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Full text of "La Bruyère und Vauvenargues: selections from the Characters [and] Reflexions and maxims"

CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




Joseph Whitmore Barry 
dramatic library 



THE GIFT OF 
TWO FRIENDS 

OF Cornell University 
1934 



Cornell University Library 
PQ 1803.A6 1903 



La Bruyere und Vauvenargues: 




3 1924 027 288 921 




Cornell University 
Library 



The original of tiiis book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/cletails/cu31924027288921 



SELECTIONS FROM THE CHARACTERS, 

REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS OF 

LA BRUYERE AND OF VAUVENARGUES 



LA BRUYERE AND 
VAUVENARGUES 

Selections from the Characters 

Reflexions and Maxims 

Translated with Introductory 

Notes and Memoirs by 

ELIZABETH 

LEE 



NEW YORK 

E. P. DUTTON & CO 

1903 



Bdtler & Tanner, 

The Selwood Printing Wohks, 

Frome, and London. 



4 (f^^zz 



1 



CONTENTS 

LA BRUYERE 

Characters 

The Absent-minded Man 
The Rich Man 
The Poor Man 
The Enthusiastic Collector 
The Man of Letters i > 

The Drawing-room Pedant "^V4^ W\K 
The Man of Universal Knowledge 
The Man who will be Comfortable 
Newsmongers: Pessimist and Optimist 
The Man of Caprice 
The Title "Great Man" 
The Parvenu 

The Bourgeois : Then and Now 
.The Money-grubber 
The Affected Talker 
The Perfect Woman 
The Coquette 
. jr-n The Fashionable Dandy "" j 

^ The Egoist ^ lyu^ tJlX, .^>^ 

/0~^ The Man of Convention H/ ^^^ '^-^. 
The Residuary Legatee 
Fools 

The Great Cond6 
Fontenelle 
La Fontaine 
A Good King 

5 



CONTENTS 

Jiefiexions 

The People 
Pictures of Nature 

The Town's Ignorance of the Country- 
Realism and the Stage 
Time 
Brief Reflexions on Men and Things 

VAUVENARGUES 

Characters 

Clazomenes, or Unfortunate Virtue 

Pherecides, or Ambition Deceived 

Cyrus, or the Unquiet Mind 

Titus, or Energy 

Phocas, or False Eccentricity 

Theophilus, or the Profound Mind 

Varus, or Liberality 

Acestes, or Young Love 

The Man of the World 

The Proficient in the Art of Dealing with Mankind 

Dialogue 

Brutus and a Roman Youth 

Reflexions and Maxims 



INTRODUCTION 



" There are two kinds of wisdom : in the one, every age in 
which science flourishes, surpasses, or ought to surpass, its 
predecessors ; of the other there is nearly an equal amount in 
all ages. The first is the wisdom which depends on long 
chains of reasoning, a comprehensive survey of the whole of 
a great subject at once, or complicated and subtle processes of 
metaphysical analysis; this is properly Philosophy. The 
other is that acquired by experience of life, or a good use of 
the opportunities possessed by all who have mingled much 
with the world, or who have a large share of human nature 
in their own breasts. This unsystematic wisdom, drawn by 
acute minds in all periods of history from their personal 
experience, is properly termed the wisdom of ages ; and every 
lettered age has left a portion upon record." — J. S. MILL. 

T is the unsystematic wisdom, as con- 
tained in "Characters" and "Maxims," 
that we offer in this volume of selections 
from La Bruyere and Vauvenargues. 
Philosophy, properly systematic, is, to the most 
of men, a sealed book, which they have neither 
the leisure nor the inclination to open. But 
as the years pass by and bring with them 
their varied experiences of mind, heart and 
action, men form for themselves, in many cases 
almost insensibly, a kind of rough philosophy of 
life that becomes their guide. Thus the unsys- 

7 






LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction tematic philosophy which has found literary ex- 
pression appeals to and interests all those who, 
without being students of systems of philosophy, 
have observed men and manners and given heed 
to all sorts of human experience. Let that fact 
then serve as an apologia for presenting these 
samples of two of the greatest unsystematic 
philosophers the world has known, 

II 

" We know nothing, or almost nothing, of the life of La 
Bruy^re. ... If there is not a single line of his unique book, 
which since the first moment of publication did not come 
into the full light and remain there, there is, on the other 
hand, scarcely a single well-authenticated detail known about 
the author. All the light of the age fell upon each page of 
the book, but the countenance of the man who held it open in 
his hands is hidden."— SAINTE-BEUVE. 

" I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than 
as one of the species." — ADDISON. 

Any attempt, however modest in aim, to write 
a biography of La Bruyere bristles with difficul- 
ties. His latest editor, M. Servois i owns that 
La Bruyere, the man, is the most unknown of 
all the great writers of his epoch. His life, it 
seems, was hidden even from his contemporaries, 
and the information that they have to give us is 
vague and scanty. We are thus compelled to 
construct the man's personality from his work, 

' Cf. CEuvres de La Bruyfere par M. G. Servois. 3 vols. 
Paris 1885. 

8 



LA BRUYERE 

aiding ourselves by such facts as we know to be Introduction 
most authentic. 

Jean de la Bruyere was born at Paris in 
August, 1645, of a good middle-class family. 
His father, Louis de la Bruyere, was Comp- 
troller-General in the Financial Department of 
the H6tel de Ville. Little is known of Jean's 
childhood and education. He graduated in law 
at the University of Orleans, and for eight years 
practised, or attempted to practise at the Bar in 
Paris. In 1673 he abandoned law for finance, 
his father purchasing him a post in the Treasury 
at Caen. After going through certain formalities 
there he continued to reside in Paris, leading a 
life in which he had the free use of his time, 
the free choice of work and recreation, a life 
in which he was the sole arbiter of what he 
did or did not do. Notwithstanding, he held 
his post in the Treasury until 1686. Two 
years earlier he had been appointed one of 
the masters entrusted with the education of 
the young Duke of Bourbon, grandson of the 
Great Conde. Although in accepting the tu- 
torial office he gave up his liberty, he gained 
so vastly in knowledge of men, that his entry 
into the house of Conde may be fitly described 
as the decisive event of his life. The task of 
teaching the sixteen -year- old duke was no easy 
one ; he had been spoiled and flattered from 

9 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction babyhood, and was not the pleasantest of pupils. 
La Bruyere had to instruct him in history, geo- 
graphy, the institutions of France, even in mytho- 
logy and heraldry, and, despite manifold difficul- 
ties, he performed his duties most conscientiously. 
It is told how, on one occasion, Bossuet being 
present when a lesson on Descartes's "Princi- 
pia" was going forward, pronounced himself 
well satisfied with the teacher. It seems strange 
that La Bruyere should have sacrificed his liberty 
for such an office. Perhaps he did so con- 
sciously in order to gain the wider experience of 
men necessary to his work ; or the obtaining of 
that experience by a lucky chance, as it were, 
may have helped to fix the character his work 
was to take, and have insured it something it 
must otherwise have lacked. We who are his 
heirs can only rejoice that the experience should 
have been his, and we fully concur with Sainte- 
Beuve when he writes : " What would he have 
been without the unexpected opening of that 
window on to the great world, without the 
corner seat which he occupied in a grand tier 
box at the great spectacle of the human life and 
high comedy of his time ? He would have been 
like a hunter who lacks game, big game, and is com- 
pelled to content himself with a poor hare whom 
he encountered on the plain. La Bruyere, with 
only the middle class, or only the literary class, 

10 



LA BRUYERE 

for the range of his observation, would have Introduction 

reaped a harvest there ; but with nothing else to 

observe, he would certainly have lost much, and 

we should have lost it with him." When the 

young duke's education was finished, La Bruyere 

remained in the service of his father, probably 

as librarian or secretary. 

The earliest mention of La Bruyere's great 
work occurs in a letter from Boileau to Racine, 
May 19, 1687 : — " Maximilian (i.e., La Bruyere) 
came to see me at Auteuil, and read me some of 
his ' Theophrastus.' " The next year, 1688, 
there appeared at Paris " Les Caracteres de 
Theophraste Traduits du Grec avec les Carac- 
teres ou les Moeurs de ce Siecle." The book 
was published by Estienne Michallet, chief 
printer to the King. A pleasant little story, that 
one would like to think true, was told at Berlin 
by Maupertuis, and incorporated by Formey, 
Secretary to the Berlin Academy, in one of his 
speeches. It is to the effect that La Bruyere 
was in the habit of going every day to Michallet's 
to look at the new publications, and of playing 
with Michallet's little girl, for whom he conceived 
a great affection. One day he drew a manuscript 
from his pocket and said to Michallet : " Will 
you print this (i.e., the ' Caracteres ') ? I don't 
know if it will pay you, but in case of success let 
the profit be my little friend's dowry." Michallet 

II 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction took the risk, and before long the book was worth 
two or three thousand francs. It is known that 
Michallet's daughter made a very good marri- 
age. The book which brought its author such 
sudden fame was a slim duodecimo of some 360 
pages. It went through five editions in less than 
two years ; each successive edition was revised 
and considerably augmented by the author. This 
is in accordance with the practice of all char- 
acter writers from Overbury and Earle onwards. 
In his preface to the edition of 1689, La 
Bruyere wrote: "The orator and the author 
cannot overcome the delight they have in being 
applauded." We are not then surprised to find 
La Bruyere applying, in 1691, for admission to 
the French Academy. That application was 
not successful, and it was 1693 before he obtained 
the much coveted distinction, when he succeeded 
to the chair of the Abbe de la Chambre. In the 
speech made by him at his reception he praised 
those academicians, who, like Bossuet, La Fon- 
taine, Racine, Boileau, and F6nelon, had great 
reputations ; those of lesser distinction who were 
his friends, he likewise praised ; but his enemies, 
no matter what their standing or attainments, 
he ignored. And, to add to his sins, he 
depreciated Corneille at the expense of Racine. 
That kind of thing was unpleasing to the illus- 
trious forty and contrary to all their most 
12 



LA BRUYERE 

cherished traditions. They tried, therefore, to Introduction 

prevent the publication of La Bruyere's discourse. 

It appeared, however, separately, in 1693, and 

was incorporated next year in the eighth edition 

of the " Caracteres," with a preface, being a reply 

to his detractors. 

La Bruyere never married, and there is no 
certain evidence that he was ever any woman's 
lover. But it is difficult to believe that the two 
chapters in his book, entitled respectively " Of 
the Heart" and "Of Women," are not, in a 
large measure, the outcome of personal ex- 
perience. Such a remark as " the sound of the 
voice of one we love is the sweetest melody in 
the world," such an exquisite portrait as that of 
Arthenice,! point to something beyond mere 
imagination. However that may be, there is 
little doubt that immunity from an absorbing 
passion for the other sex left him more time for 
friendships with his own. When we remember 
that among his friends were such men as Boss- 
uet, Fenelon, Racine, Boileau, besides others 
less known to fame, it is more than surprising 
that references to him in the memoirs of the 
time should be so scanty and unimportant. We 
gather in a general sort of way that beneath the 
calm exterior, beneath the contemplative and 
inactive life, there lay a passionate nature, sen- 
1 Cf. p. g6. 
13 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction sible of wounds to his self-love, and capable of 
generous indignation. Saint-Simon writes of 
him as a very agreeable man, pleasant company, 
simple, with nothing of the pedant about him, 
and entirely disinterested. La Bruyere died 
suddenly in May, 1696, at Conde's house in Ver- 
sailles, of an attack of apoplexy, while occupied, 
so it is said, on a new work, " Dialogues on 
Quietism." He was buried at Versailles in the 
Church of St. Julien.i 

III 

■■ If it is true that Theophrastus, so to speak, created La 
Bruyere, it must be confessed that therein lies his greatest 
fame and his greatest work." — (One of La Bruyfere's critics.) 

" If these characters do not find favour, I shall wonder; 
if they do, I shall wonder no less." — (The concluding words 
of La Bruy^re's book.) 

La Bruyere was occupied with the composition 
of the " Characters," from about 1670 until their 
publication in 1688, and thence until 1694 with 
tbeir development and revision. So that if we 
except the time devoted to teaching the Duke of 
Bourbon, and that devoted to the posthumous 
" Dialogues on Quietism," thought by some 
to be apocryphal, it is correct to say that the 
" Characters " formed the unique work of La 
Bruyfere's life. 

The first edition of the "Caracteres" (1688) 

' Pulled down in 1797. 
14 



LA BRUYERE 

bore the title "The Characters of Theophrastus, Introduction 
translated from the Greek with characters or 
manners of the Age." Two other editions were 
called for the same year, and they each contained 
420 articles. Other editions which La Bruyere 
revised, and to which he greatly added, appeared 
in 1689, 1690, 1691, 1692, and 1694, the last con- 
taining 1,120 articles. The ninth edition was the 
last printed in La Bruyere's life-time, and is 
usually considered the best text. It was pub- 
lished a few days after his death in 1696. With the 
translation of Theophrastus we are not here con- 
cerned. Suffice it to say that it was approved by 
La Bruyere's learned contemporaries. Lack of 
faithfulness to his original, a circumstance great- 
ly blamed by modern scholars, was no bar to the 
success of a translation in the seventeenth cen- 
tury, when a considerable amount of license was 
regarded as a translator's right. Those who 
are interested in La Bruyere's views on that 
subject can read the " Discourse on Theophras- 
tus " he prefixed to his translation. 

La Bruyere took the title and idea of his 
'« Characters or the Manners of the Age " from 
Theophrastus, but with La Bruyere, the word 
character ^ became a synonym for portrait, and 

* Littr6 defines caractire as that which distinguishes one 
person from another morally. The best " character " writers 
may perhaps be said to have aimed at a happy mean between 
individual and generic portraits. 

15 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction his aim was to describe the manners of his age in 
a collection of portraits. With such portraits, 
however, he mingled a great many reflexions 
or remarks. He sets forth this object and in- 
tention of his book in the motto prefixed to it, 
and in the preface. The motto — " Our purpose 
is to warn, not to bite ; to be useful, not to 
wound ; to do good to manners, not hurt to 
men " — is taken from the letter of Erasmus to 
Martin Dorpius, in which he replies to the latter' s 
criticism of his " Praise of Folly." In the pre- 
face he writes : — " The subject of the following 
sheets being borrowed of the public, it is but 
justice to make restitution to it of the whole 
work, such as it is, throughout which the utmost 
regard has been paid to truth. The world may 
view its picture drawn from life, and if conscious 
of any of the defects which I have delineated, 
let it correct them." He then requests his readers 
to keep the title of the book in view, " and to 
bear in mind that I describe the characters or the 
manners of the age ; for though I frequently take 
them from the Court of France and men of my 
own nation, yet they cannot be confined to any 
one court or country without greatly contracting 
and impairing the compass and utility of my 
book, and destroying the design of the work, 
>^ which is to paint mankind in general. . . . 
To conclude, what I have written is not designed 
i6 



LA BRUYERE 

for maxims ; they are like laws in morality ; and Introduction 
I have neither genius nor authority for a legis- 
lator. I know that I should have sinned against 
the law of maxims, which requires short and 
concise phrases, like unto oracles. Some of my 
remarks are of this kind, others are more diffuse. 
I think of things differently, and express them in 
a turn of phrase equally different — by a sentence, 
an argument, a metaphor, a simile, or some 
other figure, by a story at length or a single 
passage, by a description or a picture, whence 
proceeds the length or shortness of my reflexions. 
They who write maxims set up for infallibility ; 
I, on the contrary, allow anybody to say my 
remarks are not always just, provided he will 
make better ones himself." 

The book contains sixteen chapters with the 
following titles: "Of works of genius — Of per- 
sonal merit — Of women — Of the heart — Of society 
and conversation — Of the goods of fortune — Of 
the city— Of the court — Of the great — Of the sove- 
reign — Of the state — Of man— Of judgments — Of 
fashion, — Of custom — Of the pulpit— Of free- 
thinkers." In these chapters portraits, observa- 
tion of manners, and general maxims follow each 
other without connection. La Bruyere never had 
the intention of writing a regular work ; what he 
desired was a large supple frame in which he 
could include things that a more rigorous plan 

17 B 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction would have excluded. He well knew wherein 
lay the novelty of his book. In the prefatory 
discourse concerning Theophrastus he charac- 
terizes the work of Pascal and La Rochefoucauld 
thus : "The first makes metaphysics subservient 
to religion, explains the nature of the soul, its 
passions and vices, discusses the most prevalent 
motives to virtue, and endeavours to make man 
Christian. The other is the production of a 
mind thoroughly acquainted with society who 
has arrived at the conclusion that self-love in 
man is the source of all his errors, who attacks 
it unceasingly wherever he finds it; and with 
him this one thought is so happily diversified in 
a thousand ways by the choice of words and the 
variety of expression that it always has the 
charm of novelty." La Bruyere desired to do 
neither of those things. His work was less 
sublime than the first, less delicate than the 
second ; it was his aim to make men reasonable, 
the means to that end being to examine and 
describe them. To define well, to paint well, 
were, according to La Bruyere, the whole duty 
of a writer. His "characters" are certainly 
real and picturesque, and possess the quality of 
something "seen." Notwithstanding the lack 
of regularity, when we have read one of his 
chapters we feel that we have been looking at 
a complete picture, we have a profound impres- 
i8 



LA BRUYfiRE 

sion that everything on the subject treated has Introduction 
been said.^ 

We shall leave aside the question of the 
" keys " to the different characters ; it is treated 
fully by M. Servois, and those who are interested 
may study it in his volumes. We prefer to 
regard the matter from La Bruyere's own stand- 
point. He said : " It is true that I have painted 
from life, but it was not always my purpose to 
paint this man or that woman. ... I have 
taken one feature from one, and another from 
another, and have formed from these different 
features probable portraits." There is little 
doubt that in nearly every case La Bruyere had 
real persons in his mind, and in describing 
some of them, Fontenelle (Cydias) and Conde 
(^milius)^ he was surely guided by his personal 
feeling towards them ; but while describing his ' 
contemporaries. La Bruyere painted mankind, 
as far as he had the means of observing it, in 
general, and in that, and not in isolated portraits 
of this or that individual, lies the value of his 
work as a moralist. 

And what splendid opportunities La Bruyere 
had for observing all classes of society. Be- 
longing to an old bourgeois family, himself a 
barrister and a treasurer of France, nephew of 

1 Cf. the chapter " Of the Court." 
' Cf. pp. 104 and 106. 

19 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction a financier and of a secretary to a king, almost 
everybody who at that time formed the town, so 
to speak — tradesmen, men of independent means, 
lawyers, magistrates, manipulators of the public 
funds — came under his view. 

As a guest in Condi's house at Chantilly or 
Versailles, he associated with all those of the 
court, the army, the church, and the magistracy, 
reckoned as the most illustrious men of France. 
Men of letters he knew likewise, and is often 
justly indignant at the low opinion held of them 
by the great in his day. An author was mostly 
regarded as something a little above the jester 
or buffoon, something to provide distraction and 
amusement for his betters. It was a period 
when the pope would ask the king for the loan of 
his poet, much as we might ask a friend to lend 
us his horse or his dog. We do not know if 
La Bruyere knew much of the country gentle- 
men or of the yeomen of the period, but he 
laughs at the cockneys who think all begins and 
ends at the gate of their town ; he shows 
acquaintance with agricultural subjects, and 
signs of an appreciation of the beauties of ex- 
ternal nature. In addition to his great oppor- 
tunities for observing mankind, he had nothing 
to distract his attention, no absorbing avocation, 
no large fortune to administer, no family to bring 
up, no imperious passions to yield to or with- 

20 



LA BRUYERE 

stand. Except during the two years in which Introduction 
he was teaching the Duke of Bourbon, La 
Bruyere enjoyed the leisure of the sage. Obser- 
vation was the great business, the sole occupation 
of his life. When his friends accused him of 
doing nothing, of wasting his time, he replied, 
"I am opening my eyes and looking, opening my 
ears and listening." He was of those contem- 
plative spirits whom the rush and hurry of 
modern life seem to have killed, men who live 
without ambition, unenvious of their fellows, yet 
interested in all that concerns their kind. 

Some critics refuse La Bruyere a place 
among the originals. He said nothing new, they 
argue. If an author is to be judged solely by 
the new things he says, we should be compelled 
to eliminate most writers from the ranks of the 
immortals. To thoughtful persons the great 
moral truths when expressed in words inevi- 
tably present something of the obvious. But, 
like our own poet, Alexander Pope, La Bruyere 
possessed, in a supreme degree, the art of rivet- 
ting attention, and if he says nothing that is 
new, when once he has said the things that are 
old, we never forget them. He has said them, 
so to speak, for all time. It must also be re- 
membered that La Bruyere made no attempt to 
trace human feeling to its source, or to discover 
its cause ; it is rather the outward physiognomy 

21 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction of the passions that held attraction for him. 
Yet in some few points it seems to us that L,a 
Bruyere can claim originality. As a thinker, he 
was in many ways in advance of his time, and 
was by no means inaccessible to new ideas. 
He was not, it is true, agitated or dominated by 
them to the extent of being inspired with revolu- 
tionary passions or Utopian dreams. But he 
was irritated by the vanity, and the insolence, 
and the cruelty of the nobles, and did not hesi- 
tate to express his irritation, and he was pained 
by the misery and poverty and downtroddenness 
of the people, and gave them freely of his sym- 
pathy. In that way he touches hands with 
Voltaire, Rousseau, and Beaumarchais, the 
precursors of the Revolution. He was almost 
the first among French writers to describe the 
people, the toilers of the earth i who labour 
without reaping the fruit of their toil. Yet his 
reason always held sway, and his recognition of 
the vices of the nobility never prevented him 
from seeing the faults of the people. We find, 
too, in La Bruyere, as we shall find presently in 
Vauvenargues, a feeling for nature and natural 
scenery that was rare in seventeenth century and 
early eighteenth century writers. His description 
of the little town which seems to him as it 
painted on the slope of a hill,^ of the park of 

» Cf. p. III. 2 Cf. p. 112. 

