ROCHEFOUCAULD, Francois, Due de La Quotes
(1630-1680), French courtier and moralist
To know how to hide one's ability is great skill.
Absence lessens moderate passions and increases great ones; as the wind extinguishes the taper, but fans a fire.
No accidents are so unlucky but that the wise may draw some advantage from them; nor are there any so lucky but that the foolish may turn them to their own prejudice.
Great actions, the lustre of which dazzles us, are represented by politicians as the effects of deep design; whereas they are commonly the effects of caprice and passion. Thus the war between Augustus and Antony, supposed to be owing to their ambition to give a master to the world, arose probably from jealousy.
We always like those who admire us, but we do not always like those whom we admire.
In the adversity of our best friends we often find something that does not displease us.
Men give away nothing so liberally as their advice.
Nothing is less sincere than our mode of asking and giving advice. He who asks seems to have deference for the opinion of his friend, while he only aims to get approval of his own and make his friend responsible for his action. And he who gives repays the confidence supposed to be placed in him by a seemingly disinterested zeal, while he seldom means anything by his advice but his own interest or reputation.
It takes nearly as much ability to know how to profit by good as to know how to act for one's self.
We are never so ridiculous by the qualities we have, as by those we affect to have.
As we grow old we become both more foolish and more wise.
Old age is a tryant, which forbids the pleasures of youth on pain of death.
Youth changes its tastes by the warmth of its blood; age retains its tastes by habit.
Our desires always disappoint us; for though we meet with something that gives us satisfaction, yet it never thoroughly answers our expectation.
It is with certain good qualities as with the senses; those who have them not can neither appreciate nor comprehend them in others.
The ordinary employment of artifice, is the mark of a petty mind; and it almost always happens that he who uses it to cover himself in one place, uncovers himself in another.
Few things are impracticable in themselves; and it is for want of application, rather than of means, that men fail of success.
The common foible of women who have been handsome is to forget that they are no longer so.
We are almost always wearied in the company of persons with whom we are not permitted to be weary.
True bravery is shown by performing without witnesses what one might be capable of doing before all the world.
Few persons have sufficient wisdom to prefer censure, which is useful, to praise which deceives them.
Clemency, which we make a virtue of, proceeds sometimes from vanity, sometimes from indolence, often from fear, and almost always from a mixture of all three.
Whatever difference may appear in the fortunes of mankind, there is, nevertheless, a certain compensation of good and evil which makes them equal.
It is great cleverness to know how to conceal our cleverness.
Confidence, in conversation, has a greater share than wit.
None but the contemptible are apprehensive of contempt.
He that is never satisfied with anything, satisfies no one.
The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation, is, that each is thinking more of what he is intending to say, than of what others are saying; and we never listen when we are planning to speak.
As it is the characteristic of great wits to say much in few words, so it is of small wits to talk much, and say nothing.
No man can answer for his courage who has never been in danger.
Those who are themselves incapable of great crimes, are ever backward to suspect others.
We easily forget crimes that are known only to ourselves.
For the credit of virtue it must be admitted that the greatest evils which befall mankind are caused by their crimes.
The greatest of all cunning is to seem blind to the snares which we know are laid for us; men are never so easily deceived as while they are endeavoring to deceive others.
The common practice of cunning is the sign of a small genius.—It almost always happens that those who use it to cover themselves in one place, lay themselves open in another.
The most sure way of subjecting yourself to be deceived, is to consider yourself more cunning than others.
There are different kinds of curiosity; one of interest, which causes us to learn that which would be useful to us; and the other of pride, which springs from a desire to know that of which others are ignorant.
It is as easy to deceive one's self without perceiving it, as it is difficult to deceive others without their finding it out.
Were we to take as much pains to be what we ought, as we do to disguise what we are, we might appear like ourselves without being at the trouble of any disguise at all.
Decency is the least of all laws, but yet it is the law which is most strictly observed.
Were we perfectly acquainted with the object, we should never passionately desire it.
When our vices quit us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that it is we who quit them.
It is much easier to suppress a first desire than to satisfy those that follow.
Before we passionately desire anything which another enjoys, we should examine as to the happiness of its possessor.
Penetration or discernment has an air of divination; it pleases our vanity more than any other quality of the mind.
Men would not live long in society, were they not the mutual dupes of each other.
Were we to take as much pains to be what we ought to be, as we do to disguise what we really are, we might appear like ourselves without being at the trouble of any disguise whatever.
