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j(T 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 Bruy^re, 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 Roche- 
foucauld 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 object. 

La Bruy^re takes good care to tell us that he has not 
imitated any one ; Pascal " makes metaphysics sub- 
servient 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 Rochefoucauld's "mind, in- 


structed 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." ^ Our author, on 
the contrary, openly declares : "I did not wish to write 
any maxims, for they are like moral laws, and I acknow- 
ledge that I possess neither sufficient authority nor 
genius for a legislator." ^ 

What is the plan and idea of the book of " Char- 
acters ? " Let La Bruy^re 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 incli- 
nations, 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 de- 
fended against the insults and complaints of free- 
thinkers." 3 

La Bruy^re is not a speculative moralist, but an 

1 Pascal's Pensies were published in 1670, six years after their author's 
death ; La Rochefoucauld's 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 authors' labours from La 
Bruyere's " Prefatory Discourse concerning Theophrastus," which came 
out at the same time as the " Characters," and served as an introduction. 

- Preface to La Bruyere's " Characters," page v. 

3 Preface to La Bruyfere's " Speech upon his Admission as a Member of the 


observer of the manners of men, or, as he likes to call 
himself, a philosopher, and above all a Christian philo- 
sopher, 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 expres- 
sions, he " gives back to the public what it lent " ^ 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 author's 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 Bruy^re 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 injuri- 
ous to the persons whose names are deciphered, and to the 
writer who is the cause of it, though an involuntary one." ^ 

French Academy, June 15, 1693," which preface was published for the first 
time with the eighth edition of the " Characters," in 1694. 

1 Preface to La Bruyere's " Chiracters,"' page i. 

2 Preface to La Bruyere's " Speech upon his Admission as a Member of 
the French Academy, June 15, 1693." 


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 Bruyere 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 " Char- 
acters," 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." i 

Our author, therefore, did not wish to depict indi- 
viduals, 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 in- 

1 Preface to La Bruyere's " Speech upon his Admisaion as a Member of 
the French Academy, June 15, 1693." 


fluence in various ages, produce diflferent results amongst 
many races, and do not even act in precisely the same 
manner in divers centuries, climates, and under hetero- 
geneous circumstances. He had no intention of pre- 
senting a series of historical events,^ 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 mind's eye the subdued subjects of 
Louis XIV., slavishly obeying the " Roi Soleil," ad- 
mitting the King can do no wrong, becoming devout 
to please His Majesty and Madame de Maintenon, inau- 
gurating 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" them- 
selves, 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 

1 Sir Walter Scott, in his introduction to Dryden's "Absalom and Achi- 
tophel," 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. " 


my readers acquainted with "a great city," which at the 
end of the seventeenth century was " without any pubHc 
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,^ 
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 tirnes 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." ^ 

La Bruyere, 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 

1 It was the custom in Paris, at the time La Bruyere 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. 

2 All the passages on pages IJ and i6 between inverted commas (" ") 
have been taken from La Bruyere's " Prefatory Discourse concerning 


like a man, and attacks the vices of his age with a 
boldness which none of his contemporaries has sur- 
passed. Nearly the whole of his chapter " Of the Gifts 
of Fortune " is an attack on the financiers ; in the chap- 
ter " Of the Great," he certainly does not flatter the 
courtiers, whilst he himself never pretends to be any- 
thing else but " a plebeian," ^ 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," ^ published 
during his lifetime, he but seldom envenomed the barb 
he had shot, or boasted of it if he did so.^ 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 Bruy^re has been praised by com- 

1 See the Chapter " Of the Great," page 230, § 25. \Vhen, in the Chapter 
"Of Certain Customs," page 408, § 14, he speaks of his "descent from a 
certain Godfrey de la Bruyere," he does so jocularly. 

2 Compare " Preface," page iv., " I did not hesitate," till page v., "and 
more regular." 

3 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 
carrj'ing 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 Bruyere 
would never have ventured to speak so plainly, and this difiference between 
the French and English author seems very characteristic of the two 
nations. Compare also Dryden's poetic delineation of Buckingham as 
Zimri to La Bruyere's portrait of Lauzuu as Straton. 



petent 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.1 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 observa- 
tions made on different personages ; and hence our 
author calls them " Characters," and not "portraits." 

Since La Bruy^re's death many editions of the "Char- 
acters " 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 Hdmardinquer. 

Several imitations of the " Characters " have also 
been published, amongst others a Petit la Bruyere, oii 
Caracteres et iticsiirs des enfa}its de ce sihle, and a Le 
la Bruylre des dofnestigues, precede de considerations sur 
Vetat de domesficite en gSn^ral, both by that voluminous 
author, Madame de Genlis, a Le la Briiyhre des jeunes 
ge?is, and a similar work for jeunes dentoiselles, which 
attract the attention by the oddity of their titles. 

1 Perhaps no author is more quoted in Littre's Dictionnaire de la langue 
/ranfaise than La Bruyere is. 


La Bruy^re's " Characters " have also been translated 
several times into English. 

1. A translation seems to have been published in 
London as early as 1698.^ 

2. The " Characters of Theophrastus," translated 
from M. Bruy^re's French version by Eustace Budgell, 
Esq., London, 1699; and another edition of the same 
work published in 1702.2 

3. The " Characters of Theophrastus," together vk^ith 
the Characters of the Age, by La Bruy^re, with a prefa- 
tory discourse and key : London, 1700.^ 

4. The " Characters, or the Manners of the Age," by 
Monsieur de la Bruy^re of the French Academy, made 
English by several hands, with the " Characters of 
Theophrastus," translated from the Greek, and a pre- 
fatory discourse to them, by Monsieur de la Bruyere, 
the third edition, corrected throughout, and enlarged, 
with the Key inserted in the margin : London, Leach, 

5. The Works of Monsieur de la Bruyere, containing : 
L The Moral Characters of Theophrastus ; II. The 
Characters, or the Manners of the Present Age; III. 
M. Bruy^re's Speech upon his Admission into the 
French Academy ; IV. An Account of the Life and 
Writings of M. Bruyere, by Monsieur Coste, with an 
original Chapter of the Manner of Living with Great 

1 M. G. Servois, in his bibliographic Notice of La Bruyere's works, &c. , 
vol. iii., first part, quotes a passage from the London correspondent of the 
Histoire des Ouvrages des savants (see page ig, 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. 4. 

2 Watt's " Bibliotheca Britannica." 

3 According to M. Servois, this edition is mentioned in Lowndes' " Tiie 
Bibliographer's Manual," but I have not been able to find it there. 


Men, written after the method of M. Bruyfere, 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 1 7 1 3 : London, 
E. Curll. 

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

7. The Works of M. de la Bruy&re, in two volumes, 
to which is added the Characters of Theophrastus, also 
The Manner of Living with Great Men, written after the 
manner of Bruy^re, 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 Bruy^re on 
William III. in the Chapter " Of Opinions," §§ 118 and 
119, are omitted; the sixth edition of the "Charac- 
ters," given in No. 5, and published in 1713; and 
the edition referred to in No. 7. 

In the " Advertisement concerning the new edition " 
of 17 1 3, 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 Bruyfere's 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 17 13, and is dedicated to the Right Hon- 
ourable Henry, Earl of Lincoln, Auditor of the Ex- 
chequer, 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 pre- 
decessors, whenever I found I could not improve upon 

Translations of the " Characters " have appeared in 
several other langfuages ; four of these were published 
in German, the last one printed in 1872, whilst already 
the final chapter of La Bruy^re's book " Of Freethinkers " 
had come out in a German dress in 1739; Tioreover, 
La Bruy^re's 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. Bruy^re, by 
N. Rowe, mentioned already. 

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

I imagine that the author of the " English Theophras- 
tus " was M. Abel Boyer, the compiler of the well-known 
dictionary, bom at Castres in 1664, who fled to Eng- 


land at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and 
died at Chelsea in 1729. 

The direct influence of La Bruy&re's writings on 
English literature is not easily to be traced. Swift 
may, possibly, have studied him, though he never men- 
tions him,i and so may, perhaps, Anthony Cooper, third 
earl of Shaftesbury,^ *'who spoke French so fluently, 
and with so perfect an accent, that in France he was 

1 I imagine I can observe slight traces of La Bruyere in Swift's "Account 
of the Empire of Japan, written in 1728," beginning with the words : " Re- 
goge 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 Guiscard's 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 im:igine the latter did as much execution, though he used a rapier, 
whilst Swift employed a bludgeon. 

2 There are few portraits in Shaftesbury's "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 Bruyere, 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 Bruyere's Chapter " Of Works of the Mind," §§ 51, 52 ; the whole of this 

' Letter " is somewhat like La Bruyere, as in section iv. the crafty beggars, 
addressing some one they meet in a coach, and of whose quality they are 
ignorant. In Shaftesbury's " Sensus Communis, an Essay on the Freedom of 
Wit and Humour," part i, section 3, his remarks about true raillery ; and 
the opening of the second part, section i : " 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. 


often mistaken for a native." ^ I venture to think that 
Addison and Steele were also acquainted with our 
Frenchman ; ^ but the English author who in expres- 
sion, 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 Bruy^re, and therefore cannot have 
imitated him.^ 

1 " English Philosophers : " Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. By Thomas 
Fowler, President of Corpus Christi College : London, 1882. 

' It will, of course, be impossible to give "chapter and verse " for every 
passage of the " Spectator " which is faintly like one of La Bruyere's 
observations, nor do I mean to say that Addison, Steele, and the other 
contributors to the English paper borrowed literally, and without acknow- 
ledgment, 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 Bruyere. Compare 
for example Addison's paper about the opera, Spectator No. 5, to § 47 of 
La Bruyere's 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 Bruyere's 
Chapter " Of Women." Nos. 45, 57, 77, 88, 98, 100, 129, 193, 236, 238, 
and 494, appear to me somewhat like several of La Bruyere's paragraphs. 
The " fair youth " in No. 104 of the "Spectator" is not unlike a reverse 
picture of La Bruyere's portrait of Iphis in the Chapter " Of Fashion," page 
389, § 14 ; whilst the remark in No. 226, " Who is the better man for be- 
holding the most beautiful Venus," &c., reminds one of La Bruyfere's re- 
mark on obscene " pictures painted for certain princes of the Cnurch," in 
his Chapter " Of Customs," page 409, J 17. Steele's opinions about 
corporal punishments (Spectator, No 157) are very much in advance of 
those of La Bruyere on the same subject ; the English author remarks 
about Louis XIV. (Spectator, No. 180 and 200) should be compared with 
La Bruyere's glorification of the same monarch. 

3 I have consulted the edition of Dr. R. South's 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 


I am not aware La Bruy^re knew English, though 
his successor at the French Academy states that 
he spoke several foreign languages ; ^ he was well 
acquainted with German, Italian, and I think also 
Spanish ; nor do I know if any of Dr. South's ser- 
mons were published separately before La Bruy^re 
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 

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 Csesar, 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 Bruyere. 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 Bruyeresque, and somewhat like several 
paragraphs of the Chapter " Of Certain Customs." See also in "The 
Nature and Measures of Conscience," a sermon preached Nov. i, 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 king's suffering something 
to resemble our Saviour's." Compare finally the portrait of the " cozening, 
lying, perjured shop-keeper'' in the second sermon, "On Avarice as con- 
tradictory to Religion," with La Bruyere's tradesman in his Chapter " Of 
the Gifts of Fortune," § 43. 

1 The Abbe Claude Fleury, the learned author of the Histoire Ecclesi- 
astique, who succeeded La Bruyere as a member of the French Academy, 
said of his predecessor in his opening speech : " II savait les langues mortes 
et les vivantes." 


specially etched for this edition by M. B, Damman, 
whilst the portrait of La Bruy^re, and the vignettes at the 
head of each chapter, have been drawn and etched by 
M. V. Foulquier. 

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




;0R a long time it has generally been taken 
for granted that our author first saw the 
light at Dourdan, a small town in the de- 
partment 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 Bruyfere, 
was controleur des rentes de la ville, a sort of town-tax 
collector, whilst his mother, Elizabeth Hamonin, be- 
longed to a respectable family of Parisian burgesses. 
His grandfather and great-grandfather on the father's 
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 author's 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 Bruy^re 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 Orleans. He became an advo- 
cate, but in 1673, when twenty-eight years old, he for- 
sook the bar, and bought for about 24,000 livres the 
post of trhorier des finances in the Caen district, in 
Normandy. There were fifteen tresoriers 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 Bruy^re had bought this treasurership of a certain 
Joseph Metezeau, said to have been a relative by mar- 
riage 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 Condd, he sold again 
his post for 18,000 livres to Charles-Francois de la 
Bonde, Seigneur d'Iberville. 

On the recommendation of Bossuet, La Bruy^re, in 
1684, had been appointed teacher of history to the Duke 
de Bourbon ; and remained with the Condds for twelve 
years, until the day of his death. He instructed his 
pupil not only in history, but also in geography, litera- 
ture, 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.,1 and La Bruy^re received then the appointment 
of eciiyer gentilhomme to Henri Jules, Duke of Bourbon, 
the father of his former pupil. 

1 See the Chapter "Of Mankind," page 289, note 2. 


Why La Bruy^re 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 Cond^s at their hotel at 
Paris, at their country seats at Chantilly and Saint Maur, 
or v^hen 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 trap- 
pings, and lorded it over the common herd, whilst solicit- 
ing offices or dignities ; and for observing that these men 
were neither superior in feelings nor intellect to the 
" common people." ^ 

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 Bruy^re ; 
he translated into French the " Characters " of Theo- 
phrastus, 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 dis- 
played more satirical power than in any of his other 

1 See the Chapter " Of the Great," page 242, § 53. 


works, 1 and resolved to publish his translation, and to 
print as a kind of appendix his own " Characters " at 
the end of it. One day,^ whilst La Bruy^re was sitting 
in the shop of a certain bookseller, named Michallet, 
which he visited almost daily, and was playing with the 
shopkeeper's 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 book- 
seller 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 pur- 
sued the even tenor of his way, and increased the number 
of his paragraphs during the remaining portion of his life.^ 

In 1 69 1 he endeavoured to be elected a member of 
the French Academy, and to become the successor of 
Benserade,* 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 

1 Some of the pa<;sages of this " Prefatory Discourse " will be found in 
the Introduction. 

2 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 Remy 
de July, to whom she brougiit a dowry of more than 100,000 livrcs. 

3 See note 3, page 4. 

♦ See the Chapter "Of Society and Conversation," page 122, § 66, and 
note I ; about Fontenelle, see in the same Chapter the character of Cydias, 
page 127, § 75. 


visits to the Academicians to solicit their votes,^ though 
his friends, Racine, Boileau, the secretary of state, de 
Pontchartrain,2 and others, used all their influence to 
ensure his nomination. 

The speech he delivered at his reception seems not 
to have given general satisfaction, for La Bruy^re 
defended the partisans of the classical and attacked 
those of the modern school, proclaimed Boileau a judi- 
cious critic, and hardly admitted Corneille to be the 
equal of Racine. This speech, preceded by a very 
satirical preface,^ 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 : Phdlypeaux, the son 
of de Pontchartrain ; the Marquis de Termes ; Bossuet, 
and his nephew the Abb^ Bossuet ; F^nelon ; de 
Malesieu ; Renaudot ; de Valincourt ; Regnier-Desma- 
rais ; La Loub^re, 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 Bruyere 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, 

1 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 contra- 
dicted him if it had not been the truth. 

2 See the Chapter " Of the Court," page 201, note 2. 

3 In the Introduction are to be found some extracts from this preface. 


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 Condd, which took place on the 8th of December 
1 686,1 and also to have disliked being made now and 
then the butt of courtiers ^ his mental inferiors, but 
aristocratic superiors ; hence he was often silent for 
fear of being laughed at.^ 

He was scarcely fifty when, according to some re- 
ports, he became suddenly deaf; a few days afterwards, 
during the night of the loth of May 1696, he died of 
an attack of apoplexy at the hotel of the Cond^s at 

In 1699 were published some Dialogues siir le 
Quietisme, attributed to La Bruy^re ; but as the editor, 
the Abbd 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 com- 

Only twenty-one authenticated letters of La Bruyere 
are in existence, of which seventeen are in the collec- 
tion of the Duke d'Aumale, at Twickenham. 

1 La Bruyere's bitter feelings appear in such paragraphs as g 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. Moliere felt a somewhat similar bitterness ; at 
least in the dedication of les Fdcheux 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 Shakespeare's hundred 
and eleventh Sonnet beginning — " Oh ! for my sake do you with Fortune 

2 See the Chapter " Of Society and of Conversation," page 120, |§ 56, 57. 
8 See in the Chapter " Of the Great," page 230, § 26, which seems to me 

to prove this fear. 


' ' Admonere voluimus, non mordere ; prodesse, non laedere ; 
consulere moribus hominum, non officere." ^ 

'X'HE 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 through- 
out with the utmost regard to truth I am capable of, 

1 "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 Dor- 
pius, 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. 



and which it deserves from me, I should make restitu- 
tion 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 in- 
structive 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 attrac- 
tive, 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 fre- 
quently 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 
apphcation 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 pubhshing 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, inexhaus- 
tible ; 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 hesi- 
tate to add some fresh remarks to those which already 
had doubled the bulk of the first edition of my book ; ^ 
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 ((^)) ; ^ I also thought it would not be 
useless to distinguish the first augmentations by another 
and simpler mark (H), to show the progress of my 

1 The first edition of tVie "Characters," published in 1688, contained 420 
characters, the fourth edition 771. 

- This mark, a ((^)) between double parentheses, as well as the same imrk 
between single parentheses, was first emplojed in the fifth edition (1690) of 
the "Characters," and in all the following ones. But the mere ^ without 
any parentheses was used by La Bruyere in all editions to denote the 
beginning of a paragraph. 


"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 ^ 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 pos- 
sess 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 con- 
cise.2 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. 

' 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 Bruyere. 

2 This seems to allude to La Rochefoucauld's " Maxims." 


( I.) A FTER above seven thousand years,i 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 ^ amongst the modems. 

1 M. de La Bruyfere 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. 

2 Airile in the original, in the sense of the English word "able," and 
used as a noun, was already then considered antiquated. 


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

(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.^ 

(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 acquired. 

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

(6.) Take away from most of our works on morality 
the " Advertisement to the reader," the " Epistle dedica- 
tory," 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. 

1 Sentiment, in the original, was during the seventeenth century not 
seldom employed in French for " opinion," as " sentiments " are at present 
in English. - 

2 This magistrate is said to have been Pierre Poncet de la Riviere, 
Count d'Ablys (i6oo-i68i), a barrister, a councillor of state, and member of 
the royal council of finances, whose absurd moral treatise, Considerations 
sur les avantages de la vieillesse dans la vie chretienne, politique, civile, 
economiq-ue et solitctlre, 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 d'Aligre, and more than three months before Presi- 
dent Lamoignon's decease. 

3 At that time so-called collections of anecdotes, such as BoUana, Mina- 
giana, and Segraisiana, were greatly in vogue. 


(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.^ 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.2 Homer wrote the Iliad,^ Virgil the ^neid, Livy 
the Decades, and the Roman orator * his Orations. 

(10.) There is in art an acme of perfection, as there 

1 It is said that the great dramatic poet Pierre Comeille (1606-1684) 
is alluded to as one of those poets. 

2 All the "Keys" pretend this is a hit at the " Dictionary of the Aca- 
demy," 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 Bruyere was thinking of the 
tragedy-ballet of PsycM (1671), words by Pierre Comeille and Moliere, 
music by Quinault and LuUi ; 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 Moliere. 

3 Even in La Bruyere's lifetime doubts were alieady expressed about 
the Iliad being written by Homer. 

^ This Roman orator was Cicero. 


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 dis- 
cussing the difference between them. 

(ii.) Men have generally more vivacity than judg- 
ment ; or, to speak more accurately, few men exist whose 
intelligence is combined with a correct taste and a judi- 
cious criticism. 

(i2.) 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 man's praise. 

(14.) The whole genius of an author consists in giving 
accurate definitions and in painting well. Only Moses,^ 
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, ^ 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 

1 La Bruyere adds in a fcx>tnote : " Even merely considered as an author." 

2 Almost every one felt during the seventeenth century a dislike for 
Gothic architecture. 


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 

A mani feeds on the ancients and intelligent modems ; 
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 modem 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.2 

He confesses that the ancients, though they are un- 
equal and incorrect, have a great many beautiful pas- 
sages ; 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 modems ; but we doubt them, as they seem 
to be judges in their ovm. cause, for their works are 
so exactly written after the model of antiquity, that we 
cannot accept their authority.^ 

1 Probably Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelie (1657-1757) is meant here. 
This author had made excellent classical studies in a Jesuit college, but 
attacked the ancients in his Discours sur C Eglogue and in his Digression 
sur les anciens et les modernesy published together with \C\% Poisies 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. 

2 It is generally thought that Charles Perrault (1628-1703), a member of 
the French Academy, is alluded to, but this seems more than doubtful. 

3 Those "able men" were the dramatist Jean Racine (1639-1699) and the 
satirist Nicolas Boileau Despr^aux (1636-1711). 


(1 6.) 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 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 

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,! and I did so. At first he liked them, 
before he had leisure to disapprove of them ; he com- 
mended them coldly in my presence, and since then, has 

1 Zoilus, a Greek grammarian, flourished about 356-336 B.C., and assailed 
Homer, Plato, Isocrates, and other Greek authors with merciless severity. 


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 Hstening to so many fine things which were not 
his own." 

Those men who through their rank are exempt from 
an author's jealousy, have either other passions or ne- 
cessities to distract them, and to make them indifferent 
towards other men's 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 pubhc 
shares their opinion. ^ 

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 
author's 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 

1 Acording to all the " Keys," this is said to be an allusion to the Abbe 
de Dangeau (1643-1723), a member of the French Academy, and a brother 
of the better known marquis. But why and wherefore this Abbd has been 
singled out, has not reached posterity. Some say the President Cousin, the 
editor of the Journal des Savants, was meant. 


the great. Zelotes,! you are not required to cry out : 
" This is a masterpiece ; human intelligence never went 
farther ; the human speech cannot soar higher ; hencefor- 
ward we will judge of no one's 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 
— "That's 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 lan- 
guages, but then it is too late. 

(22.) Some people, after having read a book, quote 
certain passages which they do not thoroughly under- 
stand, 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. 2 

(23.) "What is your opinion about Hermodorus' 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 

1 ZijXwr^s means "envious." 

2 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 //Ai^f/wzV, accusing Perrault at the same 
time of having carelessly read the work he was censuring. 


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.) Ars^ne,^ 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 cor- 
rected by this picture, which will not even be read by him. 

(25.) Theocrines ^ 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 him- 
self at those whom he thinks his inferiors. By chance I 

1 This was meant for Henri-Joseph de Peyre, Count de Troisvilles (1642- 
1708), pronounced Treville, a very intelligent and highly-cultivated noble- 
man, 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. 

2 The Abbe de Dangeau, a pedaniical purist mentioned already, page 13, 


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 ? " you'll 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 contrar)', 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 per- 
plexity, 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 speak- 
ing. 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 ^ 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 uni- 
versally admired ; it rose in spite of power and politics, 

' In the seventeenth century fireworks were in Frencli feu gr^i,eo!i, 
literally "Greek fire." 



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?- 

(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 manner.^ 

(32.) Capys,^ who sets up for a judge of style and 
fancies he writes like Bouhours ^ and Rabutin,^ disagrees 
with public opinion, and is the only person who says 

1 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 Bruyere. Boileau says in 
his ninth satire : — 

" En vain contre le Cid un ministre se ligue. 
Tout Paris pour Chimere a les yeux de Rodrigue. 
L'Academie en corps a beau le censurer, 
Le public revoke s'obstine a I'admirer." ,' 

2 Couragfux and courage were not seldom used in the seventeenth century 
for " heartielt " and "heart," whilst main iTouvrier, "hand of a workman," 
was sometimes employed instead of main de niaitre, " hand of a master." 

3 The dramatist Edme Boursaiilt (1638-1 701) had had a literary quarrel 
with Boileau, who attacked him in his ninth Satire, to which Boursault 
replied by his comedy Xa Satire des Satires. But they had been reconciled 
more than a year before the "Characters" were published. 

* Father Bouhours (1628-1702), a literary Jesuit of some reputation and 
talent, published in 1689 ^^^^ Pensces ingenieuses des anciens etdes modernes, 
in which he several times praised the "Characters." La Bruyere, not to be 
behind-hand, inserted the learned father's name in his fifth edition, published 
in 1690. 

* Roger de Rabutin, Count de Bussy (1618-1693), a friend of our author, en- 
joyed a certain literary reputation in the seventeenth century, now completely 
lost. He is only remembered by his licentious and satirical Histoire amour- 
euse des Gaules, for which he was banished from the court for more than 
twenty years. 


that Damis ^ 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,^ 
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 bookseller's 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. 3 

(34.) A philosopher* 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 

1 Damis was meant for Boileau. 

2 There had been a whole family of printers of that name, though only 
Andr^ was alive when the "Characters " appeared. At that time books in 
France and in England were almost always sold bound. 

3 By "newsmonger "our author alludes to the manufacturers of manuscript 
newspapers, containing all kin. is of social and political scandal, eagerly 
sought for, and who were severely punished when caught. The English 
translator of 1702 gives for nouvelHste "journalist," and says in his " Key : " 
" The author of the Works of the Learned of Paris," etc. The Hisioire 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 "jour- 
nalist," and says in the " Key : " " On the authors of Journa's, or accounts 
of books and News, published in France, Holland," etc. 

^ \a Bruyire speaks here of himself. 


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 ^ 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 admira- 
tion 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 2 or Voiture ; ^ but they are void of 
those sentiments which have swayed us since their time 
and originated with the ladies. That sex excels ours 

1 In the seventeenth century, bel esprit, plural beaux esprits, in the 
original, meaiit a man of inte ligence, but began already in La Bruyere's 
time to have the meaning of " witling." 

2 Jean Guez de Balzac (1594-1655), one of the first members of the French 
Academy, wrote, besides his over-praised " Letters," a Socrate Chretien, the 
Prince, a panegyric on Louis XIII., and Entrettetis ou Dissertations lit- 

3 Voiture (1598-1648), also a member of the French Academy, is chiefly 
known by his "Letters" and some namby-pamby poetry, amongst which is ihe 
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 seven- 
teenth century. Voiture and Balzac are now deservedly buried in oblivion. 


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 per- 
haps the letters of some of them would be among the 
best in our language, i 

(38.) Terentius 2 wanted nothing but to be less cold. 
What purity ! what preciseness ! what polish ! what ele- 
gance ! what characters ! Moliere wanted nothing but 
to avoid the vulgar tongue and barbarisms and to write 
elegantly. 3 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 Th^ophile.* They 
both understood nature, with this difference : the first, 

1 The letters of Mad.-ime de Sevigne (1626-1696) were not published until 
1726, or thirty years after La Bruyere's death, though perhaps he might have 
seen some of them in manuscript. Among the ladies celebrated for their epis- 
tolary style in the seventeenth century were Madame de Maintenon, 
Mademoiselle de Scud^ry, Madame de Bussy-Lamelh, and above all Ma- 
dame de Boislandry. See the Chapter " Of Opinions," § 28, " A Fragment." 

2 Publius Terentius Afer (194-158 B.C.), a celebrated Latin comic dramatist. 

3 Some commentators on La Bruyere think that the words " vulgar tongue 
{jargon) and barbarisms " refer to Molifere having put peasants on the 
stage, and letting them speak their dialect. See § 52. 

♦ Malherbe (1555-1628) was one of the greatest purists amongst the 


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, ^ exaggerates, outstrips what is true in 
nature, and becomes a romancer. 

(40.) In both Ronsard 2 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,^ 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 per- 
fect again. It is astonishing that Marot's 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, Bel- 
leau, Jodelle, and du Bartas * were soon followed by a 

authors of his time. Theophile de Viau (1591-1626), a writer of tragedies 
and a poet, was by some of his contemporaries though t to be a rival of Malherbe. 

1 In the original il feint, the Latin _/?«^V, he shapes, imagines. 

2 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 

3 Clement Marot (1495-1544), the favourite poet of Francis I., was born 
twenty-nine years before Ronsard, who lived about forty years longer than 

* Remy Belleau (1528-1577), Jodelle (1532-1573), and du Bartas (1544- 
1 590), were all poets of the school of Ronsard and belonging to the ' ' Pleiad. " 
Du Bartas's chief work has been translated into English by "silver-tongued " 



Racan ^ and a Malherbe, and that the French language 
was no sooner vitiated than it recovered. 

(43.) Marot and Rabelais 2 are inexcusable for scat- 
tering 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 incom- 
prehensible : his book is a mystery, a mere chimera ; it 
has a lovely woman's face, with the feet and tail of a ser- 
pent 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 

(44.) Two writers have condemned Montaigne ^ 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 natural.* 

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." 

1 Hoiiorat de Bueil, Marquis de Racan (1589-1670), the favourite pupil of 
Malherbe, is chiefly known by his pastoral dialogue, Les Bergeries. La 
Bruyere praises Malherbe and Racan for their pure style, but the fabulist 
Jean la FoAtaine says of them : — 

" Malherbe avec Racan parmi le chceur des anges, 
Lk-haut de I'Eternel celebrant les lou^nges 
Out eiiiporte leur lyre." 

2 Francois Rabelais (1459-1553), author of the Chroniques de Gargantua 
et de Pantagruel- 

2 La Bruyfere writes " Montague," and so it is even now pronounced. 
Montaigne's (1533-1592) " Essays " are known everywhere. 
* The author who "thinks too little" is said to have been the Port- 


(45.) A grave, solemn, and correct style will go a long 
way. Amyot and Coeffeteau ^ are read, but who else of 
their contemporaries ? The phraseology and the expres- 
sion 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 ... 2 is distinctly less than no- 
thing, 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 people's 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.^ 

There are some passages in an opera which make us 
long for others ; it sometimes happens we wish it was 

Royalist, Pierre NicoIe(i625-i695), 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 \\\s, Recherche de la 
Virite {\(>Ti). 

1 Jacques Amyot (1513-1593), the translator of Plutarch. Nicolas Coeffe- 
teau (1574-1623), bishop of Marseille, is best known by his translation of the 
Roman historian, Floras. 

2 The letters H. G. stand for Herjnes Galatii, " Hermes " being the 
Greek for Mercury, and there existing since 1672 a kind of monthly review, 
called the Mercnre Galant, edited by Donneau de Vis^, Tnomas Corneille, 
and Fontenelle, and printing some news from the court and the army, a few 
literary art cles, and as many advertisements as possible. Since 1677 its 
title changed to Mercure de France. 