22 



LA BRUVeRE 

Chantilly,! and the comparison of the king Introduction 
and the shepherd,^ are interesting examples. 
He had, too, a love of places that is entirely 
modern. He writes — " There are some places 
which we admire, others which we love, and 
where we could wish to pass our days," a sen- 
tence which contains the germ of what after- 
wards blossomed into fruit ih the work of Rous- 
seau, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and Lamartine. 

We have already pointed out that La Bru- 
yere's chapters follow no regular plan. Some- 
times he gives us short dialogues, sometimes 
rhetorical apostrophes to a fictitious auditor, 
sometimes a fairly well developed narrative 
which is almost an apologue or a short story ; 
he well understood the art of telling an anec- 
dote to illustrate a character. With these are 
mingled brief sentences or longer maxims. We 
have chosen some of all sorts for this volume, 
and have been guided in our choice by what 
seems most permanent and most likely to interest 
the general reader. The student of the history of 
the age of Louis XIV would, of course, approach 
La Bruyere's work from another point of view. 
But he should bear in mind that the historical 
portraits, like those of Louis XIV, the great 
Conde,William of Orange, are among the weakest 
which La Bruyere has drawn. The portraits ot 
» Cf. p. 112. 2 cf. p. no. 

23 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction the secondary personages of the time, like those 
of Fontenelle, La Fontaine, or Lauzun, are, on 
the other hand, of great excellence. The general 
characters, like those of the ambitious man, the 
hypocrite, the egoist, the wit, or the miser, are 
fair of their kind, but as he always seems to have 
before his eyes some original, his type is of an 
age rather than for all time, and so, perhaps, 
misses that stamp of universality which all great 
and enduring work of the kind should bear. Un- 
doubtedly, La Bruyere's greatest genius lay in 
the representation of narrow detail. Wide im- 
pressions were not possible to a man of his 
temperament, and as we read him we come to 
the conclusion that his best work as a character 
writer is to be sought in his many admirable 
portraits of the more or less harmless and trifling 
eccentricities of men. His portraits of the 
dilettante collector with a mania for books which 
he never reads, or for medals or prints, or for 
tulips or plums, of the absent-minded man, the 
newsmonger, the man who thinks he knows 
everything, and similar personages, have pro- 
bably never been surpassed in any literature. 

It is not easy to describe or classify La Bru- 
yere's literary style. His French critics, and 
they ought to know, find his style too laboured, 
an example of a too earnest seeking after the 
right word. " Among all the different expres- 
24 



LA BRUVeRE 

sions," he wrote, " which can render a single Introduction 
one of our thoughts, there is only one which is 
the right one. Everything which is not it is 
feeble, and does not content an intelligent man 
who desires to make himself understood." He 
dutifully followed the rules accepted by all the 
great French prose writers of the seventeenth 
century, but, in so doing, did not disdain to traverse 
roads from which they had turned aside, and 
which it was still possible to traverse again, or 
to throw open roads to be traversed for the 
first time. His vocabulary was very rich, richer 
even than that of La Rochefoucauld, Bossuet, 
or Madame de S6vigne. He used a number of 
technical words borrowed from the law, from 
the military arts, from agriculture, even from 
heraldry, the merchant's office, or the artisan's 
workshop. The best characteristics of his style 
are to be found in its variety, in its conciseness, 
in his original way of illustrating an abstract idea 
by some physical detail which at once material- 
izes it, as when he writes : " Thirty years are 
required to think of one's fortune ; it is not made 
at fifty ; a man commences building in his old 
age and dies when it is time for the painters and 
glaziers to begin their work." In this feature of 
his style La Bruyere was curiously modern, not 
to say curiously English, for some modem Eng- 
lish philosophers use the method largely and with 

25 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction admirable effect. But let us not forget that both 
they and La Bruyere are following no less a pre- 
cedent than that of Dante. It may justly be said 
that La Bruyere brought light and colour into 
French prose. In many ways he belongs to both 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for 
while the strongest bonds attach him to the 
former, he foreshadows the methods of Voltaire 
and of Montesquieu, especially in the Lettres Per- 
sanes. Lesage, Regnard, and Destouches owe 
him something. Among English writers it is 
Addison who perhaps owes him most. Both led 
quiet, contemplative lives, and were spectators 
of mankind, not themselves men of action ; both 
were silent and retiring, wanting probably in that 
outward grace of manner that so readily confers 
an indiscriminate popularity. 

Despite the fact that between 1605 and 1700 
fifty- six books of Characters were published in 
England, it would not seem that English char- 
acter writers owe anything to La Bruyere. 
Casaubon's Latin version of Theophrastus pub- 
lished in 1592 gave the impulse to such writing 
here. The first book of English characters, 
The Fratemitye of Vacabondes, by John Awdeley, 
appeared in, or possibly before, 1565, and was 
followed by Thomas Harman's Caveat for Coin- 
men Cursetors, Vulgarely Called Vagabones, in 
1567. Then came Joseph Hall's Characterisms of 
26 



LA BRUY6RE 

Vertues and Vices, 1608 ; Sir Thomas Overbury's Introduction 
Wife now a Widow, Whereunto are added Many 
Witty Characters, 1614 ; Nicholas Breton's Charac- 
ters upon Essays Moral and Divine, 1615 ; and The 
Good and the Bad, 1616. The most notable book 
of the kind in English literature, John Earle's 
Microcosmographie, or a Peece of the World Dis- 
covered in Essay es and Characters, was published 
in 1628. Earle dealt with all types. His portraits 
are drawn with animation and sympathy; but 
his method differs considerably from that of La 
Bruyere. The two manners may be best com- 
pared in the portrait of the Poor Man as drawn 
by each. Earle describes the treatment which 
the poor man receives from his fellows, La Bru- 
yere describes the manner in which the poor man 
himself behaves. The historians. Clarendon and 
Burnet, may both be styled writers of Characters, 
for the value of their works lies chiefly in their 
admirable portraits of the historical personages 
of the times with which they deal. Character 
writing in our literature forms a kind of link be- 
tween the comedy of manners and the novel. 
It was handed on fresh to the novelists by peri- 
odical essayists such as Steele and Addison, who 
simply revelled in character writing. 

Our character writers can scarcely be placed 
beside such authors as La Bruyere and Vauven- 
argues, who use the form as much for conveying 

27 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction their philosophy of life, and their estimation of 
mankind, as for describing the men of their time 
or of all time. 

La Bruyere took his mission as a moralist very 
seriously. Pascal made metaphysics serve reli- 
gion, and strove to make men Christians ; La 
Rochefoucauld's observation of men led him to 
attribute the cause of all their weaknesses to 
self-love, and so he attacked mankind, and actually 
slandered it wherever he came in contact with it ; 
Vauvenargues restored to humanity its virtues, 
and was tolerant towards its sins and vices ; 
while La Bruyere's system, so far as he had 
one, differed from all these. Less sublime than 
Pascal, less subtle than La Rochefoucauld, he 
aimed at making man reasonable, and his means 
to that end was to examine and describe him at 
various ages, under various conditions, taking 
note of his vices, weaknesses, and eccentricities. 



IV 

" Courage is the light of adversity."— VAUVENARGUES. 

" Vauvenargues was one of the most admirable of men ; and 
certainly of all the great sages the most unfortunate. When- 
ever his fortune hangs in the balance, he is attacked and 
prostrated by cruel disease; and notwithstanding the efforts 
of his genius, his bravery, his moral beauty, day after day he 
is wantonly betrayed, or falls victim to gratuitous injustice ; 
and at the age of thirty-two he dies, at the very moment 
when recognition is at last awaiting his work." — MAETER- 
LINCK. 

28 



VAUVENARGUES 

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, Introduction 
was born at Aix, in Provence, 6 August, 1715, 
of an ancient and honourable but poor family. 
His father, Joseph de Clapiers, Seigneur de 
Vauvenargues, was created marquis by royal 
letters patent in 1722, partly in recognition of the 
devotion which he had shown two years pre- 
viously, when alone among the magistrates of 
the city he remained at his post in Aix during 
the terrible plague of 1720. Of Vauvenargues' s 
early youth and education we know little beyond 
the fact that his studies were interrupted by the 
weak health that pursued him as long as he lived. 
About the age of sixteen he came across Plu- 
tarch's Lives, and, as with so many boys, the 
book thoroughly impressed his imagination. 
Years afterwards he wrote in a letter to a 
friend : — " I wept for joy when I read Plutarch's 
Lives; there was no evening that I did not converse 
with Alcibiades, Agesilaus and others. I went 
down into the Roman forum to discuss with the 
Gracchi, to defend Cato from the stones thrown 
at him. Do you remember how Caesar, wishing 
to pass a law too greatly in favour of the people, 
that same Cato, desiring to keep him from pro- 
posing it, put his hand on his mouth to prevent 
him speaking ? Such methods, so contrary to 
ours, made a great impression on me. At the 
same period a Seneca fell into my hands, by 

29 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction what chance I know not; then the letters ot 
Brutus to Cicero when he was in Greece after 
the death of Caesar. Those letters are so full of 
dignity, elevation of soul, passion and courage 
that it was impossible to read them and preserve 
my coolness. I mingled the three books and 
was so moved by them that I only contained 
what they put into me." He must have read 
his classics in translations, for he does not seem 
to have known either Latin or Greek. 

At that period the only professions considered 
worthy the attention of a young man of good 
family were the church and the army. From 
his earliest boyhood Vauvenargues had a passion 
for military glory, and at the age of eighteen he 
entered the army as sub-lieutenant in an infantry 
corps. In 1733 he accompanied Marshal Villars 
into Lombardy. He returned to France in 1736 
to a monotonous garrison life, to much idleness, 
and some dissipation. Now and again he would 
isolate himself from his companions for the pur- 
poses of study and reflexion. His comrades 
evidently liked him and recognized his superior 
parts, for, young as he was, they were in the 
habit of styling him pere. 

The first, perhaps, to discover Vauvenargues's 

originality was the Marquis de Mirabeau, father 

of the famous Mirabeau of the Revolution. The 

young men were about the same age, and their 

30 



VAUVENARGUES 

correspondence, which extends from July, 1737, Introduction 
to August, 1740, serves as a history of Vauven- 
argues's intellectual development. Mirabeau 
urged Vauvenargues to go to Paris and to take 
up the profession of letters. As yet, however, 
the profession of arms seemed to him the most 
noble and desirable, and he held no high opinion 
of men of letters. The following passages from 
the correspondence will best illustrate his attitude 
of mind at this period : — " You will easily under- 
stand that it is not from choice that I spend my 
youth among persons who do not touch my heart, 
whom I have no desire to please, who drive me 
from society by the little taste and interest I find 
in intercourse with them. You would like me, 
compelled to live in solitude, to attempt to fill it 
with literature, to cultivate my reason, being un- 
able to follow my heart, and to steep myself in 
writing for lack of conversation, so as to keep 
myself in the world by that road at least, and to 
communicate my soul. That is a good thought, 
nothing could be better said ; but I know myself, 
I know how to do myself justice, and to prove 
that I do not boast, I will not hide from you 
that I have neither the health, the genius, nor 
the taste necessary for writing, that the public 
does not want to know what I think, and that if 
I told them, it would be without either effect or 
profit .... there is neither proportion nor 

31 



LA BRUY^RE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction propriety between my strength and my desires, 
between my reason and my heart, between my 
heart and my circumstances. . . . But although 
I am not happy, I stand by my inclinations and 
cannot renounce them, I make it a point of 
honour to protect their weakness. I only consult 
my heart. I do not wish it to be the slave of the 
philosophers' maxims nor of my circumstances. 
I do not make vain efforts to compel them to 
conform with my fortune, I wish rather to form 
my fortune on them. Doubtless that will not fulfil 
my desires ; everything that would please me is a 
thousand leagues away, but I will not put myself 
under compulsion, I would rather yield my life ! 
It is only on those conditions that I preserve it, 
and I suffer less from the griefs that my passions 
bring me than I do from the trouble of continually 
crossing them. I am not ignorant of the advan- 
tages of pleasant intercourse ; I have always 
greatly desired it, and I do not hide in solitude. 
But I set less store by men of letters than you 
do. I only judge by their works ; for I confess 
I have no acquaintance among authors, but I say 
frankly that, with the exception of a few great 
geniuses and a few original men whose names I 
respect, the others do not impress me. I begin 
to see that the greater part of them only know 
what others have thought, that they do not feel, 
that they have no soul, that their criticism only re- 
32 



VAUVENARGUES 

fleets the taste of the age or of those in authority ; Introduction 
for they do not penetrate into the heart of things. 
They have no principles of their own, or if they 
have, so much the worse ; they oppose conven- 
tional prejudices with false, useless, or tiresome 
knowledge, and a mind dulled with toil, and 
therefore I imagine that it is not their genius 
that made them turn to knowledge, but their in- 
capacity for affairs, the rebuffs which they have 
encountered in the world, jealousy, ambition, 
education, chance. So that to live with such 
men you need a great stock of knowledge that 
satisfies neither heart nor mind, and which fills 
up the greater part of one's youth." As a 
matter of fact Vauvenargues never became a 
man of letters in the professional sense of the 
term. With him a life of action was ever supe- 
rior to a life of thought, and he only entered on 
the second when the first became impossible. 

Another of Vauvenargues' s correspondents 
was Fauris de Saint- Vincens, a scholar and an 
antiquary, three years his junior. The letters 
written by him are deeply interesting, and touch 
on all subjects likely to be discussed between 
young men of a thoughtful turn of mind. They 
extend from 1739 to 1747, and give a fairly full 
history of Vauvenargues' s active and spiritual 
life. They contain, perhaps, his most intimate 
utterances on religion, faith, and friendship. A 

33 C 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction few passages will suffice to prove their interest 
and value. Saint-Vincens had been dangerously 
ill, and Vauvenargues writes thus to him con- 
cerning the uses of religion and faith at such a 
time : — 

Aug. 8, 1739. 
" I am not surprised at the security with which 
you regarded the approach of death ; yet it is very 
sad to die in the flower of one's youth ! but religion, 
as you say, provides great resources ; it is for- 
tunate at such a moment to possess perfect faith. 
By the side of Eternity, life seems but a moment, 
and human happiness but a dream ; and to speak 
frankly, it is not only against death that the 
forces of Faith are to be arrayed ; there are no 
misfortunes that it does not mitigate, no tears 
that it does not dry, no losses that it does not 
make good ; it affords consolation for con- 
tempt, poverty, misfortune, lack of health — the 
hardest of all the afflictions that can try men — 
and there is none so humiliated, so forsaken who, 
in his despair and distress does not find in it 
support, hope, courage; but this same Faith, 
which is the consolation of the wretched, is the 
torture of the happy ; it poisons their pleasures, 
troubles their present joy, causes them to regret 
the past and fear the future ; indeed, it tyrannizes 
over their passions, and aims at depriving them 
of the two sources whence nature causes our 
34 



VAUVENARGUES 

good and evil fortune to flow, self-love and Introduction 
pleasure, that is to say the pleasures of the 
senses and all the joys of the heart." 

Oct. 10, 1739. 

" No more poignant picture could be traced than 
that you draw of a dying man who lived amid 
pleasures, persuaded of their innocence by the 
liberty, duration or sweetness of their usage, 
and who is suddenly recalled to the prejudices 
of his education, and brought back to Faith by 
the sentiment of his end, by the terror of the 
future, by the danger of scepticism, by the tears 
which are shed over him, and last by the im- 
pressions of all who surround him. With most 
men of the world it is the heart which doubts ; 
when the heart is converted all is done, it carries 
them along ; the mind follows the heart's im- 
pulses by custom and by reason. I have nevet 
been against ; but there are unbelievers whose 
error lies deeper ; their too curious intellect has 
spoiled their emotions." 

Vauvenargues never wholly gave up religion. 
His attitude towards it is perhaps best indicated 
in the expressions that he had never been against 
it, and that he thought it possible to be a Christian 
" without being a Capuchin." 

Another time he has something to say on 
friendship : — 

35 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction Nov. 3, 1740- 

"Truly, my dear Saint- Vincens, nothing is 
perfect without friendship, nothing is whole, 
nothing sensible. 

" I pity those who neglect it, and who seek 
their happiness only in themselves. There are 
moments of strength, moments Of elevation, 
passion and enthusiasm in which the soul may 
suffice for itself and disdain all help, intoxicated 
with its own greatness. . . . The fire of 
pride, of glory, consumes itself very soon if it 
derives no nourishment from without. It falls, 
it perishes, it is extinguished, and then, man 
suffers pain. . . . Men make one society : the 
entire Universe is only one whole. In the 
whole of Nature there is only one soul, one 
body. He who cuts himself off from that body 
causes the life in him to perish. He withers, 
he is consumed in a terrible languor, he is 
worthy of compassion." 

These letters, too, give us a poignant picture 
of the manner in which Vauvenargues was, 
throughout his life, hampered by poverty. We 
learn the expedients to which he was reduced, 
the borrowings and the makeshifts, the debts he 
was forced to contract in order to keep up his 
position in the army. In a passage that has a 
sort of ironical humour, he tells Saint- Vincens 
36 



VAUVEN ARGUES 

that a man of whom he seeks to borrow money Introduction 
has daughters, and that if he will lend him the 
desired sum, it occurs to him he might promise 
to marry one of them in two years' time, with a 
reasonable dowry ! 

Vauvenargues took part in the war of the 
Austrian Succession, and in 1742 was in 
the terrible retreat from Prague to Egra, 
compared by Voltaire to the retreat of the Ten 
Thousand. The cold was intense and the army 
suffered horrible tortures. Vauvenargues, con- 
stitutionally weak, never properly recovered from 
the privations endured on the march. His 
friend, Paul Hippolyte Emmanuel de Seytres, 
the young man for whom he wrote the " Con- 
seils a un jeune homme," died at the age of 
eighteen, during the siege of Prague. In his 
memory Vauvenargues wrote an " Eloge Fun6- 
bre." Its eloquence was evidently inspired by 
F6nelon, and although it will not rank high 
among compositions of the kind, or among 
Vauvenargues's works, we are told that he set 
more store by it than by any other of his pro- 
ductions, and that he was continually retouching 
it. The most interesting passages are those that 
reveal De Seytres's personality, the most illu- 
minating of which is, perhaps, the brief sentence, 
" he was insensible to the pleasure of talking 
about himself, the bond of feeble friendships." 

37 



LA BRUYgRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction At length the state of Vauvenargues's health 
rendered it necessary for him to renounce the 
military life. He had traversed great perils and 
had won no glory, but still eager for a life of 
action, he turned his thoughts to diplomacy. 
He sent letters asking for employment to the 
King and to Amelot, the minister for foreign 
affairs, but even a second application brought 
no result. About this time, Vauvenargues wrote 
to Voltaire touching a question of criticism con- 
cerning the genius of Comeille and Racine. 
The great man, fully alive to his young corre- 
spondent's ability and originality, replied, and 
sent Vauvenargues a copy of his works. Thus 
began a friendship ended only by death. Vol- 
taire obtained from Amelot the promise of a 
post for Vauvenargues in the diplomatic service. 
But unluckily he was attacked by small-pox ot 
the most malignant type ; the little health he still 
possessed was completely ruined ; the disease 
left him almost blind, it was impossible that he 
should avail himself of the minister's offer. 

Everything now pointed to the literary life, 
and accordingly, in 1745, acting under the advice 
of Voltaire and Mirabeau, Vauvenargues went 
to Paris. The difficulty of the step was enhanced 
by his poverty ; he was forced to live in modest 
lodgings and to lead a very retired life. 

Notwithstanding his dislike for the professional 
38 



VAUVENARGUES 

man of letters, Vauvenargues had, in his leisure Introduction 
moments, found time to record his thoughts in 
writing, and in February, 1746, published anony- 
mously a duodecimo volume of less than 400 
pages, containing an " Introduction to the know- 
ledge of the human mind ; Reflexions on various 
subjects ; Advice to a young man ; Critical re- 
flexions on various poets ; Fragments on the 
orators and on La Bruyere ; Meditation on faith ; 
Paradoxes mingled with reflexions and maxims." 
A few days after its publication Voltaire wrote 
to the author giving it the very highest praise. 
He characterized it as one of the best books 
" we have had in our language." It had, how- 
ever, no success with the public, yet acting 
always under Voltaire's advice, Vauvenargues 
issued a second edition in 1747. He corrected 
in it faults of style that had been pointed out to 
him, suppressed over two hundred of the maxims 
as too obscure, too common-place, or useless, 
changed the order of the maxims he retained, 
developed some, added others.^ Meanwhile he 
was dying in slow agony and dire poverty, yet 
heroic to the end, Voltaire could say of him " I 

1 This second edition, the title of which was altered to 
Riflexions et Maximes, contained 330 maxims. The number 
was subsequently made up from the author's MSS. to 945. 
Those that appear in the present translation are mainly- 
drawn from the 1747 issue, the last to appear during the 
author's lifetime. 

39 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVE^ARGUES 

Introduction saw him the most unfortunate and the most 
serene of men." His whole life may be read 
in his "characters" — Clazomenes and Phere- 
cides. " When fortune seemed to tire of per- 
secuting him, when a too tardy hope began to 
alleviate his misery, death confronted him." 

Vauvenargues died 28 May, 1747. He had not 
completed his thirty-second year. For half a 
century the work he left behind him remained 
unnoticed. In 1797, a new edition in two 
volumes appeared, quickly followed by another 
in 1806. Since, there have been many others, 
the best critical edition being that edited in two 
volumes by Gilbert ^ in 1857. 



" The essence of aphorism is the compression of a mass 
of thought into a single saying ... it is good sense brought 
to a point."— JOHN MORLEY. 

Philosophy, like art and poetry, must have its source in 
the clear comprehension of the universe. . . . Men's ac- 
tions depend in equal measure on both head and heart. . . . 
Philosophy is not an algebra sum. Vauvenargues is quite 
right when he says " Great thoughts come from the heart." — 
SCHOPENHAUER. 

