François de La Rochefoucauld (writer) Quotes
Absence extinguishes small passions and increases great ones, as the wind will blow out a candle and blow in a fire.
A clever man ought to so regulate his interests that each will fall in due order. Our greediness so often troubles us, making us run after so many things at the same time, that while we too eagerly look after the least, we miss the greatest.
Almost everyone takes pleasure in repaying trifling obligations, very many feel gratitude for those that are moderate; but there is scarcely anyone who is not ungrateful for those that are weighty.
A lofty mind always thinks nobly, it easily creates vivid, agreeable, and natural fancies, places them in their best light, clothes them with all appropriate adornments, studies others’ tastes, and clears away from its own thoughts all that is useless and disagreeable.
Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, they are not so often the result of a great design as of chance.
A man’s desires always disappoint him; for though he meets with something that gives him satisfaction, yet it never thoroughly answers his expectation.
A man often believes himself leader when he is led; as his mind endeavors to reach one goal, his heart insensibly drags him towards another.
A man who is always well satisfied with himself is seldom so with others, and others as little pleased with him.
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.
A small degree of wit, accompanied by good sense, is less tiresome in the long run than a great amount of wit without it.
Avarice often produces opposite effects; there is an infinite number of people who sacrifice all their property to doubtful and distant expectations; others despise great future advantages to obtain present interests of a trifling nature.
Before we passionately desire anything which another enjoys, we should examine into the happiness of its possessor.
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.
Confidence always pleases those who receive it. It is a tribute we pay to their merit, a deposit we commit to their trust, a pledge that gives them a claim upon us, a kind of dependence to which we voluntarily submit.
Coquetry is the essential characteristic, and the prevalent humor of women; but they do not all practise it, because the coquetry of some is restrained by fear or by reason.
Dishonest men conceal their faults from themselves as well as others; honest men know and confess them.
Esteem has more engaging charms than friendship, and even love. It captivates hearts better, and never makes ingrates.
Everybody takes pleasure in returning small obligations; many go so far as to acknowledge moderate ones; but there is hardly any one who does not repay great obligations with ingratitude.
Everyone agrees that a secret should be kept intact, but everyone does not agree as to the nature and importance of secrecy. Too often we consult ourselves as to what we should say, what we should leave unsaid. There are few permanent secrets, and the scruple against revealing them will not last forever.
Extreme avarice is nearly always mistaken; there is no passion which is oftener further away from its mark, nor upon which the present has so much power to the prejudice of the future.
Familiarity is a suspension of almost all the laws of civility, which libertinism has introduced into society under the notion of ease.
Few people know death, we only endure it, usually from determination, and even from stupidity and custom; and most men only die because they know not how to prevent dying.
Few persons have sufficient wisdom to prefer censure which is useful to them to praise which deceives them.
Few things are needed to make a wise man happy; nothing can make a fool content; that is why most men are miserable.
For the credit of virtue we must admit that the greatest misfortunes of men are those into which they fall through their crimes.
Gratitude is like the good faith of traders—it maintains commerce; and we often pay, not because it is just to discharge our debts, but that we may more readily find people to trust us.
Great souls are not those who have fewer passions and more virtues than the common, but those only who have greater designs.
Happiness is in taste and not in things; and it is by having what we love that we are happy, not by having what others find agreeable.
He is not a reasonable man who by chance stumbles upon reason, but he who derives it from knowledge, from discernment, and from taste.
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.
He who thinks he can find in himself the means of doing without others is much mistaken; but he who thinks that others cannot do without him is still more mistaken.
However resplendent an action may be, it should not be accounted great unless it is the result of a great design.
If we take the liberty to dwell on their faults, we cannot long preserve the feelings we should hold towards our friends and benefactors.
I love my friends; and I love them to such an extent that I would not for a moment weigh my interest against theirs. I condescend to them, I patiently endure their bad temper. But, also, I do not make much of their caresses, and I do not feel great uneasiness in their absence.
In all professions every one affects a particular look and exterior, in order to appear what he wishes to be thought; so that it may be said the world’s made up of appearances.
In great matters we should not try so much to create opportunities as to utilize those that offer themselves.
In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions; so that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.
In misfortune we often mistake dejection for constancy; we bear it without daring to look on it; like cowards, who suffer themselves to be murdered without resistance.
In order to punish man for his original sin, God has made him so fond of his self-love that he is tormented by it in all the actions of his life.
Intrepidity is an extraordinary strength of soul, which raises it above the troubles, disorders and emotions which the sight of great perils can arouse in it; by this strength heroes maintain a calm aspect and preserve their reason and liberty in the most surprising and terrible accidents.
It is as common for men to change their taste as it is uncommon for them to change their inclination.
It is as easy to deceive one’s self without perceiving it as it is difficult to deceive others without their finding it out.
It is given to few persons to keep this secret well. Those who lay down rules too often break them, and the safest we are able to give is to listen much, to speak little, and to say nothing that will ever give ground for regret.
It may be said that the vices await us in the journey of life like hosts with whom we must successively lodge; and I doubt whether experience would make us avoid them if we were to travel the same road a second time.
