François de La Rochefoucauld
We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.
François VI, duc
de La Rochefoucauld, le Prince de Marcillac (September
15 1613 –
1680) was a noted French author of maxims and memoirs,
as well as an example of the accomplished 17th-century nobleman.
Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims (1665–1678)
- Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.
- Epigraph. Note: "This epigraph, which is the key to the system of La Rochefoucauld, is found
in another form as No. 179 of the Maxims of the first edition, 1665; it is omitted from the
second and third, and reappears for the first time in the fourth edition at the head of the
Reflections". Aime Martin, editor, Bartlett's Quotations, 1919 edition.
- What we term virtues are often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which
fortune or our own industry manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity
that men are brave, and women chaste.
- Maxim 1.
- Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.
- Maxim 2.
- Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most
foolish man clever.
- Variant translation: Passion often makes a fool of the cleverest man and often makes the
most foolish men clever.
- Maxim 6.
- The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. They are a natural art, the rules
of which are infallible; and the simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the
most eloquent without.
- Variant translation: The passions are the only orators who always persuade. They are like
a natural art, of which the rules are unfailing; and the simplest man who has passion will be
more persuasive than the most eloquent man who has none.
- Maxim 8.
- In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions, such that the ruin of
one is almost always the foundation of another.
- Maxim 10.
- We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from
- Maxim 11.
- We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
- Maxim 19.
- Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.
- Maxim 22. Compare: "This same philosophy is a good horse in the stable, but an arrant jade
on a journey", Oliver Goldsmith,
The Good-Natured Man, Act i.
- We need greater virtues to sustain good than evil fortune.
- Maxim 25.
- Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.
- Maxim 26. Sometimes incorrectly translated as "with a steady eye".
To succeed in the world we do everything we can to appear successful already.
- The evil that we do does not attract to us so much persecution and hatred as our good qualities.
- Maxim 29.
- If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.
- Maxim 31.
- Jealousy lives upon suspicion; and it turns into a fury or ends as soon as it passes from
suspicion to certainty.
- Maxim 32.
- We promise according to our hopes; we fulfill according to our fears.
- Maxim 38.
- Self-interest speaks all sorts of tongues and plays all sorts of characters, even that of
- Maxim 39.
- Those who apply themselves too much to little things often become incapable of great
- Maxim 41.
- A man will often believe himself a leader when he is led; while with his mind he endeavours
to reach one goal, his heart insensibly drags him toward another.
- Maxim 43.
- One is never so happy or so unhappy as one fancies.
- Maxim 49.
- To succeed in the world we do everything we can to appear successful already.
- Maxim 56.
- Sincerity is an openness of heart; we find it in very few people; what we usually see
is only an artful dissimulation to win the confidence of others.
- Maxim 62.
- What grace is to the body, good sense is to the mind.
- Maxim 67.
- It is difficult to define love. In the soul it is a passion to rule; in the mind it is sympathy;
and in the body it is only a hidden and tactful desire to possess what we love after many mysteries.
- Maxim 68.
- There are very few people who are not ashamed to be loved when they no longer do.
- Variant translation: There are very few people who are not ashamed to have loved when they
no longer do.
- Maxim 71.
- If we judge love by the majority of its results, it resembles hatred more than friendship.
- Maxim 72.
- We may find women who have never indulged in an intrigue, but it is rare to find those who
have intrigued only once.
- Maxim 73.
- There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions.
- Maxim 74.
- Neither love nor fire can subsist without perpetual motion; both cease to live so soon
as they cease to hope, or to fear.
- Maxim 75.
- True love is like the appearance of ghosts: everyone talks about it but few have seen
- Variant translation: With true love it's like with the appearance of ghosts: everyone talks
about it but few have seen it.
- Maxim 76.
- The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear
of suffering injustice.
- Maxim 78.
- Silence is the surest resolve for him who distrusts himself.
- Maxim 79.
- Friendship is only a reciprocal conciliation of interests, and an exchange of good offices;
it is a species of commerce out of which self-love always expects to gain something.
- Maxim 83.
- It is more disgraceful to distrust than to be deceived by our friends.
- Variant translation: It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by
- Maxim 84.
- Everyone complains about his memory, and no one complains about his judgment.
- Maxim 89.
- Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that they can no
longer provide bad examples.
- Maxim 93.
- A man may be ungrateful but is less chargeable with ingratitude than his benefactor.
- Maxim 96.
- Everyone speaks well of his heart; no one dares speak well of his mind.
- Maxim 98.
- In the adversity of our best friends we often find something that is not exactly displeasing.
- Maxim 99. This maxim is found only in the 1665 edition, and was removed by the author in
- The mind is always the dupe of the heart.