Rare indeed are the cases in which a man 
escapes the influences of his time. Vauven- 

' Jean Desir6 Louis Gilbert (1819-1870), whose ^hge on 
Vauvenargues prefixed to this edition won him the prix 
d'iloqamce at the French Academy in 1857. 
40 



VAUVENARGUES 

argues was strangely little touched by them. Introduction 
The scepticism of the first half of the eighteenth 
century, its contempt for the past, its frivolous 
society, a society without dignity or conviction, 
produced on him little or no effect. We look in 
vain in Vauvenargues's writings for the keen 
cynicism and delicate satire of La Rochefoucauld, 
or for the more brutal methods of Chamfort or 
Rivarol. Vauvenargueshad no desire to display 
the vices of men, his aim was to show of what 
their virtues made them capable. Were it not 
for an occasional reference to some custom es- 
sentially belonging to the France of his time, 
there would be little to mark internally the 
period to which his work belongs. 

The maxims form the most interesting part 
of Vauvenargues's writings, but it is not wise to 
ignore or underrate other portions of them, 
especially the Characters. His method of 
painting character diff'ers considerably from that 
of L-a Bruyere. Vauvenargues has himself 
described it. He disapproved of the unwritten 
law that forced writers who drew " characters " 
to limit themselves to the manners of their time 
or their country ; a little more liberty was ad- 
visable, and authors should be permitted to leave 
their age on condition that they never left nature. 
He did not seek to describe men of the world, 
nor the absurdities of the great. He preferred 

41 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction to render, so far as he could, rather what fitted 
all men than what was only applicable to a few, 
and was more touched by the picture of a single 
virtue than by the numberless little defects so 
pleasing to superficial minds. Vauvenargues's 
characters are full of himself. As we said above, 
Clazomenes and Pherecides sum up his life. 
The characters that follow take us through dif- 
ferent phases of it. There are portraits of mili- 
tary men, and of active, firm, ambitious charac- 
ters having insight into human character and so 
able to lead men. These would seem to point 
to his experiences in the army, and to his at- 
tempts to enter diplomacy. By contrast he 
draws a few characters of vain, weak, inconse- 
quential persons, and, lastly, portraits of insipid 
or frivolous authors represent his literaryperiod. 
The enthusiastic student of Vauvenargues will 
of course read all that he has written, but those 
who, without so much study, wish to gain a clear 
idea of his philosophy and teaching may confine 
themselves to the maxims after they have once 
become acquainted with the personality of the 
man through his correspondence and the Charac- 
ters. As writers of maxims and aphorisms the 
French stand easily first ; no one disputes their 
supremacy. No other of the world's great litera- 
tures can point to the long line of authors, among 
whom we may name at random Pascal, La 
42 



VAUVENARGUES 

Bruyere, La Rochefoucauld, Chamfort, Rivarol, Introduction 
De Bonald, Joubert, who have excelled in that 
form of composition. The reason is not far to 
seek. The marvellous clarity and terseness of 
the French language, the ready wit of the French- 
man, and his capacity for handling words with 
lightness and dexterity, for expressing much in 
small compass, are just the qualifications that 
make for perfection in maxim writing. It is the 
Frenchman who has made conversation a fine 
art, and who has studied anxiously and lovingly 
the art of expressing in words delicate shades of 
thought and feeling. The French excel in the 
conte or short tale for similar reasons. Even 
Goethe with all his genius, and wisdom, and 
knowledge of men cannot be said to have written 
maxims that are successful as maxims. 

Regarded solely from the standpoint of literary 
style Vauvenargues's maxims often fall short of 
perfection. He was not a man of letters by pro- 
fession, and understood the art of writing, as 
an art, scarcely at all. His criticism of other 
authors is all but valueless. He judged them 
entirely by their effect on himself, and forgot 
that the first duty of a critic is to have prefer- 
ences and no exclusions. He considered that 
Moliere chose sujets trap bas, and praised Boileau 
with enthusiasm. Some of his criticisms, how- 
ever, contain certain general views that are 

43 



LA BRUYgRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction universally true. For example, he infers from 
the number of worthless books that cannot possi- 
bly live, issued from the presses of his day, that 
the taste of the majority is not correct. The 
mass of bad books is caused by the fact that 
writers do not follow the maxim — " Before you 
can write you must have thought ; before you 
can excite emotion in others you must have felt 
it yourself ; before you can convince you must 
know with certainty. Every effort made to seem 
what you are not, only serves to prove more 
clearly what you are." He declared that " all 
fiction that does not paint nature is insipid," and 
that what people so eagerly seek in novels is 
<« the image of a living and passionate truth." 

As Vauvenargues was no man of letters by 
profession, so was he no philosopher by pro- 
fession, observing at leisure and making that, and 
that alone, the business of his life. He was a 
man who had suffered and had thought, and his 
sufferings and reflexions led him to certain con- 
ceptions of life and conduct which he embodied 
in his maxims. His main article of faith was 
that man should be guided by his passions equally 
with his reason ; that only by such means could 
right action be possible ; only by such means 
could a harmonious existence be assured. He 
even thought that our passions, wisely developed 
and followed, might be more likely to lead us on 
44 



VAUVENARGUES 

the right road than if we listened to reason alone. Introduction 

Regarding the passions as the principle of all 

moral activity, as the very life of the soul, he 

writes to Mirabeau — " We are generally masters 

of our actions, but scarcely ever of our passions. 

It is foolish to struggle against them when there 

is nothing vicious in them, and even unjust to 

complain of them. For life without passions 

resembles death, and I compare a man without 

passions to a book of logic ; he is only of use to 

those who read him. He has no life in him, he 

does not feel, he enjoys nothing, not even his 

thoughts." Although it is true that suppression 

of real, sincere feeling may prove as harmful to 

character as a too great readiness to yield to it, 

the doctrine would scarcely be a safe one for 

weak men. What Vauvenargues really meant 

was that a man's character should be developed 

on every side. He believed in the importance of 

character, much as thoughtful men who have the 

welfare and progress of the human race at heart 

are beginning to believe in it now. 

Vauvenargues saw clearly the faults and vices 
of men, but was full of that large toleration for 
weakness that is ever the hall-mark of a superior 
mind. He believed in human goodness, that in 
all men lies something of good which should be 
cherished and developed. This point of view 
made him sympathize with ordinary mortals, 

45 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction their hopes and fears, their weakness and their 
strength, and we contend that if only Vauven- 
argues's Maxims were better known, more 
widely spread abroad, there is no philosophy 
that would more appeal to the average human 
being than that which they contain. A long 
line of moralists before him had written of the 
duties of men. He was no mere preaching 
moralist; it was his chief aim to spread clear- 
ness and light over the difficulty of attaining to 
virtue, of resisting temptation to sin. The first 
impulse of the human heart when brought face 
to face with weakness is to pity, it is the second 
impulse that moves us to condemn ; second 
thoughts are not always best. Yet Vauven- 
argues's tenderness of heart has no resem- 
blance to the sentimentalism of the Richardsonian 
period, or to the philanthropy of our own. The 
professional philosopher in all ages, and rightly, 
is more interested in the destiny of the human race 
than in that of the individual ; Vauvenargues, 
without altogether losing sight of the species, is 
more interested in the lot of the individual. 
Some find Vauvenargues' s classic prototype in 
Voltaire; we are inclined to regard him as a 
disciple to a great extent of Pascal and Fenelon. 
However that may be, Rousseau is undoubtedly 
his intellectual successor. Like La Bruyere, 
Vauvenargues seems to have loved and observed 
46 



VAUVENARGUES 

external nature ; a number of beautiful similes Introduction 
from nature are to be found in the maxims. He 
compares an old man's advice to winter sunshine, 
and the sudden end of a long and prosperous 
career to the dissipation of summer heat by one 
stormy day, and further shows his feeling for 
nature in such sentences as " The tempests of 
youth are mingled with days of brilliant sun- 
shine " ; "The days of early spring have less 
beauty than the budding virtue of a youth"; 
" The light of dawn is not so sweet as the first 
glimpses of glory." Delille was nine years 
old when Vauvenargues died, and the Nouvelle 
Hdloise, in which Rousseau was the first to draw 
his countrymen's attention to the beauty and 
influence of natural scenery, did not appear until 
the end of 1760. 

While La Bruyere paints a picture of humanity 
and draws from it no conclusions ; while Pascal 
suffers from, and is irritated by humanity, 
although he continues to esteem it, and his 
maxims are often perverted by his systematic 
views on religion ; while La Rochefoucauld's 
maxims, true as they are of all selfish persons, 
and of all persons in proportion as they are 
selfish, succeed in slandering mankind; Vau- 
venargues's maxims act like a strengthening 
tonic. He restores to humanity its virtues, puts 
the spur where others put the curb, preaches 

47 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction liberality even to extravagance, boldness even to 
rashness, advocates all that makes life strong and 
beautiful. His own life was certainly a restless 
striving for glory, but not for glory that should 
aggrandize himself, but for the glory born of 
valiant service to his country. Maybe that his 
sympathy with the imperfections of humanity, 
his serenity under a cruel destiny, his earnest 
desire to discover the good in men, give him a 
more enduring place in the "choir invisible" 
than the more active kind of glory he so ardently 
sought. 



VI 



■'No music is more agreeable than variations of well- 
known airs."— JOUBERT. 

This little introduction would, perhaps, be 
more incomplete than it is, if we did not briefly 
mention the French maxim writers who lived 
after Vauvenargues. 

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) is sometimes 
called " La Rochefoucauld-Chamfort," because 
his conclusions about men and morals resemble, 
if we can imagine such a person, those of a 
more philosophic La Rochefoucauld, living, not 
in the seventeenth, but in the eighteenth century. 
Chamfort' s maxims are always incisive and 
48 



RIVAROL 

witty ; sometimes they are cruel, pessimistic, or Introduction 
even of a distorted truth. It seems strange that 
the same man who wrote, " The most wasted 
of all days is that on which we have not laughed," 
could also write, "There are few vices that pre- 
vent a man having many friends, in the degree 
that too great qualities may prevent many friend- 
ships," or " Life is a disease for which sleep 
consoles us every sixteen hours ; it is a palliative ; 
death is the remedy. ' ' Chamfort lost his illusions 
too soon, yet his cynicism, which has a flavour 
of that of Swift, was absolutely sincere, for few 
have had keener insight into the weaknesses of 
men. But his philosophy of life is unsatisfying, 
and we read his maxims for the sake of their 
brilliance rather than for that of their truth. 

Antoine Rivarol (1753-1801) combated the 
sophisms and the revolutionary excesses of the 
Revolution. He emigrated in 1792 and died at 
Berlin. It was he who said " Printing is the 
artillery of thought." It was his desire that 
men should be guided by reason, and for that 
purpose adorned his maxims of reason with an 
inimitable wit and brilliance of style. With 
Vauvenargues he believed in the power of the 
heart. " The heart," he writes, " is the infinite 
in man, the mind has its bounds. We do not 
love God with all our mind, we love Him with 
all our heart. I have noticed that the people 

49 D 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Introduction who lack heart, and the nunaber is larger than 
one thinks, have an excessive self-love, and a 
certain poverty of mind — for the heart rectifies 
everything in man — and that such persons are 
jealous and ungrateful, and that it is only neces- 
sary to do them a favour to make enemies of 
them." 

The Vicomte de Bonald (1753-1840), a devoted 
royalist, published works in support of his party, 
among them a few maxims which uphold his 
views of society and government. He said many 
true and witty things. As examples, let us take 
the two following sentences : " Follies com- 
mitted by the sensible, extravagances uttered by 
the clever, crimes committed by the good — that 
is what makes revolutions:" "a man of genius 
only needs a wife of sense : more than one 
genius in a house is too much." 

But, in our opinion, since Vauvenargues, there 
has only been one maxim writer in France who 
ranks beside his seventeenth century brethren, 
and that one is Joseph Joubert (1754-1824). He 
wrote in fragments for himself alone, and had, 
perhaps, no intention of composing a book of 
maxims at all. For he published nothing in his 
life-time. Fourteen years after his death a 
small volume was issued by Chateaubriand 
containing " Thoughts " that at once assured 
Joubert a high place among French moralists and 
50 



JOUBERT 

maxim writers. As a moralist his chief desire Introduction 
was, perhaps, to induce men to desist from lov- 
ing the future at the expense of the past, and 
thus his teaching was a protest against the nega- 
tive philosophy of the Revolution period. Of his 
forerunners he most resembles Vauvenargues. 
He lived too much in himself, too little in outside 
things, to be compared with La Bruyere, he 
was not a despairing soul like Pascal ; but he 
possessed the same generosity and natural 
elevation of thought, the same enthusiasm for 
all that is beautiful and good, the same delicacy 
of feeling, the same combination of charm and 
austerity that distinguish Vauvenargues. He 
has even been called the Christian Vauvenargues. 
We must not press the comparison too closely. 
Joubert had wider horizons and a surer judgment 
as a critic. He is, it would seem, the last of 
the maxim writers, the last composer, so far, of 
variations on the well-known themes of religion, 
conduct, love and literature. 



51 



LA BRUYERE 



53 



THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 




CHARACTERS 

THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 
|ENALCAS comes downstairs, opens the 



door to go out and shuts it again ; he per- 
ceives that his night-cap is still on, and 
examining himself a little more carefully, 
discovers that only one side of his face is shaved, 
that his sword is on his right side, that his stock- 
ings are hanging about his heels, and his shirt 
out of his breeches. If he walks abroad he 
feels something strike him roughly on the face 
or stomach ; he cannot imagine what it is, until 
opening his eyes and looking up he sees in front 
of him the shaft of a cart, or a long plank of 
wood, carried on a workman's shoulder. He 
has been seen to knock up against a blind man, 
when their limbs become entangled and each 
falls backward. Sometimes he has run right up 
against a prince, and has scarcely had time to 
squeeze himself against the wall in order to 
make room for his highness to pass. He seeks, 
55 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Absent- rummages, mislays, gets angry, and calls his 
Minded Man servants one after the other : they lose every- 
thing, put nothing in its place ; he asks for his 
gloves which he has on his hands, like the 
woman who asked for her mask when she had 
it on her face. He enters the drawing-room, 
passes under a chandelier, to which his periwig 
hitches and is left hanging ; the courtiers stare 
and laugh. Menalcas also stares, and laughs 
louder than the rest, and searches through the 
assembly for the poor mortified creature who 
has lost his wig. In his walks about town he 
thinks that he has lost his way, puts himself 
into a fret, and asks of the passers-by where he 
is : they tell him the name of his own street, he 
at once enters his own house but hastily runs 
out again, fancying himself mistaken. He comes 
out of the law-courts, and finding a coach at the 
bottom of the steps takes it for his own and gets 
in, the coachman whips up the horses and thinks 
he is driving his master home. Menalcas leaps 
out, crosses the court -yard, goes upstairs, walks 
through the ante-room and the other apartments, 
everything is familiar, nothing new to him, he 
sits down and rests, as he would at home. The 
master of the house arrives, Menalcas rises to 
receive him, treats him with great ceremony, begs 
him to sit down, and pays him all the attention 
due to a guest ; he talks, muses, and talks again ; 
56 



THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 

the master of the house is bored and greatly The Absent- 
astonished. Menalcas is not less so, but does Minded Man 
not say what he thinks, that the other is some 
impertinent, idle person who will at length 
withdraw ; he hopes so, and possesses his soul 
in patience, but it may be night-time before he 
is undeceived. 

Another time he visits a lady and, imagining 
that she is visiting him, he sits down in her arm- 
chair and has no idea of giving it up ; he finds 
that the lady is paying him a somewhat long 
visit and every moment expects her to get up 
and go, but as that does not happen and he is 
growing hungry, and it is nearly night, he asks 
her to sup with him ; she laughs, and so loudly, 
that he comes to his senses. 

He gets married in the morning, forgets all 
about it in the evening, and goes home at night 
as if nothing had happened. A few years later 
he loses his wife, she dies in his arms, he goes 
to the funeral, and the next day, when his 
servants announce dinner, he asks if his wife is 
ready and if she has been told. 

It is also he who, entering a church, takes the 
blind beggar at the door for a pillar and his dish 
for the holy water vase, dips his hand in, when 
suddenly he hears the pillar speak and ask for 
alms ; he walks down the nave, thinks he sees a 
praying desk and throws himself heavily on his 

57 



LA BRUYgRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Absent- knees ; the machine bends, pushes him, strives 
Mmded Man ^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ Menalcas is astonished to find 
himself kneeling on the legs of a little man, 
resting on his back, his two arms passed over 
his shoulders, and his joined hands holding his 
nose and shutting his mouth ; he retires in con- 
fusion and kneels elsewhere. He takes a prayer- 
book from his pocket, as he thinks, but it is his 
slipper, that he had inadvertently pocketed before 
going out. He is scarcely out of the church 
when a footman runs after him and asks, 
with a laugh, if he has not got Monseigneur's 
slipper. Menalcas shows him his and says 
" these are all the slippers I have about me ; " 
nevertheless, on searching, he finds the slipper 

of the Bishop of , whom he had just been 

visiting because he was kept at home by illness, 
and before leaving him had picked up the slipper 
as though it had been one of his gloves which 
had fallen on the ground. He once lost at cards 
all the money he had in his purse, went into his 
study, opened a cupboard, took out a money-box, 
withdrew the coins he wanted, and, as he 
thought, locked it up again in the cupboard. To 
his surprise he heard a barking in the cupboard 
he had just closed, and, astonished at such a 
prodigy, he opened it again, and burst out laugh- 
ing to see his dog, whom he had locked up for 
his money-box. 

58 



THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 

He plays at backgammon and asks for some- The Absent- 
thing to drink ; it is his turn to play, and having Winded Man 
the dice box in one hand and the glass in the 
other, being very thirsty, he gulps down the dice, 
and almost the box as well, throwing the liquor 
on the board and half drowning his antagonist. 

Once when boating he asked the time, and 
some one handed him a watch ; he had hardly 
taken hold of it, when, forgetting all about the 
time and the watch, he threw it into the river as 
if it were something that was in his way. 

He writes a long letter, sands the paper several 
times, and always throws the sand into the ink- 
pot, but that is not all, he writes another letter, 
and having sealed them both makes a mistake 
in the addresses ; one of them is to a duke, who, 
on opening the letter, reads the following: "Mr. 
Oliver, do not fail to send me by return a load of 
hay." His farmer receives the other letter, 
opens it and reads : " My Lord, I have received 
with the utmost submission the commands your 
Grace has been pleased to give me." He writes 
another at night, and after sealing it puts out the 
candle : he is surprised to find himself in the 
dark, and is at a loss to conceive how it happened. 

Coming down the stairs at the Louvre he 
meets a man going up. " Oh," says Menalcas^ 
"you are the very person I was looking for," 
takes him by the hand, makes him come down 

59 



LA BRUY^RE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Absent- with him, crosses several court-yards, walks from 
Mmded Man room to room backwards and forwards, then 
looking more closely at the man he has been 
dragging about with him for the last quarter of 
an hour, wonders who ever it can be, has no- 
thing to say to him, lets him go, and turns 
another way. 

He often asks a question and is already out of 
sight before you have time to reply, or he asks 
you how your father is, and when you say that 
he is very ill, Menalcas shouts back that he is 
very glad. He happens to meet you another 
time, he is charmed to see you, he has just come 
from your house where he had been to tell you 
some important news, he looks at your hand : 
" What a fine ruby you have. IsitaBalasruby? " 
Then he leaves you, goes on his way, and that 
is the important business about which he was so 
anxious to speak to you. 

He begins a story and forgets to finish it, 
bursts out laughing to himself at something that 
strikes his mind, and replies to his own thought, 
he hums a tune, whistles, upsets his chair, utters 
a plaintive cry, yawns, thinking himself to be 
alone. "When he is at table he insensibly 
crumbles a heap of bread upon his plate, it is 
true that his neighbours want it, as well as their 
knives and forks, which he imagines to be all 
for his use. 

60 



THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 

Chancing to find himself in the company of a The Absent- 
young widow, he speaks to her of her deceased Minded Man 
husband, and asks the cause of his death ; the 
lady, whose grief was naturally revived by this 
discourse, wept and sobbed, and told him all 
the details of her husband's illness, from the 
beginning of the fever to the supreme agony. 
" Madam," asks Menalcas, who had apparently 
listened to her with the greatest attention, " had 
you never another but him ? " 

One morning, he bids the dinner be hastened, 
rises before dessert, and takes leave of the 
company, yet you are sure to find him that 
day in every place in the city except where he 
had the appointment which caused him to 
neglect his dinner, and to go afoot in case he 
should have to wait for the carriage. You may 
hear him shout, scold, put himself into a rage 
with one of his servants. He is astounded he 
does not come. " Where can he be ? " he says, 
" what is he doing, where is he to be found ? It 
he does not come immediately, I shall discharge 
him at once." The servant arrives. Menalcas 
asks him in a fury where he has been. The man 
replies that he has just returned from the errand 
on which his master sent him, and gives a faith- 
ful account of his commission. 

You will often take him for what he is not ; 
for a fool, because he listens little, and speaks 

6i 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Absent- less ; for an idiot, because he talks to himself 
Minaed Man ^j^^j jg subject to involuntary grimaces and move- 
ments of the head ; for haughty and discour- 
teous, because when you salute him he takes no 
notice of you ; for a man without consideration 
for others, because he speaks of bankruptcy in 
a family that lies under that ban ; of executions 
and scaffolds before a man whose father was 
beheaded ; of mean extraction, before wealthy 
farmers of the revenue who try to pass for 
noblemen. In short, he seems as if he were 
not present, and did not hear what was being 
talked about. He thinks and talks at the same time, 
but what he says is rarely what he is thinking 
of, consequently there is seldom any coherence 
in his talk ; he says no when he ought to say yes, 
and yes, supposing that he is saying no. When he 
answers you his eyes may be fixed on yours, 
but it does not follow that he sees you. He is 
not looking at you, nor at any one, nor at any- 
thing in the world. All that you can drag from 
him in his most communicative moments are 
such words as " Yes indeed ; it is true; good ; all 
the better ; I think so ; certainly; oh, heaven! " 
and other equally appropriate monosyllables. 
Then he is never with those with whom he 
seems to be : he addresses his footman as Sir, and 
his friend as Jeames ; a prince of the blood as 
His Reverence, and a Jesuit as Your Highness. 
62 



THE ABSENT-MINDED MAN 

When he is at mass, if the priest sneezes, he cries The Absent- 
out loud " God bless you." He chances to Minded Man 
be in the company of a judge, a man of grave 
disposition, venerable by his age, character and 
dignity, who asks him about a certain event, and 
demands if the circumstances were so, " Yes, 
miss," replies Menalcas. 

