It is an artifice by which pride debases itself in order to exalt itself; and though it can transform itself in thousands of ways, pride is never better disguised and more deceptive than when it is hidden behind the mask of humility. So we may say that the world is composed only of appearances. It is a clever way of anticipating the misfortunes that could possibly befall us: we help other people so that they will be obliged to help us when comparable circumstances arise; and the services we render them are, strictly speaking, good deeds that we do for ourselves in advance.
We want to find the guilty party, and we do not want to go to the trouble of investigating the crime. The business of an intrigue, the excitement produced by a love affair, a natural predilection for the pleasure of being loved, and the difficulty of refusing, convince them that they are being passionate when they are merely being flirtatious.
The success becomes their own, because they have the honour of accomplishing what they had undertaken. Moderation is sluggishness and laziness of the soul, as ambition is its activity and passion. They progress together and successively exercise secret dominion over us, so that they play an important part in all our deeds, though we do not know it. Only people who avoid giving any cause for jealousy are worthy to inspire it. For example, our powers of reason must make us careful of our possessions and our confidence; by contrast, nature must give us kindness and valour.
We convince ourselves that it stems from all the calm virtues, and that far from completely destroying the other virtues, it merely suspends their activity. It is a certain manner that gives us distinction and seems to destine us for great things; it is a value that we imperceptibly grant to ourselves. By means of this quality we wrest deference from other men; and this is usually what sets us above them, more than birth, honours, or merit itself. There are innumerable people who sacrifice all their possessions to doubtful and distant hopes; others disdain great future advantages for the sake of trivial present interests.
Then, the very self-love that usually blinds them illuminates them, and gives them such accurate insights that they suppress or disguise even the slightest things that might be condemned. I want to discuss the kind of disdain for death that pagans claim to derive from their own strength, and not from the hope of a better life hereafter.
There is a difference between enduring death with constancy and treating it with disdain. The former is not unusual; but I do not think the latter is ever sincere. Yet writers have done their very best to persuade us that death is not an evil at all; and the weakest men, no less than the heroes, have provided thousands of examples in confirmation of that opinion. But I doubt whether any sensible person ever believed it; and the trouble that people take on the subject, trying to convince others as well as themselves, shows clearly enough that the task is not easy.
We may have various motives for finding life distasteful, but we never have any reason to treat death with disdain. Even those who willingly inflict it on themselves do not count it as such a small thing; when it comes to them in some other way than the one they have chosen, they panic and resist it just like other people.
The variations that we see in the courage of innumerable valiant men come from the fact that death presents. Un laquais se contenta il y a quelque temps de danser sur. So it happens that, having disdained what they did not know, they finally fear what they do know. We must avoid looking it in the face with all its attendant circumstances, if we do not want to believe that it is the greatest of all evils.
The cleverest and bravest people are the ones who use the most honorable pretexts to prevent themselves from thinking about it. But every man who is able to see it as it really is, finds it a terrifying thing. The constancy of the philosophers was due entirely to the inevitability of death. They believed that a journey that could not be prevented should be undertaken with a good grace; and not being able to perpetuate their lives for all time, they did their utmost to perpetuate their reputations and save from the wreck something that they could not be sure of saving.
To look on the bright side of things, let us be content not to tell ourselves all that we think on the subject, and let us trust more in our own character than in the weak arguments that claim we can approach death with indifference. The glory of dying with strength of character, the hope of being missed, the desire to leave behind a good reputation, the assurance of being set free from the sufferings of life and no longer being subject to the whims of fortune——these things are remedies that should not be disregarded.
Yet neither should we think that they are infallible. We flatter ourselves if we think that death will seem the same at close range as we judged it to be from afar, and that our personal feelings, which are mere weakness, will be strong enough to be unaffected by this most severe of all trials. We also have little understanding of the effects of self-love, if we think that it can help us discount something that must necessarily destroy it; and our reason, in which we expect to find so many resources, is too weak in such a crisis to persuade us as we would want.
On the contrary, it is the very thing that most often betrays us, and instead of inspiring us with disdain for death, shows us how horrific and terrible death is. All that reason can do for us is advise us to avert our eyes and fix them on other objects. Though the motives may be different, they produce the same results. Thus it is true that, whatever difference there may be between great men and common people, on thousands of occasions both kinds have been seen to face death with the same demeanour.