Whatever disgrace we may have deserved or incurred, it is almost always in our power to re-establish our character.
The reason why lovers are never weary of one another is this—they are ever talking of themselves.
We often boast that we are never bored; but we are so conceited that we do not perceive how often we bore others.
True eloquence consists in saying all that is proper, and nothing more.
There is not less eloquence in the voice, the eye, the gesture, than in words.
Our enemies come nearer the truth in the opinions they form of us than we do in our opinion of ourselves.
The truest mark of being born with great qualities, is being born without envy.
We are often vain of even the most criminal of our passions; but envy is so shameful a passion that we never dare to acknowledge it.
Esteem has more engaging charms than friendship and even love.—It captivates hearts better, and never makes ingrates.
Nothing is so contagious as example.—Never was any considerable good or evil done without producing its like.— We imitate good actions through emulation; and bad ones through the evil of our nature, which shame conceals, but example sets at liberty.
If we had no failings ourselves we should not take so much pleasure in finding out those of others.
We confess small faults, in order to insinuate that we have no great ones.
We easily forget our faults when they are known only to ourselves.
It is only persons of firmness that can have real gentleness.—Those who appear gentle are, in general, only a weak character, which easily changes into asperity.
Flattery is a base coin which gains currency only from our vanity.
We sometimes think we hate flattery, when we only hate the manner in which we have been flattered.
Self-love is the greatest of flatterers.
If we would not flatter ourselves, the flattery of others could not harm us.
He who lives without folly is not so wise as he imagines.
We pardon as long as we love.
We should manage our fortune as we do our health—enjoy it when good, be patient when it is bad, and never apply violent remedies except in an extreme necessity.
High fortune makes both our virtues and vices stand out as objects that are brought clearly to view by the light.
It requires greater virtues to support good than bad fortune.
Gallantry consists in saying the most empty things in an agreeable manner.
The gallantry of the mind consists in agreeable flattery.
What seems to be generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, which overlooks a small interest in order to secure a great one.
Those great actions whose luster dazzles us are represented by politicians as the effects of deep design, whereas they are commonly the effects of caprice and passion.
Nothing is rarer than real goodness.
Grace is to the body, what good sense is to the mind.
Gravity is a mysterious carriage of the body, invented to cover the defects of the mind.
Great souls are not those which have less passion and more virtue than common souls, but only those which have greater designs.
However brilliant an action may be, it ought not to pass for great when it is not the result of a great design.
Few things are needful to make the wise man happy, but nothing satisfies the fool;—and this is the reason why so many of mankind are miserable.
Happiness is dependent on the taste, and not on things.—It is by having what we like that we are made happy, not by having what others think desirable.
No person is either so happy or so unhappy as he imagines.
When our hatred is violent, it sinks us even beneath those we hate.
All who know their own minds, do not know their own hearts.
There are heroes in evil as well as in good.
However great the advantages which nature bestows on us, it is not she alone, but fortune in conjunction with her, which makes heroes.
Hope is the last thing that dies in man, and though it be exceedingly deceitful, yet it is of this good use to us, that while we are traveling through life it conducts us in an easier and more pleasant way to our journey's end.
Humility is the genuine proof of Christian virtue.—Without it we keep all our defects; and they are only crusted over by pride, which conceals them from others, and often from ourselves.
Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.
It is a mistake to imagine, that the violent passions only, such as ambition and love, can triumph over the rest. Idleness, languid as it is, often masters them all; she influences all our designs and actions, and insensibly consumes and destroys both passions and virtues.
It is better to try to bear the ills we have, than to anticipate those which may never come.
Philosophy easily triumphs over past and future ills; but present ills triumph over philosophy.
Few things are impossible in themselves.—It is not so much means, as perseverance, that is wanting to bring them to a successful issue.
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 for an excuse that we say things are impossible.
Of all our faults, that which we most readily admit is indolence.—We persuade ourselves that it cherishes all the peaceful virtues, and that without destroying the others it merely suspends their functions.
We seldom find people ungrateful as long as we are in a condition to render them services.
Interest speaks all languages, and acts all parts, even that of disinterestedness itself.
The virtues and vices are all put in motion by interest.
In jealousy there is more of self-love, than of, love to another.
The jealous man poisons his own banquet, and then eats it.
Jealousy is always born with love, but does not die with it.
Raillery is sometimes more insupportable than wrong; we have a right to resent injuries, but it is ridiculous to be angry at a jest.
Everyone complains of the badness of his memory, but nobody of his judgment.