Once when he was returning from the country 
his footmen plotted to rob him, and succeeded 
in their plan. They jumped off the carriage, 
held the torch under his nose, demanded his 
purse, which he delivered to them. Having 
reached home he told his adventure to his 
friends, and when they questioned him as to 
details, said, " Ask my servants ; they were 
there." 



63 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE RICH MAN 

^ITON has a fresh complexion, a full face, 
a steady, determined eye, is broad 
P fi shouldered and broad chested, and has 
a firm, deliberate gait. He speaks con- 
fidently, and makes his interlocutor repeat what 
he says, and is only indifferently pleased with 
whatever is said. He pulls out a big handkerchief 
and blows his nose with much noise. He spits 
all about and sneezes very loudly. He dozes 
in the day-time, he sleeps soundly at night, he 
snores in company. He takes up more room 
than any one else at table and on the public 
promenade. In walking with his equals he 
takes the middle place. When he stops, they 
stop ; he walks on, they walk on ; all are ruled by 
him. He interrupts, and takes up those whose 
turn it is to speak, but he is never interrupted, 
he is listened to as long as he likes to speak ; all 
are of his opinion, all believe the news he tells. 
If he sits down, he lolls in an armchair, crosses 
his legs, wrinkles his brows, pulls his hat over 
his eyes that he may see nobody, then pushing 
64 



THE RICH MAN 

it back shows a haughty and supercilious ex- The Rich 

pression of countenance. He is merry, for ever "Ian 

laughing, impatient, arrogant, choleric, irreligious, 

politic, mysterious about the events of the time. 

He believes that he has talent and wit. He is 

rich. 



65 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE POOR MAN 

ilJ^HEDON has hollow eyes, a red com- 
plexion, a dried up body, and a thin face. 
He sleeps little and very lightly. He 
is moody, a dreamer, and possessing 
intelligence, appears stupid. He neglects to say 
what he knows, or to speak of events with which 
he is acquainted. If sometimes he does speak, 
he comes lamely off ; he thinks that he must be 
boring those to whom he is talking. He speaks 
concisely, but coldly. He does not rivet the 
attention of his hearers, nor does he amuse 
them. He applauds, he smiles at what others 
say to him, he is of their opinion. He is eager 
to perform little services for them, he is a 
flatterer, ever anxious to please. He is mysteri- 
ous about his own affairs, and sometimes a liar ; 
he is superstitious, full of scruples and very 
timid. He steps softly and lightly, he seems 
afraid to tread the ground. He walks with 
eyes cast down, not daring to raise them to 
the passers-by. He is never among those who 
meet in order to converse. He places himself 

66 



THE POOR MAN 

behind him who is speaking, listens to what is The Poor 
said as if by stealth and withdraws if any one "^^'^ 

looks at him. He neither occupies nor retains 
any place. He goes about with his shoulders 
shrugged, his hat pulled down over his eyes that 
he may not be recognized. He wraps himself 
in his cloak ; there is no street or gallery so 
thronged and crowded but he finds a way through 
it without jostling, and steals along unperceived. 
If he is asked to sit down, he seats himself on 
the edge of the chair ; in conversation he speaks 
softly and indistinctly. He is, nevertheless, 
candid with his friends on public affairs, is 
irritated with the times, regards neither minis- 
ters nor government favourably. He only 
opens his mouth to reply, he coughs, blows his 
nose under his hat, spits almost upon himself, 
waits until he is alone to sneeze, or if that is 
impossible, contrives that no one shall hear him. 
He costs nobody a compliment nor a greeting. 
He is poor. 



67 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE ENTHUSIASTIC COLLECTOR 



^^^OLLECTING is not a taste for what is 
I ^^^ good and beautiful, but for what is rare 
fti^l^g and unique, for things that other men 
do not possess. Neither is it a desire 
for what is perfect, but for what is most run 
after, what is the fashion. It is not an amuse* 
ment, but a passion, and often so violent a one 
that it yields to love and ambition only in the 
pettiness of its object. Neither is it a passion 
for everything that is scarce and in vogue, but 
only for some particular object that is rare and 
at the same time the fashion. 

The amateur of flowers has a garden in the 
suburbs of the town ; he goes there at dawn 
and leaves at sunset. He seems as if planted 
there and to have taken root amid his tulips. 
Standing before the Hermit he opens his eyes 
wide, rubs his hands, stoops down, looks at it 
more closely ; he has never seen it look so beau- 
tiful before ; he is in an ecstasy of joy. He quits 
that for the Oriental, thence to the Widow, pro- 
ceeds to the Cloth of Gold, and then on to the 
68 



THE ENTHUSIASTIC COLLECTOR 

Agatha. At last he returns to the Hermit, where The 

he stays, and, tired with his perambulations, sits Enthusiastic 
J J r . . ,. . , . Collector 

down ana forgets his dinner in contemplating 

and admiring its lights and shades, its expanse 
piece by piece. But God and Nature are not 
what he admires in all that ; he goes no further 
than the bulb of his tulip, which he would not 
part with for a thousand crowns, though he 
would give it away for nothing if tulips should 
grow out of fashion and carnations should be- 
come the flower in vogue. This reasonable 
creature, who has a soul, and professes a reli- 
gion, returns home tired and famished, but in- 
finitely pleased with his day ; he has seen tulips ! 
Talk to another amateur of the rich crops, of 
the plentiful harvest, of the good vintage ! You 
discover that he is only interested in fruit, and 
does not understand a word you say. Speak to 
him of figs or melons, tell him the pear-trees 
this year are bowed down with the weight of 
their fruit, that peaches are abundant ; nothing 
of that is in his way, he cares only for plums. 
But if you proceed to discuss plums in general 
you get no reply, he is only fond of a certain 
species of them, and sneers at the mention of 
any others. He leads you to the tree, with much 
ado gathers the exquisite plum, divides it, taking 
one half himself and giving you the other. ' ' What 
pulp," he says ; "just taste it. Isn't it divine ? 

69 



Collector 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The You'll find nothing to match it in the whole 

^"*!il^A'ff!^'^ world." And at this his nostrils are inflated ; he 
can scarcely hide his joy and vanity under a 
semblance of modesty. Oh, what a really divine 
personage ! A man never enough to be praised 
and admired ; a man to be celebrated through all 
the ages ! Let me examine his mien and shape 
while he lives, that I may impress on my mind 
the features and expression of a man who alone 
among mortals possesses such a plum ! 

A satirist relates how there are men who, 
either through restlessness or curiosity, make 
long voyages, yet keep no journal and write 
no accounts of their travels ; who go to see, 
and see nothing or forget what they have seen ; 
who desire only to get acquainted with new 
turrets and steeples, and to cross rivers that are 
not named the Seine or the Loire ; who leave 
their country in order to return to it again ; who 
like to be away in order that they may one day 
have returned from a long distance. Having 
spoken so far, he adds that books are more in- 
structive than travel, and having given me to 
understand that he possesses a library, I express 
a wish to see it. I pay him a visit, and he re- 
ceives me in a house where, on the staircase 
itself, I am ready to faint at the scent of the 
Russian leather in which his books are bound. 
To revive me he shouts at me that they are all 

70 



Collector 



THE ENTHUSIASTIC COLLECTOR 

gilt edged and beautifully tooled in gold, that the The 

editions are most rare, enumerates the titles of Enthusiastic 
the best of them, and tells me that in some por- 
tions of the library, the volumes are so cunningly 
simulated as to deceive the eye, to be taken for 
real books resting on the shelves. He adds that 
he never reads or sets foot in his library, that 
he is there now only to do me pleasure. I thank 
him for his kindness, and wish no more than he 
does ever again to see the tan-pit that he calls 
his library. 



71 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE MAN OF LETTERS 

GO to your door, Clitophon ; my need 
of your interest gets me early out of 
my bed and my room. Would to 
heaven I had no occasion to solicit or 
be troublesome to you ! Your servants tell me 
that you are engaged, and that it will be quite 
an hour before you can see me. I return within 
the time, and am told that you are gone out. 
What is it, Clitophon, that you have to do of 
such importance in your most retired study, that 
you cannot afford me a moment ? You file papers, 
collate a register, you sign documents. I only 
had one thing to ask you, and you but one 
word to answer, yes or no. If you would be 
esteemed, do good offices to your dependants ; 
you will gain more credit by that conduct than 
by making yourself inaccessible. O, you person of 
importance, oppressed with business, when you 
stand in need of my assistance, come to the 
solitude of my apartment ! The philosopher is 
accessible. I shall not put you off till another 
day. You will find me turning over the books 
72 



THE MAN OF LETTERS 

of Plato, which treat of the spirituality of the The Man 
soul, and of its differentia from the body ; or pen °' Letters 
in hand calculating the distances of Saturn and 
Jupiter. I admire the works of God, and en- 
deavour, by knowing the truth, to regulate my 
intelligence and to become a better man. Pray 
enter, all my doors are open to you, my ante- 
room is not made for you to tire yourself in with 
waiting ; come straight in and find me without 
troubling to send in your name. You bring me 
something more precious than gold and silver if 
it is an opportunity for me to oblige you. Tell 
me, what can I do for you ? Must I leave my 
books, my studies, my writing, the line I have 
just begun ? It is a happy interruption for me 
if I can be of use to you. The manipulator of 
money, the man of business is a bear that is not 
to be tamed. You can scarcely ever see him at 
home. What do I say ? You do not see him at 
all, for at first it is you cannot see him yet — soon 
you see him no more. While on the other hand, 
the man of letters is as accessible as the common 
roadway. He is seen by every one, at all times, 
and in all conditions: at table, in bed, naked, 
dressed, well or ill. He cannot play the person 
of importance, nor does he wish to do so. 



73 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE DRAWING-ROOM PEDANT 



ERMAGORAS does not know who is 
king of Hungary, and is astonished not 
to hear mention of the king of Bohemia. 
Do not speak to him of the wars of 
Flanders or Holland, or at least you must ex- 
cuse him from answering the questions you ask 
concerning them. He does not know when they 
began or ended, those battles and sieges are all 
new to him. But he is learned in the wars of 
the giants, and can relate their progress and all 
the details of the campaign ; nothing has escaped 
him. With equal fluency he discourses of the 
terrible downfall of the Babylonian and Assyrian 
Empires, he is learned in the Egyptians and their 
dynasties. He has never seen Versailles, and 
never will see it, but he has almost seen the 
tower of Babel and counted its stories ; he knows 
how many architects were employed, and what 
were their names. If he knows Henry IV to 
be the son of Henry III, it is as much as I can 
affirm. Ask him about the houses of France, 
Austria, and Bavaria. " What trifles ! " he ex- 

74 



THE DRAWING-ROOM PEDANT 

claims, and rolls off from memory a list of the The Draw- 
kings of Media and Babylon ; and the names of ing-Room 
Apronal, Herigebal, Noesnemordach, Mardo- ^®^^"* 
kempad are as familiar to him as those of Valois 
and Bourbon are to us. He asks if the Emperor 
is married, but needs no one to tell him that 
Ninus had two wives. He hears that the king 
enjoys excellent health, and he remembers that 
Thetmosis, a king of Egypt, was a valetudinarian 
and that he inherited that condition from his 
grandfather, Alipharmutosis. "What is there that 
he does not know? What in the whole of 
antiquity is hidden from him ? He will tell you 
that Semiramis, or, as some will have it, Seri- 
maris, talked so much like her son Ninyas that 
they were not to be distinguished by their speech ; 
but he dares not decide whether the mother had 
a manly voice like her son, or the son an effem- 
inate voice like his mother. He informs you 
that Nimbrot was left-handed and Sesostris am- 
bidexter ; that it is an error to imagine that one 
of the Artaxerxes was called Longimanus be- 
cause his arms reached down to his knees, and 
not because one of his arms was longer than the 
other : he adds that although some grave authors 
state that it was his right arm, he has certain 
proof that it was the left. 



75 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE MAN OF UNIVERSAL 
KNOWLEDGE 

|RRIAS has read and seen everything, at 
least he would have it thought so. He 
gives himself out to be a man of univer- 
sal knowledge and would rather lie than 
be silent or appear ignorant of anything. At din- 
ner conversation turned on a great man at a north- 
ern court. Arrias broke in and would not permit 
those who were talking to say what they knew, 
but discoursed concerning that far-off land as if 
he were a native of it. He described the man- 
ners of its court, its women, its laws and customs ; 
he told stories of what happened there, and 
thinking them extremely entertaining, was the 
first to laugh uproariously at them. Some one 
presumes to contradict him, and clearly demon- 
strates that what he says is not true. Arrias is 
not disconcerted ; on the contrary he takes arms 
against his antagonist : "I aver nothing but 
what I know to be true. I had it from Sethon, 
76 



THE MAN OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE 

the French ambassador to that court, who re- The Man of 

turned to Paris a few days ago, and is my Universal 

Knowledge 
familiar friend. I questioned him closely and he 

concealed nothing from me." He continued his 

story with even more confidence than he had 

begun it, when one of the guests informed him 

that he had been speaking to Sethon himself, 

lately arrived from his embassy. 



77 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE MAN WHO WILL BE 
COMFORTABLE 



ERMIPPUS is the slave of what he calls 
his little comforts ; to them he sacrifices 

I received customs, usages, fashions, nay 
even decorum. He seeks them in every- 
thing, discards a less for a greater, neglects none 
that are practicable, makes a study of them, and 
not a day passes that he does not make some 
new discovery of the kind. Dinner and supper 
he leaves to others, he scarcely admits the 
existence of the terms, he eats when he is 
hungry, and then only of the dishes he likes 
best. He must see his bed made, but what hand 
is skilful or well trained enough to make it so 
that he may sleep as he desires to sleep. He 
seldom goes abroad, but loves to keep his room, 
where, in the garb of a sick man, he is neither 
idle nor busy, but incessantly employed in doing 
nothing. Others are slavishly dependent on 
smiths and joiners, according to their needs ; as 
for him if filing is in question, he has a file ; if 
sawing, a saw ; and pincers if something has to 

78 



THE MAN WHO WILL BE COMFORTABLE 

be pulled out. In fact there is no tool imaginable The Man 

that he does not possess, and those infinitely who will be 

. ^^ , , , , comfortable 

better and more to his liking than any used by 

professional workmen ; he has, too, new ones 
and unknown ones that have no name, inventions 
of his own, of which he has almost forgotten 
the use. No one can be compared to him for 
doing with despatch and without labour any use- 
less piece of work. He had to take ten steps 
to go from his bed to his wardrobe, he has now 
so arranged his room that he has only to take 
nine ; how many steps saved in the course of a 
life-time ! It is usual to turn the key, thrust or 
pull, before you open a door. What a fatigue ! 
He knows how to save himself such an unneces- 
sary exertion, but the method is a mystery he 
keeps to himself. He is in truth a great master 
of springs and mechanism, such at least as the 
world could do very well without. He brings 
light to his apartments otherwise than through 
the window, he has found the secret of going up 
and down the house otherwise than by the stair- 
case, and is studying how to get in and out more 
conveniently than by the door. 



79 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




NEWSMONGERS, PESSIMISTS AND 
OPTIMISTS 

HOSE who sit peacefully by their own 
firesides, and live in the midst of their 
families and in a town where nothing is 
to be feared for the safety of their lives 
or property, are the men who generally breathe 
fire and sword, talk continually of war, pillage, 
conflagrations and massacres, are out of patience 
that the armies which are carrying on the cam- 
paign do not meet, or if once in sight of each 
other, that they do not give battle, or if they en- 
gage, that the combat was not more bloody, and 
that scarcely ten thousand men were killed. 
Sometimes they go so far as to forget their 
dearest interests, their repose and safety, out of 
their love for change, their desire for novelty, or 
for things out of the ordinary. Some would 
even like to see the enemy at the gates of the 
city, barricades thrown up, and chains stretched 
for the mere pleasure of hearing or telling the 
news. 

Demophilus, on my right, laments and cries : 
So 



NEWSMONGERS 



" All is lost, all is up with the country, at least 
it is on the brink of ruin. How can we resist so 
strong and general a coalition ? By what means 
may we, I dare not say conquer, but even make 
head against such numerous and powerful 
enemies ? The whole of history does not afford 
an example. A hero, an Achilles would succumb. 
We have committed gross errors. I know what I 
am talking about, I have been a soldier myself, 
and reading has likewise taught me much. ' ' Then 
he speaks with admiration of Olivier le Daim 
and Jacques Coeur : "Those were men," he says, 
"those were ministers." He retails his news, 
which is sure to be the most disadvantageous 
and melancholy that can be forged. Now a 
party of our men have fallen into an ambuscade 
and been cut to pieces, now some troops shut up 
in a castle have surrendered at discretion and 
been put to the sword ; and if you tell him that 
the report is false or needs confirmation he does 
not listen to you, he adds that a general has been 
killed ; and although you assure him that he is 
only slightly wounded, he deplores his death, 
pities his widow and children, and bemoans his 
own loss ; he has lost a good friend and a kind 
patron. He tells you that the German cavalry 
are invincible, and turns pale if you but mention 
the Imperial Cuirassiers. " If we attack that 
place," he continues, "we shall be obliged to 

8i F 



News- 
mongers, 
Pessimists 

and 
Optimists 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



News- 
mongers, 
Pessimists 

and 
Optimists 



raise the siege, and if we, lose it the enemy will 
be at our frontiers," whence Demophilus hastens 
them into the heart of the kingdom He already 
hears the alarm sounded from the belfries, he is 
in fear for his property and his lands. Whither 
shall he remove his money, his furniture, his 
family ? Where shall he take refuge ? In 
Switzerland or Venice ? 

But, on my left, Basilides raises an army of 
three hundred thousand men in a minute ; he will 
not abate you a single brigade. He has a list of 
the squadrons, battalions, generals and officers, 
not omitting the artillery and baggage. He as- 
signs these forces their various parts. Some he 
sends into Germany, others into Flanders, re- 
serves a certain number for the Alps, a lesser 
for the Pyrenees, and transports the rest beyond 
sea. He knows the marches of these forces, he 
can tell what they will do and what they will 
not do, you would think he had the king's ear 
or was in the minister's confidence. If the 
enemy lost a battle with nine to ten thousand 
killed, he declares it to be thirty thousand, 
neither more nor less, for his numbers are al- 
ways fixed and certain, as with a well-informed 
man. If he hears in the morning that we have 
lost a paltry village, he not only sends an excuse 
to the friends he had invited to dinner, but 
he fasts, and if he sups, it is without appetite. 
82 



NEWSMONGERS 



If we besiege a place, naturally strong, regularly 
fortified, and well stored with ammunition and 
food, besides a good garrison commanded by a 
brave general, he tells you that the town has 
its weak, ill-fortified spots, that they want pow- 
der, and that the governor wants experience, 
and that it must capitulate after eight days' open 
trenches. At another time he runs in all out oi 
breath, and as soon as he has recovered a little, 
exclaims, "Here's news! they are beaten, totally 
routed ; the general, the superior officers, at 
least a great part of them, are killed ; all have 
perished. There's slaughter ! ' It must be con- 
fessed that we enjoy great good fortune." Then 
he sits down and breathes once again after this 
extraordinary news, which, however, lacks one de- 
tail, namely, that there never was any such battle. 
He assures us further that a certain prince with- 
draws from the league and abandons his con- 
federates, and that another is ready to take the 
same step, he firmly believes with the populace 
that a third is dead, and names the place of his 
burial, and even when the whole town is unde- 
ceived, persists in laying wagers on it. He 
has indubitable information that Tekeli is making 
great progress against the Emperor; that the 
Grand Signior is making formidable preparations, 
does not desire a peace, and that his Vizier will 
once more sit down before Vienna. He claps 

83 



News- 
mongers, 
Pessimists 

and 
Optimists 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



News- 
mongers, 
Pessimists 

and 
Optimists 



his hands and is in ecstasy over this event, in 
which he firmly believes. He talks of nothing 
but laurels, triumphs, and trophies. He says in 
common talk, " Our august hero, our mighty 
potentate, our invincible monarch." Make him, 
if you can, say simply, "the king has a great 
many enemies, they are powerful, united, ex- 
asperated ; he has overcome them and I hope 
will always overcome them." That style, too 
bold and decisive for Hemophilus, is neither 
pompous nor exaggerated enough for Basilides. 
He has very different phrases in his head ; he 
is composing inscriptions for the triumphal arches 
and pyramids which will adorn the metropolis at 
the conqueror's entry, and as soon as he hears 
that the armies are in sight of each other, or 
that a town is invested, he orders his robes to 
be aired against the Te Deum. 



84 



THE MAN OF CAPRICE 




THE MAN OF CAPRICE 

■ HE capricious man is not one man but 
several ; he multiplies himself as often 
as he changes his tastes and his man- 
ners. He is not this minute what he 
was the last, and will not be the next what he 
is now ; he succeeds himself. Do not ask him 
of what party he is, but what are his parties ? 
Nor of what humour, but how many sorts of 
humour he has ? Are you not mistaken ? Is 
it Euthychrates whom you met ? How cold he 
is to day ! Yesterday he sought you out and 
caressed you; his friends were quite jealous. 
Does he remember you ? Tell him your name. 



85 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE LITTLE " GREAT MAN " 

iv^AMPHILUS does not converse with the 
people he meets in the rooms of the 
palace, or in the courtyards, but by 
his gravity and the raising of his voice, 
he seems to receive them, grant them audience, 
and dismiss them. He has a parcel of terms, 
at once civil and haughty, and an imperious 
courtesy which he uses without discernment, 
and a false dignity which lowers him and is 
vastly embarrassing to those who are his friends 
and who do not desire to despise him. 