But there has always been this difference: when great men treat death with disdain, love of glory is what shields it from their sight, whereas when common people do so, mere lack of enlightenment is what prevents them from recognizing the greatness of the evil ahead of them, and leaves them free to think of other things.
Accents du pays, accents of our native land. Accidents, events. Actions, deeds. Affaires, matters of business. Affectation, pretence. Afflictions, sorrows. Air bourgeois, middle-class manner. Ambition, ambition. Amour, love. Amour-propre, self-love. Application, diligence. Bienfaits, favours. Bonheur, good fortune, happiness. Bon sens, good sense. Compassion de nos ennemis, compassion for our enemies. Conduite, conduct.
Confiance, confidence. Confiance des grands, confidences from great people. Connaissance, knowledge. Conseils, advice. Constance, constancy. Conversation, conversation. Coquetterie, flirting. Crimes, crimes. Desseins, plans. Douceur, gentleness. Droiture, sound sense. Emplois, positions. Ennui, boredom, heartache. Envie, envy. Esprit, mind, intelligence. Exemple, example. Favoris, favourites. Femmes, women. Finesse, cunning, astuteness. Flatterie, flattery. Faiblesse, weakness. Folie, foolishness. Force, strength. Fortune, fortune. Galanterie, love affairs, gallantry.
Gloire, glory. Gouverner, rule. Hasard, chance. Hypocrisie, hypocrisy. Honneur, honour. Honte, shame. Humeur, temper ament , bodily humour. Jalousie, jealousy. Jeunesse, youth. Imitation, imitation. Inclination, inclination.
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Incommoder, annoy. Inconstance, inconstancy. Ingratitude, ingratitude. Injures, insults. Innocence, innocence. Jugement, judgement. Justice, justice.
Larmes, tears. Louanges, praise. Malheur, misfortune. Mariage, marriage. Maux, ills, evils. Mensonge, lying. Mines, look. Mort, death. Naturel, natural. Niais, silly. Noms illustres, famous names. Occasions, circumstances. Orgueil, pride. Paresse, laziness. Parler, speaking. Passions, passions. Peur, fear. Philosophie et philosophes, philosophy and philosophers. Plaisir, pleasure. Politesse, civility. Promesse, promise. Prudence, prudence. Sots, fools. Trahison, betrayal. Travers, waywardness. Tromperie, deception. Raison, reason. Reconnaissance, gratitude.
Repentir, repentance. Repos, peace. Reproches, rebukes. Richesses, wealth. Rois, kings. Sagesse, wisdom. Sentiments, feelings.
Silence, silence. Valeur, valour. Vertus, virtues. Vices, vices. Vieillesse, old age. Vieux fous, old fools. Violence, injuries. It is likely to run the risk of not pleasing everyone, because people may find that it is too close a likeness, and not flattering enough. Yet, accurate as it is, it may not escape the criticism of certain people who cannot endure anyone daring to probe the depths of their hearts, and who think they have the right to prevent anyone else knowing them, because they do not want to know themselves.
Admittedly, as these maxims are full of truths unacceptable to human pride, it is almost certain that pride will rebel against them and they will attract critics. But if the respect that we owe the fathers cannot keep the critics from feeling uncomfortable, if they do not scruple to condemn the opinions of those great men by condemning this book, I must beg the reader not to follow their. Indeed it will be difficult to persuade any man of good sense that they are being condemned for any other reasons than hidden self-interest, pride, and self-love. After that, I guarantee that he will be the first to subscribe to them, and that he will think them only too favourable to the human heart.
That is what I have to say about the work in general. As for the method that has been followed in it, I think it might have been desirable to give each maxim a title indicating its subject, and to arrange them in a more orderly way; but I could not have done that without totally overturning the order of the copy that was given to me; and as there are sometimes a number of maxims on one and the same subject, my advisers thought it would be more convenient to prepare an Index that could be consulted to find those that deal with a single topic.
It makes men idolize themselves, and it would make them tyrannize other people, if fortune gave them the means to do so. It never finds any rest beyond the self; and it settles on alien things only as bees do on flowers——to draw from them what suits itself. Nothing is as impetuous as its desires, nothing is as secret as its plans, nothing is as clever as its conduct. Its convolutions are beyond imagining; its transformations surpass those of any metamorphosis, and its subtleties those of chemistry. No one can fathom the depth of its chasms, or penetrate their darkness.
