Nonfiction > François, duc de La Rochefoucauld > Moral Maxims and Reflections
François, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680).  Moral Maxims and Reflections.  1912.
Moral Reflections
Part I
Our Vertues are, oftentimes, in Reality, no better than Vices disguised.

WHAT we take for Vertue, is, frequently, nothing else but the Concurrence of several Actions, and several Aims, which either our own Industry, or Fortune for us, contrives to bring together: And we are much mistaken, if we think that Men are always stout, from a Principle of Valour, or Women chast, from a Principle of Modesty.
Self-Love is the Love of a man’s own Self, and of every thing else, for his own Sake. It makes People Idolaters to themselves, and Tyrants to all the World besides. As would plainly appear, if Fortune did but furnish them with Power and Opportunities of shewing it. It never rests, or fixes any where from Home, and, if for a little while it dwell upon some other thing, ’tis only as Bees do, when they light upon Flowers, with a design to draw all the Vertue there to their own Advantage. Nothing is so raging and violent as its Desires, Nothing so close as its Designs, Nothing so ingenious as its Management of them. It hath more Fetches and Doubles than can ever be describ’d; it transforms it self into more different Shapes, than are in all Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and its Extractions are more subtle and refined, than any Chymistry can parallel: It is an Abyss, too deep ever to be sounded, and too dark ever to be seen through; there it sits undiscovered, even from the nicest, and most penetrating Eye, and runs a thousand wild Mazes undiscerned: Nay, it is sometimes concealed from its own self, and conceives and cherishes, and brings up a World of Inclinations and Affections, without so much as being sensible when they are born, or how they are bred. And some of these Conceptions are so monstrous, that when they come to the Birth, it either does not know them, or cannot be prevailed upon to own them. From this gross Darkness proceed all its extravagant and ridiculous Opinions of its self, all its Errors and Ignorances, and sottish Stupidities in its own Case. This is the Reason, why it often thinks those Passions killed and dead, which are only laid to sleep. Hence it seems content to sit down quietly, when it is only taking Breath for a fresh Chase; and thinks those Appetites quite lost, which are only satisfied a little for the present. And yet this thick Mist, which hinders it from seeing it self, is no Obstruction to its sight of any thing else; for in this it is like the Eyes of our Body, which perceive all other Objects, and are blind only with regard to themselves. And thus, where its own Interest is concerned, and the matter is of Consequence so great, as to move the Desires vigorously, and by them to call up all its Attention, it sees, and feels, and hears, and imagines, and suspects, and penetrates and presages perfectly well, so that nothing escapes it; and a man would be apt to suspect, that each of these Passions, under its Conduct, have some strange magical Power peculiar to it. No Cement is so strong, none so close as its Engagements; Which it attempts to break or dissolve, but to little or no purpose, even when driven to it by the greatest and most impending Mischiefs. And yet it happens sometimes, that what the continued Endeavours of many Years were not able to accomplish, a very little Time and Pains effect; Which gives us just Ground to conclude, that its Desires are all kindled by its own Hand, and owing more to it self, than to the Beauty, or the Worth of its Object; and that its own Palate gives them all their Value, and Fancy is the false Gloss that sets them off: That it self is the only Game it pursues, and its own Inclination the thing it follows, rather than the Objects that suit its Inclination. It is all Extremes, and acts in the greatest contradiction to it self: It is Imperious and Submissive, Sincere and Hypocritical, Frank and Formal, Compassionate and Cruel, Cowardly and Couragious: It puts on different Inclinations, according to the different Tempers, that dispose, and devote it, sometimes to Honour, sometimes to Riches, sometimes to Pleasure; it shifts these, as our Age, or our Fortunes, or our Experience change; But as to it self, it is the same thing, whether it have one or more such Inclinations. For it divides it self to several, or collects and determines it self intirely to one, at pleasure, and as Occasions offer themselves. It is fickle, not only because the Things without us are unstable, but from a thousand inward Causes, intirely owing to it self; Inconstancy, Levity, Love of Novelty, Nauseatings, and Disgusts; and the being tired with what it hath already, makes it changeable every Moment. It is Whimsical and Humoursome, and you may sometimes observe it taking infinite Pains, and using the utmost Application and Zeal, for Things that cannot be any Advantage, nay, which are sure to prove prejudicial. And yet pursue them it will, meerly because it will have them. It is unaccountable and childish, and often busies it self about Trifles and Impertinencies; finds the greatest Relish and Delight in the flattest and most insipid Things, and reserves all its Eagerness and Warmth for the meanest, and most contemptible. It enters into all Qualities, and all Conditions of Life; it lives in every Place; it lives upon every Thing, nay it lives upon Nothing; It serves it self both of the Enjoyment of Things, and of the want of them; it takes Part with the very Men that make War upon it, and engages in their Designs against it self. And, which is most surprizing, it joins with them in the Hating of it self, plots to its own disadvantage, and conspires and endeavours its own Destruction. In a Word, all its Care is to subsist, and rather than not be at all, it is content to be its own Enemy. We ought not therefore to think it strange, if we meet it sometimes in Conjunction with the most rigorous Mortification, and find it entering boldly into League with this Adversary, to work its own Ruin; for at the same time, that it pulls it self down in one Place, it builds it self up in another. When we think it renounces and forsakes its Pleasure, it only suspends or changes it; and when we fancy it conquered, and totally routed, we find it rise victorious, and its very Defeat contributes to its Triumph. This is the true Picture of Self-Love, which is so predominant, that a Man’s whole Life is but one continued Exercise, and strong Agitation of it. The Sea indeed is a very sensible Resemblance of this Passion, and the perpetual Ebbings and Flowings of the Waves there are a lively and faithful Emblem of that restless Succession of Thoughts, and those boisterous Roulings of the Mind, which are eternally caused and kept up by it.