A Pamphilus is full of himself ; he never loses 
sight of himself, of his greatness, his alliances, 
his offices, his dignity ; so to speak he collects 
them all together, and wraps himself in them 
in order to demonstrate his great worth. 
He mentions : " My order, my blue ribbon," and 
displays or hides it, both from ostentation. In 
short, Pamphilus would be great and believes 
that he is so ; but he is nothing of the kind, only 
a mere imitation of a great man. If ever he 
smiles on an inferior, on a wit, he chooses his 
86 



THE LITTLE "GREAT MAN" 

time so well that he is never caught in such The Little 

familiarity. If, unfortunately, he was surprised "Great 

ivian ** 
m any condescension to a person who is not 

rich or powerful, or the friend of a minister, or 
his ally, or his servant, he would blush up to his 
ears. He is inexorably severe to him who has 
not yet made his fortune. He meets you one 
day in the gallery and avoids you ; the next day 
coming upon you in a less public place, or, if 
equally public, in company of persons of impor- 
tance, he goes up to you with confidence, and 
says: " Yesterday you would not look at me," 
and then he leaves you hastily to accost a lord 
or some great official. If he finds such persons 
talking with you, he interrupts and carries them 
off. You meet him another time, he will not 
stop ; you must run after him and talk so loud 
that the passers-by wonder and stare. Thus the 
Pamphiluses always seem to be on a stage, 
actors of comedy, a kind of men nourished in 
falsehood, and who hate nothing so much as to 
be natural. 

We can never say enough of the Pamphiluses ; 
they are servile and timorous before princes and 
ministers ; proud and overbearing to those who 
possess nothing but virtue ; dumb and confused 
before the learned ; talkative, bold, and positive 
with the ignorant. They talk of war to a law- 
yer, politics to a financier, history to women, 

87 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Little poetry to men of science, and mathematics to 
M ^^"* poets. They do not trouble themselves with 
maxims, and less with principles. They live at 
random, pushed and driven by the wind of favour, 
and the allurements of wealth. They have no 
opinions of their own, they borrow them as 
they want them, and he to whom they apply for 
them is neither wise, learned, nor virtuous, but 
a man of fashion. 



88 



THE PARVENU 




THE PARVENU 

HEAR much talk of the Sannions ; " the 
same name, the same arms ; the older 
branch, the younger branch, the young- 
est branch of the youngest house ; the 
armorial bearings of the first are without quarter- 
ings, the second with a label, and the third with 
a bordure indented. Their colour and metal are 
the same as those of the Bourbons, and like them 
they bear two and one. It is true they are not 
Fleurs de Lis, but the Sannions are satisfied, and 
perhaps believe in their hearts their bearings as 
noble ; at least they are not inferior to those of 
persons of the first quality. Their arms are to 
be seen on their windows, their castle gates, their 
justiciary pillars, where many a man is hanged 
who only deserved banishment. They strike the 
eye everywhere ; on their furniture, on their 
locks ; their carriages are covered with them, 
and their liveries are as resplendent as their 
coats of arms. But I should like to say to the 
Sannions : " Your folly is premature, you should 
wait at least until your race has existed for a 

89 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Parvenu century. Those who have met and spoken with 
your grandfather are old and cannot Uve long. 
Who then would be able to say ' He kept a shop 
and sold very dear?'" 

The Sannions and the Crispins like still better 
to be thought extravagant and able to spend 
money. They bore you with a long story of a 
fete or banquet they gave, they confide to you 
their losses at play, and they complain loudly of 
that which they had not thought to lose. They 
speak in a mysterious jargon of certain women of 
their acquaintance, they have a hundred amusing 
stories to tell each other, " they have just made 
some curious discoveries," and pass with each 
other for men of great intrigue. One of them 
going to bed late in the country, and who loves 
to sleep long, rises early, dons his gaiters and a 
shooting coat, belt, and powder flask, and takes 
his gun, and is a sportsman if only he could 
shoot ! He returns at night, wet and weary, 
without having hit anything. But he goes shoot- 
ing again on the morrow, and so spends every 
day in missing thrushes and partridges. 



go 



THE BOURGEOIS 




THE BOURGEOIS THEN AND NOW 

]HE Roman Emperors never triumphed so 
nicely, commodiously and surely over 
wind, rain, dust, and sun as the citizens 
of Paris when they drive about the town. 
What a distance from this custom to the rule of 
their ancestors ! They did not understand how 
to deprive themselves of necessities in order to 
have luxuries, nor did they prefer show to sub- 
stance. Their houses were not lighted with wax 
candles, and they warmed themselves at a small 
fire. Wax lights were for altars and palaces. They 
did not rise from a bad dinner to get into a coach, 
but, convinced that men had legs given them 
to walk with, they used them. In dry weather 
they kept themselves clean, and in wet they did 
not mind soiling their shoes, as little troubled to 
cross a street or square as a sportsman trudging 
over a ploughed field or a soldier into the damp 
trenches. They had not then invented harness- 
ing two men to a Sedan chair ; their magistrates 
themselves walked to the courts with as good a 
grace as Augustus to the Capitol. In those days 

91 



now 



LA bruye're and VAUVENARGUES 

The pewter shone on their tables and sideboards, 

Bourgeois brass and iron on their chimney pieces, while 
silver and gold lay safe in their coffers. Women 
were then waited on by women, who were like- 
wise employed in the service of the kitchen. The 
fine names of tutors and governesses were not 
unknown to our fathers ; they knew to whose care 
were entrusted the children of kings and princes. 
But they shared the service of their domestics 
towards their children, and were content to 
superintend their immediate education them- 
selves. Everything they did was suitable to 
their circumstances, their expenditure was pro- 
portioned to their income, their liveries, equip- 
ages, furniture, table, town and country houses 
were all in proportion to their revenue and 
circumstances. Less desirous of spending or 
increasing their patrimony than of keeping it, 
they left it entire to their heirs and passed from 
a quiet life to a peaceful death. They did not 
complain that the times were hard, that poverty 
abounded, that money was scarce. They had 
less than we have, and yet they had enough ; 
and were richer by their economy and modera- 
tion than by their revenues and lands. In those 
days they believed in the maxim that what is 
splendour, sumptuousness, magnificence in people 
of rank is profusion, foolishness, and ostentation 
in private men. 

92 



THE MONEY GRUBBER 




THE MONEY GRUBBER 

■ HERE are some sordid souls, grovelling 
in filth and ordure, to whom interest 
and gain are what glory and virtue are 
to fine minds. They are sensible of 
but one pleasure, to acquire, or at least never to 
lose. They are covetous and greedy to a farth- 
ing, busied sorely about their debtors, ever 
anxious about a debasing of the coinage, plunged 
and almost buried in contracts, title deeds, and 
mortgages. Such people are neither relations, 
friends, citizens. Christians, nor even men : they 
have money. 



93 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE AFFECTED TALKER 

|HAT do you say? What? I don't 
understand. Would you mind begin- 
ning again? I comprehend you still 
less. I can partly guess your meaning 
— ^you want to tell me, Acis, that it is cold. 
Why don't you say it is cold ? You want to in- 
form me that it is raining or snowing. Well then, 
say it rains, it snows. You find me looking well, 
and wish to congratulate me on that circum- 
stance. Then say ' You look well.' ' Oh !' you 
reply, but that is so plain and clear, any one 
might have said it. What does that matter, 
Acis ? Is it so great a harm to be intelligible, 
and to speak like the rest of the world ? There 
is one thing, Acis, which you and your com- 
panions want, although you haven't an idea of it, 
one thing you lack, and that is wit. That is not 
all, there is another thing of which you have too 
much, and that is the opinion that you have more 
of it than other men ; that is the source of all 
your bombastic, barbarous, and grotesque phrases 
which mean nothing. Next time you address 



THE AFFECTED TALKER 

anybody I shall pluck you by the sleeve and The 

whisper : Don't pretend that you have wit, have ^^y^ 
none, that is your part. Cultivate, if you can, 
simple language such as those employ in whom 
you find no wit ; maybe then, people will think 
you have some yourself." 



95 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE PERFECT WOMAN 

^E said that wit in that beautiful lady^ was 
a diamond set to best advantage, and 
continuing to speak of her added : "A 
flavour of reason and charm combined 
strikes all who talk to her. She possesses qualities 
which would make a perfect friend, and also those 
which would lead you beyond the bounds of friend- 
ship. Too young and beautiful not to please, but 
too modest to seek to do so, she esteems men only 
for their merit, and thinks of them only as friends. 
Full of vivacity, and capable of deep feeling, she 
surprises and interests, and although she per- 

1 This lady was Catherine Turgot, daughter of the Saint- 
Clair Turgot, doyen de conseil. She married in 1686 at the age 
of thirteen, Gilles d'Aligre de Boislandry. For seven years 
M. and Mme. de Boislandry lived happily together. Then 
M. de Boislandry took exception to his wife's conduct 
and they separated. In 1694 the poet Chaulieu became 
Catherine's lover, and it was he who revealed the identity of 
La Bruyfere's Arthenice. Chaulieu addresses her in his poems 
as Iris. Having become a widow she married as her second 
husband M. de Chevilly in 1712, and nothing further is known 
of her except that she died in 1737. La Bruyfere probably 
describes her as she was in the early days of her first 
marriage. 

96 



THE PERFECT WOMAN 

fectly understands the delicate and fine shades The Perfect 
of conversation, makes sometimes sallies so Woman 
happy that, among other pleasures they afford, 
they always dispense with a reply. She talks with 
you like one who is unlearned, who doubts and 
seeks to be enlightened ; she listens to you like 
one who knows a great deal, who fully compre- 
hends the value of what you are saying, with 
whom nothing of what you say will be lost. Far 
from seeking to show her wit by contradicting 
you, and from imitating Elvira, who would 
rather be thought smart than sensible and 
discreet, she adopts your ideas, believes them 
to be her own, even extends and embellishes 
them ; thus you are delighted to have thought so 
well, and to have spoken so much better than 
you had imagined. She despises vanity whether 
she speaks or writes, she neglects figures of 
speech where reason is in question, she under- 
stands that the truest eloquence is simplicity. 
If it be a matter of doing some one a service, of 
making your interests concur, leaving fine words 
and phrases to Elvira, who uses them on all 
occasions, Arthenice employs only sincerity, 
ardour, earnestness, and persuasion. She finds 
her chief pleasure in reading, and in conversing 
with persons of worth and reputation, and this 
not so much to be known to them, as to know 
them. She may be praised in advance for all 

97 G 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Perfect the wisdom which will one day be hers, and for 
Woman gu the merit which the future holds for her ; for 
possessing, with an unexceptional conduct, better 
intentions, and sure principles useful to those who, 
like her, are exposed to flattering attentions, and 
being of a retiring nature without being brusque, 
and even a little inclined to avoid society, she only 
wants opportunity, or, so to speak, a stage in 
order to display all her virtues." 



98 



THE COQUETTE 




THE COQUETTE 

^RGIRA pulls off her glove to show her 
beautiful hand, and never forgets to 
let her little shoe be seen that supposes 
a small foot. She laughs equally at 
things funny and serious, in order to show her 
fine set of teeth. If she shows her ears, it is 
because they are well formed. If she does not 
dance, it is because she is dissatisfied with her 
figure, which is indeed not of the slimmest. She 
understands all her points with the exception of 
one, that she is perpetually talking and lacks in- 
telligence. 



99 




LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE FASHIONABLE DANDY 

JjT church Iphis sees a new-fashioned 
shoe. He looks at his own and blushes 
for it, he cannot think himself dressed. 
He went to mass only to be seen, and 
now he hides himself, kept at home by the foot 
for the rest of the day. He has a soft hand and 
preserves it by using a scented paste. He takes 
care to laugh often in order to show his teeth, 
and is, indeed, perpetually smiling. He surveys 
his legs, looks at himself in the glass, and nobody 
could be more pleased with another than he is 
with himself. He has acquired a soft clear 
voice, and fortunately talks with fluency. He 
has a movement of the head, and a kind of 
expression in the eyes, both of which he does 
not neglect to use to the best advantage. 
His gait is slow, and his attitudes prettily 
studied. Occasionally he puts on a little rouge, 
but not habitually. It is true that he wears 
breeches and a hat, and that he has neither 
ear-rings nor necklace, therefore I have not put 
him in my chapter " of women." 



100 




THE EGOIST 



THE EGOIST 

jNATHON lives for nobody but himself, 
and for him the rest of the world are 
Bj^ P as if they were not. Not content 
with the best seat at table, he must 
take up the room of two others ; he forgets that 
dinner is for the rest of the company as well as 
for him. He lays hold of every dish, and must 
taste of them all before he can decide of which 
to eat. He makes himself at home wherever he 
may be, and whether at church or at the play 
behaves as if he were in his own room. When 
he drives, he must always sit backwards ; sitting 
forwards, he says, makes him feel faint. When 
he travels in company he goes before the rest 
into the inns, and picks out for himself the best 
room and the best bed and appropriates everything 
to his own use. His own servants, as well as 
those of others, hasten to serve him. He worries 
every one, puts himself out for none, pities none, 
recognizes no troubles but his own, no sufferings 
but his own, laments nobody's death, and to 
prevent his own would willingly consent to the 
extinction of mankind. 



lOI 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE MAN OF CONVENTION 

JARCISSUS rises in the morning to go 
H to bed at night, has a fixed hour for 
i his toilette like a woman, and attends 
mass regularly every day. He is 
good company, and may be counted on for a 
third or fifth at ombre or reversi. He sits for 
four hours together at Aricia's, where every 
evening he ventures his five or six pistoles. 
He never misses reading the newspapers, and 
is acquainted with the works of Cyrano de 
Bergerac and others, and some collections of 
poems. He accompanies ladies in the public 
promenades, and is religiously punctual in his 
visits^ He will do the same to-morrow as he 
has done to-day, and as he did yesterday, and 
he will die after having lived so. 



102 



THE RESIDUARY LEGATEE 




THE RESIDUARY LEGATEE 

ITIUS hears a will read with tearful eyes 
and swollen lids, and is overcome with 
grief at the loss of a friend by whose 
death he will inherit a fortune: one 
clause bestows on him the succession of a 
post, another house property, a third gives him 
a fine country estate, and a fourth makes him 
master of a richly-furnished house situated in 
the best part of Paris; his grief increases, the 
tears run down his cheeks. How can he refrain 
from weeping ? He has now an office, a town 
house, and a country house, both well furnished, 
he will be able to keep his carriage and a well- 
provided table. " Was there ever a more honest, 
a better man than my poor friend ?" But here is 
a codicil that must be read ; it makes Maevius 
residuary legatee, and sends Titius back to his 
garret without sinecure, horses, lands, or money. 
He dries his tears ; it is now the turn of Maevius 
to weep. 



103 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



, FOOLS 

l^r^^ FOOL is an automaton, a machine with 
[w'SilJl springs which turn him about always in 
li^^Mi,^ one manner, and preserve his equili- 
brium. He is ever the same, and never 
changes. If you have seen him once you have 
seen him at every moment and period of his life. 
He is at best but ^s the lowing ox or the whist- 
ling blackbird. He is fixed and obstinate, I may 
say, by nature. What appears least in him is 
his soul ; that has neither activity nor energy ; it 
reposes. 



104 



THE GREAT CONDE 




THE GREAT CONDE 

(iEmilius) 

EMILIUS was born what the greatest 
men do not become but by force of rules, 
study, and practice. He had no more 
to do in his early years than to give 
himself up to the bent of his natural talents and of 
his genius. He performed actions before he had 
gained knowledge, or rather he had knowledge 
without ever having learnt. Shall I say that his 
boyish games were so many victories ? It would 
make a life of brilliant success and great exploits 
only to have performed the actions of his youth. 
All the opportunities that have since offered for 
conquest he has embraced, and those which did 
not exist his virtue and his good fortune created, 
admirable alike for the things he did and for those 
which he could have done. He was looked on as 
a man incapable of yielding to an enemy, or of 
giving way under numbers of obstacles. He was 
regarded as a soul of a superior order, full oi 
resource and intelligence, and who saw more 
105 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The' Great than others, like him who at the head of legions 
Conde ^gg fQj. them a presage of victory, and who was 
in his single person worth several legions. He 
was great in prosperity, greater even in adversity ; 
the raising of a siege or a retreat have gained 
him more honour than his successes, such things 
come only second to battles won and towns 
taken. He was filled equally with glory and 
modesty. He has been heard to say '< I fled," 
with the same grace that he said "We beat 
them." He is devoted to the State, to his family 
and its head, true to God and man, as much 
an admirer of merit as if he had been himself less 
well acquainted with it, a man sincere, simple, 
magnanimous, in whom none of the virtues were 
wanting but the inferior ones. 



io6 



FONTENELLE 




FONTENELLE 

(Cydias) 

JSCANIUS is a statuary, Region a founder, 
Aeschines a fuller, and Cydias a wit. 
He has a sign, a workshop, commis- 
sions, and apprentices who work under 
him. It will be a month before you can have the 
stanzas he promised you, unless he breaks his 
word to Dosithea, who has ordered an elegy from 
him. He has also an idyll on the stocks for 
Grantor which is occupying him closely, and for 
which he expects generous remuneration. Prose, 
poetry, -what do you desire ? He is equally suc- 
cessful in both. Do you want letters of condo- 
lence, or about an absence, he will undertake 
them, or there are plenty ready-made if you will 
step into his shop and choose. He has a friend 
whose sole function on earth is to speak of him 
continually in society, and then to introduce him 
into houses as a man of rare gifts and exquisite 
conversation. And then like a singer or a lute- 
player in the presence of persons to whom he 
107 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Fontenelle has been talked of, Cydias, after coughing and 
smoothing his ruffles, stretching forth his hand 
and spreading his fingers, gravely utters his 
volatilized ideas and his sophisticated arguments. 
Differing from those who, agreeing in principle, 
and recognizing reason and truth, interrupt each 
other only to prove how their sentiments agree, 
he only opens his mouth to contradict. "It 
seems to me," he says condescendingly, " that it 
is just the reverse of what you say," or " I must 
differ from you," or " I was formerly under the 
same infatuation, but . . . there are three 
things," he adds, "to consider," and he never 
fails to bring forward a fourth. He is a rapid 
talker, whose first aim at coming into an assem- 
bly is to get among the women, that he may 
amaze them by exhibiting his wondrous talents. 
For whether he speaks or writes he must not be 
suspected of aiming at the presentment of truth 
or falsehood, reason or absurdity; he equally 
avoids agreeing with or holding a similar opinion 
to the rest. Thus he often waits until all the 
company have spoken their thoughts on some 
casual subject, not seldom introduced by himself, 
and then holds forth dogmatically, and as he 
imagines decisively and unanswerably, on entirely 
new themes. Cydias is the equal of Lucian and 
Seneca, ranks himself above Plato, Virgil, and 
Theocritus, and his flatterers confirm him every 
io8 



FONTENELLE 

day in that opinion. United in taste and interest Fontenelle 
with the detractors of Homer, he waits calmly 
until men shall be undeceived and shall prefer 
modern poets to him. In that case he ranks him- 
self at the head of the latter, and he knows to 
whom to adjudge the second place. In short he 
is a cross between a pedant and a pricieux, made 
to be admired by middle-class folk and provincials, 
a man in whom, nevertheless, nothing great is to 
be seen except the opinion he holds of himself. 



log 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



LA FONTAINE 



^fi5gji*ERE is a man who appears coarse, 
! ^^ ll heavy, stupid ; he is unable to speak of 
^^^ or describe what he may just have seen, 
but when he begins to write he is the 
model of story-tellers. He makes everything 
speak that does not speak, animals, trees, stones ; 
his works are full of lightness, elegance, good 
humour, and delicacy. 

He is more uniform than Marot, and more a 
poet than Voiture. He has the playfulness, the 
happy turn of phrase, the simplicity of both. He 
instructs while he jests, and persuades men to 
virtue by the organs of beasts. He confers 
sublimity on the meanest subject. Unique in 
his way of writing, always original whether he 
invents or translates, he surpasses his models, 
and is himself a model difficult 'to imitate. 



J 10 



A GOOD KING 




A GOOD KING 

HEN, towards sunset on a fine day, you 
see a large flock dispersed over a hillside, 
quietly grazing the wild thyme, or nibb- 
ling in a meadow the short tender grass 
that has escaped the reaper's scythe, the shepherd, 
careful and diligent, stands upright among his 
sheep ; he does not let them from his sight, he 
follows them, leads them, changes their pasture. 
If they go astray, he gathers them together 
again. If a hungry wolf approaches, he lets 
loose his dog, and so puts him to flight. He 
cherishes and protects them. At dawn he is 
already in the field, which he does not quit till 
sunset. What anxiety ! What vigilance ! What 
slavery ! Which condition appears the most 
free and desirable, that of the shepherd or the 
sheep ? Is the flock made for the shepherd, or 
the shepherd for the flock ? Here we have a real 
image of a king and his people, if he is a good 
king. 



Ill 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE PEOPLE 

CERTAIN wild animals, male and female, 
are to be seen spread over the land. They 
are dark-skinned, tanned by the sun, 
chained as it were to the earth which 
they dig and plough with invincible steadiness. 
They have something like an articulate voice, 
and when they stand erect, reveal a human face, 
and are, in fact, men. At night they retire into 
their burrows, where they live on black bread, 
water and roots. They spare other men the 
trouble of sowing, toiling and reaping for their 
sustenance, and thus deserve at least not to want 
the bread for which they themselves have 
toiled. 



112 



PICTURES OF NATURE 



PICTURES OF NATURE 

I. 

AM approaching a small town and am 
already on an eminence whence I can see 
it. It is situated on the hill- side, a river 
washes its walls and then winds through 
beautiful meadows, while a thick forest protects 
it from the cold north winds. The atmosphere 
is so clear that I can count its towers and 
steeples ; it looks as if painted on the slope of the 
hill. I am enchanted and exclaim : << How 
delightful it would be to live in so delicious a 
spot, under so serene a sky ! " I enter the town, 
and have not spent two nights there when I be- 
come like its inhabitants, and want to get out 
of it. 

II. 

Observe, Lucilius, that spot of earth so much 
more beautiful and pleasing than the land con- 
tiguous to it. Here are spaces of ground amid 
which are dispersed pools and fountains ; there, 
endless espalier walks which shelter you from 
113 H 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Pictures of the north wind. On one side is a thick wood 
Nature which affords you shade from the sun, and on 
another an enchanting view. Lower is a rivulet 
which once flowed in its hidden course between 
willows and poplars, and is now become a 
banked up canal. Spacious, cool avenues are 
lost in the distance, and announce to you the 
whereabouts of the house, which is surrounded 
byjwater. 



