness, and has but just begun; we ourselves are so
near the first men and the patriarchs, that remote ages will not fail
to reckon us among them. But if we may judge of what is to come by what
is past, what new things will spring up in arts, sciences, in nature,
and, I venture to say, even in history, which are as yet unknown to us!
What discoveries will be made! What various revolutions will happen in
states and empires! What ignorance must be ours, and how slight is an
experience of not above six or seven thousand years!

(108.) No way is too tedious for him who travels slowly and without
being in a hurry; no advantages are too remote for those who have

(109.) To court nobody, and not to expect to be courted by any one, is
a happy condition, a golden age, and the most natural state of man.[665]

(110.) Those who follow courts or live in towns only care for the
world; but those who dwell in the country care for nature, for they
alone live, or at least know that they live.

(111.) Why this coldness, and why do you complain of some expressions
which escaped me about some of our young courtiers? You are not
vicious, Thrasyllus? If you are, it is unknown to me; but you yourself
tell me so; what I do know is that you are no longer young.

You are personally offended at what I said of some great men, but you
should not cry out when other people are hurt. Are you haughty, wicked,
a buffoon, a flatterer, or a hypocrite? I protest I was ignorant of it,
and did not think of you; I was speaking of men of high rank.

(112.) Moderation and a certain prudent behaviour leave men unknown; in
order to be known and admired they must have great virtues, or perhaps
great vices.

(113.) Whether men are of a superior or of an inferior condition, as
soon as they are successful, their fellow-men are prejudiced in their
favour, delighted and in raptures; a crime which has not failed is
almost as much commended as real virtue, and luck supplies the place
of all qualities; it must be an atrocious action, a foul and nefarious
attempt indeed, which success cannot justify.[666]

(114.) Men, led away by fair appearances and specious pretences, are
easily induced to like and approve an ambitious scheme contrived by
some great man; they speak feelingly of it; its boldness or novelty
pleases them; it is already familiar to them, and they expect naught
but its success. But should it happen to miscarry, they confidently,
and without any regard for their former judgment, decide that the plan
was rash and could never succeed.[667]

(115.) Certain designs are of such great splendour and of such enormous
consequence, that people talk about them for a long time; that they
lead nations to fear or to hope, according to their various interests,
and that a man stakes his glory and his entire fortune on them. After
appearing on the worldʼs stage with such pomp he cannot slink away in
silence; whatever terrible dangers he foresees will be the consequences
of his undertaking; he must commence it; the smallest evil he has to
expect will be a failure.

(116.) You cannot make a great man of a wicked man; you may commend
his plans and contrivances, admire his conduct, extol his skill in
employing the surest and shortest means to obtain his end; but if his
purpose be bad, prudence has no share in it, and where prudence is
wanting no greatness can ever exist.

(117.) An enemy is dead who was at the head of a formidable army, and
intended to cross the Rhine; he understood the art of war, and his
experience might have been seconded by fortune. What bonfires were lit,
and what rejoicings took place! But there are other men, naturally
odious, who are disliked by every one; it is therefore not on account
of their success, nor because people fear they might be successful,
that the voice of the public is lifted up, and that the very childrenʼs
hearts leap for joy as soon as it is rumoured abroad that the earth is
at length rid of them.[668]

(118.) “O times! O morals!”[669] exclaims Heraclitus.[670] “O
unfortunate age, rich in bad examples, when virtue is persecuted and
crime is predominant and triumphant!” I will turn a Lycaon or an
Ægistheus,[671] for I can never meet with a better opportunity nor a
more favourable conjuncture; if, at least, I desire to be prosperous
and to flourish. A certain personage[672] says, “I will cross the sea;
I will dispossess my father of his patrimony; I will drive him, his
wife, and his heir from their territory and kingdom;” and he not only
says it but does it. What he had reason to dread was the resentment of
many kings, insulted in the person of one monarch. But they side with
him; they almost have said to him: “Cross the sea, rob your father; and
let the entire world witness how a king can be driven from his kingdom,
as if he were a petty lord turned out from his castle, or a farmer from
his farm; show them that there is no longer any difference between
private persons and ourselves. We are tired of these distinctions;
teach the world that the nations whom God has placed underneath our
feet may abandon us, betray us, and give us up, and themselves as well,
into the hands of the stranger, and that they have less to fear from
us than we have to dread them and their power.”[673] What person can
behold such a sad scene without shedding tears or being deeply moved!
Every office has its privileges, and every official speaks, pleads,
and agitates to defend them; the royal dignity alone enjoys no longer
such privileges, and the kings themselves have renounced them. Only
one among them, ever kind-hearted and magnanimous, opens his arms
to receive an unhappy family;[674] all the others league themselves
against him as if to avenge the assistance he lends to a cause which
is theirs as well; spite and jealousy have more weight with them than
considerations for their honour, religion, and rule, and even than
domestic and personal interests; they do not perceive that, I will
not say their election, but their very succession, and even their
hereditary rights are at stake. Finally, in every one of them personal
feelings prevail over those of a sovereign. One prince was going to
set Europe free, and free himself as well from an ominous enemy; he was
just on the point of reaping the glory of having destroyed a mighty
empire when he abandoned his plan, and joined in a war in which success
is far from certain.[675] Those rulers who by virtue of their position
are arbitrators and mediators temporise; and when they could already
have interfered and done some good, they only promise they will do
so.[676] “O shepherds,” continues Heraclitus, “O ye rustics who dwell
in hovels and cottages; if the course of events does not affect you, if
your hearts are not pierced by the malice of men, if man is no longer
mentioned among you, but foxes and lynxes are the only subjects of your
conversation, allow me to dwell with you, to appease my hunger with
your black bread, and to quench my thirst with the water from your

[Illustration: WILLIAM III]

(119.) Ye little men, only six feet high, or at most seven, who, as
soon as you have reached eight feet, are to be seen for money in
booths at the fairs, as giants and wonders; who, without blushing,
give yourselves the titles of “highnesses” and “eminences,” which
is the utmost that can be granted to those mountain-tops so near
the sky that they see the clouds form underneath them; ye haughty,
vain-glorious animals who despise all other creatures, and who cannot
even be compared to an elephant or a whale, draw near, ye men, and
answer Democritus. Do you not commonly speak of “hungry wolves,
furious lions, and mischievous monkeys?” Pray, who are you? “Man is
a rational creature” is continually dinned in my ears. Who gave you
this appellation? Did the wolves, or the lions, or the monkeys do so,
or did you take it yourselves? It is already very ridiculous that you
should bestow on animals, your fellow-creatures, all the bad epithets,
and take the best for yourselves; leave it to them to give names, and
you will see that they will not forget themselves, and how you will
be treated. I do not mention, O men, your frivolities, your follies
and caprices, which place you lower than the mole or the tortoise,
who wisely move along quietly and follow invariably their own natural
instinct; but listen to me for a moment: You say of a goshawk if it be
very swift-winged and swoops well down on a partridge, that it is a
good bird; of a greyhound following a hare very close and catching it,
that it is a first-rate dog; it is also quite right that you should
say of a man who hunts the wild boar, brings it to bay, walks up to it
and kills it with a spear, that he is a courageous man. But if you see
two dogs barking at each other, provoke, bite, and tear one another to
pieces, you say they are foolish creatures, and take a stick to part
them. If any one should come and tell you that all the cats of a large
country met in a plain in their thousands and tens of thousands, and
that after they had squalled to their heartsʼ content they had fallen
upon each other tooth and nail; that about ten thousand of them had
been left dead on the spot and infected the air for ten leagues round
with their evil-smelling carcasses; would you not say that it was the
most disgraceful row you ever heard? And if the wolves acted in the
same way, what a butchery would there be, and what howls would be
heard! Now, if these two kind of animals were to tell you they love
glory, would you come to the conclusion that this glory consists in
their meeting together in such a way to destroy and annihilate their
own species; and if you have come to such a conclusion, would you
not laugh heartily at the folly of these poor animals? Like rational
creatures, and to distinguish yourselves from those which only make
use of their teeth and claws, you have invented spears, pikes, darts,
sabres, and scimitars, and, in my opinion, very judiciously; for what
could you have done to one another merely with your hands, except
tearing your hair, scratching your faces, and, at best, gouging one
anotherʼs eyes out; whilst now you are provided with convenient
instruments for making large wounds and for letting out the utmost drop
of your blood, without there being any fear of your remaining alive?
But as you grow more rational from year to year, you have greatly
improved the old fashion of destroying yourselves; you use certain
little globes[677] which kill at once, if they but hit you on the head
or chest; you have other globes, heavier and more massive,[678] which
cleverly cut you in two or disembowel you, without counting those
falling on your roof,[679] breaking through the floors from the garret
to the cellar, which they destroy, and blowing up your wife who is
lying-in, and the child, the nurse, and the house as well. And yet this
is glory, which delights in all this hurly-burly and mighty hubbub! You
have also defensive arms, and according to the rules and regulations,
when waging war, you should put on a suit of iron, no doubt a pretty
becoming dress, which always puts me in mind of those four famous
fleas, formerly shown by a cunning artist, a quack, who knew how to
keep them alive in a glass phial; each of those little animals wore a
helmet, their bodies were covered by a breastplate; they had vambraces,
knee-pieces, and a spear at their side; their accoutrements were quite
perfect, and thus they skipped and jumped about in their bottle. Fancy
a man of the size of Mount Athos,[680] and why not? Would a soul be
puzzled to animate such a body, for it would have plenty of room to
move about in? If such a manʼs sight were piercing enough to discover
you somewhere upon earth, with your offensive and defensive arms, what
do you think would be his opinion of a parcel of little marmosets thus
equipped, and of what you call war, cavalry, infantry, a memorable
siege, a famous battle? Shall I never hear any other sound buzz in
my ears? Is the world only filled with regiments and companies? Has
everything been changed to battalions and squadrons?—He takes a town,
then a second, then a third; he wins a battle, two battles, he drives
away the enemy, he conquers by sea, by land.—Do you say these things
of one of you, or of a giant, a Mount Athos? There is a remarkable
man amongst you, pale and livid,[681] with not ten ounces of flesh on
his bones, and who would be blown down by the least gust of wind, one
would think, and yet he makes more noise than half-a-dozen men, and
sets everything in a blaze; he has just now been fishing in troubled
waters, and caught a whole island at once; in another place, it is
true, he is beaten and pursued, but escapes into the bogs,[682] and
will hearken neither to peace nor to truce. He began betimes to show
what he could do, and so severely bit his nurseʼs breast[683] that the
poor woman died of it; I know what I mean, and that is sufficient. To
conclude: he was born a subject and is no longer one; on the contrary,
he is now the master, and those whom he has overcome and brought under
his yoke are harnessed to the plough and till the ground with might and
main; those good people seem even afraid of being unyoked one day and
of becoming free, for they have pulled out the thong and lengthened the
handle of the whip of the man who drives them; they forget nothing that
can increase their slavery; they let him cross the water so that he may
get new vassals and acquire fresh territories; and to succeed in this
he has, it is true, only to take his father and mother by the shoulders
and throw them out of doors, and they aid him in this virtuous
undertaking. The people on this side and that side of the water
subscribe, and each pays his share, to render him every day more and
more formidable to all; the Picts and the Saxons compel the Batavians
to be silent, and the latter act in the same manner to the Picts and
Saxons; they may all boast of being his humble slaves, as they wished
to be. But what do I hear of certain personages who wear crowns? I do
not mean counts or marquesses, who swarm on this earth, but princes and
sovereigns. This man does but whistle, and they come at his call; they
uncover as soon as they are in his anteroom, and never speak but when
he asks them a question.[684] Are these the same princes who cavil so
much and are so precise about rank and precedence, and who spend whole
months in regulating such questions whilst some Diet is assembled? What
shall this new ruler[685] do to reward so blind a submission, and to
satisfy the high opinion they have of him? If a battle is to be fought,
he must win it, and in person; if the enemy besieges a town, he must
go raise the siege and drive him away with ignominy, unless the ocean
be between him and the enemy;[686] it is the least he can do to please
his courtiers. Cæsar[687] himself comes and swells their number; at
least he expects important services from him; for either the “archon”
and his allies will fail, which is more difficult than impossible to
conceive, or, if he succeeds, and nothing resists him, he is ready
with his allies, who are jealous of Cæsarʼs religion and greatness, to
rush upon him, snatch away his eagle, and reduce him and his heir to
the “fasces argent”[688] and to his hereditary dominions. But there is
no use saying anything more; they have all voluntarily given themselves
up to the man whom they should perhaps have distrusted the most.
Would Esop not have told them that “the feathered tribe of a certain
country got alarmed and frightened at being near a lion, whose mere
roar terrified them; they went to the animal, who persuaded them he
would come to some arrangement, and take them under his protection. The
end of it was that he gobbled them all up one after another.”




(1.) It is very foolish, and betrays what a small mind we have, to
allow fashion to sway us in everything that regards taste, in our way
of living, our health, and our conscience. Game is out of fashion, and
therefore insipid, and fashion forbids to cure a fever by bleeding.
This long while it has also not been fashionable to depart this life
shriven by Theotimus; now none but the common people are saved by his
pious exhortations, and he has already beheld his successor.[689]

(2.) To have a hobby is not to have a taste for what is good and
beautiful, but for what is rare and singular, and for what no one
else can match; it is not to like things which are perfect, but those
which are most sought after and fashionable. It is not an amusement
but a passion, and often so violent that in the meanness of its object
it only yields to love and ambition. Neither is it a passion for
everything scarce and in vogue, but only for some particular object
which is rare, and yet in fashion.

The lover of flowers has a garden in the suburbs, where he spends all
his time from sunrise till sunset. You see him standing there, and
would think he had taken root in the midst of his tulips before his
“Solitaire;” he opens his eyes wide, rubs his hands, stoops down and
looks closer at it; it never before seemed to him so handsome; he is
in an ecstasy of joy, and leaves it to go to the “Orient,” then to the
“Veuve,” from thence to the “Cloth of Gold,” on to the “Agatha,” and at
last returns to the “Solitaire,” where he remains, is tired out, sits
down, and forgets his dinner; he looks at the tulip and admires its
shade, shape, colour, sheen, and edges, its beautiful form and calix;
but God and nature are not in his thoughts, for they do not go beyond
the bulb of his tulip, which he would not sell for a thousand crowns,
though he will give it to you for nothing when tulips are no longer in
fashion, and carnations are all the rage. This rational being, who has
a soul and professes some religion, comes home tired and half-starved,
but very pleased with his dayʼs work; he has seen some tulips.[690]

Talk to another of the healthy look of the crops, of a plentiful
harvest, of a good vintage, and you will find he only cares for fruit,
and understands not a single word you say; then turn to figs and
melons; tell him that this year the pear-trees are so heavily laden
with fruit that the branches almost break, that there are abundance of
peaches, and you address him in a language he completely ignores, and
he will not answer you, for his sole hobby is plum-trees. Do not even
speak to him of your plum-trees, for he only is fond of a certain kind,
and laughs and sneers at the mention of any others; he takes you to his
tree and cautiously gathers this exquisite plum, divides it, gives you
one half, keeps the other himself, and exclaims: “How delicious! do you
like it? is it not heavenly? You cannot find its equal anywhere;” and
then his nostrils dilate, and he can hardly contain his joy and pride
under an appearance of modesty. What a wonderful person, never enough
praised and admired, whose name will be handed down to future ages! Let
me look at his mien and shape whilst he is still in the land of the
living, that I may study the features and the countenance of a man who,
alone amongst mortals, is the happy possessor of such a plum.[691]

Visit a third, and he will talk to you about his brother collectors,
but especially of Diognetes.[692] He admits that he admires him,
but that he understands him less than ever. “Perhaps you imagine,”
he continues, “that he endeavours to learn something of his medals,
and considers them speaking evidences of certain facts that have
happened, fixed and unquestionable monuments of ancient history. If
you do, you are wholly wrong. Perhaps you think that all the trouble
he takes to become master of a medallion with a certain head on it is
because he will be delighted to possess an uninterrupted series of
emperors. If you do, you are more hopelessly wrong than ever. Diognetes
knows when a coin is worn, when the edges are rougher than they ought
to be, or when it looks as if it had been newly struck; all the drawers
of his cabinet are full, and there only is room for one coin; this
vacancy so shocks him that in reality he spends all his property and
literally devotes his whole lifetime to fill it.”

“Will you look at my prints?” asks Democedes,[693] and in a moment he
brings them out and shows them to you. You see one among them neither
well printed nor well engraved, and badly drawn, and, therefore, more
fit on a public holiday to be stuck against the wall of some house
on the “Petit-Pont” or in the “Rue Neuve”[694] than to be kept in a
collection. He allows it to be badly engraved and worse drawn; but
assures you it was done by an Italian who produced very little, and
that hardly any of these prints have been struck off, so that he has
the only one in France, for which he paid a very heavy price, and would
not part with it for the very best print to be got. “I labour under
a very serious affliction,” he continues, “which will one day or
other cause me to give up collecting engravings; I have all Callotʼs
etchings,[695] except one, which, to tell the truth, so far from
being the best, is the worst he ever did, but which would complete my
collection; I have hunted after this print these twenty years, and now
I despair of ever getting it; it is very trying!”

Another man criticises those people who make long voyages either
through nervousness or to gratify their curiosity; who write no
narrative or memoirs, and do not even keep a journal; who go to see
and see nothing, or forget what they have seen; who only wish to get a
look at towers or steeples they never saw before, and to cross other
rivers than the Seine or the Loire; who leave their own country merely
to return again, and like to be absent, so that one day it may be said
they have come from afar; so far this critic is right and is worth
listening to.

But when he adds that books are more instructive than travelling, and
gives me to understand he has a library, I wish to see it. I call on
this gentleman, and at the very foot of the stairs I almost faint with
the smell of the Russia leather bindings of his books. In vain he
shouts in my ears, to encourage me, that they are all with gilt edges
and hand-tooled, that they are the best editions, and he names some of
them one after another, and that his library is full of them, except a
few places painted so carefully that everybody takes them for shelves
and real books, and is deceived. He also informs me that he never reads
nor sets foot in this library, and now only accompanies me to oblige
me. I thank him for his politeness, but feel as he does on the subject,
and would not like to visit the tan-pit which he calls a library.

Some people immoderately thirst after knowledge, and are unwilling to
ignore any branch of it, so they study them all and master none; they
are fonder of knowing much than of knowing some things well, and had
rather be superficial smatterers in several sciences than be well and
thoroughly acquainted with one. They everywhere meet with some person
who enlightens and corrects them; they are deceived by their idle
curiosity, and often, after very long and painful efforts, can but just
extricate themselves from the grossest ignorance.

Other people have a master-key to all sciences, but never enter
there; they spend their lives in trying to decipher the Eastern and
Northern languages, those of both the Indies, of the two poles, nay,
the language spoken in the moon itself. The most useless idioms, the
oddest and most hieroglyphical-looking characters, are just those
which awaken their passion and induce them to study; they pity those
persons who ingenuously content themselves with knowing their own
language, or, at most, the Greek and Latin tongues. Such men read all
historians and know nothing of history; they run through all books, but
are not the wiser for any; they are absolutely ignorant of all facts
and principles, but they possess as abundant a store and garner-house
of words and phrases as can well be imagined, which weighs them down,
and with which they overload their memory, whilst their mind remains a

A certain citizen loves building, and had a mansion erected so
handsome, noble, and splendid that no one can live in it.[696] The
proprietor is ashamed to occupy it, and as he cannot make up his mind
to let it to a prince or a man of business, he retires to the garret,
where he spends his life, whilst the suite of rooms and the inlaid
floors are the prey of travelling Englishmen and Germans, who come
to visit it after having seen the Palais-Royal, the palace L ... G
...[697] and the Luxembourg. There is a continual knocking going on at
these handsome doors, and all visitors ask to see the house, but none
the master.

There are other persons who have grown-up daughters, but they cannot
afford to give them a dowry, nay, these girls are scarcely clothed and
fed; they are so poor that they have not even a bed to lie upon nor a
change of linen. The cause of their misery is not very far to seek; it
is a collection crowded with rare busts, covered with dust and filth,
of which the sale would bring in a goodly sum; but the owners cannot be
prevailed upon to part with them.

Diphilus is a lover of birds, he begins with one and ends with a
thousand; his house is not enlivened, but infested by them; the
courtyard, the parlour, the staircase, the hall, all the rooms,
and even the private study are so many aviaries; we no longer hear
warbling, but a perfect discord; the autumnal winds and the most rapid
cataracts do not produce so shrill and piercing a noise; there is
no hearing one another speak but in those apartments set apart for
visitors, where people will have to wait until some little curs have
yelped, before there is a chance of seeing the master of the house.
These birds are no longer an agreeable amusement for Diphilus, but a
toilsome fatigue, for which he can scarcely find leisure; he spends
his days—days which pass away and never come back—in feeding his
birds and cleaning them; he pays a man a salary[698] for teaching his
birds to sing with a bird-organ, and for attending to the hatching of
his young canaries. It is true that what he spends on the one hand
he spares on the other, for his children have neither teachers nor
education. In the evening, worn out by his hobby, he shuts himself
up, without being able to enjoy any rest until his birds have gone to
roost, and these little creatures, on which he dotes only for their
song, have ceased to warble. He dreams of them whilst asleep, and
imagines he is himself a tufted bird, chirping on his perch; during the
night he even fancies he is moulting and brooding.

Who can describe all the different kinds of hobbies? Can you imagine
when you hear a certain person speak of his “Panther Cowry,” his “Pen
Shell,” and his “Music Shell,”[699] and brag of them as something very
rare and marvellous, that he intends to sell these shells? Why not? He
has bought them for their weight in gold.

Another is an admirer of insects, and augments his collection every
day; in Europe he is the best judge of butterflies, and has some of
all sizes and colours.[700] What an unfortunate time you have chosen
to pay him a visit! He is overwhelmed with grief, and in a fearful
temper, which he vents on his family; he has suffered an irreparable
loss; draw near him and observe what he shows you on his finger; it is
a caterpillar, but such a caterpillar, lifeless, and but just expired.

(3.) Duelling is the triumph of fashion, which it sways tyrannically
and most conspicuously. This custom does not allow a coward to live,
but compels him to go and be killed by a man of more valour than
himself, and to be mistaken for a man of courage. The maddest and
most absurd action has been called honourable and glorious; it has
been sanctioned by the presence of kings; in some cases it has even
been considered a sort of duty to countenance it; it has decided the
innocence of some persons,[701] and the truth or falsity of certain
accusations of capital crimes; it was so deeply rooted in the opinion
of all nations, and had obtained such a complete possession of the
feelings and minds of men, that to cure them of this folly has been one
of the most glorious actions of the greatest of monarchs.[702]

(4.) Some persons were formerly in high repute for commanding armies,
for diplomacy, for pulpit eloquence, or for poetry, and now they are no
longer fashionable. Do certain men degenerate from what they formerly
were, and have their merits become antiquated, or is our liking for
them worn out?

(5.) A fashionable man is not long the rage, for fashions are
ephemeral; but if he happens to be a man of merit, he is not totally
eclipsed, but something or other of him will still survive; he is as
estimable as he formerly was, but only less esteemed.

Virtue is fortunate enough to be able to do without any help, and can
exist without admirers, partisans, and protectors; lack of support
and approbation does not harm it, but, on the contrary, strengthens,
purifies, and perfects it; whether in or out of fashion, it is still

(6.) If you tell some men, and especially the great, that a certain
person is virtuous, they will say to you, “they trust he may long
remain so;” that he is very clever, and above all, agreeable and
entertaining, they will answer you, “that it is so much the better
for him;” that he is a man of culture and knows a great deal, they
will ask you “what oʼclock it is, or what sort of weather we have?”
But if you inform them that a Tigellinus[703] has been gulping down a
glass of brandy,[704] and, wonderful to relate, that he has repeated
this several times during his repast, they will ask where he is, and
tell you to bring him with you the next day, or that same evening, if
possible. We bring him with us, and that very man, only fit for a fair
or to be shown for money, is treated by them as a familiar acquaintance.

(7.) Nothing brings a man sooner into fashion and renders him of
greater importance than gambling;[705] it is almost as good as getting
fuddled.[706] I should like to see any polished, lively, witty
gentleman, even if he were Catullus himself or his disciple,[707] dare
to compare himself with a man who loses eight hundred _pistoles_[708]
at a sitting.

(8.) A fashionable person is like a certain blue flower which grows
wild in the fields, chokes the corn, spoils the crops, and takes up the
room of something better; it has no beauty nor value but what is owing
to a momentary caprice, which dies out almost as soon as sprung up.
To-day it is all the rage, and the ladies are decked with it; to-morrow
it is neglected and left to the common herd.[709]

A person of merit, on the contrary, is a flower we do not describe by
its colour, but call by its name, which we cultivate for its beauty
or fragrance, such as a lily or a rose; one of the charms of nature,
one of those things which beautify the world, belonging to all times,
admired and popular for centuries, valued by our fathers, and by us in
imitation of them, and not at all harmed by the dislike or antipathy of
a few.

(9.) Eustrates is seated in his small boat, delighted with the fresh
air and a clear sky; he is seen sailing with a fair wind, likely to
last for some time, but a lull comes on all of a sudden, the sky
becomes overcast, a storm bursts forth, the boat is caught by a
whirlwind, and is upset. Eustrates rises to the surface of the waters
and exerts himself; it is to be hoped he will at least save himself and
get hold of the boat; but another wave sinks him, and he is considered
lost: a second time he appears above the water, and hope revives, when
a billow all of a sudden swallows him up; he is never more seen again,
he is drowned.

(10.) Voiture and Sarrazin[710] just suited the age they lived in,
and appeared at the right time, when it seems they were expected; if
they had not made such haste they would have come too late; and I
question if, at present, they would have been what they were then.
Light conversation, literary society, delicate raillery, lively and
familiar epistolary interchange, and a select circle of friends, where
intelligence was the only passport of admittance, have all disappeared.
To say that these authors would have revived them is too much; all I
can venture to admit in favour of their intellect is, that perhaps
they might have excelled in another way. But the ladies of the present
time are either devotees, coquettes, fond of gambling, or ambitious,
and some of them all these together; court favour, gambling, gallants,
and spiritual directors, have taken their places, and they defend them
against men of culture.[711]

(11.) A coxcomb, who makes himself ridiculous as well, wears a tall
hat, a doublet with puffs on the shoulders, breeches with ribbons or
tags, and jackboots; at night he dreams what he shall do to be taken
notice of the following day. A wise man leaves the fashion of his
clothes to his tailor; it shows as much weakness to run counter to the
fashion as to affect to follow it.

(12.) We blame a fashion that divides the shape of a man into two
equal parts, and takes one of it for the waist, whilst leaving the
other for the rest of the body; we condemn the fashion of making of a
ladyʼs head the basis of an edifice of several heights, the build and
shape of which change according to fancy; which removes the hair from
the face, though Nature designed it to adorn it; and ties it up and
makes it bristle so that the ladies look like Bacchantes; this fashion
seems to have been intended to make the fair sex change its mild and
modest air for one much more haughty and bold. People exclaim against
certain fashions as ridiculous; but they adopt them as long as they
last, to adorn and embellish themselves, and they derive from them
all the advantages they can expect, namely, to please. Methinks the
inconstancy and fickle-mindedness of men is to be admired; for they
successively call agreeable and ornamental things directly opposed to
one another; they use in plays and masquerades those same dresses and
ornaments which, until then, were considered as denoting gravity and
sedateness; a short time makes all the difference.[712]

(13.) N ... is wealthy; she eats and sleeps well; but the fashion of
head-dresses alters, and whilst she does not think anything at all
about it, and believes herself quite happy, her head-dress has quite
grown out of fashion.

(14.) Iphis attends church, and sees there a new-fashioned shoe;
he looks upon his own with a blush, and no longer believes he is well
dressed. He only comes to hear mass to show himself, but now he refuses
to go out, and keeps his room all day on account of his foot. He has a
soft hand, which he preserves so by scented paste, laughs often to show
his teeth, purses up his mouth, and is perpetually smiling; he looks
at his legs and surveys himself in the glass, and no man can have a
better opinion of his personal appearance than he has; he has adopted a
clear and delicate voice, but fortunately lisps;[713] he moves his head
about and has a sort of sweetness in his eyes which he does not forget
to use to set himself off; his gait is indolent, and his attitudes are
as pretty as he can contrive them; he sometimes rouges his face, but
not very often, and does not do so habitually. In truth, he always
wears breeches and a hat, but neither earrings nor a pearl necklace;
therefore I have not given him a place in my chapter “Of Women.”

(15.) Those very fashions which men so willingly adopt to adorn
themselves are apt to be laid aside when their portraits are taken,
as if they felt and foresaw how crude[714] and ridiculous these would
look when they had lost the bloom and charm of novelty; they prefer
to be depicted with some fancy ornaments, some imaginary drapery,
just as it pleases the artist, and which often are as little suited
to their air and face as they recall their character and personage.
They affect strained or indecent attitudes, harsh, uncultivated, and
foreign manners, which transform a young _abbé_ into a swaggerer, and
a magistrate into a swashbuckler, a Diana into a woman of the town,
an amazon or a Pallas into a simple and timid woman, a Laïs into a
respectable girl, and a Scythian, an Attila,[715] into a just and
magnanimous prince.

Such is our giddiness, that one fashion has hardly destroyed another,
when it is driven away by a newer one, again to make way for its
successor, which will not be the last. Whilst these changes are going
on, a century elapses, and all these gewgaws are ranked amongst things
of the past, and exist no longer. Then the oldest fashion becomes again
the most elegant, and charms the eye the most, it pleases as much in
portraits as the _sagum_ or the Roman dress on the stage, as a long
black veil, an ordinary veil, and a tiara[716] do on our hangings and
our pictures.

Our fathers have transmitted to us the history of their lives as well
as a knowledge of their dresses, their arms,[717] and their favourite
ornaments; a benefit for which we can make no other return than by
doing our posterity the same service.

(16.) Formerly a courtier wore his own hair, breeches, and doublet, as
well as large canions,[718] and was a freethinker;[719] but this is no
longer becoming; now he wears a wig, a tight suit, plain stockings,
and is devout. All this because it is the fashion.

(17.) Any man who, after having dwelt for a considerable time at court,
remains devout, and contrary to all reason, narrowly escapes being
thought ridiculous, can never flatter himself with becoming the fashion.

(18.) What will not a courtier do for the sake of advancing his
interests? Rather than not advance them he will turn pious.[720]

(19.) The colours are all prepared, and the canvas is stretched, but
how shall I fix this restless, giddy, and variable man, who adopts so
many thousand different shapes? I depict him as devout, and I think
I have caught his likeness; but I have missed it, and he is already
a freethinker. Let him remain even in this bad position, and I shall
succeed in portraying his irregularity of heart and mind so that he
will be known; but another fashion is in vogue, and again he becomes

(20.) A man who thoroughly knows the court is well aware what virtue
and what piety is;[721] there is no imposing upon him.

(21.) To neglect going to vespers as obsolete and not fashionable; to
keep oneʼs place for morning service; to know all the ins and outs of
the chapel at Versailles, and who sits in the seats next[722] to the
royal tribune, and what is the best place where a man can be seen or
remain unobserved; to be thinking at church of God and business; to
receive visits there; to order people about and send them on messages
or wait for answers; to trust more to the advice of a spiritual
director than to the teachings of the Gospel; to derive all sanctity
and notoriety from the reputation of our director; to despise all
people whose director is not fashionable, and scarcely allow them to be
in a state of salvation; to like the word of God only when preached at
home or from the mouth of our own director; to prefer hearing a mass
said by him to any other mass, and the sacraments administered by him
to any others, which are considered of less value; to satiate ourselves
with mystical books, as if there were neither Gospels, Epistles of the
Apostles, nor morals of the fathers; to read or speak a jargon unknown
in the early centuries;[723] to be very circumstantial in amplifying
the sins of others and in palliating our own; to enlarge on our own
sufferings and patience; to lament our small progress in heroism as a
sin; to be in a secret alliance with some persons against others; to
value only ourselves and our own set; to suspect even virtue itself;
to enjoy and relish prosperity and favour, and to wish to keep them
only for ourselves; never to assist merit; to make piety subservient to
ambition; to obtain our salvation through fortune and dignities; these
are, at least in our days, the greatest efforts of the piety of this

A pious person[724] is one who, under an atheistical king, would be an

(22.) Devout people know no other crime but incontinence, or, to speak
more exactly, the scandal and appearance of incontinence. If Pherecides
passes for a man who is cured of his fondness for women, or Pherenicia
for a wife who is faithful to her husband, they are quite satisfied;
allow these devotees to continue a game that finally will be their
undoing; it is their business to ruin their creditors, to rejoice at
the misfortunes of other people and take advantage of it, to idolise
the great, to despise their inferiors, to get intoxicated with their
own merit, to pine away with vexation, to lie, slander, intrigue, and
do as much harm as they can. Would you like them to usurp the functions
of those honest men[725] who avoid pride and injustice as well as the
more latent vices?

(23.) When a courtier shall be humble, divested of pride and ambition,
cease to advance his own interests by ruining his rivals, be just and
relieve the misery of his vassals, pay his creditors, be neither a
knave nor a slanderer, shall abandon luxurious feasting and unlawful
amours, pray not only with his lips, and even when the prince is not
present, shall not be morose and inaccessible, not show an austere
countenance and a sour mien, shall not be lazy and buried in thought,
reconcile a multiplicity of employments by conscientious application,
shall be able and willing to devote his whole mind and all his
attention to those great and arduous affairs which especially concern
the welfare of the people and of the entire state; when his character
shall make me afraid of mentioning him in this paragraph, and his
modesty prevent him from knowing himself, if I should not give his
name; then I shall say of such a man that he is devout, or rather that
he is a man given to this age as an example of sincere virtue as well
as to detect hypocrites.[726]

(24.) Onuphriusʼ bed[727] has only grey serge valances, but he sleeps
on flock and down; he also wears plain but comfortable clothes, I mean,
made of a light material in summer, and of very soft cloth in winter;
his body-linen is very fine, but he takes very good care not to show
it; he does not call out for his “hair-shirt and scourge,”[728] for
then he would show himself in his true colours, as a hypocrite, whilst
he intends to pass for what he is not, for a religious man; however,
he acts in such a way that people believe, without his telling it
them, that he wears a hair-shirt and scourges himself. Several books
lie about his apartments, such as the “Spiritual Fight,” the “Inward
Christian,” the “Holy Year;”[729] his other books are under lock and
key; if he goes along the streets and perceives from afar a man to whom
he ought to seem devout, downcast looks, a slow and demure gait, and a
contemplative air are at his command; he plays his part. If he enters
a church, he observes whose eyes are upon him, and accordingly kneels
down and prays, or else, never thinks of kneeling down and praying; if
he sees an honest man and a man of authority approach him, by whom he
is sure to be perceived, and who, perhaps, may hear him, he not only
prays but meditates, has outbursts of devotion, and sighs aloud; but as
soon as this honest man is gone, he becomes calm, and does not say a
single word more. Another time he enters a chapel, rushes through the
crowd, and chooses a spot to commune with himself, and where everybody
may see how he humbles himself;[730] if he hears any courtiers speaking
or laughing loud, and behave in chapel more boisterously than they
would in an ante-chamber,[731] he makes a greater noise than they
to silence them, and returns to his meditations, in which he always
disdainfully compares those persons to himself, to his own advantage.
He avoids an empty church where he could hear two masses one after
another, as well as a sermon, vespers, and compline, with no one
between God and himself, without any other witnesses, and without any
one thanking him for it; but he likes his own parish, and frequents
those churches where the greatest number of people congregate, for
there he does not labour in vain and is observed. He chooses two or
three days of the year to fast in or to abstain from meat, without any
occasion; but at the end of the winter he coughs; there is something
wrong with his chest, he is more or less splenetic,[732] and feels
very feverish; people entreat him, urge him, and even quarrel with
him to compel him to break his fast as soon as it has begun, and he
obeys them out of politeness. If Onuphrius is chosen as an umpire by
relatives who have quarrelled, or in a lawsuit amongst members of one
and the same family, he always takes the side of the strongest, I mean
the wealthiest, and cannot be convinced that any person of property can
ever be in the wrong. If he is comfortable at the house of a rich man
whom he can deceive, whose parasite he is, and from whom he may derive
great advantages, he never cajoles his patronʼs wife, nor makes the
least advances to her, nor declares his love;[733] but rather avoids
her, and will leave his cloak behind,[734] unless he is as sure of her
as he is of himself; still less will he make use of devotional[735]
cant to flatter and seduce her, for he does not employ it habitually,
but intentionally, when it suits him, and never when it would only make
him ridiculous. He knows where to find ladies more sociable and pliable
than his friendʼs wife; and very seldom absents himself from these
ladies for any length of time, if it were only to have it publicly
stated that he has gone into religious retirement; for who can doubt
the truth of this report, when people see him reappear quite emaciated,
like one who has, not spared himself?

Moreover, those women who improve and thrive under the shelter of
piety[736] suit him, but with this trifling difference, that he
neglects those who are declining in years, and courts the young, and
amongst these is only attracted by the best looking and the finest
shape; he goes where they go, and returns when they return, and if they
stay anywhere he stays there also; he has the consolation of seeing
them at all times and places, and nobody needs be shocked about this,
for they are devout, and so is he. Onuphrius is sure to make the best
use he can of his friendʼs cecity and of his prepossession; sometimes
he borrows money of him; at other times he acts so artfully that his
friend offers to lend him some; people are very angry with him because
he does not apply to his other friends when he needs money; now and
then he refuses to receive a small sum unless he gives his note of hand
for it, though he is quite certain never to take it up; at another time
he says, with a certain air, he is not in want of anything, and that
is, when he only needs a trifling amount; and on a certain occasion he
publicly extols the generosity of his friend, on purpose to induce him
to give him a considerable sum. He does not expect to succeed to the
whole of the real estate of his friend, nor to get a deed of gift of
all his property, especially if the son, the right and lawful heir, has
to be set aside.[737] A pious man is neither a miser, nor prejudiced,
unjust, nor selfish; and, though Onuphrius is not a pious man, he
wishes to be thought one, and perfectly to imitate piety, though he
does not feel it, in order secretly to forward his interests; he,
therefore, would never aim at robbing the direct heirs of any family,
nor insinuate himself where there is a daughter to portion, and a son
to establish;[738] he knows their rights are too strong and inviolable
to be upset without loud clamours, which he dreads, and without such
an undertaking coming to the ears of the prince,[739] from whom he
conceals his intrigues for fear of his true character being discovered.
He selects collateral heirs, whom he can attack with greater impunity,
and is the terror of male and female cousins, nephews and nieces, and
of the flatterers and professed friends of all rich uncles; he gives
himself out to be the legitimate heir of every wealthy old man who dies
without issue, and who will have to disinherit him, if he wishes his
relatives to get possession of his estate. If Onuphrius does not find
means[740] to deprive them of the whole, he will, at least, rob them of
a good share of it; a trifling calumny or even the slightest slander
are sufficient for this pious purpose, and, indeed, Onuphrius is a
perfect master of the art of slandering, and considers it sometimes
his duty not to let it lie dormant, for there are men and women whom,
according to him, he must decry for conscienceʼ sake; and these are
the people he does not like, whom he wishes to harm, and whose spoils
he desires to get hold of. He compasses his ends without so much as
opening his mouth; some persons talk to him of Eudoxus, he smiles or he
weeps; they ask him why he does so, and they ask him again and again,
but he does not reply; and he is right, for he has said quite enough.

(25.) “Laugh, Zelia,[741] be gay and frolicsome as you used to be.
What has become of your mirth?” “I am wealthy,” you reply, “I can do
as I please, and I begin to breathe freely.” “Laugh louder, Zelia, and
louder still; what is the use of more riches if it makes you thoughtful
and sad? Imitate the great, who are born in the lap of luxury; they
laugh sometimes, and yield to their inclination; follow therefore
yours, and do not let it be said that a new place, or a few thousand
_livres_ a year more or less, drive you from one extreme to another.”
“I only value favour because I can be thoughtful and sad,” you answer.
“I thought so, Zelia; but, believe me, do not leave off laughing, and
smile on me, when I pass, as you did formerly: fear nothing; I shall
not have a worse opinion of you and your post; I shall as firmly
believe that you are wealthy and a favourite as well.” “I have decided
religious opinions,” you answer. “Thatʼs quite enough, Zelia; and I
ought to remember that persons whose conscience is at rest no longer
care to show a calm and joyful countenance; gloomy and austere feelings
are in the ascendancy and outwardly displayed; but such feelings
proceed still further, and we are no longer surprised to observe that
piety[742] makes a woman still more proud and disdainful than beauty
and youth.”