- Maxim 102.
- On ne donne rien si libéralement que ses conseils.
- Nothing is given so profusely as advice.
- Maxim 110.
- There are good marriages, but no delicious ones.
- Maxim 113.
- The intention of cheating no one lays us open to being cheated ourselves.
- Maxim 118.
- If we resist our passions, it is more through their weakness than our strength.
- If we conquer our passions, it is more from their weakness than from our strength.
- Maxim 122.
- The truest way to be deceived is to think oneself more clever than others.
- Maxim 127.
- Sometimes one must be blant in order not to be tricked by a clever man.
- Maxim 129.
- It is easier to be wise for others than for oneself.
- Maxim 132.
- When not prompted by vanity, we say little.
- Variant translation: We say little when vanity does not make us speak.
- Maxim 137.
- We would rather speak ill of ourselves than not talk about ourselves at all.
- Maxim 138.
- Usually we only praise to be praised.
- Maxim 146.
- The stamp of great minds is to suggest much in few words, so, contrariwise, little minds
have the gift of talking a great deal and saying nothing.
- Some condemnations praise; some praise damns.
- Maxim 148.
- The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.
- Maxim 149.
- It is more difficult to avoid being ruled than to rule others.
- The happiness and misery of men depend no less on temper than fortune.
- One must not just have great qualities, but also economize them
- Variant translation: It is not enough to have great qualities; one must also make use of
- Maxim 159.
- The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation
than actual brilliancy.
- Il est plus facile de paraître digne des emplois qu'on n'a pas que de ceux que l'on exerce.
- It is easier to seem worthy of positions one does not have than of those one does.
- Maxim 164.
- It is better to set one's mind to bearing the misfortunes that are happening than to think
of those that may happen.
- Maxim 174.
- Our repentance is not so much sorrow for the ill we have done as a fear of the ill that
may befall us.
- Maxim 180.
- Only great men have great faults.
- Maxim 190.
- The defects and faults in the mind are like wounds in the body. After all imaginable care
has been taken to heal them up, still there will be a scar left behind.
- Variant translation: The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body. Whatever care
we take to heal them the scars ever remain, and there is always danger of their reopening.
- Maxim 194.
- What often prevents us from abandoning ourselves to one vice is that we have several.
- Maxim 195.
- The desire to appear clever often prevents one from being so.
- Maxim 199.
- There are foolish people who recognize their foolishness and use it skillfully.
- Maxim 208.
- Who lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks.
- Maxim 209.
- As we age, we become more foolish and wiser.
- Maxim 210.
- Most people judge men only by success or by fortune.
- Variant translation: Most people judge men only by their fashion or their fortune.
- Maxim 212.
- Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.
- Maxim 218.
- Too great a hurry to be discharged of an obligation is a kind of ingratitude.
- Maxim 226.
- Fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their misdeeds with success
they think it is because they are right.
- It is a great folly to wish to be wise alone.
- Maxim 231.
- Nobody deserves to be praised for goodness unless he is strong enough to be bad, for
any other goodness is usually merely inertia or lack of will-power.
- It is less dangerous to treat most men badly than to treat them too well.
- Maxim 238.
- There is great wit in knowing how to conceal one's wit.
- Maxim 245.
- Some people's faults are becoming to them; others are disgraced by their own good traits.
- Maxim 251.
- In all professions we affect a part and an appearance to seem what we wish to be. Thus
the world is merely composed of actors.
- Variant translation: In all professions, each affects a part and an appearance to make him
seem as he would wish to be believed. And so it is that one can say that the world is made only
- Maxim 256.
- Maxim 259. Compare: "They who inspire it most are fortunate, As I am now; but those who
feel it most Are happier still",
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, Act ii, Scene 5.
- Hardly any man is clever enough to know all the evil he does.
- Maxim 269.
- Absence extinguishes the minor passions and increases the great ones, as the wind blows
out a candle and fans a fire.
- Variant translation: Absence weakens the minor passions and adds to the effects of great
ones, as the wind blows out a candle and fans a fire.
- Maxim 276.
- We always like those who admire us; we do not always like those whom we admire.
- Maxim 294.
- The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire to receive even greater benefits.
- Variant translation: Gratitude is the lively expectation of favours yet to come.
- Maxim 298. Compare: "The gratitude of place-expectants is a lively sense of future favours",
attributed to Sir Robert Walpole.
- We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we bore.
- Maxim 304.
- Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished
people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.
- Maxim 308.
- It is not a pain to give to ingrates, but it is an intolerable one to be obliged to a dishonest
- Variant translation: It is not a great misfortune to be of service to ingrates, but it is
an intolerable one to be obliged to a dishonest man.