There it is hidden from the most perceptive eyes; there it. There it is often invisible even to itself; there, unknowingly, it breeds, nurtures, and raises a vast number of affections and hatreds. Some of them are so monstrous that, when it has given birth to them, it either fails to recognize them or cannot bring itself to acknowledge them.
Its absurd opinions about itself are born from the night that envelops it. From that source come its errors, its ignorances, its uncouth and silly ideas about itself. From that source come its belief that its feelings are dead when they are merely dormant, its fancy that it no longer wishes to progress merely because it has come to a halt, and its idea that it has lost all the tastes that it has merely satiated. But the thick darkness that hides it from itself does not prevent it from seeing clearly what is outside itself.
In that respect it is like our eyes, which discover everything and are blind only to themselves. Indeed where its greatest interests and most important affairs are concerned, when the violence of its desires summons up its full attention, it sees, feels, hears, imagines, suspects, perceives, and deduces everything. As a result, we are tempted to believe that each of its passions has a kind of magic that is distinctively its own. Nothing is closer or stronger than its bonds of attachment; its attempts to break them are vain, even when it sees the extreme misfortune that threatens it.
Yet sometimes, in a very short time and without any effort at all, it manages to do what its utmost powers had been unable to achieve over a period of years. From this we may plausibly conclude that its desires are kindled solely by itself, rather than by the beauty and worth of the things it is desiring; that its own taste is the rouge that embellishes them and the price that makes them valuable; that it is running after its own self, and pursuing its own pleasure, when it pursues something that pleases it.
It is opposites of all kinds: it is domineering and submissive, sincere and deceitful, compassionate and cruel, timid and daring. Its inclinations vary with the different moods that motivate it, impelling it to seek now glory, now wealth, now pleasures. It rings the changes on these, as our own age, fortune, and experience changes; but it does not care whether it has several such inclinations or only one, because it can divide itself among several or concentrate itself on one, whenever that is necessary or desirable.
It is inconstant; and apart from the changes caused by alien factors, infinite numbers arise from itself, from its own reserves: it is inconstant because of. It is capricious; and sometimes we see it striving with the utmost zeal, and with incredible industry, to gain things that can be of no advantage and may indeed be actually harmful to it——yet it still pursues them, simply because it wants them. It is extravagant; it often lavishes all its diligence on some task of the most frivolous kind.
It finds unmitigated delight in the most insipid tasks, and retains every drop of its pride in the tasks that deserve the most disdain. It exists at every stage of life and in every walk of life. It lives everywhere; it lives off everything——or nothing; it adapts to anything——or the loss of anything. In fact, all it cares about is existing; and as long as it can exist, it is quite willing to be its own enemy. When we think that it has abandoned one of its pleasures, it has only adjourned it——or exchanged it for something else.
And even when it is defeated and we think we are rid of it, it reappears glorying in its own defeat. That is the portrait of self-love, whose entire life is merely one big long flurry of agitation. The sea is a tangible image of it; and in the perpetual ebb and flow of the waves, it finds a faithful picture of its own eternal restlessness and the turbulent succession of its thoughts.
This fear keeps man within the limits of the possessions that birth or fortune has given him; and without such fear, he would be constantly making raids on other people. It is a product of self-love, which flatters us with the hope that we in turn may be fortunate too, or that we may derive something useful from their good fortune. In fact, when somebody opposes and hates and persecutes us, our self-love judges his deeds with all the rigour of justice.
It enlarges his faults until they are enormous, and casts such an unfavourable light on his good qualities that they become more distasteful than his faults. Yet when the same person has become favourable to us, or when one of our personal interests has reconciled us to him, the mere fact that we are satisfied restores to his merit the lustre that our aversion had just removed.
His bad qualities are overshadowed, and the good ones appear to better advantage than before; we summon back all our indulgence to justify the attack that he had made on us. Though all the passions display that truth, love shows it more clearly than the others. In reality it is produced by innumerable deeds which, far from having victory as their goal, arise. A thing of any kind whatever cannot be beautiful and perfect unless it truly is everything that it should be, and unless it has everything that it should have.
Nothing proves this as clearly as the trouble they take to secure the immortality of their names through the loss of their lives. It is the most intense and malignant of them all, though its violence is. If we carefully consider its power, we shall see that in every situation it dominates our feelings, interests, and pleasures.