(26.) Arts and sciences have been greatly improved during this
century, and have become highly refined; even salvation has now
been reduced to rule and method, and to it have been added the most
beautiful and sublime inventions of the human understanding. Devotion
and geometry have each their own phraseology, or what are called
“artistic expressions,” and a person who ignores them is neither devout
nor a mathematician. The first devout men, even those who were taught
by the apostles, did not know them; those simple-minded people only had
faith, practised good works, merely believed, and led righteous lives.

(27.) It is a delicate thing for a prince to reform his court and to
introduce piety;[743] for knowing to what extent courtiers will carry
their complaisance, and that they will make any sacrifices to advance
their interests, he manages them with prudence, bears with them and
dissembles, lest they should be driven to hypocrisy or sacrilege; he
expects that Providence and time will be more successful than his zeal
and his activity are.

(28.) Already in ancient times courts granted pensions and bestowed
favours on musicians, dancing-masters, buffoons, flute-players,
flatterers, and sycophants; they possess undoubted merits, and their
talents are recognised and well known, for they amuse the great and
give them a little breathing-time during the intervals of grandeur. It
is well known that Fabien is a fine dancer, and that Lorenzani[744]
composes beautiful anthems; but who can tell if a pious man be really
virtuous? There is no pension to be got for him from the kingʼs
private purse, nor from the public treasury; and this is quite right,
for piety is easy to counterfeit; and if it were rewarded, it would
expose the prince to honour dissimulation and knavery, and to pension a

(29.) It is to be hoped the piety of the court, such as it is, will at
least oblige prelates to reside in their dioceses.[745]

(30.) I am convinced that true piety is the source from which repose
flows; it renders life bearable and death without sting; hypocrisy does
not possess such advantages.

(31.) Every hour in itself, and in respect to us, is unique; when once
it is gone, it is entirely lost, and millions of ages will not bring it
back again; days, months, and years, are swallowed up and irrevocably
lost in the abyss of time; time itself shall be destroyed; it is but a
point in the immense space of eternity, and will be erased. There are
several slight and frivolous periods of time which are unstable, pass
away, and may be called fashions, such as grandeur, favour, riches,
power, authority, independence, pleasure, joy and superfluities. What
will become of such fashions when time itself shall have disappeared?
Virtue alone, now so little in fashion, will last longer than time.




(1.) Certain people want a fortune to become ennobled.[746]

Some of these would have been ennobled[747] if they could have put off
their creditors half a year longer.

Others, again, are commoners when they lay down, and rise noblemen.[748]

How many noblemen are there whose relatives are commoners?

(2.) Some man disowns his father, who is known to keep an office or a
shop, and only mentions his grandfather, who has been dead this long
time, is unknown and cannot be found now; he enjoys a large income,
has a grand post, great connections, and wants nothing but a title to
become a nobleman.

(3.) Formerly the words “granting letters of nobility” were considered
good French and habitually employed, but now they have become
antiquated and out of date, and the courts of justice use the word
“rehabilitation.”[749] To rehabilitate supposes a wealthy man to be
of noble descent,—for it is absolutely requisite he should be so,—and
also his father to have forfeited the title by ploughing, digging, by
becoming a pedlar, or by having been a lackey; it also supposes that
the son only desires to be restored to the rights of his ancestors, and
to wear the coat of arms his family always wore, though, perhaps, one
of his own invention, and quite different from that on his old pewter
ware; thus the granting of letters of nobility does not apply to his
case, for they only confer an honour on a commoner, that is, on a man
who has not yet discovered the secret of becoming rich.

(4.) A man of the people, by often affirming he was present when some
prodigy happened, persuades himself that he has really seen it;
another person, by concealing his age, comes to believe at last he is
as young as he would be thought; and thus a commoner, who habitually
asserts he is descended from some ancient baron, or from some noble
lord, has the ideal pleasure of fancying himself of such illustrious

(5.) What man is there, however meanly born, who having acquired some
fortune, can be in want of a coat of arms, and with this coat, heraldic
devices of the highest rank, a crest, supporters, a motto, and perhaps
a war-cry? What is become of the distinction between head-pieces and
helmets? They are no longer in use and not even mentioned; it does no
more matter if they are worn in front or profile, open or closed, and
with more or less bars; such niceties are out of date; coronets are
worn, which is far simpler, for people think they deserve wearing them,
and, therefore, bestow them on themselves. Some of the better sort of
citizens have still a little shamefacedness left which prevents them
using the coronet of a marquess, and they content themselves with an
earlʼs, whilst a few do not even go a long way for their coat of arms,
but take it from their signboards to put it on their carriages.[750]

(6.) Provided a person is not born in a city, but in some lonely
thatched house in the country, or in some ruins in the midst of
marshes, dignified with the name of castle, he will be taken for a
nobleman upon his own affirmation.

(7.) A man of noble descent wishes to pass for a small lord, and he
compasses his end; a great lord pretends to be a prince, and employs so
many precautions that, thanks to some fine appellations, quarrels about
rank and precedence, and a genealogy not recognised by DʼHozier,[751]
he at last is allowed to be a petty prince.

(8.) In everything great men mould themselves, and follow the example
of people of higher rank, who, on their side, that they may have
nothing in common with their inferiors, willingly abandon all honorific
appellations and distinctions with which their rank is burdened, and
instead of their slavery prefer a life of more freedom and ease.[752]
Those who follow their steps vie already to observe the same simplicity
and modesty. And thus, through a feeling of pride, all will condescend
to live naturally and as the people do. How horribly inconvenient they
must feel!

(9.) Some people are so fond of names that they have three for fear
of wanting some; one for the country, another for the town, and a
third which they use when on duty or in their office; others have a
dissyllabic name which they ennoble by the particle “du” or “de” as
soon as their circumstances improve; some, again, by suppressing a
syllable make a name illustrious which was before obscure; by changing
one letter of his name another person disguises himself, and he who
formerly was Syrus becomes Cyrus.[753] Many suppress their whole names,
though far from ignominious, to adopt others which sound better, and by
which they get nothing but to be always compared to the great men from
whom those names are borrowed. Finally, there are some, who, though
born within the walls of Paris, pretend to be Flemish or Italian, as if
every country had not its commoners, lengthen their French names, and
give them a foreign termination, as if names were the better for being

(10.) The want of money has reconciled the nobility to the commoners,
and put an end to all disputes about the quartering of escutcheons.[755]

(11.) How many persons would be gainers by a law which should decree
that nobility can be inherited from the motherʼs side, but how many
more would be losers by it.[756]

(12.) There are few families but who are related to the greatest
princes as well as to the common people.

(13.) There is nothing lost by being a nobleman; those who have a
title neither want franchises, immunities, exemptions, privileges. Do
you think it was purely for the pleasure of being ennobled that certain
monks have obtained a title? They are not so foolish; it is only for
the advantages they receive from it. It is, after all, much better than
to get money by having an interest in farming the salt tax, and that
not alone for every individual of the community, for it is against
their vows, but even for the community itself.[757]

(14.) I here declare openly and desire all men to take notice of it,
that none may hereafter be surprised: if ever any great man will think
me worthy of his patronage, if ever I happen to make my fortune, I
then shall claim descent from a certain Godfrey de la Bruyère, whom
all chronicles of France mention as one of the many French noblemen of
the highest rank who followed Godfrey of Bouillon to conquer the Holy

(15.) If nobility be virtue, a flagitious man loses his title; and if
it be not virtue, is a very trifling thing.

(16.) Certain things are astonishing and incomprehensible if we
consider their principles and why they were established. Who could
imagine, for example, that these _abbés_ who dress and are as
effeminate and vain as any man or woman of rank can well be, and who
vie for the ladiesʼ favours with a marquess or a financier, and defeat
them both, were originally and etymologically the fathers and heads of
holy monks and humble anchorites to whom they should be exemplars. How
powerful, how absolute, how tyrannical is custom! And, not to mention
greater irregularities, is it not to be feared that one day or other
some young _abbés_ will figure in grey-flowered velvet dresses like a
certain cardinal, or will paint and wear patches like women?[759]

(17.) That the obscenities of the gods, the Venus, the Ganymede, and
all the other nudities of Carracci are represented on pictures painted
for certain princes of the Church who style themselves successors of
the apostles, may be proved by visiting the palace of the Farnese.[760]

(18.) A thing, however handsome, loses somewhat of its beauty by being
out of place; decorum adds a certain perfection and is based on reason;
thus we never behold a jig danced in a chapel,[761] or hear stagey
elocution in the pulpit; whilst no profane imagery is seen in churches,
nor a crucifix and a picture of the Judgment of Paris[762] in these
same holy places, nor the dress and retinue of a military man in a

(19.) Shall I freely declare my thoughts about what the world calls a
fine morning choral service, decorations often profane, places reserved
and paid for, books distributed as in the theatre,[764] frequent
assignations and interviews, deafening murmurings and talk, a certain
person mounted in the pulpit, who holds forth in a familiar and jejune
manner, without any other ambition than to get the people together and
to amuse them until an orchestra begins to play, and, shall I say it,
until singers are heard who have rehearsed for a considerable time?
Does it become me to exclaim that I burn with zeal for the Lordʼs
house? and must I draw aside the slender curtain which covers those
mysteries, witnesses of such gross indecencies? What! must I call all
this the church service because they do not yet dance at the TT....[765]

(20.) We hear of no vows nor pilgrimages made to any saint, in order
to attain a higher degree of benignity, a more grateful heart, to be
more just and less evil-doing, and to be cured of vanity, restless
activity, and a propensity for buffoonery?

(21.) What can be more eccentric than for a number of Christians
of both sexes to meet on certain days in a large room to applaud
and reward a company of excommunicated persons, who are only
excommunicated for the very pleasure they give, and for which already
they have been paid beforehand? Methinks either all theatres should be
shut or a less severe anathema be fulminated against actors.[766]

(22.) On those days which are called holy a monk confesses, while the
vicar thunders from the pulpit against the monk and his followers.
A pious woman leaves the altar and then hears the preacher state in
his sermon that she has committed sacrilege. Has the church no power
either to make a clergyman hold his peace, or to suspend for a time the
authority of a Barnabite?[767]

(23.) The fees in a parish church are higher for a marriage than for a
christening, and amount to more for a christening than for confession;
people would think them a tax laid upon the sacraments, which seem to
be appreciated _ad valorem_; yet, after all, this is not the case; and
those persons who receive money for these holy things do not think they
sell them, whilst those who pay for them as little think they purchase
them. Such an appearance of evil might indeed be avoided as well for
the sake of the weak as for that of the scoffers.

(24.) A ruddy and quite healthy-looking parish priest,[768] wearing
fine linen and Venice lace, has his seat in church near the cardinals
and the doctors of divinity,[769] where he finishes to digest his
dinner, whilst certain Bernardine or Franciscan monks come out of their
cells or deserts to which decency and their own vows should confine
them, to preach before him and his flock, and to be paid for their
sermons as if they were vendible commodities. You will not let me
continue, and you remark: “That such a censure is novel and unexpected,
and that this shepherd and his flock ought not to be deprived from
hearing the Word of God and receiving the bread of life.” “By no means,
I would have him himself preach that word as well as administer that
bread morning and evening, in the churches, in the houses, on the
market-places, from the housetops, and have none assume such a grand
and laborious office but with intentions, capacities, and physical
strength deserving of the handsome offerings and wealthy emoluments
belonging to it. However, I am compelled to excuse the vicarʼs conduct,
for it is customary, and he found it already established and will
transmit it to his successors; but still I must blame this strange,
unreasonable, and unwarrantable custom, whilst I approve still less
the habit of his being paid four times for the same funeral, once for
himself, a second time as his fees, a third for his being present, and
a fourth for his officiating.”

(25.) Titus served the church these twenty years in a small living,
and is not yet held worthy of a better which becomes vacant; neither
his talents, knowledge, his exemplary life, nor the wishes of his
parishioners are sufficient to get him promoted; another clergyman
starts up, as it were, from underground, and he obtains the preference;
Titus is sent back and put off, but he does not complain, for custom
will have it so.

(26.) “Who,” asks the precentor, “will compel me to come to matins? Am
I not master of the choir? My predecessor never went there, and I am
as good a man as ever he was! Shall I allow my dignity to be debased
while I hold office, or leave it to my successor as I found it?” The
head of the school says: “I do not battle for my own interests, but for
those of the prebend; it would be hard indeed for a superior canon to
have to do duty with the choir, whilst the treasurer, the archdeacon,
the penitentiary, and the grand vicar think themselves exempt from it.”
“It is my right,” argues the head of the chapter, “to claim my dues,
even if I should never come to prayers; for twenty years I slept every
night without being disturbed; I will go on as I began, and never act
derogatory to my dignity. Else, why should I be head of the chapter, if
my example should be of no importance?” Thus each strives not to praise
the Lord, and to show that, for a long time, it was neither customary
nor compulsory to do so; whilst the emulation not to repair to divine
service cannot be greater nor more fervent. The bells toll in the
stillness of the night, and the same sounds which awaken the choristers
and the singing-boys, lull the canons into a more sound and pleasant
slumber, interspersed by delicious dreams; they rise late, and go to
church to be paid for having slept.

(27.) Who would ever imagine, did not experience daily show it, how
difficult it is for people to resign themselves to their being happy;
and that there should be need of men dressed in a certain fashion,
who by tender and pathetic speeches prepared beforehand, by certain
inflexions of the voice, by tears and gestures, which make them
perspire and exhaust them, finally induce a Christian and sensible man,
who is desperately ill, not to be lost for ever but to ensure his own

(28.) Aristippusʼ daughter lies dangerously ill; she sends for her
father, and is anxious to be reconciled to him and die happy. Shall so
wise a man, the oracle of the whole town, take such a sensible step of
his own accord, and persuade his wife to do the same? No! they will not
stir without the interference of a spiritual director.

(29.) If a mother does not yield to the inclinations of her daughter,
but induces her to become a nun, she takes upon herself the charge of
another soul beside her own, and is responsible for such a soul to God.
Such a mother will be lost for ever if the daughter be not saved.

(30.) A certain man gambles and is ruined, but nevertheless, when the
eldest of his two daughters gets married, he gives her as a dowry all
he has been able to rescue out of the clutches of some cheat;[770] the
younger will shortly become a nun, without any vocation for it, but
compelled by the losses of her father at play.

(31.) Certain maidens, virtuous, healthy, enthusiasts in religion, and
who feel they have a call, have not sufficient money to enter a wealthy
nunnery and to take the vows of poverty.

(32.) A woman who hesitates whether she shall enter an abbey or a
nunnery revives the old question about the advantages of a popular or a
despotic rule.[771]

(33.) To play the fool and marry for love is to marry Melita, a
handsome, sensible, thrifty, charming young woman who loves you, but is
not so wealthy as Ægina, whose hand is proposed to you, with a large
dowry, but who feels a strong inclination for spending it all, and your
own fortune as well.

(34.) Formerly it was considered no trifling affair to get married;
it was a settlement for life, a matter of importance which deserved a
great deal of consideration; for a man had to take a wife for all his
life, for better or worse; the same table and the same bed served them
both; there was no getting rid of one another by separate maintenance,
and a man with a household and children did not seem a rollicking

(35.) I commend the bashfulness of a man who avoids being seen with
a woman not his wife, and I can also understand his being loth to
frequent persons of bad reputation. But what an impertinence for a man
to blush being in the company of his own wife and being ashamed of
appearing in public with a lady whom he has chosen as his companion
for life, who should be his joy, his comfort, and his chief society;
whom he loves and esteems, who adorns his home, and whose intelligence,
merits, virtue, and connections reflect credit on him. Why did he not
begin being ashamed of his marriage?

I am well aware of the tyranny, of custom, how it sways the mind and
constrains the manners of men, even in things which are most senseless
and needless; but I feel, nevertheless, I could be bold enough to walk
on the Cours to be stared at in the company of the lady who is my

(36.) It is not a fault in a young man to marry a lady advanced in
age, nor should he be ashamed of it, for he not seldom shows his
prudence and foresight by acting thus. But it is infamous to treat his
benefactress disgracefully, and to let her see she has been imposed
upon by a hypocrite and an ungrateful fellow. If dissembling be ever
excusable it is when it is done out of kindness; if deception is ever
to be allowed, it is when sincerity would be cruelty. No man should
behave cruelly even if his wife should live longer than he expected;
for he did not stipulate, when he married her, that she should give up
the ghost immediately after having made his fortune and paid his debts.
Has she no longer to draw breath, and has she to take a dose of opium
or hemlock after having performed such a fine stroke of business? Is
it a crime in her to live? And is she to be blamed if the man should
die before the woman, for whose funeral he had already made such nice
arrangements, and for whom he intended to have the biggest bells tolled
and the finest trappings brought out?

(37.) For some time a certain method has been in use for making the
most of oneʼs money,[773] which is still practised by some of our
gentlemanly people, though it has been condemned by our most eminent

(38.) In every commonwealth there are always some offices apparently
created for no other purpose but to enrich one man at the expense of
many; the property and the monies of private people flow continually
and uninterruptedly in his coffers,[774] and they hardly ever come
back, or if they do, it is after a long while. Each of these chests
is like an abyss, a sea, which receives the waters of many rivers but
disgorges none; or, if it does, it is imperceptibly, through secret
and subterranean channels, without in the least abating its size and
volume, and not till it has enjoyed these waters for a good while and
can keep them no longer.

(39.) To sink money in an annuity was formerly considered quite safe;
it was sure to be paid, and inalienable, but, now, through the fault
of administrators, it may be considered irretrievably lost.[775] What
other means are there for doubling an income or for hoarding? Shall I
trust my money to the farmers of the _huitième denier_, or to those
of the indirect taxes?[776] Shall I become a miser, a farmer of the
revenue,[777] or an administrator of a hospital?

(40.) You have a silver coin, or even a gold coin in your possession,
but that is not enough, for such coins only exercise their influence in
large quantities; collect, if you can, a goodly number of them, make a
heap of them, and then leave the rest to me. You are neither well-born,
intelligent, talented, nor experienced, but what does it matter? only
keep up your heap and I will take care to place you in such an eminent
position that you shall stand covered before your master, if you have
one; and he must be a very great man indeed, if, with the help of your
daily increasing coin, I do not make him stand bareheaded in your

(41.) Oranta has been at law these ten years to know in what court
her cause is to be tried; her pretensions are well founded, of great
importance, and her whole fortune is at stake. Perhaps about five years
hence she may know who her judges are to be, and in what court she is
to plead for the remaining years of her life.

(42.) The custom which has, of late, been adopted by our courts of
judicature, of interrupting barristers whilst speaking, of preventing
them from being eloquent and witty, of making them go back to the mere
facts of a case, and to the bare proofs on which their clients base
their rights, is very much approved of.[778] This harsh measure, which
makes orators regret they have to leave out the finest parts of their
speeches, banishes eloquence from the only spot where it is not out of
place, and will make of our Parliaments[779] mute judicial tribunals,
is founded on this sound and unanswerable argument, that it expedites
the dispatch of business. I also wish the clerks would not forget to
accelerate their business in the same way it is now done in court, and
that not only barristersʼ speeches but the reports in writing might be

(43.) It is the duty of a judge to administer justice, but it is his
profession to delay it; some judges know their duty and practise their

(44.) Whenever a judge is solicited[781] it reflects no credit on him,
for either his knowledge or his honesty is considered doubtful, and an
attempt is made to prejudice him or to get him to commit an injustice.

(45.) With certain judges court favour, authority, friendship, and
family connections, damage a good cause, and an affectation of wishing
to appear incorruptible induces them to become unjust.

(46.) A magistrate who is either a dandy or a gallant has a far worse
influence than if he were a dissolute man, for the latter conceals his
behaviour and intrigues, so that often it is not known how to approach
him, whilst the former with many professed foibles may be influenced by
every woman he wishes to please.

(47.) Religion and justice are almost alike respected in a
commonwealth, and the character of a magistrate is considered nearly
as sacred as that of a priest. A legal dignitary can hardly dance at
a ball, be seen in a theatre, or doff his plain and modest apparel,
without bringing contempt upon himself; it is strange a law should be
necessary to regulate his outward appearance, and compel him to assume
a grave and highly respectable air.[782]

(48.) There exists no profession in which an apprenticeship is
not necessary; and in considering the various stations of men, it
is manifest that, from the highest to the lowest, some time has
been allowed to every person for qualifying himself by practice
and experience for his profession, when his errors have been of no
importance, but, on the contrary, led to perfection. War itself, which
seems to owe its origin to confusion and disorder, and to be fostered
by them, has its own rules; people do not destroy one another in the
open field, in platoons, and in bands, without having been taught it,
for killing is practised methodically. There is a school for military
men; then why should magistrates not have one? There are established
practices, laws, and customs, but no time is allowed, or at least not
sufficient time, for digesting and studying them. The first attempt and
apprenticeship of a youth who, fresh from school, dons red garments,
and has been made a judge on account of his money,[783] is to decide
arbitrarily of the lives and fortunes of men.[784]

(49.) The chief qualification of an orator is probity; without it he is
no more than a declaimer, and disguises or exaggerates matters of fact,
makes use of falsified quotations, slanders, adopts all the injustice
and malice of his client, and may be ranked among those advocates of
whom the proverb says, “that they are hired to insult people.”[785]

(50.) I have heard it said: “It is true I owe a certain sum to such and
such a person, and his claim is indisputable; but I wait to see if he
will execute a small matter of form, and if he omits it, he can never
retrieve his error; consequently he will then lose his debt, and his
claim will be undoubtedly superseded. Now, he is pretty sure to forget
it!” The man who utters such words has a real pettifoggerʼs conscience.

An excellent, useful, sensible, wise, and just maxim for all courts of
judicature would be the reverse of that which prefers form to equity.

(51.) Torture is an admirable invention, and infallibly destroys an
innocent man who has a weak constitution, whilst it saves a guilty man
who is hardy.[786]

(52.) The punishment of a villain is an example for his fellows; in the
condemnation of an innocent man all honest men are concerned.[787]

Speaking of myself, I would almost affirm never to become a thief or
murderer, but I would not be so bold as to infer that I might never be
punished as such.

Deplorable is the condition of an innocent person whose trial has been
hurried, and who is found guilty. Can even that of his judge be more

(53.) If I had been told that in former ages a _prévôt_, or one of
those magistrates appointed for the apprehension and destruction of
rogues and thieves, had been long acquainted with all such rascals,
knew their names and faces as well as the number and quantity of their
robberies, and all particulars about them; and had so far penetrated
all their actions and was so completely initiated in all their horrible
mysteries that, to prevent the clamour some great man was about to
raise for the loss of a jewel, stolen from him in a crowd when coming
from some party, he knew how to restore it to him, and that Parliament
interfered and had this magistrate tried; I should class such an event
with many others in history, which in the course of time have become
incredible. How, then, can I believe, what may be inferred from recent,
well-known, and clearly proved facts, that such a pernicious connivance
exists even at the present time, is made a jest of, and is looked upon
as a matter of course?[788]

(54.) There exists a large number of men, imperious towards the weak,
firm and inflexible when solicited by commoners, without any regard for
the inferior classes, rigid and severe in trifles, who will not accept
the smallest present, nor be persuaded by their dearest friends and
nearest relatives, and who only are to be bribed by women.[789]

(55.) It is not absolutely impossible for a man who is in high favour
to lose his suit.

(56.) A person who is dying may expect his last will to be listened to
as if it was an oracle; every man puts his own construction on it and
explains it as he pleases, or rather, as it will suit his inclination
or his interest.

(57.) There are some men of whom we may truly say that death does not
so much determine their last will as that it deprives them of life
as well as of their irresolution and restlessness: a fit of anger
moves them to make a will, whilst they are living, but when the fit
is over it is torn to pieces and burnt. They have as many wills in
their strong box as there are almanacs on their table, for every year
is sure to produce a new one; a second will is annulled by a third,
which is rendered void by another better drawn up, again invalidated by
a fifth and holographic will. Yet if a person who has an interest in
suppressing this last will has neither an opportunity, nor a desire,
nor the means of doing so, he must stand by its clauses and conditions;
for what can more clearly prove the intentions of a man, however
changeable, than a last deed, under his own hand, made so lately that
he had no time to change his mind?

(58.) If there were no wills to regulate the rights of lawful heirs,
I question whether men would need any tribunal to adjust their
differences; the functions of a judge would almost be reduced to the
sad necessity of sending thieves and incendiaries[790] to the gallows.

Whom do you see in the galleries[791] of the court, in the
waiting-rooms, at the doors or in the rooms of the magistrates? Not
heirs-at-law, for their rights are immutable; but legatees, going to
law about the meaning of a clause or an article; disinherited persons
who find fault with a will drawn up at leisure and with circumspection
by a grave, able, and conscientious man, and not without the aid of
a good lawyer; with a deed in which some cunning legal practitioner
has not omitted an iota of his professional cant and his ordinary
subtleties, signed by the testator and public witnesses, duly
initialled, and which, notwithstanding all this, is set aside by the
court and declared null and void.

(59.) Titius is present at the reading of a will; his eyes are red with
weeping, and he is overcome with grief for the loss of a friend whose
heir he expects to become. One clause of the will bequeaths him his
friendʼs official position, another his municipal bonds, by a third
he becomes master of an estate in the country, and a fourth gives him
a furnished house in the middle of town, with all its appurtenances.
His grief increases, his tears flow abundantly, and he cannot contain
himself; he already beholds himself in an official position,[792] with
a town and country house, both furnished in the same style; he intends
to keep a good table and a carriage. “Was there ever a more gentlemanly
or a better man than the deceased?” he asks. But a codicil is joined
to the will which must also be read, by which Mævius is appointed sole
heir, and Titius is sent back to the suburbs to trudge without money
or titles. Titius wipes away his tears, and it is now Mæviusʼ duty to

(60.) Does not the law, in forbidding to kill, include also stabbing,
poisoning, burning, drowning, lying in ambush, open violence, in a
word, and all means tending to homicide? Does the law, which restrains
husbands and wives from bequeathing property to one another, only refer
to direct and immediate ways of giving?[794] Has it made no provision
against those that are indirect? Was it the cause of the introduction
of trustees, and does it even tolerate them? When the dearest of wives
outlives her husband, does a man bequeath his estate to a trusty friend
as an acknowledgment of his friendship, or is it not rather a proof
of his complete confidence and reliance on that friend who will make
a right use of what has been intrusted to him? Will a man make over
his estate to anyone whom he even suspects of not restoring it to the
person for whom it is really intended? Is any speech or any letter
needed, and is a contract or an oath necessary for such a collusion?
Does not every man on such an occasion feel what he can expect from
another man? If, on the contrary, the property of such an estate is
vested in a trustee, why does he lose his reputation by retaining it?
What, then, is the reason of all these satires and lampoons?[795]
Why is he compared to a guardian who betrays his trust, to a servant
robbing his master of a sum of money he has to take somewhere? Such a
comparison is wrong. Is it considered infamous not to perform a piece
of liberality, and for a man to keep for his own use what is his own?
How strangely perplexed, how terribly burdened, must such a trustee
feel! If a man, out of respect for the laws, appropriates to himself a
trust, he can no longer be thought an honest man; if, out of love for a
deceased friend, he fulfils his intentions, and restores to the widow
what has been intrusted to him, he lends his name, and transgresses
the law. The law, then, does not harmonise with the opinions of men.
Perhaps so, but it does not suit me to say whether the law is wrong or
whether the people are mistaken.

(61.) I have been told that certain individuals or certain bodies of
men contest with one another for precedence, and that presidents of
Parliaments[796] and peers dispute as to who shall go first. In my
opinion either of the contending parties who avoids appearing when
Parliament meets, yields, is conscious of its own weakness, and decides
in favour of its competitors.

(62.) Typhon supplies a certain nobleman of high rank with horses,
dogs, and everything. On the strength of that lordʼs protection he
behaves most audaciously, and does what he likes in his own province,
without fear of being punished; he becomes a murderer, perjures
himself, sets fire to his neighboursʼ houses, and needs not look for a
refuge. At last the prince is obliged to punish him himself.[797]

(63.) “Stews, liqueurs, entrées, side dishes,” are words which
should be foreign and unintelligible to us; such words should not be
employed in times of peace, as they are only incentives to luxury and
gluttony; but how come they to be continually mentioned in times of
war, amidst public calamities, before an enemy, and on the very night
before a battle, or during a siege? Where do we find any mention made
of Scipioʼs or Mariusʼs table? Do we read anywhere that Miltiades,
Epaminondas, and Agesilaus were fond of good living? I should like no
general to be commended for the goodness, elegance, and sumptuousness
of his table, till everything that could be said about him had been
told, and people had expatiated on all the details of some victory
or the taking of some town. I should even be glad to see a general
desirous of avoiding such commendations.[798]

(64.) Hermippus[799] makes himself a slave to what he calls “his
little contrivances;” all habits, customs, fashions, decency itself,
must be sacrificed to them; he looks for them everywhere, discards
a lesser for a greater, and neglects none which is practicable; he
studies them, and there is not a day but what he discovers a fresh
one. Other men may take their dinners and suppers, but he objects to
the very name of them, eats when he feels hungry, and then only of
what he likes best. He must see his bed made, but no one is so skilful
or fortunate to make it in such a way that he can sleep as he likes.
He seldom leaves his house; he is partial to his own room, where he
is neither idle nor busy, where he does no work, but muddles about in
the garb of a man who has taken medicine. Other people are obliged to
wait the leisure of a locksmith or a joiner, whenever they want them;
but he has everything at hand: a file, if anything has to be filed: a
saw, if anything has to be cut off, and a pair of pincers to pull out.
You cannot mention any tools he has not got, and he fancies they are
much better and more convenient than these workmen use; he has some
new and unknown tools, without any name, of his own invention, and of
which he has almost forgotten the use. There exists not a man who can
be compared to him for performing in a short time and without much
difficulty some labour which is perfectly useless. He was compelled
to take ten steps to go from his bed to his lavatory; he has now so
contrived his room as to reduce these ten to nine, so he saves a
good many steps during the whole course of his life! Other people
turn a key, and push and pull before a door opens, but this is very
fatiguing and unnecessary, so he does without it. But he is not going
to reveal by what means. In fact, he understands the use of springs
and machinery, above all, of such machinery as the world can very well
spare. Daylight is not admitted in Hermippusʼ apartment through the
window, but in quite a different way; he has also discovered a secret
for going up and down the house otherwise than by the stairs, and is
now studying how to go in and out more conveniently than by the door.

(65.) Physicians have been attacked[800] for a long time, and yet every
one consults them; neither the sallies of the stage nor of satire
diminish their fees;[801] they give dowries to their daughters, have
sons magistrates and bishops;[802] and all this is paid for by the very
persons who make fun of them. People who are in good health fall ill
some day or other, and then they want a man whose trade it is to assure
them they shall not die. As long as men are liable to die, and are
desirous to live, a physician will be made fun of, but he will be well

(66.) A good physician is a man who employs specifics, or, if he has
not got any, allows those persons who have them to cure his patient

(67.) Quacks are rash, and therefore rarely successful; hence physic
and physicians are in vogue; the latter let you die, the former kill

(68.) Carro Carri[803] lands in France with a recipe which he says
cures in a short time, and which, sometimes, is a slow poison; it has
been in the hands of his family for many years, but he has improved
it. It is a specific against the colic, yet he cures quartan ague,
pleurisy, dropsy, apoplexy, and epilepsy. Rack your memory a little,
and mention the first disease you can think of, let us say hemorrhage;
he can cure it. It is true he raises no one from the dead, and does
not restore men to life, but he keeps them, of course, till they are
decrepit, for it is by mere chance that his father and grandfather,
who were acquainted with the secret, both died very young. Physicians
receive for their visits the fees people give them, and some are even
satisfied with thanks; but Carro Carri is so certain of his remedy, and
of its effect, that he does not hesitate to take his fee beforehand,
and expects to receive before he has given anything. If the disease
be incurable, so much the better; it will be the more deserving of
his attention and his remedy.[804] Begin with putting into his hands
thousands of francs, make over to him some bonds,[805] and then you
have no longer any need to be more uneasy about your cure than he
himself is. The world is full of men with names ending in o and i, most
respectable names, who are all rivals of this man, and impose on the
patients and the disease. Fagon,[806] you will admit that neither your
physicians nor those of all the faculties in the world always cure or
are certain of their cure; but those who have inherited their empirical
medicine from their forefathers, and whose experience has come to them
in the same way, always promise, and even pledge themselves by oath,
to cure their patients. How sweet it is for men not to abandon hope
even when attacked by a mortal disease, and still to think they are
pretty well when expiring! Death is then an agreeable surprise, and
comes without striking terror beforehand; so that a man feels it before
he has thought of preparing for it and giving himself up to it. O
Esculapius Fagon! Establish throughout the world the reign of Peruvian
bark and of emetics;[807] carry to its perfection the science of those
plants which are given to man for prolonging life;[808] observe in your
practice, with more exactness and judgment than was ever done before,
the influence of climate and weather, the various symptoms and the
natural disposition of your patients; treat them in the only way which
suits them and by which they can be cured; eradicate the most obscure
and inveterate diseases from the human body, which has no secrets for
you; but do not attempt the diseases of the mind, for they can never be
cured, and leave, therefore, to Corinna, Lesbia, Canidia, Trimalcion,
and Carpus, the passion, or rather the mania, they have for quacks.

(69.) Astrologers and fortune-tellers, who practise palmistry and
calculate nativities, guess at things past by the motion of a sieve,
and show undimmed truth in a looking-glass or in a cup of water, are
publicly tolerated; such people are, indeed, not without their use;
they predict to men theyʼll make their fortune, to girls they shall
marry their sweethearts, console those children whose fathers are too
long dying, and calm the restlessness of young women married to old
men; in a word, they deceive, but not at a very high rate, those who
wish to be deceived.

(70.) What is to be thought of magic and sorcery? Its theory is very
obscure; its principles are vague, uncertain, and visionary, but
some facts have been produced which are perplexing, and certified by
serious-minded men who were present when they happened, or learned
them from other men as reliable as they themselves are. To admit or to
deny all these facts seems equally absurd, and I venture to say that
in this and in other extraordinary things which deviate from natureʼs
laws, a middle course has to be steered between mere credulity and
obstinate rejection.[809]

(71.) Children can scarcely know too many languages, and methinks, all
means should be taken to facilitate their acquiring them; there is no
condition of life in which they are not useful, for they clear the way
for the acquisition of solid learning, as well as for easy and pleasant
acquirements. If this somewhat difficult study is put off to that more
advanced age which is called youth, people have no longer the strength
of mind and the will to follow it up, and if they do, they find it
impossible to persevere; for in studying those languages they consume
that very time which should be applied in speaking them, and confine
themselves to mastering words when they wish to proceed beyond, and
require facts; and thus they lose the first and most valuable years of
their life. Such a grand foundation can never rightly be laid, unless
it be when the soul naturally receives everything, is deeply impressed
by it, and when the memory is fresh, quick, and steady; when the mind
and the heart are yet void of passions, cares, and desires, and when
those who have a right to dispose of us, induce us to labour for a
considerable time. I am convinced the small number of true scholars and
the great number of superficial ones is owing to the neglect of this

(72.) The study of the original texts can never be sufficiently
recommended; it is the shortest, the safest, and the most pleasant way
for all kinds of learning. Take things from the beginning, go to the
main spring, read over the text repeatedly, learn it by heart, quote
it upon occasions; above all, apply yourself to penetrate the sense of
it to its fullest extent and in all its circumstances, reconcile an
authorʼs various sentiments, settle his principles, and draw your own
conclusions. The early commentators were in the very position I should
wish you to be; never borrow their explanations nor adopt their ideas
unless your own fail you, for their interpretation is not yours and
may easily slip out of your memory; on the contrary, your observations
have sprung up in your own mind, will abide with you, and more readily
recur in your conversations, consultations, and discussions. You
will be delighted to observe that in your reading no insurmountable
difficulties will present themselves except those that have nonplussed
commentators and scholiasts themselves, who, moreover, have at their
command such a rich and abundant store of vain and useless learning
when passages are sufficiently clear and present no difficulties to
themselves nor to others. This system of studying the original texts
will convince you that menʼs laziness has encouraged pedants to
increase the bulk of libraries rather than their worth, and to crush
the text under a weight of commentaries; by doing this they have
injured themselves and acted contrary to their own interests, as those
same commentaries have caused an increase of reading, researches, and
of that kind of labour which they intended to render useless.

(73.) What is it that governs men in their way of living and in their
diet? Is it health and sobriety? That is the question. Whole nations
first eat fruit and meat afterwards, whilst others do quite the
contrary, and some begin their meal with one kind of fruit and finish
it with another. Does this proceed from reason or custom? Is it for
their healthʼs sake that men wear their clothes buttoned up to their
chin, and put on ruffs and bands after going for so many ages quite
open-breasted?[811] Is it for the sake of decency, especially at a
time when they have found the means of appearing undressed though they
are dressed?[812] On the other hand, are women who expose their breasts
and shoulders, less delicate in their constitution than men, or less
inclined to decency? It is a strange kind of modesty which induces them
to hide their legs and almost their feet, and at the same time allows
them to bare their arms to the elbow.[813] How came men formerly to
think they had to attack or defend themselves whilst waging war, and
who taught them the use of offensive and defensive arms? What obliges
them to-day to lay these aside, to put on boots to go to a ball, and
to support the pioneers in the trenches, exposed to the whole fire
of a counterscarp, without having any arms, and only dressed in a
doublet.[814] Were our forefathers wise or senseless in not deeming
such a practice useful to their king or their country? And who are
our heroes renowned in history? A du Guesclin, a Clisson, a Foix, a
Boucicault,[815] who all wore helmets and buckled on breast-plates?