It Is more difficult for a man to be faithful to his mistress when he is favored than when he is ill treated by her.
It is not expedient or wise to examine our friends too closely; few persons are raised in our esteem by a close examination.
It is only people who possess firmness who can possess true gentleness. In those who appear gentle, it is generally only weakness, which is readily converted into harshness.
It seems that 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.
It seems that nature, which has so wisely disposed our bodily organs with a view to our happiness, has also bestowed on us pride, to spare us the pain of being aware of our imperfections.
It is with certain good qualities as with the senses; those who are entirely deprived of them can neither appreciate nor comprehend them.
It is with sincere affection or friendship as with ghosts and apparitions,—a thing that everybody talks of, and scarce any hath seen.
Jealousy is in a manner just and reasonable, as it tends to preserve a good which belongs, or which we believe belongs to us. Envy, on the other hand, is a fury that cannot endure the happiness of others.
Jealousy lives upon distrust, becomes madness, or ceases entirely, when we pass from doubt to certainty.
Kings do with men as with pieces of money; they give them what value they please, and we are obliged to receive them at their current and not at their real value.
Lucky people are often bad hands at correcting their faults; they believe that they are right when luck backs up their vice or folly.
Magnanimity is sufficiently defined by its name, nevertheless one can say it is the good sense of pride, the most noble way of receiving praise.
Men are not only prone to forget benefits; they even hate those who have obliged them, and cease to hate those who have injured them. The necessity of revenging an injury, or of recompensing a benefit seems a slavery to which they are unwilling to submit.
Moderation cannot have the credit of combating and subduing ambition,—they are never found together. Moderation is the languor and indolence of the soul, as ambition is its activity and ardor.
Moderation resembles temperance. We are not so unwilling to eat more, as afraid of doing ourselves harm by it.
Most frequently we make confidants from vanity, a love of talking, a wish to win the confidence of others, and to make an exchange of secrets.
Nothing is impossible; there are ways which lead to everything; and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means.
Nothing is so capable of diminishing self-love as the observation that we disapprove at one time what we approve at another.
Nothing is so contagious as example; never was there any considerable good or ill done that does not produce its like. We imitate good actions through emulation, and bad ones through a malignity in our nature, which shame conceals, and example sets at liberty.
Novelty is to love like bloom to fruit; it gives a luster which is easily effaced, but never returns.
One reason why we find so few people who are rational and agreeable in conversation is that there is hardly anyone who does not think more about what he wants to say than about responding to what is said. The most clever and polite people are content with merely seeming attentive—and we can can perceive in their eyes and mind that they are wandering from what is said, and want to return to what they want to say; instead of considering that the worst way to persuade or please others is to try to please ourselves [this way], and that listening well and answering well are some of the greatest charms we can have in conversation.
One thing which makes us find so few people who appear reasonable and agreeable in conversation is, that there is scarcely any one who does not think more of what he is about to say than of answering precisely what is said to him.
Our enemies come nearer the truth in the opinions they form of us than we do in our opinion of ourselves.
Penetration has an air of divination; it pleases our vanity more than any other quality of the mind.
Pity is a sense of our own misfortunes in those of another man; it is a sort of foresight of the disasters which may befall ourselves. We assist others, in order that they may assist us on like occasions; so that the services we offer to the unfortunate are in reality so many anticipated kindnesses to ourselves.
Raillery is more insupportable than wrong; because we have a right to resent injuries, but are ridiculous in being angry at a jest.
Satire is at once the most agreeable and most dangerous of mental qualities. It always pleases when it is refined, but we always fear those who use it too much; yet satire should be allowed when unmixed with spite, and when the person satirized can join in the satire.
Self-love increases or diminishes for us the good qualities of our friends, in proportion to the satisfaction we feel with them; and we judge of their merit by the manner in which they act towards us.
Sincerity is an openness of heart; it is found in a very few people, and that which we see commonly is not it, but a subtle dissimulation, to gain the confluence of others.
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.
Sometimes there are accidents in our lives the skillful extrication from which demands a little folly.
Sometimes we lose friends for whose loss our regret is greater than our grief, and others for whom our grief is greater than our regret.
That conduct sometimes seems ridiculous, in the eyes of the world, the secret reasons for which, may, in reality, be wise and solid.
The ambitious deceive themselves when they propose an end to their ambition; for that end, when attained, becomes a means.
The art of putting well into play mediocre qualities often begets more reputation than true merit achieves.
The blindness of men is the most dangerous effect of their pride; it seems to nourish and augment it; it deprives them of knowledge of remedies which can solace their miseries and can cure their faults.
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 contempt of riches in the philosophers was a concealed desire of revenging on fortune the injustice done to their merit, by despising the good she denied them.
The extreme pleasure we take in talking of ourselves should make us fear that we give very little to those who listen to us.
The generality of friends puts us out of conceit with friendship; just as the generality of religious people puts us out of conceit with religion.
The greatest of all cunning is to seem blind to the snares which we know to be laid for us. Men are never so easily deceived as while they are endeavoring to deceive others.
The health of the soul is as precarious as that of the body; for when we seem secure from passions, we are no less in danger of their infection than we are of falling ill when we appear to be well.
