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Maxims by François, duc de La Rochefoucauld
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Maxims (1665)

by François, duc de La Rochefoucauld

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I will be adding this book of more than 500 maxims to my daily reflections, along with The Daily Stoic and James Allen's As A Man Thinketh. I had to read each maxim at least twice, as there is nothing in this book that should be overlooked. Unlike a novel, where the virtue or vice considered as part of an overarching theme builds over time, each maxim in this book is straight to the point, causing one to pause and reflect on each occasion. There are too many favourite maxims to list, but this one resonates deeply: "239. To whatever we may ascribe our misfortunes, they are generally the results of selfishness and of vanity". La Rochefoucauld uses wit and humour to address life lessons that mirror life itself. What I mean by this is that if one were to read this book sans humour, one would want to end it all - the reality would be too much. Likewise, sans seriousness, this would not be remotely funny. But by moving between old and young, male and female (inherently sexist in a seventeenth-century way), humorous and foreboding, witty and caustic, and so on, the maxims paint a picture of wisdom that can only come from one who has had the mask of self-deception torn from his face. If fools learn by their mistakes, then this is one book where the wise might learn from the mistakes of fools. But don't get too cocky: "214. A man (sic) who is never foolish is not as wise as he thinks". ( )
1 vote madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
[From the preface to Letters from Madame La Marquise de Sévigné, edited and translated by Violet Hammersley, Secker & Warburg, 1955; reprinted in A Traveller in Romance, ed. John Whitehead, Clarkson N. Potter, 1984, p. 108:]

But it was not often that Madame de Sévigné went to Court: she depended then for the latest news on an intimate friend. This was the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, the author of the imperishable maxims. He was a highly cultivated man, extremely intelligent, with a wide knowledge of the world. This knowledge had left him with few illusions. Sentimentalists have reproached him because, as a result of a lifetime’s experience, he came to the conclusion that self-interest is the mainspring of men’s behaviour. There is truth in that, but it is not the whole truth. The extraordinary, and heartening, thing about men is that though, in fact, self-interest is the mainspring of their conduct, they are capable on occasion of self-sacrifice, disinterestedness and magnanimity. The picture Madame de Sévigné draws of La Rochefoucauld is that of a good, high-minded and generous man; and she never tires of remarking on his good nature, sweetness, amiability, and on his wish to please and to be of service.
  WSMaugham | Dec 11, 2016 |
These Garnier editions with their bright yellow spines and red lettering were always very reassuring and attractive. What a wise man old LR was.
  jon1lambert | Jan 9, 2010 |
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François, duc de La Rochefoucauldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Zariņš, VilnisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Haiku summary
I'm quite cynical.
Why do you seem so surprised?
You knew I was French.

(Carnophile)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014044095X, Paperback)

The philosophy of La Rochefoucauld, which influenced French intellectuals as diverse as Voltaire and the Jansenists, is captured here in more than 600 penetrating and pithy aphorisms.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The philosophy of La Rochefoucauld, which influenced French intellectuals as diverse as Voltaire and the Jansenists, is captured here in more than 600 penetrating and pithy aphorisms.

» see all 2 descriptions

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