A person loses all of children's confidence and becomes useless to them when he punishes them for things they did not do, or punishes them severely for little things. Chilren know precisely, and better than anyone, what they deserve, and they seldom deserve more than they are afraid of. They know if it is wrong or right that they are being punished, and they are spoiled just as much by being given undeserved punishments as by being given no punishments at all.
C’est perdre toute confiance dans l’esprit des enfants, et leur devenir inutile, que de les punir des fautes qu’ils n’ont point faites, ou même sévèrement de cells qui sont légères. Ils savent précisément et mieux que personne ce qu’ils méritent, et ils ne méritent guère que ce qu’ils craignent: ils connaissent si c’est à tort ou avec raison qu’on les châtie, et ne se gâtent pas moins par des peines mal ordonnées que par l’impunité.
- La Bruyère, Characters, On Man, aphorism 59
Louis, Prince of Condé. La Bruyère was his tutor when he was a boy.
He was a philosopher equally as distant from superstition as from impiety, a sensuous man who had as much aversion to debauchery as love of pleasure... in friendship he was more sensitive than a philosopher but just as faithful; more constant than, but just as sincere as a young man who is naturally good and without experience.
C'est un philosophe également éloigné du superstitieux et de l'impie, un voluptueux qui n'a pas moind d'aversion pour la débauche que d'inclination pour les plaisirs... en amitié, plus sensible qu'un philosophe et aussi constant, plus régulier et aussi sincère qu'un jeune homme de bon naturel et sans expérience.
An image of Coutences, near Saint-Demis-le-Guast, where Saint-Évremond was born.
Thought consoles all and remedies all. If sometimes it harms you, ask it for the remedy and it will give it to you.
La pensée console de tout et remédie à tout. Si quelquefois elle vous fait du mal, demandez-lui le remède du mal qu'elle vous a fait, et elle vous le donnera.
- Chamfort, Maxims and Thoughts, Characters and Anecdotes, aphorism 29
Chamfort wanted to see France a republic, took part in storming the Bastille and wrote speeches for statesmen like Mirabeau. But when he saw Robespierre and the Reign of Terror, he spoke out against it as acerbically as he had against the king and nobility. When Marat was killed, he stated gleefully 'King Murat is dead!'. He was thrown into this prison, the Madelonnettes Convent, which later held the Marquis de Sade. It was notoriously unhygienic, with overflowing toilets, foul air, vermin and poor food. He only stayed for two days, and was afterward under house arrest in a small apartment nearby. One day, his guard complained to him that the theaters in Paris hadn't had any audiences. Chamfort replied, 'Tragedy no longer has the same effect once it roams the streets.'
One must have great resources in ones spirit and heart to prefer sincerity in others even when it hurts, or to be sincere without giving offense. Few people have enough good will to suffer the truth and to say it.
Il faut de grandes ressources dans l'esprit et dans le cœur pour goûter la sincérité lorsqu'elle blesse, ou pour la pratiquer sans qu'elle offense. Peu de gens ont assez de fonds pour souffrir la vérité et pour la dire.
- Vauvenargues, Maxims and Thoughts, aphorism 221
Jean-François Marmontel, a French historian, writer, and member of the Encyclopediste movement. He was one of Vauvenargues' few friends when he came to live in Paris.
"Even in my youth," said M..., "I liked to flirt, I didn't much like to seduce, and I always hated to corrupt."
« Dans ma jeunesse même, me disait M…, j’aimais à intéresser, j’aimais assez peu à séduire, et j’ai toujours détesté de corrompre. »
- Chamfort, Characters and Anecdotes, aphorism 957
Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, notorious for being a libertine at the court of his brother, Louis XIV.
People who have infamous occupations like thieves or prostitutes pride themselves on their crimes and regard honest people as dupes. Most men, at the bottom of their heart, scorn virtue, but few scorn glory.
Ceux qui font des métiers infâmes comme les voleurs, les femmes perdues, s'honorent de leurs crimes et regardent les honnêtes gens comme des dupes. La plupart des hommes, dans le fond du cœur, méprisent la vertu, peu la gloire.