114 



TOWN'S IGNORANCE OF THE COUNTRY 




THE TOWN'S IGNORANCE OF THE 
COUNTRY 

jN the town people are brought up in total 
ignorance of, and a blamable indiffer- 
ence regarding, things of the country. 
They can scarcely distinguish between 
flax and hemp, wheat and rye, and either of those 
from barley, they only care for eating, drinking and 
dressing. It is useless to speak to inhabitants of 
a town of pastures, copses, aftermath and second 
crops, such terms are Greek to them. If you 
talk to some of them of weights, tariffs and the 
rate of interest ; to others of appeals, petitions, 
decrees and injunctions, they will eagerly listen. 
They know the world and what in it is least 
beautiful, and least pleasing. They know nothing 
about nature, her origins, her progress, her gifts 
and bounties. Their ignorance is often voluntary, 
and founded upon the conceit they have of their 
own vocations and talents. There is not a petti- 
fogger of them all who, sitting in his gloomy and 
smoky study, his mind full of dark chicanery, 
does not set himself higher than the labourer, 
"5 



the Country 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Town's who praises God, tills the earth, sows in due 
*?.1°r>^,^«.«?. season and gathers in rich harvests, and if at 
any time he hears talk of the first inhabitants of 
the earth, or of the patriarchs, with their rural 
and well-ordered lives, he is astonished that any 
one could have lived at a time when there were 
neither attorneys, nor counsellors, nor judges, 
nor solicitors ; neither does he understand how 
men could have done without the bar and 
lawyers' clerks and coffee-houses. 



ii6 




REALISM AND THE STAGE 



REALISM AND THE STAGE 

T is not sufficient that the morals of the 
stage shall not be bad, they should be 
decent and instructive. Some things are 
so low, so mean, so insipid and so insigni- 
ficant in themselves that it is not permitted to the 
poet to pay attention to them, nor possible for 
the spectators to be amused by them. The 
peasant or the drunkard may furnish some 
scenes for the farce-writer, but they scarcely 
enter into true comedy ; how then can they furnish 
the basis or the principal action of comedy ? 
" Such characters," you say, " are natural." 
By that rule, the audience would be pleased with 
a lackey whistling, or a drunkard snoring. 
Could anything be more natural ? It is the way 
of an effeminate fellow to get up late, spend part 
of the day at his toilet, look at himself in the 
glass, perfume himself, put on patches, receive 
notes and answer them. Bring that part on to 
the stage. The longer you make it last, one act, 
two acts, the more natural and true to its original 
it will be, but also the more insipid and dull. 



"7 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




TIME 

IVERY hour in itself is for each one of 
us unique ; once past, it has gone for 
ever, and not millions of ages will 
bring it back. Days, months, and 
years are fled away, and irrecoverably lost in 
the abysm of time. Time itself shall be de- 
stroyed ; it is but a point in the immense space of 
eternity, and it will be effaced. There are 
several light and frivolous circumstances of time 
which are unstable and pass away ; such I call 
fashions, greatness, favour, wealth, power, 
authority, independence, pleasure, gaiety, super- 
fluity. What will become of those fashions 
when time itself shall have disappeared ? Only 
virtue, so little the fashion, stretches beyond 
time. 



ii8 



A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY 



A MEMBER OF A MUTUAL ADMIRATION 
SOCIETY 

^T^^RSENES contemplates mankind from 
l^^\ffl the summit of self-conceit, and at the 
Jyl^tBii distance from which he beholds them, 
seems frightened at their littleness. 
Praised and extolled to the skies by a knot of 
persons who form a mutual admiration society, 
he thinks with the little merit he has to possess 
all that it is possible to have, all that he will never 
possess. Filled with sublime ideas, he scarcely 
finds time to pronounce a few oracles. Elevated 
by his character above human judgment he 
leaves to vulgar souls the merit of a regular, 
orderly life, and is only responsible for his in- 
consistencies to the circle of friends who wor- 
ship him ; they alone judge correctly, think cor- 
rectly, they alone write or ought to write. There 
is, indeed, no work of genius, however well re- 
ceived by the world, and universally liked by men 
of sense, which he approves, or which he would 
even condescend to read. He is incapable of 
being corrected by this portrait, which he will 
not read. 



119 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




BRIEF REFLEXIONS ON MEN AND 
THINGS 

IVERYTHING has been said, and we 
are come too late by the seven thousand 
years that men have lived and thought. 
The finest and best things about 
morality have already been appropriated, and 
nothing is left for us but to glean after the an- 
cients, and the cleverest of the modems. 

We must only seek to think and speak cor- 
rectly without desiring to lead others to our 
tastes and feelings ; that would be too large an 
undertaking. 

It is not so easy to make a name by an ex- 
cellent work, as to make an indifferent work 
valued through the name already acquired. 

There are some things that will not bear 
mediocrity ; poetry, music, painting, oratory. 

It is a sorry commendation that is made of a 
heap of epithets ; deeds and the manner of 
relating them speak a man's praise. 

120 



REFLEXIONS ON MEN AND THINGS 

The pleasure of criticism deprives us of that Brief Reflex- 
of being profoundly touched by the finest things. "'"^ °^ 

■-' It is a happiness to be nobly descended ; it is Things 
not a lesser happiness to have so much merit 
that nobody enquires whether you are so or not. 

A beautiful face is the most beautiful of all 
sights, and the sweetest music is the sound of 
the voice of her whom we love. 

Women are all extremes : they are either 
better or worse than men. 

Women exceed the generality of men in love, 
but men are their superiors in friendship. 

Most women judge of a man's merit and looks 
by the impression that they make on him, and 
very rarely allow either to a man who is 
indifferent to them. 

The woman who has her eyes constantly fixed 
on the same person, or who is always turning 
them from him, makes us conclude one and 
the same thing of her. 

It costs a woman little to tell what she does 
not feel, it costs a man still less to express what 
he does feel. 

There are few wives so perfect as not to give 
their husbands cause to repent of marriage at 

121 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Brief Reflex- least once a day, or to envy him who is un- 
ions on married. 
Men and 

Things The passionless woman is she who has not 

yet seen the man she is to love. 

Pure friendship is something that cannot be 
tasted by the mediocre. 

Love and friendship exclude each other. 

However fastidious we may be in love, we 
forgive more faults in love than in friendship. 

To be but in the company of those we love, 
satisfies us. It does not signify whether we 
speak to them or not, whether we think of them 
or of indifferent things : to be near them is all. 

That love can die is proof of man's limitations, 
and that the heart has its bounds. 

It is a weakness to love; it is sometimes 
another weakness to be cured of it. 

To be deprived of the person we love is happi- 
ness compared to living with one we hate. 

The things we most desire never happen, or 
if they happen, it is neither at the time nor under 
the circumstances when they would have given 
most pleasure. 

We must laugh before we are happy, for fear 
of dying before we have laughed. 

122 



REFLEXIONS ON MEN AND THINGS 

There are some places we admire, and others Brief Reflex- 

we love and where we should like to live. '°"^ °" 

Men and 

In the course of our lives there are some for- Things 

bidden pleasures and engagements so dear and 

tender that it is but natural at least to desire 

that they were allowed. Nothing can be more 

charming than they are except it be the pleasure 

of renouncing them by the strength of virtue. 

You cannot go far in friendship if you are not 
willing to forgive each other little failings. 

A king lacks nothing but the pleasures of 
private life : he can only be consoled for so great 
a loss by the charms of friendship and by the 
fidelity of his friends. 

There are some strange fathers who seem, 
during the whole course of their lives, to be pre- 
paring reasons why their children should be 
easily consoled at their deaths. 

The man who says he was not bom happy 
may at least become so through the happiness of 
his friends or relations. But envy robs him of 
that last resource. 

Take away passion, interest, injustice; what 
a calm there would be in the greatest cities! 
The necessaries of life do not occasion a third of 
the embarrassment. 

123 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Brief Reflex- If life be miserable, to live is painful ; if happy, 

ions on jQ jjg jg terrible. Both come to the same thing. 
Men and 

Things There are but three events which happen to 

mankind, birth, life and death. Of their birth 

they know nothing, they suffer when they die, 

and neglect to live. 

Children have neither past nor future, but what 
never happens with us, they enjoy the present. 

All our misfortunes proceed from our inability 
to be alone ; hence gaming, dissipation, wine, 
women, ignorance, slander, envy, neglect of God 
and ourselves. 

Instead of being frightened or ashamed at the 
name of philosopher, everybody ought to have 
a strong tincture of philosophy. It becomes 
every one ; its practice is useful to people of all 
ages, sexes and conditions ; it comforts us under 
the happiness of others, under unworthy pre- 
ferences, disappointments, the decay of our 
strength and beauty ; it arms us against poverty, 
old age, disease and death; against fools and 
buffoons ; it enables us to live without a wife, or 
to endure her with whom we live. 

All confidence is dangerous if it is not absolute. 
In most circumstances it is needful either to tell 
all or to conceal all. 

124 



VAUVENARGUES 



CLAZOMENES 




CHARACTERS 

CLAZOMENES, OR UNFORTUNATE 
VIRTUE 

!|LAZOMENES has experienced all the 
miseries of humanity. Disease took pos- 
session of him from his childhood, and 
deprived him in youth of all the pleasures 
of a young man. He had too his secret griefs, for 
despite his poverty, he possessed pride and ambi- 
tion. He saw himself in his misfortunes despised 
by those whom he loved. The insult undermined 
his courage, and he was wounded by those on 
whom he could not be revenged. His talents, his 
unceasing industry, his application to good works, 
could not soften his hard lot. His wisdom could 
not keep him from committing irreparable faults. 
He suffered the ills he did not deserve, and those 
induced by his imprudence. When fortune 
seemed to tire of persecuting him, when a too 
tardy hope began to alleviate his misery, 
death confronted him, surprising him at a 
period when his affairs were in the greatest dis- 
127 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Clazomenes, order. He had the bitter pain of not leaving 
.. , °5 behind him property enough to pay his debts ; he 

could not save his virtue from that blot. If a 



Virtue 



reason for so cruel a destiny is sought, I think it 
would be difficult to find one. Is there any use 
in asking why very skilful gamblers are ruined at 
play while other men make their fortunes at it ? 
Or why we see years without spring or autumn 
in which the fruits of the year wither in their 
blossoms? However, we must not think that 
Clazomenes would have wished to exchange his 
misery for the prosperity of weak men. Fortune 
can make sport of the wisdom of brave men, but 
it is not in her power to break their courage. 



128 



PHERECIDES 




PHERECIDES, OR AMBITION 
DECEIVED 

jHERECIDES sacrificed a mediocre for- 
tune to hopes that were scarcely wise. 
He entered on several careers at the 
same time, and not understanding how 
to curb his desires he trusted too implicitly to his 
ambition and his courage. He persists that cir- 
cumstances and the world were against him. 
He thought a man could control his own destiny, 
and that it depended neither on his position nor 
on the waywardness of human affairs. He over- 
taxed his strength, he relied unsuccessfully on 
his own resources, he could not overcome 
adversity. He saw his equals leave the ranks 
and by various chances pass him in the race. 
Some owed their advance to gambling, others to 
rich inheritances, others again to the favour of the 
great, or to quite frivolous talents, but talents 
loved of the world ; others again succeeded by 
dancing well, by the possession of pleasing fea- 
tures, beautiful hair or fine teeth. Pherecides com- 
mitted an irreparable fault, he wished to hasten 
129 I 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Pherecides, his destiny. He neglected the means that 

. °r. would have led to fortune slowly and gradu- 

Ambition „ , . , , , ^ , . 

Deceived y' "^* perhaps surely. Instead of applying 

himself with unceasing industry to one object, 
he aimed too high and cultivated no special 
talent. The great advantages he sought made 
him despise the small ones within his reach and 
he obtained neither. The haughty disposition 
that he vainly tried to conceal, deprived him of 
the assistance of men in office, so that the 
elevation of his soul, his mind and his merit 
were harmful to his advancement and his aims. 
Had he expected less of his resources, he would 
have better proportioned his hopes and his 
actions to his circumstances ; mature and 
moderate minds do not force their future, they 
proportion their enterprises to their circum- 
stances, they await their fortune from events, 
and sometimes win it without trouble. But it is 
one of the illusions of youth to believe that every- 
thing can be done by our own strength and 
intelligence, and to desire to rise by our own 
industry, or by paths that merit alone cannot 
open to men without fortune. Pherecides was 
reduced to regret the very advantages he had 
despised. The people he wished to excel found 
themselves naturally above him, and no one 
pitied his misfortunes or deigned to discover 
their cause. 

130 



CYRUS 




CYRUS, OR THE UNQUIET MIND. 

^YRUS hid, under a simple and calm 
exterior, an eager, unquiet mind. Out- 
wardly he had the insensibility and 
indifference which so often cover a 
wounded soul, greatly taken up with itself. 
More unquiet in repose than in action, his stir- 
ring, ambitious mind keeps him busy without 
relaxation, and when he has no business he tires 
and spends himself in reflection. Too free and 
too bold in his ideas to set bounds to his passions, 
readier to love strong vices than feeble virtues, 
he follows all his feelings with independence, 
and like a man who believes himself master of 
his fate and is only responsible to himself for 
his conduct, he subordinates all rules to his 
instinct. He lacks those insignificant talents 
which raise mediocre men in inferior circum- 
stances, men who have not to contend with such 
serious passions. He is above the reputation 
gained by frivolous attractions, and the fortune 
which shuts a man up in the precincts of a town 
or small province, the ordinary outcome of a 
131 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Cyrus, or somewhat narrow wisdom. He is eloquent, 
"^^^Jr "'^"^^^ simple, vehement, profound, discerning, and im- 
penetrable even to his friends. Endowed with 
insight into men, exhibiting without envy the merit 
of others, and relying on his own, he is insinuating 
and bold, equally suited to persuade by force of 
reason or by the charms of seduction. He is fer- 
tile and powerful in resources for making facts 
and minds bend to his purposes ; he is sincere by 
character, but makes an artifice of the truth, and 
is more dangerous when he speaks the truth than 
deceivers are by their subterfuges and falsehoods. 
He is one of those men whom other men mis- 
understand, whom the mediocrity of their fortune 
disguises and degrades, and whom only prosperity 
could develop and put in their right place. 



132 



TITUS 




TITUS, OR ENERGY 

■ ITUS rises without assistance, and with- 
out a fire during the winter. When the 
servants come into his room they find on 
his table a pile of letters that he has writ- 
ten by candle-light ready for the post. He begins 
several pieces of work at once and finishes them 
with incredible speed ; his impatient genius does 
not permit him to polish them. Whatever he 
undertakes, it is impossible for him to linger over 
it ; if he put any matter aside, he would feel un- 
easy until he was able to take it up again. 
Although occupied with affairs of so serious a 
nature, he is to be met in society, just like 
any idle man. He does not confine himself 
to one sort of society, but cultivates several sorts 
at the same time, and maintains relations with 
numerous persons, both within and without the 
kingdom. He has travelled, he has written, he 
has been at Court and at the wars ; he excels in 
several callings, and knows both men and books. 
He has enjoyed all sorts of pleasures but has not 
on that account neglected his business. He 
133 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Titus, employs the time spent in society in forming 
or Energy intrigues, and cultivating his friends. He does 
not understand how people can talk for the sake 
of talking, or act only in order to be doing some- 
thing, and it is evident that his mind suffers when 
necessity or politeness uselessly put a curb on it. 
If he seeks pleasure, he does not take less trouble 
about that than about more serious matters, and 
the employment thus given to his mind is more 
important to him than the particular pleasure he 
pursues. In sickness, or in health he preserves 
the same energy. He prosecutes a law suit on 
a day on which he has taken physic ; another 
time, he composes verses with a fever on him, 
and when his friends beg him to take care of 
himself, " Eh! " he says, " how can I just now ? 
Just look at the business with which I am over- 
whelmed," although, to be exact, he has no 
business that is not purely voluntary. Prostrated 
by a dangerous illness, he had himself dressed 
so that he might put his papers in order. He 
remembered how Vespasian desired to die 
standing. 



134 



PHOCAS 




PHOCAS, OR FALSE ECCENTRICITY 

JLL that is false displeases and wounds 
us in whatever shape it presents it- 
self. Since men , compliant by preference 
and intention, embrace without selection 
the ideas of everybody, who would believe that 
others exist who pride themselves in not thinking 
like any one else thinks, and in not borrowing 
their opinions from any one? Never speak of 
eloquence to Phocas, or, if you wish to please him, 
do not mention Cicero, for he will immediately 
eulogize Abdallah, Abutaleb and Mahomet, and 
assure you that nothing equals the sublimity of 
the Arabs. If some old comedy, the author of 
which is long since forgotten, is revived on the 
stage, it is that piece which he admires and prefers 
before all ; he finds the plot ingenious, and the 
poetry and the situations inimitable. If war is 
the topic, you must not speak to him of Turenne 
or the great Conde ; he places far above them 
135 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Phocas, or certain ancient generals about whom only their 

False names and one or two disputed battles are 

Eccentricity , t i- ^ • -r 

known. In fact, on every occasion, if you 

mention two great men, be sure that he will always 
choose the least famous for his hero. In all re- 
spects one of the most mediocre of men, he stupidly 
thinks to make himself original by means of 
affectation and he aims at nothing more. He 
avoids agreeing with anybody, and disdains to 
speak to the point, provided he speaks differently 
from the rest. He studies in puerile fashion to 
be incoherent in his talk like a man who only 
thinks and speaks by sudden inspirations and 
flashes. Tell him seriously a serious thing, he 
will reply by a jest ; speak to him of frivolous 
things, he will begin a serious discourse. He 
disdains to contradict, but he continually inter- 
rupts, and often, instead of answering you, turns 
away his eyes like a man in profound thought ; 
he has an absent-minded far-away air, and a dis- 
dainful expression of countenance. His part is to 
appear dominated by his imagination, and to pay 
no heed to the intelligence of others. He wishes 
to make you understand that nothing you can say 
has any interest for him because he is too far 
above your ideas. His conversation, his manners, 
his love, even his silence, warn you that you can 
say nothing that is new to a man who thinks and 
feels as he does. He is a feeble-minded man who, 
136 



PHOCAS 

disbelieving that merit can advance him, thinks to Phocas, or 

impress humanity by his affectations, and to be „ J^a^o^ 

, , ... , . . . . . Eccentricity 

taken for an original merely by throwing aside 

reason. 



137 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THEOPHILUS, OR THE PROFOUND MIND 

' HEOPHILUS was imbued from his youth 
with the great and praiseworthy curi- 
osity of knowing mankind and the vari- 
ous characters of nations ; but, in 
pursuing that object, he did not neglect the men 
with whom he had to pass the greatest part of 
his hfe, for he did not resemble those who under- 
take long journeys in order to see, so they say, 
other manners, and who have never examined 
those of their own country. Urged by this 
powerful instinct, and perhaps also by some 
more secret ambition, he spent his best 
days in study and travel, and his life, always 
laborious, was always unquiet. Endowed by 
nature with extraordinary, profound, and clear 
penetration, he never speaks without a purpose, 
and his is no mind to cause weariness ; his keen 
and active intelligence early caused him to apply 
himself to great affairs and solid eloquence ; his 
words are simple, but bold and forcible ; he some- 
times speaks with a freedom that cannot do him 
any hurt, but which turns aside a defiant spirit in 
138 



THEOPHILUS 

others. Nature placed in his heart the desire of Theophilus, 
insinuating himself and descending into the hearts °*" *® ^5°" 
of men who inspire and teach the hidden seduc- 
tions of eloquence; yet he seems a man who 
does not seek to penetrate others, but who 
follows the vivacity of his humour. When he 
wishes to make a reserved man speak he contra- 
dicts him violently in order to rouse him, and 
insensibly engages him in talk in which he is 
obliged to reveal himself ; even if he use dissimu- 
lation, his dissimulation and his silence have a 
meaning for Theophilus, who knows the things his 
interlocutor hides, and profits almost equally by 
candour and dissimulation, by indiscretion and 
silence, so difficult is it to escape him. He mani- 
pulates and plays a mind, turns over its pages just 
as we glance through a book we have in our hands, 
and which we open at a passage that pleases us ; 
and this he does with such an air of innocence, 
with so little preparation, and so rapidly that those 
whom he has surprised by his words flatter them- 
selves that they read his most secret thoughts. As 
he never wastes time in unnecessary talking, nor 
makes false steps, nor useless preparations, he is 
able to shorten the most contentious matters, the 
most difficult negotiations, and his flexible genius 
lends itself to every kind of character without 
abandoning his own. He is the affectionate 
friend, the father, the adviser and confidant of 
139 



Theophilus, 
or the Pro- 
found Mind 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

those who surround him. We find in him a man 
simple, without ostentation, familiar, popular. 
When we have been talking to him for an hour 
we think we know him, but his talent is to lay 
bare the characters of others and to conceal his 
own. Theophilus is a proof that skilfulness is not 
solely an art, as false men imagine it to be ; a vivid 
imagination, great sense, an eloquent soul, easily 
subjugate the most guarded and defiant minds, 
and a superior intelligence conceals thoughts 
much more surely than do falsehood and dis- 
simulation, always useless as trickery against 
prudence. 