3 Boileau, La Fontaine, and Saint Evremond were, like La Bruyere, no 
lov=rs of the opera. 


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 ; ^ 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."^ Machines increase and em- 
bellish 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 
BMnice or Phielope ^ are represented, but they are neces- 
sary 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 ^ have erected a theatre and 
machiner)', composed ballets, verses, and music ; theirs 
is the whole spectacle, even to the room where the per- 
formance was held, from the roof to the ver>' foundation __ y-'^^ 
of the four walls. Who has any doubt that the hunt on 


1 The Abbe Perrin and his brother-in-law, the Marquis de Sourdeac, 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. 

- At that time there was a regular theatre for puppet-shows, founded by 
Pierre d'Attelin, better l<iiown as Brioche. 

3 In 1670 Corneille and Racine had each a tragedy, Bir^nice, represented ; 
I'endope, a tragedy of the Abbe Genest, was played in 1684. 

* One of those busybodies is said to have been a certain M. Manse, 
engineer of the waterworks of Chantilly, the seat of the Condes ; and he 
pretended to have chiefly organised the festival give:i by the Prince de 
Conde, a son of the great Conde, and the father of La Bruyere's pupil, the 



the water,! the delights of "La Table," 2 the marvels of 
the Labyrinth 3 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 any- 
thing 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 gesti- 
culations of those who did nothing.* 

(49.) The critics, or those who, thinking themselves so, 
decide deliberately and decisively about all public repre- 
sentations, group and divide themselves into different 
parties, each of whom admires a certain poem or a cer- 
tain 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 con- 
tradictions, and delay the progress of arts and sciences, 

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. 

1 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. 

2 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 XI V.'s time a collaiion. 

3 " Another wonderful collation given in the Labyrinth of Chantilly," says 
a note of La Bruyere. An engraving still exists of the table, its decorations 
and ornaments. 

♦ This compliment to the Prince de Condrf only appeared for the first time 
in the fourth edition of the " Characters, " published in i58g, when the whole 
court was still talking about the entertainment. 


by depriving them of the advantages to be obtained by 
that emulation and freedom which many excellent mas- 
ters, each in their own way and according to their own 
genius, might display in the execution of some very fine 
works. 1 

(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 bur§t 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 reluc- 
tant 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,^ 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 

1 This is said to be a hit at the partisans of Quinault, who could see no 
charms in anything except in his operas. 

2 In the original, esprit fort, which sometimes meant "a man who does not 
care for the opinions of the world," and sometimes "a freethinker." 


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 
spectator's 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 hsten to reason,^ and in which 
for decency's sake there is at last some blood spilled, 
and some unfortunate man's life taken. 2 

(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 per- 
mitted to write about them, nor could an audience by 

1 La Bruyere puts in a note : " A rebellion was the ordinary ending of 

2 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 ihose 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. 


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 ? 1 An effeminate dandy rises 
late, spends part of the day at his toilet, looks at him- 
self 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 be.^ 

(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 dis- 
interestedness ; 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, 

1 Mol. fere 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 Moliere's Le Malade imaginaire. See also 
page 21, § 38. 

2 This is an allusion to the actor Baron's L' Homme a bonnes fortunes 
(1686) and the Dibauchi (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 Bruyere's time. 


(54.) Corneille cannot be equalled where he is excel- 
lent ; he shows then original and inimitable characteristics, 
but he is unequal. His first plays 1 are uninteresting and 
heavy, and did not lead us to expect that he would after- 
wards 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 ^ — 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 Racine's 
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,*^ and harmonious. He 
is an exact imitator of the ancients, whom he carefully 

1 In the original comedies, a word employed for tragedies as well as for 

2 Cinna in the tragedy of that name, Felix in Polyeucie, and Rodogune in 
Rodogitne are examples of this. 

3 The original has nombreux, the Latin nunterosus. 


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 ? 1 What grandeur do we not observe in Mithri- 
dates. Torus, and Burrhus I^ Both poets were well ac- 
quainted 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, Phldre of the same author, as well as CEdipus 
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 pro- 
bably say : Corneille enthralls us by his characters and 
ideas ; Racine's 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 Cor- 
neille's tragedies, but by Racine's we are more softened 
and moved. Corneille is more moral, Racine more 

1 Three tragedies by Corneille. Though he himself calls the last tragedy 
by the name given above, its real title is Horace. 

- Mithridates, the hero of Racine's tragedy of that name ; Porus, a cha- 
racter in the Alexandre, and Burrhus in the BritannicusoOhe same author. 


natural.^ The one seems to imitate Sophocles, the other 
Euripides. 2 

(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 elo- 
quence except in public orations, and can see no distinc- 
tion 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 

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 ? ^ 
Does the sublime enter into all kinds of writings, or are 
grand subjects only fit for it ? * Can an eclogue display 

1 In the comparison between Corneille and Racine there are some remi- 
niscences of a Parallele dc M. Corneille et de M. Racine, published in 16S6 
by a certain author, de Requeleyne, Baron de Longepierre. 

2 Sophocles (495-406 B.c ), Eur pides (480-406 B.C.) 

3 Cassius Longinus (213-273), a Greek orator, philosopher, and author, 
is chiefly known by his " Treatise on the Sublime," which is generally attri- 
buted 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. Boileau's translation of this "Treatise" appeared n 
1674, and in his preface he de.-.cribed but did not define the sublime, a defi- 
nition also not found in Lcmginus. 

* The original has capable, in the sense of the Latin capax. 


anything but fine simplicity, and familiar letters as well 
as conversation anything but great delicacy ? Are sim- 
plicity and delicacy not the sublime of those works of 
which they are the perfection ? What is this sublime ? 
Where does it begin ? ^ 

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. - 
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 expres- 
sion 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 ima- 
gery, of course, are led away by comparisons and meta- 
phors. 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 sub- 
lime, 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 

1 According to Boile.iu, 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. Lcnginus him- 
self says that anything which leaves us food for thought, which almost 
carries us away, and of which the remembrance is lasting, is subiime. 

^ In rhetoric there is a difference between a metaphor and a cumoarison. 



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 or^ both sides are not brought 
forward in all their strength, nor are they quite accu- 
rate ; 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.^ 

(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.^ 

(61.) There are some artists ^ or men of ability whose 
intelligence is as extensive as the art or science they pro- 
fess ; 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 some- 
times 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 

1 The above paragraph is said to refer to the polemical writings inter- 
changed between the Jesuits and Jansenists, and seems not quite fair to 
Pascal's Lettres Provinciales. 

2 Some " Keys" mention the names of Bouhours and Bourdaloue, whilst 
more modern commentators think that La Bruyere only wished to give a 
paragraph on the French prose of his time. 

' The original has artisan, which even in La Bruyere's time meant an 
artisan, when used without being qualified ; our author employs it, how- 
ever, for "artist." 


them nor even understand them, and are much less likely 
to imitate them ; they dwell peaceably within the com- 
pass 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 

(62.) If I may venture to say so, there are certain in- 
ferior or second-rate minds, who seem only fit to become 
the receptacle, register, or storehouse of all the produc- 
tions of other talents ; ^ 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 use- 
less 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, re- 
quiring 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 

1 Some annotators say a certain Abbe Bourdelon (1653-1730), a com- 
pletely forgotten critic, was meant ; others think it was a hit at Menage 
(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 Moliere's Fenimes 


of certain subjects, it will spoil the reader's judgment as 
well as that of the author criticised. 

(64.) I would advise an author who can only imitate,^ 
and who is modest enough to tread in the footsteps of other 
men, to choose for his models writings that are full of in- 
telligence, 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 bom 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 splendourof hisgeniusandstyle.^ 

1 This author was the Abbe de Villiers, who published in 1682 a poem in 
four cantos, V Art de Precher, in which he tried to \vb\\3Xc L' Art po^tique oi 
Hoileau, and in 1690 Re/lexions sur Us dilauts d'autrni, which were very 
successful ; some suppose Father Bouhours' Pensies ingenieuses des anciens 
et des modernes(\b%q) hinted at ; whilst M. G. Servois, the able editor of La 
Bruyere in the Grands Ecrh'ai'ns de la Prance (1865-1878), thinks that pos- 
sibly the "author" was Jacques Brillon, a lawyer and indefatigable imitator, 
who in his youth may have been presumptuous enough to have asked La 
Bruyere's advice on some of his literary works, the Portraits s^rieux, etc., 
the L'Ouvrage nonveau dans le goiit des Caracteres de 'Ph^opliraste et des 
Pensees de Pascal, the Theophraste nioderne, etc., which three books ap- 
peared, however, after La Bruyere's death, from 1696 to 1700. Adrien Baillet, 
an erudite scholar and fertile author, is also mentioned by some " Keys." 

2 Itisnow generally supposed thatby the satirist described Boileau is meant, 
for he sometimes commences grand subjects, as in his satires Sur I' Homme 


(66.) The turgid and puerile style of Dorilas and 
Handburg ^ should always be avoided. In certain writ- 
ings, 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 under- 
standing 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 

(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 men's ; but we should per- 
ceive ridicule where it does exist, show it up delicately, 
and in a manner which both pleases and instructs. 

(6g.) " Horace or Boileau have said such a thing be- 
fore 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 ? " 

or Siir la IVoblesse, but he never enters deeply into the matter, and treats of 
l^es Embarras de Puns or Le Repas ridicule. 

1 Those names stand for Varillas (1624-1605) and Maimbourg(i6io-i686), 
two voluminous historians, the first of whom is known for the inaccuracy of 
his facts, the second by his pretentious style, though Madame de Se'vigne 
and Voltaire do not entirely condemn the latter,and '&2C^\e.,\x\\\\%Diction7iaire, 
praises his knowledge and accuracy. "Handburg" is the German for 
" Maimbourg." 



(i.) "\X7'HAT 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 

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 dis- 
cerning character, so that a person of great merit and of 
greater modesty may languish a long time in obscurity. 

(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 
persons' 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 in- 
dustry 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 people's business. 

(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 attend- 
ance 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, base- 
ness, 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, rest- 
less, useless courtiers, often burdensome to the common- 
wealth, would make them clever administrators, exem- 
plary 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. 

(i2.) 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 vul- 
garly 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 trouble- 
some 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 incHned 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 him- 
self 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 him- 
self 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,i 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 ^ repays himself for the zeal with 

1 Glorieux in the original, which in La Bruyere's time, and even later, 
had the meaning "conceited." One of N. Destouches' (1680-1754) best 
comedies is called Le Glorieux. 

* The original hasunhonnlte hontme, which meant, in La Bruyere's time, 


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. 

(i6.) If I dared to make a comparison between two 
conditions of Hfe vastly different, I would say that a 
courageous soldier applies himself to perform his duty 
almost in the same maijner 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 n^gligi. 

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 

" a gentleman, a well-mannered man," but never " an honest man," wliich 
is in French un honitne de bien. 


him make speeches ; your daughter, too, looks as if she 
were made for the world, so never immure her among 
the vestals.i Xanthus, your freedman, is feeble and 
timorous ; therefore do not delay, but let him instantly 
leave the army and the soldiers.^ 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 plebeian. 

1 "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 a«y oratorical talents. 
Vet, in 1691, at tlie 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. 

3 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. 


(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 dur duty and the 
obhgation 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 oiPyrame a poet ; but 
Mignard is Mignard, LuUi is LuUi, and Corneille is 

(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 

IV... stands fqr Claude Francois Vignon (1634-1703), a son of an 
artist of the same name ; C. . . is Pascal Colasse, a pupil of Lulli, whose 
opera, Acliille et Polyxine, was played a short time before the " Charac- 
ters" 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 Bruyere's 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. 


from eminent dignities and lofty titles men derive the 
greatest distinction and lustre ; and thus a man who 
will never make an Erasmus ^ is right when he thinks 
of becoming a bishop. 2 Some, to spread their fame, 
heap up dignities, decorations,^ bishoprics, become 
cardinals, and may want the tiara ; but what need for 
Trophime* to become a cardinal. 

(27.) You tell me that Philemon's ^ clothes blaze with 
gold, but that metal also shone when they were in the 
tailor's shop. His clothes are made of the finest mate- 
rials ; but are those same materials less fine in the 
warehouse or in the whole piece .'' But then the em- 
broidery and trimmings make them still more magni- 
ficent. I praise, therefore, the skill of his tailor. Ask 
him what o'clock it is, and he pulls out a watch, a 
masterpiece of workmanship ; the handle of his sword 
is an onyx,^ 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 

1 Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536), one of the most celebrated scholars and 
learned men of his time. 

2 By this bishop some say was meant M. de Harlay (1625-1695), arch- 
bishop of Paris ; others think the archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier (1642- 
1710), the brother of Louvois, was design ited. See also page 141, note i. 

3 The original has collier d'ordre, the collar of the order of the Holy 

* Trophime, it was supposed, stood for our author's friend B^nigne 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 author's death the name 
of " B^nigne" 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. 

* 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 d' Aubign^, the brother of Mdlle. de 
Maintenon, is spoken of. 

* La Bruyere adds in a footnote, " an agate." 


more for show than service, and is as profuse ^ 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 Philemon's 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.^ 

(28.) At court, and often in the city, a man in a long 
silken cassock or one of very fine cloth, ^ with a broad 
cincture tied high upon his stomach, shoes of the finest 
morocco leather, and a httle 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, 

1 In the original il ne se plaint tton pint. Plaindre had sometimes the 
meaning of "to be sparing,'' and Le Sage employs it in Gil Bias in that 

2 This is said to apply to a certain M. de Mennevillette, receveur-general 
of the clergy, whose son married Mdlle. de Harlay. 

3 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 Moliere 
wore a doublet as the Marquis in les Facheux. Colberteen is also men- 
tioned in "The Fop's Dictionary" (1690), and in Congreve's " The Way 
of the World." 


explains what is the lumen glories, and what it is to 
behold God face to face,^ is called a doctor. 2 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. ^ 

(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 cour- 
tier ; put them both together and they are not worth an 
honest man.* 

(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 experi- 
ence. Perhaps Alexander was but a hero, and Caesar a 
great man.^ 

1 The lumen gloria 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 (i 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." 

* A certain preacher, Charles Boileau, was meant; others think it was a 
canon of Notre-Dame, called Robert. 

** The man of learning is Mabillon (1632-1707), a scholarly Benedictine, 
and author of De Re diplomatica, De Vetera nnalecta, and other works. 

* The original has homtne de bien. See page 43, note 2. 

' Montaigne, Saint-Evremond, and the latest French writer on Alexander, 
M. Jurien de la Gravifere, happily stiil alive, and formerly Minister for the 
French Navy, think mure favourably than La Bruyfere did of the talents of 
the youthful king of Macedonia. 



(32,) iEmilius ^ 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.2 He embraced all oppor- 
tunities 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 ^ 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 

1 ^milius is the Prince de Conde (1621-1686). The whole of the above 
paragraph is filled with reminiscences from Bossuet's Oraison funebre du 
Prince de Conde, delivered in the year 1687. 

2 The battle of Rocroi was won in 1643, when Conde was only twenty- 
two years old, whilst those of Freiburg, Nordlingen, and Lens were gained, 
respectively, in 1644, 1645. and 1648. 

3 An allusion to the siege of Lerida, raised by Cond^ in 1647. 


been heard to say, " I fled," as calmly as he said, 
" We beat the enemy ; " he was a man devoted to the 
State,! to his family, to the head of that family ; 2 sin- 
cere 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 wanting, ^ 

(33.) The offspring of the gods,* if I may express 
myself so, are beyond the laws of nature, and, as it 
were, an exception to them. They expect almost no- 
thing from time or age ; for merit, in them, precedes 
years, ^ They are born well informed, and reach man- 
hood 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. 

1 La Bruyere forgets the wars of the Fronde (1648-1653) and the part 
Conde took in them, as well as in the wars of Spain against France, from 
1652 till 1659. 

2 His grandson and his nephew married illegitimate daughters of Louts 

3 An allusion to hii bad and hasty temper. 

♦ La Bruyere adds in a note, " Sons and grandsons, descendants of kings.'' 
This seems a reminiscence of the Homeric AioytvfU, ^ioTpe(f>eii BoaiAets. 

* This compliment was addressed to the princes of the Cond^ 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 Moliere's I,es Pricieuses ridicules: " People of quality know everything! 
without ever having learned anything. " I 


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

(36.) An intelligent man, of a simple and straight- 
forward 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 

(38.) I made the acquaintance of Mopsus ^ 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 with- 
out waiting till they address him, or feeling that he 
interrupts them, he often speaks, and that in an absurd 

1 Charles Castel, Abbede Saint Pierre (1658-1743), amemberof 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. 


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 compar^y, yet the only person who 
keeps his countenance. He is like a dog that is driven 
out of the king's chair and jumps into the pulpit. He 
looks with indifference, without any embarrassment or 
without any shame, upon the world's opinion ; he and 
a blockhead have the same feelings of modesty, 

(39.) CelsusUs not of avery 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 re- 
called ; he knows why and wherefore two brothers have 

1 Celsiis 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. 


quarrelled,^ and why two ministers have fallen out.^ 
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 ^ 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 people's 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* for a quarter of an hour, but 
a moment after he flags, degenerates, loses the little 

^ 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. 

2 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 England. 

3 Menippus is the Marshal Frangoisde Villeroy (i644-i7;jo), the favourite 
of the king and of Mademoiselle de Maintenon, only known as a perfect 
courtier when La Bruyere published his book, but who later on proved him- 
self an incapable general. In the Mimoires of the Duke de Saint-Simon, he 
is called glorieux a Vexces par nature. See also page 43, note i. 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. 

4 The original has de mise, which was also used by Voltaire and Rousseau, 
but seems now to have become antiquated. 


polish his shallow memory' gives him, and shows he has 
nothing more left.^ He alone ignores how very far he 
is from the sublime a^d 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 gentle- 
man, 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 men's 
eyes are upon him, and that people come to look on him 
one after another. 

(41.) A man who has a palace of his own, with apart- 
ments for the summer and the winter season, and yet 
sleeps in an entresol in the Louvre,^ 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 ren- 
ders him some assistance, that he buys his tranquillity, 

1 Montre la corde in the original. . 

2 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 


but by no means that he is liberal. It is the motive 
alone that gives merit to human actions, and disinter- 
estedness 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.! 

(43.) A wise man is cured of ambition by ambitioa 

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 whollypure and unaffected 

virtue; but men but rarely grant it, so he does without it. 

1 The first part of this paragraph, referring to "false greatness," is said 
to apply to the Marshal de Villeroy ; the second, alluding to " true great- 
ness," to Marshal Turenne (1611-1675). 


(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 



(i.) n^HE 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 anti- 


(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 super- 
ficial. 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 ad- 
vantages 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 dis- 
guise 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.^ 

(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 ; ^ 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 

' An allusion to a fashion of the time La Bruyere wrote, when the ladies 
wore shoes with very high heels and enormous head-dresses, called Fon- 
tanges; the latter were invented by Marie-Angdique Scoraille de Roussille, 
Duchesse de Fontanges (i66i-i68i), who was one of the mistresses of 
Louis XIV. Our author refers to them in his chapter " Of Fashion," § 12. 

2 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 mouths. 

OF WOMEN. 6 1 

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 

(8.) Lise ^ 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 
month's ; 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 

1 Lise is generally supposed to have been Catherine-Henriette d'An- 
gennes de la Loupe, Countess d'OIonne, 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-Rabutin's Histoire amoureuse des Gaules. 


the sweetest music is the sound of the voice of the 
woman we love. 

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

(i2.) 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 con- 
versing 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 premedi- 
tated ; they speak, act, and are eager to please, but 
convince less. 

(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 for- 
gets 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 

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 thou- 
sand 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 gal- 
lantry are pretty much on a level 

(21.) Few intrigues are secret; many women are not 
better known by their husbands' 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 constitu- 
tional 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 strug- 
gling 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 actrons 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 jealousy. 

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

(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.^ 

(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. ^ 

1 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. 
^ The memoirs of the time of Louis XIV. teem with examples of young 


(2^.) A man who is looked upon with contempt at 
court, is received amongst fashionable people ^ in the 
city, where he triumphs over a magistrate in all his 
finer)',2 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 scarfs 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 despised.* 

(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 him- 
self and contemptuously of others, who is boisterous, 
haughty, forward, without morality, honesty, or common- 
sense, and who draws for facts on his imagination, wants 

men of the highest families who considered it no disgrace to live at the ex- 
pense of rich and amorous old crones, and even to receive money from young 

1 The originnl has dans une melle. Ruelle means literally "a small 
street,'' hence the narrow opening between the wall and the bed, 011 which 
bed superfine ladies, gaily dressed, were lying when they received their 
friends, and thus ruelle came to mean "any fashionable assembly." In 
Dr. Ash's " Dict'onary of the English Language," London, 1755, ruelle is 
still defined "a little street, a circle, an assembly at a private house." 

2 En cravate et en habit gris, says the French, which was the usual dress 
of dandified magistrates, aUhough tliey were strictly forbidden to wear any 
other clothes but black ones. 

3 Only officers of the king's household were allowed to wear gold-em- 
broidered scarfs. 

* This alludes to the Count d'Aubigne, a brother of Madame de Main- 
tenon, who was no favourite at court. See also the portrait of" Thecdectts " 
in the chapter " Of Society and Conversation," § 12, page 106. 



nothing else, to be adored by many women, but hand- 
some 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 ? ^ 

(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 an- 
other's, 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 

1 The "lady " is said to have been Madame de la Ferriere, the wife of a 
7nattre des requites, and Dorinna a certain Mdlle. Foucault, a relative 
of some well-known conseiller au Jiarlement, who was in love with a 
Doctor Moreau. 


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, un- 
fortunately, 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,^ is still left ; everybody speaks 
of his strength and his skill ; he is young, broad- 
shouldered and brawny, and, moreover, a negro, a black 

(34.) A woman of fashion looks on a gardener as a 
gardener, and on a mason as a mason ; but other women, 

1 The original has questionnaire, a word then already antiquated, and 
which meant a man applying the question or rack. 

* 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 
Marechale de la Ferte, and of her sister the Countess d'Olonne (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 Bruyere intended to allude to her. ^athyllus and 
Cobus stand for Le Basque, Pecourt, 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 


who live more secluded, look upon a mason and a 
gardener as men. Anything is a temptation to those 
who dread it.^ 

(35-) Some ladies are^ liberal to the Church as well 
as to their lovers ; and being both gallant and charit- 
able, 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 " spiri- 
tually directed" ? Is she more obhging 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 fo 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." '■^ 

1 Is this not an allusion of our author to some nunneries not in very 
good repute at the time? 

2 This applies, it is said, to the Marechale de la Ferte, mentioned on page 
67, note 2, and to the Duke d'Aumonl's second wife, who died in 171 1, sixty- 
one years old. 

3 At the time La Bruyere wro.e, nearly every fashionable lady had, be- 
sides her father-confessor, a spiritual director, who was her "guide, philo- 
sopher, and friend." Boileau, in his tenth satire, says : — 

" Mais de tous les mortels, grace aux devotes ames, 
Nul n'est si bien soigne qu'un directeur de femmes." 


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

(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 

(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 salvation ! " 

(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 name- 
less ; 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 apos- 


tolate, and perform a miracle on them, in rendering 
such simple and Httle 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 con- 
trary, 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 under- 
taking 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 recon- 
ciliations, of obtaining various appointments, or of pro- 
curing places to people,! of finding all doors of noble- 
men's 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 per- 
ceive, I say so again, that for jhe sake of those things 
solely has been invented the specious and inoffensive 
pretence of the care of souls, and an inexhaustible nur- 
sery of spiritual directors planted in this world. 

(43.) Devotion ^ 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 Ismena's ; 

1 Placer des domestiques, in the original; dotnestique 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." 

2 A note of La Bruyere says that this refers to "assumed piety." 


on Tuesdays their time at Climene's, and on Wednesday 
their reputation at Cdlim^ne's ; 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 dis- 
gust. They used gaily to damn themselves through their 
intrigues, their luxury and sloth, and now their presump- 
tion and envy will damn them, though not so merrily.^ 

(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 

1 Those ladies are supposed to have been the Duchesse d' Aumont, already 
mentioned ; the Countess de Lyonne, the wife of a minister of state ; the 
J^uclles^ de Lesdiguieres, and the Countess de Roucy. 


if I were to marry a devout woman ^ who would de- 
ceive 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 ; ^ he recommends them his physician, his trades- 
men, 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 chil- 
dren, 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 

1 Our author's note says, " A pretended pious woman." 

2 It was then the custom for people who had a lawsuit to go and solicit 
their judges in person. 


feared. This old and necessary friend dies at last with- 
out 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 un- 
stained and established reputation if it is not even 
sullied by the familiar intercourse with some ladies who 
;ire 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 

(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 mea- 
sures 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 pre 
tended 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 dis- 
position, 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 dangerous. 

(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 remem- 
bering what they have read, and from introducing this in 
their conversation and in their writings ? Is their ignor- 
ance, 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 inatten- 
tion caused by domestic avocations, or to a natural aver- 
sion 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 imper- 
fections. 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. ^ 

(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 aiid 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. dress. '■^ 

1 In La Bruyere's time many ladies had a great reputation for learning, 
such as Madame de Sevign^, and her daughter, Madame de Grignan, who 
greatly admired Descartes' philosophy ; Madame de la Fayette ; and a sister 
of Madame de Montespan, who was Abbess of Fontevrault. Montaigne 
was of opinion that women had no need of learning, and Moliere, in his 
Fenimes Savantes, holds the golden mean. 

'■' Such were, for example, the heroines of the Fronde, who only cared for 
ambiiion. Saint Simon in his Tl/^ww/rfj speaks of the Marechale de Cleram- 
bault, "who only left off gambling whilst at meals;" the Princess de 
Harcourt, who took usually the sacrament after having gambled until four 

76 OB' WOMEN. 

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

(54.) Most women have hardly any principles ;^ 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 another. 

(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 verj' 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 person's secret better 
than his own ; a woman, on the contrary, keeps her own 
secrets better than any other person's. 

(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 pro- 

in the morning ; and the Duchesse d'Aumont, whom we have already 

1 " 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 Bruyere's § 65 "Of Men." I imagine 
it inspired by the above paragraph. 


portion as their beauty does. On the contrary, every 
thing is favourable to young girls, even men's opinions, 
for they attribute to them every accomplishment, to ren- 
der them still more desirable. 

(6 1.) 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 husbands. 

(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 ad- 
dresses, 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 ^ a woman who loves him than- one to whom he 
is indifferent. 

1 To deceive some one is now in French en iinfoser & quelqu'im, but 


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

(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 re- 
mains 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 affec- 
tion than to be assured of his love for her. 

(73.) Glycera ^ 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 monosylla.bles, 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 d'Esmery.2 

until the last hundred years ijttposer was used, which meant "to deceive" 
and "to impose respect." 

1 Glycera is said to have been Madame de la Ferriere, whom we have 
already mentioned. See page 66, note. 

- 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 Parti- 


Only Corinna is expected and admitted at all hours, em- 
braced several times, caressed, and addressed with bated 
breath, though they are alone in a small room ; what- 
ever she says is attentively listened to ; complaints are 
poured into Corinna's ears about another person ; every- 
thing 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,^ where people eat fruit early in the 
season ; sometimes alone in a sedan-chair on the way 
to the grand suburb,^ where she has a splendid fruit- 
garden, or else at Canidia's^ door, who possesses so many 
rare secrets, promises second husbands to young wives, 
and tells them also when and under what circum- 
stances they will obtain them. Glycera appears com- 
monly 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 husband's 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 

cell, lord .of Esmery, became, through the patronage of Cardinal Mazarin, 
surintendant des finances, and died in 1650. 

1 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 

2 The Faubourg Saint-Germain is meant by the " grand suburb." 

3 Canidia, a Neapolitan lady, is said to have been loved by Horace, and 
to have deserted him. Out of revenge the poet, in his Epodesv. 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. 


she spends at her toilet and in writing some urgent 
letters ; a servant ^ enters, and speaks to her in private ; 
it is Parmenion, her favourite, whom she upholds against 
his master's dislike and his fellow-servants' 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 way ? 

(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 flatter)'.'-^ 

(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 

1 In the original affranchi, freedman. 

2 All the " Keys " say that "the husband " of this paragraph and the 
following one was a certain Nicolas de Baiiquemare, president de la 
deuxienie chambre des requites au palais. 


buried her husband, for he is not so much as mentioned 
in this world ; ^ 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 assist- 
ants, but the supper is always served in my lady's apart- 
ment. 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.^ 

{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. 

^ Wives of a similar kind seem to have been Madame de Monte'jpan, 
Madame de S^vigne, and Madame de la Fayette. 

2 This paragraph refers again to the /•resilient, mentioned on page 80, 
note 2, and to his wife, who was always called " D'Ons-en-Bray," pronounced 
" D'Osembray," after a property belonging to her husband. 



(79.) Dumb and stupefied grief ^ is out of fashion; 
women weep, are garrulous, and so concerned about 
their husbands' 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 in- 
clination could ever abate that feeling of esteem and 
confidence in which she now exulted. All her conver- 
sation 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 father's house, fell in love with her, 

1 Stupide had, in La Bruyete's time, the meaning of " stupefied " as well 
as of " stupid." 


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, how- 
ever ; 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 ad- 
dresses ; however, he wished to visit her sometimes, and 
received her permission so to do. One day he intro- 
duced 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 be- 
came 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 Euph- 
rosyne ; she no longer perceived in her that merit which 
charmed her before ; she lost all pleasure in her con- 
versation ; 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 unfortu- 
nate 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.^ 

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 Bruyere or 
founded on a fact only known to him. 

X X^vivi"^^^'''- 



(i.) TDURE friendship is something which men of 
an inferior intellect can never taste. 

(2.) Friendship can exist between persons of differ- 
ent 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 con- 
nection is neither love nor pure friendship, but some- 
thing 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. Friend- 
ship, on the contrary, is formed gradually, in time, through 
familiarity and long acquaintance. How much intelli- 
gence, kindness of heart and affection ; how many good 
•offices and civilities are required among friends to ac- 
complish 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 some- 
times 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 kind- 

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

(7.) Love and friendship exclude each other. 

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

(9.) Love begins with love ; and the warmest friend- 
ship 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. Sub- 
sequent inclinations are less instinctive. 