The inertia of laziness casts a secret spell over the soul, which suddenly halts our most zealous pursuits and our most stubbornly held resolutions. Finally, to give a true idea of this passion, it must be said that laziness is like a blissful state of the soul, which comforts it for all its losses, and which acts as a substitute for all good things. Usually, therefore, enterprising men are more successful than other men, even though they are no more attractive.
Not so much because they want to be warned when they are no longer loved, as because they want to be reassured that they are still loved when nothing is said to the contrary. We have no more power over the one than over the other——either in terms of its intensity or in terms of its duration. Hence public theft is cleverness, and unjust seizure of provinces is called conquest. We have a responsibility to acquire and use it without committing any crime, and then it will not nurture and enhance vices, as wood supports and increases fire; instead, we can dedicate it to all the virtues and thus make them even more attractive and remarkable.
Thus the best pear tree in the world would not be capable of bearing the most commonplace apples, and the most excellent talent would not be capable of yielding the same fruits as the most commonplace talents. Thus, also, wanting to compose maxims when you do not have the seed for them within you is as absurd as wanting a flowerbed to produce tulips when no bulbs have been planted there. This is conclusive evidence that he was not created as he is. It is a cruel cure——but gentler than doubts and suspicions.
He can endure neither their violence, nor the violence that he would have to inflict on himself in order to rid himself of their yoke. He is frustrated not only by his vices, but also by the things that would cure them; and he cannot come to terms either with the discomfort of his afflictions or with the task of curing himself. Hence, just as the body without its soul has no sight, no hearing, no consciousness, no feelings, and no movements, similarly self-love cut off so to speak from its selfinterest can no longer see, hear, feel, or move.
Hence the sudden coma and death that we cause to all those whom we tell about our own affairs; hence the promptness of their resurrection when we introduce into our tale something that con-.
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So we see, during our conversations and interactions, that a man instantaneously loses consciousness and regains his faculties, as his own interests come to the fore or recede. That is why nearly all men are wretched. Truth Truth, wherever it is found, cannot be overshadowed by comparison with any other truth; and whatever differences there may be between two entities, what is true in one can never overshadow what is true in the other.
They may be more or less extensive and more or less conspicuous, but they are always equal in truth——which is no truer in the greater entity than in the lesser. The art of war is greater in scope, nobility, and brilliance than the art of poetry, but the poet and the conqueror are comparable to each other as far as they truly are what they are , the legislator and the painter, etc. However different those gifts may be, the generosity is true and equal in each case, and each of them gives in proportion to what he is.
One entity may contain multiple truths, while another may have only one. The entity that contains multiple truths is greater in value, and may shine in contexts where the other does not; but in the context where each one is true, they shine equally. Whatever disproportion there may be between two houses that have appropriate types of beauty, neither of them can ever overshadow the other. Admittedly, we often see women of dazzling but irregular beauty overshadowing those who are more truly beautiful.
Yet taste, which is readily biased, is the judge of beauty, and the most beautiful people are not always equally beautiful; so, if the less beautiful do happen to overshadow the others, it will be only for a few moments: it will be because variations in daylight and illumination display to a greater or lesser extent the truth that is in the features or colours, revealing what is beautiful in the less beautiful person, and concealing what is true and beautiful in the other.
Social Contact In speaking of social contact, my plan is not to speak of friendship.
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Although they are related, they are very different: the latter has more eminence and dignity, and the greatest merit of the former is to resemble it. At present, therefore, I shall speak only of the particular way in which people of honor ought to deal with each other. It would be idle to state how much men need social contact. All of them desire it and seek it; but few use methods to make it attractive and make it last.
Everyone is seeking his own pleasure and advantage, at the expense of other people. We always prefer ourselves to those with whom we intend to live, and we almost always make them conscious of this preference; that is what disturbs and destroys social intercourse. We should at least learn to hide this desire to put our own preferences first——because they are too innate for us to override. We should find our pleasure in that of other people, showing consideration for their self-love and never wounding it.
The mind plays a great part in so great a work, but it alone is not enough to guide us in the various paths we should follow. Social intercourse would not long be maintained by the understanding that. If people who are opposite in temperament and mind sometimes seem united, no doubt they are held together by alien links, which do not last for long. We may also have social contact with people to whom we are superior, either by birth or in personal qualities; but those who possess such an advantage should not abuse it. For a social group to be comfortable, everyone must retain his personal freedom.