140 



VARUS 




VARUS, OR LIBERALITY 

jjARUS hates useless luxury and purpose- 
less profusion. He dresses simply, 
goes afoot, likes order in his affairs, and 
retires at times into the country so as 
to spend less. But he is kind to those who are 
unfortunate, liberal and lavish where the interests 
of his fortune are concerned, grateful for the 
slightest service, and considerate towards all who 
suffer. If he has to give money to a man who 
makes no ceremony about receiving it, who is 
besides poor and of low rank, Varus's only fear 
is of giving it him in a manner that might 
make him feel his position. He embraces him, 
shakes hands with him, in a way apologizes for his 
kind deed. He says that between friends every- 
thing is in common, and such kindly conduct 
raises the soul of the poor man so that he in his 
turn apologizes for the poverty that compels him 
to ask assistance. Varus replies : " My friend, 
mankind has only attached shame to receiving in 
order to avenge themselves for the shame they 
have in giving ; but, believe me, more generosity 
is required for accepting a friend's help than for 
141 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Varus, or giving it him." Varus has everything that money 
Liberahty ^^^^ procure, and deserves to be sought out ; for 
at need on important occasions he borrows, and 
he never hesitates to put himself out in order to 
satisfy himself, if need be, or to satisfy his friends. 
As he was not born rich he is reduced to owe 
largely, but he is never unpunctual in his pay- 
ments. He pays at the date fixed, and all purses 
are open to him because his probity is known and 
his orderly conduct makes him seem quite at ease 
when he is most involved. In that way he has 
sufficient for his gifts and his own kind heart. 
But if any one, hearing his generosity talked of, 
attempts to make a dupe of him, after the manner 
of rascals who always think themselves cleverer 
than honest men. Varus, who can penetrate the 
most secret thoughts, and who knows mankind 
well, easily sees through the rascal's purpose, 
and takes delight in playing with him. Instead 
of giving him time to state his demand, he is first, 
and says : " Well, my friend, you are out very 
early to- day. Have you some important business 
on hand ? Are you by any chance seeking an 
honest money lender ? You'll have a vast deal 
of trouble to find him, I assure you. I know 
people who have been wanting a hundred pistoles 
for the last three weeks, and can't find them, 
even with good interest." The rascal, ashamed 
and confused at being found out — for the best 
142 



VARUS 

way to unmask a man who is prepared is to be Varus, or 
beforehand with him— replies that in truth he has Liberality 
lost large sums at cards the last few days, but, 
fortunately, he has been able to pay off his debts. 
Glad to have baffled him. Varus pretends to be- 
lieve him, and treats him with the utmost civility. 
They are already risen and near the door when 
the borrower, beginning to regret his feeling of 
shame, and who is besides somewhat reassured 
by Varus's manner, says : " I regret that I did 
pay So-and-so for I haven't a crown left ; if you 
could possibly lend me four pistoles, I will return 
them to-morrow morning. " What !" exclaims 
Varus, " can a man like you possibly be in want 
of four pistoles ? How have you let yourself 
come to that pass ? What's the use of possessing 
such intelligence ? What do you do with it ? 
How doyou employ it ?" " I don't exactly know, 
but you would be doing me a great favour if you 
would lend me those four pistoles." '< Oh ! as to 
that, my dear fellow, it's quite impossible, for it 
was of rnyself I was speaking just now. I have 
been seeking money for the last month, and it is 
a consolation to find that a man like you is in 
equally low water." Then he accompanies him 
to the door, overwhelms him with those protesta- 
tions that rascals are so fond of employing and 
are always so surprised to find in the mouths of 
honest folk. 

143 



LA BRUYERE AND VA UVENARGUES 




ACESTES, OR YOUNG LOVE 

YOUNG man who is in love for the first 
time in his life is no more a libertine, 
nor dissipated, nor ambitious ; all his 
passions are suspended, one alone fills 
his heart. If, perchance, he finds himself at a 
concert where the music is passionate, the sym- 
phony alone moves him without any accompani- 
ment of words ; tears are seen to flow from his 
eyes, and he is compelled to leave the assembly 
in which he is not at ease and shut himself up 
at home ; he turns aside from those he meets, 
he wishes to hide his tears. Sitting at his table, 
he begins a letter, and tears it up, he strides up 
and down his room, mutters incoherent words ; 
he is no longer himself, no one recognizes him. 
Acestes idolizes a woman by whom he believes 
himself loved in return. He sees her in his 
sleep, speaks to her, listens to her, and thinks 
she listens to him. He dreams that he is 
travelling alone with her through a wood, over 
rocks and burning sand; they reach a land of 
savages ; the people crowd round them and 
144 



ACESTES 

enquire with curiosity about their fortunes. Acestes, or 
Another time he dreams that he is in a battle, Young Love 
and that, covered with wounds and glory, he is 
about to die in his mistress's arms ; for a young 
man's imagination easily produces all the 
chimeras that our romancers only compose after 
many wakeful nights. Acestes is timid with his 
mistress ; although the bloom of youth is still on 
his countenance he is uneasy when he is with 
her. He forgets when he sees her what he had 
prepared to say to her ; but sometimes he speaks 
to her without preparation, with that fire and 
impetuosity which the most poignant and 
eloquent of the passions inspire ; he has a 
torrent of words at once strong and tender ; he 
draws tears from this woman who loves another ; 
then he throws himself at her feet and demands 
pardon for offences he has not committed. At 
length his charm and sincerity prevail over the 
vows of a rival less affectionate than he, and love, 
time, caprice, reward so pure a passion. He re- 
turns home preoccupied and saddened ; love brings 
goodness into an innocent and sensitive heart ; 
suspicion, envy, interest, hatred, have no place 
in a loving happy heart. Acestes' s joy, transport, 
silence and distraction cannot be described. All 
who depend on him share in his happiness ; his 
servants whom he ordered to await him at home 
are not there ; Acestes by nature quick tempered 
145 K 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Acestes, or and impatient, is not angry, and when, apologizing 
Young Love foj. ^j^eir late arrival, they come, he tells them 
that they did vu-ell to amuse themselves, and that 
he would be sorry to spoil any one's pleasure. 
Then if some poor wretch approaches him, 
Acestes gives him his purse, for pity accom- 
panies love, and says to him " I am only too happy 
to be able to alleviate your woes ; if all men would 
help each other, there would be none unfortunate ; 
but the frightful and inexorable hardness of rich 
men causes them to retain everything for 
themselves, and thus it is avarice alone 
which causes all the miseries of the earth." 
Acestes only prides himself on being good ; he 
forgives his enemies, he goes to see a man who 
wished to injure him. "Happy," says he, "are 
those who have passions that render them less 
hard-hearted, less arrogant, less fastidious, less 
conventional ! Oh ! if men could always be affec- 
tionate, generous, modest!" While he is busied 
with these reflections, some young men of his 
acquaintance laugh at the passion by which he 
is consumed, and above all at his fine ideas about 
love. He replies : " Thank God, I have not 
learnt to despise the love which pleases me, in 
order to diminish my pleasures. I esteem human 
things because I am a man, and do not pride 
myself on finding in my imagination the things I 
find more easily in nature. Interest, vanity, 
146 



ACESTES 

ambition, may possibly some day dry up my Acestes, or 
heart and cause the natural feeling in it to perish, Young Love 
but at least I need not go to meet that mis- 
fortune. Do you then think yourselves more 
clever to be undeceived so early about the so- 
called illusions of youth ? You have grown old, 
my friends, before your time and without having 
enjoyed nature ; you are already disgusted with 
its pleasures. I pity you, for it is an error to 
seek otherwhere than in feeling what neither 
intellect nor custom, neither art nor science, can 
supply." 



147 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

MAN of the world is not he who best 
knows other men, who has the most 
foresight or skill in affairs, who is best 
informed either through experience or 
study. He is neither a good economist nor a 
man of learning, nor a politician, nor an intelli- 
gent officer, nor a hard-working magistrate ; he 
is a man who is ignorant of nothing, yet who 
knows nothing, who, plying his own calling, 
whatever it may be, very ill, thinks himself 
capable of carrying on that of others very well. 
He is possessed of much useless wit; he can say 
flattering things that do not flatter, and sensible 
things that do not instruct ; he can convince no 
one although he speaks well. For he is endowed 
with the sort of eloquence which creates trifles 
or brings them into prominence, and only 
succeeds in crushing great subjects. He is as 
acute regarding the absurdity and outward 
seeming of men as he is blind to their depth of 
mind. He is rich in words and in all outward 
things, and, unable to take the lead by good 
148 



THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

sense, is compelled to make an appearance by The Man of 
eccentricity ; and dreading to be tiresome by *"® World 
reason, is tiresome by his inconsequence and 
digressions. He is cheerful without being gay, 
and vivacious without being passionate. He has 
need of constant change of place and aims, and 
cannot make up for his lack of depth by the 
variety of his amusements. If several persons 
of that character meet together, and some game 
cannot be arranged, such men, although they teem 
with wit, have not enough of it to keep up a half- 
hour's conversation, even with the ladies, or to pre- 
vent their being greatly bored with each other. All 
the facts, all the news, all the jests, all the re- 
flexions are exhausted in a moment. He who is 
not occupied in playing cards is obliged to look 
on at the game so as not to find himself by the 
fire-side with another man to whom he has 
nothing to say, All those amiable persons who 
have banished reason from their talk clearly 
demonstrate how little it is to be dispensed 
with. False things may supply conversation 
that pricks the mind's surface, but only true 
things penetrate the heart, create interest, and 
are never exhausted. 



149 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 



THE PROFICIENT IN THE ART OF 
DEALING WITH MANKIND 



E who knows men and understands how 
to deal with them has no need of the 
vulgar artifices of flattery in order to 
win hearts. He is candid, ingenious, 
and friendly ; he does not display a vain pomp 
of expression, nor does he adorn his conversation 
with figures of speech that would only serve to 
show ofT his own intelligence without interesting 
other people. Wherever he may chance to 
meet him, at table, on a journey, at the play, 
in a minister's waiting room, or at the prince's 
palace, if he finds himself in the company of a 
man likely to listen to him, he joins him, gains 
influence over him, persuades him by appealing 
to the serious and sensitive side of his mind, 
forces him to open his heart, excites and awakes 
in him passions and interests that were dormant 
or that he did not recognize, foresees or guesses his 
thoughts, and winds himself in a moment into 
his entire confidence. Thus he can win those 
whom he does not know, as he can preserve the 
150 



SAVOIR VIVRE 

regard of those he has already won. He enters The Pro- 

so deeply into the character of his interlocutor, "cient in the 
L , , . . . , . ' Art of Deal- 

what he says to him is so nicely proportioned ^^„ •with 

to his thoughts and feelings, that where others Mankind 
would comprehend nothing, or take no pleasure, 
he understands all. Thus he prefers a tite-d.-tete ; 
but if circumstances compel him to speak before 
several persons of varying manners or opinions, 
or if he has to decide between two men who do 
not agree, since he knows the different sides of 
human affairs, since he can exhaust the for and 
against of every subject, and set all in the best 
light and reconcile opposite views, he quickly 
seizes the hidden point by which diverse opinions 
may be reconciled, and his conclusion is of such 
a nature that none of those who submitted them- 
selves to his counsel can object to it. He does 
not know how to shine at a supper party or in 
a scrappy, interrupted conversation, where each 
speaker follows the vivacity of his imagination 
or humour without reflexion, but the art of 
pleasing and dominating in serious conversation, 
gentle acquiescence, and the charms of attractive 
intercourse, are the amiable gifts which nature 
has accorded him. He is the most eloquent 
man in the world when it is a question of 
softening a haughty mind, or of rousing a 
weak one, of consoling an unhappy man, or 
of inspiring a timid and reserved one with 
151 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Pro- courage and confidence. He knows how to 
ncient in the soften, conquer, convince, rouse, according to 
ine with need ; he has the sort of mind which serves to 
Mankind rule men's hearts, and which is suited for any- 
thing of which the end is noble, useful, great. 



152 



BRUTUS AND A ROMAN YOUTH 




DIALOGUE 
BRUTUS AND A ROMAN YOUTH 

The Young Man : 

ILLUSTRIOUS shade, deign to show me 

affection. You were my model so long 

as I lived ; like you I was ambitious, 

I tried to imitate your other virtues. 

Fortune was against me, I have foiled its hatred, 

I have escaped its severity by killing myself. 

Brutus : 
You made that decision very young, my 
friend. Had you no resources left in the world ? 

The Young Man: 

I thought none remained to me except chance, 
and I could not wait. 

Brutus : 
What right had you to expect anything of for- 
tune ? Did you come of a noble house ? 

The Young Man: 
My birth was lowly ; I desired to ennoble my- 
self by virtue and fame. 
153 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Dialogue Brutus : 

What means did you take to raise yourself ? 
for surely you had not merely a vague desire to 
make your fortune without striving for a special 
object. 

Tke Young Man : 

I hoped to advance by my intelligence and 
courage ; I felt that I possessed a lofty mind. 

Brutus : 
And so you cultivated some talent ? For you 
knew that no man gets on by magnanimity unless 
he is in a position to develop it in great affairs ? 

The Young Man : 
I knew the human heart a little ; I understood 
the spirit of finesse and skilful management ; I 
hoped to make myself master of the minds of 
other men ; by that means a man can attain any- 
thing. 

Brutus : 

Yes, if you are already some way advanced in 
your career, and acquainted with the great. 
But what had you done towards obtaining your 
end and making yourself known ? Had you dis- 
tinguished yourself in the wars ? 

The Young Man : 
I conducted myself with coolness in all dangers, 
154 



BRUTUS AND A ROMAN YOUTH 

and I did my duty. But I had little taste for the Dialogue 
details of my occupation. I thought I should 
have done better in high affairs, but I neglected 
to make a reputation in lower ones. 

Brutus : 

And you believe that this talent of yours for 
high affairs would be guessed if you showed it 
in lower ones ? 

The Young Man : 

That is exactly what I did imagine, illustrious 
shade, for I had no experience of life, and no 
one had instructed me in the ways of the world. 
I had not been brought up for fortune. 

Brutus : 
Had you cultivated the art of eloquence ? 

The Young Man : 

I cultivated it as far as the occupation of war 
permitted. I loved literature and poetry, but all 
that was useless under the rule of Tiberius, who 
only cared for politics, and, in his old age, 
despised the arts. At Rome eloquence no 
longer led to honours ; it was a talent quite 
useless for making a man's fortune, and there 
was scant opportunity for practising it. 
155 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Dialogue Brutus : 

You should have devoted yourself to the things 
that would render you agreeable to your master, 
and useful to your country under the conditions 
in which it then was. 

The Young Man ; 
I recognized the truth of what you say, but I 
discovered it too late, and I killed myself to punish 
myself for my faults. 

Brutus : 
Your faults are not unpardonable, my friend. 
You did not take the right road to fortune : but 
you might have succeeded by other means, since 
thousands have got on without merit and with- 
out calculable industry. You are too hard on 
yourself : like the generality of men you judge of 
your conduct by its success. 

The Young Man : 
It is a sweet consolation, oh great shade ! that 
you should make excuses for me. I never dared 
to open my heart to any one so long as I lived. 
You are the first to whom I have confessed my 
ambition, and who has pardoned my ill fortune. 

Brutus : 
Alas ! if I had known you in the world I 
should have tried to console you in your mis- 
156 



BRUTUS AND A ROMAN YOUTH 

fortunes. I see that you lack neither virtue, nor Dialogue 
intelligence, nor courage. In more favourable 
times you would have made your fortune, for you 
have a Roman heart. 

The Young Man : 
If that is so, my dear Brutus, I do not regret 
my misfortune. Fortune is partial and unjust ; 
it is not a great evil to miss it when we feel cer- 
tain that we deserved it. And when it is attained 
unworthily and by an unjust title, it matters 
little, for then it only serves to make greater 
faults, and to increase vices. 



157 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 



HEGESIPPUS 



EGESIPPUS passes rapidly from violent 
feeling to its opposite, and his passions 
are exhausted by their own vivacity. 
Feeble and strong, encouraged by the 
least success and thrown into consternation by 
the least misfortune, excessive joy soon throws 
him into sadness, hope into despair ; and hate once 
satisfied awakes in him the extreme of pity. He 
is subject to repent without proportion things 
which he desired and executed without modera- 
tion. Quick to grow excited, he cannot exist in 
indifference. When he lacks anything his ardent 
imagination occupies him secretly with the 
objects his heart demands, and all his schemes 
are as extreme as his feelings. He esteems little 
what he does not desire or admire, and what he 
does not regard with passion he considers to be 
without interest. He passes swiftly from one 
idea to another, and he exhausts in a moment 
the feeling that sways him, but no one enters 
with more truth into the personage whom his 
passions make him deceive, and he is almost sin- 
158 



HEGESIPPUS 

cere in his tricks because he feels, in spite of him- Hegesippus 
self, all that he desires to feign. He is the least 
suited for affairs that demand sequence and 
patience ; he becomes attached to people and dis- 
gusted with them most promptly, urges a single 
interest very vivaciously, but is entirely incapable 
of conducting several at a time. He either en- 
tirely neglects little things or worries himself 
absurdly over them ; he has the greatest confi- 
dence in himself and his schemes, but his imagina- 
tion far outstrips his powers of execution. He is 
destined by nature to commit great faults because 
he imagines too vividly and undertakes too 
rashly what he has conceived with transport. 
He possesses, however, real and lofty courage, 
which makes him take up from reflexion affairs 
of which he despairs by feeling. Sometimes he is 
rebuffed by the slightest obstacles, but does not 
generally succumb to the greatest. Intrepid in 
despair, he counteracts the changefulness of his 
humour by resolution and prudence ; he even de- 
rives virtues from his weakness, and repairs the 
inequalities of his heart by the wisdom of his mind. 
Equable minds are often mediocre, and we must 
learn to esteem those men who by sudden fits 
succeed in raising themselves to all the virtues 
although they cannot long remain there. Their 
heart goes out towards generosity, courage, 
pity, and immediately yields to opposite im- 

159 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Hegesippus pulses. Such virtues are not false for being 
sudden, they sometimes go farther towards 
heroism than moderation and wisdom, which, 
more subject to common laws, have neither the 
vigour nor the boldness that is the sign of 
independence. 



i6o 



THE INCONSTANT MAN 




THE INCONSTANT MAN 

1UCH a man seems really to possess more 
than one character. A powerful imagi- 
nation makes his soul take the shape of 
all the objects that affect it; he sud- 
denly astonishes the world by acts of generosity 
and courage which were never expected of him, 
the image of virtue inflames, elevates, softens, 
masters his heart, he receives the impressions of 
the greatest examples and surpasses them. But 
when his imagination has grown cold his courage 
droops, his generosity sinks, and the vices 
opposed to those virtues take possession of his 
mind and soul, and after reigning there supreme 
for a short space yield to other objects. The 
actions of men of that character have no rele- 
vance one with another, they do not resemble 
each other any more than their thoughts, which 
vary ceaselessly ; they possess, in some sort, in- 
spiration. He who trusts in their words and 
their friendship lacks prudence ; they are not 
deceitful, but they are inconstant. We cannot 
say that they have a great or a strong or a weak 
i6i L 



LA BRUtERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

The Incon- or a light nature ; it is a swift and imperious 
stant wan imagination reigning supreme over their whole 
being which subjugates their genius and which 
prescribes for them in turn the great deeds and 
the faults, the heights and the littlenesses, the 
enthusiasms and disgusts, in short, all the differ- 
ent lines of conduct which we wrongly ascribe to 
hypocrisy or folly. 



i6a 



LYCAS 




LYCAS, OR THE FIRM MAN 

O a self-reliant, bold, and imperious nature 
Lycas unites a spirit of reflexion and 
profundity which moderates the coim- 
sels of his passions, which leads him by 
impenetrable motives, and causes him to advance 
to his ends by a variety of roads. He is one of 
those long-sighted men who consider events from 
afar, who always finish any design they have 
begun, who, in order to attain their end, know 
how to yield or to resist at the right moment, 
who are capable, I will not say of dissembling a 
misfortune or an offence, but of raising themselves 
above it instead of allowing themselves to be de- 
pressed by it. They are deep natures, independ- 
ent by their firmness in suffering all, in daring 
all ; who, whether they resist their inclinations 
through foresight or whether from pride and a 
secret consciousness of their resources, they defy 
what is called prudence, always in good as in 
evil cheat the most acute conjectures, so greatly 
does their habit of being master of themselves 
lead them to display what of their character or 
their ruling passions they desire to let others see. 

163 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 




REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

T is easier to say new things than to 
reconcile those which have already 
been said. 

Clearness is the ornament of deep thought. 

Obscurity is the kingdom of error. 

Where an author often errs is in believing that 
he can express things exactly as he sees or feels 
them. 

We should be more tolerant of the ideas con- 
tained in a piece of writing if we conceived them 
in the same way as their author. 

We rarely fathom another's thoughts ; conse- 
quently if it happens that later a similar reflexion 
occurs to us, so many sides does it present which 
had escaped us that we are easily persuaded it is 
new. 

To praise moderately is always a sign of 
mediocrity. 

164 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

Rapid fortunes of any kind are the least solid, Reflexions 
because they are rarely the result of merit. The *"^ Maxims 
perfect but laborious outcome of prudence is 
always of tardy growth. 

Prosperity makes few friends. 

Sometimes a lengthened period of prosperity 
melts away in a moment ; just as the heat of 
summer flies before a day of tempest. 

Courage has more resources against misfor- 
tune than has reason. 

Reason and independence are incompatible 
with weakness. 

War is less burdensome than servitude. 

Servitude degrades men even to making them 
love it. 

Before attacking an abuse we must And out if 
its foundations can be destroyed. 

We have no right to render miserable those 
whom we cannot render good. 



No one can be just who is not humane. 
165 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions Some authors regard morality in the same 
and Maxims ygj^t ^g ^g regard modern architecture. Con- 
venience is the first thing to be looked for. 

No one likes to be pitied for his faults. 

The tempests of youth are mingled with days 
of brilliant sunshine. 

Women and young people do not distinguish 
their esteem from their inclinations. 

Habit is everything — even in love. 

Few passions are constant, but many are 
sincere. 

It is proof of a narrow mind when things 
worthy of esteem are distinguished from things 
worthy of love. Great minds naturally love 
whatever is worthy of their esteem. 

When we feel that we lack the wherewithal to 
secure a certain man's esteem, we come very 
near hating him. 

Pleasures teach princes to recognize their 
genus- 

The man who can render his wealth useful, 
practises a great and noble economy^ 
i66 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

Fools do not understand men of intelligence. Reflexions 

and Maxims 
A man can hardly be said to have made a for- 
tune if he does not know how to enjoy it. 

To attain fortune, you must act warily. You 
must be supple and amusing. You must be 
concerned in plots and yet offend no one ; you 
must make yourself agreeable to women, and to 
men in power, take your share of business and 
pleasure, hide your secret, and know how to 
bore yourself a whole night at table and play 
three games of quadrille without leaving your 
chair. Even after all that you can be certain of 
nothing. How much annoyance and anxiety 
might be spared if glory was only to be attained 
by merit. 