(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 oppor- 
-tunity of being conquered, but fail to meet it, and, if I 
may say so, are compelled to remain at liberty. 

(17.) Those who love too violently at first, soon con- 
tribute 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 

(21.) If a woman with whom we have been violently 
in love, and who has not returned our passion, after- 
wards 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 obliga- 

(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 friendship. 

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

It is possible to enjoy some people's 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 our- 

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

(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 apd 
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 affec- 


(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 de- 
clines 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 weak- 
ness 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.^ 

(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 pro- 
fessions of love are kept up through habit, after their 
behaviour has plainly proved that love no longer exists. 

1 La Rouchefoucauld, in the Maximes (1665), makes almost the same re- 
marks, and so does Pascal in the Pensees (1670). It often happens that those 
two authors agree in their expressions and thoughts with La Bruyere, who 
carefully studied them before publishing his Caracteres. 


(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 ^ 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 ? 

1 Discordia fit carior concordia is a saying of the Latin poet Publius 
Syrus (104-41 B.C.) 


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

(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.^ 

(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 prefer- 
ment 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 

1 In the chapter "Of the Affection"," La Bruyere has borrowed a goodly 
number of ideas of Seneca's treatise De beneficiis; this is one of them. 


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 others. 

(54.) When we have done all that we can do for 
certain people in order ^o 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, ^ 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 pur confidence, nor make us dread them as our 

(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 

1 An imitation of another line of Publius Syrus : Ita amicum habeas, 
fosse inintUunt fieri ut putes. 


whom we wish to do good rather than of those who could 
do us some good.^ 

(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 ac- 
cording 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 seek- 
ing 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 suffi- 
ciently rewarded. 

(61.) There are certain people who so ardently and 
so passionately 2 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 hap- 
pen 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 months. 

1 This paragranh was not very clear in the original. We have followed 
M. Destailleur's explanation. 

2 In the original determinement, an adverb employed by the best authors 
of the seventeenth century, but now antiquated. 


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

(66.) We imagine that it would be impossible to pre- 
vent 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 vit)lently 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 impor- 
tant matter of business which might be of great conse- 
quence to him and to his family ; such a person would 
at once become aware of the sway and ascendency in- 
tended 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.^ 

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 dif- 
ference, that some act thus moved by reasoning and 
conclusive evidence, and others through inclination and 

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

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

Drance^ 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 mys- 
terious 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 

1 This is called /a Ugithne in French. 

2 All commentators are agreed that by Drance the Count de Clermont- 
Tonnerre, first gentleman-in-waiting of the Duke of Orleans, brother of 
Louis XIV., is meant. 


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 con- 
trolled 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 ever)'- 
thing, 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 

(72.) All passions are deceptive ; they conceal them- 
selves as much as possible from others and from them- 
selves 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 incompa- 

(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 

(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 man's 
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 gratitude. 

(81.) A man must be completely wanting in intelli- 
gence 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. ^ 

(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. 

1 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 " His- 
tory of English Literature." 


(85,) During the course of our life we now and then 
enjoy some pleasures so inviting, and have some encoun- 
ters 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 virtue's sake. 



(i.) A MAN must be very inert to have no char- 
acter 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 everybody's 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 \j 

(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 grace- 
fully 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 in- 
tellects, 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 ^ to utter wise saws, and Melinda to speak of ■ 
herself, her nerves, her headaches, and her want of ' 

(6.) We meet with persons who, in their conversa- 
tion, 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 

1 Arontius is said to be Perrault. (See page 1 4. note 2. ) Who Melinda was 
has never been discovered. 


neither follow reason nor custom, but only their own eccen- 
tricity ; 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 under- 
stand 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 don't 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 con- 
gratulate me ; say that you think I am looking well. 
But you'll 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 pJi'ebus ^ 
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, 

1 Phebus is nonsensical and exaggerated language, so called after 
Phcebus, the sun-god, on account of his brilliancy. The poet M. Regnier 
(1573-1613) had already made use of this word ; it was somethiiig like the 
language employed by the Englishman, John Lily, in his " Euphues, the 
Anatomy of Wit," etc., published 1578-1580. 


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 Ruccellai, or 
from Conciniji 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 dis- 
guise the anecdote they relate and to prevent the real 
persons being found out 3 you ask them to let you have 

I La Bruyere says in a note, "They would call them 'Sir.'" He also, 
and on purpose, leads the reader astray by using the names of three cour- 
tiers who died some time ago : Zamet, a favourite of Catherine de Medici 
and Henri IV., who died in 1614 ; Ruccellai, one of Concini's partisans, who 
lived till 1627 ; and Concini, Marechal d'Ancre, assassinated in 1617. 


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 impossi- 
bility. You might wish to learn something from them, 
but they know neither the facts nor the persons.^ 

(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 con- 
fidence than he began it, till one of the company informs 
him that the gentleman whom he has been contradict- 

1 Some traits of this character apply to Saumery, a gentleman-in-waiting 
of the Duke of Burgundy, a grandson of Louis XIV. 


•ing was Sethon himself, but lately arrived from his 

(10.) In conversation there is a middle course be- 
tween a certain baclcwardness 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 

1 Such an adventure is said to have happened to a certain conseiller ait 
chAtelei, Robert de Chatillon. Montesquieu, in his Lettres Persartes, 
describes a similar character. 


fortunately come in to break up the company and put 
an end to the narrative. 

(i2.) Theodectes ^ 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 ; b*fore 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.) Troilus 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 

1 Theodectes is the Count d'Aubigne. See page 63, note 4. 


contracts, locking trunks, carrj'ing keys about, and of 
dreading to be robbed by servants. He assists theni 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 
Troilus 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 ; ^ 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 Troilus' intercession. If any 
one enters who is unfortunate enough to have a coun- 

1 It was the custom in La Bruyere's 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. 


tenance which Troilus 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, Troilus 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 Troilus, 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 ^ 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 taci- 
turnity 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. 2 

(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 you'll know who he is ; he'll tell you 
his name, his residence, his native country, what his 
property is worth, his position, and his father's, his 
mother's family, his kindred, his family connections, and 

1 II est au-dessus de vouloir se soutenir, literally, he is above wishing to 
keep himself up. This expression seems to be peculiar to La Bruyere. 

2 No suggestion has ever been made as to what person is portrayed as 
Troilus ; still it seems to have been intended by our author for one of his 


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.^ 

(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," 2 and do not venture to say the most trifling 
word not in use, however expressive it may be. No- 
thing comes from them worth remembering, nothing 
is spontaneous and unrestrained ; they speak correctly,^ 
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. 

1 A certain boasting Abb^ de Vasse is meant, who refused the bishopric of 
Mans, and died in 1716 at the age of sixty-five. 

2 The author's note says, "A kind of people who pretend to be very nice 
in their language." 

3 Proprement, in the original, was in La Bruyere'stime generally used for 
"elegantly," "correctly." 


(i8.) 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 
one's 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 dis- 
gusting 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.^ 

(2 1.) 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 him- 

(22.) Cldon^ talks always rather rudely or inaccu- 
rately ; he does either the one or the other ; but he 
says he cannot help it, and that it is his natural dispo- 
sition to speak just as he thinks. 

1 Oaths were more commonly used by the upper classes in the seventeenth 
century than they are now. 

2 Cledn 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. 


(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,i " you are 
rich, or ought to be so, for you have a yearly income of 
ten thousand livres,'^ 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 you'll 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 Euthyphrons. 

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

1 This personage is said to stand for Constantin Heudebert du Buisson, 
appointed intetuiant des finances the same year (1690) the seventh edition 
of the "Characters" was published. See also page 153, } 63. 

2 The iivre f'arists, probably meant here, was equal in value to thc/ranc, 
first coined in 1573, under Henri III. An income of ten thousand francs 
in La Bruyere's time would represent one of fifty thousand francs now. 

3 The original has congratuler, now only used with a ridiculous mean- 
ing attached to it. 


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 say.i 

(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 ofifend 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 

1 It is generally supposed Theodemus was a certain Abbe 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 Abbe Bertier, who became 
bishop of Blois in 1697. 


to take to his heels as soon as he perceives them, witii- 
out even turning round to look behind him.i 

(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 nut even be permitted to van- 
quish them in arguments. 

{29.) When two persons have had a violent quarrel, 
of whom one is in the right and tlie 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 : 2 "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. 

1 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 Meinoires. See also page 45, note i. 

* Our author says in a noLe, " Written in imitation of Montaigne." 



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 to- 
gether. This is too much trouble for me, and I am not 

, at all able of showing such an abrupt and sudden pre- 
sence 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." ^ 

(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 con- 

/ demning us. The least thing is enough to make people 
believe that we are proud, impolite, haughty, and dis- 
obliging ; 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 be. 

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 con- 
nected 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 

1 The principal antiquated words in this imitation are estriver, to strive, 
to quarrel ; se ramentevoir, to call to mind, used by Moliere in the 
Dipit amoureux (iii. 4) ; and succeder, to be successful, which, of course, 
is at present in French reussir. 


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 themselves. 

(33.) It is an offence against politeness to bestow 
excessive praise on a person's singing or playing before 
any other who has sung or played for you, or to com- 
mend 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 inclinations. 

(35.) It is more or less rude to scorn indiscrimi- 
nately 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 
acd to whose complaints you have to listen, is like 


being in a court of justice from morning till night listen- 
ing 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 another's 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 friendship.^ 

(40.) Families are often disturbed by mistrust, jeal- 
ousy, 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 cheer- 
ful, he is commended ; they are grateful to him for not 
being always insufferable ; he is feared, considered, 
obeyed, and sometimes beloved. 

1 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 " Cl:aracters " were published. 


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

(43.) Cleantes ^ 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 lawyer's. Surely 
they must possess certain merits which do not harmonise 
together and certain virtues which are incompatible. 

(44.) A man may be sure of the dowry, the jointure, 
and his marriage settlements, but scarcely of the con- 
tract the parents have entered upon to board and 
lodge the young couple for a certain time ; 2 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 husband's 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 does. 

(47.) G . . . and H . . . are neighbours, living in 

1 Some persons, now totally unknown, have been supposed to represent 
Cleantes : such as a certain M. Loyseau, receveur ^infral des finances in 
Brittany ; a M. de I'Escalcpier, conseilUr au parUtnent, and others. 

2 Such a contract was called les noumtures in French legal phraseology. 


the country ; i 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 circum- 
stance has caused their being at variance, renders them 
implacable, and transmits their hatred to their descend- 
ants. 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 men's 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 

1 G ... is supposed to stand for Frangois Vedeau de Grammont, conseilUr 
au parUment, or for his father-in-law, Philippe Genoud de Guiberville, and 
H . . . for Charles Herve, doyen du parlement : and the quarrel arose 
about the right of fishing in a brook. Vedeau lost liis case, and was con- 
victed of having falsified certain legal documents. Only a few years before La 
Bruyere's 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. 


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,^ the carry- 
ing 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 ihis and the 
assesseurs'^ 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- 

(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 
ill the society of men of rank ; their very rank forbids 

1 L'offrande, Tencens et le pain benii, 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. 

2 A bailli was a magistrate who judged certain cases, an Hu a sort of 
assessor of various taxes, and an assesseur an assistant magistrate. 


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 fool's 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 

(59.) If you observe carefully those people who praise 
' nobody, who are always finding fault, and are never 
i 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 

(61.) The pleasure of social intercourse amongst 
friends is kept up by a similarity of morals and man- 
ners, 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 other's 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 inter- 
change of ideas. 1 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 

1 This is an allusion to the society of the Hotel de Rambouillet and to 
the so-called precieuses. 


amount of intellect, and that not of the right sort, but 
of a spurious kind, and in which imagination was too 

(66.) I know it, Theobaldus,! 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 said ?" 

(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 
men's arguments ; we are very far from finding out the 
truth, as we are not yet agreed upon what we are look- 
ing 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 

1 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 Bruyere's work, only a few months 
before his death, when he was seventy-eight years old. 


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 gentle- 
manly men in town and at court, but they soon dis- 
carded it, and then the citizens took it up, as well as 
puns and plays on words.^ 

(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 Roy ale, 
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 Chdtelet, or the 
like, simply say the Halles or the Chdtelet.'^ 

(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 

1 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 Calprenede (1610-1663), and 
above all those of Mdlle. de Scuderi {1607-1701), one of the precieuses of 
the Hotel de Rambouillet, and author of the Grand Cynis (1650), CUlie 
(1665), and of many other works. 

Sit seems to have escaped all commentators of La Bruyere that in his time 
it was the fashion for the ladies at court to call a spade a spade with a ven- 
geance, 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. 


are considered very good, because they are very bad.^ 
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. How- 
ever, 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 conversation. 

(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 2 has said a pretty thing. There is 
a fine expression in Claudianus.^ There is a certain 
passage in Seneca ; " * and then follow a good many 
Latin words, often quoted before people who do not 
know what they mean, though they pretend to under- 
stand 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 per- 

(74.) Hermagoras 5 knows not who is king of Hun- 

1 By "silly things," our author means " plays on words," called in his 
time equivoques or Uirlupinades 

2 Marcus Annseus Lucanus, a Latin poet, who died in the year 65, was 
put to death for his share in Pise's conspiracy, at the early age of twenty- 

3 Claudus Claudianus (365-408), a Latin poet. 

* L. Annaeus Seneca, a stoic philosopher, and tutor to Nero, was also put 
to death in £he year 65 by order of his former pupil. 

5 Hermagoras is, according to all commentators, Paul Perron, a learned 
I'.enedictine, and author of L'Antiquite des tenths retablie, etc. The old 


gary, and wonders that no one talks about the king of 
Bohemia.! Speak not to him of the wars in Flanders 
or in Holland,^ 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 Titans' 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 
fingers' ends. He believes Henri IV. to be a son of 
Henri I II. ,3 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 * are to him as familiar as those of 

English translations name, however, also Isaac Vossius(i6i8-i688), an able 
Dutch philologist, and a well-known French literary man, Urbain Chevreau 

1 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 Au-tria, which had ruled 
Bohemia as well since 1525. 

2 These wars, interrupted by the peace of Nymeguen (1678), were going 
on whilst oiir author wrote. 

3 Henri IV. (1553-1610), or Henri le Grand, according to La Bruyfere's 
own note, was not the son of the last of the Valois, Henri III. (1551-1589), 
but after the latter's death became heir to the French throne, because 
Henry IV. 's father, Antoine de Bourbon, was descended from the Count de 
Clermont, the fifth son of Louis IX. 

4 Those nimes La Bruyere found in the Histoire dii Monde of Chevrrau 


Valois and Bourbon are to us. He has yet to learn 
that the Emperor ^ is married, but he can tell you that 
Ninus 2 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, Ali- 
pharmutosis.3 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^ ambidexter; that it is an error to imagine 
one of the Artaxerxes was called Longimanus ^ because 
his arms reached down to his knees, and not because 

(see page 124, note 5) ; and nearly all of them are so wrongly spelt that it 
is almost hopeless to discover whom they meant. 

1 In the month of December of the same year this paragraph had been 
published, Joseph I. (1678-1711), emperor of the Roman?, was crowned 
king of Hungary, in virtue of his hereditary right. See page 215, note i. 

2 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. 

3 The passage in Josephus containing Manethos' tradition says, " Mes- 
phratuthmosis 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 iSth 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 
Eg\ptian records. 

•* Sesostris is the Greek name of the conqueror Rameses II., the third 
king of the 19th Egyptian dynasty. 

* Artaxerxes Longimanu?, king of Persia, succeeded his father Xerxes 
I., 465 B.C., and died about 425 b c. 


one of his hands was longer than the other ; he adds 
that though some g^ave 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, 
^schines a fuller, and Cydias a wit,^ for that is his 
trade. He has a signboard, a shop, work that is 
ordered,^ and journeymen who work under him ; he 
cannot possibly let you have those stanzas he has pro-^ 
mised 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 
Grantor, 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 person's 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 

1 Cydias is Fontenelle (see page 11, note i), 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 Bruyere's enemy ever since. 

2 Fontenelle had written for his uncle Thos. Corneille (1625-1709) certain 
parts of two operas, /"jycA/ (1678) and BelUrophon (1679); for Beauval, in 
prose, an eulogy on Perrault (i688), and for a certain Mdlle. Bernard, part of 
a tragedy ol Brutus (1691). 


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 an- 
other's mouths to acquiesce in one another's 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 intro- 
duced himself, in order to utter dogmatically things 
which are perfectly new, but which he thinks decisive 
and unanswerable. " Lucianus ^ and Seneca," ^ says 
Cydias, " come pretty near me ; but as for Plato,^ 
Virgil,* and Theocritus ^ they are quite below me," and 

1 Lucianus of Samosata, a satirist and a rhetorician (120-200 A.D.) 

2 The author adds "a philosopher and a tragic poet." See page 124, note 4. 

3 Plato, the well-known Greek philosopher (430-347 B.C.) 

4 Publius Virgilius M.iro, the Roman epic and bucolic poet (70-19 B.c ) 

* Theocritus, a Greek bucolic poet, who flourished about 272 B.C. Fonte- 
nellehad wiitten Dialogues of the dead, as Lucianus had done ; philosophical 
works and tragedies like Seneca, philosophical dialogues in Plato's style, and 
pastoral poetry like Virgil and Theocritus. 


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,i he quietly expects that man- 
kind 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. 2 
He is, in a word, a compound of pedantry and for- 
mality, 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 I 
with more indifference. 

{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 delivery. 

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

(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 cir- 
cumstance 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 

1 Perrault, La Motte (1672-1731), De Vis^ (1640-1710), and others. 

2 This friend is supposed to have been La Motte. 



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 

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 build- 
ings, 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,^ 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 Chancellor's wife. He informs 

J The right of presentation to nearly all offices at court, or official posi- 
tions, was publicly bought and sold in Louis XIV. 's time. 


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. 



(^•) 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, ^ and make of his son a great 

1 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, Fremont, keeper 
of the royal treasury, who married his daughter to the Duke de Lorges. 


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 care- 
ful 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 dispro- 
portion 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 deter- 
mine men to adopt the profession of arms, of the law, 
or of the church, for they have hardly any other voca- 

(6.) Two merchants were neighbours and in the same 
line of business, but their success in life was quite dif- 
ferent. 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, endea- 
voured to get a place, and entered the service of a great 
lady, one of the highest rank at court ; ^ and this same 
lady had formerly been her bosom friend. 

(7.) If a financier fails in making a lucky stroke, the 

1 This lady is said to have been Madame Fleurion d'Armenonville, 
daughter of a clothier, whose husband was keeper of the seals and directeur 
des finances. 


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 daughter's 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.^ 

(9,) A man is very plain-looking, dwarfish in size, 
and wanting in intelligence ; ^ 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 involun- 

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

(11.) N . . ,3 has a clownish, rude doorkeeper, who 
looks somewhat like a Swiss,* a big hall and an ante- 
room, 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 

1 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. Seepage 
136, note 2, and page 137, § 15. 

'^ Little, silly, ugly rich men were not more rare in our author's time than 
they are at present ; but the commentators will have it that the Marquis de 
Gouverney and the Duke de Ventadour were meant. 

3 M. de Saint-Pouange, a relative of the ministers Colbert, Le Tellier, 
and Louvois, and the latter's principal secretary, is meant. 

* Nearly all the great lords had Swiss doorkeepers. Petit-Jean, in Racine's 
comedy Les Plaideurs, says also : " II m'avait fait venir d' Amiens pour etre 


elsewhere, in his own house he will attract something 
very akin to respect. 

(12.) I want you, Clitiphon,^ 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 your 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.- 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 Plato's writings " On the spirituality 
of the soul and its difference with the body," ^ or, pen 
in hand, calculating the distance between Saturn and 
Jupiter ; ^ admiring the works of the Creator and endea- 

1 The "Keys" mention several people for Clitiphon, such as M. le 
Camus, lieutenant-civil, or his brother the cardinal, or another brother who 
was maitre des requStes. 

2 In the original there is a play on the word rare which cannot be rendered 
in English. 

3 This seems to refer to Plato's " Timaeus " and his " Phasdo." 

^ Jupiter is the largest and Saturn the second largest planet of our solar 
system. The celebrated Dutch natural philosopher Huyghens van Zuy- 
lichem (1629-1695), who discovered the fourth satellite of Saturn and proved 


vouring, 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 per- 
ceptible ^ 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.^ give us all possible sensations one 

the existence of its ring, lived in Paris from 1666 till 1681, and may have 
met La Bruyere. 

1 The original has trivial, from the Latin trivialis and trivium, hence 
the meaning of exposed to the public gaze, " perceptible." 

^ By these initials are meant partisans, a name given to the farmers- 
general of the revenue. Until 1726, these persons obtained in France, 


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 1 was first a footman, then an under-farmer 
of the revenue, and by extortion, violence, and malver- 
sation 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 ; ^ this marvel has been effected by his becoming \^ 

(16.) Arfuria^ 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 Car- 
melite friar or of a doctor of divinity, of whom she saw 
but the side face, and could not hear many words he said. 

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 fertniers-generaux 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 king's taxes, which was called 
the fermes-generales or unies, and lasted till the first French Revolution. 
The ministre des finances, a name only first given in 1795, was, in the six- 
teenth and part of the seventeentli century, called surintendant desfinattces, 
and from 1661 till 1791 contrdleur-gen^ral des finances. 

1 Sosia in Greek is generally used as the name of a servant or a slave, and 
M/)liere 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. 's time for 
footmen to rise to the rank of financiers, and La Baziniere, de Gourville, 
and de Bourvalais, who were all three very rich, as well as many others, 
might be quoted as examples of this. "Y^io fermiers-giniraux, Revol and 
d'Apougny, became churchwardens. 

2 See page 43, note 2. 

3 The wives of a good many farmers of the revenue have been named by 
various commentators and " Keys." 


Her virtue was not apparent and her piety as well known 
as she herself was. Her husband has become a farmer 
of the huitihne denier^ and made a prodigious for- 
tune 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.) Croesus '^ 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 riot- 
ous 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 infe- 
rior priest to shrive him. 

(18.) Champagne,^ rising from a prolonged dinner, 
quite gorged, and his head full of the agreeable fumes of 
Avenay or Sillery,^ signs an order for a tax to be levied 
which would have produced a famine in a whole province, 

1 X^shuitieme denier via.^ a tax imposed in 1672 during the war with 
Holland on all purchasers of estates from the clergy. 

- 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, Guenegaud, and Remond. The Chambre de Justice, a name given to 
certain committees which were appointed from time to time to inquire into 
financial malversations and abuse-, condemned in i66i the above-named 
three gentlemen to pay very heavy fines ; hence their comparative poverty. 

3 " Champagne " stands for Monnerot. (See page no, note 2.) It was not 
uncommon to give such.names a.iPoiievin„ Lorrain, Basque, Provencal, etc., 
to footmen, after their supposed native provinces. 

4 Two still Champagne wines. Sparkling Champagne was not drunk till 
the eighteenth century. 


if Other means had not been taken. He is excusable ; for 
how can a man whose digestion is just beginning under- 
stand that people could anywhere die of starvation. 

(19.) Sylvanus ^ has with his money bought rank and 
another name ; he is lord of the same manor where his 
forefathers had been paying the faille ; 2 formerly he was 
not good enough to be Cleobulus' page, but now he is 
his son-in-law ? 

(20.) Dorus 3 is carried in a litter along the Appian 
Way ; * his freedmen and slaves run before him to clear 
the way and to turn aside the people ; he wants nothing 
but Lictors ; ^ 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 ; ^ 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 

1 All commentators agree that here the farmer-general George is meant, 
who bought the Marquisate d'Entragues and married a daughter of the Mar- 
quis de Valen^ay. 

2 The taille was a king's tax levied every year only on the people and the 

3 Who Dorus is has not been found out. 

4 The Appian Way, the oldest and best of all the Roman roads, leads 
from the Porta Cappena at Rome to Capua. 

* The Lictors at Rome, with \.hc/ascts, always walked before the Consul 
or the Dictator. 

6 Some think that here a certain M. de Langlee, tnarichal des camps et 
armies du rot, was me^nt. Others think it was an uncle of the minister 
Colbert, a M. Pussort, one of the king's 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. 


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 wife's 
pearl necklace has made all the ladies of the neigh- 
bourhood 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 Periander's name was ever mentioned .'' How can 
any man ever endure those odious invitations to a funeral ^ 
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 ? 2 

(22.) How many men are like trees, already strong 
and full grown, which are transplanted into some gar- 
dens, 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 

1 The original has pancartes, which our author in a note states were 
billets denterrement. 

2 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. 


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 ad- 
vantages, 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 in- 
quire not too narrowly into the origin of the fortune of 
any farmer of the revenue. • 

(26.) This youthji so ruddy, so florid, and so redolent 

1 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 2.) 


of health, is lord of an abbey and of ten other benefices ; 
they bring him in altogether one hundred and twenty 
thousand ^ livres a year, which are paid him in golden 
coin,2 Elsewhere there are a hundred and twenty in- 
digent 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 
state ? 

(27.) Chrysippus,3 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 richer. 

(28.) Let Ergastus alone, and he will demand a duty 

1 Formerly six vingts, hundred and twenty — thus in the original — was as 
commonly used as quatre-vingt . 

2 The first two editions contained a note of La Bruyere, to say that by 
tnedailles (for he meant louis^cfor. 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 co n, and not by a cheque on 
%o\xie fermier-giniral, who would have taken a discount for cash payment. 

3 This paragraph seems to be a hit at the/ermier-g^/i^rai ha.\\geois, whose 
daughter married the Marshal de Tourville, and whose son was married to 

a niece of de Pontchartrain, the contrdleur-geiieral of the finances. 


from all who drink some water from the river or who 
walk on terra Jirma ; he knows how to convert reeds, 
rushes, and nettles into gold ; ^ he listens to all projects, 
and proposes everything he hears. The prince gives 
nothing to any one but at Ergastus' 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,^ 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,^ 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 

(31.) The people very often have the pleasure of 
seeing a tragedy acted, and of beholding expire on the 

1 Although this remark seems to refer to the Baron de Beauvais, capitaine 
des chaises, to whom the king had given the right of selling the briars and 
brambles ^jrowing on the road to Versailles, the portrait of Ergastus alludes 
to t ose men who were lor ever advising to tax articles not already imposed, 
and by whom France became finally ruined. 

2 Berner, one of the secretaries of Colbert, is said to have been the original 
of C' ito. 

3 This is generally believed to re'er to de Pontchartrain, mentioned 
before, who, for some time, was very pious. 


world's 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.^ 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 ^ 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, 

1 See page 136, note 2. 

2 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 


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 one's 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.! 

(37.) A man who knows how to make good bargains 
or finds his money increase in his coffers, thinks pre- 
sently 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 know. 

Custom or experience are of more avail in making 
our fortune than intelligence ; we think of it too late, 

1 The desire to make one's 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 tlie 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 considera- 
tion, but it is now generally admitted it was another Penn who acted 



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 Hfe ; 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 open- 
ing or thinks it most convenient ; and if fresh obstacles 
arise, he returns to the path he just left, and deter- 
mines, according to the nature of the difficulties, some- 
times 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 imprac- 
ticable, to cross the fields, jump over hedges and ditches, 
come back into the former road, and follow it until his 
journey's 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 fountain- 
head, 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.^ 

1 The " Keys" think that either Nicholas d'Orville, the confidant of 


(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 compassion. 

(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 glazed. 

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

(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 

Louis XIV. and Mdlle. de la Valliere, and royal treasurer at OrM.ins, or 
Boucherat, chancelier de France, and a perfect noodle, according to St 
Simon's Mimoires, were alluded to as the " weak-minded men." 


neighbour to an honest one,^ 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 pro- 
fession or business the surest way of growing rich. 

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

(46.) Some men,2 stimulated by the necessities of life, 
and sometimes by a desire to gain money or glory, im- 
prove 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 comfort- 
able 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 fur- 
nish 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 re- 
fuge 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 

1 See page 43, note 2. 

2 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. 


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 ^ 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.2 

If a man be poor who wishes to have everything, 
then an ambitious and a miserly man languish \n extreme 

(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. 

(5 1.) 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. 

1 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. 

2 Boileau, in his fifth Epltre, says also : "Qui vit content de rien possfede 
toute chose." 


/ (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 disposi- 
tion, habits, and morals of a man, but it is the expression 
of the whole countenance that discovers his wealth ; it 
is written in a man's 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 my- 
self, "All this is mighty fine, and I am very glad things 
go so well with them ; it is quite certain that those gentle- 
men 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 

(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 un- 
known at present. Were there any fanners 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 ? ^ Will 
their names be transmitted to posterity as the name of 
Descartes was, who, though born a Frenchman, died in 
Sweden ? ^ 

(5.7.) The same amount erf 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 -superciHous to those who are below 1 
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 

1 Jean Faxkcowntl, /ermUr-gifiUrai dei domaints dt Fratfct, became also 
receiver-general of iwo other taxes, which wa» very unusuaL Our author 
speaks of" Fauconnets," to indicate farmers of the revenuei> in general, though 
there was only one Fauconnet; In La Bruyire's time the fiaanciers seem to 
have despised men of letters ; but later on, during the Regency and the reigu 
of Louis XV. and Louis XVI., it b-^ciime the fashion to invite literary men 
on ^very festive occasion, and to them — a custom not unknown, even 
at the present time, and in other couniries than France. 

' Our author had Ken^ Descartes' (1596-1630) name printed in small 
capitals, to remind his readers of the persecutions this philosopher had 

-'X /-/<yjjl/^'^ 



and publicans are no more and are utterly forgotten, 
and their native country and their very names are un- 
known 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 ? ^ Will 
their names be transmitted to posterity as the name of 
Descartes was, who, though born a Frenchman, died in 
Sweden ? ^ 

(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 sHme 
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 

1 Jean 'Faacormct,Jermier-ginh'aldes 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 Bruycre's 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. 

2 Our author had Ren^ Descartes' (1596-1650) name printed in small 
capitals, to remind his readers of the persecutions this philosopher had 


and are always wanting ten per cent. ; ^ they only 
occupy themselves with their creditors ; always dread 
the lowering or calling in of certain monies ; 2 and are 
absorbed and immerged in contracts, deeds, and parch- 
ments. Such people are neither relatives, friends, citi- 
zens. 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 ^ 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 in- 
ferior 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. 

1 Au denier dix in the original. 

* In former times French Governmfents 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. 