The labor of the body relieves us from the fatigues of the mind; and this it is which forms the happiness of the poor.
In infants, levity is a prettiness; in men, a shameful defect; in old age, a monstrous folly.
What we call liberality is often but the vanity of giving; we are more fond of the ostentation than of the generosity of the act.
When the heart is still agitated by the remains of a passion, we are more ready to receive a new one than when we are entirely cured.
As love increases, prudence diminishes.
The reason why lovers are never weary of one another is this—they are always talking of themselves.
A man of sense may love like a madman, but not as a fool.
No disguise can long conceal love where it is, nor feign it where it is not.
There are no chances so unlucky from which clever people are not able to reap some advantage, and none so lucky that the foolish are not able to turn them to their own disadvantage.
Magnanimity is sufficiently defined by its name; yet we may say of it, that it is the good sense of pride, and the noblest way of acquiring applause.
Grace is to the body, what good sense is to the mind.
Nothing so much prevents our being natural as the desire of appearing so.
Minds of moderate caliber ordinarily condemn everything which is beyond their range.
The art of putting into play mediocre qualities often begets more reputation than is achieved by true merit.
Every one complains of his memory; nobody of his judgment.
Men and statues that are admired in an elevated station, have a very different effect on us when we approach them: the first appear less than we imagined them: the last, larger.
It is far easier to know men than to know man.
Nature creates merit, and fortune brings it into play.
There is merit without elevation, but there is no elevation without some merit.
Elevation is to merit what dress is to a handsome person.
The mark of extraordinary merit is to see those most envious of it constrained to praise.
The world more frequently recompenses the appearance of merit, than merit itself.
The art of being able to make a good use of moderate abilities wins esteem, and often confers more reputation than real merit.
We must not judge of a man's merits by his great qualities, but by the use he makes of them.
We find means to cure folly, but none to reclaim a distorted mind.
Intrepidity is an extraordinary strength of mind, which raises it above the troubles, disorders, and emotions, which the sight of great perils is calculated to excite; it is by this strength that heroes maintain themselves in a tranquil state of mind, and preserve the free use of their reason under the most surprising and terrible circumstances.
Narrow minds think nothing right that is above their own capacity.
The defects of the mind, like those of the face, grow worse as we grow old.
Few men are so clever as to know all the mischief they do.
Misers mistake gold for good, whereas it is only a means of obtaining it.
No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.
Moderation must not claim the merit of combating and conquering ambition; for they can never exist in the same subject. Moderation is the languor and sloth of the soul; ambition its activity and ardor.
Moderation resembles temperance. We are not so unwilling to eat more, as afraid of doing ourselves harm by it.
We should often have reason to be ashamed of our most brilliant actions if the world could see the motives from which they spring.
Great actions, the luster of which dazzles us, are represented by politicians as the effects of deep design, whereas they are commonly the effects of caprice and passion.
However brilliant an action, it should not be esteemed great unless the result of a great and good motive.
Great names debase, instead of raising those who know not how to use them.
We are always much better pleased to see those whom we have obliged, than those who have obliged us.
An extraordinary haste to discharge an obligation, is a sort of ingratitude.
Old age is a tyrant who forbids, at the penalty of life, all the pleasures of youth.
We think very few people sensible, except those who are of our opinion.
Chance opportunities make us known to others, and still more to ourselves.
To be a great man it is necessary to turn to account all opportunities.
The passions are the only orators that always succeed. They are, as it were, nature's art of eloquence, fraught with infallible rules. Simplicity, with the aid of the passions, persuades more than the utmost eloquence without it.
Passion often makes fools of the ablest men, and able men of the mow foolish.
The passions are the only orators who never fail to persuade.—They are nature's art of eloquence, the rules of which never fail; and the weakest man, moved by passion, is more eloquent than the strongest who has none.
If we resist our passions, it is more through their weakness than from our strength.
The passions often engender their contraries.—Avarice sometimes produces prodigality, and prodigality, avarice; we are often resolute from weakness, and daring from timidity.
If we have not peace within ourselves, it is in vain to seek it from outward sources.
Most people judge others either by the company they keep, or by their fortune.
We like to divine others, but do not like to be divined ourselves.
Few things are impracticable in themselves; and it is for want of application, rather than of means, that men fail of success.
Philosophy triumphs easily over past and over future evils, but present evils triumph over philosophy.
We have more power than will; and it is often by way of excuse to ourselves that we fancy things are impossible.