Who can account for the introduction of certain words and the
proscription of others?[816]

_Ains_ is lost; the vowel beginning it, and which could so easily be
cut off, could not save it; it gave way to another monosyllable which
at best is but its anagram.[817] _Certes_ is beautiful in its old age,
and has yet strength, though declining; it should be used in poetry,
and our language is under some obligation to those authors who employ
it in prose and defend it in their works. _Maint_ is a word which
should never have been forsaken, and on account of its adaptability for
any style and for the sake of its French origin.[818] _Moult_, though
descended from the Latin, possessed in its time the same merit, and I
do not see why _beaucoup_ should be preferred to it. _Car_ has endured
some persecution, and if it had not been protected by some men of
culture, it would have been shamefully banished from a language which
it had served so long; and this without knowing what word to put in
its place.[819] When _cil_ was in fashion it was one of the prettiest
words of the French language; and it is a sad thing for the poets that
it has become antiquated. _Douloureux_ is, of course, derived from
_douleur_, and so are _chaleureux_ or _chaloureux_ from _chaleur_: yet
_chaloureux_ is going out,[820] though it enriched our tongue, and was
employed quite correctly when _chaud_ was not the right expression.
_Valeur_ ought also to have given us _valeureux_; _haine, haineux_;
_peine, peineux_; _fruit, fructueux_; _pitié, piteux_; _joie, jovial_;
_foi, féal_; _cour, courtois_; _gîte, gisant_; _haleine, halené_;
_vanterie, vantard_; _mensonge, mensonger_; _coutume, coutumier_;
just as _part_ should have produced _partial_; _point, pointu_ and
_pointilleux_; _ton, tonnant_; _son, sonore_; _frein, effréné_; _front,
effronté_; _ris, ridicule_; _loi, légal_; _cœur, cordial_; _bien,
benin_; and _mal, malicieux_. _Heur_ was allowed when _bonheur_ did
not suit; from the first arose _heureux_, which is so French and yet
exists no longer; if some poets have employed it, it is more for the
sake of the measure than from choice. _Issue_ prospers, and comes from
_issir_, no longer in existence. _Fin_ is used, but not _finer_, which
is derived from it, whilst _cesse_ and _cesser_ are still flourishing.
_Verd_ no longer gives _verdoyer_, nor _fête, fétoyer_; nor _larme,
larmoyer_; nor _deuil, se douloir_ and _se condouloir_; nor _joie,
sʼéjouir_; though it still makes _se réjouir_ and _se conjouir_, whilst
_orgueil_ gives _sʼenorgueillir_. Formerly _gent_ was used, as in _le
corps gent_; this easy word is not alone no longer in use, but it has
involved _gentil_ in its ruin. We employ _diffamé_, which proceeds from
_fame_, which is out of date, and _curieux_ is derived from _cure_,
now obsolete. It was much better to say _si que_ than _de sorte que_
or _de manière que_, _de moi_ instead of _pour moi_ or _quant à moi_;
_je sais que cʼest quʼun mal_[821] than _je sais ce que cʼest quʼun
mal_, whether you consider the Latin analogy, or the benefit we often
derive from using a word less in a phrase.[822] Custom has preferred
_par conséquent_ to _par conséquence_, and _en conséquence_ to _en
conséquent_; _façons de faire_ to _manières de faire_, and _manières
dʼagir_ to _façons dʼagir_ ...; in the verbs _travailler_ to _ouvrer_;
_être accoutumé_ to _souloir_; _convenir_ to _duire_; _faire du bruit_
to _bruire_; _injurier_ to _vilainer_; _piquer_ to _poindre_; and
_faire ressouvenir_ to _ramentevoir_ ...; and in the nouns _pensées_
to _pensers_, which is such a beautiful word and so suited for poetry;
_grandes actions_ to _prouesses_; _louanges_ to _los_; _méchanceté_
to _mauvaistié_; _porte_ to _huis_; _navire_ to _nef_; _armée_ to
_ost_; _monastère_ to _monstier_; and _prairies_ to _prées_ ...; all
words, equally fine, which might have been used together and rendered
the language more copious. Through adding, suppressing, changing, or
displacing some letters, custom has formed _frelater_ from _fralater_;
_prouver_ from _preuver_; _profit_ from _proufit_; _froment_ from
_froument_; _profil_ from _pourfil_; _provision_ from _pourveoir_;
_promener_ from _pourmener_, and _promenade_ from _pourmenade_.[823]
This same custom upon occasion makes the adjectives _habile_, _utile_,
_facile_, _docile_, _mobile_, and _fertile_ of different genders,
without changing anything in their spelling; whilst, on the contrary,
the masculine _vil_ and _subtil_ change in the feminine and become
_vile_ and _subtile_.[824] It has altered the old terminations, and of
_scel_ made _sceau_; of _mantel_, _manteau_; of _capel_, _chapeau_; of
_coutel_, _couteau_; of _hamel_, _hameau_; of _damoisel_, _damoiseau_; of
_jouvencel_, _jouvenceau_;[825] and yet all these differences and
changes have been of no perceptible advantage to the French tongue. Is
it, therefore, a progress for a language to be governed by custom, and
would it not be better to shake off the yoke of such despotic sway? Or
shall we in a living language only listen to reason, which prevents
the use of words having a double meaning, traces these words to their
roots, and discovers what relation they bear to those languages from
which they sprang, if that very reason bids us follow custom?[826]

Whether our ancestors wrote better than we do, or whether we excel
them in our selection of words, style, and expression, perspicuity and
brevity, is a question often debated but never yet decided. But this
question is not at an end, if people will compare, as they sometimes
do, a dull writer of a past century to the most celebrated authors of
the present age, or the verses of Laurent,[827] who is paid for not
writing any more, to those of Marot and Desportes.[828] In order to
judge sensibly in this case we should compare one age to another, and
one first-rate piece of literary work to another, such as, for example,
the best _rondeaux_ of Benserade and Voiture[829] to the following two,
which tradition has handed down to us, but without transmitting to us
the name of the authors, or the time when they were written:[830]—

    In timely sort Ogier came into Fraunce,
      Of Paynim misbegot to rid the lond;
    Needs not that I should tell his puissaunce,
      Sit never foeman durst his glaunce withstond.

    Thoʼ when he hath set all in happy chaunce,
      Forth on a perlous jorney bent, he fond
    In Paradise the well of youthʼs joyaunce,
      Wherewith he thought to stay timeʼs threatening bond
                    In timely sort.

    Thoʼ by this well his body, weak with years,
    Upon a sodain changéd quight appears
      To youthful wight, fresh, limber eke, and straight.

    Great pitye ʼtis such lesinges tell no truth!
    Virgins I wot of that bene past their youth,
      To whom this bath had come, ere yet too late,
                    In timely sort.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Of this prow knight full many clerks have penned
      That never daunger could his corage scare:
      Whom natheless the foul fiend, which unaware
    He ʼspoused in womanʼs shape, did foully shend.

    So piteous case left his stout heart at end
      Without one taint of fear or sordid care:
      Whereof great praise throughout the world he bare—
    If aught of credence we to tales may lend
                Of this prow knight.

    Eftsoones it chaunced the daughter of the king
    Earned for his love, and made free offering
      To Richard, of herself for second wife.

    Then, if to keep a woman or a fiend
      Be better, and which stirs more hellish strife,
    He that would weet may question which was weened
                Of this prow knight.




(1.) A sermon at present has become a mere show, in which there is
not the least appearance of that evangelical gravity which is the
very soul of it; a good appearance, a well-modulated voice, careful
gestures, choice expressions, and prolonged enumerations supply its
place. To listen attentively whilst Holy Writ is dispensed is no longer
customary; going to church is an amusement, among numberless others,
and is a diversion in which there exists rivalry and many persons bet
on various competitors.

(2.) Profane eloquence is transferred from the bar, where Le Maître,
Pucelle, and Fourcroy[832] formerly practised it, and where it has
become obsolete,[833] to the Pulpit, where it is out of place.

Clergymen contest even the prize of eloquence at the altar and before
the holy mysteries; every person in the congregation thinks himself
a judge of the preacher, censures or applauds him, and is no more
converted by the sermon he approves of than by the one he condemns.
The orator pleases some and not others; but agrees with all in this:
that as he does not endeavour to render them better, they never trouble
their heads about becoming so.

An apprentice ought to be obedient and do what his master tells him; he
profits by his instructions, and in time becomes himself a master; but
man is more untoward, for he criticises the preacherʼs discourses as
well as the philosopherʼs works, and thus becomes neither a Christian
nor a philosopher.

(3.) Orators and declaimers will attract large congregations until
that man returns who in a style, based on the Holy Scriptures,
shall explain to the people the Word of God in a simple and familiar

(4.) Quotations from profane authors, dull allusions, bathos,
antithesis, and hyperboles are no longer in vogue, and portraits[835]
will also cease to be in fashion, and give way to a plain exposition of
the gospel, accompanied by other means that produce conversion.

(5.) At length a man has made his appearance for whom I so impatiently
longed, but whom I dared not expect to behold in this age. The
courtiers, from delicacy of taste and a feeling of decorum, have
applauded him; and what is almost incredible, have left the kingʼs
chapel to mingle among the crowd, and hear the Word of God preached by
a truly apostolic man.[836] The town was not of the same opinion as the
court, and in whatever city-church he spoke not one of the parishioners
came, and the very churchwardens left their pew; the clergymen indeed
stuck to him, but the flock was scattered and went to swell the
congregations of neighbouring orators. This is what I should have
foreseen; and therefore, I ought not to have advanced that such a man,
whenever he appeared, would be universally followed, and would only
have to open his mouth to be listened to, for I know how difficult it
is to eradicate force of habit in mankind in all things. During the
past thirty years, rhetoricians, declaimers, and enumerators have been
listened to; and people run after preachers who depict in a grand style
or in miniature. Not long since sermons were full of points and clever
transitions, sometimes even so smart and pungent that they might have
served for epigrams: now, I confess, these are somewhat softened, and
may pass for madrigals. Three things, these preachers argue, are always
absolutely indispensable, mathematically necessary, and worthy of your
entire attention; one thing they prove in the first part of their
discourse, another in the second, and another in the third; so that
you are to be convinced of one truth, which is their first point of
doctrine; of another truth, which is their second point; and of a third
truth, which is their third point. In this manner the first reflection
will instruct you in one of the fundamental principles of religion;
the second in another principle which is not less fundamental; and
the last reflection in a third and last principle, the most important
of all, but which, for want of leisure, is reserved for another
opportunity. In a word, to recapitulate and abridge this division,
and to form a scheme of.... “Hold,” you exclaim, “do these preachers
require more preparation for a speech of not quite an hourʼs length
which they have to deliver? The more these gentlemen strive to explain
and make things clear to me, the more they bemuddle my brains.”—I can
well believe you, and it is the most natural result of such a mass and
confusion of ideas which come all to one and the same thing, but with
which they unmercifully burden the memory of their audience. To see
them obstinately persist in this custom, people would almost think
that the grace of being converted was inseparable of such long-winded
divisions and sub-divisions. But how is it possible to be converted by
apostles, whom we can hardly hear, follow, and keep in sight? I should
like to ask them to condescend and rest several times, in the midst of
their headlong career, and give their audience and themselves a short
breathing time. But I may spare myself the trouble of addressing them
and of wasting words on them. Homilies are out of date, and the Basils
and Chrysostoms[837] could not restore them, for if they came back,
people would take refuge in other dioceses, so as not to hear them nor
their familiar and instructive discourses. Men in general like fine
phrases and periods, admire what they do not understand,[838] fancy
themselves well informed, and are satisfied with deciding between a
first and second point of doctrine, or between the last sermon and the
last but one.

(6.) Not a hundred years ago a French book consisted of a certain
number of pages written in Latin, with here and there a line or two
of French scattered on each page. But such passages, anecdotes, and
quotations from Latin authors[839] did not only fill books; Ovid
and Catullus, at the bar, decided finally in cases of marriages and
wills, and were of as much use to widows and orphans as the Pandects
were.[840] Sacred and profane authors were inseparable, and seemed
to have slipped together in the pulpit; Saint Cyril and Horace, Saint
Cyprian and Lucretius, spoke by turns; the poets were of the same
opinion as Saint Augustin[841] and the rest of the Fathers. Latin was
the language spoken before women and churchwardens, for any length of
time, and even sometimes Greek; there was no preaching so wretchedly
without a prodigious amount of learning. But the times are changed, and
customs alter; the text still continues in Latin, but the sermons are
preached in French, and in the purest French, whilst the Gospel is not
so much as quoted. Little learning is requisite now-a-days to preach
very well.

(7.) Scholastic divinity is at last driven out of the pulpits of
all the great towns in the kingdom, and confined only to hamlets
and villages for the instruction and edification of ploughmen and

(8.) A preacher must have some intelligence to charm the people by
his florid style,[842] by his exhilarating system of morality, by the
repetition of his figures of speech, his brilliant remarks and vivid
descriptions; but, after all, he has not too much of it, for if he
possessed some of the right quality he would neglect these extraneous
ornaments, unworthy of the Gospel, and preach naturally, forcibly, and
like a Christian.

(9.) An orator paints some sins in such alluring colours, and
describes with such delicacy when they were committed, represents
the sinner as having so much wit, elegance, and refinement that, for
my part, if I feel no inclination to resemble his pictures, I have
at least occasion to betake myself to some teacher who, in a more
Christian style, may make me dislike those vices of which the other has
given such a seductive description.

(10.) A fine sermon is an oratorical speech, which, in all its rules
and freed from all its faults, is exactly governed by the same
principles as any other piece of human eloquence, and decked out with
all sorts of rhetorical ornaments. Not a passage nor a thought are lost
to connoisseurs; they easily follow the orator in all the digressions
in which he chooses to wander, as well as in his towering flights; he
is a riddle to none but to the common people.

(11.) What a judicious and admirable sermon I have just heard!
How beautifully brought forward were the most essential points of
religion as well as the strongest motives for conversion! What a
grand impression it must have produced on the minds and souls of the
audience! They are convinced; they are moved and so deeply touched that
they confess from their very souls the sermon they have just heard
Theodorus preach excels even the one they heard before.[843]

(11.) An indulgent and relax morality produces no more effect than
the clergyman who preaches it;[844] for a man of the world is neither
excited nor roused by it, and is not so averse to a rigid doctrine
as some people think, but, on the contrary, likes to hear it from the
person whose duty it is to preach it. There seems to be, therefore, in
the church two classes of men wholly distinct from one another; the one
declaring the truth in all its amplitude, without respect of persons,
without disguise; the other listening to this truth with pleasure,
satisfaction, admiration, and applause, but acting neither the better
nor the worse for it.

(13.) It may be said, and justly so, that the heroic virtues of some
great men have been the cause of the corruption of eloquence, or have,
at least, enervated the style of most preachers. Instead of joining
with the people in rendering thanks to Heaven for the extraordinary
gifts it has bestowed on those great men, these very preachers have
enrolled themselves among authors and poets, and become panegyrists;
they have even uttered more extravagant praises than are found in
dedications, verses, or prologues; they have turned the Word of God
into a whole warp of praises, which, though well deserved, are out of
place, bestowed from selfish motives, not required, and ill-suited to
their calling. It is fortunate indeed, if, while they are celebrating
their heroes in the sanctuary, they even mention the name of that God
or of that religion they ought to preach. Some have wished to preach
the Gospel, which is for all men, only to one person, and have been
so disconcerted when by accident that person was kept away, that they
were unable to pronounce a Christian discourse before an assembly
of Christian men, because it was not prepared for them, so that
other orators have been obliged to take their places, who had only
sufficient leisure to praise God in an extemporary exhortation.[845]

(14.) Theodulus has been less successful than some of his hearers
thought he would be; his discourse has gratified them, and so has he;
but he would have pleased them much more, if instead of delighting
their ears and their minds, he had flattered their feelings of jealousy.

(15.) Preachers and soldiers are alike in this; their vocation presents
more risk than any other, but preferment is also more rapid.

(16.) If you are of a certain rank, and have no other talent but
preaching dull sermons, preach away, however dull you may be, for you
will obtain no preferment if you are utterly unknown. Theodotus has
been well paid for his wretched phraseology and his tiresome monotony.

(17.) Some men have been preferred to bishopricks for their preaching,
whose talents now would not have procured them a mere prebend.

(18.) There is a certain panegyrist whose name seems always weighed
down by a heap of titles and qualities, of which a large number is
always mentioned on the ample bills distributed from house to house,
or printed in letters of enormous size on the bills stuck up in the
streets, no more to be ignored than the open market-place is. After
such a fine display if you hear that man preach, and listen for a while
to what he says, you will find that in enumerating all his qualities,
only one has been omitted, namely, that of being a wretched preacher.

(19.) The idleness of women, and the habit men have of frequenting the
places they resort to, give a certain reputation to some dull orators,
and for a while support the sinking credit of others.

(20.) Are greatness and power the only qualities which entitle a
man to be praised at his funeral before the holy altar and from the
pulpit, the seat of truth? Is there no other greatness but that derived
from an official position or from birth? Why should it not be the
custom publicly to bestow praise on a man who during his lifetime
was pre-eminent for his kindness of heart, his love of justice, his
gentleness, his fidelity, and his piety? What is called “a funeral
sermon” is now-a-days but coldly received by the greater part of the
audience, unless very different from a Christian discourse, or rather,
unless very nearly resembling a secular panegyric.

(21.) An orator preaches to get a bishopric, an apostle to save souls;
the latter deserves what the other aims at.

(22.) We see some of our clergymen[846] return from the country
where they did not stay long, as proud of having made converts, who
had already been made for them, as of those persons whom they could
not convert, compare themselves to Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint
Francis Xavier,[847] and fancy themselves apostles. For such onerous
labours and such a fortunate result of their mission they would think
themselves scarcely repaid by having an abbey given to them.

(23.) A man starts up on a sudden, and without any previous thoughts,
takes pen, ink, and paper, and resolves within himself to write a book,
but without any other talent for writing but the need he has of fifty
_pistoles_.[848] In vain I say to him: “Dioscorus, take a saw, or else
go to the lathe, make a spoke of a wheel, and you will be sure to earn
your living.”[849] “But I never served an apprenticeship to these
trades.” “Why then, copy, transcribe, become a reader for the press,
but do not write.” Yet Dioscorus will write and get it printed too. And
because he must not send paper to the press with nothing written on it,
he sets himself to scribble whatever he pleases, and likes to write
such stuff as this: “That the Seine runs through the city of Paris;
that a week has seven days; or that it threatens to rain,”[850] and as
there is nothing in such phrases against religion or the government,
and as they will only harm the public by vitiating their taste, and
accustoming them to dull and insipid things, he obtains permission
to get his book printed;[851] and to the shame of the age, and as a
mortification to good authors, a second edition of it appears. Just
so, another wiseacre resolves within himself that he will preach, and
he preaches; he is without any talent, or has not the least vocation
for it, but he wants a good living.

[Illustration: BOSSUET]

(24.) A worldly and profane clergyman does but declaim when he preaches.

On the contrary, there are some holy men whose character carries
persuasion with it; they make their appearance in the pulpit, and every
one who comes to listen to them is already moved, and, as it were,
carried away by their mere presence; the sermon afterwards completes
their conversion.

(25.) The bishop of Meaux (Bossuet) and Father Bourdaloue recall to my
mind Demosthenes and Cicero. As both of them are absolute masters of
pulpit eloquence, they have had the fate of other great models; one
of them has made many wretched cavillers, and the other many wretched

(26.) The eloquence of the pulpit, with respect to what is merely human
and depending on the genius of the orator, is not easily perceptible,
is known but to few, and attained with difficulty. It must be very
difficult to please and to persuade at the same time; for a man is
obliged to keep to beaten paths, to say what has been said, and what
is foreseen he would say. The subjects he has to treat of are grand,
but worn and trite; the principles are invariable, but every one of
his audience perceives the inferences at the first glance. Some of
the subjects are sublime; but who can treat of the sublime? There are
mysteries to be explained, but they are better explained in a lecture
at college than in a harangue. The morals, too, of the pulpit, though
they comprehend matter as vast and diversified as the manners and
morals of men, turn all upon the same pivot, exhibit the same imagery,
and are restrained to much narrower limits than satire is; after the
usual invective against honour, riches, and pleasures, there remains
nothing more for the orator to do but to finish his discourse and
dismiss his audience. There may sometimes be tears, and people may be
moved; but let the calling and talent of the preacher be considered,
and perhaps it will be found that the subject lends itself to a sermon,
or that it is chiefly a feeling of self-interest which produces this
agitation; and that it is not so much true eloquence as the strong
lungs of the missionary which shake us and produce within us these
emotions. In short, the preacher is not provided, as the lawyer is,
with always fresh matters of fact, with various transactions and
unheard-of adventures; his business is not to start doubtful questions,
and improve probable conjectures—all subjects which elevate talent,
give it force and breadth, and instead of putting a restraint on
eloquence, only fix and direct it. The preacher, on the contrary, has
to draw his discourse from a source known to all and used by everybody;
if he deviates from these commonplaces, he ceases to be popular,
becomes abstruse and a declaimer, and no longer preaches the Gospel.
All he needs is a noble simplicity, which is difficult to attain,
rarely found, and above the reach of ordinary men; their talent,
imagination, learning, and memory, so far from assisting them, often
prevent their acquiring it.

A barristerʼs profession is laborious, toilsome, and requires a
vast amount of knowledge as well as great readiness of invention. A
barrister is not, like a preacher, provided with a certain number
of speeches, composed at leisure, learned by heart, uttered with
authority, without any fear of contradiction, and which, with a few
alterations, may serve more than once; his pleadings are grave, and
delivered before judges who may silence him, and against adversaries
who interrupt him; his replies have to be sharp and to the point;
and in one and the same day he has to plead in several courts causes
quite dissimilar. His house neither affords him shelter nor rest, nor
protects him against his clients; it is open to all comers, who crowd
upon him with their difficult or doubtful cases; he is not put to bed,
nor is the perspiration wiped from his face, nor are refreshments
offered to him; people of all qualities and sexes do not crowd his
rooms to congratulate him upon the beauty and elegance of his style, or
to remind him of a certain passage where he ran the risk of stopping
short, or of some scruples he felt for having spoken with less warmth
than usual; all the repose a barrister has after a long speech is
immediately to set to work upon writings still longer; he only varies
his labours and fatigues; I may venture to say he is in his profession
what the first apostles were in theirs.

Having thus distinguished the eloquence of the bar from the profession
of a barrister, and the eloquence of the pulpit from the calling of a
preacher, it will appear, I believe, that it is easier to preach than
to plead, but more difficult to preach well than to plead well.

(27.) What a vast advantage has a speech over a written composition.
Men are imposed upon by voice and gesture, and by all that is conducive
to enhance the performance. Any little prepossession in favour of
the speaker raises their admiration, and then they do their best to
comprehend him; they commend his performance before he has begun,
but they soon fall off asleep, doze all the time he is preaching, and
only wake to applaud him. An author has no such passionate admirers;
his works are read at leisure in the country or in the solitude of
the study; no public meetings are held to applaud him, nor do people
intrigue to sacrifice all his rivals to him and to have him raised to
the prelacy. However excellent his book may be, it is read with the
intention of finding it but middling; it is perused, discussed, and
compared to other works; a book is not composed of transient sounds
lost in the air and forgotten; what is printed remains; sometimes it
is expected a month or two before it is published, and people are
impatient to damn it, whilst the greatest pleasure many will find in
it will be their own criticisms; it vexes them to meet on each page
passages which ought to please; often they are even afraid of being
amused by it, and they throw the book away merely because it is good.
Everybody does not pretend to be a preacher; the elocution, the figures
of speech, the gift of memory, the gown or the calling of a preacher,
are things people do not always venture on, or like to take on
themselves, whilst every one imagines he thinks well and writes still
better than he thinks, which renders him less indulgent to the person
who thinks and writes as well as himself; in a word, the preacher of
sermons will sooner obtain a bishopric than the most judicious writer a
small living, and whilst new favours are still heaped on the first, the
more deserving author may consider himself very fortunate if he gets
some of the leavings of the preacher.

(28.) If it happens that the wicked hate and persecute you, good men
advise you to humble yourself before God, and to beware of the pride
you may feel in having displeased people of a similar character; so
when certain men who admire everything middling, blame a work you have
written, or a speech you have made in public, whether at the bar, in
the pulpit, or elsewhere, humble yourself, for of all the temptations
of pride there cannot be a greater and more enticing one.

(29.) A preacher, methinks, should select for every one of his sermons
some capital truth, whether to terrify or to instruct, handle it
thoroughly and analyse it, whilst omitting all fine-spun decisions
so worn, trite, and different from one another; I would not have him
suppose a thing which is notoriously false, namely, that great or
fashionable people understand the religion they profess as well as
its duties; so that he will be afraid of remonstrating with persons
of their culture and subtle understandings. Let him employ the time
others waste in composing a set, formal discourse, in making himself
so completely master of his subject that his style and expressions may
be original and natural; let him, after some necessary preparations,
abandon himself to his own genius and to the emotions with which a
great subject will inspire him; and then, he may be able to do without
those excessive efforts of memory, which destroy all graceful gestures,
and look more as if he had learned something by heart for a wager, than
as if he were treating a matter of great importance; let him, on the
contrary, kindled by a noble enthusiasm, persuade all minds, alarm all
souls, and fill the heart of his hearers with another fear than that of
seeing him stop short in the middle of his sermon.

(30.) A man who has not yet arrived to such perfection as to forget
himself in the dispensation of Holy Writ, should not be discouraged by
the austere rules which are prescribed, which may deprive him of the
means of showing his intelligence and of attaining the honours to which
he aspires. What more useful, more exalted talent can there be than
preaching like an apostle; and who would better deserve a bishopric?
Was Fénelon unworthy of that dignity, and could he have escaped his
princeʼs choice but for another choice?[852]




(1.) Do freethinkers know that it is only ironically they are called
strong-minded?[854] What greater proof of their weakness of mind
can they give than their uncertainty about the very principles of
their existence, life, senses, knowledge, and what will be their end?
What can be more discouraging to a man than to doubt if his soul be
material, like a stone or a reptile, and subject to corruption like the
vilest creatures? And does it not prove much more strength of mind and
grandeur to be able to conceive the idea of a Being superior to all
other beings, by whom and for whom all things were made; of a Being
absolutely perfect and pure, without beginning or end, of whom our soul
is the image, and of whom, if I may say so, it is a part, because it is
spiritual and immortal?

(2.) The docile and the weak are susceptible of receiving impressions;
the first receive good ones, for they are convinced and faithful,
whilst the second receive bad ones, as they are stubborn and corrupted.
A docile mind admits thus true religion, and a feeble mind either
admits none or a false one. Now a freethinker either has no religion at
all, or creates one for himself; therefore a strong-minded freethinker
is in reality feeble-minded.[855]

(3.) I call those men worldly, earthly, or coarse, whose hearts and
minds are wholly fixed on this earth, that small part of the universe
they are placed in; who value and love nothing beyond it; whose minds
are as cramped as that narrow spot of ground they call their estate, of
which the extent is measured, the acres are numbered, and the limits
well known. I am not astonished that men who lean, as it were, on an
atom, should stumble at the smallest efforts they make for discovering
the truth; that, being so short-sighted, they do not reach beyond the
heavens and the stars, to contemplate God Himself; that, not being
able to perceive the excellency of what is spiritual, or the dignity
of the soul, they should be still less sensible of the difficulty of
satisfying it; how very inferior the entire world is in comparison to
it; how necessary is to it an all-perfect Being, which is God; and
how absolutely it needs a religion to find out that God, and to be
assured of His reality. I can easily understand that incredulity or
indifference are but natural to such men, that they make use of God and
religion only as a piece of policy, as far as they may be conducive to
the order and decorum of this world, the only thing in their opinion
worth thinking of.

(4.) Some men give the finishing-stroke to the spoiling of their
judgment by their long travels, and thus lose the little religion which
remained to them.[856] They meet daily new forms of worship, different
manners and morals, and various ceremonies; they are not unlike those
people who wander from shop to shop, and have not quite made up their
mind what they are going to buy; the variety puzzles them, and as each
thing pleases their fancy more or less, they are unable to come to a
decision, and leave without buying anything.

(5.) There are some men who delay becoming religious and pious till the
time everybody openly avows himself irreligious and a freethinker,[857]
for, as this has then become vulgar, they will be distinguished from
the crowd. In so serious and important a matter singularity pleases
them; only in trifling things, of no consequence, they follow the
fashion and do what others do; for all I know, they may consider it
somewhat courageous and daring to run the risk of what may happen
to them in the next world. Moreover, when men are of a certain rank,
possess a certain freedom of thought, and have certain views, they
should not dream of believing what learned men and the common people

(6.) A man in health questions whether there is a God, and he also
doubts whether it be a sin to have intercourse with a woman, who is at
liberty to refuse;[858] but when he falls ill, or when his mistress is
with child, she is discarded, and he believes in God.

(7.) People should examine themselves thoroughly before openly
declaring themselves freethinkers, so that, according to their own
principles, they at least may die as they have lived; or if they find
they are not strong-minded enough to proceed so far, to resolve to
live as they would wish to die.

(8.) Jesting in a dying man is out of place; and if it is on certain
subjects, it is dreadful. To please our survivors with a jest at the
expense of our own eternal happiness, is a very miserable business.

Whatever a man may think about a future state, dying is a very serious
affair, and firmness is then more becoming than jesting.

(9.) In all ages there have been people with a certain amount of
cleverness, and well read, who, servilely following men of high rank,
embraced their loose principles, and all their lifetime groaned under
their yoke, against their own knowledge and conscience. Some men only
live for other men, and seem to consider themselves created for this
purpose; they are ashamed to be seen bestowing a thought on their own
salvation, and to appear outwardly such as they are perhaps in their
hearts, and thus they ruin themselves out of deference or complacency.
Are there then on this earth men of such high rank and so very powerful
as to deserve that we should shape our beliefs and our lives according
to their taste and fancy; nay, that we should carry our submission
so far as at our death to leave this world not in the safest way for
ourselves, but in the way most pleasing to them?

(10.) Men who run counter to all the world, and act against principles
universally received, should know more than other men, be clear in
their reasons and convincing in their arguments.

(11.) A sober-minded, cool-headed, chaste, and honourable man, who
affirms there is no God, at least is dispassionate, but such a man is
not to be found.

(12.) I admit I should very much like to see a man really persuaded
there was no God; for then I should at least hear on what unanswerable
arguments his unbelief is founded.

(13.) The impossibility I find myself under of proving there is no God,
is to me a convincing argument for His existence.

(14.) God condemns and punishes those who offend Him, and He is the
only judge in His own cause, which would shock all our ideas if He
Himself were not Justice and Truth—that is, if He were not God.

(15.) I feel there is a God, and I do not feel there is none; this is
sufficient for me, and all other arguments seem to me superfluous; I
therefore conclude that He exists, and this conclusion is inherent
to my nature. I acquired these principles readily in my childhood,
and have kept them since too naturally in my riper years ever to
suspect them of falsehood.—But there are some men who get rid of these
principles.—I question whether there are any, but if there be, it only
proves that monsters exist in this world.

(16.) There is no such thing as an atheist; the great men who are
more or less suspected of being inclined that way, are too lazy to
fatigue their minds with discussions whether there is a God or no;
their indolence renders them careless and indifferent about such an
important matter as well as about the nature of their own souls and the
consequences of true religion; they neither deny nor grant any of these
things; they never think of them.

(17.) All our health, all our strength, and our entire intellect are
not more than sufficient in thinking of mankind or of our smallest
interest; yet propriety and custom seem to require of us only to think
of God when we are so situated that we have barely so much reason left
as to enable us to say we are not totally without any.

(18.) A great man falls in a swoon, as it was thought, but is
discovered to be dead,[859] another great man wastes away gradually,
and daily loses something of himself before he expires; such lessons
are dreadful, but useless. These circumstances, though so remarkable
and so different from each other, are not noticed, affect nobody, and
are no more heeded than the fall of a leaf, or the fading of a flower;
people only want their posts vacant through their deaths, or they
inquire if they have been filled up, and who are their successors.

(19.) Is there so much goodness, fidelity, and justice among men, that
we should place unlimited confidence in them, and not, at least, wish
for a God to exist to whom we might appeal from their injustice, and
who might protect us against their persecutions and treacheries.

(20.) If freethinkers are dazzled and confounded by the grandeur and
sublimity of religion, they are no longer freethinkers, but shallow
geniuses and little minds;[860] if, on the contrary, they are repelled
by its humbleness and simplicity, we must allow them to be real
freethinkers, far stronger-minded than so many great men, enlightened
and highly cultivated, who nevertheless were confirmed believers, such
as the Leos, the Basils, the Jeromes, the Augustines.[861]

(21.) Certain people who have never read the fathers or doctors of the
Church are frightened at their very names, and declare their writings
dull, dry, pious, cold, and perhaps pedantic. But how astonished would
all these people be who have formed such an untrue idea of the Fathers,
if they found in their writings a better style, more delicacy, polish,
and intelligence, a greater warmth of expression and strength of
reasoning, sharper traits and more natural charms than are to be met
with in most of the modern books read by connoisseurs, which increase
the reputation and conceit of their authors. What a satisfaction to
love religion and to see men of great talent and solid learning believe
in it, assert its truth, and explain it! And whether you consider
extent of knowledge, depth and penetration, the principles of pure
philosophy, their application and development, the correctness of the
conclusions arrived at, nobleness of expression, beauty of morals and
sentiments, no profane author can be compared to Saint Augustine,
except Plato and Cicero.

(22.) Man who is born a liar cannot relish the plainness and simplicity
of truth; he is altogether hankering after appearance[862] and
ornament. He has not made truth, for it comes from Heaven ready-made,
as it were, in all its perfection, and man loves nothing but his own
productions, Fable and Fiction. Observe the common people; they will
invent a tale, add to it, and exaggerate it through coarseness or
folly; ask even the most honest man if he always speaks the truth, if
he does not sometimes discover that, either through vanity or levity,
he has disguised the truth; and if to embellish a story he does not
often add some circumstance to set it off? An accident happened to-day,
and almost, as it were, under our eyes; a hundred people have seen it,
and all relate it in as many different ways; and yet another person may
come, and if you will only listen to him, he shall tell it in a way in
which it has not yet been told. How then can I believe facts which are
so old and took place several centuries ago? What reliance can I place
on the gravest historians, and what becomes of history itself. Was
Cæsar ever murdered in the midst of the senate? and has there ever been
such a person as Cæsar? “Why do you draw such an inference?” youʼll
say; “why express such doubts and ask such questions?” You laugh, you
do not think my question worthy of an answer, and I imagine you are
quite right. But suppose the book which gives us an account of Cæsar
was not a profane history, written by men who are liars, and had not
been discovered by chance among certain manuscripts, some true, and
others suspicious; but that, on the contrary, it had been inspired, and
bore all the evidence of being holy and divine; that for nearly two
thousand years it had been kept by a large society of men, who all this
while would not allow the least alteration to be made in it, and held
it as part of their creed to preserve it in all its purity; that these
men, by their own principles, were indispensably compelled to believe
religiously all the transactions related in this volume, whenever
mention was made of Cæsar and his dictatorship; own it, Lucilius, would
you then question whether there ever was such a man as Cæsar?

(23.) All kinds of music are not suited to praise God and to be heard
in the sanctuary; all methods of philosophy are not fit for discoursing
worthily of God, His power, the principles of His operations, and His
mysteries. The more abstracted and ideal this philosophy is, the more
vain and useless is it in explaining these things, which merely require
common sense to be understood up to a certain point, and which cannot
be explained farther. To pretend to give an account of the very essence
of God, of His perfections, and, if I dare say so, of His actions,
is indeed going beyond the ancient philosophers, beyond the apostles
themselves, and the first teachers of the Gospel, but it is not arguing
so much to the point as they did; for people may dig for a long time,
and deeply, without discovering the sources of truth. If once people
set aside such words as goodness, mercy, justice, and omnipotence,
which are apt to form in their minds such lovely and majestic ideas
of the divinity, let them afterwards strain their imagination as much
as possible, they will find nothing but dry, barren, and senseless
expressions; they must admit wild and empty thoughts, contrary to
all ordinary ideas, or, at least, subtle and ingenious thoughts, by
which their religion will be weakened according as they improve in the
knowledge of these new metaphysics.[863]

(24.) What excesses will a man not commit through his zeal for a
religion, of the truth of which he is not entirely convinced, and which
he practises so badly?

(25.) That same religion which men will defend so zealously and with so
much warmth against those of a different persuasion, they themselves
corrupt, by joining to it their own peculiar ideas; they add or take
from it numberless things, which are often very material, according
as it best suits their convenience, and remain steadfastly and firmly
attached to the form they have given it themselves. So that, though it
may be commonly said of a nation that it has but one manner of worship
and one religion, it truly and really has many religions, for almost
every individual has one of his own.

(26.) Two sorts of men flourish in courts and reign there by turns,
freethinkers and hypocrites; the first gaily, openly, without art
or disguise, the second cunningly and by intrigue. These latter are
a hundred times more enamoured of fortune than the first, and are
excessively jealous of it; they wish to sway it, to be the sole
possessors of it, share it among themselves, and exclude everybody
else. Dignities, posts, offices, benefices, pensions, honours,
everything belongs to them and to none but them; the rest of mankind
are unworthy of these things, and they wonder how others, who are not
their creatures, can be so impudent as to expect them. A company of
persons in masks enter a ball-room; when it is their turn they dance,
they dance with each other, dance again and continue to dance, but only
among themselves and with no other person, however worthy of their
regard; people grow annoyed and tired with looking on whilst these
masked persons dance because they are not dancing themselves; some
among them murmur, but the wisest make up their mind and go home.[864]

(27.) There are two sorts of freethinkers; those who are really so, or
at least believe themselves so, and the hypocrites or pretended pious
people, who are unwilling to be thought freethinkers; the latter are
the best.

A man who pretends to be pious either does not believe there is a God,
or makes a jest of Him; let us say of him politely, that he does not
believe there is a God.

(28.) If every religion stands in respectful fear of God, what shall we
think of those persons who dare affront Him in His representative on
earth, the Prince?

(29.) Were we assured that the secret intention of the ambassadors
who came lately from Siam was to persuade the most Christian king
to renounce Christianity, and admit their Talapoins[865] into his
kingdom to creep into our houses to convert to their religion our
wives, our children, and ourselves, by their books as well as by their
conversations, to allow them to erect pagodas in the midst of our towns
to worship their brazen images, with what derision, what strange scorn,
should we hear such an absurd story told? And yet we sail six thousand
leagues to bring over to Christianity the Indies, the kingdoms of Siam,
China, and Japan, and seriously to make to all these nations certain
proposals, which, in their eyes, must appear as foolish and ridiculous.
Yet they tolerate our friars and priests, and sometimes listen to them,
allow them to build churches, and perform all their missionary duties.
From whence proceeds such a behaviour, so different in them and us? May
it not be caused by the force of truth?

(30.) It is not proper for all men to profess to give alms and to have
the common beggars of the parish daily crowding at their doors, and not
allow one to go home empty-handed. Who is not aware that there is a
more concealed wretchedness, which may be relieved, either immediately
and out of a manʼs own pocket, or at least by the intercession of
others? In the same manner all persons are not qualified for the
pulpit, nor fit to expound the Word of God in public, either as
missionaries, or teachers; but what man does not, some time or other,
meet a freethinker, whom he might attempt to reclaim and bring back to
the fold by gentle and insinuating converse about the submission due to
the teachings of the church? Should a man make but one convert in the
whole course of his life, he cannot be said to have lived in vain, or
to have been a useless burden on this earth.

(31.) There are two worlds: one we dwell in but a short time, and
which we must leave never to return; another, to which we must shortly
go, there to abide for ever. Interest, authority, friends, a great
reputation, and riches are most useful in the first; an indifference to
all these things is most useful for the next. It is a mere question of

(32.) A man who lives a day lives an age; always the same sun, the
same earth, the same world, the same sensations; to-day will precisely
be like to-morrow; we ought to feel some curiosity to die, for then
we are no longer a body, but only a spirit. However, man, though so
impatiently hunting after novelties, is not anxious to die; restless
and tired of everything, he is not tired of life, and would, perhaps,
be satisfied to live for ever. What he sees of death makes a deeper
impression on him than what he knows of it; sickness, pain, and the
grave, make him dislike the knowledge of another world; and the
strongest religious motives are needed to convert him.

(33.) If Providence had left it to our choice to die or to live for
ever, we should carefully consider how dismal it is for a man to see
no end to his poverty, servitude, annoyance, or sickness; or, at best
to enjoy riches, grandeur, pleasures, and health, only in time to
behold them invariably change to their opposite conditions; and thus
to be tossed to and fro between happiness and misery, and, therefore,
we should be greatly perplexed; but Nature has settled it for us, and
saves us the trouble of making a choice, as it has imposed on us the
necessity of dying, which is, moreover, alleviated by religion.

(34.) If my religion be false, it is a snare which I must own is as
well laid as can be imagined, so that it is impossible not to run into
it and be caught. What dignity! what splendour in its mysteries! what
a sequence and connection in all the several parts of its doctrine! how
superb are its reasonings! how pure and innocent is its morality! how
irresistible and overwhelming is the testimony of so many millions of
the wisest and most thoughtful men then in existence, who during three
centuries came one after another, and whom a feeling of the same truth
so constantly supported in exiles, dungeons, torture, and even in death
itself. Take any history, open it, and commence with the beginning of
the world, with its creation; was there ever anything like it? Could
the whole power of God Himself contrive anything better to deceive me?
How can I avoid it? Whither should I run, or throw myself? I do not say
to find anything better, but anything to be compared to it? If I must
perish, it is in this way I will perish! I should feel more inclined to
deny the existence of a God than to connect Him with such a plausible
and complete deceit. But I have examined it thoroughly, and yet feel
I cannot be an atheist; I am, therefore, forced back and irresistibly
drawn to my religion, and this is my final resolution.

