François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (September 15,
1613 – March 17, 1680) was a noted French author of maxims and memoirs.
His is a clear-eyed, worldly view of human conduct that indulges in
neither condemnation nor sentimentality. Born in Paris on the Rue des
Petits Champs, at a time when the royal court was oscillating between
aiding the nobility and threatening it, he was considered an exemplar of
the accomplished 17th-century nobleman. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
"This is no time to be getting all steamed up about La Rochefoucauld.
It's only a question of minutes before I'm going to be pretty darned
good and sick of La Rochefoucauld, once and for all. La Rochefoucauld
this and La Rochefoucauld that. Yes, well, let me tell you that if
nobody had ever learned to quote, very few people would be in love with
La Rochefoucauld. I bet you I don't know ten souls who read him without
-Dorothy Parker, in her short story The Little
A man may be ungrateful but is less chargeable with ingratitude than his
A man will often believe himself a leader when he is led; while with his
mind he endeavours to reach one goal, his heart insensibly drags him
Absence extinguishes the minor passions and increases the great ones, as
the wind blows out a candle and fans a fire.
As we age, we become more foolish and wiser.
Everyone complains about his memory, and no one complains about his
Everyone speaks well of his heart; no one dares speak well of his mind.
Few know how to be old.
Few women's merit lasts as long as their beauty.
Fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their
misdeeds with success they think it is because they are right.
Friendship is only a reciprocal conciliation of interests, and an
exchange of good offices; it is a species of commerce out of which
self-love always expects to gain something.
Hardly any man is clever enough to know all the evil he does.
How can we expect others to keep our secrets if we cannot keep them
Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.
If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those
If we judge love by the majority of its results, it resembles hatred
more than friendship.
If we resist our passions, it is more through their weakness than our
In all professions we affect a part and an appearance to seem what we
wish to be. Thus the world is merely composed of actors.
In friendship and in love, one is often happier because of what one does
not know than what one knows.
In jealousy there is more of self-love than love.
In love, the first healed is the best healed.
In the adversity of our best friends we often find something that is not
In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions, such
that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.
In their first passion, women love their lovers; in all the others, they
It is a great folly to wish to be wise alone.
It is a kind of happiness to know how unhappy we must be.
It is better to set one's mind to bearing the misfortunes that are
happening than to think of those that may happen.
It is difficult to define love. In the soul it is a passion to rule; in
the mind it is sympathy; and in the body it is only a hidden and tactful
desire to possess what we love after many mysteries.
It is easier to be wise for others than for oneself.
It is easier to know man in general than to know one man.
It is easier to seem worthy of positions one does not have than of those
It is harder to hide the feelings we have than to feign the ones we do
It is impossible to fall back in love with what one has stopped being in
It is less dangerous to treat most men badly than to treat them too well.
It is more difficult to avoid being ruled than to rule others.
It is more disgraceful to distrust than to be deceived by our friends.
It is not a pain to give to ingrates, but it is an intolerable one to be
obliged to a dishonest man.
It is only those who are firm who can be genuinely kind.
It is useless to be young without being beautiful, or beautiful without
Jealousy is always born with love but does not always die with it.
Jealousy lives upon suspicion; and it turns into a fury or ends as soon
as it passes from suspicion to certainty.
Lovers never get tired of each other, because they are always talking
Luck must be dealt with like health: enjoy it when it is good, be
patient when it is bad.
Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own
Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men,
and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and
their lack of merit.
Most people judge men only by success or by fortune.
Neither love nor fire can subsist without perpetual motion; both cease
to live so soon as they cease to hope, or to fear.
Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.
Nobody deserves to be praised for goodness unless he is strong enough to
be bad, for any other goodness is usually merely inertia or lack of
Nothing is given so profusely as advice.
Nothing prevents us being natural so much as the desire to appear so.
Of all violent passions, the least unbecoming to a woman is love.
Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that
they can no longer provide bad examples.
One is never so happy or so unhappy as one fancies.
One must listen if one wishes to be listened to.
One must not just have great qualities, but also economize them.
Only great men have great faults.
Our repentance is not so much sorrow for the ill we have done as a fear
of the ill that may befall us.
Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.
Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils
triumph over it.
Preserving your health by too strict a diet is a tedious illness.
Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.
Self-interest speaks all sorts of tongues and plays all sorts of
characters, even that of disinterestedness.
Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.
Silence is the surest resolve for him who distrusts himself.
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
Some condemnations praise; some praise damns.
Some people's faults are becoming to them; others are disgraced by their
own good traits.
Sometimes it is pleasant for a husband to have a jealous wife: he always
hears what he loves being talked about.
Sometimes one must be base in order not to be tricked by a clever man.
The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often
acquires more reputation than actual brilliancy.
The defects and faults in the mind are like wounds in the body. After
all imaginable care has been taken to heal them up, still there will be
a scar left behind.
The desire to appear clever often prevents one from being so.
The evil that we do does not attract to us so much persecution and
hatred as our good qualities.
The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire to receive even greater
The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is to go beyond the mark.
The happiness and misery of men depend no less on temper than fortune.
The intention of cheating no one lays us open to being cheated ourselves.
The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of
The mind is always the dupe of the heart.
The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. They are a
natural art, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man
with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.
The pleasure of love is in loving; we are happier in the passion we feel
than in what we inspire.
The reason that there are so few good conversationalists is that most
people are thinking about what they are going to say and not about what
the others are saying.
The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.
The stamp of great minds is to suggest much in few words, so,
contrariwise, little minds have the gift of talking a great deal and
The truest way to be deceived is to think oneself more knowing than
The vivacity which increases with old age is not so far removed from
There are few honest women who are not tired of what they do.
There are few people who are more often wrong than those who cannot
suffer being wrong.
There are foolish people who recognize their foolishness and use it
There are good marriages, but no delicious ones.
There are many predicaments in life that one must be a bit crazy to
There are very few people who are not ashamed to be loved when they no
There is a certain dignity of manner independent of fortune, a certain
distinctive air which seems to mark us out for great things. It is a
value we set upon ourselves without realizing it, and by means of this
quality we claim other men’s deference as our due. This does more to set
us above them than birth, honors, and merit itself.
There is great skill in knowing how to conceal one's skill.
There is merit without attainment, but no attainment without some merit.
There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different
Those who apply themselves too much to little things often become
incapable of great ones.
Those who have had great passions are happy all their lives and would be
unhappy to have been cured of them.
Those who know their minds do not know their hearts.
To succeed in the world we do everything we can to appear successful
Too great a hurry to be discharged of an obligation is a kind of
True love is like the appearance of ghosts: everyone talks about it but
few have seen it.
Usually we only praise to be praised.
We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
We always like those who admire us; we do not always like those whom we
We are eager to believe that others are flawed because we are eager to
believe in what we wish for.
We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves we have no great
We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.
We may bestow advice, but we cannot inspire the conduct.
We may find women who have never indulged in an intrigue, but it is rare
to find those who have intrigued but once.
We need greater virtues to sustain good than evil fortune.
We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we
We pardon to the extent that we love.
We promise according to our hopes; we fulfill according to our fears.
We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide
it so often from ourselves.
We try to make virtues out of the faults we have no wish to correct.
We would rather speak ill of ourselves than not talk about ourselves at
What grace is to the body, good sense is to the mind.
What makes the vanity of others insufferable to us is that it wounds our
What often prevents us from abandoning ourselves to one vice is that we
When not prompted by vanity, we say little.
Who lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks.
(September 15 is also the birthday of Agatha
François de La Rochefoucauld,
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