We must be allowed to see each other or not to see each other, without any constraint; to entertain each other or even to bore each other. We must be able to part without changing the situation. We must be able to do without each other sometimes, if we do not want to put others in an awkward position; and we must remember that we often annoy people when we think we could not possibly annoy them. We should contribute, as far as we can, to the entertainment of the people with whom we wish to live——but we should not be burdened with the task of contributing to it all the time.
Politeness is necessary in any social group, but there should be limits to it; when it goes too far, it becomes a form of slavery. We should readily excuse our friends when their faults are inborn and less significant than their good qualities. We should seldom let them see that we have noticed any such thing or are offended by it; we should try to act so that they may become aware of it themselves, leaving the merit of correcting it to them.
In dealings between honorable people, a kind of civility is needed. This makes them understand how to be jocular; it prevents them from being offended themselves, and offending other people, by the use of excessively dry or harsh expressions, which often slip out thoughtlessly when people are heatedly expounding their own opinions. Honorable people cannot deal with each other unless there is a certain feeling of confidence, which needs to be mutual; each person. There needs to be some variety of thought; those whose minds work in only one way cannot please for long. We can travel along different paths, we need not have the same views or the same talents, as long as we are contributing to the pleasure of the social group, preserving in it the same harmony that different voices and instruments should preserve in music.
It is difficult for different people to have the same interests; to make social contact more agreeable, at least their interests should not be in opposition. We should anticipate what would please our friends, look for ways to be useful to them, spare them from trouble, show them that we are sharing it when it cannot be averted, shroud it imperceptibly without claiming to destroy it all at once, and replace it with something attractive, or at least something that will keep them busy.
We should talk about things that concern them——but only as far as they themselves will let us; in such matters we need to avoid going too far. It is an act of civility, sometimes even of humanity, not to penetrate too deeply into the recesses of their hearts. Often it would be painful for them to reveal everything that they themselves know about their own hearts, and still more painful if we were to perceive what they do not know.
Though dealings between honorable people make them familiar with each other, and provide them with innumerable subjects that they can discuss sincerely, hardly anyone has enough flexibility and good sense to accept fully the variety of opinion that is necessary for the maintenance of the social group. We want to be informed up to a certain point, but not in every respect; there are all kinds of truths we are afraid of knowing.
Just as we must keep at a distance to see objects clearly, so we must do in a social group; each person has a specific point of view from which he wants to be considered. We should try to discover the manner that comes naturally to us and not depart from it, perfecting it as much as we can.
What makes the majority of young children so pleasant is the fact that they are still confined to the manner and the ways of behaving that nature gave them; they are ignorant of any others. When they start to leave childhood behind, they change and corrupt their ways. They think they ought to copy what they see other people doing, and yet they cannot copy it perfectly——there is always something false and indeterminate in the copy.
There is nothing steady in their feelings and their ways of behaving; instead of really being what they want to seem, they strive to seem what they are not. Each of them wants to be someone else, and not what he is. They are searching for a demeanour that is beyond them, a mind that is different from their own; they adopt manners and ways of behaving at random; they experiment with them, not realizing that what suits some people does not suit everyone, that there are no general rules for manners and ways of behaving, and copies are never good.
In saying this, I am not claiming that we should be so selfconfined that we have no freedom to follow examples and supplement ourselves with useful or necessary qualities which nature has not given us. The arts and sciences suit most people who are able to learn them; grace and civility suit everyone; but such acquired qualities should always have a certain relationship and unity with our own qualities, which imperceptibly extend and increase them.
Sometimes we are exalted to a rank and dignity too great for us; often we are obliged to enter a new profession, for which nature has not destined us. Any such position has its own manner——which suits it, but does not necessarily suit the manner that comes naturally to us; the change in our fortune often changes our manner and our ways of behaving, and supplements them with an air of dignity which is always false when it is too marked and fails to combine and merge with the manner that nature has given us.
We need to unite and blend them so that they seem inseparable. Not all things should be discussed in the same tone and style——we do not march at the head of a regiment as we walk during a stroll; but we should say different things in the same natural manner. Though we should walk in different ways, we should always do so naturally and as is suitable, whether at the head of a regiment or during a stroll. There are some people who are not content merely to abandon their appropriate natural manner and accept that of the rank and dignity they have attained; they even adopt prematurely the manner of a rank and dignity to which they aspire.