- Maxim 317.
- In jealousy there is more of self-love than love.
- Maxim 324.
- We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves we have no great ones.
- Maxim 327.
- We pardon to the extent that we love.
- Maxim 330.
- We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.
- Maxim 347. Compare: "'That was excellently observed,' say I when I read a passage in another
where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, then I pronounce him to be mistaken."
Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various
- Jealousy is always born with love but does not always die with it.
- Maxim 361.
- Il y a peu d'honnêtes femmes qui ne soient lasses de leur métier.
- There are few honest women who are not tired of what they do.
- Maxim 367.
- Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.
- Maxim 375.
- The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is to go beyond the mark.
- Variant translation: The greatest fault of a penetrating mind is not to fail to attain the
mark but to go beyond it.
- Maxim 377.
- We may bestow advice, but we cannot inspire the conduct.
- Variant translation: We give advice but do not inspire behavior.
- Maxim 378.
- There are few people who are more often wrong than those who cannot suffer being wrong.
- Maxim 386.
- What makes the vanity of others insufferable to us is that it wounds our own.
- Maxim 389.
- Luck must be dealt with like health: enjoy it when it is good, be patient when it is bad.
- Maxim 392.
- There is a certain dignity of manner independent of fortune, a certain distinctive air which
seems to mark us out for great things. It is a value we set upon ourselves without realizing
it, and by means of this quality we claim other men’s deference as our due. This does more to
set us above them than birth, honors, and merit itself.
- There is merit without attainment, but no attainment without some merit.
- Maxim 400.
- The vivacity which increases with old age is not so far removed from folly.
- Maxim 416.
- Few know how to be old.
- Maxim 423.
- Nothing prevents us being natural so much as the desire to appear so.
- Maxim 431.
- It is easier to know man in general than to know one man.
- Variant translation: It is much easier to know men generally, than to know a particular
- Maxim 436.
- In friendship and in love, one is often happier because of what one does not know than what
- Variant translation: In friendship as in love, we are often happier due to the things we
are unaware of than the things we know.
- Maxim 441.
- We try to make virtues out of the faults we have no wish to correct.
- Innocence is very far from finding as much protection as crime.
- Maxim 465.
- Of all violent passions, the least unbecoming to a woman is love.
- Maxim 466.
- In their first passion, women love their lovers; in all the others, they love love.
- Maxim 471. Compare: "In her first passion woman loves her lover: In all the others, all
she loves is love", Lord Byron, Don
Juan, Canto iii, Stanza 3.
- Few women's merit lasts as long as their beauty.
- Maxim 474.
- Only firm people can be truly soft.
- Variant translation: It is only those who are firm who can be genuinely kind.
- Maxim 479.
- Those who have had great passions are happy all their lives and would be unhappy to have
been cured of them.
- Maxim 485.
- Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.
- Maxim 496.
- It is useless to be young without being beautiful, or beautiful without being young.
- Maxim 497.
- It is a kind of happiness to know how unhappy we must be.
- Maxim 8 of the Maximes supprimées.
- How can we expect others to keep our secrets if we cannot keep them ourselves?
- Maxim 64 of the Maximes supprimées.
- Preserving your health by too strict a diet is a tedious illness.
- Maxim 72 of the Maximes supprimées.
- We are eager to believe that others are flawed because we are eager to believe in what
we wish for.
- Variant translation: What makes us believe so easily that others have faults is the ease
with which we believe what we hope for.
- Maxim 25 from the Manuscrit de Liancourt.
- Sometimes it is pleasant for a husband to have a jealous wife: he always hears what he loves
being talked about.
- Maxim 48 from the Manuscrit de Liancourt.
- It is harder to hide the feelings we have than to feign the ones we do not have.
- Maxim 56 from the posthumously published 1693 edition of the Maximes.
- The reason that there are so few good conversationalists is that most people are thinking
about what they are going to say and not about what the others are saying.
- Réflexions diverses, IV: De la conversation.
- One must listen if one wishes to be listened to. Réflexions diverses, IV:
De la conversation.
Quotes about La Rochefoucauld
- This is no time to be getting all steamed up about La Rochefoucauld. It's only a question of
minutes before I'm going to be pretty darned good and sick of La Rochefoucauld, once and for all.
La Rochefoucauld this and La Rochefoucauld that. Yes, well, let me tell you that if nobody had ever
learned to quote, very few people would be in love with La Rochefoucauld. I bet you I don't know
ten souls who read him without a middleman.
- Dorothy Parker short story
The Little Hours published in Here Lies (1939), the narrator during insomnia dwelling
on La Rochefoucauld's pronouncement that if nobody learned to read, very few people would be
François de La Rochefoucauld
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