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Saturday 15 September 2018

Maxims of Francois de la Rochefoucauld.

François de La Rochefoucauld was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Most unusually for a writer, it stayed there: so there was no filthy impoverished garret for the Duc de La Rochefoucaud (he was Prince de Marcillac, as well, for a while, but then, finding the title was cluttering up the place he gave it away to his son).

It's not that I'm bitter, or anything. As the Duke said in the book he called his Maximes The truest mark of having been born with great qualities is to have been born without envy.

And how did he know that? I mean, as he also said in the same book Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.

Anyway, the Maximes aren't just a list of how to be good. Old François had a good line in viperish wit, too:

Old people love to give good advice; it compensates them for being unable to give a bad example. 


And sometimes he was genuinely wise:

Sincere enthusiasm is the only orator who always persuades. It is like an art the rules of which never fail; the simplest man with enthusiasm persuades better than the most eloquent with none.

...though admittedly only sometimes:

Flirtatiousness is fundamental to a woman's nature, but not all put it into practice because some are restrained by fear or by good sense.

...and there are times when he's frankly nuts:

Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely an excuse that we say things are impossible.

...there speaks a man who's never tried to get a live eel into a jam jar.

Still, sometimes there's a small but glorious gem that shines a light through the nonsense and right out the other side:

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.

...and I'm happy to be grateful to the Duke for that.

Word To Use Today: maxim. This word comes from the French from the Latin phrase maxima propositio which means basic axiom.

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