How many lieutenantgenerals are practising to be field marshals! How many lawyers are imitating in vain the manner of a chancellor, and how many middleclass women are assuming the air of a duchess! What we often dislike is the fact that no one knows how to reconcile his manner and his ways of behaving with his demeanour, or his words and his tones of voice with his thoughts and sentiments.
People disturb their harmony with something false and alien; they forget themselves and drift imperceptibly out of harmony. Almost everyone falls into this fault in some respect; nobody has a fine enough ear to recognize the proper cadence on every occasion. Thousands of people with attractive qualities are disliked; thousands of less talented people are liked——because the former want to seem something that they are not, while the latter are exactly what they seem.
In short, whatever advantages or disadvantages we may have received from nature, we are pleasing only in so far as we follow the manner, tones, feelings, and ways of behaving that suit our condition and demeanour, and we are displeasing to the extent that we depart from them. Conversation The reason why so few people are attractive in conversation is that everyone thinks more about what he himself wants to say than about what the other people are saying.
We should listen to those who are speaking, if we want them to listen to us; we should give them a hearing, and even let them say things that are pointless. Instead of contradicting or interrupting them, as people often do, we should penetrate their own thought and taste, showing that we understand them, speaking about things that concern them, praising what they.
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We should avoid disputes about insignificant things; we should rarely question what they say this is almost always useless , we should never let them think we claim to be more reasonable than other people, and we should readily give them the privilege of deciding for themselves. We should say things that are natural, simple, and more or less serious, depending on the temperaments and inclinations of the people with whom we are speaking——not pressing them to approve what we have said, or even to answer it.
When we have thus satisfied the requirements of civility, we can voice our own feelings without any prejudice or stubbornness, while showing that we are trying to base them on the opinions of our listeners. We should not talk long about ourselves, or often set ourselves up as examples. We cannot be too diligent in learning the inclinations and capacities of those with whom we are speaking, so that we can associate with the most intelligent person and add our thoughts to his, giving him the impression, wherever possible, that we are deriving them from him. We need to be clever enough not to exhaust the subjects under discussion, but always leave something for other people to think and say.
We should never speak with an air of authority or use words and terms that are too lofty. It is dangerous to want to lead the conversation all the time, or to talk too often about one thing; we should participate equally in all the attractive subjects that arise, and never show that we want to draw the conversation around to something that we ourselves wish to say.
It must be said that no conversation, however honorable and intelligent, is equally suitable for all kinds of honorable people. We need to choose what is suitable for each person——and even choose the right time to say it; if there is great art in knowing how to speak appropriately, there is no less in knowing how to be silent. There is an eloquent silence, which can sometimes be used to approve or condemn; there is a mocking silence; there is a respectful silence.
In fact, there are tones, manners, and ways of behaving that often determine what is attractive or unattractive, subtle or offensive in a. Few people know the secret of using them properly. Even those who lay down rules on the subject go astray from time to time. The safest rule, in my opinion, is to have no rules that cannot be changed, to speak negligently rather than pretentiously, to listen and say very little, never forcing yourself to talk.
Confiding Though confiding and being sincere are related, they differ in various respects. When we confide, we have less freedom; the rules are stricter. We must be meticulously careful not to unmask our friends when we unmask ourselves, and not to enhance the value of our own offerings by doling out anything that our friends possess. A confidence always gives pleasure to the person who receives it.
It is a tribute paid to his merit, a deposit entrusted to his fidelity, a pledge that gives him a claim on us, a kind of dependence to which we submit voluntarily. In saying this, I am not intending to destroy confidence, which is so necessary among men, since it is the bond that maintains social contact and friendship; I am intending merely to set limits to it, so that it is honorable and faithful. I want it to be always true and prudent, without weakness or self-interest; but I know well that it is hard to define the proper extent to which we and our friends should exchange confidences.
Most often we confide out of vanity, out of a wish to speak, out of a desire to draw confidences from other people, and in order to exchange secrets. There are people who may have reason to trust us, though we have no reason to trust them. We discharge our obligations toward them by keeping their secrets and repaying them with slight confidences of our own. There are other people whose fidelity is well known to us, who never act cautiously with us, and in whom we can confide by choice and inclination.