(35.) Religion is either true or false; if a fiction, a religious man,
a Carthusian friar or a hermit, only lose threescore years, but run
no other risk. But if based on truth itself, then a vicious man must
feel most wretched; and I tremble at the very thought of the evils he
prepares for himself; my mind cannot conceive them, and words fail me
to express my feelings. Even if the truth of religion could be proved
with less certainty than it can, man could not do better than be

(36.) Those persons who dare deny the existence of a Supreme Being
hardly deserve that a man should try and prove it to them; or, at
least, that he should argue more seriously with them than I have done
hitherto; they are so ignorant that they are unable to understand the
clearest principles, and the truest and most natural inferences; yet
I am willing to offer for their perusal the following lines, provided
they do not imagine that it is all that can be said upon a subject of
which the truth is so obvious.

Forty years ago I did not exist,[866] neither was it in my power ever
to exist, any more than it is in my power to cease from existing,
though I exist at present. My existence, therefore, had its beginning,
and is now continued through the influence of something which exists
without me, will subsist after me, and is better and more powerful than
I am. Now, if that something is not God, I should like to know what it

I exist; but perhaps this existence of mine proceeds from the power of
a universal nature, which has been ever the same, such as we behold it,
from all eternity.[868] But this nature is either only spiritual, and
then it is God, or it is material, and, consequently, could not create
that part of my being which is spiritual; or else it is composed of
spirit and matter; and then, that part of nature which people say is
spirit, is what I call God.

Again, perhaps you will add that what I call my spiritual being
is nothing but a part of matter, subsisting through the force of a
universal nature, which also is matter, which always was and ever will
be such as we see it now, and which is not God.[869] But, at least, you
must grant that what I call my spiritual being, let it be what it will,
is something which thinks, and that if it is matter, it is cogitative
matter; for no one will persuade me that, whilst I am thus arguing,
there is not something within me which thinks. Now if this something
owes its being and its preservation to a universal nature which always
was and ever will be, and which it acknowledges as its primary cause,
it necessarily follows that this universal nature either thinks, or is
more noble and perfect than that which thinks; and if such a nature
is matter, then we must come to the conclusion that it is a universal
thinking matter, or one which is nobler and more perfect than that
which does think.

I proceed further, and say, that such a supposed matter, if it be not
chimerical but real, may be perceived by some of our senses, and that,
if it cannot be discovered in itself, it may be known, at least, in
the multiple arrangement of its different parts, through which all
bodies are constituted, or differ. Therefore matter is itself all these
different bodies; now since, according to our supposition, matter is
a being which thinks, or is better than that which thinks, it follows
that it is such in some of these bodies at least, and, consequently,
that it thinks in stones, in minerals, in the earth, in the sea, in
myself, who am but a body, as well as in all its other component
parts; I am then beholden for this something, which thinks within me,
and which I call my spiritual being, to all these gross, earthly, and
corporeal parts, which all together make up this universal matter, or
this visible world, which is an absurdity.

If, on the contrary, this universal nature, let it be what it will,
is not all these bodies, nor any of these bodies, it follows that it
is not matter, and cannot be perceived by any of our senses; and if,
notwithstanding this, it possesses the faculty of thinking, or is more
perfect than that which does think, I still conclude it is spiritual,
or something better and more perfect than spiritual. Now if that which
thinks within me, and which I call my spiritual being, not finding its
principle within itself, and much less in matter, as has been just now
demonstrated, is forced to acknowledge this universal nature to be the
first cause, the only origin of its existence, then I will not dispute
about words; but this first cause, the origin of all spiritual beings,
which is itself spiritual, or better than spiritual, is what I call God.

In a word, I think, therefore, there is a God, for that which thinks
within me is not derived from myself, since it was no more in my power
to bestow it on myself at first as it is now to keep it for one single
moment. I did not receive it from a material being superior to me,
since it is impossible for matter to be superior to that which thinks;
I must, therefore, have received it from a being superior to me, and
consequently not material; and that superior being is God.

(37.) From the inconsistency of a cogitative universal nature with
anything that is material, must necessarily be inferred, that any
particular thinking being cannot admit within itself anything
material; for though a universal thinking being does in its idea
include infinitely more grandeur, power, independence, and capacity
than a particular thinking being, yet it does not imply a greater
inconsistency with matter, it being impossible for this inconsistency
to be greater in the one case than in the other, because it is, as
it were, infinite in both; and it is as impossible for the thinking
principle within me to be matter, as it is to conceive that God should
be matter; as God, therefore, is a spirit, so my soul is also a spirit.

(38.) I am not aware whether a dog has the faculties of selection,
memory, love, fear, imagination, and thought. When, therefore, I am
told that those actions in a dog are not the effect of either passion
or sentiment, but proceed naturally and necessarily from a mechanical
disposition caused by the multiple organization of the material parts
of his body, I may, perhaps, acquiesce in this doctrine. But as for
me, I think, and certainly know that I think.[870] Now, if we consider
any organisation of material parts, namely, any space with all its
dimensions, length, breadth, and depth, and which can be divided in all
these directions, what proportion is there between such a space and

(39.) If all things are matter, and if thought within me, as well as in
other men, be no more than an effect of the arrangement of matter, how
came any other idea, but that of material things into this world? Is
matter able to produce so pure, so simple, so immaterial an idea as we
have of spirit? How can matter be the origin of that which rejects and
excludes such an idea from its very being? How can it be the cogitative
principle in man, that is, that principle which convinces man he is not
merely matter?

(40.) There are beings of short duration, because they are made up of
things varying much in their nature, and destructive to one another;
there are others more lasting, because they are simpler, but they
perish at last, being made up of several parts, into which they are
divisible. That which thinks within me must naturally be permanent, as
it is a pure being, free from all mixture and composition; there is no
reason why it should perish; for what can corrupt or divide a simple
being, in which are no parts?

(41.) The soul sees colour through the organ of the eye, and hears
sounds through the organ of the ear; but it may cease either from
seeing or hearing when those senses or those objects are absent, and
yet not cease from existing, because it is not exactly the soul that
sees or hears; it is only that which thinks. Now, how can it cease from
being such? Not for want of organs, since it has been proved it is not
matter; nor for want of objects, whilst there is a God and eternal
truths; it is therefore incorruptible.

(42.) I cannot conceive the annihilation of a soul which God has filled
with the idea of His infinite and all-perfect being.

(43.) Observe, Lucilius,[871] this spot of ground, which for neatness
and ornament exceeds all other neighbouring estates; here are plots
with the finest lakes and fountains, and endless hedge-rows of trees
which shelter you against the north winds; on this side is a thick
grove where the sun cannot penetrate; on the other side you have a
beautiful view; a little lower, the Yvette or the Lignon,[872] which
were running modestly between willows and poplars, have now become a
canal quite bricked in; elsewhere long and cool avenues lead to the
country, and foreshadow what the mansion will be, which is surrounded
by water. Will you say, “This is an effect of chance,” and suppose that
all these admirable things met together accidentally? No, certainly; on
the contrary, you observe that everything is well planned and arranged,
and displays good taste and much intelligence. I agree with you, and
take the liberty to add that I suppose it to be the residence of one of
those men, who from the very minute they get into office, send for a Le
Nôtre[873] to draw plans and take measurements. Yet what is this piece
of ground so exquisitely laid out, on which a most skilful artist has
employed all his science in order to embellish it, if the whole earth
is but an atom suspended in the air, and if you will but listen to what
I am going to say?

You are placed, Lucilius, on some part of this atom; you must needs
be very little, since you take up so little room on it; yet you have
eyes, like two imperceptible points; open them, however, and look up
to the heavens; what do you sometimes perceive there? Is it the moon
in its full? It is beautiful and very radiant at the time, though all
its light be but the reflection of the light of the sun; it appears
as large as the sun itself, larger than the other planets, than any
of the stars, but do not be deceived by outward appearances. Nothing
in the heavens is so small as the moon; its superficies exceeds not
the thirteenth part, and its volume not the eight and fortieth part of
the earth, whilst its diameter, which is two thousand two hundred and
fifty miles, is but a fourth of the diameter of the earth. What makes
it really appear so great is its proximity only; for its distance from
us is no more than thirty times the diameter of the earth, or three
hundred thousand miles.[874] Its motion is small in comparison to the
prodigious long career of the sun through the spacious firmament;[875]
for it is certain the moon does not move at the rate of above sixteen
hundred and twenty thousand miles a day,[876] which is not above
sixty-seven thousand five hundred miles per hour, or one thousand one
hundred and twenty-five in a minute. And yet, to complete this course
it must move five thousand six hundred times faster than a race-horse
running twelve miles an hour; it must be eighty times swifter than
sound—than the report, for example, of a gun or of thunder, which moves
at the rate of eight hundred and thirty-one miles an hour.[877]

But if you will oppose the moon to the sun with respect to its size,
its distance, and its course, you will find there is no comparison to
be made between them.

Remember that the diameter of the earth is nine thousand miles, that
of the sun a hundred times more,[878] which gives nine hundred thousand
miles;[879] now, if this be its width in every direction, judge what
its superficies and volume must be. Can you comprehend the vastness
of this extent, and that a million of such globes as the earth, all
together, would not exceed the sun in size?[880] You will ask, then,
how far is the sun from the earth, if one can judge of it by its
apparent small size? You are quite right, the distance can hardly be
conceived; for it is proved that the sunʼs distance from the earth
can be no less than ten thousand times the diameter of the earth, or,
in other words, than ninety millions of miles; it may be four times,
perhaps six times, perhaps ten times as much, for ought we know; there
is no method discovered to determine this distance.[881]

Now, to assist you in understanding this, let us suppose a millstone
falling from the sun upon the earth; let it come down with all
swiftness imaginable, and even swifter than the heaviest bodies
descend, falling from a very great height; let us also suppose that it
always preserves the same swiftness, without increase or diminution;
that it advances thirty yards every second, which is half the height
of the highest steeple, and consequently, eighteen hundred yards in
a minute; but to facilitate our computation, let us allow it two
thousand six hundred and forty yards a minute, which is a mile and a
half; its fall will then be three miles in two minutes, ninety miles
in an hour, and two thousand one hundred and sixty miles in a day;
now, it must fall ninety millions of miles before it comes down to the
earth; so that it cannot be less than forty-one thousand six hundred
and sixty-six days, which is more than one hundred and fourteen years
before it can perform this journey. Let all this not frighten you,
Lucilius; I will tell you more. The distance of Saturn from the earth
is at least ten times as great as the sunʼs is; that is, no less than
nine hundred millions of miles, and the stone would be above eleven
hundred and forty years in falling down from Saturn to the earth.[882]

Now, by this altitude of Saturn, exert your imagination, if you can,
and conceive the immensity of its daily course; the circle which
Saturn describes is above eighteen hundred millions of miles diameter,
and consequently above fifty-four hundred millions of miles in
circumference; so that a race-horse, if supposed to run thirty miles
an hour, must be twenty thousand five hundred and forty-eight years in
going this round.

Lucilius, I have not said all that can be said on the miracles of
this visible world; or, to use the expression you sometimes use, on
the wonders of chance, which alone you affirm to be the primary cause
of all things, and which is still more wonderful in its operations
than you imagine. Learn what chance is, and allow yourself to become
acquainted with all the power of your God.

Do you know that the distance of the sun from the earth, which is
ninety millions of miles, and that of Saturn, which is nine hundred
millions of miles, if compared to that of the other stars, is so
inconsiderable, that comparison is an improper term when mentioning
such distances; for, indeed, what proportion is there between anything
that can be measured, whatever its extent may be, and that which is
beyond all mensuration? The height of a star cannot be known; it is,
if I may say so, immensurable;[883] all angles, sines, and paralaxes
are of no use for this problem.[884] Should a man observe a fixed star
at Paris, and another in Japan, the two lines which would reach from
their eyes to that star, would make no angle at all, but be confounded
together, and converge into one and the same line, so inconsiderable is
the space of the whole earth in comparison to that distance; but the
stars have this in common with Saturn and the sun; therefore I shall
say something more. If two astronomers should stand, the one on the
earth and the other on the sun, and from thence should observe a star
at the same time, the two visual rays of these two astronomers would
not form a sensible angle; but in order that you may conceive the same
thing another way, imagine a man to be placed on one of these stars,
and then this sun, this earth, and the ninety millions of miles that
are between them would seem to him but as a dot. This has been proved.

Nor is the distance known between any two stars, however close they
appear to one another. You would think, if you judge by mere ocular
demonstration, that the Pleiades almost touch one another. There is a
star which seems to rest on one of the stars forming the tail of the
Great Bear; you can hardly, with the mere eye, discern that part of
the heavens which divides them; they make together, as it were, but
one double star; yet, if the most skilful astronomers cannot, with all
their art, find out the distance between these stars, how far asunder
must two stars be which appear remote from each other, and how much
farther yet the two polar stars.[885] How prodigiously long must be
that line which reaches from one to another! How immense the circle
of which this line is the diameter! And how can we fathom what cannot
be fathomed, and represent to ourselves the volume of the globe, of
which this circle is but a section? Shall we still wonder that these
stars, of such immensurable size, seem no larger to us than so many
sparks? Shall we not rather admire that from such a height the least
appearance of them should reach our eye, and that they can be discerned
at all? And, indeed, the quantity of stars which escape our vision
is countless. It is true, we limit the number of the stars, but that
is only of stars visible to us, for how should we number those we
cannot see; those, for example, which constitute the Milky Way,—that
luminous tract, which, on a clear night, can be observed in the sky
from north to south,—and which, by their immensurable height, cannot
be distinguished individually by our optics, and at most produce but a
white mark in that part of the heavens where they are placed?[886]

Behold, then, the earth on which we tread, suspended like a grain
of sand in the air; an almost infinite number of fiery globes, the
vastness of whose bulk confounds my imagination, and whose height
exceeds the reach of my conceptions, all perpetually revolving round
this grain of sand, have been for above six thousand years, and are
still, daily crossing the wide, the immense space of the heavens. Do
you desire another system no less amazing? The earth itself is carried
round the sun, which is the centre of the universe, with inconceivable
velocity.[887] Methinks I see the motion of all these globes, the
orderly march of these prodigious bodies; no disorder, no deflection,
no collision, ever happens; should but the smallest of them happen
to deviate and meet the earth, what would become of this earth? But,
on the contrary, all keep their respective positions, remain in the
order prescribed for them; and this, with respect to us, is performed
so silently, that no oneʼs hearing is acute enough to hear them
move, and that ordinary people know not that there are such bodies.
How wonderfully are the works of chance! Could intelligence itself
have surpassed this? Only one thing. Lucilius, troubles me. These
vast bodies are all so constant and exact in their various courses
and revolutions, and in their relations to each other, that a little
animal, confined to a corner of that wide space which is called the
world, from his observations on them, has contrived an exact and
infallible method of foretelling in what degree of their respective
courses every one of these stars will be two thousand, four thousand,
nay, twenty thousand years hence. This is my scruple, Lucilius. If
these stars by chance follow such invariable rules, what is order, what
are rules?

Nay, I will ask you what is chance? Is it a body? Is it a spirit? Is
it a being distinguished from all other beings, having a peculiar
existence or dwelling in any place; or, rather, is it not a mode or
fashion of being? When a ball rolls against a stone, we are apt to say
it is a chance; but is it anything more than an accidental hitting of
these bodies one against another? If, by this chance, or this knock,
the ball changes its straight course into an oblique one; if its motion
from direct becomes reflected; if it ceases to roll on its axis, but
winds and whirls about like a top, shall I from thence infer that
motion in general proceeds in this ball from this same chance? Shall I
not rather apprehend that the ball owes it to itself, or to the impulse
of the arm which delivered it? Or, because the circular motions of the
wheels of a clock are determined one by the other, in their degrees of
swiftness, shall I be less anxious to find out what may be the cause of
these several motions; whether it lies in the wheels themselves, or is
derived from the moving force of a weight which sets them in motion?
But neither these wheels nor this ball could produce this motion in
themselves, nor do they owe it to their own nature, if they can be
deprived of it, without changing this very nature; it is, therefore,
likely they are moved extraneously and by some power not inherent to
them. And as for the celestial bodies, if they should be deprived of
their motion, would their nature then be altered, and would they cease
being bodies? I cannot believe they would. Yet they move, and as
they move not of themselves, nor by their own nature, it behoves us,
Lucilius, to examine whether there is not some principle, not inherent
to them, which causes this motion. Whatever you may find it, I call it

If we should suppose these great bodies to be without motion, we should
not then ask who moves them, but still the question would be pertinent
as to who made these bodies, as I may ask who made these wheels or that
ball? And though each of these bodies were supposed to be but a mass of
atoms, fortuitously knit together through the shape and conformation of
their parts, I should take one of these atoms, and ask: “Who created
this atom: is it matter; is it spirit; and has it any idea of itself?”
If so, then it existed a minute before it did exist; it was, and it
was not at the same time; and if it be the author of its own being,
and of its manner of being, why did it make itself a body rather than
a spirit? Moreover, has this atom had a beginning, or is it eternal,
infinite, and will you make a God of this atom?[888]

(44.) A mite has eyes; it turns aside if it meets objects that can
hurt it; place it on a flat piece of ebony, so that people may see it
better, and if, while it is walking, but the smallest piece of straw is
put in its way, it will alter its course immediately. Do you think its
crystalline fluid, its retina, and its optic nerve are the products of

Let pepper lie in water a little time, and be well steeped in it; then
view a single drop of it with a microscope, and an almost countless
number of animalculæ will be perceived, moving about with incredible
agility, like so many monsters in the vast ocean; each of these
animalculæ is a thousand times smaller than a mite, and yet it is a
living body, receiving nourishment, growing, having muscles, and even
vessels performing the functions of veins, nerves, and arteries, and a
brain for the distribution of its animal spirits.[889]

A speck of mould, though no bigger than a grain of sand, appears
through a microscope like a collection of many distinct plants, of
which some are plainly seen to bear flowers and other fruits; some have
buds only, partly opened, and others are withered. How extremely small
must be the roots and fibres through which these little plants receive
their nourishment! And if a person considers that these little plants
bear their own seed as well as oaks or pines, or that the animalculæ
I was speaking of are multiplied by generation as well as elephants
or whales, whither will not such observations lead? Who can have made
things so fine and so exceedingly small as to be imperceptible to the
naked eye, and which, like the heavens, border upon the infinite,
though in the other extreme? Is it not the same Being who has created,
and moves with so much facility, the heavens and the stars, those vast
bodies so terrible in their dimensions, their altitude, celerity, and

(45.) Man enjoys the sun, the stars, the heavens and their influences,
as much as he does the air he breathes, and the earth on which he
treads and by which he is supported. This is a matter of fact; and if
every fact were to be illustrated by fitness and verisimilitude, they
could be deduced from them, as the heavens and all they contain are not
to be compared for grandeur and dignity to one of the meanest men on
earth, there being the same proportion between them and him as there
is between matter destitute of sensation, a mere space having three
dimensions, and a spiritual, reasonable, and intelligent being.[890] If
people argue that less would have served for the preservation of man, I
reply that it is not too much to display the power, the goodness, and
the magnificence of God, as He could do infinitely more than He has
done, whatever we perceive He has done.

If the whole world were made for man, it is literally the smallest
thing God has done for man, and this may be proved by religion. Man
is therefore neither presumptuous nor vain, when he submits to the
evidences of truth, and owns the advantages he has received; he might
be accused of blindness and stupidity, did he refuse to yield to the
multitude of proofs which religion lays before him, to show him the
privileges he enjoys, his resources, his expectations, and to teach
him what he is and what he may be.—But the moon is inhabited, at least
we do not know but it may be.—Why do you mention the moon, Lucilius,
and for what purpose? If you own there is a God, nothing, indeed, is

But do you mean to ask whether in the entire universe it is on us alone
that God has bestowed such great blessings; whether there are not other
men or other creatures in the moon, who have received such favours?
What a vain curiosity and what a frivolous question, Lucilius! The
earth is inhabited, we dwell there and we know we do; we have proofs,
demonstrations, and convictions for everything we believe of God and of
ourselves; let the nations who inhabit the celestial globes, whatever
those nations may be, attend to their concerns; they have their
troubles, and we have ours. You have observed the moon, Lucilius; you
have seen its spots, depth, inequalities, altitude, extent, course, and
its eclipses; and no astronomer has yet done more; now contrive some
new instruments; observe it again, and see whether it is inhabited,
and by what species of inhabitants, whether they are like men, or are
really men. When you have done this, let me look, that we both may be
convinced that there are men who inhabit the moon; and then, Lucilius,
we will consider whether these men are Christians or no; and whether
God has bestowed on them the same favours He has granted us.

(46.) Everything is great and wonderful in nature; there is nothing
which does not bear the stamp of the artist;[891] the irregular and
imperfect things we sometimes observe imply regularity and perfection.
Vain and presumptuous man: make a worm which you trample under foot and
despise; you are afraid of a toad; make a toad, if you can. What an
excellent artist is He who makes those things which men not only admire
but fear! I do not require you to go into your studio to create a man
of sense, a well-shaped man, a handsome woman, for such an undertaking
would be too hard and too difficult for you; only attempt to create a
hunchback, a madman, a monster, and I will be satisfied.

Ye kings, monarchs, potentates, anointed majesties, have I given you
all your pompous titles? Ye great men of this earth, high and mighty,
and perhaps shortly almighty lords, we ordinary men, for the ripening
of our harvests, stand in need of a little rain, or what is less, of a
little dew; make some dew, or send down upon the surface of the earth
one drop of water.

The order, the picturesqueness, and the effects of nature are commonly
known, but its causes and principles are not so. Ask a woman what is
the cause the eye sees as soon as it is opened, and ask a learned man
the same question.

(47.) Many millions of years, nay, many thousand millions of years,
in a word, as many as can be comprehended within the limits of time,
are but an instant compared to the duration of God, who is eternal;
the extent of the whole universe is but a point, an atom, compared to
His immensity. If this be so, as I affirm it is, for what proportion
can there be between the finite and infinite, I ask what is the length
of manʼs life, or what the extent of that speck of dust which is
called the earth, nay, of the small part of that earth man owns and
inhabits?—The wicked prosper whilst they live.—Yes, some of them,
I admit. Virtue is oppressed and vice remains unpunished on this
earth.—This happens sometimes, I acknowledge it.—This is unjust.—No,
not at all. You should have proved, to warrant this inference, that the
wicked are absolutely happy, that virtue is absolutely miserable, and
that vice always remains unpunished; that the short time in which the
good are oppressed and the wicked prosper is of some duration, and that
what we call prosperity and good fortune is something more than a false
appearance, a fleeting shadow; and that this atom, the earth, in which
virtue and vice so seldom meet with their deserts, is the only spot of
the worldʼs stage where people receive rewards and punishments.[892]

I cannot more clearly infer that because I am thinking I am a spirit,
than conclude from what I do or do not, according as I please, that I
am free. Now freedom implies the power of choosing,[893] or, in other
words, a voluntary determination for good or evil, so that virtue or
vice consists in the doing a good or a bad action. If vice were to
remain absolutely unpunished, it would be a real injustice, but for
vice to remain unpunished on earth is merely a mystery. However, let
us suppose, with the atheist, that it is an injustice; all injustice
is a negation or privation of justice, and therefore every injustice
presupposes justice. All justice is in conformity to a sovereign
reason, and thus I ask, when was it against reason for crime to remain
unpunished? At the time, I suppose, when a triangle had not three
angles. Now, all conformity to reason is truth; this conformity, as I
said just now, always subsisted, and is of the number of those truths
we call eternal. But this truth either is not and cannot be, or else
it is the object of an intelligence; this intelligence is therefore
eternal, and is God.

The most secret crimes are discovered so simply and easily,
notwithstanding the great care which the guilty take to prevent their
being brought to light, that it seems God alone could have detected
them. These discoveries are so frequent, that those who are pleased to
attribute them to chance, must acknowledge, at least, that in all ages,
chance seems to have been very regular in its operations.

(48.) If you suppose every man on earth, without exception, to be rich
and to want nothing, I infer that every man on earth is extremely poor,
and in want of everything. There are but two sorts of riches which
comprehend all the rest, money and land; if all people were rich, who
would cultivate land or toil in mines? Those who live away from any
mines could not toil in them, and those who dwell on barren lands,
where only minerals are found, could hardly gather any fruits from
them. Trade is the expedient people would have recourse to, I suppose.
But if riches should be abundant, and no man under the necessity of
living by labour, who will transport your ingots, or anything that
is bought and sold, from one place to another? Who will fit out
your ships and sail them? Who would travel in caravans? Everything
that is necessary and useful would then be wanting. If necessity no
longer existed on this earth, we would need no longer arts, sciences,
inventions, handicrafts. Besides, such an equality of riches and
possessions would establish the same equality in all ranks and
conditions of men; would banish all subordination, and reduce men to be
their own servants and to receive no help nor succour from one another;
it would make the laws idle and useless, bring in a universal anarchy,
and produce violence, outrages, murders, and impunity.

If, on the other hand, you suppose all men to be poor and indigent,
then the sun in vain rises on the horizon; in vain it warms and
fructifies the earth; in vain the heavens shed their benign influence
on it; in vain rivers water it with their streams; in vain the fields
abound with fruits; in vain seas, rocks, and mountains are ransacked
and rifled of their treasures. If you grant that, of all men who
are scattered throughout the world, some have to be rich and others
poor, then necessity must naturally unite and bind them together and
reconcile them; some will have to serve and obey, invent, labour,
cultivate the earth, and make improvements; others enjoy life, live
well, assist, protect, and govern the masses. Order is restored, and
Providence appears.

(49.) Suppose authority, pleasure, and idleness to be the share of some
men, and subjection, care, and misery the lot of the rest, then either
the malignity of men must have thrown things into this disorder, or
else God is not God.

A certain inequality in the condition of men is conducive to the order
and welfare of the whole, is the work of God, or presupposes a divine
law; but too great a disproportion, and such as is generally seen
amongst men, is their own work, or caused by the law of the strongest.

Extremes are faulty, and proceed from men; all compensation is just,
and proceeds from God.

       *       *       *       *       *

If these “CHARACTERS” are not liked, I shall be astonished; and if they
are, my astonishment will not be less.


[1] Pascalʼs _Pensées_ were published in 1670, six years after their
authorʼs death; La Rochefoucauldʼs _Maximes_ appeared in 1665, and
of both works from five to six editions had been sold before the
“Characters” saw the light. I have borrowed the definition of these
authorsʼ labours from La Bruyèreʼs “Prefatory Discourse concerning
Theophrastus,” which came out at the same time as the “Characters,” and
served as an introduction.

[2] Preface to La Bruyèreʼs “Characters,” page v.

[3] Preface to La Bruyèreʼs “Speech upon his Admission as a Member of
the French Academy, June 15, 1693,” which preface was published for the
first time with the eighth edition of the “Characters,” in 1694.

[4] Preface to La Bruyèreʼs “Characters,” page i.

[5] Preface to La Bruyèreʼs “Speech upon his Admission as a Member of
the French Academy, June 15, 1693.”

[6] Preface to La Bruyèreʼs “Speech upon his Admission as a Member of
the French Academy, June 15, 1693.”

[7] Sir Walter Scott, in his introduction to Drydenʼs “Absalom and
Achitophel,” says: “He who collects a gallery of portraits disclaims,
by the very act of doing so, any intention of presenting a series of
historical events.”

[8] It was the custom in Paris, at the time La Bruyère wrote, for any
gentleman or lady to leave part of their gains on the table, to pay, as
it were, for the cards; hence the allusion.

[9] All the passages on pages _15_ and _16_ between inverted commas (“ ”)
have been taken from La Bruyèreʼs “Prefatory Discourse concerning

[10] See the Chapter “Of the Great,” page 230, § 25. When, in the
Chapter “Of Certain Customs,” page 408, § 14, he speaks of his “descent
from a certain Godfrey de la Bruyère,” he does so jocularly.

[11] Compare “Preface,” page iv., “I did not hesitate,” till page v.,
“and more regular.”

[12] In his “Introduction to the Reader,” printed before “Absalom and
Achitophel,” and published in 1681, Dryden openly admits: “I have laid
in for those, by rebating the satire, where justice would allow it,
from carrying too sharp an edge. They who can criticise so weakly as to
imagine I have done my worst, may be convinced at their own cost that I
can write severely with more ease than I can write gently.” La Bruyère
would never have ventured to speak so plainly, and this difference
between the French and English author seems very characteristic of the
two nations. Compare also Drydenʼs poetic delineation of Buckingham as
Zimri to La Bruyèreʼs portrait of Lauzun as Straton.

[13] Perhaps no author is more quoted in Littréʼs _Dictionnaire de la
langue française_ than La Bruyère is.

[14] M. G. Servois, in his bibliographic Notice of La Bruyèreʼs
works, &c., vol. iii., first part, quotes a passage from the London
correspondent of the _Histoire des Ouvrages des savants_ (see page
19, note 3) in affirmation of this statement, and seems to think this
translation to have been the first edition of the one mentioned in No.

[15] Wattʼs “Bibliotheca Britannica.”

[16] According to M. Servois, this edition is mentioned in Lowndesʼ
“The Bibliographerʼs Manual,” but I have not been able to find it there.

[17] I imagine I can observe slight traces of La Bruyère in Swiftʼs
“Account of the Empire of Japan, written in 1728,” beginning with the
words: “Regoge was the 34th emperor of Japan;” in nearly all he wrote
for the Tatler; in many of the portraits to be found in the Examiner,
for example in the portrait of “Laurence Hyde, late earl of Rochester,”
beginning with the words: “The person who now presides at the Council,
etc.” Compare also “A Short Character of Thomas, Earl of Wharton;” the
“Narrative of Guiscardʼs Examination;” and in the “True Relation of the
Intended Riot,” the passage beginning with “the surprising generosity,
and fit of housekeeping the German princess has been guilty of this
summer.” Swift, moreover, possesses a far more trenchant style than the
French author, but I imagine the latter did as much execution, though
he used a rapier, whilst Swift employed a bludgeon.

[18] There are few portraits in Shaftesburyʼs “Characteristics;” one of
the few exceptions being the portrait of “a notable enthusiast of the
itinerant kind,” supposed to be Van Helmont; now and then, however, he
seems to have borrowed a few ideas of La Bruyère, as for example, in
the second section of “A Letter concerning Enthusiasm,” his remarks on
criticism and ridicule. Compare also Shaftesbury in section 2, saying:
“The vulgar, indeed, may swallow any sordid jest, any mere drollery or
buffoonery; but it must be a finer and truer wit which takes the men of
sense and breeding,” to La Bruyèreʼs Chapter “Of Works of the Mind,”
§§ 51, 52; the whole of this “Letter” is somewhat like La Bruyère, as
in section iv. the crafty beggars, addressing some one they meet in a
coach, and of whose quality they are ignorant. In Shaftesburyʼs “Sensus
Communis, an Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour,” part 1, section
3, his remarks about true raillery; and the opening of the second
part, section 1: “If a native of Ethiopia were of a sudden transported
into Europe,” etc., as well as in the “Soliloquy,” the allegory of the
love-spent nobleman, and in the “Moralists” the portraits of Palemon,
Philocles, and Theocles, and the opening of the third part, “it was yet
deep night,” appear somewhat like reminiscences of the French author.

[19] “English Philosophers:” Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. By Thomas
Fowler, President of Corpus Christi College: London, 1882.

[20] It will, of course, be impossible to give “chapter and verse”
for every passage of the “Spectator” which is faintly like one of La
Bruyèreʼs observations, nor do I mean to say that Addison, Steele, and
the other contributors to the English paper borrowed literally, and
without acknowledgment, from the French author. But what I intended to
convey was that, though the humour of the Spectator and its Sir Roger
de Coverley, Sir Andrew Freeport, Will Honeycomb, Captain Sentry,
&c., are pre-eminently English, several of the remarks and portraits
to be found there are more or less inspired by a careful study of La
Bruyère. Compare for example Addisonʼs paper about the opera, Spectator
No. 5, to § 47 of La Bruyèreʼs Chapter “Of Works of the Mind;” and
the remarks in No. 10 of the Spectator, about the occupations of the
female world, and Nos. 144, 156, and No. 265 of the same paper, with
some paragraphs of La Bruyèreʼs Chapter “Of Women.” Nos. 45, 57,
77, 88, 98, 100, 129, 193, 236, 238, and 494, appear to me somewhat
like several of La Bruyèreʼs paragraphs. The “fair youth” in No. 104
of the “Spectator” is not unlike a reverse picture of La Bruyèreʼs
portrait of Iphis in the Chapter “Of Fashion,” page 389, § 14; whilst
the remark in No. 226, “Who is the better man for beholding the most
beautiful Venus,” &c., reminds one of La Bruyèreʼs remark on obscene
“pictures painted for certain princes of the Church,” in his Chapter
“Of Certain Customs,” page 409, § 17. Steeleʼs opinions about corporal
punishments (Spectator, No. 157) are very much in advance of those of
La Bruyère on the same subject; the English author remarks about Louis
XIV. (Spectator, No. 180 and 200) should be compared with La Bruyèreʼs
glorification of the same monarch.

[21] I have consulted the edition of Dr. R. Southʼs sermons, eleven
vols., the first six published by H. Lintot, 1732; the last five by
Charles Bathurst, 1744. In the sermon preached at Westminster Abbey,
February 22, 1684-85, on Prov. xvi. 33: “The lot is cast into the lap,”
&c., the passage about Alexander the Great, in his famed expedition
against Darius, the remarks about Hannibal and Cæsar, Agathocles, the
potter who became King, Masaniello, and finally what the Doctor says
about Cromwell: “and who, that had beheld such a bankrupt beggarly
fellow as Cromwell first entering the Parliament House, with a
threadbare, torn cloak, and a greasy hat (and perhaps neither of them
paid for), could have suspected that in the space of so few years,
he should, by the murder of one king, and the banishment of another,
ascend the throne, be invested in the royal robes, and want nothing of
the state of a king, but the changing of his hat into a crown,” seem
like some expressions of La Bruyère. Compare also sermon x.: “Good
Intentions no Excuse for Bad Actions,” full of pithy characteristics
in word-painting, and his sermons: “The Fatal Imposture and Force of
Words,” Isaiah v. 20, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good
evil,” which are very La Bruyèresque, and somewhat like several
paragraphs of the Chapter “Of Certain Customs.” See also in “The Nature
and Measures of Conscience,” a sermon preached Nov. 1, 1691, the
portrait of the “potent sinner upon earth,” and a sermon on “Pretence
of Conscience no Excuse for Rebellion,” preached before Charles II.,
13th January, 1662-63, the anniversary of the “execrable murder” of
Charles I., in which South says, “I wonder where the blasphemy lies
which some charge upon those who make the kingʼs suffering something to
resemble our Saviourʼs.” Compare finally the portrait of the “cozening,
lying, perjured shop-keeper” in the second sermon, “On Avarice as
contradictory to Religion,” with La Bruyèreʼs tradesman in his Chapter
“Of the Gifts of Fortune,” § 43.

[22] The Abbé Claude Fleury, the learned author of the _Histoire
Ecclésiastique_, who succeeded La Bruyère as a member of the French
Academy, said of his predecessor in his opening speech: “Il savait les
langues mortes et les vivantes.”

[23] See the Chapter “Of Mankind,” page 289, note 2.

[24] See the Chapter “Of the Great,” page 242, § 53.

[25] Some of the passages of this “Prefatory Discourse” will be found
in the Introduction.

[26] In a lecture read before the Academy of Sciences and Literature
of Berlin, the 23d of August 1787, and printed in the memoirs of that
Academy, Formey told this story on the authority of M. de Maupertuis,
who is said to have heard it from the lady herself, the wife of the
financier, Charles Rémy de July, to whom she brought a dowry of more
than 100,000 _livres_.

[27] See note 3, page 4.

[28] See the Chapter “Of Society and Conversation,” page 122, § 66,
and note 1; about Fontenelle, see in the same Chapter the character of
Cydias, page 127, § 75.

[29] This he stated openly in the speech he delivered at his reception
at the Academy, the 15th of June 1693; his enemies would certainly have
contradicted him if it had not been the truth.

[30] See the Chapter “Of the Court,” page 201, note 2.

[31] In the Introduction are to be found some extracts from this

[32] La Bruyèreʼs bitter feelings appear in such paragraphs as § 43,
page 56; in the Chapter “Of the Town,” page 166, § 4; in that “Of the
Great,” pages 223 and 224, §§ 11 and 12; page 232, § 33; and in the
Chapter “Of Opinions,” page 334, § 19. Molière felt a somewhat similar
bitterness; at least in the dedication of _les Fâcheux_ he says to
Louis XIV.: “Those that are born in an elevated rank may propose to
themselves the honour of serving your Majesty in great employments;
but, for my part, all the glory I can aspire to, is to amuse you.”
Compare also Shakespeareʼs hundred and eleventh Sonnet beginning—“Oh!
for my sake do you with Fortune chide.”

[33] See the Chapter “Of Society and of Conversation,” page 120, §§ 56,

[34] See in the Chapter “Of the Great,” page 230, § 26, which seems to
me to prove this fear.

[35] “We have wished to warn and not to bite; to be useful and not
to wound; to benefit the morals of men, and not to be detrimental to
them.” This quotation is taken from one of the letters of Erasmus to
Martin Dorpius, in which the former replies to some criticisms on
his “Praise of Folly.” The preface to the “Characters,” altered and
augmented several times by the author himself, is found for the first
time, in its present form, in the eighth edition of his work.

[36] The first edition of the “Characters,” published in 1688,
contained 420 characters, the fourth edition 771.

[37] This mark, a ((¶)) between double parentheses, as well as the
same mark between single parentheses, was first employed in the fifth
edition (1690) of the “Characters,” and in all the following ones.
But the mere ¶ without any parentheses was used by La Bruyère in all
editions to denote the beginning of a paragraph.

[38] This refers to the sixth (1691), seventh (1692), and eighth (1694)
editions. The fifth edition contained 923 characters, the sixth 997,
the seventh 1073, and the eighth 1120. The ninth edition (1696) was
published about a month after the death of La Bruyère.

[39] This seems to allude to La Rochefoucauldʼs “Maxims.”

[40] M. de La Bruyère adopts the chronology of Suidas, a Greek
lexicographer who flourished during the latter end of the eleventh
century; according to the Hebrew chronology the world had only existed
5692 years when the “Characters” were first published in 1688.

[41] _Abile_ in the original, in the sense of the English word “able,”
and used as a noun, was already then considered antiquated.

[42] _Sentiment_, in the original, was during the seventeenth century
not seldom employed in French for “opinion,” as “sentiments” are at
present in English.

[43] This magistrate is said to have been Pierre Poncet de la Rivière,
Count dʼAblys (1600-1681), a barrister, a councillor of state, and
member of the royal council of finances, whose absurd moral treatise,
_Considérations sur les avantages de la vieillesse dans la vie
chrétienne, politique, civile, économique et solitaire_, was published
under the pseudonym of the Baron de Prelle, in the month of August
1677, about one month before the death of the Lord Chancellor dʼAligre,
and more than three months before President Lamoignonʼs decease.

[44] At that time so-called collections of anecdotes, such as
_Boléana_, _Ménagiana_, and _Segraisiana_, were greatly in vogue.

[45] It is said that the great dramatic poet Pierre Corneille
(1606-1684) is alluded to as one of those poets.

[46] All the “Keys” pretend this is a hit at the “Dictionary of the
Academy,” and they may be right; for the Dictionary, only published
in 1694, six years after the “Characters” first saw the light, had
been expected for more than forty years. But most likely La Bruyère
was thinking of the tragedy-ballet of _Psyché_ (1671), words by Pierre
Corneille and Molière, music by Quinault and Lulli; of the opera which
in 1680 Racine and Boileau, joint _historiographes_ of Louis XIV.,
began, and which never saw the light; and of the newly-acted _Idylle
sur la Paix_ and the _Eglogue de Versailles_ (1685), written by
Quinault, Racine, and Molière.

[47] Even in La Bruyèreʼs lifetime doubts were already expressed about
the Iliad being written by Homer.

[48] This Roman orator was Cicero.