The love of glory, the fear of shame, the design of making a fortune, the desire of rendering life easy and agreeable, and the humor of pulling down other people, are often the causes of that valor so celebrated among men.
The mind attaches itself by idleness and habit to whatever is easy or pleasant. This habit always places bounds to our knowledge, and no one has ever yet taken the pains to enlarge and expand his mind to the full extent of its capacities.
The most sure method of subjecting yourself to be deceived is to consider yourself more cunning than 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.
The passions are the only orators that always persuade; they are, as it were, a natural art, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man with passion is more persuasive than the most eloquent without it.
The praise we give to newcomers into the world arises from the envy we bear to those who are established.
There is as much eloquence in the tone of the voice, in the eyes, and in the air of a speaker as in his choice of words.
The reason for misreckoning in expected returns of gratitude is that the pride of the giver and receiver can never agree about the value of the obligation.
There is at least as much eloquence in the voice, eyes, and air of a speaker as in his choice of words.
There are certain people fated to be fools; they not only commit follies by choice, but are even constrained to do so by fortune.
There are crimes which become innocent, and even glorious through their splendor, number and excess.
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.
There are falsehoods which represent truth so well that it would be judging ill not to be deceived by them.
There is an eloquent silence which serves to approve or to condemn: there is a silence of discretion and of respect.
There is nearly as much ability requisite to know how to profit by good advice as to know how to act for one’s self.
There are no accidents so unfortunate from which skillful men will not draw some advantage, nor so fortunate that foolish men will not turn them to their hurt.
There is no praise we have not lavished upon prudence; and yet she cannot assure to us the most trifling event.
There are two kinds of constancy in love, one arising from incessantly finding in the loved one fresh objects to love, the other from regarding it as a point of honor to be constant.
The secret of pleasing in conversation is not to explain too much everything; to say them half and leave a little for divination is a mark of the good opinion we have of others, and nothing flatters their self-love more.
The vices enter into the composition of the virtues, as poisons into that of medicines. Prudence collects and arranges them, and uses them beneficially against the ills of life.
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.
Those whom the world has delighted to honor have oftener been influenced in their doings by ambition and vanity than by patriotism.
Those who are overreached by our cunning are far from appearing to us as ridiculous as we appear to ourselves when the cunning of others has overreached us.
To be deceived by our enemies and betrayed by our friends is not to be borne; yet are we often content to be served so by ourselves.
To men who have deserved high praise, nothing should be more humbling than the lengths to which they will still go to get credit for petty things.
True Bravery is shown by performing, without witnesses, what one might be capable of doing before all the world.
Truth is the foundation and the reason of the perfection of beauty, for of whatever stature a thing may be, it cannot be beautiful and perfect, unless it be truly what it should be, and possess truly all that it should have.
We acknowledge that we should not talk of our wives; but we seem not to know that we should talk still less of ourselves.
We love everything on our own account; we even follow our own taste and inclination when we prefer our friends to ourselves; and yet it is this preference alone that constitutes true and perfect friendship.
We may say of agreeableness, as distinct from beauty, that it consists in a symmetry of which we know not the rules, and a secret conformity of the features to each other, and to the air and complexion of the person.
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.
We often boast that we are never bored, but yet we are so conceited that we do not perceive how often we bore others.
We often glory in the most criminal passion; but that of envy is so shameful that we dare not even own it.
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 at all.
We seldom find persons whom we acknowledge to be possessed of good sense, except those who agree with us in opinion.
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.
We should often be ashamed of our very best actions, if the world only saw the motives which caused them.
We should often have reason to be ashamed of our most brilliant actions if the world could see the motives from which they spring.
We should wish for few things with eagerness, if we perfectly knew the nature of that which was the object of our desire.
We are so accustomed to disguising ourselves to others that we end up becoming disguised to ourselves
What is commonly called friendship is no more than a partnership; a reciprocal regard for one another’s interests, and an exchange of good offices; in a word, a mere traffic, wherein self-love always proposes to be a gainer.
Whatever difference may appear in the fortunes of mankind, there is, nevertheless, a certain compensation of good and evil which makes them equal.
Whatever discoveries we may have made in the regions of self-love, there still remain many unknown lands.
Whatever distrust we may have of the sincerity of those who converse with us, we always believe they will tell us more truth than they do to others.
What makes false reckoning, as regards gratitude, is that the pride of the giver and the receiver cannot agree as to the value of the benefit.
What seems generosity is often disguised ambition, that despises small to run after greater interests.
What we take for virtues is often nothing but an assemblage of different actions, and of different interests, that fortune or our industry know how to arrange; and it is not always from valor and from chastity that men are valiant, and that women are chaste.
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.
When a man seems to be wise, it is merely that his follies are proportionate to his age and fortune.
When we exaggerate the tenderness of our friends towards us, it is often less from gratitude than from a desire to exhibit our own merit.
Ability wins us the esteem of the true men; luck that of the people.
Few things are impracticable in themselves; and it is for want of application, rather than of means, that men fail of success.
The art of using moderate abilities to advantage often brings greater results than actual brilliance.
The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.