We should not hide from. With such people, we should make it a rule never to impart halfconfidences——which always put the giver in an awkward position and hardly ever satisfy the receiver: they dimly illuminate what we want to keep hidden, and they arouse the curiosity of our hearers, who feel entitled to know more and feel free to discuss what they have perceived.
It is safer and more honorable to tell them nothing than to fall silent after we have started to speak. There are other rules to be followed when something has been confided to us. The more important it is, the more prudence and fidelity it demands. Everyone agrees that a secret should be inviolable; but not everyone agrees on the nature and importance of such secrecy. Most often we consult only our own judgement when deciding what we should say or not say. Few secrets are permanent, and our scruples about revealing them do not last for ever.
We have very close links with friends whom we know to be faithful. They have always spoken to us frankly, and we have dealt with them in the same way; they know our habits and procedures, and they can see us at such close range that they notice the slightest change. From another source they may learn something that we have promised never to tell anyone——it has not been in our power to take them into our confidence, even though they might have some personal interest in the subject; we are as sure of them as we are of ourselves, and yet we find ourselves reduced to the hard fate of either losing their friendship, which is dear to us, or else breaking our pledge of secrecy.
This situation is no doubt the most severe test of fidelity, but it should not sway a man of honor. We often need strength and prudence to resist the demands of our friends, most of whom make claims on our confidence and want. Never, under any circumstances, must we allow them to establish such claims. There are contexts and circumstances that do not fall within their province; if they complain about that, we must endure their complaints and gently defend our conduct; but if they remain unjust, we must sacrifice their friendship to our duty, and make a choice between two inevitable ills——one of which can be put right, whereas the other has no possible cure.
Love and the Sea Those who have sought to depict love and its whims have compared it to the sea in so many ways that it is hard to add anything to what they have said. They have shown that both are equally inconstant and faithless, doing countless good and evil deeds; that the most fortunate voyages face thousands of dangers, that there are always storms and reefs to be feared, and that we are often shipwrecked even in harbour.
But although they have listed so many hopes and fears, it seems to me that they have not sufficiently shown us the link between a worn-out, sluggish love that is reaching its end and the prolonged doldrums, the tiresome calm spells, that we encounter below the equator. We are weary of our long journey, we long to finish it; we can see the land, but we do not have enough wind to reach it; we find ourselves subject to the ravages of time; we are too ill and too sluggish to act; water and provisions fail or lose their taste; we turn in vain to aliens for help; we try to fish, and we do catch some fish, but they give us neither comfort nor nourishment; we are weary of everything we see, we are always thinking the same thoughts, and we are always bored; we continue to live, and we regret that we do; we hope to be rescued from our painful, sluggish state by what we desire——yet the only desires we can form are themselves weak and sluggish.
Examples Whatever difference there may be between good and bad examples, we shall find that both have produced almost equally bad results.
Kaléidoscope - L'actualité des livres
Tous ces grands originaux ont produit un nombre infini de mauvaises copies. How many braggarts have been produced by the valour of Alexander! How many cadging philosophers have been produced by Diogenes, chatterboxes by Cicero, lazy fence-sitters by Pomponius Atticus, avengers by Marius and Sylla, voluptuaries by Lucullus, debauchees by Alcibiades and Antony, stubborn diehards by Cato!
The virtues are bordered by vices; examples are guides that often lead us astray, and we are so full of falsehood that we use them as much to depart from the path of virtue as to follow it. The Uncertainty of Jealousy The more we say about our jealousy, the more varied its unpleasant aspects seem; the slightest circumstances change them, constantly revealing something new.
Such novelties make us look again, with different eyes, at what we thought we had already seen enough and weighed enough. We try to commit ourselves to a definite opinion, and we do not commit ourselves to any; everything that is opposite or overshadowed appears at the same time; we want to hate and we want to love——but we still love when we hate, and we still hate when we love. We believe everything and doubt everything; we feel ashamed and resentful for having believed, and also for having doubted; we labour constantly to reach a definite opinion, and we never manage to settle it.