[49] La Bruyère adds in a footnote: “Even merely considered as an

[50] Almost every one felt during the seventeenth century a dislike for
Gothic architecture.

[51] Probably Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757) is meant
here. This author had made excellent classical studies in a Jesuit
college, but attacked the ancients in his _Discours sur LʼEglogue_ and
in his _Digression sur les anciens et les modernes_, published together
with his _Poésies Pastorales_ in 1688. The paragraph beginning “A man
feeds” and ending “nurses” was only printed for the first time in the
fourth edition of the “Characters,” published in 1689.

[52] It is generally thought that Charles Perrault (1628-1703), a
member of the French Academy, is alluded to, but this seems more than

[53] Those “able men” were the dramatist Jean Racine (1639-1699) and
the satirist Nicolas Boileau Despréaux (1636-1711).

[54] Zoilus, a Greek grammarian, flourished about 356-336 B.C.,
and assailed Homer, Plato, Isocrates, and other Greek authors with
merciless severity.

[55] According to all the “Keys,” this is said to be an allusion to
the Abbé de Dangeau (1643-1723), a member of the French Academy, and a
brother of the better known marquis. But why and wherefore this Abbé
has been singled out, has not reached posterity. Some say the President
Cousin, the editor of the _Journal des Savants_, was meant.

[56] Ζηλωτής means “envious.”

[57] In his _Recueil de divers ouvrages en prose et en vers_, 1676,
Charles Perrault defended the _Alceste_ of Quinault and attacked the
_Alcestis_ of Euripides. Unfortunately his criticism contained several
errors, which Racine noticed in the preface of _Iphigénie_, accusing
Perrault at the same time of having carelessly read the work he was

[58] This was meant for Henri-Joseph de Peyre, Count de Troisvilles
(1642-1708), pronounced Tréville, a very intelligent and
highly-cultivated nobleman, brought up in his youth with Louis XIV.,
whose talents he rather undervalued. He was on intimate terms with
the Port-Royalists, and after several alternate fits of devotion and
dissipation, ended his days devoutly and penitently.

[59] The Abbé de Dangeau, a pedantical purist mentioned already, page
13, note.

[60] In the seventeenth century fireworks were in French _feu gréçois_,
literally “Greek fire.”

[61] The _Cid_, the dramatic masterpiece of Pierre Corneille, was first
performed in 1636. Cardinal Richelieu tried to get up a cabal to crush
it, but was unsuccessful; he also persuaded the Academy to publish
a severe criticism on it, which is too favourably spoken of by La
Bruyère. Boileau says in his ninth satire:—

    “En vain contre le Cid un ministre se ligue,
    Tout Paris pour Chimère a les yeux de Rodrigue.
    LʼAcadémie en corps a beau le censurer,
    Le public révolté sʼobstine à lʼadmirer.”

[62] _Courageux_ and _courage_ were not seldom used in the seventeenth
century for “heartfelt” and “heart,” whilst _main dʼouvrier_, “hand of
a workman,” was sometimes employed instead of _main de maître_, “hand
of a master.”

[63] The dramatist Edme Boursault (1638-1701) had had a literary
quarrel with Boileau, who attacked him in his ninth _Satire_, to which
Boursault replied by his comedy _La Satire des Satires_. But they had
been reconciled more than a year before the “Characters” were published.

[64] Father Bouhours (1628-1702), a literary Jesuit of some reputation
and talent, published in 1689 his _Pensées ingénieuses des anciens et
des modernes_, in which he several times praised the “Characters.” La
Bruyère, not to be behind-hand, inserted the learned fatherʼs name in
his fifth edition, published in 1690.

[65] Roger de Rabutin, Count de Bussy (1618-1693), a friend of our
author, enjoyed a certain literary reputation in the seventeenth
century, now completely lost. He is only remembered by his licentious
and satirical _Histoire amoureuse des Gaules_, for which he was
banished from the court for more than twenty years.

[66] Damis was meant for Boileau.

[67] There had been a whole family of printers of that name, though
only André was alive when the “Characters” appeared. At that time books
in France and in England were almost always sold bound.

[68] By “newsmonger” our author alludes to the manufacturers of
manuscript newspapers, containing all kinds of social and political
scandal, eagerly sought for, and who were severely punished when
caught. The English translator of 1702 gives for _nouvelliste_
“journalist,” and says in his “Key:” “The author of the Works of the
Learned of Paris,” etc. The _Histoire des Savants_, edited by H.
Basnage (1656-1710), was published in Holland. Mr. N. Rowe, in his
translation published in 1713, also uses the word “journalist,” and
says in the “Key:” “On the authors of Journals, or accounts of books
and News, published in France, Holland,” etc.

[69] La Bruyère speaks here of himself.

[70] In the seventeenth century, _bel esprit_, plural _beaux esprits_,
in the original, meant a man of intelligence, but began already in La
Bruyèreʼs time to have the meaning of “witling.”

[71] Jean Guez de Balzac (1594-1655), one of the first members of the
French Academy, wrote, besides his over-praised “Letters,” a _Socrate
Chrétien_, the _Prince_, a panegyric on Louis XIII., and _Entretiens ou
Dissertations littéraires_.

[72] Voiture (1598-1648), also a member of the French Academy, is
chiefly known by his “Letters” and some namby-pamby poetry, amongst
which is the well-known sonnet on “Uranie,” which was by many preferred
to the sonnet on “Job” by Benserade, and gave rise to a pretty literary
quarrel in the seventeenth century. Voiture and Balzac are now
deservedly buried in oblivion.

[73] The letters of Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696) were not published
until 1726, or thirty years after La Bruyèreʼs death, though perhaps he
might have seen some of them in manuscript. Among the ladies celebrated
for their epistolary style in the seventeenth century were Madame de
Maintenon, Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Madame de Bussy-Lameth, and above
all Madame de Boislandry. See the Chapter “Of Opinions,” § 28, “A

[74] Publius Terentius Afer (194-158 B.C.), a celebrated Latin comic

[75] Some commentators on La Bruyère think that the words “vulgar
tongue (_jargon_) and barbarisms” refer to Molière having put peasants
on the stage, and letting them speak their dialect. See § 52.

[76] Malherbe (1555-1628) was one of the greatest purists amongst
the authors of his time. Théophile de Viau (1591-1626), a writer of
tragedies and a poet, was by some of his contemporaries thought to be a
rival of Malherbe.

[77] In the original _il feint_, the Latin _fingit_, he shapes,

[78] Ronsard (1524-1585), the chief of the “Pleiad” or constellation of
seven authors, was the most celebrated poet of his time, and the author
of the _Franciade_.

[79] Clément Marot (1495-1544), the favourite poet of Francis I., was
born twenty-nine years before Ronsard, who lived about forty years
longer than Marot.

[80] Rémy Belleau (1528-1577), Jodelle (1532-1573), and du Bartas
(1544-1590), were all poets of the school of Ronsard and belonging to
the “Pleiad.” Du Bartasʼs chief work has been translated into English
by “silver-tongued” Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), under the title of
“The Divine Week and Works;” and Spenser speaks of “his heavenly muse,”
and of his filling “the world with never-dying fame.”

[81] Honorat de Bueil, Marquis de Racan (1589-1670), the favourite
pupil of Malherbe, is chiefly known by his pastoral dialogue, _Les
Bergeries_. La Bruyère praises Malherbe and Racan for their pure style,
but the fabulist Jean de la Fontaine says of them:—

    “Malherbe avec Racan parmi le chœur des anges,
    Là-haut de lʼEternel célébrant les louanges
    Ont emporté leur lyre.”

[82] François Rabelais (1459-1553), author of the _Chroniques de
Gargantua et de Pantagruel_.

[83] La Bruyère writes “Montagne,” and so it is even now pronounced.
Montaigneʼs (1533-1592) “Essays” are known everywhere.

[84] The author who “thinks too little” is said to have been the
Port-Royalist, Pierre Nicole (1625-1695), though some imagine Balzac
was meant; the author who thought “with too much subtlety” seems to
have been Father Malebranche (1638-1715), who attacked Montaigne in his
_Recherche de la Vérité_ (1674).

[85] Jacques Amyot (1513-1593), the translator of Plutarch. Nicolas
Coëffeteau (1574-1623), bishop of Marseille, is best known by his
translation of the Roman historian, Florus.

[86] The letters H. G. stand for _Hermes Galant_, “Hermes” being the
Greek for Mercury, and there existing since 1672 a kind of monthly
review, called the _Mercure Galant_, edited by Donneau de Visé, Thomas
Corneille, and Fontenelle, and printing some news from the court and
the army, a few literary articles, and as many advertisements as
possible. Since 1677 its title changed to _Mercure de France_.

[87] Boileau, La Fontaine, and Saint Evremond were, like La Bruyère, no
lovers of the opera.

[88] The Abbé Perrin and his brother-in-law, the Marquis de Sourdéac,
the first regular directors of opera in France, ruined themselves
in less than three years through their expensive decorations and
machinery. In 1672 Lulli and his son-in-law Francine obtained
permission to manage another opera-house, but spent far less money on
decorations than their predecessors had done. Our author calls Lulli
“Amphion,” a Greek musician who is said to have built Thebes by the
music of his lute.

[89] At that time there was a regular theatre for puppet-shows, founded
by Pierre dʼAttelin, better known as Brioché.

[90] In 1670 Corneille and Racine had each a tragedy, _Bérénice_,
represented; _Pénélope_, a tragedy of the Abbé Genest, was played in

[91] One of those busybodies is said to have been a certain M. Manse,
engineer of the waterworks of Chantilly, the seat of the Condés; and he
pretended to have chiefly organised the festival given by the Prince
de Condé, a son of the great Condé and the father of La Bruyèreʼs
pupil, the Duke de Bourbon, to the Dauphin, the son of Louis XIV., at
Chantilly during the month of August 1688. This entertainment lasted
eight days; hence the necessity of a theatre.

[92] The “hunt on the water” took place on the sixth day of the
festival, when some living deer and other animals were thrown alive
into a large lake, which the ladies, in boats, tried to catch by means
of ropes, and which, when caught, were set at liberty.

[93] On the first day of the feast a splendid “collation” was given by
the Prince to the Dauphin, at the cross-way of “La Table,” amidst a
temple of verdure erected for the occasion. Any meal taken between the
dinner and supper hours, or any festive repast, was called in Louis
XIV.ʼs time a _collation_.

[94] “Another wonderful _collation_ given in the Labyrinth of
Chantilly,” says a note of La Bruyère. An engraving still exists of the
table, its decorations and ornaments.

[95] This compliment to the Prince de Condé only appeared for the first
time in the fourth edition of the “Characters,” published in 1689, when
the whole court was still talking about the entertainment.

[96] This is said to be a hit at the partisans of Quinault, who could
see no charms in anything except in his operas.

[97] In the original, _esprit fort_, which sometimes meant “a man
who does not care for the opinions of the world,” and sometimes “a

[98] La Bruyère puts in a note: “A rebellion was the ordinary ending of

[99] Some commentators think this is an allusion to the tragedies of
Quinault, but they were already buried in oblivion when he died in
1688: it seems rather to refer to those of Jean Galbert de Campistron
(1656-1713), who, during ten years, from 1683 to 1693, produced almost
yearly a tragedy, none of which have come down to posterity.

[100] Molière often put peasants on the stage; but he never made
of them, nor of intoxicated persons, his principal characters: the
“sick person” is said to be a hit at Argan in Molièreʼs _Le Malade
imaginaire_. See also page 21, § 38.

[101] This is an allusion to the actor Baronʼs _LʼHomme à bonnes
fortunes_ (1686) and the _Débauché_ (1690); this latter comedy, acted
before the court the very year the above paragraph first appeared, was
a complete failure, and has never been printed. Intoxicated people were
often represented on the stage in La Bruyèreʼs time.

[102] In the original _comédies_, a word employed for tragedies as well
as for comedies.

[103] Cinna in the tragedy of that name, Felix in _Polyeucte_, and
Rodogune in _Rodogune_ are examples of this.

[104] The original has _nombreux_, the Latin _numerosus_.

[105] Three tragedies by Corneille. Though he himself calls the last
tragedy by the name given above, its real title is _Horace_.

[106] Mithridates, the hero of Racineʼs tragedy of that name; Porus, a
character in the _Alexandre_, and Burrhus in the _Britannicus_ of the
same author.

[107] In the comparison between Corneille and Racine there are some
reminiscences of a _Parallèle de M. Corneille et de M. Racine_,
published in 1686 by a certain author, de Requeleyne, Baron de

[108] Sophocles (495-406 B.C.), Euripides (480-406 B.C.)

[109] Cassius Longinus (213-273), a Greek orator, philosopher, and
author, is chiefly known by his “Treatise on the Sublime,” which is
generally attributed to him. In it he states that there are five
principal sources of the sublime, and that the third is nought but
the figures of speech turned about in a certain manner. Boileauʼs
translation of this “Treatise” appeared in 1674, and in his preface he
described but did not define the sublime, a definition also not found
in Longinus.

[110] The original has _capable_, in the sense of the Latin _capax_.

[111] According to Boileau, Longinus does not understand by “sublime” a
sublime style, but something extraordinary and marvellously striking,
which causes a work to enrapture, delight, and transport us. A sublime
style always requires grand, eloquent words; but the sublime may be
found in a single thought, a single figure of speech, a single phrase.
Longinus himself says that anything which leaves us food for thought,
which almost carries us away, and of which the remembrance is lasting,
is sublime.

[112] In rhetoric there is a difference between a metaphor and a

[113] The above paragraph is said to refer to the polemical writings
interchanged between the Jesuits and Jansenists, and seems not quite
fair to Pascalʼs _Lettres Provinciales_.

[114] Some “Keys” mention the names of Bouhours and Bourdaloue, whilst
more modern commentators think that La Bruyère only wished to give a
paragraph on the French prose of his time.

[115] The original has _artisan_, which even in La Bruyèreʼs time meant
an artisan, when used without being qualified; our author employs it,
however, for “artist.”

[116] Some annotators say a certain Abbé Bourdelon (1653-1730), a
completely forgotten critic, was meant; others think it was a hit at
Ménage (1613-1692), who had the good sense not to recognise himself in
this portrait, and is said to have been also the original of Vadius in
Molièreʼs _Femmes Savantes_.

[117] This author was the Abbé de Villiers, who published in 1682 a
poem in four cantos, _LʼArt de Précher_, in which he tried to imitate
_LʼArt poétique_ of Boileau, and in 1690 _Réflexions sur les défauts
dʼautrui_, which were very successful; some suppose Father Bouhoursʼ
_Pensées ingénieuses des anciens et des modernes_ (1689) hinted at;
whilst M. G. Servois, the able editor of La Bruyère in the _Grands
Ecrivains de la France_ (1865-1878), thinks that possibly the “author”
was Jacques Brillon, a lawyer and indefatigable imitator, who in his
youth may have been presumptuous enough to have asked La Bruyèreʼs
advice on some of his literary works, the _Portraits sérieux_, etc.,
the _LʼOuvrage nouveau dans le goût des Caractères de Théophraste
et des Pensées de Pascal_, the _Théophraste moderne_, etc., which
three books appeared, however, after La Bruyèreʼs death, from 1696 to
1700. Adrien Baillet, an erudite scholar and fertile author, is also
mentioned by some “Keys.”

[118] It is now generally supposed that by the satirist described
Boileau is meant, for he sometimes commences grand subjects, as in his
satires _Sur lʼHomme_ or _Sur la Noblesse_, but he never enters deeply
into the matter, and treats of _Les Embarras de Paris_ or _Le Repas

[119] Those names stand for Varillas (1624-1695) and Maimbourg
(1610-1686), two voluminous historians, the first of whom is known
for the inaccuracy of his facts, the second by his pretentious style,
though Madame de Sévigné and Voltaire do not entirely condemn the
latter, and Bayle, in his _Dictionnaire_, praises his knowledge and
accuracy. “Handburg” is the German for “Maimbourg.”

[120] _Glorieux_ in the original, which in La Bruyèreʼs time, and even
later, had the meaning “conceited.” One of N. Destouchesʼ (1680-1754)
best comedies is called _Le Glorieux_.

[121] The original has _un honnête homme_, which meant, in La Bruyèreʼs
time, “a gentleman, a well-mannered man,” but never “an honest man,”
which is in French _un homme de bien_.

[122] “The stammerer” was meant for the son of Achille de Harlay
(1639-1712), chief president of the parliament of Paris, and is said
not to have stammered, but to have been very idle, and without any
oratorical talents. Yet, in 1691, at the age of twenty-three, he was
appointed advocate-general, through the influence of his father. Hence
his appearance in the sixth edition of the “Characters,” also published
in 1691. Mdlle. de Harlay, a daughter of the first president, was sent
to a convent in 1686 on account of her affection for Dumesnil, a singer
at the Opera.

[123] Xanthus was M. de Courtenvaux, the eldest son of the Minister for
War, M. de Louvois, and is said not to have excelled either in good
looks or bravery.

[124] V ... stands for Claude François Vignon (1634-1703), a son of an
artist of the same name; C ... is Pascal Colasse, a pupil of Lulli,
whose opera, _Achille et Polyxène_, was played a short time before
the “Characters” were first published (1687); _Pyrame_, written by
Pradon (1632-1698), was acted in 1674; he had brought out several other
tragedies before the first appearance of La Bruyèreʼs book. At that
time Pierre Mignard (1635-1695), the celebrated artist, and Pierre
Corneille (1606-1694) were still alive, and Lulli (1633-1687), the
great musician, had only been dead a few months.

[125] Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536), one of the most celebrated
scholars and learned men of his time.

[126] By this bishop some say was meant M. de Harlay (1625-1695),
archbishop of Paris; others think the archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier
(1642-1710), the brother of Louvois, was designated. See also page 141,
note 1.

[127] The original has _collier dʼordre_, the collar of the order of
the Holy Ghost.

[128] Trophime, it was supposed, stood for our authorʼs friend Bénigne
Bossuet (1627-1704), the eminent theologian, preacher, and bishop of
Meaux, but he never became a cardinal. So general was this supposition,
that in all editions of the “Characters” published after the authorʼs
death the name of “Bénigne” was put instead of “Trophime.” Some “Keys,”
however, mention the name of Etienne le Camus (1632-1707), bishop of
Grenoble, who became a cardinal in 1686.

[129] Lord Stafford is meant here; he was a relative to the Duke of
Norfolk, very rich and very eccentric, and married in 1694 a daughter
of the Count de Gramont. Some think the Count dʼAubigné, the brother of
Mdlle. de Maintenon, is spoken of.

[130] La Bruyère adds in a footnote, “an agate.”

[131] In the original _il ne se plaint non plus_. _Plaindre_ had
sometimes the meaning of “to be sparing,” and Le Sage employs it in
_Gil Blas_ in that sense.

[132] This is said to apply to a certain M. de Mennevillette,
_receveur-général_ of the clergy, whose son married Mdlle. de Harlay.

[133] In the original _drap de Hollande_, because the best cloth came
from Holland. Colbert induced some Dutch and Flemish weavers to settle
in France, where they made a cloth called _Toile Colbertine_, of which
Molière wore a doublet as the Marquis in _les Fâcheux_. Colberteen is
also mentioned in “The Fopʼs Dictionary” (1690), and in Congreveʼs “The
Way of the World.”

[134] The _lumen gloriæ_ is, according to Roman Catholic theologians,
“The help God affords to the souls of the blessed, to strengthen them
that they may be able to see God ‘face to face,’ as St. Paul says
(1 Cor. xiii. 12), or by intuition; as they say in the schools; for
without such a help they could not bear the immediate presence of God.”

[135] A certain preacher, Charles Boileau, was meant; others think it
was a canon of Notre-Dame, called Robert.

[136] The man of learning is Mabillon (1632-1707), a scholarly
Benedictine, and author of _De Re diplomatica_, _De Vetera analecta_,
and other works.

[137] The original has _homme de bien_. See page 43, note 2.

[138] Montaigne, Saint-Evremond, and the latest French writer on
Alexander, M. Jurien de la Gravière, happily still alive, and formerly
Minister for the French Navy, think more favourably than La Bruyère did
of the talents of the youthful king of Macedonia.

[139] Æmilius is the Prince de Condé (1621-1686). The whole of the
above paragraph is filled with reminiscences from Bossuetʼs _Oraison
funèbre du Prince de Condé_, delivered in the year 1687.

[140] The battle of Rocroi was won in 1643, when Condé was only
twenty-two years old, whilst those of Freiburg, Nordlingen, and Lens
were gained, respectively, in 1644, 1645, and 1648.

[141] An allusion to the siege of Lerida, raised by Condé in 1647.

[142] La Bruyère forgets the wars of the Fronde (1648-1653) and the
part Condé took in them, as well as in the wars of Spain against
France, from 1652 till 1659.

[143] His grandson and his nephew married illegitimate daughters of
Louis XIV.

[144] An allusion to his bad and hasty temper.

[145] La Bruyère adds in a note, “Sons and grandsons, descendants of
kings.” This seems a reminiscence of the Homeric Διογενῖς, Διοτρεφεῖς,

[146] This compliment was addressed to the princes of the Condé family,
of whom one, the Prince de Conti (1629-1661), was in command of the
army in Catalonia, though he had never served. Compare the saying of
Mascarille in Molièreʼs _Les Précieuses Ridicules_: “People of quality
know everything without ever having learned anything.”

[147] Charles Castel, Abbé de Saint Pierre (1658-1743), a member of
the French Academy, whence he was ejected in 1718 on account of his
_Discours sur la Polysynodie_, a work in which he proposed a kind of
Constitution for the French nation.

[148] Celsus is the Baron de Breteuil, who was sent in 1682 on a
diplomatic mission to the dukes of Parma and Modena, but failed, and
was disowned.

[149] The “two brothers” are said to have been the counsellors of the
parliament, Claude and Michel le Peletier, and the quarrel was about a
question of precedence.

[150] The “two ministers” were Louvois and de Seignelay, a son of
Colbert, and the chief cause of their falling out seems to have been
the more or less assistance which should be given to James II. against

[151] Menippus is the Marshal François de Villeroy (1644-1730), the
favourite of the king and of Mademoiselle de Maintenon, only known as
a perfect courtier when La Bruyère published his book, but who later
on proved himself an incapable general. In the _Mémoires_ of the Duke
de Saint-Simon, he is called _glorieux à lʼexcès par nature_. See also
page 43, note 1. Some commentators say Menippus was the Marquis de
Cavoye (1640-1716), one of the handsomest men and one of the greatest
duellists of the court.

[152] The original has _de mise_, which was also used by Voltaire and
Rousseau, but seems now to have become antiquated.

[153] _Montre la corde_ in the original.

[154] When the “Characters” first made their appearance in 1689, Louis
XIV. no longer resided in the Louvre, but at Versailles. The greatest
nobles, in order to pay their court to the king, lodged in some
wretched rooms in the palace.

[155] The first part of this paragraph, referring to “false greatness,”
is said to apply to the Marshal de Villeroy; the second, alluding to
“true greatness,” to Marshal Turenne (1611-1675).

[156] An allusion to a fashion of the time La Bruyère wrote, when the
ladies wore shoes with very high heels and enormous head-dresses,
called _Fontanges_; the latter were invented by Marie-Angélique
Scoraille de Roussille, Duchesse de Fontanges (1661-1681), who was
one of the mistresses of Louis XIV. Our author refers to them in his
chapter “Of Fashion,” § 12.

[157] Some of the ladies at court, in order to hide the hollowness of
their cheeks, used, it is said, to hold small balls of wax in their

[158] Lise is generally supposed to have been Catherine-Henriette
dʼAngennes de la Loupe, Countess dʼOlonne, one of the most dissolute
ladies of the court of Louis XIV., who was fifty-five years old when
this paragraph appeared (1692), and died in 1714. Many particulars
about her are related in Bussy-Rabutinʼs _Histoire amoureuse des

[159] This is said to allude to a certain Mademoiselle de Loines, who
fell in love with a crooked, ill-looking, dwarfish limb of the law.

[160] The memoirs of the time of Louis XIV. teem with examples of young
men of the highest families who considered it no disgrace to live at
the expense of rich and amorous old crones, and even to receive money
from young ladies.

[161] The original has _dans une ruelle_. _Ruelle_ means literally “a
small street,” hence the narrow opening between the wall and the bed,
on which bed superfine ladies, gaily dressed, were lying when they
received their friends, and thus _ruelle_ came to mean “any fashionable
assembly.” In Dr. Ashʼs “Dictionary of the English Language,” London,
1755, _ruelle_ is still defined “a little street, a circle, an assembly
at a private house.”

[162] _En cravate et en habit gris_, says the French, which was the
usual dress of dandified magistrates, although they were strictly
forbidden to wear any other clothes but black ones.

[163] Only officers of the kingʼs household were allowed to wear
gold-embroidered scarfs.

[164] This alludes to the Count dʼAubigné, a brother of Madame de
Maintenon, who was no favourite at court. See also the portrait of
“Theodectes” in the chapter “Of Society and Conversation,” § 12, page

[165] The “lady” is said to have been Madame de la Ferrière, the wife
of a _maître des requêtes_, and Dorinna a certain Mdlle. Foucault, a
relative of some well-known _conseiller au parlement_, who was in love
with a Doctor Moreau.

[166] The original has _questionnaire_, a word then already antiquated,
and which meant a man applying the _question_ or rack.

[167] Roscius seems to have been intended for a portrait of the
celebrated actor Michael Baron (1653-1729), whilst the names of Lelia,
Cesonia, Claudia, and Messalina probably allude to some of the ladies
of the court who intrigued with actors. During the eighteenth century
the names of the Maréchale de la Ferté, and of her sister the Countess
dʼOlonne (see page 61, note), both of very dissolute manners, were
mentioned as having been the originals of Claudia and Messalina, whilst
Claudia was also, according to some, a portrait of Marie-Anne Mancini,
Duchesse de Bouillon, though it is not probable that La Bruyère
intended to allude to her. Bathyllus and Cobus stand for Le Basque,
Pécourt, or Beauchamps, dancers at the Opera; Draco is Philibert, a
German flute-player of those times; Lelia or Cesonia are supposed to
have been a certain widow of the Marquis de Constantin.

[168] Is this not an allusion of our author to some nunneries not in
very good repute at the time?

[169] This applies, it is said, to the Maréchale de la Ferté, mentioned
on page 67, note 2, and to the Duke dʼAumontʼs second wife, who died in
1711, sixty-one years old.

[170] At the time La Bruyère wrote, nearly every fashionable lady had,
besides her father-confessor, a spiritual director, who was her “guide,
philosopher, and friend.” Boileau, in his tenth satire, says:—

    “Mais de tous les mortels, grâce aux dévotes âmes,
    Nul nʼest si bien soigné quʼun directeur de femmes.”

[171] _Placer des domestiques_, in the original; _domestique_ was used
for any person belonging to the household of some great nobleman, even
if he were himself a noble; it also meant “a household.”

[172] A note of La Bruyère says that this refers to “assumed piety.”

[173] Those ladies are supposed to have been the Duchesse dʼAumont,
already mentioned; the Countess de Lyonne, the wife of a minister of
state; the Duchess de Lesdiguières, and the Countess de Roucy.

[174] Our authorʼs note says, “A pretended pious woman.”

[175] It was then the custom for people who had a lawsuit to go and
solicit their judges in person.

[176] In La Bruyèreʼs time many ladies had a great reputation for
learning, such as Madame de Sévigné, and her daughter, Madame de
Grignan, who greatly admired Descartesʼ philosophy; Madame de la
Fayette; and a sister of Madame de Montespan, who was Abbess of
Fontévrault. Montaigne was of opinion that women had no need of
learning, and Molière, in his _Femmes Savantes_, holds the golden mean.

[177] Such were, for example, the heroines of the Fronde, who only
cared for ambition. Saint Simon in his _Mémoires_ speaks of the
Maréchale de Ciérambault, “who only left off gambling whilst at meals;”
the Princess de Harcourt, who took usually the sacrament after having
gambled until four in the morning; and the Duchesse dʼAumont, whom we
have already mentioned.

[178] “Most women have no characters at all,” says Pope in the Second
Epistle “Of the Characters of Women.” The late Rev. Whitwell Elwin
thinks this “a literal rendering” of La Bruyèreʼs § 65 “Of Men.” I
imagine it inspired by the above paragraph.

[179] To deceive some one is now in French _en imposer à quelquʼun_,
but until the last hundred years _imposer_ was used, which meant “to
deceive” and “to impose respect.”

[180] Glycera is said to have been Madame de la Ferrière, whom we have
already mentioned. See page 66, note.

[181] Pierre du Puget, lord of Montauron, who died in 1664, first
president of the _bureau des finances_ at Montauban, was celebrated for
his riches and vanity. P. Corneille dedicated his tragedy _Cinna_ to
him. Michael Particelli, lord of Esmery, became, through the patronage
of Cardinal Mazarin, _surintendant des finances_, and died in 1650.

[182] Venouse is not Venuzia, the native town of the Roman lyric poet
Horace, but Vincennes; the road from Paris to Vincennes was a favourite
spot for walking.

[183] The Faubourg Saint-Germain is meant by the “grand suburb.”

[184] Canidia, a Neapolitan lady, is said to have been loved by Horace,
and to have deserted him. Out of revenge the poet, in his _Epodes_ v.
and xvii., depicted her as an old sorceress who could unsphere the
moon. Canidia is supposed to allude to La Voisin, who was burned at the
stake in Paris, in 1680, for having poisoned several people.

[185] In the original _affranchi_, freedman.

[186] All the “Keys” say that “the husband” of this paragraph and the
following one was a certain Nicolas de Bauquemare, _président de la
deuxième chambre des requêtes au palais_.

[187] Wives of a similar kind seem to have been Madame de Montespan,
Madame de Sévigné, and Madame de la Fayette.

[188] This paragraph refers again to the _président_, mentioned on page
80, note 2, and to his wife, who was always called “DʼOns-en-Bray,”
pronounced “DʼOsembray,” after a property belonging to her husband.

[189] _Stupide_ had, in La Bruyères time, the meaning of “stupefied” as
well as of “stupid.”

[190] It might have been expected that some of the “Keys” would have
told us who Emira was, but this anecdote is either invented by La
Bruyère or founded on a fact only known to him.

[191] La Rouchefoucauld, in the _Maximes_ (1665), makes almost the same
remarks, and so does Pascal in the _Pensées_ (1670). It often happens
that those two authors agree in their expressions and thoughts with La
Bruyère, who carefully studied them before publishing his _Caractères_.

[192] _Discordia fit carior concordia_ is a saying of the Latin poet
Publius Syrus (104-41 B.C.)

[193] In the chapter “Of the Affections,” La Bruyère has borrowed a
goodly number of ideas of Senecaʼs treatise _De beneficiis_; this is
one of them.

[194] An imitation of another line of Publius Syrus: _Ita amicum
habeas, posse inimicum fieri ut putes_.

[195] This paragraph was not very clear in the original. We have
followed M. Destailleurʼs explanation.

[196] In the original _déterminément_, an adverb employed by the best
authors of the seventeenth century, but now antiquated.

[197] This is called _la légitime_ in French.

[198] All commentators are agreed that by Drance the Count de
Clermont-Tonnerre, first gentleman-in-waiting of the Duke of Orléans,
brother of Louis XIV., is meant.

[199] Montesquieu has developed this idea of the influence of climate
on the mind and race in his _Esprit des Lois_, as well as H. A. Taine
in his “History of English Literature.”

[200] Arontius is said to be Perrault (See page 14, note 2.) Who
Melinda was has never been discovered.

[201] _Phébus_ is nonsensical and exaggerated language, so called
after Phœbus, the sun-god, on account of his brilliancy. The poet
M. Regnier (1573-1613) had already made use of this word; it was
something like the language employed by the Englishman, John Lily, in
his “Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,” etc., published 1578-1580.

[202] La Bruyère says in a note, “They would call them ‘Sir.’” He also,
and on purpose, leads the reader astray by using the names of three
courtiers who died some time ago: Zamet, a favourite of Catherine de
Medici and Henri IV., who died in 1614; Ruccellaï, one of Conciniʼs
partisans, who lived till 1627; and Concini, Maréchal dʼAncre,
assassinated in 1617.

[203] Some traits of this character apply to Saumery, a
gentleman-in-waiting of the Duke of Burgundy, a grandson of Louis XIV.

[204] Such an adventure is said to have happened to a certain
_conseiller au châtelet_, Robert de Châtillon. Montesquieu, in his
_Lettres Persanes_, describes a similar character.

[205] Theodectes is the Count dʼAubigné. See page 65, note 4.

[206] It was the custom in La Bruyèreʼs time, even among the upper
classes, to throw on the floor what was left on the plates or in the
glasses. See also the character of Menalcas, chapter xi., “Of Men,” §7.

[207] _Il est au-dessus de vouloir se soutenir_, literally, he is above
wishing to keep himself up. This expression seems to be peculiar to La

[208] No suggestion has ever been made as to what person is portrayed
as Troïlus; still it seems to have been intended by our author for one
of his contemporaries.

[209] A certain boasting Abbé de Vassé is meant, who refused the
bishopric of Mans, and died in 1716 at the age of sixty-five.

[210] The authorʼs note says, “A kind of people who pretend to be very
nice in their language.”

[211] _Proprement_, in the original, was in La Bruyèreʼs time generally
used for “elegantly,” “correctly.”

[212] Oaths were more commonly used by the upper classes in the
seventeenth century than they are now.

[213] Cléon is supposed to have been a certain financier Monnerot, who
died in prison rather than pay a fine of two million francs, to which
he had been condemned by a court of justice.

[214] This personage is said to stand for Constantin Heudebert du
Buisson, appointed _intendant des finances_ the same year (1690) the
seventh edition of the “Characters” was published. See also page 153,

[215] The _livre parisis_, probably meant here, was equal in value
to the _franc_, first coined in 1573, under Henri III. An income of
ten thousand francs in La Bruyèreʼs time would represent one of fifty
thousand francs now.

[216] The original has _congratuler_, now only used with a ridiculous
meaning attached to it.

[217] It is generally supposed Theodemus was a certain Abbé de Drubec,
who stopped short in the middle of a sermon preached before the court
of Louis XIV.; others imagine it was a hit at the Abbé Bertier, who
became bishop of Blois in 1697.

[218] In this paragraph, as well as in the preceding one, some
commentators imagine there is an allusion to the President Achille de
Harlay, so bitterly attacked by St. Simon in his _Mémoires_. See also
page 45, note 1.

[219] Our author says in a note, “Written in imitation of Montaigne.”

[220] The principal antiquated words in this imitation are _estriver_,
to strive, to quarrel; _se ramentevoir_, to call to mind, used by
Molière in the _Dépit amoureux_ (iii. 4); and _succéder_, to be
successful, which, of course, is at present in French _réussir_.

[221] According to all the “Keys,” this paragraph refers to a
separation of two old friends, Courtois and Saint-Romain, both
councillors of state; but they were still friends when the “Characters”
were published.

[222] Some persons, now totally unknown, have been supposed to
represent Cleantes: such as a certain M. Loyseau, _receveur général des
finances_ in Brittany; a M. de lʼEscalopier, _conseiller au parlement_,
and others.

[223] Such a contract was called _les nourritures_ in French legal

[224] G ... is supposed to stand for François Vedeau de Grammont,
_conseiller au parlement_, or for his father-in-law, Philippe Genoud de
Guiberville, and H ... for Charles Hervé, _doyen du parlement_; and the
quarrel arose about the right of fishing in a brook. Vedeau lost his
case, and was convicted of having falsified certain legal documents.
Only a few years before La Bruyèreʼs death he fired at different times
on a legal officer and some soldiers who were attempting to arrest him
in his house in Paris, killed one and wounded another, was finally
imprisoned, dismissed from his office, and banished from the kingdom.

[225] _Lʼoffrande, lʼencens et le pain benit_, in the original. In
small Roman Catholic towns there were formerly always quarrels about
the sum to be given to the vicar when kissing the “patena,” about the
carrying of the censer, and above all, whose turn it was to give a cake
to be consecrated by the officiating clergyman.

[226] A _bailli_ was a magistrate who judged certain cases, an _élu_
a sort of assessor of various taxes, and an _assesseur_ an assistant

[227] This is an allusion to the society of the Hotel de Rambouillet
and to the so-called _précieuses_.

[228] It is generally supposed that here Isaac de Benserade (1612-1691)
is meant, who was pre-eminently a court poet, and wrote a great deal of
namby-pamby poetry, now deservedly forgotten. His “Character” appeared
for the first time in the sixth edition of La Bruyèreʼs work, only a
few months before his death, when he was seventy-eight years old.

[229] Our author draws a distinction between gentlemen in town and
at court, though he mentions those in town first. The silly novels
he attacks were those of Gomberville (1600-1647), of La Calprenède
(1610-1663), and above all those of Mdlle. de Scudéri (1607-1701), one
of the _précieuses_ of the Hotel de Rambouillet, and author of the
_Grand Cyrus_ (1650), _Clélie_ (1665), and of many other works.

[230] It seems to have escaped all commentators of La Bruyère that in
his time it was the fashion for the ladies at court to call a spade a
spade with a vengeance, and to use very plain and realistic language,
whilst the “city ladies” were not quite so daring; moreover, some of
the streets, squares, etc., of Paris had very peculiar names, quite
unfit for the mouth of any modest woman.

[231] By “silly things,” our author means “plays on words” called in
his time _équivoques_ or _turlupinades_.

[232] Marcus Annæus Lucanus, a Latin poet, who died in the year 65, was
put to death for his share in Pisoʼs conspiracy, at the early age of

[233] Claudus Claudianus (365-408), a Latin poet.

[234] L. Annæus Seneca, a stoic philosopher, and tutor to Nero, was
also put to death in the year 65 by order of his former pupil.

[235] Hermagoras is, according to all commentators, Paul Perron, a
learned Benedictine, and author of _LʼAntiquité des temps rétablie_,
etc. The old English translations name, however, also Isaac Vossius
(1618-1688), an able Dutch philologist, and a well-known French
literary man, Urbain Chevreau (1613-1701).

[236] In 1687, when this paragraph was first published, there was no
longer an independent kingdom of Hungary, for three years before the
crown had been declared hereditary in the House of Austria, which had
ruled Bohemia as well since 1525.

[237] These wars, interrupted by the peace of Nymeguen (1678), were
going on whilst our author wrote.

[238] Henri IV. (1553-1610), or _Henri le Grand_, according to La
Bruyèreʼs own note, was not the son of the last of the Valois, Henri
III. (1551-1589), but after the latterʼs death became heir to the
French throne, because Henry IV.ʼs father, Antoine de Bourbon, was
descended from the Count de Clermont, the fifth son of Louis IX.

[239] Those names La Bruyère found in the _Histoire du Monde_ of
Chevreau (see page 124, note 5); and nearly all of them are so wrongly
spelt that it is almost hopeless to discover whom they meant.

[240] In the month of December of the same year this paragraph had been
published, Joseph I. (1678-1711), emperor of the Romans, was crowned
king of Hungary, in virtue of his hereditary right. See page 215, note

[241] Ninus was the husband of Semiramis, about 2182 B.C., and founded
with her Nineveh, of which empire she became queen; she abdicated after
a reign of forty-two years in favour of her son Ninyas. All these
persons seem, however, to have been mythological, and to have had no
foundation in history. The Semiramis of Herodotus lived 810-781 B.C.

[242] The passage in Josephus containing Manethosʼ tradition says,
“Mesphratuthmosis drove the Hyksos [or shepherd kings] as far as Avaris
[San in Egypt], and shut them up in it. His son Tuthmosis obliged them
to evacuate it.” Tuthmosis is really Aahmes, the founder of the 18th
dynasty, who drove the shepherd kings out of Egypt. Misphratuthmosis,
sometimes written Misphramuthosis, and Alisphragmuthosis, his relative
or ancestor, is meant by this name Alipharmutosis, but he has not been
recognised in Egyptian records.

[243] Sesostris is the Greek name of the conqueror Rameses II., the
third king of the 19th Egyptian dynasty.

[244] Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, succeeded his father
Xerxes I., 465 B.C., and died about 425 B. C.