3 Orontes is supposed to be a certain M. Neyret de la Ravoye, who be- 
came later trisorier-gineral de la marine, and who married a Mademoiselle 


(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 wife's and chil- 
dren's 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,^ to 
make one's fortune, though this is not always the case.^ 

(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.^ 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 

(63.) Dine comfortably, Clearchus,* 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 

(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 what- 
ever money is left to him. 

^ Eh bonfranfois in the original ; just as we say " in plain English." 

^ A certain Count de Marsan seems to have made his fortune by marry- 
ing first one rich widow and then another. 

3 These different degrees of legal dignity were formerly in French prati- 
cien, officier, tnagistrat, prisident. 

■• Without any proof whatever, the " Keys" pretend that a certain inten- 
dant des finances, M. du Buisson, was meant. 


(65.) After his death a miser spends more money in 

one day than he spent in ten years when he was aHve ; 

and his heir more in ten months than the miser could 

find in his heart to part with during his whole lifetime.^ 

(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 others. 

(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 man's 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 father's death is an honest man. 

(69.) A person who expects to inherit something be- 
comes over-polite ; we are never better flattered, better 
I 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 
another's heirs, and, therefore, quietly and stealthily wish 
all their lives for one another's 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 gambhng that it makes all ranks 
equal ; but there is often such a strange disparity and 
such a vast, immense, and profound chasm between this 

1 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. 


and that condition, that it pains us to see such ex- 
tremes meet together.^ 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 zotnbay - and their other prostra- 
tions seem to us incongruous. 

(72.) An assembly of the provincial states or a 
parliament ^ meeting to discuss a very important matter 
of business, presents nothing so grave and serious as 

1 Thus M. Langlee, 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 i) 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. 

* Our author says in a footnote : " See the narratives about the kingdom 
of Siam." The zotnbay seems to have been a very profound inclination 
and prostration of the body. In " A New Historical Relation of Siam by M. 
de Loubere, envoy extraordinary from the French king to the king of Siam 
in the years 1687 and i683, 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." 

3 In the French parliaments or courts, councillors were allowed to plead, 
and justice was administered in the king's name ; but these parliaments had 
DO legislative power, and had only to register the royal edicts before they 
became law. 


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 re- 
gard relationship, connections, birth, or social distinc- 
tions. Chance alone, that blind and stem divinity, pre- 
, sides 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 pious. 

(73.) Even the smallest trace of their former con- 
dition 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 lans- 
quenet^ often puts them in the same place whence it 
took them. 2 

(74.) I am not surprised that there are gambling 
houses, like so many snares laid for human avarice ; 
like abysses where many a man's 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 

1 A game of chance played with cards. 

2 Those who made their fortune by gambling were, according to the 
" Keys," Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau, who left behind him a very 
valuable /owrwa/ 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 gam- 
bling alone ; and Morin, already mentioned, page 155, note i. 


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 cheat- 
ing 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 out- 
side their doors, and this may be the inscription : " Here 
cheating is done fairly ; " for I suppose they do not pre- 
tend 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 de- 
spair 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 pro- 
vide these for their families ? 

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 loss.^ 

(76.) There is but one sorrow which is lasting, and 

that is one produced by the loss of propert)"^ ; 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 mar- 
rying 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,^ 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 Eu- 
phrates to any other country for erecting a splendid 
building ; the air is healthy and temperate, the situa- 
tion 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 countrj' 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 porphyr}' ; 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 

1 All the " Keys" give as the model of a perfect gambler a certain Louis 
Robert, Seigneur de Fortille, who made his fortune as iniendant of diflfer- 
ent 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 ex- 
ample of it, ruined gamblers were to be found in plenty. Cheating at play 
was also not rare. 

2 Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, after the death of her husband Odena- 
thus, waged war for five years against the Romans, and was vanquished by 
Aurelian in the year 273. 


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 work- 
manship of first-class artists ; ^ let the Phidiasses and 
Zeuxisses ^ 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. ^ 
(79.) This palace, this furniture, these gardens, those 
handsome waterworks charm you, and on first beholding 
such a delightful mansion, you cannot forbear express- 
ing your opinion that its owner ought to be superlatively 
happy. He is no more, and he never enjoyed it so plea- 
santly and so quietly as you did ; he never knew a cheer- 

1 Ouvrier, in the original, is sometimes used by our author for "artist." 

2 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. 

3 The "herdsman" alluded to in the above paragraph seems to have 
been the financier La Touanne, tresorier de C extraordinaire 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 Cond^, who in vain tried 
10 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.. 


ful day or a quiet night ; he sunk beneath the debts he 
contracted in adorning it with those beauties which so 
dehght 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. 1 

(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,^ 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 ancestors. 

(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 ! 

1 According to the commentators, this refers to Jacques Bordier, ititen- 
dant 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. 

2 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 


(82.) Giton has a fresh complexion, a full face, pen- 
dulous 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 expecto- 
rates 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 merr)', ever laughing, impatient, impudent, a fiee- 
thinker,^ and a politician full of secrets about the affairs 
of the day ; he thinks he has talents and intelligence ; he 
is wealthy, 

Phasdo 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 

' Libertin, in the original, which first meant a man of free-and-easy 
manners, came to be chiefly used in the second half of tiie seventeenth 
century fur a " freetiiinker." 



incidents with which he is acquainted ; if he says some- 
thing 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 no- 
body laugh. He praises and laughs at other persons' 
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,! 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 conversa- 
tion, 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 

1 Sitpentitietix sometimes had the above meaning ; Littre gives two 
examples of it in his dictionary. 


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.i 

1 Giton and Phxdo do not apply to any one in particular, though some 
commentators maintain that by the first the Marquis de Barbezieux, the son 
of Louvois, was meant. 



(i.) TDEOPLE in Paris, without giving any notice 
beforehand, and as if it were some public 
: assignation, meet every evening on the Cours^ or in 
the Tuileiies, to stare around and criticise one another. 

1 Now we speak of town and country, but in La Bruyere's time people 
mentioned tlie 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." 

2 Le Cours la Reine, familiarly called Le Cours, was a part of the Champs- 

OF THE TOWN. 1 65 

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,^ 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^ 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. ^ 

(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 

Elys^es, planted with trees by order of Maria de Medici, the wife of Henri 
IV. ; hence the name. The theatre finished then at seven o'clock, when it 
was not too late to take a walk in summer-time. See also Moli^re's Les 
F&cheux, act i. scene i. 

1 The favourite and fashionable walk, during the latter part of the seven- 
teenth century, was from Paris to Vincennes. 

2 That bank is now the quays Saint-Bernard and Austerlitz. 

3 Bourdaloue (1632-1704), a celebrated preacher, censures a similar be- 
haviour in his sermon on Les Divertissements du Monde. 

1 66 OF THE TOWN. 

they raise their voices, gesticulate, joke, bow carelessly, 
and walk up and down. 

(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 

OF THE TOWN. 1 67 

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 year's flies. 

(5.) There are in town lawyers belonging to the 
grande robe, and others to the petite robe ; ^ 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 
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 pro- 
fession, their eloquence, and their personal merits, bal- 
ance at least the bags of money which the sons of finan- 
ciers and bankers have paid for their offices. 

(6.) You are very inconsiderate to sit musing, or 
perhaps dosing, 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 

1 To the grande robe belonged all magistrates ; to the petite robe all avoues 
and procureurs, somewhat like attorneys and solicitors ; the avocats or 
barristers were between the two, and the court of justice or parUvtent 
above them all. 

2 The avocats were generally not considered to belong to the grande robe, 
and La Bruyere was one of them ; the latter part of the paragraph is a 
direct attack on the sale of legal offices. 

1 68 OF THE TOWN. 

Streets or on the highroad.^ 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 

{7,) There are a certain number of young magistrates 
with large estates and fond of pleasure, who have be- 
come 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, appro- 
priate 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 ori- 

(8.) A gentleman of the legal profession is not like 
the same man in the city and at court 3 when he has 

1 This applies, according to the " Keys," to a certain M. de la Briffe, a 
niattre des requites, or to M. de Saint-Pouange. (See page 134, note 3.) 

2 Two celebrated barristers of La Bruyere's time. 

3 J. H. de Mesmes, who became pr^sideni a. inortier in 1688, when he 
was only twenty-seven years old, is said to have been a constant com- 
panion of profligate young noblemen. A wzor/iVr was a round velvet cap, 
worn by the Chancellor and Presidents of parliaments. 

OF THE TOWN, 1 69 

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 ^ as bril- 
■ liantly as a newly-married couple, or as Jason who is 
ruining himself, or as Thraso who wishes to get mar- 
ried, and who has deposited the money to buy an im- 
portant place.- 

(10.) I hear a good deal of talk about the Sannions ; 
about " the same nam.e, 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 in- 
dented," Their colour and metal are the same as 
those of the Bourbons, and, like them, they bear two 
and one ; ^ it is true these are not " fleurs de lis," but 
they are satisfied ; periiaps, 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,* and on the windows of their 
chapels, on the gates of their castle, on their justiciary 

1 See page 165, note i. 

2 The original has et qui a consign^, a meaning which we have still in 
the' English word "consignment." The explanation of this word is given by 
the author himself. 

3 An allusion to the three fleurs de lis of the Bourbons. 

* 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 donmins. 


pillar, where many a man is condemned to be hanged 
who only deserved banishment ; they are visible any- 
where, 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 ^ 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, with- 
out any game, but goes shooting again on the morrow, 
and spends the whole day in missing thrushes and 

1 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. alter the battle of Ivry. 


Another man ^ 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,^ and enters 
the thicket with the huntsmen, with his horn by his 
side ; he does not ask, like Menalippus, " Do I enjoy 
myself?"^ but he thinks he does; he forgets the law 
and all lawsuits, and would be thought an Hippolytus.* 
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 liis 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 ac- 
quired 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 at ! 

1 This " other man " was a certain President de Coigneux, who neglected 
his legal duties to spend all his time in sport. 

2 Laisse-courre in French ; formerly courre « as used instead of courir, 
as a sporting term. 

3 A M. Jerome de Nouveau, the head of the post-office, is said to have 
asked his head huntsman a similar question. 

* Hippolytus, son of Theseus, king of Athens, "a youth who never knew 
a woman," thrown from his chariot and killed, is the hero of Racine's 
tragedy Fhidre. 


Some have not even the sorry advantage of having their 
follies talked about beyond their immediate neighbour- 
hood, and the only spot where their vanity is displayed. 
They do not know in the lie that Andr^ makes a figure 
and squanders his patrimony in the Marais.^ 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 Andre 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.^ 

(12.) Narcissus^ 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 ; * is very agreeable in company, and in 
his parish they reckon on him to make a third man 
at ombre or reversis.^ He sits for hours together at 

1 The lie meant nearly always the He Saint-Louis ; the Quartier du 
Temple, formerly the Marais, is even sometimes now called by that name. 

2 The commentators have given the names of several obscure people for 
those "infatuated men," and for Andre as well ; but it is surely not a rare 
thing for men to ruin themselves through vanity. 

3 The Abbe 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. 

4 The Convent of the Feuillants, a branch of the Cistercian monks, was in 
the Rue Saint-Honore ; that of the Minims, an order founded by St. Francis 
of Paula in 1453, was near the Place Royale. 

* 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 game. 


Aricia's, where every night he ventures his five or six 
golden pistoles ; ^ he never misses reading the Gazette 
de Hollande or the Mercure Galant ;'^ he has read 
Bergerac,^ Desmarets,* Lesclache,^ Barbin's^ stories, 
and some collections of poetry ; he walks with the 
ladies on the Plaine or the Cours/ 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," you'll say,^ 
" and, though his face is familiar to me, I have for- 
gotten where it was." It is familiar to many other 
people, and, if possible, I will assist your memory. 
Was it on the Boulevard,^ 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 Ram- 
bouillet ; ^^ or, rather, can you tell me where you have 

1 A golden pistole was usually worth eleven livres. 

3 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. 

* 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 Pedant Joui, from which Mollere borrowed two 

* 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. 

* Louis de Lesclache (1620-1661), a grammarian and a writer on philo- 

6 Barbin, a well-known publisher at the time our author wrote. 

7 The Plame was probably the Plaine des Sablons ; for the Cours, see 
page 164, note 2. 

H The " Keys" are unanimous in saying that the Prince of Mecklenburg- 
Schwerin, who had married a sister of the Marechul de Luxembourg, and 
who died at the Hague in 1692, is m-ant by " this m:in." 

9 This was the boulevard of the Porte Saint-Antoiiie, sometimes called 
the Nouveau Cours, on the road to Vincennes. 

10 A large garden in the Faubourg Saint-Antbine was called thus, after a 
financier of the same name who had laid it out. 


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 ^ 
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 be- 
tween the Swiss Cantons as that of the Lord Chancellor or 
the Helvetian plenipotentiaries.^ You see his face on the 
almanacks amongst the people or the bystanders ; ^ if 
there is a public hunt going on or a Saint Hubert,^ 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 Ach^res ; ^ 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.^ 
Chamlay knows something of marches, Jacquier of the 
commissariate, du Metz of the artillery," but our gentle- 
man is a looker-on, has grown old in the service of look- 

1 A sort of mock tilting-match on horseback. 

2 The alliance between France and Switzerland was always solemnly 
sworn, and this was done for the last time in 1663 in Notre- Dame. 

3 Every year under Louis XIV. 's 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. 

■* 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. 

* Two small places near Versailles where often soldiers encamped and 
reviews were held. 

6 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. 

? The Marquis de Chamlay was a noted tactician ; Jacquier had been the 

OF THE TOWN. 1 75 

ing-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 no- 
body 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 ^ died 
yesterday, and that Rochois 2 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 citizen's wife, 
or who will be better provided with topical songs ? 
Who will lend to the ladies the Annales Galantes and 
the yournal Amoureux ? ^ Who will sing at table a 
whole dialogue of an opera, or the madness of " Ro- 
land " * in a ruelle, as well as, he does ? ^ To conclude, 
since there are in the city and elsewhere some very 

head of the commissariate, and died in 1684 ; and Berbier du Metz, lieu- 
tenant-general of the artillery, was killed at the battle of Fleurus in 1690. 

^ Beaumavielle, a celebrated basso-singer at the opera, died about 

2 Marthe de Rochois sang at the opera from 1678 till 1697. 

3 The Annales Galantes were published in 1670, and written by Madame 
de Villedieu ; no Journal Amoureux ever saw the light. 

•* 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 Veisailles 
in the beginning of 1685, and Mademoiselle de Rochois played the part of 
Angelica in it. < 

5 See page 65, not i. 


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 1 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 inten- 
tions. Here he is the rival of a magistrate ; ^ 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 another's 
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 
f sum to replace the money they paid for their official 
I situations.^ A man so happy and so wealthy * ought 
to be banished from a well-governed city, and the fair 
sex should be forbidden, under pain of being considered 

1 M. de Terrat, the chancelier of Monsieur, the brother of Louis XIV., is 
hinted at here, probably merely on account of his name. 

2 Le luonier, in the original. See page 168, note 3 

3 La Bruyere employs le vide cie la consignation. See page 169, note 2. 
* Pecunieux our author uses in its Latin meaning. 


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 par- 
ticularly the ladies, affably treat a man of merit, who 
possesses nothing but merit. Such ladies never inquire 
after that man's means or his ancestors ; they find him 
at court, and that is sufficient for them ; they give them- 
selves 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 them- 
selves 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,i and is very impatient 
to behold such a military man or a magistrate in her 
apartments. How well will he be received ! She'll 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 

1 Gilt nails were the principaf ornaments of the heavy and unwieldy 
coaches of the age of Louis XIV. 



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 ! ^ 

(18.) It is sensible and praiseworthy in a man to 
spend on his nuptials one-third of his wife's 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,^ 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 curi- 
osity 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.3 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 

(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 

1 Some unprincipled suitors borrowed costly jewels which they put in the 
trousseau of their brides, but which had to be returned after the marriage. 

2 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 century. 

3 According to an immemorial custom in Paris, a young wife showily 
i dressed had to sit up on her bed during the first three days after marriage 
I to receive visits. Several memoirs and letters of the time refer to it. Ad- 
i' dison in "The Spectator," No. 45, speaks also of the "English ladies . . . 

1 \)rought up the fashion of receiving visits in their beds." 


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,^ only to come home in 
the evening, highly satisfied with seeing in five hours 
three Swiss,^ 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. ^ 

(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 fallow- 
land, 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,* 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, 

1 People were then (1688-1694) in the habit of dining at twelve o'clock, 
and of taking supper at seven or eight ; hence the reference to the " five 

2 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.) 

3 This paragraph alludes, of course, to the visits ladies par one another. 

4 Sou pour livre, or a penny in the pound, in the original, was a tax on 
merchandise of a twentieth part of their value. 


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 roUs-ofifices, courts of judicature, and 

(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 citi- 
zens 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 ; ^ they never ate a 
bad dinner in order to keep a carriage ; they were con- 
vinced 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 

1 Wax-candles were a luxury at the time La Bruyere wrote, and chiefly 
manufactured at Bougiah, on the coast of Africa ; hence their name, 


gets wet in the trenches. They had not then in- 
vented the harnessing of two men to carry them in a 
Sedan chair ; then several magistrates walked to the 
two courts,^ 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 in- 
trusted ; 2 but their children had the same servants they 
had, and they themselves were satisfied to superintend 
their education. Everything they did was calqulated ; 
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 

1 In every parliament there were originally two courts, and two kinds of 
barristers or conseillers ; one court was called the grantC chambre, where 
the cases were heard ; in the other court, the chambre des enqueies, reports 
in writing were made of all cases. 

2 The nobleman or lady of high rank to whom the education of the chil- 
dren of royalty was intrusted in France bore the title oi goui'emeur, or 
gouvemnnte des tii/ants de France. 


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 stu- 
pidity in private gentlemen.^ 

1 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 circu- 
late. One of the latest commentators of La Bruyere, M. De'stailleur, ob- 
serves rightly that our author only praises economy, simplicity, and mode- 
ration, 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. 



(i.) 'X'HE 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.i 

(2.) A perfect courtier can command his gestures, his 
eyes, and his countenance ; he is profound and impene- 
trable ; he seems to overlook every injury ; he smiles on 

1 Not alone La Bruyere, but many of the most eminent persons of his 
time, such as Saint-Simon, Bourdaloue, Fenelon, Massillon, Madame de 
Maintenon, the Duke of Orleans and his mother, had the same opinion of 
the court and courtiers. 


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 courtier's 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 

(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 experi- 
ence 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 command- 
ing 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 de- 
based ; 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,^ as the Norman accent is at Rouen and 
Falaise ; we partly find them amongst quartermasters, 
superintendents, and confectioners ; ■^ a man with no 
very great intellect may become proficient in them ; one 

1 It was only in the sixth edition of the " Characters" that our author 
printed Versailles in full ; until then it was only " V . . ." 

2 The French has fourriers, petits contrdleurs, and chefs de fniiterie. 
The first looked after the lodgings of the persons following the court when the 
king was travelling ; the second superintended the expenses of the king's 
tabic and household ; and the third set out the dessert and provided the wax- 
candles for the king's dining-room. K fourrier is still a non-commissioned 
officer in the French army who has charge of the quarters and provisions of 
the men. 


with a lofty genius and of solid worth does not sufficiently 
value such accomplishments to make it his principal 
business ^ to study and acquire them ; he contracts them 
imperceptibly, and does not trouble himself to get rid 
of them. 

(15.) N ... ,2 in a great flutter, comes up to the 
king's 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 crowd.^ 

(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.'* 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 

1 Faire son capital, in the original, a phrase much in vogue during the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.. 

2 This paragraph is said to apply to a certain M. de Barete, unknown to 
fame, or to the brother of Madame de Maintenon. (See page 65, note 4.) 

3 It was not considered etiquette to knock or to rap at the door of the 
king's chamber, or at the door of any nobleman's 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 levee 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 aside. 

* 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 Mentoires 
and by Madame de Sevign^ in her Letters. 


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 an- 
other 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 weak- 
nesses 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 some- 
thing ; 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,^ 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.^ 

(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. Who- 
ever 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 

1 By the Castle is meant Versailles. 

2 This seems a more correct portrait of M. de Langlee than the one to 
be found in the chapter " Of ihe Gifts of Fortune," § 21 (see also page 139, 
note 6). Saint-Simon, in hh Memozres, often mentions him and his mother, 
who was the queen's chamber-maid, and through her influence at court got 
him introduced amongst the highest of the land. He also speaks of de 
Langlee's successes at play, his intimacy with the king, and the king's 
mistresses, favourites, and family, his want of intelligence, and his great tact, 
except in continually using obscene words, and finally his being an arbiter 
ele^antiarum. Madame de S^vign^ also refers to him and his familiarity. 


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 Jupiter's satellites,^ 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 common- 
wealth. 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, thought- 
less, 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 iias not a pretty name ought 
to hide it under a better i^ but if it is one that he 

1 See p. IJ5, note 4. 

2 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 d'Auvergne, but the name was illustrious. 
A modern commentator, M. Hemardinquer, 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 Barbezieux, Count de 


dares own,i 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 Chatillons, 
the Montmorencys,2 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 ^ 
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 ; ^ or to 
ask whether Hyacinthus is a nobleman when they tell 
him he has drawn a great prize in the lottery.^ If some 

Maurepas, de Maillebois, etc., all of which titles might be considered "not 
pretty " as names. 

1 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. 

2 By the princes of Lorraine are probably meant the Guises, whose 
family name was de Lorraine ; they were, however, princes de Jolnville. 
The Rohans were one of the oldest families in Brittany ; the Chatillons, of 
whom the Admiral de Coligny was one, were related to the Montmorencys, 
who date from the tenth century, and had been chiefly rendered famou 
in history by the connetablc de Montmorency (1492-1567), the rival of the 
Duke de Guise. 

3 The Orijlajnme was the banner of the Abbey of Saint-Denis, and only 
brought out by order of the king the moment the battle began. 

* Demoiselle was originally the appellation given to any married or 
unmarried lady of noble birth, but in La Bruyere's time it was generally 
applied to ladies of plebeian origin. In several legal contracts our author's 
mother is called demoiselle veuve. 

* 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. 


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, in- 
difference, 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 stir- 
ring, 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 advan- 
tage 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 resolution. 


(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 advan- 
tage 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,^ 
people will blame him for being covetous and am- 
bitious, 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 be- 
stowed 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 circum- 
stances, and that is precisely what he has done. 

1 The king usually allowed the holders of certain offices to appraint 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, note.) 


We blame those persons who make use of their oppor- 
tunities 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 before- 

(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 

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 king's levde, 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 ; ^ 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.^ 

1 The original has tout rappartemeni. The rooms where the courtiers 
danced attendance at Versailles were called thus. 

2 Some commentators imagine this refers to the Marshal de Luxembourg, 


(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 ad- 
vances 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,^ 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 

who in 1675 was appointed to succeed the Prince de Conde' 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 wlien 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. 

1 Tliere were three persons named Rousseau, well known to the cour- 
tiers : an innkeeper near the Porte Saint-Denis, the doorkeeper of the King's 
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 Bruyere ; and La Couture, the tailor of the Dau- 
phine, had become insane, and was always about the court. 


(40.) You are an honest man,^ 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 our- 
selves, 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 de- 
ceives nobody. 

(43,) A man intrigues to obtain an eminent post, 
lays all his plans beforehand, takes all the right mea- 
sures, 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 spnmg ; and then the candi- 
date 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 ? 2 Such an artifice and such a policy has become 

1 See page 43, note 2. 

2 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 success- 


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 passionately. 

(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 dis- 
credit 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.^ 

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 ob- 
tained 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,^ but for- 
merly 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 

ful ; about a year afterwards the Duke de Beauvilliers was appointed to 
the vacant post. 

1 Anallusion to theDukede Beauvilliers, mentioned in the preceding note. 

2 The French Academy, composed of forty members, was established on 
the 2d of January 1635, and still exists. 


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 pro- 
test, either through vanity, or to show himself dis- 
interested, 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 ; ^ 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. 2 

(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 dis- 
cover the secret of including the law also.^ If you ask 

1 It is said that the Minister of State Abel Servien (1598-1659) refused 
politely, and that Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) did not know how to give. 
" P. Corneille, in his comedy Le Mcnteur (act i. scene i), says also— 
" Tel doniie \ pleines mains qui n'oblige personne : 
La fa^on de donner vaut mieux que ce qu'on donne." 
3 Saint-Simon adopts the word ampliibie from our author, and names, 


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 ^ borrows his manners from one 
profession and his dress from another ; he goes masked 
all the year, though he does not conceal his counten- 
ance ; 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. 2 If you are of such an 

among others, a certain M. Saint-Romain, who was ambassador at the 
court of Portugal, and enjoyed the income of two abbeys. Some com- 
mentators 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 HautehuiWc, £Tafui /rieur eTAguitaine, and 
lieutenant-general to boot. 

1 Menophilus is said to be either Father la Chaise (1624-1709X tl^e 
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. 

2 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 
S^vign^ went with some ladies of the court to see the poisoners the Mar- 
chioness de Brinvilliers and la Voisin executed (1670 and 1680). 


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 stifly he behaves towards those who are 
no longer his equals ; he vouchsafes them no answer, 
and seems not to see them ; the embraces and demon- 
strations 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 
prince's favour, consider how many things you will have 
to avoid. 1 

(5 I.) 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.^ 

(52.) Theonas having been an abbd^ for thirty years, 

1 This "happy" individual seems to have been a certain M. Boucherat, 
who after his nomination as cliancelier de France became very arrogant. 

2 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. 

3 There were two kinds of abbis. The abbi rSgulier, who was always a 
priest, wore the habit of his order, not seldom was a high dignitary of the 


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 ; ^ and 
because no great festival at court has ever made any altera- 
tion in his position, 2 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, 
"You'll see I shall not remain a bishop for ever ; I shall 
be an archbishop yet." 

(53.) There must be knaves at court ^ 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 re- 
quires 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 there- 
fore in certain emergencies an honest man * cannot be 

Church, and the aibi cotnmendataire, 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 abbe and called himself so. 

1 A bishop wore a golden cross on his breast ; cardinals wear purple 

' Louis XIV. used on festive occasions to bestow various gifts on his 
courtiers, as well as abbeys and ecclesiastical appointments on clerical 

3 The " Keys" give the names of several well-known financiers as those 
" knaves." 

* In the original honttne de bien. (See page 43, note 2.) 


(54.) An ancient author, whose very words I shall 
take the liberty to quote,i for fear 1 should weaken the 
sense of them by my translation, says : "To forsake 
the common herd, nay, one's 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, shame- 
less, 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 man's fortune." 

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

(56.) Timantes,2 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 mysteri- 
ously 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 j 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 

1 Our author imitates some old French writer, or at least employs anti- 
quated 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 bankrupt." 

^ Another allusion to the disgrace of the Duke de Luxembourg. (See 
page J95, note 2), which hap{>ened from 1679 to 1681. 


having been his fellow-students or neighbours ; others 
ransack their genealogy, go back to their great-grand- 
father, and recall their father and mother's 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 sovereign's 
choice, or were they waiting for this appointment to 
know him better ? ^ 

(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 to- 
night, and repeats it often, who brings in the name of 
Plancus 2 about a dozen times during a few minutes' 

1 This new Minister was, according to some, M. Claude le Peletier (see 
page 54, note 1), appointed contrdUttr-general desfinances 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 
20I, note 2.) 

2 Plancus is the Minister for War, Louvois, who died suddenly in 1691, 


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 admini- 
stration; 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 
Plancus' 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,i nor sense to know and to judge, and 
who has nothing to recommend him but his court-dress 
as a favourite,^ which now he himself is above wearing. 

(61.) Theodotus^ is staid in dress, whilst his coun- 
tenance, as theatrical as an actor's who has to appear 
on the stage, harmonises with his voice, his carriage, 
gestures, and attitude. He is cunning, cautious, in- 
sinuating, mysterious ; he draws near you and whispers, 
" It is fine weather ; it is thawing." If he has no grand 

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. 

1 This is a reference to Psalm cxxxv. 16, 17. 

2 In French certahies livries, certain liveries. Can this be an allusion 
to the justaucorJ>s a brevet, or coats only worn by the King's permission ? 

* The commentators suppose that a certain Abbe de Choisy (1644-1724) 
is meant, who passed a great part of his life dressed as a woman. 


qualifications, he has all the little ones, even those 
which would scarcely become a youthful pricieuse?- 
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 one's 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 Minister's 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 be- 
wildered, 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 ; 2 if 
these wish for anything, he offers to serve them, and to 

1 Seepage 121, note. 

2 The original has tout ce qui paratt de nouveau avec les livrees de la 
Javeur. See also page 205, note 2. 


intrigue for them ; and stealthily sacrifices to them 
merit, connections, friendship, engagements, and grati- 
tude. If the place of Cassini 1 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.2 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 ? ^ 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 aban- 
don 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 im- 

^ The Italian astronomer T. D. Cassini (1625-1712) was the head of the 
Parisian Observatoire for astronomical studies. 

2 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 earth's surface and its position as seen from some 
other conventional point. 

3 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. 


pertinent 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.i 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 accom- 
plice, and answerable for them. A tyrant in society 
and a martyr to his ambition, he is mournfully circum- 
spect 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 fre- 
quent : 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 

1 Cheminer, in the original ; a word much employed by the courtiers of 
Louis XIV. 


where a man must stand to be seen ; he can embrace 
you, share in your joy, ask you one question after 
another about your heaUh 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 congratu- 
lations 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 ^ where all joy is conspi- 
cuous but false, and all grief hidden but real. Who 
would imagine that the anxiety to be present at enter- 
tainments, the raptures and applause at Moli^re's or 
Harlequin's comedies,^ the banquets, the chase, the 
ballets, and carrousels^ 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, 
nowand 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 

1 This'country is, of course, the court. 

2 By Harlequin's comedies the Italian stage is meant. 
* See page 174, note i. 



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 gra- 
dually 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 re- 
mainder ? 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.^ 

(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 com- 
pensates for another. 

(68.) Xantippus,2 at the uttermost end of his province. 

1 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. 

2 Xantippus is supposed to be M. de Bontemps, the son of one of the 
premiers valets de chamhre 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." 


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 after- 
wards 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 lev^e,^ 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 ! 2 

(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 

(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 

• 1 See page 186, note 3. 2 See also page 213, § 75. 


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 arti- 
fices 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 con- 
cealing 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 Hurons.i 

(75.) Whoever will consider that p king's 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,2 will in some 
measure understand how to behold God may constitute 
the glory and felicity of the saints.^ 

(76.) Great noblemen show their respect for their 
prince ; this concerns them, as they have also their 
dependants. Courtiers of inferior rank are more relax 
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 every- 
thing ; 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 

1 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 
Bruyere wrote, considered as typical savages, and are often mentioned in 
the literature of the period. 