We are never fortunate enough to venture to believe what we wish——nor are we even fortunate enough to be sure of what we fear most. We are subject to a kind of endless uncertainty, showing us successive glimpses of good and evil things that constantly escape us. Love and Life Love is a picture of our life: both are subject to the same upheavals and the same changes. Their early stages are filled with joy and hope; we believe ourselves fortunate to be young, as we believe ourselves fortunate to be in love. This condition is so attractive that it leads to a desire for other good things——and more substantial ones.
We are not content to be; we want to progress; we are intent on advancing and making our fortune; we seek the patronage of ministers, we make ourselves useful by promoting their interests; we cannot endure anyone whose aspirations are the same as ours. This spirit of emulation is criss-crossed with thousands of cares and troubles, which are overshadowed by the pleasure of seeing ourselves secure; then all our passions are satisfied, and we do not foresee that we could ever cease to be happy.
Nevertheless, this state of felicity seldom lasts long, and does not long retain the charm of novelty. When we have what we wish, we do not stop wishing. We grow accustomed to everything that we have; the same possessions do not retain the same value, and no longer affect our taste in the same way. We change imperceptibly, without noticing that we have changed. What we have acquired becomes part of ourselves; we would be deeply affected if we lost it, but we are no longer sensitive to the pleasure of retaining it.
Our joy has lost its intensity; we seek it elsewhere, no longer in the things that we used to desire so much. This involuntary inconstancy is the result of time; do what we may, time subtracts from our love, as it does from our life——imperceptibly tarnishing each day some of its youth and gaiety, and destroying its true charms. We behave in more serious ways, we add business to passion; love no longer exists for itself, but borrows help from alien things.
This state of love depicts the onset of old age, when we begin to see what our end will be. But we are not strong enough to accept the end willingly; in the decline of love, as in the decline of life, no one can avert the frustrations that await us; though we no longer live for pleasures, we continue to live for ills.
Jealousy, mistrust, fear of wearying others, fear of being deserted, are troubles associated with the old age of love, just as illnesses are associated with excessive prolongation of life. We feel that we are alive only because we feel ill, and likewise we feel that we are in love only because we feel all the troubles of love.
Manuel de l'étranger à Dijon/Texte entier
Taste Some people have more intelligence than taste, others more taste than intelligence; but there are more quirks and variations in taste than in intelligence. There is a difference between the taste that attracts us to things, and the taste that leads us to become familiar with them and discern their qualities in accordance with certain rules. We may like a play even if our tastes are not sufficiently astute and subtle to judge it properly, and we may have enough taste to judge it properly even if we do not like it.
Some tastes draw us imperceptibly toward what lies ahead; others sweep us away by their strength or duration. Some people have bad taste in everything; others have bad taste only in certain things——their tastes are correct and true on any subject within their capacity.
Still others have unique tastes, which they know to be bad but cannot help following. Others are always prejudiced; they are enslaved by their own tastes, which they respect in every detail. There are also people who are sensitive to what is good and offended by what is not; their views are clear and correct, and they find that the reason for their taste lies in their intelligence and discernment.
Some people, when faced with a matter of judgement, always choose the right side by a kind of instinct, without knowing why. Such people display more taste than intelligence, because their selflove and their temperament are not overriding their innate enlightenment. This harmony makes them judge things soundly and form a true idea of them. Amid all the different forms of taste noted above, it is very rare, indeed almost impossible, to find the sort of good taste that is really capable of evaluating each thing——that appreciates its full value, and is universally applicable.
Our background knowledge is too limited; and only on matters of no direct concern to us, in most cases, do we maintain the sound combination of qualities required for good judgement. When we ourselves are concerned, our tastes no longer have the necessary soundness; they are disturbed by distracting influences. Everything takes on a different appearance when it relates to us.
No one can see with the same eyes both what affects him and what does not affect him. Then our tastes are led by the bent of our self-love and our temperament, which give us new points of view, and subject us to innumerable changes and uncertainties. Our tastes are no longer our own, they are no longer under our own control; they change without our consent, and we see the same things from such different aspects that at last we no longer recognize what we used to see and feel.
The Relationship Between Men and Animals There are as many different kinds of men as there are of animals, and men are to other men what the different kinds of animals are to themselves and to each other. How many men live on the blood and lives of the innocent——some like tigers, perpetually savage and cruel; others like lions, maintaining some appearance of generosity; others like bears, uncouth and greedy; others like wolves, marauding and pitiless; others like foxes, who live by their diligence, and whose occupation is to deceive!
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