[245] Cydias is Fontenelle (see page 11, note 1), who was only
thirty-seven years old when this paragraph was first printed in
the eighth edition of the “Characters,” in 1694, and who became La
Bruyèreʼs enemy ever since.

[246] Fontenelle had written for his uncle Thos. Corneille (1625-1709)
certain parts of two operas, _Psyché_ (1678) and _Bellérophon_ (1679);
for Beauval, in prose, an eulogy on Perrault (1688), and for a certain
Mdlle. Bernard, part of a tragedy of _Brutus_ (1691).

[247] Lucianus of Samosata, a satirist and a rhetorician (120-200 A.D.)

[248] The author adds “a philosopher and a tragic poet.” See page 124,
note 4.

[249] Plato, the well-known Greek philosopher (430-347 B.C.)

[250] Publius Virgilius Maro, the Roman epic and bucolic poet (70-19

[251] Theocritus, a Greek bucolic poet, who flourished about 272 B.C.
Fontenelle had written Dialogues of the dead, as Lucianus had done;
philosophical works and tragedies like Seneca, philosophical dialogues
in Platoʼs style, and pastoral poetry like Virgil and Theocritus.

[252] Perrault, La Motte (1672-1731), De Visé (1640-1710), and others.

[253] This friend is supposed to have been La Motte.

[254] The right of presentation to nearly all offices at court, or
official positions, was publicly bought and sold in Louis XIV.ʼs time.

[255] Commentators, who see allusions everywhere, suppose the “very
rich man” was Louvois, whose sons-in-law were the Dukes de la
Rocheguyon and de Villeneuve; or Colbert, who became the father-in-law
of the Dukes de Chevreuse, de Beauvilliers, and de Mortemart; or,
finally, Frémont, keeper of the royal treasury, who married his
daughter to the Duke de Lorges.

[256] This lady is said to have been Madame Fleurion dʼArmenonville,
daughter of a clothier, whose husband was keeper of the seals and
_directeur des finances_.

[257] Those men were the so-called “farmers of the revenue,” nearly all
of low birth, and who formerly had been in some trade or business. See
page 136, note 2, and page 137, § 15.

[258] Little, silly, ugly rich men were not more rare in our authorʼs
time than they are at present; but the commentators will have it that
the Marquis de Gouverney and the Duke de Ventadour were meant.

[259] M. de Saint-Pouange, a relative of the ministers Colbert, Le
Tellier, and Louvois, and the latterʼs principal secretary, is meant.

[260] Nearly all the great lords had Swiss doorkeepers. Petit-Jean,
in Racineʼs comedy _Les Plaideurs_, says also: “Il mʼavait fait venir
dʼAmiens pour être Suisse.”

[261] The “Keys” mention several people for Clitiphon, such as M. le
Camus, _lieutenant-civil_, or his brother the cardinal, or another
brother who was _maître des requêtes_.

[262] In the original there is a play on the word _rare_ which cannot
be rendered in English.

[263] This seems to refer to Platoʼs “Timæus” and his “Phædo.”

[264] Jupiter is the largest and Saturn the second largest planet of
our solar system. The celebrated Dutch natural philosopher Huyghens van
Zuylichem (1629-1695), who discovered the fourth satellite of Saturn
and proved the existence of its ring, lived in Paris from 1666 till
1681, and may have met La Bruyère.

[265] The original has _trivial_, from the Latin _trivialis_
and _trivium_, hence the meaning of exposed to the public gaze,

[266] By these initials are meant _partisans_, a name given to the
farmers-general of the revenue. Until 1726, these persons obtained
in France, for a fixed money payment, the right of collecting one or
more of the public taxes. This system was first inaugurated by Sully
(1560-1641), the able finance-minister of Henri IV., out of necessity,
in order to raise money; and was continued for more than two hundred
years, and the cause of many arbitrary measures and great oppression.
The number of these _fermiers-généraux_ was first forty and afterwards
sixty, but there were a goodly number of _sous-fermiers_ and many other
agents, who were all practically irresponsible. In 1726, a company
of capitalists undertook the collection of the greater part of the
kingʼs taxes, which was called the _fermes-générales_ or _unies_, and
lasted till the first French Revolution. The _ministre des finances_,
a name only first given in 1795, was, in the sixteenth and part of the
seventeenth century, called _surintendant des finances_, and from 1661
till 1791 _contrôleur-général des finances_.

[267] Sosia in Greek is generally used as the name of a servant or a
slave, and Molière gives that name to a servant in his _Amphitryon_; in
Latin a farmer of the public revenue was called _socius_, because he
was the associate of other similar farmers. It was not at all uncommon
in Louis XIV.ʼs time for footmen to rise to the rank of financiers, and
La Bazinière, de Gourville, and de Bourvalais, who were all three very
rich, as well as many others, might be quoted as examples of this. Two
_fermiers-généraux_, Révol and dʼApougny, became churchwardens.

[268] See page 43, note 2.

[269] The wives of a good many farmers of the revenue have been named
by various commentators and “Keys.”

[270] The _huitième denier_ was a tax imposed in 1672 during the war
with Holland on all purchasers of estates from the clergy.

[271] The “Keys” give several names of financiers, such as Aubert, who
at one time was worth more than three millions of francs, and who died
in a garret, Guénegaud, and Rémond. The _Chambre de Justice_, a name
given to certain committees which were appointed from time to time
to inquire into financial malversations and abuses condemned in 1661
the above-named three gentlemen to pay very heavy fines; hence their
comparative poverty.

[272] “Champagne” stands for Monnerot. (See page 110, note 2.) It was
not uncommon to give such names as _Poitevin_, _Lorrain_, _Basque_,
_Provençal_, etc., to footmen, after their supposed native provinces.

[273] Two still Champagne wines. Sparkling Champagne was not drunk till
the eighteenth century.

[274] All commentators agree that here the farmer-general George is
meant, who bought the Marquisate dʼEntragues and married a daughter of
the Marquis de Valençay.

[275] The _taille_ was a kingʼs tax levied every year only on the
people and the commoners.

[276] Who Dorus is has not been found out.

[277] The Appian Way, the oldest and best of all the Roman roads, leads
from the Porta Cappena at Rome to Capua.

[278] The Lictors at Rome, with the _fasces_, always walked before the
Consul or the Dictator.

[279] Some think that here a certain M. de Langlée, _maréchal des camps
et armées du roi_, was meant. Others think it was an uncle of the
minister Colbert, a M. Pussort, one of the kingʼs counsel of state; but
the first was unmarried and had a very wealthy father, and the second,
who was also unmarried, and a miser to boot, owed his influence wholly
to his position.

[280] The original has _pancartes_, which our author in a note states
were _billets dʼenterrement_.

[281] _Noble homme_ was a title which citizens of importance took
in all legal contracts, whilst men of less influence, tradesmen and
artisans, were styled _Honorable homme_, and _Messire_ was only
reserved for persons of rank.

[282] This youth was M. le Tellier, who became Archbishop of Rheims in
1671, when he was only twenty-nine years old, but who already, before
that time, received the revenues of six abbeys. (See also page 47, note

[283] Formerly _six vingts_, hundred and twenty—thus in the
original—was as commonly used as _quatre-vingt_.

[284] The first two editions contained a note of La Bruyère, to say
that by _médailles dʼor_ he meant _louis dʼor_. This he thought
no longer necessary in the other editions; he only wanted to draw
attention to the fact that the “youth” received his clerical dues in
golden coin, and not by a cheque on some _fermier-général_, who would
have taken a discount for cash payment.

[285] This paragraph seems to be a hit at the _fermier-général_
Langeois, whose daughter married the Marshal de Tourville,
and whose son was married to a niece of de Pontchartrain, the
_contrôleur-général_ of the finances.

[286] Although this remark seems to refer to the Baron de Beauvais,
_capitaine des chasses_, to whom the king had given the right of
selling the briars and brambles growing on the road to Versailles, the
portrait of Ergastus alludes to those men who were for ever advising
to tax articles not already imposed, and by whom France became finally

[287] Berrier, one of the secretaries of Colbert, is said to have been
the original of Crito.

[288] This is generally believed to refer to de Pontchartrain,
mentioned before, who, for some time, was very pious.

[289] See page 136, note 2.

[290] The old English translations of the “Characters” say this is an
allusion to M. Fouquet (1615-1680), _surintendant des finances_, who,
kept in prison by Louis XIV. for more than twenty years, had a great
many friends and partisans when in prosperity, but they nearly all
turned against him in his adversity.

[291] The desire to make oneʼs fortune was so great, that at that
time, even at court, it was customary to take money from forgers and
scoundrels; thus the Count de Grammont drew about fifty thousand
_livres_ from a peculator, and the wife of the son of the king of
France received as a present from Louis XIV. the estate of a prisoner
who had committed suicide in the Bastile, which was thought to be worth
a great deal of money. A similar custom existed also at the courts of
Charles II. and James II.; and William Penn was even accused of having
become an agent for the maids-of-honour of the court, and of obtaining
pardons for a pecuniary consideration, but it is now generally admitted
it was another Penn who acted thus.

[292] The “Keys” think that either Nicholas dʼOrville, the confidant of
Louis XIV. and Mdlle. de la Vallière, and royal treasurer at Orléans,
or Boucherat, _chancelier de France_, and a perfect noodle, according
to St. Simonʼs _Mémoires_, were alluded to as the “weak-minded men.”

[293] See page 43, note 2.

[294] A few of the “Keys” give Racine the poet as the original of
such a man, but this is very unlikely, for Racine was a friend of our
author, and, moreover, had acquired more glory than riches.

[295] Some commentators think that the Marquis de Seignelay, the eldest
son of Colbert, is meant here; for after his death, which took place
when he was only thirty-nine years old, he is said to have left five
millions _livres_ debts; others pretend he left a capital large enough
to yield a yearly income of four hundred thousand francs.

[296] Boileau, in his fifth _Epître_, says also: “Qui vit content de
rien possède toute chose.”

[297] Jean Fauconnet, _fermier-général des domaines de France_, became
also receiver-general of two other taxes, which was very unusual. Our
author speaks of “Fauconnets,” to indicate farmers of the revenues in
general, though there was only one Fauconnet. In La Bruyèreʼs time
the financiers seem to have despised men of letters; but later on,
during the Regency and the reign of Louis XV. and Louis XVI., it became
the fashion to invite literary men on every festive occasion, and to
lionise them—a custom not unknown, even at the present time, and in
other countries than France.

[298] Our author had René Descartesʼ (1596-1650) name printed in small
capitals, to remind his readers of the persecutions this philosopher
had suffered.

[299] _Au denier dix_ in the original.

[300] In former times French Governments often suppressed certain
monies or diminished their legal value, and a law to this effect had
been passed by Louis XIV. as late as 1679.

[301] Orontes is supposed to be a certain M. Neyret de la Ravoye,
who became later _trésorier-général de la marine_, and who married a
Mademoiselle Valière.

[302] _En bon français_ in the original; just as we say “in plain

[303] A certain Count de Marsan seems to have made his fortune by
marrying first one rich widow and then another.

[304] These different degrees of legal dignity were formerly in French
_praticien_, _officier_, _magistrat_, _président_.

[305] Without any proof whatever, the “Keys” pretend that a certain
_intendant des finances_, M. du Buisson, was meant.

[306] The miser is supposed to have been a M. Morstein, formerly chief
treasurer of Poland, who went to reside in Paris, where he died in
1693; two years later his only son was killed at the siege of Namur.

[307] Thus M. Langlée, a “man sprung from nothing,” as St. Simon calls
him, but a first-rate gambler, played for several years every day with
the king. See also page 139, note 6. Gourville (see page 137, note 1)
gambled with noblemen of the highest rank; and a certain Morin, after
having lost large sums of money, was obliged to fly to London, where
he managed the gambling table of the Duchess de Mazarin, and is often
mentioned by St. Evremond.

[308] Our author says in a footnote: “See the narratives about the
kingdom of Siam.” The _zombay_ seems to have been a very profound
inclination and prostration of the body. In “A New Historical Relation
of Siam by M. de Loubère, envoy extraordinary from the French king to
the king of Siam in the years 1687 and 1688, done out of French,” and
printed in London in 1693, we find “they (the Siamese) kept themselves
prostrated on their knees and elbows, with their hands joined at the
top of their forehead, and their body seated on their heels; to the end
that they may lean less on their elbows, and that it may be possible
(without assisting themselves with their hands, but keeping them still
joined to the top of their forehead) to raise themselves on their
knees, and fall again upon their elbows, as they do thrice together, as
often as they would speak to their king.”

[309] In the French parliaments or courts, councillors were allowed
to plead, and justice was administered in the kingʼs name; but these
parliaments had no legislative power, and had only to register the
royal edicts before they became law.

[310] A game of chance played with cards.

[311] Those who made their fortune by gambling were, according to the
“Keys,” Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau, who left behind him a very
valuable _Journal_ of the sayings and doings of the court of Louis
XIV., which has often been printed; but he did not owe his success in
life to gambling alone; and Morin, already mentioned, page 155, note 1.

[312] All the “Keys” give as the model of a perfect gambler a certain
Louis Robert, Seigneur de Fortille, who made his fortune as _intendant_
of different army-corps, and lost almost everything he possessed; but
as the passion for gambling was very common, and as the king was the
first to give the example of it, ruined gamblers were to be found in
plenty. Cheating at play was also not rare.

[313] Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, after the death of her husband
Odenathus, waged war for five years against the Romans, and was
vanquished by Aurelian in the year 273.

[314] _Ouvrier_, in the original, is sometimes used by our author for

[315] Phidias (490-432 B.C.) was a Greek sculptor of renown; Zeuxis
(424-400 B.C.), a Greek painter, who is said to have painted grapes so
well that some birds came and pecked at them.

[316] The “herdsman” alluded to in the above paragraph seems to have
been the financier La Touanne, _trésorier de lʼextraordinaire des
guerres_. He had a mansion near the park of Saint Maur, part of an
estate formerly belonging to Catherine de Medici (Zenobia), on which
he spent enormous sums, whilst the other part belonged to the Prince
de Condé, who in vain tried to induce the parvenu to sell him his
property. Hence the attack of our author on the man who dared to oppose
the wishes of his noble patron. However, when this paragraph appeared,
La Touanne did not yet live at Saint Maur.

[317] According to the commentators, this refers to Jacques Bordier,
_intendant des finances_, who, after having spent more than a million
on his estate at Raincy, was obliged to leave it; but his creditors did
not expel him, for it was sold by his heirs after his death.

[318] The Marquis de Seignelay is supposed by some to have been the
original of Eumolpus; he did not, however, enjoy a long life. (See page
149, note ?)

[319] _Libertin_, in the original, which first meant a man of
free-and-easy manners, came to be chiefly used in the second half of
the seventeenth century for a “freethinker.”

[320] _Superstitieux_ sometimes had the above meaning; Littré gives two
examples of it in his dictionary.

[321] Giton and Phædo do not apply to any one in particular, though
some commentators maintain that by the first the Marquis de Barbézieux,
the son of Louvois, was meant.

[322] Now we speak of town and country, but in La Bruyèreʼs time people
mentioned the town or city and the court, wholly different in customs
and manners. Boileau begins his _Satires_ with the two following lines—

    “Damon, ce grand auteur dont la muse fertile,
    Amusa si long-temps et la cour et la ville.”

Our author places his chapter “Of the Town” before that “Of the Court”
and “Of the Great,” and leads up to that “Of the Sovereign.”

[323] Le Cours la Reine, familiarly called Le Cours, was a part of the
Champs-Elysées, planted with trees by order of Maria de Medici, the
wife of Henri IV.; hence the name. The theatre finished then at seven
oʼclock, when it was not too late to take a walk in summer-time. See
also Molièreʼs _Les Fâcheux_, act i. scene 1.

[324] The favourite and fashionable walk, during the latter part of the
seventeenth century, was from Paris to Vincennes.

[325] That bank is now the quays Saint-Bernard and Austerlitz.

[326] Bourdaloue (1632-1704), a celebrated preacher, censures a similar
behaviour in his sermon on _Les Divertissements du Monde_.

[327] To the _grande robe_ belonged all magistrates; to the _petite
robe_ all _avoués_ and _procureurs_, somewhat like attorneys and
solicitors; the _avocats_ or barristers were between the two, and the
court of justice or _parlement_ above them all.

[328] The _avocats_ were generally not considered to belong to the
_grande robe_, and La Bruyère was one of them; the latter part of the
paragraph is a direct attack on the sale of legal offices.

[329] This applies, according to the “Keys,” to a certain M. de la
Briffe, a _maître des requêtes_, or to M. de Saint-Pouange. (See page
134, note 3.)

[330] Two celebrated barristers of La Bruyèreʼs time.

[331] J. H. de Mesmes, who became _président à mortier_ in 1688, when
he was only twenty-seven years old, is said to have been a constant
companion of profligate young noblemen. A _mortier_ was a round velvet
cap, worn by the Chancellor and Presidents of parliaments.

[332] See page 165, note 1.

[333] The original has _et qui a consigné_, a meaning which we have
still in the English word “consignment.” The explanation of this word
is given by the author himself.

[334] An allusion to the three fleurs de lis of the Bourbons.

[335] _Litre_, in the original, is a kind of mourning hangings, or,
rather, a broad velvet band on which the coats of arms of certain
nobles were painted, and which was placed around the church, inside
as well as outside. The right of using the _litre_ belonged only to
noblemen who had founded a church, or to those who had exercised a
certain jurisdiction in their domains.

[336] The commentators hint at several magistrates as the originals of
the Crispins, and imagine that the Sannions were the family of Leclerc
de Lesseville, the descendants of rich tanners, who became ennobled for
having lent 20,000 crowns to Henry IV. after the battle of Ivry.

[337] This “other man” was a certain President de Coigneux, who
neglected his legal duties to spend all his time in sport.

[338] _Laisse-courre_ in French; formerly _courre_ was used instead of
_courir_, as a sporting term.

[339] A. M. Jérôme de Nouveau, the head of the post-office, is said to
have asked his head huntsman a similar question.

[340] Hippolytus, son of Theseus, king of Athens, “a youth who never
knew a woman,” thrown from his chariot and killed, is the hero of
Racineʼs tragedy _Phèdre_.

[341] The Ile meant nearly always the Ile Saint-Louis; the Quartier du
Temple, formerly the _Marais_, is even sometimes now called by that

[342] The commentators have given the names of several obscure people
for those “infatuated men,” and for André as well; but it is surely not
a rare thing for men to ruin themselves through vanity.

[343] The Abbé de Villars, who died in 1691, was a son of the Marquis
de Villars, French ambassador to the Court of Spain, and is said to
have been the original of Narcissus.

[344] The Convent of the Feuillants, a branch of the Cistercian monks,
was in the Rue Saint-Honoré; that of the Minims, an order founded by
St. Francis of Paula in 1453, was near the Place Royale.

[345] Ombre, a Spanish game of cards, often mentioned by English
authors of the eighteenth century; Pope has a poetical description of
it in his “Rape of the Lock.” Reversis is another game of cards, played
by four persons, and in which those who make the fewest tricks win the

[346] A golden pistole was usually worth eleven _livres_.

[347] The _Gazette de Hollande_ was a newspaper published in Holland,
and in which everything was put that could not be printed or said in
France. For the _Mercure Galant_, see page 24, note 2.

[348] Cyrano de Bergerac (1620-1655) was the author of the _Histoires
Comiques des Etats et Empires de la Lune, etc._, of a tragedy,
_Agrippine_, and of a comedy, _Le Pédant Joué_, from which Molière
borrowed two scenes.

[349] Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin (1596-1676), an author of various
plays, novels, and poems, and one of the first in France to attack the
authority of the ancients.

[350] Louis de Lesclache (1620-1661), a grammarian and a writer on

[351] Barbin, a well-known publisher at the time our author wrote.

[352] The Plaine was probably the Plaine des Sablons; for the Cours,
see page 164, note 2.

[353] The “Keys” are unanimous in saying that the Prince of
Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who had married a sister of the Maréchal de
Luxembourg, and who died at the Hague in 1692, is meant by “this man.”

[354] This was the boulevard of the Porte Saint-Antoine, sometimes
called the Nouveau Cours, on the road to Vincennes.

[355] A large garden in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine was called thus,
after a financier of the same name who had laid it out.

[356] A sort of mock tilting-match on horseback.

[357] The alliance between France and Switzerland was always solemnly
sworn, and this was done for the last time in 1663 in Notre-Dame.

[358] Every year under Louis XIV.ʼs reign there were published large
engravings, in which the king, the princes, and the principal persons
of the court were represented, whilst lower down the citizens, the
people, etc., were looking on, and the real almanack was pasted quite
at the bottom.

[359] Saint Hubert was the patron saint of the chase, and on the 5th
of November, when his festival was held, the king and the greatest
personages of the court hunted at Versailles.

[360] Two small places near Versailles where often soldiers encamped
and reviews were held.

[361] Bernardi was the director of a celebrated gymnasium at that time,
and every year his pupils attacked and defended an artificial fort,
erected by his orders.

[362] The Marquis de Chamlay was a noted tactician; Jacquier had been
the head of the commissariate, and died in 1684; and Berbier du Metz,
lieutenant-general of the artillery, was killed at the battle of
Fleuras in 1690.

[363] Beaumavielle, a celebrated basso-singer at the opera, died about

[364] Marthe de Rochois sang at the opera from 1678 till 1697.

[365] The _Annales Galantes_ were published in 1670, and written by
Madame de Villedieu; no _Journal Amoureux_ ever saw the light.

[366] _Roland_, an opera by Quinault (see page 28, note 2) and Lulli
(see page 25, note 1, and page 46, note), was represented for the
first time at Versailles in the beginning of 1685, and Mademoiselle de
Rochois played the part of Angelica in it.

[367] See page 65, note 1.

[368] M. de Terrat, the _chancelier_ of Monsieur, the brother of Louis
XIV., is hinted at here, probably merely on account of his name.

[369] _Le mortier_, in the original. See page 168, note 3.

[370] La Bruyère employs _le vide de la consignation_. See page 169,
note 2.

[371] _Pécunieux_ our author uses in its Latin meaning.

[372] Gilt nails were the principal ornaments of the heavy and unwieldy
coaches of the age of Louis XIV.

[373] Some unprincipled suitors borrowed costly jewels which they put
in the _trousseau_ of their brides, but which had to be returned after
the marriage.

[374] Gaultier was the proprietor of a well-known warehouse for the
sale of silks and gold and silver-embroidered stuffs in the Rue des
Bourdonnais, in Paris, during the latter part of the seventeenth

[375] According to an immemorial custom in Paris, a young wife showily
dressed had to sit up on her bed during the first three days after
marriage to receive visits. Several memoirs and letters of the time
refer to it. Addison in “The Spectator,” No. 45, speaks also of the
“English ladies ... brought up the fashion of receiving visits in their

[376] People were then (1688-1694) in the habit of dining at twelve
oʼclock, and of taking supper at seven or eight; hence the reference to
the “five hours.”

[377] We do not know if this refers to Swiss porters or Swiss guards;
I should think it meant the former, and intends to point out that the
lady made three calls. (See also page 134, note 4.)

[378] This paragraph alludes, of course, to the visits ladies pay one

[379] _Sou pour livre_, or a penny in the pound, in the original, was a
tax on merchandise of a twentieth part of their value.

[380] Wax-candles were a luxury at the time La Bruyère wrote, and
chiefly manufactured at Bougiah, on the coast of Africa; hence their
name, _bougie_.

[381] In every parliament there were originally two courts, and
two kinds of barristers or _conseillers_; one court was called the
_grandʼchambre_, where the cases were heard; in the other court, the
_chambre des enquêtes_, reports in writing were made of all cases.

[382] The nobleman or lady of high rank to whom the education of
the children of royalty was intrusted in France bore the title of
_gouverneur_, or _gouvernante des enfants de France_.

[383] Voltaire attacked this paragraph, and maintained it was
ridiculous to praise our forefathers for being calculating, slow,
coarse, and not very cleanly. Moreover, money should not be stowed
away in coffers, but circulate. One of the latest commentators of La
Bruyère, M. Destailleur, observes rightly that our author only praises
economy, simplicity, and moderation, and not avarice and uncleanliness,
and that he merely attacks the pretended showiness of men wishing to
imitate people of high rank; hence the last sentence.

[384] Not alone La Bruyère, but many of the most eminent persons of his
time, such as Saint-Simon, Bourdaloue, Fénelon, Massillon, Madame de
Maintenon, the Duke of Orléans and his mother, had the same opinion of
the court and courtiers.

[385] It was only in the sixth edition of the “Characters” that our
author printed Versailles in full; until then it was only “V ...”

[386] The French has _fourriers_, _petits contrôleurs_, and _chefs
de fruiterie_. The first looked after the lodgings of the persons
following the court when the king was travelling; the second
superintended the expenses of the kingʼs table and household; and the
third set out the dessert and provided the wax-candles for the kingʼs
dining-room. A _fourrier_ is still a non-commissioned officer in the
French army who has charge of the quarters and provisions of the men.

[387] _Faire son capital_, in the original, a phrase much in vogue
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

[388] This paragraph is said to apply to a certain M. de Barète,
unknown to fame, or to the brother of Madame de Maintenon. (See page
65, note 4.)

[389] It was not considered etiquette to knock or to rap at the door of
the kingʼs chamber, or at the door of any noblemanʼs room; but a person
asking to be admitted simply scratched the door with his nails, whilst
the fashionables used their combs, which they always carried about with
them to comb their long wigs. Only the princes, the grand officers
of the crown, and some favourite nobles were admitted to the grand
levée of Louis XIV., then officers of an inferior rank and a certain
number of courtiers were allowed to enter the room; the crowd were not
admitted, but had to wait till the king left the room, and then stood

[390] This is said to be an allusion to a certain Italian quack,
Caretto or Caretti, then the fashion, who is mentioned by Saint-Simon
in his _Mémoires_ and by Madame de Sévigné in her _Letters_.

[391] By the Castle is meant Versailles.

[392] This seems a more correct portrait of M. de Langlée than the
one to be found in the chapter “Of the Gifts of Fortune,” § 21 (see
also page 139, note 6). Saint-Simon, in his _Mémoires_, often mentions
him and his mother, who was the queenʼs chamber-maid, and through her
influence at court got him introduced amongst the highest of the land.
He also speaks of de Langléeʼs successes at play, his intimacy with the
king, and the kingʼs mistresses, favourites, and family, his want of
intelligence, and his great tact, except in continually using obscene
words, and finally his being an _arbiter elegantiarum_. Madame de
Sévigné also refers to him and his familiarity.

[393] See p. 135, note 4.

[394] Some commentators think this refers to the Duke de Bouillon,
because his name means also “beef-tea,” and because he wished to add
to his family name, La Tour, that of dʼAuvergne, but the name was
illustrious. A modern commentator, M. Hémardinquer, rightly thinks it
might apply to the ministers of Louis XIV., who all were descended from
citizens, and took for their titles Marquis de Louvois, de Seignelay,
de Barbézieux, Count de Maurepas, de Maillebois, etc., all of which
titles might be considered “not pretty” as names.

[395] This points to M. de Clermont-Tonnerre, bishop of Noyon, who
always boasted of his lineage, and thought himself a wit because he had
been elected a member of the French Academy by the desire of the king.

[396] By the princes of Lorraine are probably meant the Guises,
whose family name was de Lorraine; they were, however, princes de
Joinville. The Rohans were one of the oldest families in Brittany;
the Châtillons, of whom the Admiral de Coligny was one, were related
to the Montmorencys, who date from the tenth century, and had been
chiefly rendered famous in history by the _connétable_ de Montmorency
(1492-1567), the rival of the Duke de Guise.

[397] The _Oriflamme_ was the banner of the Abbey of Saint-Denis, and
only brought out by order of the king the moment the battle began.

[398] _Demoiselle_ was originally the appellation given to any married
or unmarried lady of noble birth, but in La Bruyèreʼs time it was
generally applied to ladies of plebeian origin. In several legal
contracts our authorʼs mother is called _demoiselle veuve_.

[399] There was no public lottery in France before the year 1700,
but the king often had one drawn, and not seldom gave permission to
hospitals and other public institutions also to have them drawn.

[400] The king usually allowed the holders of certain offices to
appoint their successors, or to hold such posts conjointly. But they
had to pay heavily for such _survivances_, as they were called, to the
royal tax-gatherers and to the original holders. (See also page 130,

[401] The original has _tout lʼappartement_. The rooms where the
courtiers danced attendance at Versailles were called thus.

[402] Some commentators imagine this refers to the Marshal de
Luxembourg, who in 1675 was appointed to succeed the Prince de Condé
as commander-in-chief of the army—an appointment which gave general
satisfaction—and four years later fell into disgrace and was exiled.
The hero who “appears deformed when compared to his portraits,” seems
also to refer to the Marshal, who was humpbacked. However, many other
and earlier authors have made similar remarks about favourites of
fortune fallen from their high estate.

[403] There were three persons named Rousseau, well known to the
courtiers: an innkeeper near the Porte Saint-Denis, the doorkeeper of
the Kingʼs chamber, and the fencing-master of the young royal princes.
Fabry was a man who was “burned at the stake for his infamous vices
about twenty years ago,” says La Bruyère; and La Couture, the tailor of
the Dauphine, had become insane, and was always about the court.

[404] See page 43, note 2.

[405] The “Keys” pretend that Artemon is the Marquis de Vardes, who,
after having been in exile for twenty years, intrigued to be appointed
governor of the youthful Duke of Burgundy, and died in 1688, before he
was successful; about a year afterwards the Duke de Beauvilliers was
appointed to the vacant post.

[406] An allusion to the Duke de Beauvilliers, mentioned in the
preceding note.

[407] The French Academy, composed of forty members, was established on
the 2d of January 1635, and still exists.

[408] It is said that the Minister of State Abel Servien (1598-1639)
refused politely, and that Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) did not know
how to give.

[409] P. Corneille, in his comedy _Le Menteur_ (act i. scene 1), says

    “Tel donne à pleines mains qui nʼoblige personne:
    La façon de donner vaut mieux que ce quʼon donne.”

[410] Saint-Simon adopts the word _amphibie_ from our author, and
names, among others, a certain M. Saint-Romain, who was ambassador
at the court of Portugal, and enjoyed the income of two abbeys. Some
commentators think this paragraph refers to M. de Villeroy, who was
archbishop as well as governor of Lyons, and died in 1693; whilst
others suppose it alludes to the Chevalier de Hautefeuille, _grand
prieur dʼAquitaine_, and lieutenant-general to boot.

[411] Menophilus is said to be either Father la Chaise (1624-1709), the
Jesuit confessor of Louis XIV., or the celebrated Capuchin monk Joseph
(1577-1638), the confidant of Cardinal Richelieu. Most likely the
portrait was intended for neither.

[412] When our author wrote, it was the fashion for gentlemen and
ladies of the best society to be present at public executions. Even
Madame de Sévigné went with some ladies of the court to see the
poisoners the Marchioness de Brinvilliers and la Voisin executed (1670
and 1680).

[413] This “happy” individual seems to have been a certain M.
Boucherat, who after his nomination as _chancelier de France_ became
very arrogant.

[414] Some commentators appear to think this refers to M. de
Pontchartrain (see page 143, note 3), who had been Secretary of State
for more than a year when this paragraph first appeared in 1691; but
this Minister was a friend and patron of our author.

[415] There were two kinds of _abbés_. The _abbé régulier_, who was
always a priest, wore the habit of his order, not seldom was a high
dignitary of the Church, and the _abbé commendataire_, who was a
layman, and only enjoyed the revenues of the abbey; in time many a
layman, who had no revenues whatever, either from an abbey or from any
other source, adopted the semi-clerical dress of an _abbé_ and called
himself so.

[416] A bishop wore a golden cross on his breast; cardinals wear purple

[417] Louis XIV. used on festive occasions to bestow various gifts on
his courtiers, as well as abbeys and ecclesiastical appointments on
clerical dignitaries.

[418] The “Keys” give the names of several well-known financiers as
those “knaves.”

[419] In the original _homme de bien_. (See page 43, note 2.)

[420] Our author imitates some old French writer, or at least
employs antiquated words, of which the only one worthy of notice is
_saffranier_, stained with saffron, because the houses of bankrupt
traders were formerly stained yellow; hence _saffranier_ meant “a

[421] Another allusion to the disgrace of the Duke de Luxembourg. (See
page 195, note 2), which happened from 1679 to 1681.

[422] This new Minister was, according to some, M. Claude le Peletier
(see page 54, note 1), appointed _contrôleur-général des finances_
in 1683, and with whom the Duke de Villeroy, afterwards defeated by
Marlborough at Ramillies, 1706, claimed relationship, though without
any foundation. It seems more likely to have referred to M. de
Pontchartrain. (See page 201, note 2.)

[423] Plancus is the Minister for War, Louvois, who died suddenly in
1691, about a year before this paragraph appeared: Tibur stands for
Meudon, near Paris. In the ancient Tibur, a town of Latium to the
east of Rome, and now called Tivoli, the Latin poet Horace had his
country-seat; Plancus, the Consul, was one of his friends.

[424] This is a reference to Psalm cxxxv. 16, 17.

[425] In French _certaines livrées_, certain liveries. Can this be
an allusion to the _justaucorps à brevet_, or coats only worn by the
Kingʼs permission?

[426] The commentators suppose that a certain Abbé de Choisy
(1644-1724) is meant, who passed a great part of his life dressed as a

[427] See page 121, note.

[428] The original has _tout ce qui paraît de nouveau avec les livrées
de la faveur_. See also page 205, note 2.

[429] The Italian astronomer T. D. Cassini (1625-1712) was the head of
the Parisian _Observatoire_ for astronomical studies.

[430] A parhelion is a mock sun or meteor near the sun, sometimes
tinged with colours; a parallax is the difference between its position
as seen from some point on the earthʼs surface and its position as seen
from some other conventional point.

[431] This is a hit at the courtiers, who all simulated piety after the
king had married Madame de Maintenon and revoked the edict of Nantes in
1685, and when he was wholly governed by the Jesuits. This paragraph
first appeared in the seventh edition of the “Characters” in 1692.

[432] _Cheminer_, in the original; a word much employed by the
courtiers of Louis XIV.

[433] This country is, of course, the court.

[434] By Harlequinʼs comedies the Italian stage is meant.

[435] See page 174, note 1.

[436] All the “Keys” say this is an allusion to the Cardinal de
Bouillon; but the “Keys” are wrong, for his disgrace did not end until
1690, when this paragraph had already been two years published.

[437] Xantippus is supposed to be M. de Bontemps, the son of one of the
_premiers valets de chambre_ of the king; but this supposition seems
not correct, for he was brought up at court, and was never what can be
called “a favourite.”

[438] See page 186, note 3.

[439] See also page 213, § 75.

[440] The court, Versailles, and the mass which Louis XIV. attended
daily in the royal chapel are alluded to in the above paragraph. The
Iroquois and the Hurons, both tribes of North American Indians, were,
at the time La Bruyère wrote, considered as typical savages, and are
often mentioned in the literature of the period.

[441] De Bussy-Rabutin, Madame de Sévigné, the Marshal de Villeroy, and
the Duke de Richelieu, all describe in their writings the misery they
felt on not seeing the king.

[442] This seems to be an ironical allusion to the idolatrous worship
the courtiers felt, or at least pretended to feel, for Louis XIV., whom
they considered “the image of the Divinity on earth.”

[443] Pascal expresses a similar thought in his _Pensées_, vi. 19, and
so do other authors. The commentators mention as known court-wits the
Count de Grammont, the Duke de Roquelaure, the Duke de Lauzun, the
Count de Bussy-Rabutin, and others.

[444] M. de Bontemps and the Marquis de Dangeau, both of whom we have
already mentioned (see page 210, note 2, and page 156, note 2), seem to
be meant.

[445] The commentators give the names of several personages, all
already mentioned before, such as the Count dʼAubigné, the Chancellor
Boucherat, the Archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier, and others.

[446] All the “Keys” say that M. de Pomponne (1618-1699) is meant
by Aristides; but he was still in disgrace when this paragraph was
published (1689), and remained so for two years longer.

[447] Straton is undoubtedly the Duke de Lauzun, and his
brother-in-law, the Duke de Saint-Simon, admits it. Lauzun had been
a great favourite of the king, and had nearly married Louis XIV.ʼs
cousin, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, but he was disgraced, imprisoned
for ten years, partly reinstated in the kingʼs favour, banished again
from the court, and finally sent with an army of French auxiliaries to
assist James II. in Ireland, where he was present at the battle of the
Boyne. The Duke died in 1723, at the age of ninety.

[448] The first and last paragraphs of this chapter are an epitome of
the whole.

[449] Nearly all commentators suppose that Theagenes is Phillippe de
Vendôme (1655-1727), _grand prieur de Malte_, a grandson of Henry IV.
and Gabrielle dʼEstrées, and one of the most profligate men of his age;
but it is more likely that La Bruyère wished to reprove his former
pupil, the Duke de Bourbon, who at the time this paragraph appeared
(1691) was but twenty-three years old, and addicted to very bad company.

[450] This seems to be an allusion to Louis XIV., who never felt the
loss of any of his ministers or officers. The latter part of the above
paragraph probably refers to the successors of Turenne, Condé, and
Colbert, who had all been dead some time before the year 1689, when it
first appeared.

[451] If the Abbé de Choisy (see page 205, note 3) ever told La Bruyère
how he was brought up, as he mentions in his _Mémoires_, there can be
no doubt he was the original of Lucilius.

[452] In the original, _il se fait de fête_; an expression also used by
other authors in La Bruyèreʼs time.

[453] Theophilus is generally believed to have been the Abbé Roquette
(1623-1707), Bishop of Autun, the supposed prototype of Molièreʼs
_Tartuffe_, and, according to Saint-Simon, “a man all sugar and honey,
and mixed up in every intrigue.” The “great man ... scarcely set foot
on shore” was James II. of England, who came to France in 1689, two
years before the above paragraph was published. The Abbé Roquetteʼs
character seems not so black as it has been painted, at least according
to M. J. Henri Pignotʼs Life of him, published in 1876.

[454] Compare in the chapter “Of Personal Merit,” § 33.

[455] Telephon, an odd name now, is said to be a portrait of François
dʼAubusson (1625-1691), Count de la Feuillade, Duke de Rouanez, and
Marshal of France, who at his cost erected a bronze monument to the
glory of Louis XIV. on the Place des Victoires in Paris, where it still

[456] Davus is a certain Prudhomme, a proprietor of bath-and
wash-houses, with whom M. de la Feuillade lodged before he became a
favourite, in whom he had always the greatest confidence, and whose
daughter he is supposed to have married after the death of his first

[457] It is even now usual for strict Roman Catholics abroad to
celebrate the day of the saint after which they are named, instead of
the day on which they are born.

[458] Rinaldo is the Achilles of the Christian army in Tassoʼs
“Jerusalem Delivered,” and the rival of Orlando in Ariostoʼs “Orlando
Furioso;” the second is the true hero of the latter poem, the third the
friend and companion of Orlando, and the fourth the greatest of the
Christian warriors except Rinaldo, in Tassoʼs poem, already mentioned.

[459] Among the great there were such names as Tancrède de Rohan,
Hercule de Fleury, Achille de Harlay, Phébus de Foix, Cyrus de Brion,
etc.; even citizens took grand classical or romantic names.

[460] The original has _côteaux_, most probably because some noblemen
only drank certain wines which grew on some hill-slopes, called
_côteaux_ in French.

[461] Thais, an Athenian courtesan, mentioned in Drydenʼs “Alexanderʼs
Feast;” Phryne was another Athenian courtesan, said to have been
Apellesʼ model.

[462] Philipsburg, an ancient fortified town of the Grand Duchy of
Baden, had been taken by the Dauphin in 1688, after a monthʼs siege.

[463] Among the citizens who had “become powerful” may be reckoned J.
B. Colbert (see page 132, note), whose three daughters married dukes,
and whose son married a relative of the Bourbon family.

[464] La Bruyère had, no doubt, experienced this when at the Duke de

[465] The original has _mal content_, for, during the seventeenth
century, _mal_ was more generally placed before an adjective than now;
at present _mécontent_ would be used, which, when La Bruyère wrote, had
often the meaning of “a rebel.”