3 De Bussy-Rabutin, Madame de Sevign^, the Marshal de Villeroy, and 
the Duke de Richelieu, all describe in their writings the misery they felt 
on not seeing the king. 

3 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 con- 
sidered " the image of the Divinity on earth." 


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 blockhead. 

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 ourselves ? 

(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. 1 Those persons who injure the reputation 
or position of others for the sake of a witticism deserve 

1 Pascal expresses a similar thought in his Pensies, 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. 


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 con- 
gratulate 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, architec- 
ture, 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 ; ^ 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 them- 
selves 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 

1 M. de Bontemps and the Marquis de Dangeau, both of whom we have 
already nieiitioned (see page 210, note 2, and page 156, note 2), seem to 
be meant. 


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. 1 

(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 upon. 

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 slip- 
pery 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 depend- 

1 The commentators give the names of several personages, all already 
mentioned before, such as the Count d'Aubign^, the Chancellor Boucherat, 
the Archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier, and others. 


ing 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 pur- 
pose. 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 con- 
versed 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 reputa- 

(93.) Fear not, O Aristides, with your sublime in- 
tellect, your universal learning, your well-tried honest)', 
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.^ 

(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 dis- 
grace 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 2 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 

1 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. 

2 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.'s cousin, Mademoiselle de Mont- 
pensier, but he was disgraced, imprisoned for ten years, partly reinstated 
in the king's favour, banished again from the court, and finally sent with 
an army of French auxiliaries to assist James 11. in Ireland, where he was 
present at the battle of the Boyne. The Duke died in 1723, at the age of 


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 con- 
fused ; 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 ? 

(loo.) 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. 

(loi.) 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 retirement. 1 

1 The first and last paragraphs of this chapter are an epitome of the 



(i.) 'X'HE 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 ^ 
I pity you ; if you have become so out of weakness for 

1 Nearly all commentators suppose that Theagenes is Phillippe de 
VcnAtm^{i(iS$-i72j), grand prieur de Malte, a grandson of Henry IV. and 
Gabrielle d'Estre'es, and one of the most profligate men of his age ; but it 
is more likely that La Bruy&re 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. 


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 ad- 
vantage 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 in- 

(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 advan- 
tages, 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, compli- 
mented, 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 promises. 

(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 com- 
petitor 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 Hves 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 weak- 
nesses, from which, according to them, their successors 
are entirely free ; they are convinced that these suc- 
cessors, 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 satis- 
fied with indifferent ones.^ 

(i2.) 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 intel- 
ligence 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. 

1 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, Conde, and Colbert, who had 
all been dead some time before the year 1689, when it first appeared. 


(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 Hving 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. 1 

(15.) Theophilus' 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 neighbour's weal, or is he accus- 
torhed 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 gesticu- 
lates 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 ^ 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 

1 If the Abbe de Choisy (see page 205, note 3) ever told La Bruyere how 
he was brought up, as he mentions in his Memoires, there can be no doubt 
he was the original of Lucilius. 

2 In the original, il se /ait de fete ; an expression also used by other 
authors in La Bruyere's lime. 



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 it.i 

(i6.) A coldness or incivihty 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, abilitj', 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 writ- 
ings, and perhaps the most refined behaviour, have not 

1 Theophilus is generally believed to have been the Abbe Roquette (1623- 
1707), Bishop of Autun, the supposed prototype of Moliere's Tariuffe, 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 Abbe Roquette's character seems not 
so black as it has been painted, at least according to M. J. Henri Pignot's Life 
of him, published in X876. 



always been found among them. They have large 
estates and a long train of ancestors, and there is no 
arguing about those facts. ^ 

(20.) Have you any inteUigence, grandeur of mind, 
capacity, taste, sound judgment ? Can I believe pre- 
judice 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 ? - 
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 Aris- 
tides, with whom you laugh, and who laughs louder 
than yourself, Davus,^ 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. 

1 Compare in the chapter " Of Personal Merit," § 33. 

2 Telephon, an odd name now, is said to be a portrait of Fran5ois 
d'Aubusson (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 stands. 

3 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 wife. 


(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 in- 
evitable ; 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 con- 
sider this a rule in poHtics. 

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 obscu- 
rity, 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 saint's day, which each celebrates as if it were his 


birthday ; ^ but for us great people, let us have recourse 
to profane names, and be baptized by such patronymics 
as Hannibal, Cicsar, and Pompey, for they were indeed 
great men ; by that of Lucretia, for she was an illus- 
trious Roman lady ; or by those of Rinaldo, Rogero, 
Oliviero, and Tancredo,^ 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 Phoebus and Diana ; and who shall prevent 
us from caUing ourselves Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, or 
Adonis ? ^ 

(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 eat- 
ing and drinking,^ with visiting Thais and Phryne,^ talking 
of various packs of hounds, telling how many stages 
there are between Paris and Besangon or Philipsburg,^ 

1 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. 

2 Rinaldo is the Achilles of the Christian army in Tasso's "Jerusalem 
Delivered," and the rival of Orlando in Ariosto's " Orlando Furioso ; " the 
second is the true hero of the latter poem, the third the friend and com- 
panion of Orlando, and the fourth the greatest of the Christian warriors 
except Rinaldo, in Tasso's. poem, already mentioned. 

3 Among the great there were such names as Tancrede de Rohan, Hercule 
de Fleury, Achille de Harlay, Phe'bus de Foix, Cyrus de Brion, etc. ; even 
citizens took grand classical or romantic names. 

♦ The original has cdteaux, most probably because some noblemen only 
drank certain wines which grew on some hill-slopes, called cdteaux in 

* Thais, an Athenian courtesan, mentioned in Dryden's "Alexander's 
Feast;" Phryne was another Athenian courtesan, said to have been Apelles' 

8 Philipsburg, .in ancient fortified town of the Grand Duchy of Baden, had 
been taken by the Dauphin in 1688, after a month's siege. 


some citizens instruct themselves in what is going on 
within and without the kingdom, study the art of govern- 
ment, 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. ^ 

(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 super- 
fluities. A man of the people can do no harm ; a great 
man will do no good, and is capable of doing great mis- 
chief; 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 malig- 
nant 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, with- 
out 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 

1 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. 


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, there- 
fore, 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 obstruc- 
tions 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 soli- 
citation, and not be seen until thanks are due to him for 
his success : if it is an easy thing to render such a ser- 
vice, he should not set any value on it ; if he refuses to 
assist this honest man, I pity them both. 

(32.) Some men are bom 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 extin- 
guished and have fallen do\vn, 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 foot- 
man, 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 fortime 
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.^ 

• La Bruyere had, no doubt, experienced this when at the Duke de 


(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 patron's honour, and make a jest of 
thosfe 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 hap- 
pens 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 cap- 

(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 me 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 doubt- 
less 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 dissatis- 
fied 1 with them, and yet we praise them. 

1 The original has tnal content, for, during the seventeenth century, mal 


(38.) If it is dangerous to be concerned in a sus- 
picious 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. ^ 

(39.) A prince's 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, plea- 
sure, 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 per 
sonages whose birth distinguishes them from the common 

was more generally placed before an adjective than now ; at present mi- 
content would be used, which, when La Bruyere wrote, had often the mean- 
ing of "a rebel." 

1 Gaston d'Orleans (1608-1660), the brother of Louis XIII., and even the 
Prince de Conde were examples of such " great." 


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 ; ^ 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. 2 

(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 ^ they condemn. 

(43.) To talk to young princes of nothing but their 
rank is an excess of precaution, while all courtiers con- 
sider 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 indif- 
ferently, 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 kind- 
ness of heart, culture, gentlemanly manners, and sound 

1 The original has vertu, in the sense of the Latin virtus, courage. . 

2 Thersites, according to the Iliad, was squinting, humpbacked, loqua- 
cious, loud, coarse, and scurrilous, but he was not a " common soldier," 
but a chief. Achilles was the hero of the allied Greek army besieging 

3 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. 

Vu^/tt^^/^'-' ' 



(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 them- 
selves into a crowd, they are almost crushed to death, 
and if they choose an uncomfortable seat, they may 
remain there. ^ 

(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 ! " 2 exclaims the herald, " be atten- 
tive ; 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." ^ 

(46.) The best actionsof men are spoiled and weakened 
by their manner of doing them, which sometimes leaves 
even a suspicion of the purity of their intentions. Who- 
ever protects or commends virtue for virtue's sake, or 

1 AcKille 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 I. 

2 This beginning of every English town-crier's 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 pro- 
verbial phrases. 

3 Aristarchus also refers to the above Pre^^ident, whose liberality, according 
to public rumour, was somewhat ostentatious. 


condemns and blames vice for the sake of vice, acts with- 
out design, naturally, without any artifice or peculiarity, 
pomp or affectation ; he neither replies demurely and sen- 
tentiously, and still less makes sharp and satirical re- 
marks ; 1 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 
\-isit one another, nor for the cabinet,- nor amongst the 
newsmongers ; ^ he does not provide an amusing gentle- 
man 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 more remote degree of relationship. 

(48.) Theognis* 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 

1 Another allusion to M. de Harlay, whose " wise saws and modem say- 
ings" were proverbial. 

2 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. 

3 See page 19, note 3. 

* 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 Pre- 
sident meutioned on the previous page, note x. 


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 en- 
treats 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 man- 
kind and yet know them well to believe he can impose 
on them with studied demonstrations of friendship and 
long and useless embraces. 

(50.) Pamphilus 1 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 im- 
perious, 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 him- 

1 Pamphilus is the Marquis de Dang«au, of whom we have already spoken 
(see page 156, note 2), and who made himself ridiculous by his excessive 
vanity. Saiiit-Sinion, in his Memoires, calls the Marquis un PamphiU, but 
our author speaks of les Pamphiles, and describes them at three different 
times, namely, in 1681, 1691, and 1692. 


self 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 w^ants to show off; he speaks of his order and 
his blue ribbon, ^ 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,^ 
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,^ and sometimes, 
finding that you are in conversation with them, he will 
pass between you and them"* and take them away. Meet 
him at any other time and he will not stop j you must 

1 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. 

2 See page 70, note i. 

3 Such an official was in our author's time called U pretnier commis. 

* The original has il vous coupe, "he will cut you," an expression also 
used by Saint-Simon and Madame de Sevigne ; 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. 


run and then he'll 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 ^ 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 virtu- 
ous ; 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 
jarriong 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 fashion. 

(51,) We nourish a fruitless jealousy and an impotent 
hatred against the great and men in power, which, in- 
stead of avenging us for their splendour and position, 
only adds to our own misery the galling load of another's 
happiness. What is to be done against such an in- 
veterate 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 pre- 
scription is infallible, and I will try it. Then I shall 
refrain from bribing a doorkeeper or from mollifying a 

1 Two celebrated actors of the seventeenth century ; Floridor, whose real 
name was Josias Soulas de Frinefosse, died in 1672, and Mondori in 1651. 



secretary ; ^ from being driven from the door by a large 
crowd of candidates and courtiers which a minister's 
house 2 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 foot- 
ing, 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.^ 
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 

1 See page 240, note 3. 

2 This minister is said to have been Louvois (see page 204,^note 2), who 
liked to have many postulants about him. 

3 See page 164, note i. 


a small town or of the Rue Saint-Denis were transported 
to V ... or to F .. .1 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 

1 The Rue Saint-Denis was a street in Paris crowded with small trades- 
men, and still exists. Our author was nearly always afraid of clearly men- 
tioning Versailles or Fontainebleau, and very often employed only the 
initial letters and asterisks or dots. 


neither amendment, foresight, reflection, gratitude, nor 

(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. 



(i.) '\17'HEN 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 

1 The original ripubliqrte, which was inserted for the first time in the 
fourth edition of the " C^haracters," is used in the sense of the Latin 


every one whose life is an obstacle to our ambition ; and 
a man naturally cruel has no diflSculty in doing this. It 
is the most detestable and barbarous \yay of maintain- 
ing 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 one's 
native land does not exist ; self-interest, glory, and serv- 
ing the prince supply its place. 

(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 any- 
thing 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. ^ 

(6.) In public commotions we' cannot understand how 
the people can ever be appeased, nor in quiet times ima- 
gine 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 

1 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 elec- 
tions without any opposition, and sometimes a diminution of town coun- 
cillors, or a promulgation of a stamp act for legal documents, was violently 
resbted, and the rebellion had to be quenched by an armed force, as, for 
example, in Guienne and Brittany from 1673 till i675. 


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 inconveni- 
ences which otherwise would be inevitable and without 
remedy. Some there are,i 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 house- 
hold ; others, again, afiflict, 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 

(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 

1 Taxes are meant here. 


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 for- 
tune of Ergastes. 

(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 ! ^ 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 

1 Adolphe de Belleforiere, Chevalier de Soyecourt, a captain of the gen- 
darmes of the Dauphin, died two days after the battle of Fleurus (July i, 
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, ^rand veneur, who died 
in 1679, ^''d was the original of Dorante in Moliere's comedy Les Facheux. 
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. Xa Bruyere 
was a friend of the family, whose name was always pronounced Saucourt, 
and even sometimes written so. 


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 extraordi- 
nary events ; some of them would even be satisfied with 
seeing the enemy at the very gates of Dijon or Corbie, ^ 
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 lamenta- 
tions, and exclaims, " Everything is lost ; we are on the 
brink of ruin ; how can we resist such a powerful and 
general league ? 2 What can we do, I dare not say to van- 
quish, but to make head by ourselves against so many 

1 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. 

2 This I'^l^ to the League of Augsburg, a coalition of England, Germany, 
Spain, HollXri'd, Sweden, and Savoy against Louis XIV., with whom they 
were at war when this paragraph was published in i6gi. 


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 Coeur,^ 
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, sur- 
render 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 patron. He 
tells you the German horse are invincible, and turns pale 
if you but name the Imperial cuirassiers.^ " If we attack 
such a place," continues he, " we shall be obliged to raise 
the siege ; we shall have to remain on the defensive with- 
out engaging in action, or if we do fight, we shall certainly 

1 Olivier le Daim, first the barber of Louis XI. (1423-1483), became his 
favourite, but was hanged in 1484, after that king's death. Jacques Coeur, a 
rich merchant, rendered great services to Charles VII. (1403-1461), be- 
came 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 Bruyere wrote. 

2 The Imperial cavalry had a well-deserved reputation for cruelty and 


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 King's ear, or was the minister's confidant. If 
the enemies are beaten,^ 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,^ well stored with provisions and 
ammunition, defended by a good garrison, commanded 

1 Another allusion to the battle of Fleurus, won by the Marshal de 
Luxembourg about a year before this paragraph was published (1691). 

2 This refers to Mons, besieged by Vauban, and taken on the 9th of April 


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 cer- 
tainly have been verj' lucky ! " Then he sits down and 
takes a rest, after havnng 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,^ and 
names you the place where he is buried ; and even when 
the common people - are undeceived, he offers to lay a 
wager it is true. He knows for a fact that T. K. L. is 
ver)' successful against the Emperor,^ that the Grand 
Turk * is making formidable preparations, and will not 
hear of peace ; and that the Vizier will once more show 

^ In the month of July 1690, a rumour spread in Paris that William III. 
was dead, upon which many i)eople 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 

2 The original has halUs et /duxbourgrs, "markets and suburbs. " 

3 The letters T. K. L. stand for Taekely, 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. 

* At that time the Saltan was SoLiman II., who oaly reigned from 1687 
until 1691. 


himself before Vienna.^ He claps his hands and is as 
delighted as if there were not the smallest doubt about 
it. The triple alliance 2 is a Cerberus ^ 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 con- 
quered them, and I hope he will always do so." This 
style, too bold and decisive for Demophilus, is not suf- 
ficiently pompous or grandiloquent for Basilides ; his 
head is full of other expressions ; he is planning inscrip- 
tions 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.* 

(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 Grand Vizier Kara-Mustapha laid siege to Vienna in 1683. 

2 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." 

3 Cerberus, a dog with three heads, which keeps guard in the infernal 

* According to the commentators, two insignificant newsmongers are 
supposed to be portrayed in Demophilus and Basilides, an Abbe de Sainte- 
Helene and a certain du Moulinet, whom some think might have been 
an abb^ or a magistrate, because instead of clothes he speaks of his robe or ' 


the settling of the preliminaries, nay, even than the 
mere regulating of ranks, precedences, and other cere- 

A minister or a plenipotentiary is a chameleon or a 
Proteus ; ^ 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 in- 
flexible to prevent any large demands ; or he is easy- 
going, 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 never- 
theless 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 con- 
fidence 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 

1 Proteus, in the mythology, is a sed-god residing in the Carpathian Sea, 
who could change his form at will. 


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 mean- 
ing, 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 liim 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 dis- 
trust, 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 expecta- 
tions 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 con- 
ducive 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 master's and the State's 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 pre- 
tence 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 per- 
ceive 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 pre- 
concerted, and his smallest advances arranged before- 
hand ; and yet, whilst subjects of the greatest difficulty 
are treated and certain points are most strenuously con- 
tested, 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 con- 
cerning 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 him- 
self. He takes precautions and is hardened against all 
delays and procrastination, against all reproaches, sus- 
picions, 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 de- 
sires 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 emer- 
gencies. 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 nego- 
tiating. All his designs and maxims, all the devices of 
his policy, tend only to prevent his being deceived, and 
to deceive others.^ 

(13.) The French nation require their sovereign to be 
grave in his deportment. ^ 

(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 him- 
self. 3 

(15). A prince can get ever}thing he wants except 
the pleasures of a private life : only the charms of friend- 

1 This paragraph is the longest La Bruyere has written ; it covers between 
eight and nine pages in tlie original edition. 

2 An indirect homage to the assumed gravity of Louis XIV. 

3 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. 


ship 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, ^ and act a 
more familiar part with a confidant. 

(17.) Nothing is more creditable to a prince than the 
modesty of his favourite. 

(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 ill-luck.^ 

1 Bas de saye, in the original, is a plaited petticoat worn in Louis XIV. 's 
time by actors in classical tragedies ; it owes its name to the Latin sagiim, 
a military cloak of the ancient Gauls. Brodequins was the name given to the 
buskins of comic actors ; the tragic actors strutted in their cothumes. 

2 This paragraph only appeared for the first time in the fourth edition of 
the " Characiers," published in 1689, and disappeared, never to be printed 


(20.) I do not doubt that a favourite who has a 
sufficiently powerful and lofty mind must often feel em- 
barrassed 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 doiibt 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 reputa- 
tion when you are gone, or expect that they will pre- 
ser^'e the lustre of your name ; titles pass away, a 
prince's favour is evanescent, honours are lost, wealth is 
spent, and merit degenerates. It is true you have chil- 
dren 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 necessar)', 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 

again, two years afterwards. It was probably suppressed for fear of offend- 
ing cither Louis XIV., who had allowed his former favourites, Bussy- 
Rabutin and Lauzun, to reappear at court (see page 18, note 5, and page 
2:8, note 2), or of hurting the feelirigs 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. 


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 ^ whose 
efifigies you behold was one who dared to address his 
prince forcibly and freely, and was more afraid of in- 
juring 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 ^ you will observe strongly marked 
lineaments and an austere and majestic air ; his reputa- 
tion 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 vari- 
ous 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 com- 
pleted by the best and greatest of our princes, the extir- 
pation of heresy." •* 

(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 liquidat- 
ing their debts whilst enriching themselves.* Such advice 

1 This refers to Cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510), Prime Minister 
of Louis XII. 

2 Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) is meant. 

3 In politics, La Briiyere 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. 

* This is an allusion to the reduction of the interest on the French debt, 


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 
masters' minds.i 

(23.) Happy indeed is that nation whose prince 
appoints the very same persons for his confidants and 
ministers whom the people would have chosen them- 
selves if they could have done so, 

(24.) The mastering of the details of business and 
a diligent apphcation 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.^ Indeed, 
what benefits and what increase of pleasure would 

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, how- 
ever, made no profit by it. See also page 152, note 2. 

1 Colbert has been wrongly accused of having made money by those 
means ; an accusation which was also brought against Mazarin, Fouquet, 
and ths/ermieys g;eneraux, on far better grounds. 

- 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 oa 
his complete mastery of details, for which he was praised by some and 
blamed by others ; and amongst these latter must be reckoned Fenelon, who 
in his Telentachus (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 Bruyere : " Louis the Fourteenth, bigoted, 
narrow-minded, commonplace as he was, without personal honour or per- 
sonal 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." 


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 ask- 
ing 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,^ and thus affording 
him the pleasure of seeing the young princes, his grand- 
children, ^ maintain and enhance his glory, beholding 
them lead an army into the field, take the strongest 
fortresses, conquer new states, command old and ex- 
perienced 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 imi- 
tate 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 

1 An allusion to an operation for fistula performed on Louis XIV. in 1686. 


plenty as well as the pleasures of social intercourse ; or 
if, being weak and defenceless, my property is to be en- 
croached 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 pro- 
viding myself with more decent clothing ^ and wholesome 
food for my sustenance, at a reasonable rate ; if, to con- 
clude, 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 in- 
terests of the state are identical with those of the prince. 

(27.) To call a king the father of his people ^ 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 permu- 
tation of duties between a sovereign and his subjects, 
and between them and him ; and I shall not decide 
which are most obligatory and most diflScult. On the 

1 Voltaire, in his Steele de Louis XIV., says : " From 1663 until 1672 every 
year some new manufactory was established. The fine cloths formerly im- 
ported 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. 

2 Louis XII. was called by the States-General assembled at Tours 
(1506) the " father of his people." 


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 ad- 
ministers ; to add that he is absolute master of all 
his subjects' 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 deathbed. ^ 

(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 care- 
ful 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 good. 

A gorgeous and sumptuous monarch is like a shep- 

1 Such was, however, the opinion of Louis XIV. himself, who states in his 
Mimoires : " Kings are absolute masters, and naturally dispose fully and 
entirely of all the property possessed by the clergy and laity." 


herd adorned with gold and jewels, with a golden crook 
in his hands, with a collar of gold about his dog's 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 pur- 
chase the hearts of their people at too high a rate ? 

(32.) There are very few general rules and un variable 
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 ; every- 
thing 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.^ 

(34.) If the care of a single family be so burdensome, 
if a man has enough to do to answer for himself, what 

1 This is another flattery intended for Louis XIV., who thought that his 
ministers got their talents " by virtue of their office." The vtord subaltemes, 
" subordinates," seems also out of place applied to such men as Colbert and 


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.i 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 pubHc ; be brief, 

1 Louis XIV. was certainly not displeased when his presence awed those 
who were presented to him. , 


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 compre- 
hensive and ready should be his memory as to remember 
the necessities of his subjects, their faces, names, and 
petitions. 1 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 mon- 
archical sect,- if such a one exists ; abolish all barbarous 
and impious customs, if they are to be found there ; ^ 
reform the abuses of laws and usages, for such may 
have crept in ; * render his cities more safe and com- 
fortable by establishing new police regulations, more 

1 All those excellent qualities, which La Bruyere thinks are necessary to 
a sovereign, were those generally attributed to Louis XIV., and which 
Saint-Simon also ascribes to him in his Memoires. 

2 Another hit at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. 

3 A reference to the royal edicts against duelling. 

* Louis XIV., from 1667 to 1685, promulgated several laws reforming 
abuses in civil and criminal jurisprudence, and abolishing certain restrictions 
on trade, commerce, etc. 


splendid and magnificent by sumptuous edifices ; punish 
severely scandalous vices ; increase the influence of 
religion and virtue by his authority and example ; ^ pro- 
tect the Church and clergy, their rights and liberties ; 2 
and govern the nation like a father, always intent on re- 
lieving it and making the subsidies as light as those 
levied in the provinces ^ 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 ©yes, act immediately and by himself, so that 
his generals, though at a distance, are but his lieutenants, 
and his ministers but his ministers ; * 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 

1 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. 

2 An allusion to the declaration of the liberties of the Gallican Church, 
published in 1682, and said to be written by Bossuet. 

3 The commentators of La Bruyere 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 dHat, 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 d'etat, and called pays 
dHections ? 

♦ This allusion must greatly have pleased Louis XIV., who thought him- 
self great as a strategist and as a politician. 


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.^ 

1 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. 



(i.) T ET 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 tena- 
ciously to what is ill and to their indifiference for virtue. 

(3.) Stoicism is a mere fancy, a fiction, like Plato's 


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 per- 
fection 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, fickle- 
ness of affections, and instability of conduct, are all vices 
of the mind, but they are all different ; and, in spite ^ of 
their appearing analogous, are not always found in one 
and the same subject. 

1 The original has avec, which, in the seventeenth century, often was used 
for "in spite of." 


(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 1 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 

1 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 (1664-170^), 
and to a certain Abbe de Mauroy, chaplain to Mademoiselle de Montpen- 
sier. Eustace Budgell (1685-1736) depicts in No. 77 of the "Spectator" 
"an absent man," and also speaks of Monsieur Bruyere, who "has given 
us the character of an absent man with a great deal of humour; " and then 
prints "the heads" of Menalcas' portrait. According to Watt's Bibliotheta 
Britannica, Budgell was the author of a translation of La Bruyere's 
" Characters," published 1699 and 1702; but in the edition of 1702 ihere is 
on the title-page, " made English by several hands." 



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 be- 
tween 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.^ 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,^ 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 com- 
pany to see what man shows his ears and has lost his 
wig.3 If he goes into town,* 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 

1 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. 

2 See page 243, note. 

3 The wigs were already worn very long, and completely concealed the 

* See page 164, note i. 


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 him- 
self 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 ^ 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 

1 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. 


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 ;i 
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 ex- 
tended, 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 inadver- 
tently 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 bishop's 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 cup- 
board, 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 

1 It was repcrted that Brancas, clievalier cthonneur o( the queen-mother, 


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 back- 
gammon 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 o'clock 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, ^ 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. OHver, — Pray don't 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 

Anne of Austria (1602-1666), behaved in almost a similar manner to his 
royal mistress. 

1 Blotting-paper was not invented when cur author wrote ; even now it is 
not unusual abroad to find the ink of letters dried with sand, either plain 
or coloured. 


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, " That's a fine ruby 
you wear ; is it a balass ruby ? " ^ 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 countr}', 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 ; ^ 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 

1 Balais in French, a kind of pale-coloured ruby, so called, according to 
Littre's Dictionnatre, from Balakschan or Balaschan, not far from Samar- 

2 The king used to hunt at Fontainebleau almost every day in October. 
See also page 174, rote 4. 


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 neigh- 
bours 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 lakes 
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 every- 
body should burst out laughing for throwing on the floor 
the wine he did not wish to drink.^ 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 ; ^ in their presence he lifts up the 

1 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 dis- 
graceful 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 Phaedo, page 
161, and in the chapter "'Of Society, etc.," the character of Troilus, page 
106, § 13. 

2 See page 65, note i. 


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 ; ^ the monk who explains the subjects persis- 
tently expatiates on the life of Saint Bruno, and points 
out the adventure with the canon in one of the pictures. 2 
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 husband's 
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 ; 

1 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 iioi. The greater part of these pictures is now in the Louvre. 

'^ 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. 


" 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 appear- 
ance, and he asks him, in a contemptuous tone, where 
he comes from ; the man rephes 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 for- 
bear 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 mis- 
alliance. 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 ;"i 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 pletted 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. 2 When he came home he 
tpld 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 ignor- 
ance of one's 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, 

1 See page 138, note 3. 

2 Taliemant des Reaux, in his HistorUttes, 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. 


because it is a fault which is always visible and manifest ; 
however, it gives more or less oflfence, 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, what- 
ever people may think, but an involuntary acknowledg- 
ment 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. 

(i I.) Men do not sufficiently take advantage of every 
opportunity for pleasing other people. When a per- 
son 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 

(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 you. 

(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 consti- 
tuted 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 man- 
kind 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 aston- 
ished to see seven or eight persons, living under the 


same roof and within the same walls, constitute one 
family. 1 

(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. 2 

(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 bom 
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 man's 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 t 
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 I 
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 J 
only have been to give us more time for other desires. 

(20.) A man requesting a favour from another, sur- 
renders 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. 

^ Compare what our author says in the above paragraph with the remarks 
he makes in § 21, page 260, and § 34, page 266. 

' 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 children. 


(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 rela- 
tives enjoy, but envy deprives him even of this last 

(23.) Whatever I may somewhere have said,^ 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 difificulties, so willing to deceive and so unwill- 
ing 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. 

' See the chapter " Of Society," § 63. 


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, interro- 
gatories, 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 soHd 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 pas- 
sionately 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 be- 
cause 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 ; ^ 
she visits ^sculapius 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 cor- 
pulency, 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 vEsculapius. " I grow weak," con- 
tinues 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 ? " ^ 

' Epidaurus, a city of Peloponnesus, where yEsculapius, the god of 
medicine and a son of Apollo, was worshipped. 

2 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 Montetpan, had left tha court, and aoout ten 



(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 

(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 

(40.) The fear of old age disturbs us, yet we are not 
certain of becoming old. 

(41.) W^e 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. 

years after he had married Madame de Maintenon. Madame de Montes- 
pan had then become an imaginary invalid, and made frequent journeys 
to take the waters at different places, and chiefly to Boiirbon-rArcham- 
baud, where, it is said, a doctor made her a similar answer as recorded 
above. It is doubtful whether La Biuyere would have spoken of her cor- 
pulency, 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 
Lijuis XIV. 


(44.) A long disease seems to be a halting place 
between life and death, that death itself may be a com- 
fort 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 live. 

(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 suffi- 
cient note by which to measure how long they have lived. 
They have dreamt in a confused, indistinct, and incohe- 
rent 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 

(49.) There is a time preceding the power of reason- 
ing, 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 pas- 
sions 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, dis- 
ease, and sorrow, and rendered useless by the machinery 
getting old and out of gear ; yet these three periods 
constitute the whole life of man. 

(50.) Children are overbearing, supercilious, passion- 
ate, 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 

(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 child- 
hood ; 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 pas- 
sions and vices gather strength as well ; these alone 
make men so unlike each other and so at variance with 

(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 en- 
chanted 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 sub- 
jects, possess treasures which they make of leaves or 
sand ; and know then, what they will ignore in after- 
life, 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 weak- 
nesses 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 pleasures. 

(56.) To children everything seems great ; court- 
yards, 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 little. 

(57.) Children begin among themselves with a de- 
mocracy, 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 re- 
gulate 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 parents' and masters'. 