- Vauvenargues, Maxims and Thoughts
Robert-François Damiens. From Wikipedia: "On January 5, 1757, as king Louis XV was entering his carriage, Damiens rushed forward and stabbed him with a knife, inflicting only a slight wound. He made no attempt to escape, and was apprehended at once... He was tortured first with red-hot pincers; his hand, holding the knife used in the attempted assassination, was burned using sulphur; molten wax, lead, and boiling oil were poured into his wounds. He was then remanded to the royal executioner, Charles Henri Sanson, who harnessed horses to his arms and legs to be dismembered. But Damiens' limbs did not separate easily: the officiants ordered Sanson to cut Damiens' joints with an axe. Once Damiens was dismembered to the applause of the crowd, his reportedly still-living torso was burnt at the stake... The execution was witnessed by famous 18th-century adventurer Giacomo Casanova, who included an account in his memoirs: 'We had the courage to watch the dreadful sight for four hours ... Damiens was a fanatic, who, with the idea of doing a good work and obtaining a heavenly reward, had tried to assassinate Louis XV; and though the attempt was a failure, and he only gave the king a slight wound, he was torn to pieces as if his crime had been consummated. ... I was several times obliged to turn away my face and to stop my ears as I heard his piercing shrieks, half of his body having been torn from him, but the Lambertini and Mme XXX did not budge an inch. Was it because their hearts were hardened? They told me, and I pretended to believe them, that their horror at the wretch's wickedness prevented them feeling that compassion which his unheard-of torments should have excited.' —Book 2, Volume 5, Chapter 3"
Happiness resembles clocks. The simplest ones are the last to break. A clock with a special ring every hour fails once a month. If it shows minutes, once a week. The ones that show the days of the week and the month of the year are always shutting down.
Il en est du bonheur comme des montres. Les moins compliquées sont celles qui se dérangent le moins. La montre à répétition est plus sujette aux variations. Si elle marque de plus les minutes, nouvelle cause d'inégalité; puis celle qui marque le jour de la semaine et le mois de l'année, toujours plus prête à se détraquer.
- Chamfort, Maxims and Thoughts, aphorism 308
A detail of the Passemant astronomical clock in Versailles. It shows the time, date, real time average phases of the moon and Copernican planetary motion.
Virtue, that means increasing happiness; vice increases unhappiness. All the rest is only hypocrisy or bourgeois asininity.
La vertu, c'est augmenter le bonheur; le vice augmente le malheur. Tout le reste n'est qu'hypocrisie ou ânerie bourgeoise.
- Stendhal, Correspondence. To M. di Fiore, at Paris, Civita-Vecchia, the 1st nov. 1834
Matilde Dembowski, who Stendhal loved as much as happiness.
An ambitious person who failed at what he wanted to do and lives in despair, reminds me of Ixion, who was tied to a wheel for having embraced a cloud.
L'ambitieux qui a manqué son objet, et qui vit dans le désespoir, me rapelle Ixion is sur la roue pour avoir embrassé un nuage.
- Chamfort, Maxims and Thoughts, aphorism 95
Ixion tortured on his wheel. Zeus invited Ixion to Olympus where he became amorous of Zeus' wife Hera. When Zeus found out, he made a copy of Hera out of a cloud and sent it to Ixion, who seduced it. In the middle of the act, Zeus walked in, the cloud turned back to smoke and Ixion was punished by being tied to a wheel that rolled around the world.
The same justice of spirit that makes us write good things makes us stop and suspect that they are not good enough to merit praise.
A medioce spirit tries to write divinely; a good one tries to write reasonably.
La même justesse d'esprit qui nous fait écrire de bonnes choses nous fait appréhender qu'elles ne le soient pas assez pour mériter d'être lues.
Un esprit médiocre croit écrire divinement; un bon esprit croit écrire raisonnablement.
- La Bruyère, Characters, On Writing, Aphorism 18
Orléans, where La Bruyère studied law as a young man.