[466] Gaston dʼOrléans (1608-1660), the brother of Louis XIII., and
even the Prince de Condé were examples of such “great.”

[467] The original has _vertu_, in the sense of the Latin _virtus_,

[468] Thersites, according to the _Iliad_, was squinting, humpbacked,
loquacious, loud, coarse, and scurrilous, but he was not a “common
soldier,” but a chief. Achilles was the hero of the allied Greek army
besieging Troy.

[469] Le Brun (1616-1690), a celebrated painter, was still alive when
this paragraph appeared. For Lulli and Racine, see page 46, note, and
page 11, note 3. Compare also page 226, § 19.

[470] Achille de Harlay (1639-1712), President of the Parliament of
Paris, and descended from an illustrious line of magistrates, is said
to have feigned an excess of modesty which was not natural to him. See
also page 45, note 1.

[471] This beginning of every English town-crierʼs oration, pronounced
“Oh yes! Oh yes!” is merely the imperative of the defective French
verb, _ouir_, “to hear,” now seldom used, except in the present
infinitive and in proverbial phrases.

[472] Aristarchus also refers to the above President, whose liberality,
according to public rumour, was somewhat ostentatious.

[473] Another allusion to M. de Harley, whose “wise saws and modern
sayings” were proverbial.

[474] A _cabinet_ was a sort of social circle in Paris, where people
generally met to exchange small talk and to hear the news or lectures
on all subjects.

[475] See page 19, note 3.

[476] M. de Harlay (1625-1695), Archbishop of Paris, is said to have
been the original of Theognis. (See page 46, § 26.) He was the nephew
of the President mentioned on the previous page, note 1.

[477] Pamphilus is the Marquis de Dangeau, of whom we have already
spoken (see page 156, note 2), and who made himself ridiculous by his
excessive vanity. Saint-Simon, in his _Mémoires_, calls the Marquis _un
Pamphile_, but our author speaks of _les Pamphiles_, and describes them
at three different times, namely, in 1681, 1691, and 1692.

[478] See page 47, note 3. When this paragraph appeared, the Marquis de
Dangeau had been already three years a Knight of the Order of the Holy
Ghost. The knights of this order wore a cross hanging from a broad blue
ribbon, which were both depicted around their escutcheon.

[479] See page 70, note 1.

[480] Such an official was in our authorʼs time called _le premier

[481] The original has _il vous coupe_, “he will cut you,” an
expression also used by Saint-Simon and Madame de Sévigné; the English
phrase “to cut a person,” in the sense of passing by him without
pretending to see him, seems almost to have the same primary meaning.

[482] Two celebrated actors of the seventeenth century; Floridor, whose
real name was Josias Soulas de Frinefosse, died in 1672, and Mondori in

[483] See page 240, note 3.

[484] This minister is said to have been Louvois (see page 204, note
2), who liked to have many postulants about him.

[485] See page 164, note 1.

[486] The Rue Saint-Denis was a street in Paris crowded with small
tradesmen, and still exists. Our author was nearly always afraid of
clearly mentioning Versailles or Fontainebleau, and very often employed
only the initial letters and asterisks or dots.

[487] The original _république_, which was inserted for the first time
in the fourth edition of the “Characters,” is used in the sense of the
Latin _respublica_.

[488] During the reign of Louis XIV., the signboards, which were often
very large, swung above the heads of the passers-by, and the police
tried in vain to reduce their dimensions or to have them fixed against
the walls. Sometimes the government interfered in the municipal or
provincial elections without any opposition, and sometimes a diminution
of town councillors, or a promulgation of a stamp act for legal
documents, was violently resisted, and the rebellion had to be quenched
by an armed force, as, for example, in Guienne and Brittany from 1673
till 1675.

[489] Taxes are meant here.

[490] Adolphe de Belleforière, Chevalier de Soyecourt, a captain of the
gendarmes of the Dauphin, died two days after the battle of Fleurus
(July 1, 1690), of wounds received in this battle, in which his elder
brother, the Marquis de Soyecourt, was also killed. Both those young
men were the sons of Maximilien Antoine, Marquis de Soyecourt, _grand
veneur_, who died in 1679, and was the original of Dorante in Molièreʼs
comedy _Les Fâcheux_. The name of the Marquis is often mentioned in the
lampoons of the times for his reputation of valour in other fields than
those of Mars. La Bruyère was a friend of the family, whose name was
always pronounced Saucourt, and even sometimes written so.

[491] Dijon, the former capital of Burgundy, had been besieged in 1515
by thirty thousand men, who retired after the conclusion of a treaty
of peace which the king, Francis I., did not ratify. Corbie, a town
in Picardy, was taken when Burgundy and Picardy were invaded by the
Imperials in 1636.

[492] This refers to the League of Augsburg, a coalition of England,
Germany, Spain, Holland, Sweden, and Savoy against Louis XIV., with
whom they were at war when this paragraph was published in 1691.

[493] Olivier le Daim, first the barber of Louis XI. (1423-1483),
became his favourite, but was hanged in 1484, after that kingʼs death.
Jacques Cœur, a rich merchant, rendered great services to Charles
VII. (1403-1461), became his treasurer, and was accused of peculation;
thrown into prison, he escaped, and died in exile in 1461. The
characters of both these men were not very well known when La Bruyère

[494] The Imperial cavalry had a well-deserved reputation for cruelty
and rapaciousness.

[495] Another allusion to the battle of Fleurus, won by the Marshal de
Luxembourg about a year before this paragraph was published (1691).

[496] This refers to Mons, besieged by Vauban, and taken on the 9th of
April 1691.

[497] In the month of July 1690, a rumour spread in Paris that William
III. was dead, upon which many people publicly rejoiced, until the news
came that the report was false. The “Keys” of the old English versions
name for the first and second prince “the Duke of Savoy and the king of

[498] The original has _halles et fauxbourgs_, “markets and suburbs.”

[499] The letters T. K. L. stand for Tækely, a Hungarian nobleman who
broke out in open rebellion against the Emperor of Austria, Leopold I.
(1640-1705), and gained a victory over the Imperial troops on the 21st
of August 1690.

[500] At that time the Sultan was Soliman II., who only reigned from
1687 until 1691.

[501] The Grand Vizier Kara-Mustapha laid siege to Vienna in 1683.

[502] A league formed in the Hague against France was called “The
Triple Alliance,” and was entered upon in 1668 between England,
Holland, and Sweden. Sometimes the treaty formed in 1717 between George
I., the Regent of France, and the United Provinces is also called
“Triple Alliance.”

[503] Cerberus, a dog with three heads, which keeps guard in the
infernal regions.

[504] According to the commentators, two insignificant newsmongers
are supposed to be portrayed in Demophilus and Basilides, an Abbé de
Sainte-Hélène and a certain du Moulinet, whom some think might have
been an abbé or a magistrate, because instead of clothes he speaks of
his _robe_ or gown.

[505] Proteus, in the mythology, is a sea-god residing in the
Carpathian Sea, who could change his form at will.

[506] This paragraph is the longest La Bruyère has written; it covers
between eight and nine pages in the original edition.

[507] An indirect homage to the assumed gravity of Louis XIV.

[508] Most probably this is a discreet allusion to Madame de Maintenon,
whom the king had married in 1684, and in whose room generally a
Council of State was held.

[509] _Bas de saye_, in the original, is a plaited petticoat worn in
Louis XIV.ʼs time by actors in classical tragedies; it owes its name to
the Latin _sagum_, a military cloak of the ancient Gauls. _Brodequins_
was the name given to the buskins of comic actors; the tragic actors
strutted in their _cothurnes_.

[510] This paragraph only appeared for the first time in the fourth
edition of the “Characters,” published in 1689, and disappeared, never
to be printed again, two years afterwards. It was probably suppressed
for fear of offending either Louis XIV., who had allowed his former
favourites, Bussy-Rabutin and Lauzun, to reappear at court (see page
18, note 5, and page 218, note 2), or of hurting the feelings of these
two noblemen, above all of Bussy-Rabutin, who, after being admitted to
the presence of the King, twice left a court where he felt he was not
wanted, and could not obtain any command in the army.

[511] This refers to Cardinal Georges dʼAmboise (1460-1510), Prime
Minister of Louis XII.

[512] Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) is meant.

[513] In politics, La Bruyère was in advance of his age, but not in
religious questions. He shared the idea of “the extirpation of heresy,”
not alone with almost all the prelates of his time, but with some of
the most eminent men in science, art, and literature, who all applauded
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), and advocated the notion
of one religion for the whole State.

[514] This is an allusion to the reduction of the interest on the
French debt, and the calling in and recoining of certain monies, a
measure which was often taken by the French kings, and even by Louis
XIV., who, however, made no profit by it. See also page 152, note 2.

[515] Colbert has been wrongly accused of having made money by those
means; an accusation which was also brought against Mazarin, Fouquet,
and the _fermiers généraux_, on far better grounds.

[516] Our author had to conciliate Louis XIV. at a time when it was
supposed the publication of the “Characters” might make him many
enemies. Hence the direct and indirect flatteries he bestows on the
king, who prided himself on his complete mastery of details, for
which he was praised by some and blamed by others; and amongst these
latter must be reckoned Fénelon, who in his _Telemachus_ (Book xvi.)
criticises Louis XIV. in the character of Idomeneus. That the king
had a talent for mastering details cannot be doubted, and this is
even admitted by the late John Richard Green, in his “Short History
of the English People,” chap. ix. sect. vii., whose opinion of Louis
XIV. I transcribe here, as a corrective of the flatteries scattered
on this royal despot by La Bruyère: “Louis the Fourteenth, bigoted,
narrow-minded, commonplace as he was, without personal honour or
personal courage, without gratitude and without pity, insane in his
pride, insatiable in his selfishness, had still many of the qualities
of a great ruler; industry, patience, quickness of resolve, firmness of
purpose, a capacity for discerning greatness and using it, an immense
self-belief and self-confidence, and a temper utterly destitute indeed
of real greatness, but with a dramatic turn for seeming to be great.”

[517] An allusion to an operation for fistula performed on Louis XIV.
in 1686.

[518] Voltaire, in his _Siècle de Louis XIV._, says: “From 1663 until
1672 every year some new manufactory was established. The fine cloths
formerly imported from England and Holland were manufactured at
Abbeville.... The cloth manufactories of Sedan, which had almost gone
to wreck and ruin, were re-established.” See also page 48, note 3.

[519] Louis XII. was called by the States-General assembled at Tours
(1506) the “father of his people.”

[520] Such was, however, the opinion of Louis XIV. himself, who states
in his _Mémoires_: “Kings are absolute masters, and naturally dispose
fully and entirely of all the property possessed by the clergy and

[521] This is another flattery intended for Louis XIV., who thought
that his ministers got their talents “by virtue of their office.” The
word _subalternes_, “subordinates,” seems also out of place applied to
such men as Colbert and Louvois.

[522] Louis XIV. was certainly not displeased when his presence awed
those who were presented to him.

[523] All those excellent qualities, which La Bruyère thinks are
necessary to a sovereign, were those generally attributed to Louis
XIV., and which Saint-Simon also ascribes to him in his _Mémoires_.

[524] Another hit at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

[525] A reference to the royal edicts against duelling.

[526] Louis XIV., from 1667 to 1685, promulgated several laws reforming
abuses in civil and criminal jurisprudence, and abolishing certain
restrictions on trade, commerce, etc.

[527] To say that Louis XIV. increased by his example the influence
of religion and virtue, can only apply to him after his marriage with
Madame de Maintenon. See page 258, note 3.

[528] An allusion to the declaration of the liberties of the Gallican
Church, published in 1682, and said to be written by Bossuet.

[529] The commentators of La Bruyère do not explain why the subsidies
to be granted to the king were lighter in the provinces. Can it be that
in certain provinces, called _pays dʼétat_, the subsidies voted by the
provincial states were smaller than those voted by the authorities
appointed by the king in those provinces not belonging to the _pays
dʼétat_, and called _pays dʼélections_?

[530] This allusion must greatly have pleased Louis XIV., who thought
himself great as a strategist and as a politician.

[531] Although this paragraph is only half the size of paragraph 12,
page 253, there is only one full stop in it in the original, and that
is at the end.

[532] The original has _avec_, which, in the seventeenth century, often
was used for “in spite of.”

[533] The author adds in a note: “This is not so much a portrait of one
individual, as a collection of anecdotes of absent-minded persons. If
they please, there cannot be too large a number of them, for as tastes
differ, my readers can pick and choose.” The chief traits of Menalcas
are based on stories related by the Count de Brancas, who died eleven
years before the above paragraph first saw the light (1691); others are
said to have happened to the Prince de la Roche-sur-Yon, afterwards
Prince de Conti (1664-1709), and to a certain Abbé de Mauroy, chaplain
to Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Eustace Budgell (1685-1736) depicts in
No. 77 of the “Spectator” “an absent man,” and also speaks of Monsieur
Bruyère, who “has given us the character of an absent man with a great
deal of humour;” and then prints “the heads” of Menalcasʼ portrait.
According to Wattʼs _Bibliotheca Britannica_, Budgell was the author of
a translation of La Bruyèreʼs “Characters,” published 1699 and 1702;
but in the edition of 1702 there is on the title-page, “made English by
several hands.”

[534] Many of the streets in Paris were so narrow when our author
wrote, that two people could hardly pass abreast; it was, therefore,
the fashion to “give the wall,” as it was called, to persons of a
superior rank.

[535] See page 243, note.

[536] The wigs were already worn very long, and completely concealed
the ears.

[537] See page 164, note 1.

[538] There was usually only one or two arm-chairs in a reception-room,
reserved for the master or mistress of the house, or for both.

[539] It was reported that Brancas, _chevalier dʼhonneur_ of the
queen-mother, Anne of Austria (1602-1666), behaved in almost a similar
manner to his royal mistress.

[540] Blotting-paper was not invented when our author wrote; even now
it is not unusual abroad to find the ink of letters dried with sand,
either plain or coloured.

[541] _Balais_ in French, a kind of pale-coloured ruby, so called,
according to Littréʼs _Dictionnaire_, from Balakschan or Balaschan, not
far from Samarcand.

[542] The king used to hunt at Fontainebleau almost every day in
October. See also page 174, note 4.

[543] There existed a great deal of coarseness at the court of Louis
XIV. underneath a semblance of extreme polish and refinement, and some
of the stories told by Saint-Simon of the habits and customs of the
king himself would not bear repeating at the present time, and even be
considered disgraceful by the lowest classes of society. As an example
of this general coarseness, it will, no doubt, have been observed that
it was the usual habit of decent people to expectorate on the floor
(see page 277, line 12), as well as to throw there the wine they did
not wish to drink; for Menalcas is only laughed at for his absence of
mind, and not for his bad habits. See also in the chapter “Of the Gifts
of Fortune,” § 83, the character of Phædo, page 161, and in the chapter
“Of Society, etc.,” the character of Troïlus, page 106, § 13.

[544] See page 65, note 1.

[545] In the Convent of the Carthusians, then near the Luxembourg, were
to be found the twenty-two celebrated pictures of Eustache Lesueur
(1616-1655), representing the history of Saint Bruno, founder of that
order, who died in 1101. The greater part of these pictures is now in
the Louvre.

[546] This picture represents the burial of an eloquent and learned
canon, who, whilst being carried to the tomb, rose in his coffin,
exclaimed that he was damned, and fell back again.

[547] See page 138, note 3.

[548] Tallemant des Réaux, in his _Historiettes_, tells a more probable
story of de Brancas, how one day, being on horseback and stopped by
footpads, he mistook them for footmen, and ordered them to let go his
horse, and how he did not find out his mistake till they clapt a pistol
to his breast.

[549] Compare what our author says in the above paragraph with the
remarks he makes in § 21, page 260, and § 34, page 266.

[550] One of these fathers appears to have been the Duke de Gesvres
(1620-1704), who spent all his money on purpose not to leave any to his

[551] See the chapter “Of Society,” § 63.

[552] Epidaurus, a city of Peloponnesus, where Æsculapius, the god of
medicine and a son of Apollo, was worshipped.

[553] This paragraph appeared for the first time in the eighth edition
of the “Characters,” published in 1694, three years after the former
favourite of Louis XIV., Madame de Montespan, had left the court,
and about ten years after he had married Madame de Maintenon. Madame
de Montespan had then become an imaginary invalid, and made frequent
journeys to take the waters at different places, and chiefly to
Bourbon-lʼArchambaud, where, it is said, a doctor made her a similar
answer as recorded above. It is doubtful whether La Bruyère would have
spoken of her corpulency, failing sight, and her growing old if Madame
de Montespan had still remained a favourite; his former pupil, the Duke
de Bourbon, had married, in 1685, Mademoiselle de Nantes, one of her
daughters by Louis XIV.

[554] See page 68, note 3.

[555] This refers to the Prince de Conti (1661-1685), a cousin of
the Duke de Bourbon, the pupil of our author. When the Princeʼs
wife, formerly Mademoiselle de Blois, a daughter of Louis XIV. and
Mademoiselle de la Vallière, was attacked by the small-pox, he nursed
her so well that she recovered, but he died.

[556] According to the “Keys,” this paragraph alludes to Louvois. See
page 132, note, and page 242, note 2.

[557] The original has “aux âmes bien nées,” a very favourite
expression of the French authors of the seventeenth century; thus P.
Corneille, amongst others, says in the _Cid_:

            “Pour des âmes bien nées,
    La valeur nʼattend point le nombre des années.”

[558] Gambling was highly valued at court (see page 154, § 71); the
Marquis de Dangeau (see page 156, note 2) owed partly his position
to his successes at the gambling-table; and the mathematician
Sauveur, a member of the Academy of Sciences, used to give scientific
demonstrations before the king and the court of the various
combinations of the fashionable games.

[559] The Marshal de la Feuillade is supposed to be meant. Besides the
monument he erected to Louis XIV. (see page 227, note 2), there are
many other proofs of his eccentricity, as, for example, his going with
two hundred volunteers to wrest Candia from the Turks, and his voyage
to Spain to challenge a certain M. de Saint-Aunay, who was accused of
having calumniated Louis XIV.

[560] The commentators speak of a certain captain of the guard,
Boisselot, and of an Irish officer, Macarthy, one of the generals of
James II.; but there would have been nothing astonishing in their
“mixing with the people.” It may be that this paragraph points at the
Duke of Orléans, a brother-of Louis XIV., who had shown some valour at
the battle of Cassel in 1677, but who was never more employed, and was
not very “judicious.”

[561] All the “Keys” say the Archbishop of Paris, M. de Harlay, was
meant. See also page 238, note 4.

[562] The Cardinal de Bouillon (1644-1715) is supposed to be meant by
this remark; he was, however, according to Saint-Simon, always very
dissolute in his manners. See page 210, note 1.

[563] Some “Keys” name here wrongly Boutillier de Rancé, the founder of
the Trappists, whilst others speak of Le Camus, bishop of Grenoble (see
page 47, note 4). La Bruyèreʼs allusion is far more general.

[564] All the “Keys” say this refers to the _Dictionnaire de
lʼAcadémie_, but its first edition only appeared in 1694, and this
paragraph was published four years before. See page 9, note 2. It
alludes probably to those encyclopedias called _Traités sur toutes les
sciences, très abrégés à lʼusage de la noblesse_, or to some collection
of anecdotes, a kind of _omnium gatherum_, entitled _Bibliothèque des
gens de cour_; perhaps it might also apply to some verses then in
vogue, and called _vers abécédaires_, of which the first line began
with an “a,” the second with a “b,” and so on. Those “sports of wit,”
which our author calls by the name of _jeux dʼesprit_, witticisms, also
existed later in England, _e.g._, “The Foundling Hospital for Wit.”

[565] Several persons have been named whose duty it was to distribute
charity to the poor, but it has been rightly observed that the person
alluded to in this paragraph “makes a display of it,” and therefore it
cannot have been his duty.

[566] In French, _sœurs grises_, grey sisters, because the Sisters
of Charity wore grey dresses. Bands were then worn by every one, but
clergymenʼs bands were plain and called _petits collets_, the name our
author gives them.

[567] Holders of certain legal or financial offices had the right of
reversion or next nomination whilst they were alive, and not seldom
delayed exercising it until they were very old; but unless they did so
within forty days of their death, and had paid an annual tax called _le
droit de paulette_, so called after Charles Paulet, a minister of Henri
IV. who established it in 1604, and which tax varied from a sixtieth to
a fourth of the value of the office, the king had a right to make fresh
appointments. See also page 192, note 1.

[568] Jean François, Marquis dʼHautefort, who was, it is said, the
original of Harpagon in Molièreʼs _Avare_, seems to be partly portrayed
in this paragraph.

[569] Some of the commentators pretend that the “courtier of a ripe old
age” was the Marshal Nicolas de Villeroy, the former governor of Louis
XIV., who died in 1685, and whose son, the Duke, is mentioned on page
54, note 3, and on page 204, note 1.

[570] It is said that by Philip our author intended to portray the
Marquis de Sablé, a son of the finance minister Servien, who was the
proprietor of Meudon, sold it to Louvois (see the chapter “Of the
Court,” page 204, note 2), and seems to have been chiefly known by his
love for eating and drinking, his eccentricities and his debauchery.

[571] Louis Roger Danse, a canon of the _Sainte-Chapelle_, and a noted
_gourmand_, is supposed to have sat for Gnathon, as well as for the
stout Canon Evrard in Boileauʼs _Lutrin_.

[572] The Count dʼOlonne, a well-known lover of good cheer, who died in
1690, is said to have been limned as Clito; others think it was another
_gourmet_, M. de Bruslard, Count de Broussain, who lived until 1693.

[573] See page 179, note 1.

[574] The _potages_, in La Bruyèreʼs time, different from what is now
understood by them, seem to have been a sort of stew.

[575] These were either _entremets_ or side-dishes not larger than
could be contained in a plate or _assiette_.

[576] _Trivial_ in French. See page 136, note 1.

[577] See page 181, note 1.

[578] This asking for an injunction was called _sʼopposer au sceau_,
literally “to oppose oneʼs self to the seal.”

[579] See page 130, note, and page 192, note.

[580] _Committimus_, in the original.

[581] The chairman is the _syndic de direction_.

[582] _Vieil meuble de ruelle._ _Vieil_ was, in La Bruyèreʼs time,
often used instead of _vieux_, even before a consonant. For _ruelle_,
see page 65, note 1.

[583] The original speaks of the “Marais” (see page 172, note 1), and
of the “Grand Faubourg,” probably the “Faubourg Saint-Germain.”

[584] See page 72, note 2.

[585] The “Keys” name for Antagoras two eccentric noblemen of the time
now wholly unknown, a Count de Montluc and a Marquis de Fourille.

[586] In Louis XIV.ʼs time France was divided into thirty-three
provinces, and as communications were difficult, the inferior noblemen
were what our author describes them to be, and had no other amusements
but duelling, dining, and drinking.

[587] The original has _fourrures et mortiers_; the gowns of bachelors,
licentiates, and doctors of the various faculties were bordered and
even sometimes lined with fur. For _mortier_ see page 168, note 3.

[588] In French _les masses dʼun chancelier_, for the mace was always
carried before the Chancellor of France.

[589] La Bruyère adds in a note: “We can only mean that philosophy
which is depending on the Christian religion.”

[590] An allusion to the theory of Descartes (see page 151, note 2),
that beasts were only automatons without any consciousness of their

[591] In French “Alain,” the name of a rustic servant in Molièreʼs
_École des Femmes_.

[592] All the names given by our author have already been mentioned
before, except that of Claude de Lingendes (1595-1660), one of the
best preachers among the Jesuits, and whose reputation must have been
great to quote him with such illustrious dead; and whilst Bossuet,
Bourdaloue, and Fénelon were still alive.

[593] An allusion to the entertainments given by Louis XIV.

[594] Such places were, in our authorʼs time, Versailles,
Fontainebleau, Marly.

[595] This seems to hit at the courtiers of Louis XIV., who pretended
to become devout in order to please the monarch and Madame de Maintenon.

[596] La Bruyère is not in advance of his times in what regards
corporal punishment: Montaigne was.

[597] For “caps” and “gowns” the original has _mortier_ and _fourrures_
(see page 168, note 3, and page 318, note 2); for _fasces_ see page
139, note 5

[598] Some commentators think that the Marshal de Villeroy (see page
54, note 3) is meant by Timon, but this cannot be, as the Marshal was
rather ostentatious, and not at all a misanthrope. Perhaps our author
thought of giving another version of Molièreʼs _Alceste_, as later on
he gives another of _Tartuffe_, in his portrait of Onuphre, in the
chapter “Of Fashion,” page 395, § 24.

[599] The original has _entêtement_, “infatuation,” “obstinacy,”
which sometimes meant “enthusiasm,” as in Molièreʼs _Femmes
Savantes_, act iii. scene 2, “Jʼaime la poésie avec entêtement.”

[600] Our author adds in a note, “a pretended pious person.”

[601] The original has _pétitoire_ et _possessoire_, printed in italics.

[602] M. Terentius Varro (116-26 B.C.) was considered one of the most
learned among the Romans. His principal works are _De re rustica_ and
_De Lingua latina_.

[603] This is an allusion to Quinault (see page 28, note 2), whose
tragedies were all bad, but whose operas were considered well written.
(See page 175, note 4.) He died in 1688, one year before the appearance
of this paragraph.

[604] J. Chapelain (1595-1674), the author of _La Pucelle dʼOrléans_,
an epic poem of which only twelve cantos appeared, was the wealthiest
of all the authors of his time. _Rodogune, Princesse des Parthes_, one
of the most successful tragedies of Pierre Corneille, had been acted
in 1644, and this great dramatist died in poverty and want twenty
years later, at the age of seventy-eight, four years before the above
paragraph was published.

[605] Bathyllus is Le Basque or Pécourt (see page 67, note 2); the
names of several long-forgotten female dancers or singers are given
for Rhoe, Roscia—the feminised name of the celebrated Roman actor
Roscius—and Nerina.

[606] An allusion to the wife of Dancourt (1661-1725), an author and
comic actor, who is, as an actress, said to have been neither beautiful
nor excellent.

[607] According to the “Keys,” the actor referred to was Baron (see
page 67, note 2), or Champmeslé (1642-1701), an author and actor, and
the husband of a lady known to posterity as a friend of the poet Racine.

[608] The Cardinal dʼEstrées (1628-1714) was a member of the French
Academy: his nephew, the Marshal, was considered a learned and polished
gentleman. There were several magistrates of the name of Séguier, of
whom the best known is the Chancellor Séguier (1588-1672). The Duke
de Montausier, the former governor of the Dauphin, the husband of
Mademoiselle de Rambouillet, and the supposed original of Molièreʼs
_Misanthrope_, was still alive when his name appeared, but died about a
year later, in 1690. The Duke de Chevreuse, afterwards Duke de Luynes
(1620-1690), an author of moral and religious works, was a friend of
the Port-Royalists. The first President of the Parliament, Potier de
Novion, was a member of the Academy, and died in 1693. There were two
Lamoignons—the first, President of the Parliament, who died in 1677,
and his son, Chrétien François, _président à mortier_, the friend of
Boileau and Racine, who lived till 1709. Paul Pellisson (1624-1693),
the friend and defender of Fouquet, became perpetual secretary to the
French Academy, of which he wrote a history, and was considered the
ugliest man of his time. M. de la Bruyère adds in a footnote, that in
speaking of Scudéry, he meant Mademoiselle Scudéry, to distinguish her
from her brother Georges, also an author; this lady wrote a good many
novels then in vogue (see page 123, note 1), and died in 1701, more
than ninety years old. For de Harlay see page 237, note 1; for Bossuet
see page 47, note 4; and for Wardes or Vardes see page 197, note 2.

[609] The Duke de Chartres (1674-1723), only seventeen years old
when this paragraph appeared, was reputed very clever for his age;
he afterwards became the Regent dʼOrléans. By Condé, either the
great Condé, who died in 1686, or his son Henri-Jules, the father
of La Bruyèreʼs pupil, was meant. For François-Louis, Prince de
Conti (1634-1709), see page 273, note; his father, Armand de Bourbon
(1629-1666), had first been an admirer and then an antagonist of
Molière. For Bourbon and Vendôme see page 221, note; there was also a
celebrated general, the Duke de Vendôme (1654-1712). The Duke de Maine
(1670-1736), the eldest of the children of Louis XIV. and Madame de
Montespan, was twenty years old when his name appeared in the above
paragraph, and was considered a prodigy of learning.

[610] The Cardinal dʼOssat (1536-1604) became an able diplomatist and
statesman, after having been professor of rhetoric and philosophy at
the University of Paris; Cardinal Ximenes (1437-1517) published several
works of Aristotle, founded the University of Alcala, and promoted
the publishing of a polyglot Bible before becoming prime minister of
Charles V. of Spain. Richelieu (see page 261, note 2) wrote several
theological works, some tragedies, and founded the French Academy.

[611] The original has _grimaud_, also used by Trissotin in addressing
Vadius in Molièreʼs _Femmes Savantes_, act iii, scene 5: “Allez, petit
grimaud, barbouilleur de papier.”

[612] Jérôme Bignon (1589-1656) was a celebrated magistrate; his
son was also a scholar, and his grandson, the Abbé Jean-François
(1662-1743), was a member of the French Academy. For the Lamoignons see
page 333, note 2.

[613] Plato expresses this idea in the seventh book of his “Republic,”
but it was often in the mouth of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius
(121-180), called Antoninus, as being the adopted son of Antoninus Pius.

[614] Henri III. of France is said to have fainted if he caught sight
of a cat, and some commentators state a certain Abbé de Drubec (see
page 112, note) had this weakness. Shakespeare, in the _Merchant of
Venice_ (act iv. scene 1) also says, “Some that are mad, if they behold
a cat.”

[615] In our authorʼs time there were only feather beds or straw
palliasses, but no flock beds.

[616] The original has _praticien_. See page 153, note 3.

[617] A footman. We have already seen in the chapter “Of the Town”
(page 137, note 1) how many footmen became financiers of the highest

[618] This stands for Antoine Benoît, the royal waxwork maker, who had
a gallery of waxworks called _cercle royal_.

[619] B ... was a certain Barbereau who sold Seine water for mineral
water, or perhaps Brimbeuf, another quack, who sold a specific for
perpetual youth.

[620] This may be Caretti (see page 186, note 4), or Domenico Ammonio,
another Italian quack.

[621] A good many panders at the court of Louis XIV. were politely
called Mercuries, after the messenger of Jupiter; it is therefore
difficult to say whom La Bruyère meant. Some say he spoke of Bontemps,
first _valet-de-chambre_ of the king; others imagine he wished to hit
the Marquis de Lassay, who had the reputation of being pander to the
Duke de Bourbon, the former pupil of our author.

[622] In La Bruyèreʼs time people wore long wigs but were closely

[623] Tityrus is a shepherd, who, according to the first line uttered
by Melibœus in Virgilʼs first “Eclogue,” is one of those men who
“lay at ease under their patrimonial beech trees.”

[624] This is an allusion to the Siamese ambassadors, who came to Paris
in 1686, and produced a great sensation.

[625] The original has _agreste_, taken with the meaning it sometimes
has in Latin. La Bruyère says in a note: “This word is used here

[626] Our author was probably for a month either at Rouen or Caen
as _trésorier-général des finances_, an office which he bought in
1673, and, whilst there, might have had a quarrel with some of his
colleagues. This is the more likely as in the first three editions of
the “Characters” the magistrates alone were named.

[627] A game played with four cards, formerly in use; it was _primero_
when the hands were shown, and the four cards were of different
colours; _grand primero_ when more than thirty points were made. In
Shakespeareʼs _King Henry VIII._ (act v. scene 1), Gardiner tells
Sir Thomas Lovell that he left the king “at primero with the Duke of

[628] This is supposed to have been a portrait of M. de Noailles, who
was Bishop of Châlons when La Bruyère wrote this paragraph, but who in
1695 became Archbishop of Paris and a Cardinal. The number of bishops
residing in their dioceses was very small at the end of the seventeenth

[629] An allusion to some members of the clergy and legal profession
who frequented fashionable society.

[630] According to the Abbé de Chaulieu, Arténice is Catherine Turgot,
the wife of Gilles dʼAligres, Seigneur de Boislandry, who, after a
scandalous lawsuit, separated from her one year before this “Fragment”
appeared (1694). She was then only twenty-one, and became, it is said,
the mistress of de Chaulieu; afterwards she married again a certain M.
de Chevilly, a captain of the royal guards. Her friend, Mademoiselle de
la Force, is supposed to have been Elvira.

[631] An allusion to the President de Harlay. See page 237, note 1.

[632] This paragraph and the preceding one seem to refer to Pellisson.
See page 333, note 2.

[633] A grain is the 576th part of an ounce, which is the 16th part of
a pound.

[634] The original has _honnête homme_ (see page 43, note 2) for
“gentleman,” _homme de bien_ for “honest man” (see page 49, note 4),
and _habile homme_ for “clever man.”

[635] For “ombre” see page 172, note 5.

[636] A portrait of La Fontaine (see page 335, § 19), who was still
alive when this paragraph appeared (1691).

[637] This is a sketch of Pierre Corneille (see page 9, note 1,
and page 18, note 1), and _Augustus_, _Pompey_, _Nicomedes_, and
_Heraclius_ are the names of some of his tragedies.

[638] Theodas is Santeul (1630-1697), one of the most elegant of the
modern Latin poets, whose character, immediately recognised by all his
contemporaries, seems to have been the compound of folly and sense La
Bruyère made it out to be; he is said to have died in consequence of
having drunk a glass of wine and snuff given to him by the Duke de
Bourbon, the father of our authorʼs pupil.

[639] These two men are said to have been the brothers Le Peletier. See
page 54, note 1.

[640] Bachelors in theology and the canon law were the only graduates
compelled to study the history of the first four centuries of the
Christian era.

[641] Aristotle.

[642] Cicero.

[643] La Bruyère did not wish to give a sketch of Socrates, as he
himself admitted in one of his letters to Ménage. It is supposed he
meant to give a portrait of himself; at least he was sometimes called
“an intelligent madman.”

[644] A gambler was in La Bruyèreʼs time a regular profession, perhaps
not considered quite as respectable as any other of the learned
professions, but still decent enough to entitle its professors to be
received at court and in very good society. The gambler was almost as
much admired for his pluck and dash as a gentleman-jockey is at present.

[645] It was generally believed that this paragraph refers to the
minister Le Tellier (1603-1685) and to his son Louvois, for whom see
pages 132 and 242, notes 1 and 2.

[646] Cato of Utica (95-46 B.C.). Lucius Calpurnius Piso, the
father-in-law of Julius Cæsar, had been accused by Cicero in the year
59 B.C. of extortions, and of plundering Macedonia.

[647] See also the chapter “Of Mankind,” pages 308 and 321, §§ 104 and

[648] Our author had already praised people of a certain age in his
chapter “Of the Court,” page 211, § 74.

[649] An allusion to Pierre-Louis de Reich, Seigneur de Penautier,
receiver-general of the clergy of France, who had been accused of
having poisoned his father-in-law.

[650] The Archbishop of Lyons bore the title of _primat des Gaules_,
which is in the original French.

[651] See page 192, note.

[652] Pierre du Terrail, Seigneur de Bayard (1475-1524), a great
military commander, deservedly received the name of the “knight without
fear and without reproach.” Our author states in a footnote that the
Marquis de Montrevel was commissioner-general of the cavalry, and
lieutenant-general. Seven years after the death of La Bruyère, he
became Marshal of France. Saint-Simon calls him “a very brave but a
rather stupid, not over-honest and ignorant man,” who died of fright by
the upsetting of a salt-cellar.

[653] This theory was maintained by Descartes.

[654] Vauban (1633-1707), the great French military engineer, after
the retaking of Namur by William III. in 1695, four years after this
paragraph saw the light, was accused of having committed some errors in
the erection of the fortifications of that town, but he proved those
accusations to be unfounded.

[655] Antiphilus is Pope Innocent XI. (1676-1689), who held other
opinions as a cardinal than he did as a pope; he opposed the liberties
of the Gallican Church.

[656] The original has _savantasse_, a word always used with a bad

[657] In French _praticien_. See page 153, note 3.

[658] See the chapter “Of Mankind,” page 299, § 76.

[659] An allusion to the siege of Namur, June 1692, which lasted one
month, during which many courtiers and magistrates went there out
of curiosity. Racine and Boileau were also present as the kingʼs
historians. The above paragraph appeared the same year the siege took

[660] A French army of eighty thousand men under the Marshal de
Luxembourg (see page 195, note 2) prevented William III. from coming to
the relief of Namur.

[661] According to M. G. Servoisʼs preface to the _Lexique_ of La
Bruyère, _ravelin_, a synonym of _demi-lune_, and _fausse-braie_, a
counter breastwork, are antiquated in French. However, “ravelin” and
“demi-lune” are still found as English words in certain dictionaries.

[662] Montaigne was of the opinion of La Bruyère and in favour of
Cæsar; Pascal, in his _Pensées_, on the contrary, thought that Cæsar,
assassinated at the age of fifty-six, was too old for the conquest of
the world, and that it would have better suited the youthful Alexander.
See also page 49, § 31.

[663] This paragraph in praise of the Dauphin (1661-1711), written in
epigraphic style, was printed in capital letters, and published whilst
he was in command of the army of the Rhine (1688).

[664] La Bruyère says in a note: “This is an opinion opposed to a
well-known Latin maxim.” Erasmus, in his _Adagiorum Chiliades_, gives
the Latinised proverb, _Filii heroum noxæ_, “the sons of heroes
degenerate,” and our author alludes to this. As for the “divine
qualities,” see page 51, § 33.

[665] La Bruyèreʼs feeling about the happiness of being his own master
breaks out now and then. See also page 232, § 33.

[666] This paragraph, and almost all the following ones, refer to the
revolution (1688) which placed William III. on the throne of Great

[667] An allusion to the abortive attempt of the French in Ireland to
aid in the re-establishment of James II. See also page 218, note 2.

[668] The first-mentioned enemy was Charles V., Duke of Lorraine, who
died in 1690; the second was William III., a rumour of whose death
spread in Paris the same year, and caused great rejoicings.

[669] _O Tempora! O Mores!_ is the opening of the first of Ciceroʼs

[670] Our author lets Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher, utter this
paragraph, whilst he puts the following into the mouth of Democritus,
the laughing, or better, the sneering philosopher of Abdera.

[671] According to the mythology, Lycaon, king of Arcadia, murdered his
guests and served them up at his table, in order to test the divine
knowledge of Jupiter, who changed him into a wolf. Ægistheus was the
son of Thyestes, and the murderer of Agamemnon.

[672] William III.

[673] The “they have less to fear from us,” &c., was also one of the
arguments used by France during the first revolution.

[674] This, of course, refers to the hospitality Louis XIV. granted to
James II.

[675] Leopold I. (see page 252, note 3), Emperor of Germany, broke
off a war in which he was engaged against the Ottomans, who had twice
invaded Hungary, and entered the League of Augsburg (1686) against
Louis XIV., because the latter had compelled him to accept the Treaty
of Nimeguen, in 1679. See page 253, note 2.

[676] An allusion to Pope Innocent XI. (see page 361, note 1), who was
too little of a friend of Louis XIV. to show much zeal on behalf of
James II.

[677] Musket-balls.

[678] Cannon-balls.

[679] Shells.

[680] Athos was a mountain in Roumelia which the sculptor Dinocrates
proposed to hew into a statue of Alexander. Our author refers to this;
Byron has also an allusion to it in the twelfth canto of his “Don Juan.”

[681] The enemies of William III. often alluded to the livid colour
of his countenance, and Boileau in his wretched _Ode sur la prise de
Namur_ also speaks of “Nassau blème.”

[682] The Prince of Orange ordered in 1672 the dykes in Holland to be
opened to delay the advance of the French army; hence the allusion to

[683] William III. became the adopted son of the Dutch republic on
the death of his father in 1666, and on the proposal of John de Witt.
Frenchmen pretend he was far more dictatorial in Holland than in
England, and accuse him of having behaved ungratefully towards de Witt,
his so-called “nurse.”