(59.) It destroys all confidence in the minds of chil- 
dren, 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 punish- 
ments 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 " ^ an advantage 
over the father-confessor. 

1 See page 68, note 3. 


(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.^ 

(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 

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 

1 This refers to the Prince de Conti (1661-1685), a cousin of the Duke 
de Bourbon, the pupil of our author. When the Prince's wife, formerly 
Mademoiselle de Blois, a daughter of Louis XIV. and Mademoiselle de la 
Valliere, was attacked by the small-pox, he nursed her so well thai she 
recovered, but he died. 


real character ; it is a falsehood. False glorj' 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 re- 
proached 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 pro- 
cure 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 re- 
capitulating 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. ^ 

(68.) Men intend sometimes to conceal their imper- 
fections, 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 humi- 
lity. 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 com- 
mands 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 in- 
wardly and habitually draw a comparison between them- 

1 According to the " Keys," this paragraph alludes to Louvois. See 
page 133, note, and page 243, note 3. 


selves and others, always give a decision in favour of 
Iheir own merits, and behave accordingly. 

(7 I.) 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 accord- 
ing as your gold lace is broader or narrower. 

(72.) Vanity, and the high value we set upon our- 
selves, 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 gfuess 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 some- 
thing 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. 

300 ^ OF MANKIND. 

(79.) Health and wealth prevent men from experienc- 
ing 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,^ 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 miseries. 

(83.) Men have a very quick perception of their 
smallest advantages and are as backward in discover- 
ing their faults. They never ignore they have fine eye- 
brows and well-shaped nails, but scarcely know they have 
lost an eye, and not at all when they are wanting in under- 

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. 

1 The original has " aux ames bien nees," a very favourite expression of 
the French authors of the seventeenth century ; thus P. Corneille, amongst 
Others, says in the Cid: 

" Pour des ames bien nees, 
La valeur n'attend point le nombre des annees." 


(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 jeal- 
ousy and emulation, they differ as much as vice and 

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 in- 
duces 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 disgrace- 
ful 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 praise- 

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 emulation. 

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 secretary- 
ship 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 fiom 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 him- 
self, 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 ex- 
tremes ; the gap is filled by a great number of men 
of ordinary talents, but who are very useful and service- 
able to the State, and efificient as well as agreeable ; 
as, for example, in commerce, finances, during war, in 
navigation, arts, trades, in the possession of a good 
memory, in gambhng,! in society, and in conversation. 

(87.) All the intelligence of the world is useless to a 
man who has none, for having no ideas himself, he can- 
not be improved by those of others. 

(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. 

1 Gambling was highly valued at court (see page 154, § 71 ) ; the Mar- 
quis de Dangeau (see page 156, note 2) owed partly his position to his suc- 
cesses 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. 


(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 cox- 
comb, 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 oppor- 
tunities 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 discrimina- 
tion, has almost blindly overwhelmed with its blessings, 
behave insolently and extravagantly ; their looks, their 
carriage, their tone of voice, and their manner of receiv- 
ing 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 them- 
selves 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 import- 
ance, and rise to the highest dignities by continually 
buffooning, until finally and unexpectedly they find 
themselves in a position they neither dreaded nor anti- 
cipated. Nothing remains of them in this world but an 
example of their success, which it would be dangerous 
to imitate.^ 

(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 

J 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 calum- 
niated Louis XIV. 



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 oppor- 
tunity of viewing them too closely, so that curiosity and 
admiration might not change to indifference, and perhaps 
to contempt.^ 

(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 keep- 
ing 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 amorous.2 

(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 ; ^ others 

1 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 Orleans, 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 "judi- 

2 All the " Keys " say the Archbishop of Paris, M. de Harlay, was meant. 
See also page 238, note 4. 

3 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 i. 


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.^ 
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 men's misfortunes proceed from their aversion to 
being alone ; hence gambling, extravagance, dissipation, 
wine, women, ignorance, slander, envy, and forgetful- 
ness 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. 

(10 1.) Idleness is the mother of listlessness, and 
chiefly induces men to hunt after diversions, gambling, 
and company. He who loves work requires nothing \/^ 

(102.) Most men employ the first years of their life 
in making .the last miserable. 

(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 

1 Some " Keys " name here wrongly Boutillier de Ranc^, the founder of 
the Trappists, whilst others speak of Le Camus, bishop of Grenoble (see 
P<<ge 47, note 4). La Bruyere's allusion is far more general. 


of wit." ^ The same kind of sport also rules our con- 
duct ; 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 ; ^ his doors are open to all clergymen or to 
Sisters of Charity ; ^ and every one sees and talks about 

1 All the " Keys " say this refers to the Diciionnaire de l' Academie, 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 Traites sur toutes les sciences, ires abreges a Vusnge de la noblesse, 
or to some collection of anecdotes, a kind of omnium gathennn, entitled 
Bibliotheqjie des gens de cour ; perhaps it might also apply to some verses 
then ill vogue, and called vers nbecedaires, of which the first line begaa 
with an " a," the second with a " b," and so on. Those " sports of wit," 
which our author calls by the name oi jeux d'esp-tiU witticisms, also 
existed later in England, e.g., "The Foundling HospitalforWit." 

2 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. 

3 In French, sceurs grises, grey sisters, because the Sisters'of Charity 
wore grey dresses. Bands were then worn by every one, but clergymen's 
bands were plain and called /«///.; collets, the name our author gives them. 


his liberality in relieving the poor. Who would dare to 
imagine N . . . was not an honest man, unless it were 
his creditors ? 

(105.) G^ronte 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 

(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. ^ 

(107.) Faustus is a rake, a prodigal, a free-thinker, as 
well as ungrateful and passionate ; yet his uncle Aurelius 
neither hates him nor disinherits him. 

Frontin, his other nephew, after twenty years of ac- 
knowledged 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. 

1 Holders of certain legal or financial offices had the right of reversion or 
next nomination whilst they were alive, and not seldom delayed exercising 
ii until they were very old ; but unless they did so within forty days of their 
death, and had paid an annual tax called U droit de paulette, so called 
afier 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 i. 


(io8.) Hatred is so lasting and stubborn, that recon- 
ciliation 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. 

(iio.) 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 adversity. 

(ill.) 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 

(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 unensy ; 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 dis- 
position of old men, who as naturally give themselves up 
to it as they did to pleasure in their youth, or to am- 
bition in their manhood. Neither vigour, youth, nor 
health are needed to become a miser ; nor is there any 
necessity for people hurr)'ing 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 men.^ 

(i 14.) 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-crea- 
tures, 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; 
tliey 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 

1 Jean Fran5ois, Marquis d'Hautefort, who wa% it is said, the original of 
Harpagon in Moliere's Avare, seems to be partly portrayed in this para- 


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 elders ? 

(ii6,) 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 unso- 
ciable 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 expe- 

(119.) Young men can bear solitude better than old 
people, because their passions occupy their thoughts. 

(120.) Though Philip 2 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 

1 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 i. 

2 It is said that by Philip our author intended to portray the Marquis de 
Sable, a >on 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 fseems to have been chiefly known by his love for eating and 
drinking, his eccentricities and his debauchery. 


to keep one, could not tempt him to break them ; he is 
overburdened with superfluities, to which he is so accus- 
tomed that he cannot do without them. He thus in- 
creases 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 1 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 p ace 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 

1 Louis Roger Danse, a canon of the Sainte-Chapelle, and a noted gour- 
mand, is supposed to have sat for Gnathon, as well as for the stout Canon 
Evrard in Boileau's Lutrin. 


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 
people's servants run about and do his errands ; every- 
thing is his he lays his hands on, even clothes and 
luggage ; he disturbs every one, but does not incon- 
venience himself for anybody ; he pities no one, and 
knows no other indispositions but his own, his over- 
feeding and biliousness ; he laments no person's death, 
fears no one's but his own, and to redeem his own life, 
would wiUingly consent to see the entire human race 
become extinct. 

(122.) Clito 1 never had but two things to do in his life, 
to dine at noon and to eat supper in the evening ; 2 he 
seems only born for digestion, and has only one subject 
of conversation, namely, the e7ttrdes of the last dinner 
he was present at, and how many different kinds of 
potages ^ 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 assiettesj^ 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 

1 The Count d'OIonne, 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. 

2 See page 179, note i. 

3 lihc fotages, in La Bruyere's time, different from what is now under- 
stood by them, seem to have been a sort of stew. 

* These were either entremets or side-dishes not larger than could be 
contained in a plate or assiette. 


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.) Ruffinus' 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 every- 
thing 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 deli- 
cious 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 servants' 
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 ^ and popular counte- 
nance ; 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,2 and every even- 
ing 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 substan- 
tive. He is everybody's kinsman, and disliked by all ; 

1 Trivial m French. See page 136, note i. 2 See page 181, note i. 


there is scarcely a family of whom he does not com- 
plain, or who does not complain of him ; he is perpet- 
ually engaged in seizing some property, in asking for an 
injunction 1 to prevent the sale of an office 2 or some 
stocks, in using the privilege of pleading in certain 
cases 3 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,* and loses 
money by every bankruptcy ; he finds some spare 
moments for a few private visits, and like an old gossip ^ 
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,^ 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, '^ you 
are sure to meet Antagoras, who must first leave before 
you can be admitted.^ 

(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, 

1 This asking for an injunction was called iopposer au sceau, literally " to 
oppose one's self to the seal." 

2 See page 130, note, and page 192, note. 

3 Cofnmittimus, in the original. 

* The chairman is the syndic de direction. 

* Vieil meubie de ruelle. V^ieil was, in La Bruyere's time, often used 
instead oi vieux, even before a consonant. For ruelle see page 65, note i. 

* The original speaks of the " Marais" (see page 172, note i), and of the 
" Grand Faubourg," probably the " Faubourg Saint-Germain." 

1 See page 72, note 2. 

8 The " Keys " name for Antagoras two eccentric noblemen of the time 
now wholly imknown, a Count de Montluc and a Marquis de Fourille. 


distraint on furniture, prisons, and punishments j 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 arti- 
culate, 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, intem- 
perate, 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 turn.i 

(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 2 as 

1 In Louis XIV. 's 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. 

2 The original has/oumtres et mortiers ; the gowns of bachelors, licen- 
tiates, and doctors of the various faculties were bordered and even some- 
times lined with fur. For tnortier see page i68, note 3. 


upstarts, and spends all his time among parchments and 
old title-deeds, which he would not part with to be ap- 
pointed chancellor.^ 

(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 other's 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 defer- 
ence, 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 

1 In French les masses d'un ckancelier, for the mace was always carried 
before the Chancellor of France. 


abandon all haughtiness and pride, qualities so unsuited 
to frail humanity, and make an arrangement to treat 
one another with mutual kindness, by whiclj 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 ;i 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. 

(i 34.) 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. 

1 La Bruyere adds in a note : "We can only mean that philosophy which 
is depending on the Christian religion." 


(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 persever- 
ance ; 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, gar- 
rulity, 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 con- 
dition of life or character. 

(140.) There is as much difference between a hetero- 
geneous 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 weak- 
ness, 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 ; some- 
times 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, ^ 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 persist- 
ence 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 

1 An allusion to the theory of Descartes (seepage 151, note 2), that beasts 
were only automatons without any consciousness of their acts. 


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 ^ is no longer to be distinguished from those 
of Cond^, Richelieu, Pascal, and Lingendes.^ 

(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 

1 In French " Alain," the name of a rustic servant in Mollfere's Ecole des 

* 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 Fdnelon 
were still alive. 


satisfy mankind ? Let no prince, however good and 
powerful, pretend to do so. Let him promote their plea- 
sures,^ 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 ; ^ 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 criti- 
cise 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 courtier. 

(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 

1 An allusion to the entertainments given by Louis XIV. 

2 Such places were, in our author's time, Versailles, Fontaiuebleau, Marly. 


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 ; ex- 
tremes 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 

(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 p3.ssion 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- t \ 
known maxim, which everybody knows and nobody 1 ^ 

(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 

1 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. 


actions, how many crimes, and not only those that are 
hidden, but those that are pubUc 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 
V of intelligence which contributes to keep them discreet. 

(154.) Rods and ferulas are for children ; 1 crowns, 

sceptres, caps, gowns, fasces^ kettledrums, archers' 

dresses for men.^ 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 aus- 
tere 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.^ 

(156.) Reason is ever aUied 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 

^ La Bruyere is not in advance of his times in what regards corporal 
punishment : Montaigne was. 

2 For "caps" and "gowns" the original has mortier and yburrures 
(see page i68, note 3, and page 318, note 2) ; for Jhsces see page 139, note 5. 

2 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 Moliere's Alceste, as later on he gives another of 
Tartuffe, in his portrait of Onuphre, in the chapter " Of Fashion," page 395, 

§ 24- 


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 ima- 
gined 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 ac 
knowledge 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 con- 
sequence, and are not ameliorated by instruction or 
morality. Such vices are individual and not contagious, 
and are rather personal than belonging to humanity in 



(i.) XTOTHING is more like a deep-rooted convic- 
tion 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 ^ 
and disgust closely follow on one another. 

(3.) Great things astonish and small dishearten us ; 
, custom familiarises us with both. 

1 The original has enUtement, "infatuation," "obstinacy," which some- 
times meant "enthusiasm," as in Moliere's Fcntmes Savantes, act iii. 
scene 2, " J'aime la poesie avec entetement." 


(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 pro- 

(6.) A prince's 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 judg- 
ment, and yet it is surprising we neglect to make use of 
it in speaking of other people's 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 com- 
mended 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 ^ 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 poet's verses, it is pretty sure they are wretched 
and spiritless. 

(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 

1 Our author adds in a note, "a pretended pious person." 


written on such a subject ; and are so full of their own 
ideas that they have no room for another's. 

(id.) 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. 

(II.) 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,^ 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 
ivanish. If all men were temperate, chaste, and moderate, 
/'what would be the use of that mysterious medical jargon, 
j 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 perfec- 
tion, which, so far from being necessary, were introduced 

1 The original \a& pititoire ^X. posse ssoire, printed in italics. 


into the world as remedies for those evils only caused 
by our wickedness. 

How many things have sprung up since Varro's ^ 
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 upoii 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 phoenix 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.^ 

(14.) Chapelain was rich and Corneille was not; 
La Pucelle and Rodogune deserved a different fate ; ^ 
therefore, it has always been a question why, in cer- 

1 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 

2 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, 

3 J. Chapelain (1595-1674), the author of La Pucelle dOrUans, an epic 
poem of which only twelve cantos appeared, was the wealthiest of all the 
authors of his time. Rodogune^ Princtsse 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. 


tain 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 impor- 
tant 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 panto- 
mimist to be courted by the Roman ladies ; for Rhoe to 
dance on the stage, or for Roscia and Nerina ^ 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 actress.^ 

(17.) Nothing better demonstrates how men regard 
science and literature, and of what use they are con- 
sidered 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 

1 Bathyllus is Le Basque or Pecourt (see page 67, note 2) ; the names 
of several long-forgotten female dancers or singers are given for Riioe, 
Roscia — the feminised name of the celebrated Roman actor Roscius — and 

- 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. 


a surer, quicker, and more certain way to wealth. An 
actor lolling in his coach ^ bespatters the face of Cor- 
neille 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 

(i8.) A certain boldness is required to vindicate learn- 
ing (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 igno- 
rance 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 d'Estr^es, de Har- 
lay, Bossuet, Siguier, Montausier, Wardes, Chevreuse, 
Novion, Lamoignon, Scuddry, Pellisson,^ and of many 
other personages equally learned and polite ; nay, if 

1 According to the " Keys," the actor referred to was Baron (see page 
67, note 2), or Champmesle (1642-1701), an author and actor, and the 
husband of a lady known to posterity as a friend of the poet Racine. 

2 The Cardinal d'Estrees (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 Seguier, of 
whom the best known is the Chancellor Seguier (1588-1672). The Duke de 
Montausier, theformergovernor of the Dauphin, the husband of Mademoiselle 
de Rambouillet, and the supposed original of Moliere's Misanthrope, was 
still alive when his name appeared, but died about a year later, in 1690. 
The Duke de Chevreuse, afterwards Duke de Luynes (1620-1690X an author 
of moral and religious works, was a friend of the Port- Royalists. The first 
President of the Parliameni, Potier de Novion, was a member of the 
Academy, and died in 1693. There were two Lamoignons— the first, Pre- 
sident of the Parliament, who died in 1677, and his son, Chretien Frangois, 
president i ntortier, the friend of Boiieau 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 be wrote a history, 


they dare mention the great names of Chartres, Cond^, 
Conti, Bourbon, Maine, and Vendome,! 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 pol- 
ished manners, but a great deal is needed to polish the 

(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 ^ were 

and was considered the ugliest man of his time. M. de la Bruyere adds 
in a footnote, that in speaking of Scudery, he meant Mademoiselle Scudery, 
to distinguish her from her brother Georges, also an author ; this lady wrote 
a good many novels then in vogue (see page 123, note i), and died in 1701, 
more than ninety years old. For de Harlay see page 237, note 1 ; for 
Bossuet sec page 47, note 4 ; and for Wardes or Vardes see page 197, 
note 2. 

1 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 d'OrMans. By Conde, either the great Conde, who died 
in 1686, or his son Henri-Jules, the father of La Bruyere's pupil, was meant. 
For Frangois-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 Moliere. For Bourbon and VendSme see page 221, note ; 
there; was also a celebrated general, the Duke de Vendome (1654-1712). 
TheDuke'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. 

2 The Cardinal d'Ossat (1536-1604) became an able diplomatist and 
statesman, after having been professor of rhetoric and philosophy at the 


learned, but were they men of ability and considered 
able ministers ? *' He understands Greek," continues 
our statesman, "he is a pedant,^ a philosopher," Ac- 
cording to this argument an Athenian fruit-woman who 
probably spoke Greek was a philosopher, and the Big- 
nons and Lamoignons ^ 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." ^ 

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 lan- 
guage should one day meet with the fate of th« Greek 
and Latin tongues ; would it be considered pedantic to 
read Moli&re 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. 

University of Paris ; Cardinal Ximenes(i437-i5i7) 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. 

1 The original has grintaud, also used by Trissotin in addressing Vadius 
in Moliere's Fetnmes Savantes, act iii. scene 5: "Allez, petit grimaud, 
barbouilleur de papier." 

2 JerOme Bignon (1589-1656) was a celebrated magistrate ; his son was also 
a scholar, and his grandson, the Abbe Jean-Frangois (1662-1743), was a 
member of the French Academy. For the Lamoignons see page 333, 
note 3. 

3 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. 


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 Eury- 
pilus 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/ 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,^ 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 pro- 
cures all things ? The low pettifogger 3 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 ^ is changed into 
a secretary, and in a little time is richer than his i 
master, who remains a commoner whilst he buys a 
title for hard cash. B . . . ^ enriches himself by some 
waxwork show; B ... by selling some bottled river- 
water.6 Another quack '^ 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,^ and nothing else ; 

1 Henri III. of France is said to have fainted if he caught sight of a 
cat, and some commentators state a certain Abbe de Drubec (see page 112, 
note) had this weakness. Shakespeare, in the Merchant of Venice {act iv. 
scene i) also says, " Some that are mad, if they behold a cat." 

2 In our author's time there were only feather beds or straw palliasses, 
but no flock beds. 

3 The original \is.% praticien. See page 153, note 3. 

4 A footman. We have already seen in the chapter "Of the Town" 
(page 137, note i) how many footmen became financiers of the highest 

* This stands for Antoine Benoic, the royal waxwork maker, who had 
a gallery of waxworks called cercle royal. 

SB... was a certain Barbereau who sold Seine water for mineral water, 
or perhaps Brimbeuf, another quack, who sold a specific for perpetual youth. 

7 This may be Caretti (see page 186, note 4), or Domenico Ammonio, 
another Italian quack. 

8 A good many panders at the court of Louis XIV. wee politely 



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 think- 
ing or writing well ? Men must be clothed and shaved,^ 
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 2 whistles or plays on the 
flute ; I'll 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 thp ambassadors of some foreign princes ^ 
were apes who had learned to walk on their hind-legs, 
and to make themselves understood by interpreters, it 

called Mercuries, after the messenger of Jupiter ; it is therefore difficult 
to say whom La Bruyere meant. Some say he spoke of Bontemps, first 
zialet-de-chambre of the king ; others imagine he wished to hit the Marquis 
lie Lassay, who had the reputation of being pander to the Duke de Bourbon, 
the former pupil of our author. 

1 In La Bruyere 's time people wore long wigs but were closely shaved. 

2 Tityrus is a shepherd, who, according to the first line uttered by Meli- 
bcEus in Virgil's first "Eclogue," is one of those men who "lay at ease under 
their patrimonial beech trees." 

■* This is an allusion to the Siamese ambassadors, who came to Paris in 
i636, and produced a great sensation. 


could not surprise us more than the correctness of thei 
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 correct- 
ness 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,^ nor every town polished. There exists in 
Europe, in a large kingdom, a certain place in a mari- 
time 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. 2 

(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 

(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 re- 
tired, and is never seen in the company of ladies : he 

1 The original has agreste, taken with the meaning it sometimes has in 
Latin. La Brayere says in a note : "This wordHs used*here metaphorically." 

2 Our author was probably for a month either at Rouen or Caen as 
trisorier-giniral 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. 


neither plays grand nor little prvnero,^ 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.^ 

(26.) Persons of a certain position, and members of 
a profession of great dignity, to say no more,^ 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 un- 
dignified manner they offend against those polished man- 
ners 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 con- 
trasts, 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 

1 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 Shakespeare's King 
Henry VIII. (act v. scene i), Gardiner tells Sir Thomas Lovell that he 
left the king "at primero with the Duke of Suffolk." 

2 This is supposed to have been a portrait of M. de Noailles. who was 
Bishop of Chalons when La Bruyere wrote this paragraph, but who in 1695 
became Ai chbishop of Paris and a Cardinal. The number of bishops residing 
in their dioceses was very small at the end of the seventeenth century. 

3 An allusion to some members of the clergy and legal profession who 
frequented fashionable society. 


man, and a heart to be searched ; a veil of modesty 
covers merit, and a mask of hypocrisy covers wicked- 
ness. 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 intelli- 
gence of this fair lady was like a diamond in a hand- 
some 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 con- 


tempt 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, Artdnice 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 in- 
tentions, 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 in- 
deed 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 

(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 

1 According to the Abbe de Chaulieu, Artenice is Catherine Turgot, the 
wife of Gilles d'Aligres, 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 CheviUy, a 
captain of the royal guards. Her friend, Mademoiselle de la Force, is 
supposed to have been Elvira. 


is respected for his own sake, independent of any out- 
Avard deportment by which he endeavours to give him- 
self 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 ; ^ they conceal 
it, and perhaps make it appear less pure and ingenuous 
than it is. 

Gravity too affected becomes comical ; it is like ex- 
tremities 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 re- 
quires 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 counte- 
nance J but it may serve to make a guess at their cha- 

(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 intelli- 

1 An allusion to the President de Harlay. See page 237, note i. 


gence, he is never ugly, however plain he may be ; or if 
even he is ugly, it leaves no bad impression,^ 

(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 

(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 imagination. 

(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 in- 
telligent 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 
aff"airs 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 " 

^ This paragraph and the preceding one seem to refer to Pcllisson. See 
page 333, note 2. 


and " no " about the same thing or person in an hour's 
time, induced to do this merely by a sociable and friendly 
disposition, which naturally leads a person not to con- 
tradict men who hold different opinions. 

(40.) A partial man is exposed to frequent mortifica- 
tions ; 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, there- 
fore, he often is put out of countenance either through 
the failure of his friends, or some glorious deed done by 
those whom he dislikes. 

(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.) Descartes' 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 Intel- 


lect, morals, and manners ; but we are well revenged 
when we see the worthless and base character of their 

On this principle a man of merit is neglected and a 
blockhead admired. 

(44.) A blockhead is a man without enough intelli- 
gence 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 

A ridiculous man is one who, whilst he is so, has the 
appearance of a blockhead. 

A blockhead is always ridiculous, for that is his 
character ; an intelligent man may sometimes be ridi- 
culous, 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 block- 

(51.) If a coxcomb would be afraid of saying some- 
thing not exactly right he would no longer be a coxcomb. 

(52,) One proof of a commonplace intellect is to be 
always relating stories. 

(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 intellect. 

One grain of sense and one ounce ^ of business more 
than there are in a conceited man, make the man of 

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. 2 

The difference between a gentleman and a clever 
man diminishes each day, and will soon disappear alto- 

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 

1 A grain is the 576th part of an ounce, which is the i6th part of a pound. 

'^ The original has honnete honttne (see page 43, note 2) for " gentleman," 
funnme de bien for " honest man " (see page 49, note 4), and habile homme 
lot "clever man." 


A gentleman is not a highwayman, commits no mur- 
ders, and, in one word, has no flagrant vices. 

It is very well known that an honest man is a gen- 
tleman ; but it is comical to think that every gentle- 
man is not an honest man. 

An honest man is neither a saint nor a pretender 
in religion, but has only confined himself to being vir- 

(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 propor- 
tion 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 instru- 
ment 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 ^ 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 mode- 

1 For " ombre " see page 172, note 5. 


rate 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. ^ 

Another is simple, timorous, and tiresome in conver- 
sation ; 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 Hera- 
clius ; 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 

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 

1 A portrait of La Fontaine (see page 335, § 19), who was still alive when 
this paragraph appeared (1691). 

2 This is a sketch of Pierre Corneille (see page 9, note i, and page 18. 
note i), and Au^tstus, Po?nJ>ey, Nicomedes, and Heracliiis are the names 
of some of his tragedies. 


latinity. You may well ask if I speak of one and the 
same man ? Yes, of Theodas/ 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 
understa.nds ; 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 crav- 
ing 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 

1 Theodas is Santeul (1630-1697), one of the most elegant of the modern 
Latin poets, whose character, immediately recognised by all his contempo- 
raries, seems to have been the compound of folly and sense La Bruyere 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 author's pupil. 


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.i 

(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 merit. 

. (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 emi- 
nent, 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 borne. 

(61.) We see some men carried along by the pro- 
pitious 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 pieces. 

1 These two men are said to have been the brothers Le Peletier. See 
page 54, note 1. 


(62.) It is usual, and, as it were, natural to judge of 
other men's labour only by the affinity it bears to our 
own.. Thus a poet, filled with grand and sublime ideas, 
does not greatly prize an orator's 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,' 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 philo- 
sophers 2 to tell you that wine will make you intoxicated, 
and the Roman orator ^ 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, 

1 Bachelors in theology and the canon law were the only graduates com- 
pelled to study the history of the first four centuries of the Christian era. 

2 Aristotle. 3 Cicero. 


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 
another's, 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 in- 
telligent 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 philo- 
sopher present us with ! What strange and peculiar man- 
ners does he desciibe ! 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.^ 

(67.) A man who has acquired wealth by his know- 
ledge of the world is acquainted with a philosopher, and 
withhis 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 tack. 

' La Bruyfere did not wish to give a sketch of Socrates, as he himself 
admitted in one of his letters to Menage. It is supposed he meant to give 
a portrait of himself ; at least he was sometimes called " an intelligent mad- 



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 opinions "i " 

(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 other- 
wise, 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 ourselves. 

(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 deserve. 

(73.) A wise man's 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 ^ 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 

1 A gambler was in La Bniyfere's 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 
verj' good society. The gambler was almost as much admired for his pluck 
and dash as a gentleman-jockey is at present. 


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 uninter- 
rupted good fortune, was never in disgrace, occupied 
the highest posts, was in the king's 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 prosperity.! 

(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,^ 

1 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 I and 2. 

2 Cato of Utica (95-46 B.C.). Lucius Calpurnius Piso, the father-in-law 
of Julius Caesar, had been accused by Cicero in the year 59 B.C. of extor- 
tions, and of plundering Macedonia. 


" There is a report that Piso is dead ; it is a great 
loss ; he was an honest man, who deserved to hve 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, disinter- 
estedness, 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.^ 

(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 

. 1 See also the chapter " Of Mankindi" pages 308 and 321, §§ 104 and 139. 


persons of either sex, advanced in years, give me a good 
opinion of what we call " former times." ^ 

(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 trans- 
form 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 him- 
self from the charge. He may be acquitted in a court 
of justice and yet be found guilty by the voice of the 
people. 2 

(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 years' 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 

1 Our author had already praised people of a certain age in his chapter 
" Of the Court," page 211, § 74. 

2 An allusion to Pieri e-Louis de Reich, Seigneur de Penautier, receiver- 
general of the clergy of France, who had been accused of having poisoned 
his father-in-law. 


those duties, and think his reformation fortunate for 

(90,) A flatterer has not a sufficiently good opinion 
of himself or others. 

(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 

(92.) We often hear the question asked, "Who 
shall be chancellor, primate,^ 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 con- 
trary, often makes him young again, and reinvigorates 
his body and soul, it is not unusual for an official per- 
sonage to outlive his appointed successor.^ 

(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, misin- 
terpreted, or called vices. If he is courageous, dreads 
neither fire nor sword, and faces the enemy with as 

1 The Archbishop of Lyons bore the title of primat des Caules, which is 
in the original French. 

2 See page 192, note. 


much bravery as Bayard and Montrevel,! 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,^ that is 
to say, nothing like what we feel in ourselves on approach- 
ing 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 some- 
thing 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,^ 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 

1 Pierre duTerrail, Seigneurde Bayard (1475-1324), a great military com- 
mander, 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 Bruyere, 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. 

2 This theory was maintained by Descartes. 

3 Vauban (1633-1707), the great French military engineer, after the retak- 
ing 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. 


make some blunders, and is as liable to mistakes as 
Antiphilus is ? ^ 

(95.) If you believe people who are exasperated against 
one another, and swayed by passion, a scholar is a mere 
sciolist,^ a magistrate a boor or a pettifogger,^ 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 con- 
tempt, though cold and inert, should dare to employ 

(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 

(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 ? * 

(99.) Some persons who are neither soldiers nor 

1 Antiphilus is Pope Innocent XI. (1676-1689), who held other opinionsas 
a cardinal than he did as a pope ; he opposed the liberiies of the Galilean 

* The original has savantasse, a. word always used with a bad meaning. 

3 In French praii'den. See page 153, note 3. 

■* See the chapter " Of Mankind," page 299, | 76. 


courtiers make a campaign and follow the court ; they 
do not assist in besieging a town, but are merely spec- 
tators,^ 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 our- 
selves 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.^ 

1 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 king's historians. The above 
paragraph appeared the same year the siege took place. 

