Monday, October 18, 2010

Maxims of Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Does anyone else buy books that you never get around to reading? All too often our desire exceeds our reach. So in addition to having books in every room in our house, I have some shelves with books in my garage. Last night while organizing books there to reduce some of the clutter inside I found myself instead leafing through the pages of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

Nowadays, when we need a handy quote to add pith to a page of prose, we Google... and instantly find a whole host of quote sources. But in ancient times, like when I was writing in the 1980's, one had to own a copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

I actually have two copies of the book, this one being the 1938 version, printed in Boston by LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY. The one that sits on my shelf here in my office is of more recent vintage, the Fifteenth ans 125th Anniversary Edition, which I probably received as a gift in 1983, and which is itself littered with bookmarks.

This older one from my garage has a Post-It note on a page of quotes and maxims by François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld.

François was a 17th century French author of maxims and memoirs. I probably marked it because I enjoy reading books of maxims, which are like little pearls of distilled observation preserved in a literary form. And yes, there is a decidedly cynical slant in his keen eye.

Here are a few selections to get you started with your week.

1. Our virtues are most frequently but vices disguised.

2. We all have sufficient strength to endure the misfortunes of others.

3. If we were without faults, we should not take so much pleasure in remarking them in others.

4. We are never so happy nor so unhappy as we imagine.

5. The true way to be deceived is to think oneself more knowing than others.

6. The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is to go beyond the mark.

7. There is great ability in knowing how to conceal one’s ability.

8. We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.

Pour s'établir dans le monde, on fait tout ce que l'on peut pour y paraître établi.

And c'est la vie!

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