[684] When William III. returned to the Hague (1690), several princes
who had joined the League of Augsburg came to compliment him; it was
even rumoured that the Elector of Bavaria had some time to wait before
he could obtain an audience.

[685] In the original _archonte_, archon, the chief magistrate in
ancient Athens.

[686] This seems to refer to the siege of Mons (1690), which William
III. did not venture to raise.

[687] The Emperor of Germany.

[688] The arms of the house of Austria proper.

[689] Theotimus stands for M. Sachot, who was vicar of Saint-Gervais
at the time La Bruyère wrote, and used to shrive all the fashionable
people, but gradually was supplanted by Bourdaloue, who also succeeded
him in his vicarage. The fashion of not bleeding during a fever still
exists, and rightly so.

[690] The “Keys” speak of a certain lawyer, Cambout or Cabout, who
belonged to the household of the Condés, and of a flute-player,
Descosteaux, both passionately fond of flowers, as the supposed
originals of the “lover of flowers.”

[691] This lover of fruit was the financier Rambouillet de la Sablière,
who had a large garden in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. See also page
173, note 10.

[692] Four well-known antiquarians, the Duke dʼAumont, Vaillant, Le
Nostre, and Father Menestrier, the latter author of an _Histoire de
Louis le grand par les médailles_, have been supposed the originals of

[693] Several collectors of prints of the time have been named by the
commentators as the original of Democedes.

[694] At the time La Bruyère wrote, the houses on the bridge called the
“Petit-Pont” and those in the “Rue Neuve-Notre-Dame” were covered with
hangings and adorned with common prints on the days when a procession
was passing.

[695] Jacques Callot (1593-1655), a celebrated Lorraine artist and

[696] In the “Rue Vieille-du-Temple,” in Paris, there was, at the time
our author wrote, a mansion erected by M. Amelot de Bisseuil, which was
considered one of the curiosities of Paris.

[697] According to some “Keys,” this refers to the Hotel Lesdiguières;
according to others, to the hotel of M. de Langlée. See page 188, note

[698] In the original, _il donne pension à un homme_, antiquated in
this sense.

[699] The author states: “These are names of various shells.” The
original has “le Léopard, la Plume, la Musique,” and the English names
have been kindly suggested by M. Hugh Owen in “Notes and Queries” as
equivalents for the French ones.

[700] A few years before La Bruyère wrote, there was quite a mania for
butterflies at court, and in Paris.

[701] An allusion to the ordeal by duel, of which one of the last was
fought between Jarnac and La Chateigneraye, in 1542, before Henri II.
and his court. A treacherous thrust of the first-named nobleman has
given rise to the proverbial saying _un coup de Jarnac_.

[702] Louis XIV. was strongly opposed to duelling, and several legal
prohibitions of it were promulgated during his reign.

[703] Sophonius Tigellinus, a favourite and accomplice of the Roman
emperor Nero, was put to death about the year 70.

[704] In the original, _souffler_ and _jeter en sable_, “to gulp down;”
only the last word is found in the dictionary of the French Academy
of 1694. The old English translators of La Bruyère have been greatly
puzzled by the sentence beginning with the word “a Tigellinus,” and
give it: “a juggler, one who turns _aqua-vita_ black, and performs
other feats of legerdemain (other surprising things),” whilst the
translation of 1767 speaks of “a fiddler, who, besides several odd
performances on his instrument, gulps down,” &c.

[705] See the chapter “Of the Gifts of Fortune,” §§ 71-75.

[706] In the original _la crapule_, now no longer used for

[707] C. Valerius Catullus (87-47 B.C.), the well-known Roman poet; is
supposed to allude to the Abbé de Chaulieu (see page 342, note). The
latterʼs disciple was the Chevalier de Bouillon.

[708] See page 173, note 1.

[709] During the summer of 1689 the fashionable ladies at court adorned
themselves with bouquets of cornflowers.

[710] For Voiture see page 20, § 37, and note 3. Sarrazin (1603-1654)
was a rival of Voiture in an affected and pretentious style.

[711] The original has _gens dʼesprit_. See page 20, note 1.

[712] Those of my readers who wish to see the various fashions in dress
of the end of the seventeenth century should look at the etchings
at the head of each chapter, which faithfully represent them at the
time La Bruyère wrote; the high head-dresses had been abandoned when
he penned this paragraph (1691), but they became again the rage the
following year (see Chapter iv., “Of Women,” § 5), and continued so for
a considerable period.

[713] In the original _il parle gras_; _parler gras_ means usually “to
speak thick,” but is sometimes said, as it is here, of people who lisp,
which generally in French is _grasseyer_.

[714] In the original _indécence_, “crudeness,” “want of harmony,” now
antiquated with this meaning.

[715] Attila, king of the Huns, died 453.

[716] The “long black veil,” coming down to the feet, worn by ladies in
mourning, and during some grand ceremonies, was called a _mante_. Our
author adds in a note: “Oriental habits.” The tiara, or triple crown,
was the head-dress of the ancient Persian potentates, of the Jewish
high priest, and of the Pope. For the _sagum_, see page 259, note 1.

[717] The author says in a note: “Offensive and defensive.”

[718] Canions, or _canons_ in French, were large round pieces of linen,
often adorned with lace or bunches of ribbons, which were fastened
below the breeches, just under the knee.

[719] _Libertin_ in the original. See page 161, note.

[720] It was two years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
(1685) that La Bruyère made these remarks about “pretended piety,” for
since the influence of Madame de Maintenon over Louis XIV., all the
courtiers were turning pious. See also page 207, note 3.

[721] Our author is careful to add in a note, “assumed piety.”

[722] _Connaître le flanc_ is used by La Bruyère. Some of the
commentators think this is a military term used purposely by our author.

[723] None of La Bruyèreʼs commentators have observed that the “unknown
jargon” seems to refer to the mystic quietism taught by Jeanne-Marie
Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (1648-1717), who was at the height of her
reputation when this paragraph was published for the first time in the
eighth edition of the “Characters” in 1694. To our author has also been
attributed “Dialogues sur le Quiétisme.”

[724] La Bruyère is always very careful when he uses the word “devout”
or “pious,” in a bad sense, to add in a note, “assumed” or “false
piety.” See also § 22.

[725] See page 43, note 2.

[726] This “devout courtier” was Paul de Beauvillier, Dulce de
Saint-Aignan, peer of France, _gouverneur des enfants de France_. See
also page 197, note 2.

[727] Sainte-Beuve, in his _Histoire de Port Royal_, justly observes
that La Bruyère showed more courage in writing the character of
Onuphrius than Molière displayed in bringing out his _Tartuffe_, for
the latter comedy made its appearance in 1667, and Onuphrius in 1691,
five years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when Louis XIV.
was already under the influence of Madame de Maintenon, and had become

[728] An allusion to the first words said by Tartuffe (act iii. scene
2) in Molièreʼs play of that name: “Laurent, serrez ma haire avec ma

[729] The “Spiritual Fight,” a religious work attributed to an Italian
Theatine monk, Scupoli, had been already translated into French in
1608; the “Inward Christian,” by Louvigny, was published in 1661,
whilst there were two “Holy Years,” one written by Bordier in 1668, and
a second published ten years later by a certain clergyman, Loisel.

[730] In the original, _il pousse des élans et des soupirs_, a
reminiscence of Molièreʼs _Tartuffe_ (act i. scene 5), where Orgon, in
speaking of the hypocrite, says:

    “Il attirait les yeux de lʼassemblée entière
    Par lʼardeur dont au ciel il poussait sa prière;
    Il faisait des soupirs, de grands élancements,
    Et baisait humblement la terre à tous moments.”

[731] The “chapel” and the “anteroom” refer to the chapel and anteroom
of the palace of Versailles.

[732] _Il a des vapeurs_ in the original, which, when our author wrote,
was somewhat like the “out of sorts” of the present time.

[733] A reference to the declaration Tartuffe makes to Elmire, the wife
of Orgon. See Molièreʼs _Tartuffe_, act iii. scene 3.

[734] An allusion to Josephʼs adventure with Potipharʼs wife.

[735] La Bruyère is very careful to add again in a note: “False piety.”

[736] Again our author adds “false piety,” in a footnote.

[737] Tartuffe, in the comedy of that name (act iii.), obtains from
Orgon a deed of gift of all his property, to the detriment of his son
and his second wife. This was against the French law, which obliged a
man to leave a certain part of his goods, called _la légitime_ (see
page 95, § 71), to his wife and children; but this law did not apply to
cousins, nephews, and nieces.

[738] Orgon, the patron of Tartuffe, has a son and a daughter.

[739] See _Tartuffe_, act v. scene 7.

[740] The original has _ne trouve pas jour_; the French noun has become
antiquated in this sense.

[741] According to some commentators, Zelia was intended for the wife
of de Pontchartrain, the _contrôleur-général_ of the finances; but
they seem to forget that La Bruyère was his friend and under some
obligations to him.

[742] In this and the following paragraph the author adds again in a
note, “pretended piety.”

[743] Already in the first edition of the “Characters” (1687), La
Bruyère gave in the above paragraph his opinion about the danger of
compelling the courtiers to become pious.

[744] Favier, a dancer at the opera, was also the dancing-master of
the Duke de Bourbon, the pupil of La Bruyère. The anthems of Paolo
Lorenzani, the music-master of Ann of Austria (1601-1666), were
published in 1693.

[745] Many of the bishops in our authorʼs time were continually
dangling about the court, and not residing in their dioceses. See page
340, note 2.

[746] Our author added in a note of the first four editions,
“secretaries of the king.” Those offices were bought, and ennobled
their holders, hence the nickname of _savonnettes à vilain_, literally,
“soap balls for serfs.” Other offices also gave a title to the persons
who filled them, and this is probably the reason of the suppression of
this note.

[747] La Bruyèreʼs own note says “veterans,” a name given to the
_conseillers_ (see page 181, note 1), who, after having practised for
twenty years, sold their post, but retained all the privileges attached
to it.

[748] Here our author gives the same note as above.

[749] Commoners were ennobled by the grant of letters of nobility,
whilst nobles whose ancestors had derogated were rehabilitated.
However, commoners who had become wealthy often asked and obtained
letters of rehabilitation, and, therefore, pretended to be of noble
origin. “Rehabilitation,” according to Thomas Blountʼs Law Dictionary,
1717, was in England: “one of those exactions ... claimed by the Pope
... and seems to signify a _Bull_ or _Breve_ for _re-enabling_ a
spiritual person to exercise his function, who was formerly disabled;
or a _restoring_ to former _ability_.”

[750] The “war-cry” is a great proof of the nobility being ancient. The
_heaume_, head-piece, is the same as the _casque_, helmet, which latter
word was generally used in French heraldic language. According to
certain rules which soon ceased to be practised, the vizard was open or
shut, and showed more or less bars, whilst the helmet was in front or
profile, according as the owner of the coat of arms was of ancient or
modern nobility. The “Keys” refer to the Le Camus and Bezons families,
as having taken the pictorial emblems of their fatherʼs signboards for
their family arms. See also Molièreʼs _École des Femmes_, Act i. Scene

[751] The DʼHoziers were a family of genealogists, flourishing from
1592 till 1830. La Bruyère speaks most probably of Louis Roger and
his brother Charles-René dʼHozier, who were of middle age when the
“Characters” were published.

[752] It is said this is a hit at Monsieur, the brother of Louis XIV.,
who, in imitation of the kingʼs son and grandsons, did no longer wish
to be addressed as “Royal Highness,” but simply as “you;” an example
followed by all other French princes.

[753] A _maître dʼhôtel_ of Louis XIV., Delrieux, is said to have
called himself De Rieux, and there had been a marshal of that name.
Syris is the name of a slave in Plautusʼ and Terenceʼs comedies;
Cyrus, a celebrated king of Persia, was killed in battle against the
Massagetæ, 529 B.C.

[754] Such men were a M. Sonnin, the son of a _receveur-général_,
who called himself M. de Sonningen, and M. Nicolai, Marquis de
Goussainville, descended from a M. Nicolas.

[755] The marriages of the Marquis de Tourville with a Mdlle. Langeois
(see page 142, note 3), and of the Marshal de Lorges with Mdlle.
Frémont, (see page 132, note 1), are examples of this, though many
similar marriages took place almost daily.

[756] An ironical remark referring to noblemen marrying the daughters
of commoners, for nobility descended only from the father to the
children, but not if the mother were a serf; in Champagne, however,
nobility could be inherited from the motherʼs side.

[757] “Franchise” is a privilege or exemption from ordinary
jurisdiction, and “immunity” the right of not paying taxes, or of
paying less than the commonalty. La Bruyère, in speaking of “certain
monks who obtained titles,” adds in a note: “a certain convent was
secretary to the king.” The convent of the Celestines had already in
the fourteenth century been appointed to a secretaryship, and received
its emoluments, but never fulfilled its duties. The religious community
said to have had an interest in the _gabelle_ or salt tax, is supposed
to have been that of the Jesuits, but this accusation seems to have
been made without sufficient proof.

[758] A certain Geoffroy de La Bruyère had really taken part in the
third crusade and died during the siege of St. Jean dʼAcre in 1191,
or almost a century after Godfrey of Bouillon (1061-1100). Our author
only mentioned his ancestorʼs full name in the sixth edition of the
“Characters,” published in 1691.

[759] _Abbé_ is derived from the Syrian _aba_, father; the “cardinal”
may have been the Cardinal de Bouillon, who always was gaily dressed.
See page 306, note 1.

[760] In the palace Farnese at Rome, built by order of the Cardinal
Alexander Farnese, who afterwards became Pope under the name of Paul
III. (1534-1549), are to be found many works, such as Aurora and
Cephalus, Diana and Endymion, Galathea, Polyphemus and Acis, and
Ganymedes and Jupiter, painted by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609),
and Domenichino (1581-1641), all representing nude figures, and not
religious subjects.

[761] Richeletʼs Dictionary, published in 1680, mentions the _gigue_ as
“une danse anglaise, composée de toutes sortes de pas, quʼon danse sur
la corde,” and hence, he continues, “any dancing tune was thus called.”
But was a jig originally danced on the tight-rope? The “chapel” is of
course the chapel-royal at Versailles.

[762] Paris, a son of Priam and Hecuba, had to decide whether Juno,
Venus, or Minerva was the most beautiful, and should receive a “golden
apple” as a prize. The three goddesses did not present themselves for
this competition with too many clothes on.

[763] Hangings representing nude figures and profane subjects were
seen until almost the last fifty years in some of the churches of the
capital of France.

[764] Our author adds in a note, “an anthem translated into French by
LL....” but no commentator has discovered who this unknown poet can
have been.

[765] The TT ... were the Theatine monks, who settled in France about
1644, built a splendid church, and tried to raise money by charging
for seats, during service, which was held with full orchestral and
vocal music, about ten years before our author first published this
paragraph, in 1694, in the eighth edition of his book.

[766] Although this paragraph appeared when the “Characters” were first
published in 1688, yet the great Bossuet went, five years later, out
of his way to attack, in a sermon, Molière, the actor and playwright,
although the latter had been dead more than twenty years.

[767] This paragraph reveals to us the quarrels raging between the
secular and regular clergy, and seems to point out that, at the
time our author wrote, the Barnabites were in vogue as confessors.
The “monk” is supposed to have been a certain Father la Combe, the
spiritual director of Madame Guyon. See page 393, note 1.

[768] Three parish priests have been named by the commentators as the
originals of La Bruyèreʼs portrait, but our author was far more general
in his application.

[769] _Les fourrures_ in the original. See page 318, note 2.

[770] The original has the proper name Ambreville, a noted rogue and
head of a band of robbers, who was publicly burned at the stake in 1686.

[771] The lady superior of an abbey was appointed by the king, but in
a nunnery she was elected by the entire sisterhood; hence our authorʼs
remarks about “a popular or a despotic rule.”

[772] When our author wrote, it was the fashion among the upper classes
for a man never to be seen in public with his wife. Some years later
people began even to be ashamed of being married, and if comedies hold
the mirror up to nature, this may be observed in _Le Philosophe marié_
(1727), by N. Destouches, and in _Le Préjugé à la Mode_ (1735), by La
Chaussée. For the Cours, see page 164, note 2.

[773] The author states in a note that by “making the most of oneʼs
money” he means “lending it out on bills and notes of hand,” for
which, according to the old French legislation and the old canonical
law no interest could be charged, though some divines allowed trading
companies to pay interest on borrowed monies.

[774] Several remarks had been made on this part of the above paragraph
whilst La Bruyère was still alive, and a note of the ninth edition of
the “Characters” (1696), published one month after the authorʼs death,
explained that it only referred to monies deposited in the _greffe_ or
clerkʼs office of certain tribunals whilst a lawsuit was going on.

[775] An allusion to the bankruptcy of some hospitals in Paris,
which ruined many persons who had advanced money on annuities. This
bankruptcy took place in the year 1689, and the fourth edition of
the “Characters,” in which the above paragraph first appeared, was
published the same year. The original has also a play on words, on _le
fonds perdu_, to sink money in an annuity, and _un bien perdu_, money
irretrievably lost.

[776] For the _huitième denier_, see page 138, note 1. The _aides_ were
indirect taxes which the clergy and the nobility had to pay as well as
the common people.

[777] The original has _partisans_. See page 136, note 2.

[778] The President Potier de Novion (see page 333, note 2) was the
first, it is said, to adopt this custom, but a few months before this
paragraph was published (1689), he had to resign his post on account of
malversation and abuse of authority.

[779] See page 155, note 3.

[780] See page 181, note 1.

[781] See page 72, note 2.

[782] Counsellors of parliament (see page 181, note 1) were obliged to
wear bands, by an order of Council obtained at the request of _M. de
Harlay_ (see page 45, note 1); before that time they wore cravats like
other gentlemen. See also page 65, note 2.

[783] The counsellors of parliament wore red gowns, the magistrates red
fur-lined cloaks. See page 318, note 2. The original of “on account of
his money” is _consignation_. See page 169, note 2.

[784] In most of the courts of France the places of magistrates were
bought and sold. See also the chapter “Of the Town,” page 167, § 5.

[785] Marcus Valerius Martialis (43, was living 104) says: “Iras et
verba locant.”

[786] Montaigne, Montesquieu, and many other eminent Frenchmen attacked
the legal employment of torture, but it was continued in France till

[787] Our author uses by exception _honnêtes gens_ for honest men.
A certain Marquis de Langlade was put on the rack (1688), and after
having been innocently sentenced to the galleys on a false accusation
of having robbed the Duke de Montmorency, died there in 1689; and a
servant, Le Brun, accused of the murder of Madame Marel, died after
having been cruelly tortured (1690). The real criminals were discovered
some time afterwards, and this produced a great sensation at the time
La Bruyère wrote (1691).

[788] It has been said that the wife of M. de Saint-Pouange (see page
134, note 3) was robbed of a diamond buckle when leaving the opera, but
that it was returned to her by M. de Grandmaison, _grand prévôt de la

[789] The “Keys” mention as one of these men the President de Mesmes.
See page 168, note 3.

[790] During the latter part of the reign of Louis XIV., fire-raising
was very common in the rural districts of France, and it was one of the
means the peasants chose for revenging themselves on their masters for
their exactions and for fiscal cruelties.

[791] The original has _lanternes_, tribunes in Parliament whence
people could see what was going on without being seen.

[792] _Il se voit officier_ in the original. See page 153, note 3.

[793] Titius and Seius were often quoted in Roman law, as “A.” and “B.”
are in English law, in stating a case to counsel. Mævius was a wretched
poet of Virgilʼs time, and seems to be wrongly named by La Bruyère
in apposition to Titius. According to some commentators, the mishap
attributed to Titius really happened to a M. Hennequin, _procureur
général au grand conseil_.

[794] The notary, M. de Bonnefoi, in Molièreʼs _Malade Imaginaire_ (act
i. scene 9) explains to the hypochondriacal Argan: “You cannot give
anything to your wife by your will ... Common law is opposed to it ...
in Paris and in all countries where common law exists.... All the good
which man and woman joined in wedlock can do to each other, is a mutual
donation while living; and then there must be no children.” And when
Argan asks what he has to do to leave his wife his property, the honest
notary replies: “You can quietly choose an intimate friend of your
wifeʼs, to whom you will give, in due form by your will, all that you
can; and this friend shall afterwards give it all back to her.”

[795] _Vaudeville_ in the original, of which the primitive meaning was
“a satirical song.”

[796] _Le mortier_ in French. See page 168, note 3. When the king was
not present at a sitting of the Parliament, the president claimed the
right to represent him, and therefore, to take precedence before any

[797] A certain de Charnacé, formerly lieutenant in the kingʼs
body-guard, committed several crimes in Anjou, even coined false money,
and finally was obliged to flee for his life. In many of the provinces
the conduct of the nobles was so inhuman and disgraceful, that the
kings of France were often obliged to appoint special committees,
called _grands jours_, to try and punish them, the latest and most
celebrated of which had been held in Auvergne in 1665.

[798] The “Keys” name Louis de Crevant, Duke dʼHumières, who was made
Marshal of France in 1668, and died in 1694; Jacques Henri de Durfort,
Duke de Duras, brother to the Earl of Feversham, and also a Marshal of
France, who died in 1704, at the age of seventy-four; and the Marshal
de Créqui, as having displayed great luxury whilst in the field. The
king, who had first given the example of such splendour, finally
attempted to restrain it, and in vain promulgated edicts against it in

[799] Hermippus is supposed to be a certain Jean-Jacques Renouard,
Count de Villayer, _maître des requêtes_, a member of the
French Academy, who was very ingenious, and always invented new
machinery—amongst others, a kind of lift—and who died in 1691.

[800] The original has _improuver_, now antiquated.

[801] _Leurs pensions_ in French. See page 384, note 1.

[802] A dʼAquin (1629-1696), who was physician to Louis XIV., had one
son a magistrate and another a bishop. See also page 273, note 1.

[803] See page 186, note 4. Some “Keys” also say that perhaps Adrien
Helvétius, the grandfather of the philosopher, may be meant, but this
seems hardly likely, for Helvétius was wealthy, gave his medicine
gratis, was a very honest man, and the first to recommend the use of
ipecacuanha in certain diseases.

[804] In Molièreʼs _Malade Imaginaire_ (act iii. scene 4), Toinette,
the servant, dressed up as a physician, says almost the same thing.

[805] _Constitution (de rentes)_ understood in the text.

[806] Guy Crescence Fagon (1638-1718) became in succession physician
to the wife of the Dauphin, the queen, and the royal children, and in
1693, when dʼAquin fell into disgrace, first physician to Louis XIV. He
was for his time an able and conscientious man. His eldest son became
Bishop of Lombez, and his second _intendant des finances_.

[807] Fagon was a strenuous defender of emetics and of Peruvian bark,
which latter remedy was first imported into France in the seventeenth
century, and had become so popular that Jean la Fontaine sang its
praises in a pretty long poem, _le Quinquina_, the French name of the
Peruvian bark, so called after the Countess del Cinchon, wife of the
Viceroy of Peru, whence the bark was first sent to Europe.

[808] Fagon was also professor of botany and chemistry in the kingʼs
botanical garden, and one of the editors of its catalogue, called
_Hortus regius_, published in 1665.

[809] The belief in sorcerers and witchcraft was very general when our
author wrote, and there existed an almost universal idea that robbers
and murderers might be discovered by means of the motion of a hazel
rod. Even the magistrates in France tried sometimes such a rod to find
out criminals.

[810] Many eminent pedagogues have held a contrary opinion; for
example, Malebranche in his _Traité de Morale_, and Jean Jacques
Rousseau in his _Emile_, both maintain languages should be acquired
when the child is not too young.

[811] The going “open-breasted” was the fashion of the time of Francis
I.; ruffs and bands were worn in France during part of the reigns of
Henri II. and Henri III., but were no longer in vogue when our author
wrote; they were, however, still used in Spain.

[812] This is an allusion to the wearing of very tight silk stockings
and short breeches, showing the legs.

[813] It was never the custom in France for ladies to hide their feet,
but in Spain it was considered highly improper and indecent even to
show the smallest part of them (see the Countess dʼAulnoy, _Relation
du Voyage en Espagne_, 1690); and as the wife of Louis XIV., Maria
Theresa, was a daughter of Philip IV. of Spain, it is probable that the
ladies at court followed the fashion set to them by the queen.

[814] According to Voltaireʼs _Siècle de Louis XIV._, chap, viii.,
the king and his officers went, however, to the trenches wearing
head-pieces and breast-plates.

[815] Bertrand du Guesclin (1320-1380) was constable of France under
Charles V., whilst Olivier de Clisson (1332-1407) filled the same
high office under Charles VI.; Gaston de Foix (1331-1391), surnamed
“Phœbus,” was Viscount of Bearn, and Jean le Maingre de Boucicault
(1364-1421) was Marshal of France. They all four distinguished
themselves in the wars against the English during the fourteenth

[816] Our author now launches into a dissertation about the relative
value of certain words which was far from unusual at the time he wrote,
and is found in almost the same form in several contemporary writers.
I also imagine the late Walter Savage Landor was influenced by La
Bruyèreʼs dissertation when he wrote in his “Imaginary Conversations”
the two “Dialogues” between Dr. Johnson and Horne Tooke.

[817] _Mais_, says La Bruyère in a note, but this word is not an
anagram of _ains_, which comes from the Latin _ante_, whilst _mais_ is
the Latin _magis_.

[818] It is not yet settled whether _maint_ is of Latin, Celtic, or
Teutonic origin.

[819] Some purists wished to forbid the use of _car_, which was
defended by Voiture. (See page 20, note 3.)

[820] A good many words which La Bruyère thought were going out of
fashion are still in use at present.

[821] _De moi_ and _que cʼest que_ have been employed several times
by Malherbe (see page 21, note 4) and other good authors, but these
expressions are now quite obsolete.

[822] _Oraison_, phrase in the original; antiquated in this sense.

[823] The people formally changed the Latin syllables _pro_ and _fro_
into _prou_ or _pour_ and into _frou_ or _four_; hence _proufit_,
_fourment_, or _froument_, from the Latin _proficere_ and _fromentum_.
The scholars of the sixteenth century brought back these words to their
etymological form.

[824] In French adjectives in _il_ derived from Latin words with a long
_i_, on which the accent rests, form their feminine by adding an _e_,
whilst adjectives with the termination _ile_ for the masculine and
feminine are formed from Latin words with a short _i_, not accentuated.

[825] In the French of the Middle Ages these substantives had the
termination _els_, _aus_, or _iaus_ in the nominative singular plural,
and _el_ in the accusative singular and the nominative plural; _aus_
became generally adopted in all cases, but dropped the _s_.

[826] Vaugelas and his commentators insisted that all words not
sanctioned by custom should not be admitted into the French language.

[827] Laurent was a wretched versifier at the time of La Bruyère, who
published rhymed descriptions of all kinds of festivals.

[828] For Marot. See page 22, note 3. Philippe Desportes (1555-1606),
an imitator of the Italian school of poetry, enjoyed a great reputation
in his time.

[829] See page 122, note 1, and page 20, note 3.

[830] The original _rondeaux_ which are given here are not so old as La
Bruyère thought they were, and are merely very fair imitations, written
probably about the end of the sixteenth century. The hero of the first
_rondeau_ is Ogier, generally called _le Danois_, which does not mean
the Dane, but is a contraction of _le DʼArdennois_, from the Ardennes.

I owe the above translation to Mr. J. E. Barlas, of New College,
Oxford, who has endeavoured to imitate the pseudo-antiquated style of
the original, and to use several Chaucerian and Spenserian words.

    Bien à propos sʼen vint Ogier en France
      Pour le païs de mescréans monder:
    Jà nʼest besoin de conter sa vaillance
      Puisquʼ ennemis nʼosoient le regarder.

    Or quand il eut tout mis en assurance,
      De voyager il voulut sʼenharder;
    En Paradis trouva lʼeau de jouvance,
      Dont il se sceut de vieillesse engarder
                  Bien à propos.

    Puis par cette eau son corps tout décrépite
    Transmué fut par manière subite
      En jeune gars, frais, gracieux et droit.

    Grand dommage est que cecy soit sornettes:
    Filles connois qui ne sont pas jeunettes,
      A qui cette eau de jouvance viendroit
                  Bien à propos.

           *       *       *       *       *

    De cettuy preux maints grands clercs ont écrit
      Quʼoncques dangier nʼétonna son courage:
    Abusé fut par le malin esprit,
      Quʼil épousa sous feminin visage.

    Si piteux cas à la fin découvrit,
      Sans un seul brin de peur ny de dommage,
    Dont grand renom par tout le monde acquit,
      Si quʼon tenoit très honeste langage
                  De cettuy preux.

    Bien-tost après fille de Roy sʼéprit
    De son amour, qui voulentiers sʼoffrit
      Au bon Richard en second mariage.

    Donc sil vaut mieux ou diable ou femme avoir,
      Et qui des deux bruit plus en ménage,
    Ceulx qui voudront, si le pourront scavoir
                De cettuy preux.

[831] The chapter “Of the Pulpit” was first published in 1688, and
our author made additions to it until the eighth edition of the
“Characters” saw the light, in 1694. He had heard all the best
preachers of his time, such as the Jesuit Claude de Lingendes (See page
323, note 2), and the Oratorians Le Jeune and Senault, who both died in
1672, whilst Bossuet preached in Paris from 1659 to 1669. Bourdaloue
began preaching there in 1663, Mascaron in 1666, Fléchier in 1670, and
Fénelon in 1675. The only great pulpit-orator our author did not hear
was Massillon, who did not preach in the capital until 1696. Several
sermons on pulpit oratory were preached in France, and many books on
the same subject had been published there before and after this chapter
was printed.

[832] Three barristers of repute in the seventeenth century, Antoine
le Maître (1608-1658), whose _Recueil de Plaidoyers_ has been printed;
Claude Pucelle, and Bonaventure Fourcroy, a friend of Molière and
Boileau, who died in 1691 and was a poet as well as a lawyer.

[833] See the Chapter “Of Certain Customs,” § 42.

[834] A certain Abbé le Tourneur or le Tourneux, who died in 1680 at
the age of forty-six, is said to have been such a man, but was, of
course, not allowed to remain long at court.

[835] Bourdaloue (1632-1704) set the fashion of introducing in his
sermons “portraits” or “Characters” of well-known individuals: a
fashion which was much exaggerated by his imitators, and which also
for some time prevailed in England. The Sermons of Dr. R. South
(1633-1716), Prebendary of Westminster and Canon of Christ Church,
Oxon, contain also many “portraits.”

[836] Our author says in a note; “This was Father Seraphin, a Capuchin
monk.” Others have been less favourably inclined towards this preacher
than La Bruyère was. This monk, who had been holding forth in Paris as
early as 1671, preached in the parish church of Versailles, and four
years later before the court and the king, in the palace.

[837] Saint Basil (329-379) was bishop of Cesarea; Saint John
Chrysostom was (347-407) bishop of Constantinople, called the
“golden-mouthed” for his great eloquence.

[838] Our author makes the same observation about dramatic poets. See
his Chapter “Of Works of the Mind,” page 9, § 8.

[839] Compare in Racineʼs comedy of _Les Plaideurs_ the speech of
“LʼIntimé” (act iii, scene 3), to ridicule similar quotations.

[840] The Pandects of the Roman emperor Justinian were a cyclopædia of
legal decisions of Roman lawyers; and after they had been discovered
at Amalfi in Italy about the year 1137, they changed the whole of the
legal aspect of Europe.

[841] There were three saints of the name of Cyrillus, but the one
mentioned above was probably bishop of Jerusalem (315-388); Saint
Thascius Cæcilius Cyprianus (210-285) was bishop of Carthage: whilst
Saint Aurelius Augustinus (354-430) was the celebrated author and
bishop of Hippo.

[842] The preachers accused of a florid style were, according to the
“Keys,” the Oratorian Senault, and Fléchier, who in 1685 had been
appointed bishop of Nîmes.

[843] Theodorus is supposed to be Bourdaloue (see page 165, note 3).
Some other celebrated preachers have also been named.

[844] Charles Boileau, _abbé_ de Beaulieu, and a member of the French
Academy, who died in 1704 (see page 49, note 2), is said to have
preached a morality such as is mentioned in the above paragraph.

[845] A certain Abbé de Roquette, a nephew of the Bishop of Autun (see
page 226, note i.), had to preach one Holy Thursday before the king,
but through some unfortunate accident Louis XIV. could not be present,
and the preacher, disconcerted at the absence of the monarch, for whom
probably he had prepared the most fulsome flatteries, did not dare to
mount the pulpit and deliver his sermon.

[846] In the original _clercs_, to which our author added a note
in the first four editions to say that he meant “clergymen.” The
whole paragraph alludes to the missionaries sent into the provinces
to convert the Protestants. Did La Bruyère, in speaking of the
“converts who had already been made for these clergymen,” hint at the
_dragonnades_ and at the other wretched and inhuman means employed to
compel people to change their religion? I am afraid not, though he
admits some persons could not be converted.

[847] Saint Vincent de Paul (1566-1660), a well-known philanthropical
preacher, very successful in his missions; Saint Francis Xavier
(1506-1553), a Jesuit missionary, who made many converts in the East

[848] See page 173, note 1.

[849] See the chapter “Of Works of the Mind,” page 8, § 3.

[850] Some scribbler of the time, a certain Gédéon Pontier, author
of the _Cabinet des Grands_, is said to have written almost similar

[851] In 1689, the same year this paragraph first appeared,
seventy-nine royal censors had been appointed, and no book could be
printed without their permission.

[852] The last sentence of the above paragraph was added in the fifth
edition of the “Characters,” published in 1690, about one year after
Fénelon had been appointed teacher of the Duke of Burgundy, the
grandson of Louis XIV. Fénelon became archbishop of Cambrai in 1695.

[853] See page 27, note 2. Several eminent divines had already written
against “freethinkers,” and about a year before the first edition of
the “Characters” appeared, Fénelon preached a sermon against them.
Those freethinkers were not deists nor atheists, but somewhat like
those persons, at present called agnostics, who neither affirm nor
deny anything, but simply state that they know nothing for certain.
Among their sect might be reckoned at the time our author wrote the
celebrated traveller Bernier, Saint Evremond, Bayle, Fontenelle,
Chaulieu, La Fare, the Dukes de Nevers and de Bouillon, the Grand Prior
de Vendôme, and many others.

[854] The French name for “freethinker” is _esprit fort_, literally
“strong mind.”

[855] Another play on words in the original on _esprit fort_ and
_esprit faible_.

[856] This is perhaps an allusion to the traveller F. Bernier, a pupil
of Gassendi, who visited Assyria, Egypt, and India, and published a
narrative of his travels in 1670.

[857] _Libertin_ was another name for freethinker in French. See p.
161, note 1.

[858] The original has _une personne libre_, to which our author adds
in a note, _une fille_.

[859] An allusion to some such men as the Duke de la Feuillade, the
Minister de Louvois, and the Marquis de Seignelay, who have been
mentioned before, and who almost all died after a very short illness.

[860] Whenever our author has an opportunity he always opposes _esprits
forts_ to _esprits faibles_, or _faibles génies_, as in the above

[861] Leo I., bishop of Rome, called the Great, died 461; St. Jerome
(331-420) was one of the fathers of the Latin Church. For Basil and
Augustine (see page 446, note 1, and page 447, note 1.)

[862] _Spécieux_ in the original, with the Latin meaning.

[863] This is perhaps a hit at Malebrancheʼs _Nouvelle Métaphysique_.

[864] At the time our author wrote it was the custom to allow masked
people to enter a ball-room.

[865] In “A New Historical Relation of Siam,” by M. de la Loubère
(see page 155, note 2), we find: “The priests are the Talapoins....
They have umbrellas in the form of a screen which they carry in their
hand.... In Siamese they call them ‘Talapat,’ and it is probable that
from hence comes the name of ‘Talapir’ or ‘Talapoin,’ which is in use
among foreigners only.” The embassy from the King of Siam to Louis XIV.
took place in the year 1686. See page 338, note 3.

[866] In 1685, when this paragraph was first published, La Bruyère was
forty years old.

[867] St. Augustin (see page 447, note 1) and Descartes (see page 150,
§ 56) had already made use of the above argument.

[868] Our author adds in a note: “An objection to the system of
freethinkers.” An allusion to the system of Spinosa, which Fénelon also
attempted to refute in his _Traité de lʼexistence de Dieu_.

[869] “This is what freethinkers bring forward,” says La Bruyère in a
note. He means probably the disciples of Gassendi, and followers of the
systems of Epicurus and Lucretius.

[870] This is Descartesʼ doctrine.

[871] Lucilius is supposed to have been the Duke of Bourbon, the pupil
of La Bruyère, and the spot of ground, the park of Chantilly, the seat
of the Condé family. (See page 25, § 48.)

[872] Instead of the Nonette and the Thève, two small rivers canalised
by order of the Prince de Condé, our author names two other small
streams, the Yvette, which has its source near Rambouillet, and the
Lignon, an affluent of the Loire.

[873] André le Nôtre, a celebrated landscape-gardener, laid out the
gardens of Versailles and Chantilly, and died in 1700.

[874] The calculations of La Bruyère were not always exact; thus the
mass of the moon is eighty-nine times less than the earthʼs; it is 2165
miles in diameter, and revolves at a mean distance of 238,800 miles
round the earth.

[875] Our author argues as if he were no believer in the system of
Copernicus (1473-1543), but he only states that the sun appears to move
through the firmament, for on page 484 he distinctly mentions that “the
earth is carried round the sun.”

[876] If we suppose that the earth is immovable, the moon moves at a
rate of more than eighteen hundred thousand miles a day, but in reality
it moves at the rate of about sixty thousand miles during twenty-four

[877] Sound travels at the rate of more than nine hundred miles per

[878] It is in reality a hundred and ten times more.

[879] Its absolute diameter is 860,000 miles.

[880] The volume of the sun is equivalent to about one and a quarter
million times the volume of our earth; but its mean density is only a
quarter of that of the earth.

[881] The mean distance of the sun from the earth, is, according to the
latest results, about 92,400,000 miles.

[882] Saturnʼs volume is 686.7 that of the earth; it is the sixth
planet in order of distance from the sun, and describes in 10,795,22
days, or twenty-nine years five months and fourteen days, an orbit
whose semi-major axis is 872,137,000 miles. In our authorʼs time Saturn
was supposed to be the planet the farthest from the sun. See page 135,
note 4.

[883] “Immensurable” is a word La Bruyère tried to naturalise
in French, but he did not succeed, yet it exists in English;
“incommensurable” is to be found in both languages.

[884] According to Aragoʼs _Leçons dʼAstronomie_ the star nearest the
earth is still 22,800,000,000,000 leagues distant from it.

[885] No south polar star exists.

[886] Though the number of stars visible to the naked eye is not more
than five thousand, thousands of millions of stars are in existence of
which only about a hundred thousand have been observed.

[887] See page 479, note 2. The sun is not the centre of the universe,
but of our planetary system.

[888] The atomic system of philosophy started by Leucippus, and adopted
by Epicurus, Democritus, and many other philosophers, was that the
universe, material and mental, consisted of minute, indivisible,
and impenetrable atoms, which atoms were assumed to be the ultimate
ground of nature, whilst necessity was supposed to be the cause of all

[889] According to Descartesʼ _Discours de la Méthode_, animal spirits,
which are so often mentioned in the philosophical and moral works of
his time, “are like a very subtle mind, or rather like a very pure and
bright flame, which is continually and in great abundance ascending
from the heart to the brain, proceeds from thence through the nerves
into the muscles, and produces motion in all the members of the body.”

[890] Pascal already in his _Pensées_ (i. 6.) had called man “a
thinking reed ... nobler than the universe, even if it were to crush
him, because he knows he has to die.”

[891] In the original _ouvrier_. See page 159, note 1.

[892] Similar ideas as those expressed in the above paragraph are to
be found in a sermon “On Providence” preached by Bossuet at the Louvre
in 1662, which was not printed until long after he and La Bruyère were
dead. But as the two men were great friends, it is not unlikely that
our author may have heard them expressed by the eloquent pulpit orator,
either in private conversation or in a sermon.

[893] See the chapter “Of Opinions,” page 364, § 104.




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