2 A French army of eighty thousand men under the Marshal de Luxem- 


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,^ 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 no- 
thing ; but it is very surprising that, though it is con- 
sidered more or less disgraceful and ridiculous, some men 
will expose themselves to so great a risk by tedious and 
often unprofitable discourses. 

(10 1.) 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 

bourg (see page 19s, note 2) prevented William III. from coming to the relief 
of Namur. 

1 According to M. G. Servois's preface to the Lexique of La Bruyfere, 
ravelin, a synonym of detni-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. 


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 God's 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 soHd, the great, and the only advan- 
tages 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 some- 
thing 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.) Caesar 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. ^ 

(106.) A young prince, of an august race,2 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 men.^ 

(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 his- 
tory, which are as yet unknown to us ! What discoveries 

1 Montaigne was of the opinion of La Bruyere and in favour of Caesar ; 
Pascal, in his Pensies, on the contrary, thought that Caesar, 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. 

2 This paragraph in praise of the Dauphin (1661-1711), written in epi- 
graphic style, was printed in capital letters, and published whilst he was 
in command of the army of the Rhine (16S8). 

3 La Bruyere 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 twxa, "the sons of heroes degenerate," and 
our author alludes to this. As for the "divine qualities," see page 51, 


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 patience. 

(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.^ 

(no.) Those who follow courts or live in towns only 
care for the world ; but those who dwell in the country 
care for nature, fpr they alone live, or at least know that 
they live. 

(hi.) 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 

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 in- 
ferior condition, as soon as they are successful, their 

1 La Bruyere's feeling about the happiness of being his own master 
breaks out now and then. See also page 232, § 33. 


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 

(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 mis- 
carry, they confidently, and without any regard for their 
former judgment, decide that the plan was rash and 
could never succeed.^ 

(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 world's stage with such 
pomp he cannot slink away in silence ; whatever terrible 
dangers he foresees will be the consequences of his under- 
taking ; 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 

J This paragraph, and almost all the following ones, refer to the revolution 
(1688) which placed William III. on the throne of Great Britain. 

3 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. 


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 dishked by every one ; 
it is therefore not on account of their success, nor be- 
cause people fear they might be successful, that the voice 
of the public is lifted up, and that the very children's 
hearts leap for joy as soon as it is rumoured abroad that 
the earth is at length rid of them.^ 

(118.) " O times ! O morals ! " ^ exclaims Heraclitus,'' 
" O unfortunate age, rich in bad examples, when virtue 
is persecuted and crime is predominant and triumphant !" 
I will turn a Lycaon or an ^gistheus,^ for I can never 
meet with a better opportunity nor a more favourable con- 
juncture ; if, at least, I desire to be prosperous and to 
flourish. A certain personage ^ 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 

1 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. 

2 O Temporal O Mores I is the opening of the first of Cicero's Cati- 

3 Our author lets Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher, utter this par.i. 
graph, whilst he puts the following into the mouth of Democritus, the 
laughing, or better, fhe sneering philosopher of Abdera. 

4 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, ^gistheus was the son of Thyestes, 
and the murderer of Agamemnon. 

5 William III. 


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." ^ 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 ; ^ all the others 
league themselves against him as if to avenge the assist- 
ance he lends to a cause which is theirs as well ; spite 
and jealousy have more weight with them than con- 
siderations for their honour, religion, and rule, and even 
than domestic and personal interests ; they do not per- 
ceive 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 

1 The "they have less to fear from us," &c., was also one of the argu- 
ments used by France during ihe first revolution. 

2 This, of course, refers to the hospitality Louis XIV. granted to 
James II. 

2 A 


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. 1 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.^ *' O shepherds," con- 
tinues 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 conversa- 
tion, allow me to dwell with you, to appease my hunger 
with your black bread, and to quench my thirst with the 
water from your wells." 

(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 

1 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. 

2 An allusion to Pope Innocent XI. (see page 361, note i), who was 
too little of a friend of Louis XIV. to show much zeal on behalf of 
James II. 


answer Democritus. Do you not commonly speak of 
"hungry wolves, furious lions, and mischievous mon- 
keys?" Pray, who are you? '* Man is a rational crea- 
ture " is continually dinned in my ears. Who gave you 
this appellation ? Did the wolves, or the lions, or the mon- 
keys 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 grey- 
hound 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 bark- 
ing 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 hearts' 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 
another's eyes out ; whilst now you are provided with con- 
venient 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 ^ which kill at once, if they but 
hit you on the head or chest ; you have other globes, 
heavier and more massive,^ which cleverly cut you in 
two or disembowel you, without counting those falling on 
your roof,^ 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, 

1 Musket-balls. 2 Cannon-balls. 3 Shells. 


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,! 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 man's 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 marmo- 
sets 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 squad- 
rons ? — 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,^ with 
not ten ounces of flesh on his bones, and who would be 
blown down by the least gust of wind, one would think, 
aiid yet he makes more noise than half-a-dozen men, 
and sets everything in a blaze ; he has just now been 

1 Athos was a mountain in Roumelia which the sculptor Dinocrates pro- 
posed 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." 

2 The enemies of William HI. often alluded to the livid colour of his coun- 
tenance, and Boileau in his wretched Odesur la ptise de A'iawwr also speaks 
of " Nassau bleme." 


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,^ and will hearken 
neither to peace nor to truce. He began betimes to 
show what he could do, and so severely bit his nurse's 
breast 2 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 sub- 
scribe, 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 

1 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 

2 William III. became the adopted son of the Dutch republic on the 
death of his father in i666, and on the proposal of John de Witt. French- 
men 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." 

^4i„.i^ro}^ii.tJ^ ^f >.y. 



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.^ Are these the same princes who 
cavil so much and are so precise about rank and pre- 
cedence, and who spend whole months in regulating 
such questions whilst some Diet is assembled ? What 
shall this new ruler ^ 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 ; ^ it is the least 
he can do to please his courtiers. Caesar * 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 con- 
ceive, or, if he succeeds, and nothing resists him, he is 
ready with his allies, who are jealous of Caesar's religion 
and greatness, to rush upon him, snatch away his eagle, 
and reduce him and his heir to the " fasces argent " ^ and 
to his hereditary dominions. But there is no use saying 
anything more ; they have all voluntarily given them- 

iWhen 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. 

2 In the original archonte, archon, the chief magistrate in ancient 

3 This seems to refer to the siege of Mons (1690), which William III. did 
not venture to raise. 

* The Emperor of Germany. 

^ The arms of the house of Austria proper. 


selves up to the man whom they should perhaps have dis- 
trusted 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." 


(i.) TT is very foolish, and betrays wliat a small mind 
we have, to allow fashion to sway us in every- 
thing 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 fashion- 
able 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.^ 
(2.) To have a hobby is not to have a taste for what 

1 Theotimus stands for M. Sachet, who was vicar of Saint-Gervais at 
the time La Bruyere 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. 


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 amuse- 
ment but a passion, and often so violent that in the 
meanness of its object it only yields to love and ambi- 
tion. 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 day's work ; he has seen some tulips.^ 

' The "Keys" speak of a certain lawyer, Cambout or Cabout, who 
belonged to the household of the Condes, and of a flute-player, Descosteaux, 
both passionately fond of flowers, as the supposed originals of the "lover of 


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 1 Let me look at 
his mien and shape whilst he is still in tiie land of the 
living, that I may study the features and the counte- 
nance of a man who, alone amongst mortals, is the 
happy possessor of such a plum.^ 

Visit a third, and he will talk to you about his brother 
collectors, but especially of Diognetes.^ 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 con- 

1 This lover of fruit was the financier Rambouillet de la Sabliere, who had 
a large garden in the Faubourg Saint-Antome. See also page 173, note 10. 

^ Four well-known antiquarians, the Diike d'Aumont, Vaillant, Le Nostre, 
and Father Menestrier, the latter author of an Histoire de Louis le grand 
far les tnedaiUes, have been supposed the originals of Diognetes. 


siders 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 be- 
come 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,^ 
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" 2 
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 

1 Several collectors of prints of the time have been named by the com- 
mentators as the original of Democedes. 

2 At the time La Bruyere 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 proces- 
sion was passing. 


or Other cause me to give up collecting engravings ; I 
have all Callot's etchings,^ 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 listen- 
ing 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 Ubrary. 

1 Jacques Callot (1593-1655), a celebrated Lorraine artist and etcher. 


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 every- 
where meet with some person who enlightens and cor- 
rects 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 con- 
tent 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 blank. 

A certain citizen loves building, and had a mansion 
erected so handsome, noble, and splendid that no one 
can live in it.^ The proprietor is ashamed to occupy it, 

1 In the "Rue Vieille-du-TempIe," in Paris, there was, at the time our 
author wrote, a mansion erected by M. Amelot de Bisseuil, which was con- 
sidered one of the curiosities of Paris. 


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 Ufe, 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 . . . ^ 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 enUvened, but 
infested by them ; the courtyard, the parlour, the stair- 
case, 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 amuse- 
ment for Diphilus, but a toilsome fatigue, for which he 

1 According to some " Keys," this refers to the Hotel Lesdiguieres ; 
according to others, to the hotel of M. de LangMe, See page 188, note 2, 


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 ^ 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 crea- 
tures, 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," ^ 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 

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.^ What 
an unfortunate time you have chosen to pay him a visit ! 
He is overwhelmed with grief, and in a fearful temper, 

1 In the original, zV donne pension a un komme, antiquated in this 

2 The author states : " These are names of various shells." The original 
has " le Leopard, la Plume, la Musique," and the English names have been 
kindly suggested by M. Hugh Owen in " Notes and Queries " as equi- 
valents for the French ones. 

3 A few years before La Bruy&re wrote, there was quite a mania for 
butterflies at court, and in Paris. 


which he vents on his family ; he has suffered an irre- 
parable 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 inno- 
cence of some persons,^ 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.2 

(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 

1 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 Jatnac. 

3 Louis XIV. was strongly opposed to duelling, and several legal prohibi- 
tions of it were promulgated during his reign. 

2 B 


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 virtue. 

(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 o'clock it is, or what sort of 
weather we have ? " But if you inform them that a 
Tigellinus 1 has been gulping down a glass of brandy,^ 
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 ; ^ 
it is almost as good as getting fuddled.^ I should like 

1 Sophonius Tigellinus, a favourite and accomplice of the Roman emperor 
Nero, was put to death about the year 70. 

2 In the original, soujjfler zxA jeter en sable, "to gulp down ;" only the • 
last word is found in the dictionary of the French Academy of 1694. The old 
English tran';Iators of La Bruyere 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 sur- 
prising things)," whilst the translation of 1767 speaks of "a fiddler, who, 
besides several odd performances on his instrument, gulps down," &c. 

' See the chapter " Of the Gifts of Fortune," §§ 71-75. 

* In the original la cra/iuU,Tiovi no longer used for "intoxication." 


to see any polished, lively, witty gentleman, even if he 
were Catullus himself or his disciple,^ dare to compare 
himself with a man who loses eight hundred pistoles 2 
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 some- 
thing 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.^ 

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 

1 C. Valerius Catullus (87-47 b cX the well-known Roman poet ; is sup. 
posed to allude to the Abbe de Chaulieu (see page 342, note). The latter's 
disciple was the Chevalier de Bouillon. 

2 See page 173, note i. 

3 During the summer of 1689 the fashionable ladies at court adorned 
themselves with bouquets of cornflowers. 


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^ 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.^ 

(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 jack- 
boots ; 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 

1 For Voiture see page 20, § 37, and note 3. Sarrazin (1603-1654) was a 
rival of Voiture in an affected and pretentious style. 

2 Tae original has^f/« d' esprit. See page 20, note i. 


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 lady's 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. Me- 
thinks 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.^ 

(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 her- 
self quite happy, her head-dress has quite grown out of 

(14.) Iphis attends church, and sees there a nevv- 

' 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 Bruyfere 
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 


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 ; ^ 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 ^ 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 in- 
decent attitudes, harsh, uncultivated, and foreign manners, 
which transform a young abbd into a swaggerer, and a 

1 In the original tl parte 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. 

2 In the original indicence, "crudeness,"' ''want of harmony," now 
antiquated with this meaning. 


magistrate into a swashbuckler, a Diana into a woman 
of the town, an amazon or a Pallas into a simple and 
timid woman, a Lais into a respectable girl, and a 
Scythian, an Attila,^ into a just and magnanimous 

Such is our giddiness, that one fashion has hardly de- 
stroyed 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 sagutn 
or the Roman dress on the stage, as a long black veil, an 
ordinary veil, and a tiara 2 do on our hangings and our 

Our fathers have transmitted to us the history of their 
lives as well as a knowledge of their dresses, their arms,^ 
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,* and was a free- 
thinker ; * but this is no longer becoming j now he wears 

1 Attila, king of the Huns, died 453. 

2- The " long black veil," coming down to the feet, worn by ladies in 
mourning, and during some grand ceremonies, was called a tnante. 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 sagicm, see page 259, note i. 

3 The author says in a note : " Offensive and defensive." 

4 Canions, ox 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. 

* Libertin in the original. See page i6i, note. 


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 consider- 
able 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 ad- 
vancing his interests ? Rather than not advance them 
he will turn pious. ^ 

(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 ; ^ there is no im- 
posing upon him. 

(21.) To neglect going to vespers as obsolete and 
not fashionable ; to keep one's place for morning ser- 
vice ; to know all the ins and outs of the chapel at 
Versailles, and who sits in the seats next ^ to the royal 
tribune, and what is the best place where a man can 
be seen or remain unobserved ; to be thinking at church 

1 It was two years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) that 
La Bruyere made these remarks about "pretended piety," for since the in- 
fluence of Madame de Maintenon over Louis XIV., all the courtiers were 
turning pious. See also page 207, note 3. 

2 Our author is careful to add in a note, " assumed piety." 

3 Connaitre le JIanc is used by La Bruyere. Some of the commentators 
think this is a military term used purposely by our author. 


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 ; ^ 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 sub- 
servient 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 age. 

A pious person 2 is one who, under an atheistical 
king, would be an atheist. 

1 None of La Bruyere's 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 reputa- 
tion 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 Quietisme." 

2 La Bruy^re is always very careful when he uses the word "devout" 


(22.) Devout people know no other crime but incon- 
tinence, 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 busi- 
ness 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 he, 
slander, intrigue, and do as much harm as they can. 
Would you like them to usurp the functions of those 
honest men ^ 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 unlaw- 
ful 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 multipli- 
city 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 

or "pious," in a bad sense, to add in a note, "assumed "or "false piety." 
See also § 22. 
' See page 43, note 2. 


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 hypo- 
crites. ^ 

(24.) Onuphrius' bed 2 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," ^ 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 ; " * 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 

J This " devout courtier" was Paul de Beauvillier, Duke de Saint-Aignan, 
peer of France, ^ovvertteur des en/ants de France. See also page 197, 
note 2. 

2 Sainte-Beuve, in his Histoire de Port Royal, justly observes that I^ 
Bruyere showed more courage in writing the character of Onuphrius than 
Moliere displayed in bringing out his Tariuffe, for the latter comedy made 
its appearance in 1667, and Oiiuphriusin 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 devout. 

3 An allusion to the first words said by Tartuffe (act iii. scene 2) in 
Moliere's play of that name : " Laurent, serrez ma haireavec ma discipline." 

* 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. 


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 kneel- 
ing 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; ^ if he hears any courtiers speaking or laughing 
loud, and behave in chapel more boisterously than 
they would in an ante-chamber, ^ 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 

1 In the original, il pousse des elans et des soupirs, a reminiscence of 
Moliere's Tartuffe (act i. scene 5), where Orgon, in speaking of the hypo- 
crite, says : 

" II attirait les yeux de I'assemblee entiere 
Par I'ardeur dont au ciel il poussait sa priere ; 
II faisait des soupirs, de grands elancements, 
Et baisait humblement la terre a tous moments." 

2 The "chapel " and the "anteroom" refer to the chapel and anteroom 
of the palace of Versailles. 

Of FASHION. 397 

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,^ 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 patron's wife, nor makes the least 
advances to her, nor declares his love ; ^ but rather 
avoids her, and will leave his cloak behind,^ unless he 
is as sure of her as he is of himself ; still less will he 
make use of devotional * 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 friend's 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? 

1 Ila des vapeurs in the original, which, when our author wrote, was 
somewhat like the " out of sorts" of the present time. 

' A reference to the declaration Tartuflfe makes to Elmire, the wife of 
Orgon. See Moliere's Tartuffe, act iii. scene 3. 

•* An allusion to Joseph's adventure' with Potiphar's wife. 

* La Bruyere is very careful to add again in a note : "False piety." 


Moreover, those women who improve and thrive under 
the shelter of piety ^ 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 friend's 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.2 A pious man is neither a miser, nor pre- 
judiced, unjust, nor selfish ; and, though Onuphrius is 
not a pious man, he wishes to be thought one, and 

1 Again our author adds " false piety," in a footnote. 

2 Tartuflfe, 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 legitime (see page 9s, § 71), to his 
wife and children ; but this law did not apply to cousins, nephews, 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 ; ^ 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,^ 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 ^ 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 
conscience' 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 with- 
out so much as opening his mouth ; some persons 
talk to him of Eudoxus, he smiles or he weeps ; they 

1 Orgon, the patron of Tartuffe, has a son and a daughter. 

2 See Tartuffe^ act v. scene 7. 

3 The original has ne trouve pas Jour; the French noun has become 
antiquated in thii sense. 


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,! be gay and froUcsome 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. " That's 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 2 makes a woman still more proud 
and disdainful than beauty and youth." 

(26.) Arts and sciences have been greatly improved 

1 According to some commentators, Zelia was intended for the wife of 
de Pontchartrain, the cc«^r<?/^wr-^/>i^'ra/ of the finances ; but they seem to 
forget that La Bruyere was his friend and under some obligations to him. 

2 In this and the following paragraph the author adds again in a note, 
"pretended piety." 


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 sub- 
lime 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 ;^ 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 recog- 
nised 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 2 composes beautiful anthems; but 
who can tell if a pious man be really virtuous ? There 

1 Already in the first edition of the " Characters " (1687), La Bruyere 
gave in the above paragraph his opinion about the danger of compelling the 
courtiers to become pious. 

2 Favier, a dancer at the opera, was also the dancing-master of the Duke 
de Bourbon, the pupil of La Bruyere. The anthems of Paolo Lorenzani, 
the music-master of Ann of Austria (1601-1666), were published in 1693. 

2 C 


is no pension to be got for him from the king's 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 dis- 
simulation and knavery, and to pension a hypocrite. 

(29.) It is to be hoped the piety of the court, such as 
it is, will at least oblige prelates to reside in their 

(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 advan- 

(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 super- 
fluities. 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 Many of the bishops in our author's time were continually dangling 
about the court, and not residing in their dioceses. See page 340, note 2. 



(i.) ^ERTAIN people want a fortune to become 

Some of these would have been ennobled ^ if they 
could have put off their creditors half a year longer. 

Others, again, are commoners when they lay down, 
and rise noblemen. ^ 

1 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 
mckmLXMof savonnettes avilain, literally, "soap balk 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. 

2 La Bruyere's own note says " veterans," a name given to the con- 
seilUrs (see page i8i. note i), who, after having practised for twenty years, 
sold their post, but retained all the privileges attached to it. 

> Here our author gives the same note as above. 


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 grand- 
father, 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 no- 
bility " 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 " rehabilita- 
tion.i 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 

(4.) A man of the people, by often affirming he was 
present when some prodigy happened, persuades himself 

1 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. " Rehabili- 
tation," according to Thomas Blount's Law Dictionary, 1717, was in Eng- 
land : " one of those exactions . . . claimed by the Pope . . . and seems 
to signify a Bull or Breve for re-enabling 3l spiritual person to exercise his 
function, who was formerly disabled ; or a restoring to former ability. " 


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 him- 
self of such illustrious descent. 

(5.) What man is there, however meanly bom, 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 them- 
selves. 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 earl's, whilst a few do not even go a long way for 
their coat of arms, but take it from their sign-boards to 
put it on their carriages.^ 

(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 

1 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 father's signboards for their family arms. See also 
Moliere's Ecole des Femmes, Act i. Scene i. 


of castle, he will be taken for a nobleman upon his own 

(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 pre- 
cautions that, thanks to some fine appellations, quarrels 
about rank and precedence, and a genealogy not recog- 
nised by D'Hozier,^ he at last is allowed to be a petty 

(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 appella- 
tions and distinctions with which their rank is burdened, 
and instead of their slavery prefer a life of more free- 
dom and ease. 2 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 incon 
venient they must feel ! 

(9.) Some people are so fond of names that they 
have three for fear of wanting some ; one for the 
countr}', 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 

1 The DHoziers were a family of genealogists, flourishing from 1592 till 
1830. La Bruyere speaks most probably of Louis Roger and his brother 
Charles-Rene d'Hozier, who were of middle age when the "Characters" 
were published. 

2 It is said this is a hit at Monsieur, the brother of, Louis XIV., who, in 
imitation of the king's 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. 


illustrious which was before obscure ; by changing one 
letter of his name another person disguises himself, and he 
who formerly was Syrus becomes Cyrus.^ 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 bom 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 far-fetched.2 

(10.) The want of money has reconciled the nobihty 
to the commoners, and put an end to all disputes about 
the quartering of escutcheons.^ 

(11.) How many persons would be gainers by a law 
which should decree that nobility can be inherited from 
the mother's side, but how many more would be losers 
by it. 4 

(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; 

1 h tnattre d hdtel oi 'Lonis XIV., Delrieux, is said to have called him- 
self De Rieux, and there had been a marshal of that name. Syris is the 
name of a slave in Plautus' and Terence's comedies ; Cyrus, a celebrated 
king of Persia, was killed in battle against the Massagetze, 529 B.C. 

2 Such men were a M. Sonnin, the son of a receveur-giniral, who called 
himself M. de Sonningen, and M. .Nicolai, Marquis de Goussainville, 
descended from a M. Nicolas. 

3 The marriages of the Marquis de Tourville with a Mdlle. Langeois 
(see page 142, note 3), and of the Marshal de Lorges with Mdlle. Fremont, 
(see page 132, note i), are examples of this, though many similar marriages 
took place almost daily. 

'* 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 mother's side. 


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.^ 

(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 Bruy^re, 
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 Land.''^ 

(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 incompre- 
hensible if we consider their principles and why they 
were established. Who could imagine, for example, 
that these abbes who dress and are as effeminate and 
vain as any man or woman of rank can well be, and 

1 " 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 Bruyere, 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. 

2 A certain Geoffrey de La Bruj ere had really taken part in the third 
crusade and died during the siege of St. Jean d'Acre in 1191, or almost acen- 
tury after Godfrey of Bouillon (1061-1 100). Our author only mentioned his an- 
cestor's full name in the sixth edition of the " Characters," published in 1691. 


who vie for the ladies' 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 abbds will figure 
in grey-flowered velvet dresses like a certain cardinal, or 
will paint and wear patches like women ? 1 

(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 Famese.2 

(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,^ 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 ^ in 

1 Abbih, derived from the Syrian aba, father; the "cardinal" may have 
been the Cardinal de Bouillon, who always was gaily dressed. See page 
306, note I. 

2 In the palace Famese at Rome, built by order of the Cardinal Alexander 
Farnese, who afterwards became Pope under the name of Paul III. (1534- 
1549)1 ■'"■c 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(i58i- 
1641), all representing nude figures, and not religious subjects. 

3 Richelet's Dictionary, published in 1680, mentions the l^gite as " une 
danse anglaise, composee de toutes sortes de pas, qu'on 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. 

* 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 com- 
petition with too many clothes on. 


these same holy places, nor the dress and retinue of a 
military man in a churchman.^ 

(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,^ 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 bum with zeal for the Lord's 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 . . . ^ 

(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 ex- 

1 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. 

2 Our author adds in a notCi " an anthem translated into French by 
LL ..." but no commentator has discovered who this unknown poet can 
have been. 

3 The TT . . . were theTheatine 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. 


communicated 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. ^ 

(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 Bar- 
nabite ? 2 

(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,^ wearing fine linen and Venice lace, has his 

1 AUhough 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, Moliere, the actor and playwright, although the latter 
had been dead more than twenty years. 

- 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 i. 

•^ Three parish priests have been named by the commentators as the 


seat in church near the cardinals and the doctors of 
divinity,! 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 unex- 
pected, 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 deserv- 
ing of the handsome offerings and wealthy emoluments 
belonging to it. However, I am compelled to excuse 
the vicar's 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 

originals of La Bruyere's portrait, but our author was far more general in 
his application. 
1 Les /ourrures in the original. See page 318, note 2. 


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 suc- 
cessor 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 with- 
out 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 salva- 

(28.) Aristippus' 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 

(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 

(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 ; ^ the 
younger will shortly become a nun, without any vocation 
for it, but compelled by the losses of her father at 

(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. 

1 The origfinal has the proper name Ambreville, a noted rogn- and head 
of a band of robbers, who was publicly burned at the stake in 1686. 


(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.^ 

(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 ^gina, 
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 bachelor. 

(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 

1 The lady superior of an abbey was appointed by the king, but in a 
nunnery she was elected by the entire sisterhood ; hence our author's re- 
marks about " a popular or a despotic rule." 


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 wife.^ 

(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 dis- 
sembling 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 one's money,^ which is still 

1 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 m Le Philosophe ntarii (i.-j'zt), by 
N. Destouches, and in Le Prejuge d ia Mode (1735), by La Chaussee. For 
the Cours, see page 164, note 2. 

* The author states in a note that by " making the most of one's money " 
he means "lending it out on bills and notes of hand," for which, according 


practised by some of our gentlemanly people, though it 
has been condemned by our most eminent divines. 

(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,^ 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. 

(38.) To sink money in an annuity was formerly 
considered quite safe ; it was sure to be paid, and in- 
alienable, but, now, through the fault of administrators, 
it may be considered irretrievably lost.^ What other 
means are there for doubling an income or for hoarding ? 
Shall I trust my money to the farmers of the huitieine 
dentgr, or to those of the indirect taxes ? ^ Shall I 

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. 

1 Several remarks had been made on this part of the above paragraph 
whilst La Bruyere was still alive, and a note of the ninth edition of the 
" Characters " (1696), published one month after the author's death, ex- 
plained that it only referred to monies deposited in the^,e^ or clerk's office 
of certain tribunals whilst a lawsuit was going on. 

2 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 pub- 
lished the same year. The original has also a play on words, on le/onds 
perdu, to sink money in an annuity, and un bien perdu, money irretrie- 
vably lost. 

* For the huitiime denier, see page 138, note i. The aides were indirect 

2 D 


become a miser, a farmer of the revenue,^ or an adminis- 
trator 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 presence. 

(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.^ This harsh 
measure, which makes orators regret they have to leave 
out the finest parts of their speeches, banishes eloquence 

taxes which the clergy and the nobility had to pay as well as the common 

1 The original has /artisans. See page 136, note 2. 

2 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. 


from the only spot where it is not out of place, and 
will make of our Parliaments ^ 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 barristers' 
speeches but the reports in writing might be curtailed. 2 

(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 profession. 

(44.) Whenever a judge is solicited^ 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 gal- 
lant has a far worse influence than if he were a dis- 
solute 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, 

1 See page 155, note 3. ' See page 181, note i. 

' See page 72, note 2. 


and compel him to assume a grave and highly re- 
spectable air.i 

(48.) There exists no profession in which an appren- 
ticeship 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 mili- 
tary 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,2 is to decide arbitrarily of the lives and 
fortunes of men. ^ 

(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 

1 Counsellors of parliament (see page 181, note i) were obliged to wear 
bands, by an order of Council obtained at the request of M. de Harlay 
(see page 45, note i); before that time they wore cravats like other gentle- 
men. See also page 65, note 2. 

2 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 consi^uition. See page 169, note 2. 

3 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. 


of his client, and may be ranked among those advocates 
of whom the proverb says, " that they are hired to insult 
people." 1 

(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 pettifogger's 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. 

(5 I.) 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. 2 

(52.) The punishment of a villain is an example for 
his fellows ; in the condemnation of an innocent man 
all honest men are concerned.^ 

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 

1 Marcus Valerius Martialis (43, was living 104) says." "Iras et verba 

2 Montaigne, Montesquieu, and many other eminent Frenchmen attacked 
the legal employment of torture, but it was continued in France till 1788. 

3 Our author uses by exception honnetes 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 Mazel, 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 Bruyere wrote (1691). 


whose trial has been hurried, and who is found guilty. 
Can even that of his judge be more lamentable .'' 

(53.) If I had been told that in former ages a privot^ 
or one of those magistrates appointed for the appre- 
hension 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 com- 
pletely 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 ? ^ 

(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. 2 

1 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, ^and prevdt de la connHablie. 

2 The "Keys" mention as one of these men the President de Mesmes. 
See page 168, note 3. 


(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 

(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, how- 
ever 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 ^ to the gallows. 

1 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 exac 
lions and for fiscal cruelties. 


Whom do you see in the galleries ^ 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 mean- 
ing 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 
friend's 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 him- 
self; he already beholds himself in an official position, ^ 
with a town and country house, both furnished in the 
same style ; he intends to keep a good table and a car- 
riage. " 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 
Maevius is appointed sole heir, and Titius is sent back 
to the suburbs to trudge without money or titles. Titius 

1 The original has laniernes, tribunes in Parliament whence people could 
see what was going on without being seen. 

2 // se voit officier in the original. See page 153, note 3. 


wipes away his tears, and it is now Maevius' 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 ? 2 
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 friend- 
ship, 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 

1 Titius and Seius were often quoted in Roman law, as " A." and B." are 
in English law, in stating a case to counsel. Maevius was a wretched poet 
of Virgil's time, and seems to be wrongly named by La Bruyere in apposi- 
tion to Titius. According to some commentators, the mishap attributed to 
Titius really happened to a M. Hennequin, procureur ghUral an grand 

2 The notary, M. de Bonnefoi, in Moliere's Malade Imaginaire (act i. 
scene 9) explains to the hypochondriacal Argan : " You cannot give any- 
thing 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 wife's, 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." 