The man who rises before eight o'clock in the 
morning to hear a case in court, or to see an 
exhibition of pictures at the Louvre, or to attend 
the rehearsal of a new play, and who prides 
himself on being a judge of every sort of work 
done by other people, is a man who often lacks 
nothing but intelligence and taste. 

We are less offended by the contempt of fools 
than by the moderate esteem of men of intelli- 
gence. 

You sometimes offend a man by bestowing on 
167 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions him praise which marks out the limit of his 
and Maxims deserving; few men are modest enough to endure 

being appreciated. 

It is difficult to esteem a man as he desires to 
be esteemed. 

Reason and extravagance, virtue and vice, 
have their favoured ones. Contentment is not a 
sign of merit. 

Should calmness of mind be regarded as a 
proof of virtue ? Good health ensures it. 

The moderation of great men only sets a limit 
to their vices. The moderation of weak men is 
mediocrity. 

There are none so sour as those who are sweet 
to order. 

What is arrogance in the weak is elevation in 
the strong ; just as the strength of the sick is 
frenzy and that of the whole is vigour. 

One does not gain much by mere clever- 
ness. 

Consciousness of our strength increases it. 

It is not true that poverty calls forth virtue in 
men more than wealth does. 
i68 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

You must maintain strength of body in order Reflexions 
to preserve strength of mind. ^^^ Maxims 

Those who think they have no need of others 
become unreasonable. 

Every man thinks himself worthy of the 
highest office ; but nature, who has not made 
him capable of holding it, likewise makes him 
able to live contentedly in the lowest. 

Men despise great projects when they do not 
feel themselves capable of great successes. 

Great men undertake great things because the 
things are great ; fools undertake them because 
they deem them easy. 

It is sometimes easier to form a party than to 
attain by degrees the head of a party already 
formed. 

Those who do not know how to gain by inter- 
course with others are not generally very 
accessible. 

Extreme distrust is not less harmful than its 
opposite ; the greater part of men are useless to 
him who will not risk being deceived. 

Everything is to hoped, everything to be feared, 
from time and from mankind. 
i6g 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions The bad are always greatly surprised to find 
and Maxims cleverness in the good. 

Too much and too little reserve about our 
affairs testify equally to a weak mind. 

The maxims of men reveal their hearts. 

Few maxims are true in every respect. 

We find in ourselves what others hide from 
us ; and we recognize in others what we hide 
from ourselves. 

Men say few solid things when they try to say 
extraordinary things. 

The best authors say too much. 

A man who neither dines nor sups at home 
thinks himself vastly occupied. And another 
who spends the morning at his toilette, and in 
giving audience to his embroiderer, laughs at the 
idleness of a newsmonger who takes a walk 
every day before dinner. 

Few men would be happy if others had 
the determining of their occupations and 
pleasures. 

If passion sometimes counsels greater boldness 
170 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

than does reflexion, it gives more strength to Reflexions 
execute it. and Maxims 

If passion commits more faults than judgment 
does, those who govern commit more faults by 
reason than do private men. 

Great thoughts come from the heart.^ 

Magnanimity owes no account to prudence of 
its motives.* 



No one is more liable to make mistakes than 
he who acts only on reflexion. 

Conscience, the organ of the feeling which 
dominates us and of the opinions which rule us, 
is presumptuous in the strong, timid in the weak 
and unfortunate, uneasy in the undecided. 

Strength or weakness at the hour of death 
depends on the nature of the last illness. 

Disease extinguishes courage in some men, 
fear, and even love of life, in others. 

It is unjust to exact of a soul crushed and 
vanquished by some irremediable evil, that it 



' " Trfes beau," said Voltaire of tliis maxim, "Vauvenargues 
se peignait lui-m€me." 
» Voltaire.—" C'est grand." 

171 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions shall preserve the same strength it had at other 
and Maxims times. Are we surprised if a sick man cannot 
walk, or keep awake, or stand upright ? Would 
it not be more strange if he was the same man 
as when he was well ? If we have a headache, 
or have slept badly, we are excused for feeling 
incapable of work, and yet no one suspects us of 
being always lazy. Shall we deny a dying man 
the privilege we grant a man with a headache ? 
And dare we assert that the man who lacks 
courage in his last agony never possessed that 
virtue when he was well. 

To accomplish great things we must live as 
though we had never to die. 

The thought of death deceives us ; for it causes 
us to neglect to live. 

I sometimes say to myself: " Life is too short 
to be worth troubling about." Yet if a bore 
calls on me, prevents me from going out or from 
dressing myself, I lose patience and cannot 
endure to be bored for half an hour. 

The falsest of all philosophies is that which, 
under the pretext of delivering men from the 
embarrassment of their passions, counsels 
idleness, and the abandonment and neglect of 
themselves. 

172 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

If all our foresight cannot render our lives Reflexions 
happy, how much less our indifference. ^^^ Maxims 

No one says in the morning : A day is soon 
past, let us wait for the night. On the contrary, 
in the evening we consider what we shall do 
next day. We should be very sorry to spend 
even one day at the mercy of time and of bores. 
We should not dare leave the disposal of a few 
hours to chance, and we are right. For who 
can be certain of spending an hour without being 
bored, if he takes no care to fill even that short 
period according to his pleasure. Yet what we 
cannot be certain of for an hour, we sometimes 
feel assured of for life, and say : — " If death is 
the end of everything, why give ourselves so 
much trouble ? We are extremely foolish to 
make such a pother about the future : that is to 
say, we are extremely foolish not to entrust our 
destinies to chance, and to provide for the 
interval which lies between us and death. 

Reason and emotion counsel and supplement 
each other. Whoever heeds only the one, and 
puts aside the other, recklessly deprives himself 
of a portion of the aid granted us for the regula- 
tion of our conduct. 

We owe perhaps to the passions the greatest 
advantages of the intellect 
173 



LA BRUY6RE AND VAUVENARGUES 

, Reflexions In the childhood of nations, as in that of indivi- 
and Maxims duals, feeling precedes reflexion, and is their 
first teacher. 

Young people suffer less from their faults than 
from the prudence of the old. 

The counsels of the old, like the winter sun, 
shine, but give no heat. 

The common excuse of those who bring mis- 
fortune on others, is that they desire their good. 

It is unjust to exact that men shall do out of 
deference to our advice what they have no desire 
to do for themselves. 

Whoever is more severe than the laws is a 
tyrant. 

To punish unnecessarily is to entrench on 
God's clemency. 

Mercy is of greater value than justice. 

We censure the unfortunate for the slightest 
faults, and pity them little for the greatest mis- 
fortunes. 

We reserve our indulgence for the perfect. 

No man is weak from choice. 
174 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

The most odious form of ingratitude, yet the Reflexions 
most common and the most ancient, is that of ^^°^ Maxims 
children towards their fathers. 

Generosity is affected by the misfortunes of 
others as if it were itself responsible for them. 

We are not greatly pleased that our friends 
should respect our good qualities if they venture 
to perceive our faults. 

We do not condole with a man for being a 
fool, and perhaps rightly ; but it is very delight- 
ful to imagine that it is his fault. 

We can love with all our hearts those in 
whom we recognize great faults. It would be 
impertinent to believe that perfection alone has 
the right to please us; sometimes our weak- 
nesses attach us to each other as much as our 
virtues. 

If our friends do us a service, we think they 
owe it to us by their title of friend. We never 
think that they do not owe us their friendship. 

More fortunes are made by energy than by 
prudence. 

Nature does not seem to have made man for 
independence. 

Dependence is born of society. 
175 



LA BRUYfeRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions In order to protect himself from force, man 
and Maxims ^J^g obliged to submit to justice. Justice or 
force : he was compelled to choose between the 
two masters, so little are we made to be inde- 
pendent. 

With kings, nations, and private individuals, 
the strongest assume to themselves rights over 
the weakest, and the same rule is followed by 
animals, by matter, by the elements, so that 
everything is performed in the universe by 
violence. And that order which we blame with 
some appearance of justice is the most universal, 
most absolute, most unchangeable, and most 
ancient law of nature. 

The weak wish to be dependent in order to be 
protected : those who fear men love the laws. 

He who knows how to suffer everything can 
dare everything. 

There are insults which we have to condone 
if we would not compromise our honour. 

It is good to be firm by temperament and 
pliant by reflexion. 

The weak sometimes wish to be thought 
wicked, but the wicked wish to be thought 
virtuous. 

176 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

The law of the mind is not different from that Reflexions 
of the body, which can only be supported by ^^^ Maxims 
continual nourishment. 

The fruits of work form the sweetest of plea- 
sures. 

It is of no use to possess a lively wit if it is not 
of right proportion : the perfection of a clock is 
not to go fast, but to be accurate. 

Those who laugh at serious tastes have a 
serious affection for trifles. 

We judge works of genius as we would me- 
chanical productions. When we buy a ring we 
say, that one is too big, the other is too small, 
until we find one that fits our finger. But none 
are left at the jeweller's, for what is too small for 
one exactly fits another. 

The fool who has a good memory is full of 
thoughts and facts. But he does not know how 
to draw conclusions, and everything depends on 
that. 

I do not approve the maxim which desires a 
man to know a little of everything. Superficial 
knowledge, knowledge without principles, is 
almost always useless and sometimes harmful 
knowledge. 

177 M 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions It is true that the greater number of men are 
and Maxims scarcely capable of profound knowledge, but it 
is equally true that the superficial knowledge 
they seek only serves to satisfy their vanity. It 
is hurtful to those who possess true genius ; for 
it necessarily draws them away from their main 
object, wastes their industry over details and 
subjects foreign to their needs and natural 
talent, and lastly does not serve, as they flatter 
themselves, to prove the breadth of their mind. 
In all ages there have been men of very moderate 
intelligence who knew much, and on the con- 
trary, men of the highest intelligence who knew 
very little. Ignorance is not lack of intelligence, 
nor knowledge a proof of genius. 

There is perhaps as much truth among men 
as error, as many good qualities as bad, as much 
pleasure as pain ; but we desire to control human 
nature, to try to raise ourselves above our species, 
and to enrich ourselves with the consideration 
of which we try to despoil it. We are so pre- 
sumptuous that we think we can separate our 
personal interest from that of humanity, and 
slander mankind without compromising our- 
selves. That absurd vanity has filled the books 
of philosophers with invectives against nature. 
Man is now in disgrace with all who think, and 
the prize is to him who loads him with the most 
178 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

vices ; but maybe he is on the point of improve- Reflexions 
ment, and of compelling all his virtues to be ^^^ Maxims 
restored to him. For nothing is stable, and 
philosophy has its fashions like dress, music, or 
architecture. 

As soon as an opinion becomes common it is 
sufficient reason for men to abandon it and to 
uphold the opposite opinion until that in its turn 
grows old, and they require to distinguish them- 
selves by other things. Thus if they attain their 
goal in some art or science, we must expect 
them soon to cast it aside to acquire some fresh 
fame, and this is partly the reason why the most 
splendid ages degenerate so quickly, and, scarcely 
emerged from barbarism, plunge into it again. 

Great men in teaching weak men to reflect 
have set theni on the road of error. 

The comtemplative man, lying in a luxuriously 
furnished room, abuses the soldier who spends 
the winter nights on the banks of a river, and 
silently, under arms, watches over the safety of 
his country. 

A hero does not seek glory in order to carry 
hunger and misery into the home of his enemies, 
but to endure them for his country : he does not 
desire to cause death but to brave it. 

179 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions Vice stirs up war : virtue fights. If there was 
and Maxims jjq virtue we should have unbroken peace. 

It is not true that equality is a law of nature. 
Nature has made nothing equal, her sovereign 
law is surbordination and dependence. 

Necessity moderates more ti^oubles than reason . 

Necessity embitters the evils which it cannot 
cure. 

The favourites of fortune or of fame topple 
from their pedestals before our eyes without 
diverting us from ambition. 

Patience is the art of hoping. 

Despair puts the last touch not only to our 
misery but also to our weakness. 

Neither the gifts n or the blows of fortune equal 
those of nature ; in generosity and in rigour 
nature is alike supreme. 

We are forced to respect the gifts of nature, 
which study and fortune cannot give. 

The generality of men are so bound within the 

sphere of their circumstances that they have not 

even the courage to get out of them through their 

ideas, and if we see a few whom , in a way, specu- 

i8o 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

lation over great things makes incapable of mean Reflexions 
ones, we find still more with whom the practice ^"^ Maxims 
of small things takes away the feeling for great 
ones. 

The most absurd and the most rash hopes have 
sometimes been the cause of extraordinary 
success. 

Great resources of mind and heart are needed 
to enjoy sincerity when it wounds, or to practise 
it without giving offence : few men have depth 
enough to hear or to tell the truth. 

However we may be reproached for our vanity 
we have need sometimes to be assured of our 
merits.* 

We are rarely consoled for great humiliations ; 
we forget them. 

The less power a man has in the world, the 
more he may commit faults with impunity, or 
possess in vain true merit. 

Mediocre minds do not feel the extremes of 
good and evil. 

Persons of rank do not talk about such trifles 

1 < And to have our most obvious advantages pointed out to 
us.' — Later addition by Vauvenargues. 

i8i 



LA bruyTere and vauvenargues 

Reflexions as the common people do ; but the common 
and Maxims people do not busy themselves about such frivo- 
lous things as do persons of rank. 

We sometimes seek the society of men who 
impose on us by their outward appearance, just 
as young men lovingly follow a mask, taking it 
for the most beautiful woman in the world, and 
worry it until they force it to reveal itself, only 
to show them a little man with dark complexion 
and beard. 

It is easy to criticize an author : it is difficult 
to appreciate him. 

If we only consider a few of the works of the 
best authors we are tempted to despise them; 
to appreciate them fairly we must read all. 

Men are not to be judged by what they do not 
know, but by what they know, and by the man- 
ner in which they know it. 

A liar is a man who does not know how to de- 
ceive, a flatterer one who only deceives fools: 
he who knows how to make skilful use of the 
truth, and understands its eloquence, can alone 
pride himself on his cleverness. 

The maxim that men are not to be praised before 
their death was invented by envy and too lightly 
z8a 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

adopted by philosophers. I, on the contrary. Reflexions 
maintain that they ought to be praised in their ^'^^ Maxims 
lifetime if they merit it ; but jealousy and ca- 
lumny, roused against their virtue or their talent, 
labour to degrade them if any one ventures to 
bear testimony to them. It is unjust criticism 
that they should fear to hazard, not sincere praise. 

We are very wrong to think that some fault or 
other can exclude all virtue, or to consider the 
alliance of good and evil as a monstrosity or an 
enigma. It is lack of insight that causes us to 
reconcile so few things. 

Is it against reason or justice to love ourselves ? 
And why is self-love always a vice ? 

He who seeks glory by the path of virtue has 
no idea of asking what is to be his reward. 

The greater works of the human mind are 
assuredly the least perfect ; the laws which are 
the most splendid invention of reason have not 
been able to secure peace for a nation without 
diminishing its liberty. 

The common people and the nobles have 
neither the same vices nor the same virtues. 

We have neither the strength nor the oppor- 
tunity to accomplish all the good and all the evil 
which we design. 

183 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions Intellectual mediocrity and sloth make more 
and Maxims philosophers than reason or reflexion. 

Commerce is the school of cozenage. 

As it is natural to believe many things without 
proof, so, despite all proof, is it natural to dis- 
believe others. 

Faith is the consolation of the wretched and 
the terror of the happy. 

The shortness of life can neither dissuade us 
from its pleasures, nor console us for its pains. 

Who are those that declare that the world has 
grown old? I easily believe them. Ambition, 
fame, love, in short all the passions of earlier 
ages, do not create the same disorder and the 
same noise. It is not perhaps that those passions , 
are less keen to-day than they were formerly, 
but that they are disavowed and combated. I 
say that the world is like an old man who has 
preserved the desires of his youth, but who is 
ashamed of them, and hides them either because 
he is disillusionized of the merit of many things 
or because he wishes to appear so. 

Men dissimulate their dearest, most constant, 
and most virtuous inclinations from weakness and 
a fear of being contemned. 

We are too inattentive or too much occupied 
184 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

with ourselves to understand each other. Who- Reflexions 
ever has seen masks at a ball dance amicably to- ^^^ Maxims 
gether, and hold hands without knowing each 
other, to part the moment after to see each other 
no more, nor to regret each other, can form some 
idea of society. 

As there are many soldiers, and few brave ones, 
so there are many versifiers and almost no poets. 
Men crowd into honourable careers without other 
vocation than their vanity, or at best their love 
of fame. 

Everything has its reason, and everything 
happens as it ought; there is nothing against 
feeling nor nature. I agree, but I am not anxious 
that people should agree with me. 

Children are taught to fear and obey; the 
avarice, pride, or timidity of parents teaches 
children economy, arrogance, or submission. 
They are also encouraged to be imitators, a 
course to which they are already only too much 
inclined. No one thinks of making them original, 
courageous, independent. 

If children had teachers for judgment and elo- 
quence just as they have for languages, if their 
memory was exercised less than their energy or 
their natural genius, if instead of deadening their 

185 



LA BRUYERE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions vivacity of mind we tried to elevate the free 
and Maxims scope and impulses of their souls, what might not 
result from a fine disposition ? As it is, we for- 
get that courage, or love of truth and glory are 
the virtues that matter most in youth ; and our one 
endeavour is to subdue our children's spirits, in 
order to teach them that dependence and supple- 
ness are the first laws of success in life. 

It is in our own mind and not in exterior 
objects that we perceive most things ; fools know 
scarcely anything because they are empty, and 
their heart is narrow; but great souls find in 
themselves a number of exterior things; they 
have no need to read or to travel or to listen or 
to work to discover the highest truths ; they have 
only to delve into themselves and search, if we 
may say so, their own thoughts. 

A prince who is only good loves his servants, 
his ministers, his family, his favourite, and is not 
attached to his State ; it is a great king who loves 
his people. 

A prince is great and lovable when he has the 
virtues of a king, and the weaknesses of a private 
man. 

Mediocre talent does not prevent great fortune, 
but neither procures it nor deserves it. 
i86 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

When we are convinced of some great truths, Reflexions 
and feel our convictions keenly, we must not fear ^^'^ Maxims 
to express it, although others have said it before 
us. Every thought is new when an author ex- 
presses it in a manner peculiar to himself. 

Gaming, devoutness, wit, are three great ad- 
vantages for women past their youth. 

It cannot be a vice in men to be sensible of 
their strength. 

The great do not know the common people, 
and have no desire to know them. 

Nothing endures except truth. 

It is not exactly truth which is most wanting 
in men's ideas, but precision and exactitude. 
Absolute falseness is seldom met with in their 
thoughts, and truth, pure and complete, is still 
more rarely to be found in their expressions. 

We have not time enough to reflect on all our 
actions. 

Every condition has its errors and its lights ; 
every nation has its morals and its genius, 
according to its fortune ; the Greeks, whom we 
surpass in fastidiousness, surpassed us in sim- 
plicity. 

187 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions How few exact thoughts there are, and how 
and Maxims j^^j^y g^m rej^ajn foj. well-balanced minds to 
develop. 

He who needs a motive for lying is not bom a 
liar. 



Whatever affection we have for our friends or 
relations, the happiness of others never suffices 
for our own. 

Great men are sometimes so even in small 
things. 

If a man is endowed with a noble and courage- 
ous soul, if he is painstaking, proud, ambitious, 
without meanness, of a profound and deep-seated 
intelligence, I dare assert that he lacks nothing to 
be neglected by the great and men in high office, 
who fear, more than other men, those whom 
they cannot dominate. 

The greatest evil that fortune can bring to men 
is to endow them with feeble resources and yet 
to make them ambitious. 

Mediocre men sometimes fear great office, and 
when they do not aim at it, or when they refuse 
it, all that is to be concluded is that they are 
aware of their mediocrity. 
i88 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

War is waged at the present time between Reflexions 
European nations so humanely, so skilfully, and ^^^ Maxims 
with so little profit, that without a paradox it may 
be compared to the litigation of private persons 
where the expenses diminish the principal, and 
where men employ cunning rather than strength. 

Men are so born for dependence that even the 
laws that govern their weakness do not suffice 
them : fortune has not given them masters 
enough, fashion miust compensate for this, and 
rule them even to the cut of their shoes. 

The best things are the most common. You 
can purchase the mind of Pascal for a crown. 
Pleasures even cheaper are sold to those who 
give themselves up to them. It is only luxuries 
and objects of caprice that are rare and difficult 
to obtain ; unfortunately they are the only things 
that touch the curiosity and taste of ordinary 
men. 

We must not be timid from a fear of com- 
mitting faults: the greatest fault of all is to 
deprive oneself of experience. 

The days of early spring have less beauty 
than the budding virtue of a youth. 

The light of the dawn is not so sweet as the 
first glimpses of fame. 

i8g 



LA BRUYfiRE AND VAUVENARGUES 

Reflexions Courage is the light of adversity, 
and Maxims 

Wisdom is the tyrant of the weak. 

Peace renders nations happier and men 
weaker. 

We must not be too much afraid of being 
deceived. 

Nature has endowed mankind with divers 
talents. Some are bom to invent, others to 
embellish ; but the gilder attracts more atten- 
tion than the architect. 

Nothing is more severe than justice. 

We are not always as unjust to our enemies 
as we are to our relations. 

In friendship, in marriage, in love, or in any 
other sort of intercourse, we desire to gain ; and 
as the intercourse between friends, lovers, rela- 
tions, brothers, and so forth is of a greater mag- 
nitude than any other, it is not surprising to find 
in it more ingratitude and injustice. 

The things we know best are those we have 
not learned. 

There does not exist a man sufficiently intelli- 
gent never to be tiresome, 
igo 



REFLEXIONS AND MAXIMS 

Whatever taste we may have for high affairs, Reflexions 
there is no reading so tiresome and wearying ^^^ Maxims 
as that of a treaty between princes. 

As nature has not made all men equal by 
merit, it seems she cannot make them so by 
fortune. 



Butier and Tanner The Selwood Printinff Works Frome and London 

igi