We are not fond of praising, and never praise any one except from interested motives. Praise is a clever, concealed, and delicate flattery, which gratifies in different ways the giver and the receiver. The one takes it as a recompense of his merit, and the other bestows it to display his equity and discernment.
The desire of appearing clever often prevents our becoming so.
Nature has given us pride to spare us the pain of being conscious of our imperfections.
Pride, which inspires us with so much envy, serves also to moderate it.
It is oftener from pride, than from want of understanding that we oppose the opinions adopted by the world.—We find the first places are taken in a good cause, and are unwilling to come in as second.
We promise according to our hopes, but perform according to our selfishness and our fears.
There is no amount of praise which is not heaped on prudence; yet there is not the most insignificant event of which it can make us sure.
We should not judge of a man's merits by his great qualities, but by the use he makes of them.
It is not enough to have great qualities, we must also have the management of them.
Quarrels would never last long if the fault was only on one side.
Raillery is sometimes more insupportable than wrong; because we have a right to resent injuries, but it is ridiculous to be angry at a jest.
He is not a reasonable man who by chance stumbles upon reason, but he who derives it from knowledge, from discernment, and from taste.
Too great refinement is false delicacy, and true delicacy is solid refinement.
Whatever ignominy or disgrace we have incurred, it is almost always in our power to reestablish our reputation.
How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves?
There are few people who are more often in the wrong than those who cannot endure to be thought so.
The constancy of sages is nothing but the art of locking up their agitation in their hearts.
To be deceived by our enemies or betrayed by our friends is insupportable; yet by ourselves we are often content to be so treated.
The virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are in the sea.
Self-love, as it happens to be well or ill conducted, constitutes virtue and vice.
The greatest of all flatterers is self-love.
We acknowledge that we should not talk of our wives; but we seem not to know that we should talk still less of ourselves.
Silence is the safest course for any man to adopt who distrusts himself.
As men of sense and genius say much in few words, so on the other hand the weak and foolish speak much and say little.
Men would not live long in society if they were not the dupes of each other.
Few things are impracticable in themselves, and it is for want of application, rather than of means, that men fail of success.
Nature has concealed at the bottom of our minds talents and abilities of which we are not aware. The passions alone have the privilege of bringing them to light, and of giving us sometimes views more certain and more perfect than art could possibly produce.
As it is the characteristic of great wits to say much in few words, so it is of small wits to talk much and say nothing.
The excessive pleasure we feel in talking of ourselves, ought to make us apprehensive that we afford little to our hearers.
The happiness and misery of men depend no less on temper than fortune.
Titles, instead of exalting, debase those who act not up to them.
Those who give too much attention to trifling things become generally incapable of great ones.
Truth does not do as much good in the world, as its counterfeit does mischief.
It is a common fault never to be satisfied with our fortune, nor dissatisfied with our understanding.
The defects of the understanding, like those of the face, grow worse as we grow old.
A man of understanding finds less difficulty in submitting to a wrong-headed fellow, than in attempting to set him right.
No man can answer for his own valor or courage, till he has been in danger.
The love of glory, the fear of shame, the design of making a fortune, the desire of rendering life easier and agreeable, and the humor of pulling down other people are often the causes of that valor so celebrated among men.
The most violent passions have their intermissions; vanity alone gives us no respite.
It is our own vanity that makes the vanity of others intolerable to us.
Virtue would not go far if vanity did not keep it company.
If vanity does not entirely overthrow the virtues, at least it makes them all totter.
Vanity makes us do more things against inclination than reason.
We do not despise all those who have vices, but we do despise all those who have not a single virtue.
When our vices have left us we flatter ourselves that we have left them.
The violence done us by others is often less painful than that which we do to ourselves.
Perfect virtue is to do unwitnessed what we should be capable of doing before all the world.
The vivacity which augments with years is not far from folly.
The most brilliant fortunes are often not worth the littleness required to gain them.
We have more power than will; and it is only to exculpate ourselves that we often say that things are impracticable.
It is more easy to be wise for others than for ourselves.
The strongest symptom of wisdom in man is his being sensible of his own follies.
Wisdom is to the mind what health is to the body.
As it is the characteristic of great wits to say much in few words, so small wits seem to have the gift of speaking much and saying nothing.
He who imagines he can do without the world deceives himself much; but he who fancies the world cannot do without him is still more mistaken.
There are few people who are more often in the wrong than those who cannot endure to be so.
Youth changes its inclinations through heat of blood; old age perseveres in them through the power of habit.
Youth is a continual intoxication; it is the fever of reason.