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 ? ^ 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 pre- 
cedence, and that presidents of Parliaments 2 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 weak- 
ness, 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 lord's protection he behaves most audaciously, 
and does what he likes in his own province, without 

1 Vaudeville in the original, of which the primitive meaning was "a 
satirical song.'' 

* Le mortier in French. See page i68, 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 one. 


fear of being punished; he becomes a murderer, per 
jures himself, sets fire to his neighbours' houses, and 
needs not look for a refuge. At last the prince is 
obliged to punish him himself.^ 

(63.) ** Stews, liqueurs, entries, 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 Scipio's or Marius's 
table ? Do we read anywhere that Miltiades, Epami- 
nondas, and Agesilaus were fond of good living ? I 
should like no general to be commended for the good- 
ness, 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 com- 

(64.) Hermippus ^ makes himself a slave to what he 

1 A certain de Chamace, formerly lieutenant in the king's bodyguard, 
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 and disgraceful, that the kings of France 
were olten ob.iged 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. 

''■ The " Keys " name Louis de Crevant, Duke d'Humieres, 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 Crequi, 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 1672. 

3 Hermippus is supposed to be a certain Jean-Jacques Renouard, Count 


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 ver>' 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 work- 
men 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 per- 
fectly 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 

de Villayer, inattre des requites, 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. 


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 Her- 
mippus' 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 ^ for a long time, 
and yet every one consults them ; neither the sallies of 
the stage nor of satire diminish their fees ; 2 they give 
dowries to their daughters, have sons magistrates and 
bishops ; ^ 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 spe- 
cifics, or, if he has not got any, allows those persons 
who have them to cure his patient. 

(67.) Quacks are rash, and therefore rarely success- 
ful ; hence physic and physicians are in vogue ; the 
latter let you die, the former kill you. 

(68.) Carro Carri * lands in France with a recipe 

1 The original has improuver, now antiquated. 

2 Leurs pensions in French. See page 384, note i. 

S A d'Aquin (1629-1696), who was physician to Louis XIV., had one son 
a magistrate and another a bishop. See also page 273, note i. 

* See page 186, note 4. Some " Keys " also say that perhaps Adrien 
Helvetius, the grandfather of the philosopher, may be meant, but this 


which he says cures in a short time, and which, some- 
times, 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 in- 
curable, so much the better ; it will be the more deserving 
of his attention and his remedy.^ Begin 'with putting 
into his hands thousands of francs, make over to him 
some bonds,- 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 /, 
most respectable names, who are all rivals of this man, 
and impose on the patients and the disease. Fagon,^ 

seems hardly likely, for Helvetius was wealthy, gave his medicine gratis, 
was a very honest man, and the first to recommend the use of ipecacuanha 
in certain diseases. 

1 In Moliere's Malade Ijitaginaire (act iii. scene 4), Toinette, the ser- 
vant, dressed up as a physician, says almost the same thing. 

* Constitution (de rentes) understood in the!text. 

3 Guy Crescence Fagon (1638-1718) became in succession physician to 
the wife of th^ Dauphin, the queen, and the royal children, and in 1693, 
when d'Aquin 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. 


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 gi\'ing himself up to it. O Esculapius Fagon ! 
Establish throughout the world the reign of Peruvian 
bark and of emetics ; ^ carry to its perfection the science 
of those plants which are given to man for prolonging 
life ; 2 observe in your practice, with more exactness 
and judgment than was ever done before, the in- 
fluence 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. 

1 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. 

2 Fagon was also professor of botany and chemistry in the king's botanical 
garden, and one of the editors of its catalogue, called Hortus regius, pub- 
lished in 1665. 


(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 pre- 
dict to men they'll 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 them- 
selves 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 nature's 
laws, a middle course has to be steered between mere 
credulity and obstinate rejection. ^ 

(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, 

1 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 


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 re- 
ceives 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 de- 
sires, and when those who have a right to dispose of us, 
induce us to labour for a considerable time. I am con- 
vinced 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 circum- 
stances, reconcile an author's 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 

1 Many eminent pedagogues have held a contrary opinion ; for example, 
Malebranche in his Traite de Morale, and Jean Jacques Rousseau in his 
Etnile, both maintain languages should be acquired when the child is not 
too young. 

2 E 


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 pre- 
sent themselves except those that have nonplussed com- 
mentators 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 men's 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 commen- 
taries have caused an increase of reading, researches, 
and of that kind of labour which they intended to render 

(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 con- 
trary, 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 health's 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 ? ^ Is it for the sake of decency, especially at 

1 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. 


a time when they have found the means of appearing un- 
dressed though they are dressed ? ^ 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.2 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 sup- 
port the pioneers in the trenches, exposed to the whole 
fire of a counterscarp, without having any arms, and only 
dressed in a doublet.^ Were our forefathers wise or sense- 
less 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,^ 
who all wore helmets and buckled on breastplates ? 

Who can account for the introduction of certain 
words and the proscription of others ? ^ 

1 This is an allusion to the wearing of very tight silk stockings and short 
breeches, showing the legs. 

2 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 d'Aulnoy, Relation du Voyage en 
Espagtte, 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 fa<;hion set to them by the queen. 

3 According to Voltaire's .y/Vir/^i/fZ^j/^V^/K, chap, viii., the kingand his 
officers went, however, to the trenches wearing head-pieces and breast-plates. 

* 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 "Phoebus," was 
Viscount of Beam, 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 century. 

' Our author now launches into a dissertation about the relative value of 


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. '^ 
Certes is beautiful in its bid 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. 2 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. ^ 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 anti- 
quated. Douloureux is, of course, derived from douleur, 
and so are chaleureux or chaloureux from chaleur : yet 
chaloureux is going out,'* though it enriched our tongue. 

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 Rruyere's dissertation 
when he wrote in his " Imaginary Conversations" the two "Dialogues" be- 
tween Dr. Johnson and Home Tooke. 

1 Mais, says La Bruyere in a note, but this word is not an anagram 
of ains, which comes from the Latin ante, whilst 7nais is the Latin 

2 It is not yet settled whether tnaiftt is of Latin, Celtic, or Teutonic 

3 Some' purists wished to forbid the use of car, which was defended by 
Voiture. (See page 20, note 3.) 

* A good many words which La Bruyere thought were going out of fashion 
are still in use at present. 


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, 
fructtieux ; pitii, pitetix ; joie, jovial ; foi, f^al ; cour, 
courtois ; gite, gisant ; haleine^ halen^ ; vanterie^ van- 
tar d ; mensonge, tnensonger ; coutume, coutumier ; just 
as part should have produced partial ; point, pointu 
and pointilleux ; ton, tontiant ; son, sonore ; /rein, 
effrend ; front, effrontd ; ris, ridicule; loi, legal ; coeur, 
cordial ; bien, benin ; and mal, tnalicieux. 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 pros- 
pers, 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 fete, fdtoyer ; nor larme, larmoyer ; 
nor deuil, se douloir and se condouloir ; nor Joie, s'djouir ; 
though it still makes se rdjouir and se conjouir, whilst 
orgueil gives senorgueillir. Formerly gent was used, 
as in le cotps gent ; this easy word is not alone no 
longer in use, but it has involved gentil in its ruin. We 
employ diffa7ni, which proceeds from fame, which is out 
of date, and curieiix is derived from cure, now obsolete. 
It was much better to say si que than de sorte que or 
die maniere que, de inoi instead of poicr tnoi or quant 
d tnoi ; je sais que c'est qu'un ntal^ than je sais ce que 
c'est qu^un mal, whether you consider the Latin analogy, 
or the benefit we often derive from using a word 

' De ntoi and que c'est que have been employed several times by Malherbe 
(see page 21, note 4) and other good authors, but these expressions are 
now quite obsolete. 


less in a phrase. ^ Custom has preferred par con- 
sequent to par consequence^ and en consequence to en 
consequent ; faqons de faire to manilres de /aire, and 
manures d^agir to faqons d^agir . . . ; in the verbs 
travailler to ouvrer ; etre accoutume 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 pensies to pensers, which is 
such a beautiful word and so suited for poetry ; grandes 
actions to prouesses ; louanges to los ; mechancete to 
mauvaistie ; parte to huis ; tiavire to nef; arm'ee to ost ; 
monasthre to monstier ; and prairies to prees . . . ; 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 freiater from fra/ater ; protiver from 
preuver ; profit from proufit ; froment ixoxvi froument ; 
profilixom. pourfil ; provision irom. pourveoir ; promener 
from pourmener, and promenade from pourmenadep- 
This same custom upon occasion makes the adjectives 
habile, utile, facile, docile, mobile, axid. 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.^ 
It has altered the old terminations, and of seel made 
sceau ; of mantel, manteau ; of capel, chapeau ; of coutel, 

1 Oraison, phrase in the original ; antiquated in this sense. 

2 The people formally changed the Latin syllables />ro and /ro into prou 
OT pour a.nd into_/rou ox four ; \\cn<:^ prottfit,/ourment, ox froument, from 
the Latin proficere a.ndfromentum. The scholars of the sixteenth century 
brought back these words to their etymological form. 

3 In French adjectives in zV derived from Latin words with a long i, 
on which the accent rests, form their feminine by adding an e, whilst adjec- 
tives with the termination iU for the masculine and feminine are formed 
from Latin words with a short /, not accentuated. 


couteau ; of hamel, hameau ; of damoisel, damoiseau ; 
of j'ouvencel, jouvencean ; ^ 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 ? 2 

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,^ 
who is paid for not writing any more, to those of 
Marot and Desportes.* 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 ^ to the following two, which tradition has 
handed down to us, but without transmitting to us the 

1 In the French of the Middle Ages these substantives had the termina- 
tion eh, aus, or iaus in the nominative singular plural, and */in the accu- 
sative singular and the nominative plural ; aus became generally adopted 
in all cases, but dropped the s. 

2 Vaugelas and his commentators insisted that all words not sanctioned 
by custom should not be admitted into the French language. 

3 Laurent was a wretched versifier at the time of La Bruyere, who published 
rhymed descriptions of all kinds of festivals. 

4 For Marot. See page 22, note 3. Philippe Desportes (i 555-1606), an imi- 
tator of the Italian school of poetry, enjoyed a great reputation in his time. 

* See page 122, note i, and page 20, note 3. 


name of the authors, or the time when they were 
written : ^ — 

In timely sort Ogier came into Fraunce, 
Of Paynim misbegot to rid the lond ; 
Needs not that I should tell his puTssaunce, 
Sit never foeman durst his glaunce withstond. 

Tho' when he hath set all in happy chaunce, 
Forth on a perlous jorney bent, he fond 

In Paradise the well of youth's joyaunce, 
Wherewith he thought to stay time's threatening bond 
In timely sort. 

Tho' by this well his body, weak with years, 
Upon a sodain changed quight appears 
To youthful wight, fresh, limber eke, and straight. 

Great pitye 'tis 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 'spoused in woman's 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 The original rondeaux which are given here are not so old as La Bruyere 
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 /r Z?a»<»K, which does not mean the Dane, but is a con- 
traction of/* D'Ardeiifiots, 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 k propos s'en vint Ogier en France 

Pour le pais de mescrfons monder : 
Jk n'est besoin de conter sa vaillance 

Puisqu' ennemis n'osoient le regarder. 

Or quand il eut tout mis en assurance, 

De voyager il voulut s'enharder ; 
En Paradis trouva I'eau de jouvance, 

Dont il se sceut de vieillesse engarder 
Bien k propos. 

Puis par cette eau son corps tout d^crtfpite 
Transmud fut par manifere subite 

En jeunegars, frais, gracieux et droit. 

Grand dommage est que cecy soit sornettes : 
Filles connois qui ne sent pas jeunettes, 
A qui cette eau de jouvance viendroit 
Bien k propos. 

De cettuy preux maints grands clercs ont ^crit 
Qu'oncques dangier n'etonna son courage : 

Abus^ fut par le malin esprit, 

Qu'il epousa sous feminin visage. 

Si piteux cas k la fin dtfcouvrit, 

Sans un seul brin de peur ny de dommage, 
Dont grand renom par tout le monde acquit, 

Si qu'on tenoit tres honeste langage 
De cettuy preux. 

Bien-tost aprfes fille de Roy s'e'prit 
De son amour, qui voulentiers s'offrit 
Au bon Richard en second mariage. 

Done sil vaut mieux ou diable ou femme avoir, 

Et qui des deux bruit plus en manage, 

Ceulx qui voudront, si le pourront scavoir 

De cettuy preux. 



( I .) A SERMON at present has become a mere show, 

in which there is not the least appearance of 

that evangehcal gravity which is the ver}^ soul of it ; a 

1 The chapter "Of the Pulpit" was first published in 1688, and our 
author made additions to it unlil 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, Flechier in 1670, and Fenelon 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 pub- 
lished there before and after this chapter was printed. 


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 Maitre, Pucelle, and Fourcroy ^ formerly prac- 
tised it, and where it has become obsolete,^ 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 becom- 
ing 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 preacher's discourses as 
well as the philosopher's works, and thus becomes 
neither a Christian nor a philosopher. 

(3.) Orators and declaimers will attract large congre- 
gations until that man returns who in a style, based 

1 Three barristers of repute in the seventeenth century, Antoine le 
Mattre (1608-1658), whose Recueil de Flaidoyers has been printed ; Claude 
Pucelle, and Bonaventure Fourcroy, a friend of Molifere and Boileau, who 
died in 1691 and was a poet as well as a lawyer. 

2 See the Chapter "Of Certain Customs," §42. 


on the Holy Scriptures, shall explain to the people the 
Word of God in a simple aiid familiar manner, i 

(4.) Quotations from profane authors, dull allusions, 
bathos, antithesis, and hyperboles are no longer in vogue, 
and portraits ^ 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 deli- 
cacy of taste and a feeling of decorum, have applauded 
him ; and what is almost incredible, have left the king's 
chapel to mingle among the crowd, and hear the Word 
of God preached by a truly apostolic man.^ The town 
was not of the same opinion as the court, and in what- 
ever 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 vvas scat- 
tered 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 

1 A certain Abbe 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. 

■^ 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 West- 
minster and Canon of Christ Church, Oxon, contain also many "portraits." 

3 Our author says in a note ; " This was Father Seraphin, a Capuchin 
monk." Others have been less favourably inclined towards this preacher 
than La Bruyere 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. 


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 enumer- 
ators 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 madri- 
gals. 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 con- 
vinced 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 funda- 
mental 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 hour's 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 audi- 
ence. To see them obstinately persist in this custom, 


people would almost think that the grace of being con- 
verted 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. Homi- 
lies are out of date, and the Basils and Chrysostoms ^ 
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,^ 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 con- 
sisted 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 quota- 
tions from Latin authors ^ 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.^ Sacred and pro- 

1 Saint Basil (329-379) was bishop of Cesarea; Saint John Chrysostora 
was (347-407) bishop of Constantinople, called the "golden-mouthed" for 
his great eloquence. 

2 Our author makes the same observation about dramatic poets. See his 
Chapter " Of Works of the Mind," page g, § 8. 

3 Compare in Racind's comedy of Les Plaideurs the speech of " L'ln- 
time" (act iii, scene 3), to ridicule similar quotations. 

* The Pandects of the Roman emperor Justinian were a cyclopxdia of 


fane 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 ^ 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 con- 
fined only to hamlets and villages for the instruction 
and edification of ploughmen and vine-dressers. 

(8.) A preacher must have some intelligence to charm 
the people by his florid style,^ 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 orna- 
ments, unworthy of the Gospel, and preach naturally, 
forcibly, and like a Christian. 

legal decisions of Roman lawyers ; and after they had been discovered at 
Amalfi in Italy about the year 11371 they changed the whole of the legal 
aspect of Europe. 

1 There were three saints of the name of Cyrillus, but the one mentioned 
above was probably bishop of Jerusalem C315-388) ; Saint Thascius Caecilius 
Cyprianus (210-285) was bishop of Carthage : whilst Saint Aurelius Augus- 
tinus (354-430) was the celebrated author and bishop of Hippo. 

2 The preachers accused of a florid style were, according to the " Keys," 
the Oratorian Senault, and Fldchier, who in 1685 had been appointed bishop 
of Nimes. 


(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. ^ 

(11.) An indulgent and relax morahty produces no 
more effect than the clergyman who preaches it ; ^ for a 
man of the world is neither excited nor roused by it, and is 

1 Theodorus is supposed to be Bourdaloue (see page 165, note 3). Some 
other celebrated preachers have also been named. 

2 Charles Boileau, abb^ 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. 


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, there- 
fore, 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 dis- 
guise ; 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 extra- 
ordinary 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 call- 
ing. 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 

2 F 


sufficient leisure to praise God in an extemporary 

(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 

(15.) Preachers and soldiers are alike in this ; their 
vocation presents more risk than any other, but prefer- 
ment 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 

(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 paneg>Tist 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, 

1 A certain Abbe de Roquette, a nephew of the Bishop of Autun (seepage 
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. 


you will find that in enumerating all his qualities, only 
one has been omitted, namely, that of being a wretched 

(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 dis- 
course, or rather, unless very nearly resembling a secular 

(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 ^ 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, 

* 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 Bruyerc, in speaking of the " converts who had already been made for 
these clergymen," hint at the dragonnadts and at the other wretched and 
inhuman means employed to compel people to change iheir religion? I am 
afraid not, though he admits some persons could not be converted. 


compare themselves to Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint 
Francis Xavier/ 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 re- 
solves within himself to write a book, but without any 
other talent for writing but the need he has of fifty 
pistoles ?■ 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." ^ " 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," ^ 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 ; ^ and to the shame 
of the age, and as a mortification to good authors, a 

1 Saint Vincent dePaul (1566-1660), a well-known philanthropical preacher, 
very successful in his missions ; Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), a Jesuit 
missionary, who made many converts in the East Indies. 

2 See page 173, note i. 

3 See the chapter " Of Works of the Mind," page 8, § 3. 

4 Some scribbler of the time, a certain Gedeon Pontier, author of the 
Cabinet des Grands, is said to have written almost similar nonsense. 

5 In 1689, the same year this paragraph first appeared, seventy-nine royal 
censors had been appointed, and no book could be printed without their 



second edition of it appears. Just so, another wise- 
acre 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. 

(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 elo- 
quence, they .have had the fate of other great models ; 
one of them has made many wretched cavillers, and the 
other many wretched imitators. 

(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 sub- 
ject 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 re- 
straint 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 
nlemory, so far firom assisting them, often prevent their 
acquiring it. 

A barrister's 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 plead- 
ings 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 perse- 
cute 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 cer- 
tain 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 ehewhere, 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 sup- 
pose 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 treat- 
ing a matter of great importance ; let him, on the con- 
tfar>', kindled by a noble enthusiasm, persuade all minds, 
alarm all souls, and fill the heart of his hearers with an- 
other fear than that of seeing him stop short in the 
middle of his sermon. 

(30.) A man who has not yet arrived to such perfec- 
tion 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 Fdnelon 
unworthy of that dignity, and could he have escaped his 
prince's choice but for another choice ? ^ 

1 The last sentence of the above paragraph was added in the fifth edition 
of the " Characters," published in 1690, about one year after Fenelon had 
been appointed teacher of the Duke of Burgundy, the grandson of Louis 
XIV. Fenelon became archbishop of Cambrai in 1695. 

XVI r. 


(i.) T~^0 freethinkers know that it is only ironically 

they are called strong-minded ? 2 What 

greater proof of their weakness of mind can they give 

1 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, F^nelon preached a sermon against them. Those 
freethinkers were not deists nor atheists, but somewhat like those persons, at 
present called agnostics, who neither afBrm 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 Evre- 
mond, Bayle, Fontenelle, Chaulieu, La Fare, the Dukes de Nevers and de 
Bouillim, the Grand Prior de Venddme, and many others. 

2 The French name for "freethinker" is esprit fort, literally "strong 


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. ^ 

(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 

1 Another play on words in the original on esprit fort and esprit faible. 


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 spoil- 
ing of their judgment by their long travels, and thus 
lose the little religion which remained to them.^ 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 re- 
ligious and pious till the time everybody openly avows 
himself irreligious and a freethinker,- 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 

1 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. 

2 Libenin was another name for freethinker in French. See p. iffi, note i. 


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 believe. 

(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 ; ^ 
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 be- 
coming 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 prin- 
ciples, 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 them- 
selves created for this purpose ; they are ashamed to 
be seen bestowing a thought on their own salvation, 

1 The original has urte />ersonne libre, to which our author adds in a note, 


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 convinc- 
ing in their arguments. 

(11.) A sober-minded, cool-headed, chaste, and hon- 
ourable man, who affirms there is no God, at least is dis- 
passionate, 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 un- 
behef is founded. 

(13.) The impossibility I find myself under of proving 
there is no God, is to me a convincing argument for His 

(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 mon- 
sters 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 dis- 
cussions whether there is a God or no ; their indolence 
renders them careless and indifferent about such an im- 
portant 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 

(17.) All our health, all our strength, and our entire 
intellect are not more than sufficient in thinking of man- 
kind 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,i another great man wastes 
away gradually, and daily loses something of himself 
before he expires ; such lessons are dreadful, but use- 
less. These circumstances, though so remarkable and 
so different from each other, are not noticed, affect no- 
body, 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 

1 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. 


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 

(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 ; ^ 
if, on the contrary, they are repelled by its humbleness 
and simplicity, we must allow them to be real free- 
thinkers, far stronger-minded than so many great men, 
enlightened and highly cultivated, who nevertheless 
wete confirmed believers, such as the Leos, the Basils, 
the Jeromes, the Augustines.^ 

(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 connois- 
seurs, 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 con- 
sider extent of knowledge, depth and penetration, the 

1 Whenever our author has an opportunity he always opposes esprits 
forts to esprits faiblts, or/aibles ^inies, as in the above paragraph. 

* 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 i, and page 447, note 1.) 

2 G 


principles of pure philosophy, their application and 
development, the correctness of the conclusions arrived 
at, nobleness of expression, beauty of morals and senti- 
ments, no profane author can be compared to Saint 
Augustine, except Plato and Cicero. 

(22.) Man who is bom a liar cannot relish the plain- 
ness and simplicity of truth ; he is altogether hanker- 
ing after appearance ^ 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 circum- 
stance 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 differ- 
ent .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 Caesar ever murdered in the midst of the senate ? 
and has there ever been such a person as Caesar ? 
*' Why do you draw such an inference ? " you'll say ; 
" why express such doubts and ask such questions ? " 
You laugh, you do not think my question worthy of an 

1 Specieux in the original, with the Latin meaning. 


answer, and I imagine you are quite right. But suppose 
the book which gives us an account of Caesar 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 evi- 
dence 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 altera- 
tion 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 Caesar and his 
dictatorship ; own it, Lucilius, would you then question 
whether there ever was such a man as Caesar ? 

(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 philo- 
sophy is, the more vain and useless is it in explaining these 
things, which merely require common sense to be under- 
stood up to a certain point, and which cannot be ex- 
plained 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.^ 

(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, accord- 
ing as it best suits their convenience, and remain stead- 
fastly 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.) *r wo 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 pos- 
sessors of it, share it among themselves, and exclude 
everybody else. Dignities, posts, offices, benefices, 
pensions, honours, everything belongs to them and to 

1 This is perhaps a hit at Malebranche's NouvelU MHaphysigue. 


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 them- 
selves 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.^ 

(27.) There are two sorts of freethinkers ; those who 
are really so, or at least believe themselves so, and the 
hypocrites or pretended j)ious 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 

(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 Chris- 
tianity, and admit their Talapoins ^ into his kingdom 

1 At the time our author wrote it was the custom to allow masked people 
to enter a ball-room. 

2 In "A New Historical Relation of Siam," by M. de la Loubere (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. 


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 thou- 
sand 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 per- 
form 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 man's 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 choice. 

(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 

(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 over- 
whelming is the testimony of so many millions of 
the wisest and most thoughtful men then in exis- 
tence, who during three centuries came one after 
another, and whom a feeling of the same truth so con- 
stantly 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 can- 
not be an atheist ; I am, therefore, forced back and 
irresistibly drawn to my religion, and this is my final 

(35.) Religion is either true or false; if a fiction, a 
religious man, a Carthusian friar or a hermit, only lose 
three-score years, but run no other risk. But if based 
on truth itself, then a vicious man must feel most 
v^Tetched ; 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 cer- 
tainty than it can, man could not do better than be 
virtuous. . 


(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, ^ 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 con- 
tinued 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 is.^ 

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.^ 
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 

^ In 1685, when this paragraph was first published, La Bruyere was forty 
years old. 

2 St. Augustin (see page 447, note i) and Descartes (see page 150, § 56) 
had already made use of the above argument. 

3 Our author adds in a note: "An objection to the system of free- 
thinkers.'' An allusion to the system of Spinosa, which Fenelon also 
attempted to refute in his Traiti de t existence de Dieu. 


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.^ 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 some- 
thing 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 dis- 
covered 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 

1 " This is what freethinkers bring forward," says La Bruyfere in a note. 
He means probably the disciples of Gassendi, atid followers of the systems 
of Epicurus and Lucretius. 


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 uni- 
versal 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 impo^sible 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 in- 
finitely more grandeur, power, independence, and capa- 
city 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 prin- 
ciple 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 pro- 
ceed naturally and necessarily from a mechanical dis- 
position caused by the multiple organization of the 
material prarts of his body, I may, perhaps, acquiesce 
in this doctrine. But as for me, I think, and certainly 
know that I think.l Now, if we consider any organisa- 
tion 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 cogitation ? 

(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 prin- 
ciple in man, that is, that principle which convinces man 
he is not merely matter ? 

1 This is Descartes* doctrine. 


(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 natu- 
rally 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,^ 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 j a little lower, the Yvette or 

1 Lucilius is supposed to have been the Duke of Bourbon, the pupil of La 
Bruyere, and the spot of ground, the parkof Chantilly, theseatof the Condc 
family. (See page 25, § 48.) 


the Lignon,! 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 admir- 
able 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 Notre 2 to draw plans and take 
measurements. Yet what is this piece of ground so exqui- 
sitely 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 

1 Instead of the Nonette and the Theve, two small rivers canalised 
by order of the Prince de Conde, our author names two other small 
streams, the Yvette, which has its source near Rambouillet, and the Lignon, 
an affluent of the Loire. 

2 Andre le Notre, a celebrated landscape-gardener, laid out the gardens 
of Versailles and Chantiliy, and died in 1700. 


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.^ 
Its motion is small in comparison to the prodigious 
long career of the sun through the spacious firmament ;^ 
for it is certain the moon does not move at the rate of 
above sixteen hundred and twenty thousand miles a 
day,^ 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.* 

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. 

1 The calculations of La Cruyere were not always exact ; thus the mass 
of the moon is eighty-nine times less than the earth's ; it is 2165 miles in 
diameter, and revolves at a mean distance of 238,800 miles round the earth. 

2 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." 

3 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 hours. 

* Sound travels at the rate of more tlian nine hundred miles per hour. 


Remember that the diameter of the earth is nine 
thousand miles, that of the sun a hundred times more,^ 
which gives nine hundred thousand miles ; ^ now, if this 
be its width in every direction, judge what its super- 
ficies 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 ? ^ 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 sun's 
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 

Now, to assist you in understanding this, let us sup- 
pose 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 con- 
sequently, eighteen hundred yards in a minute ; but to 
facilitate our computation, let us allow it two thousand 

1 It is in reality a hundred and ten times more. 

2 Its absolute diameter is 860,000 miles. 

3 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. 

■* The mean distance of the sun from the earth, is, according to the latest 
results, about 92, 400,000 miles. 


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 sun's 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. ^ 

Now, by this altitude of Saturn, exert your imagina- 
tion, 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 con- 
sequently 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. 

1 Saturn's volume is 686'7 that of the earth ; it is the sixth planet in order 
of distance from the sun, and describes in io,795"22 days, or twenty-nine 
years five months and fourteen days, an orbit whose serai-major axis is 
872,137,000 miles. In our author's time Saturn was supposed to be the 
planet the farthest from the sun. See page 135, note 4. 

2 H 


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 com- 
pared 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 men- 
suration ? The height of a star cannot be known ; it 
is, if I may say so, immensurable ; ^ all angles, sines, 
and paralaxes are of no use for this problem.^ 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 con- 
founded 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 

Nor is the distance known between any two stars, 

1 " Immensurable " is a word La Bruyere tried to naturalise in French, but 
he did not succeed, yet it exists in English ; "incommensurable" is to be 
found in both languages. 

2 According to Arago's Lcfons (T Asironomie the star nearest the earth is 
still 22,800,000,000,000 leagues distant from it. 


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.! 
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, in- 
deed, 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 ex- 
ample, 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 immensur- 
able 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 ? ^ 

1 No south polar star exists. 

" Though the number of stars visible to the naked eye is not more than 


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 con- 
founds 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 incon- 
ceivable velocity.! 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 one's 
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 in- 
telligence itself have surpassed this ? Only one thing, 
Lucilius, troubles me. These vast bodies are all so 
constant and exact in their various courses and revolu- 
tions, 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 

five thousand, thousands of millions of stars are in existence of which only 
about a hundred thousand have been observed. 

1 See page 479, note 2. The sun is not the centre of the universe, but of 
our planetary system. 


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 invari- 
able 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 ? ^ 

(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 chance ? 

Let pepper lie in water a little time, and be well 

1 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 existence. 


Steeped in it ; then view a single drop of it with a 
microscope, and an almost countless number of animal- 
culae will be perceived, moving about with incredible 
agility, like so many monsters in the vast ocean ; each 
of these animalculae 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.^ 

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 animalculae 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 ex- 
ceedingly 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 revolu- 
tions ? 

1 According to Descartes' Discours de la Mithode, 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 pro- 
duces motion in all the members of the body." 


(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, reason- 
able, and intelligent being. ^ 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 per- 
ceive 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 pre- 
sumptuous 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 impossible, 

1 Pascal already in his Pensies (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." 


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 convic- 
tions for everything we believe of God and of ourselves ; 
let the nations who inhabit the celestial globes, what- 
ever 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, ine- 
qualities, 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 ; ^ the irregular and imperfect things we sometimes 
observe imply regularity and perfection. Vain and pre- 
sumptuous 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 

1 In the original ouvrier. See page 159, note i. 


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 himchback, 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 com- 
prehended 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 man's 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 world's stage where people re- 
ceive rewards and punishments.^ 

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,'- 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 conformit)' 
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 

1 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 Bruyere 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. 

- See the chapter " Of Opinions," page 364, § 104. 


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, in- 
ventions, 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, mur- 
ders, 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 moun- 
tains are ransacked and rifled of their treasures. If 
you grant that, of all men who are scattered through- 
out 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 miser)' 
the lot of the rest, then either the malignity of men must 
have thrown things into this disorder, or else God is not 

A certain inequality in the condition of men is con- 
ducive 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 


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. 



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