Self-Love is the greatest Flatterer in the World.
When a Man hath travelled never so far, and discovered never so much in the World of Self-Love, yet still the Terra Incognita will take up a considerable Part of the Map.
Self-Love is more ingenious, than the most ingenious Man in the World.
The Continuance of our Passions is no more in our own Power, than the Term of our Life.
Passion very often makes the wisest Men Fools, and very often too inspires the greatest Fools with Wit.
Those great and glorious Actions, that even dazle our Eyes with their Lustre, are represented by Politicians, as the result of great Wisdom, and excellent Design; whereas, in truth, they are commonly the Effects of Passion and Humour. Thus the War between Augustus and Antony, which is usually thought to proceed from Greatness of Soul, and an Ambition that each of them had to become Master of the World, was, very probably, no more than Envy and Emulation.
The Passions are the only Orators that are always successful in perswading. They are a kind of Art in Nature, that proceeds upon infallible Rules; and the plainest Man, with the help of Passion, shall prevail more, than the most eloquent Man without it.
There is in the Passions such a constant Tendency to private Interest and Injustice, that it is dangerous to be guided by them. And indeed, we should not dare to trust them, even then when they appear most fair and reasonable.
The Heart of Man ever finds a constant Succession of Passions; insomuch, that the destroying and pulling down of One, proves generally to be nothing else, but the production and the setting up of Another.
The Passions, (so odd a Way of breeding they have) do very often give Birth to others of a Nature most contrary and distant from their own. Thus Avarice sometimes brings forth Prodigality, and Prodigality Avarice: A Man’s Resolution is very often the effect of Levity; and his daring Boldness, that of Cowardice and Fear.
After all the Care Men can take to conceal their Passions, and put them off under the Dress of Piety and Honour; the Disguise is too thin, and will be sure to discover all, at one Time or other.
The Love of our selves can less bear to have our Inclinations condemned, than our Opinions.
Men are not only apt to forget the Kindnesses and Injuries that have been done them, but which is a great deal more, they hate the Persons that have obliged them, and lay aside their Resentments against those that have used them ill. The Trouble of returning Favours, and revenging of Wrongs, is a Slavery, it seems, which they can very hardly submit to.
The Clemency of Princes is, very often, only a State-Trick, to gain upon the Affections of their Subjects.
That Clemency, which the World cries up for such a mighty Vertue, proceeds sometimes from Ostentation; sometimes from Laziness and Neglect; very often from Fear, and almost always from a Mixture of all these together.
The Moderation of People in Prosperity, is the effect of a smooth and composed Temper, owing to the Calm of their good Fortune.
Moderation is a Fear of falling into that Envy and Contempt, which those who grow giddy with their good Fortune, most justly draw upon themselves. It is a kind of boasting the Greatness of our Mind; and, in short, the Moderation of Men, in the most exalted Fortunes, is a Desire to be thought above those Things that have raised them so high.
No body is so weak, but he is strong enough to bear the Misfortunes that he does not feel.
The Constancy of the Wise is nothing else, but the Knack of concealing their Passion and Trouble.
We often see Malefactors, when they are led to Execution, put on Resolution and a Contempt of Death, which, in Truth, is nothing else, but fearing to look it in the Face: So that this pretended Bravery may very truly be said, to do the same good Office to their Mind, that the Handkerchief, or Night-Cap does to their Eyes.
Philosophy finds it an easie matter to vanquish past and future Evils, but the present are commonly too hard for it.
Very few People are acquainted with Death; they undergo it, commonly, not so much out of Resolution, as Custom and Insensibility; and the greatest Part of the World pretend, they are content to die, only because they know they cannot help it.
When Great Men sink under the Length of their Misfortunes, this discovers, that it was not the Greatness of their Soul, but of their Ambition, that kept up their Spirits so long; and that, setting aside abundance of Vanity, Heroes are just like common Men.
It requires more Vertue to bear good Fortune than ill.
Death and the Sun are two Things not to be looked upon with a steady Eye.
Men are often so foolish, as to boast and value themselves upon their Passions, even those that are most vicious. But Envy is a Passion so full of Cowardice and Shame, that no body ever had the Confidence to own it.
There is something to be said for Jealousie, because this only designs the Preservation of some Good, which we either have, or think we have a Right to; but Envy is a raging Madness, that cannot be satisfied with the Good of others.
Our good Qualities expose us more to Hatred and Persecution, than all the ill we do.
We do not want Strength, so much as Will to use it; and very often the fancying Things impossible to be done, is nothing else, but an Excuse of our own contriving, to reconcile ourselves to our own Idleness.
If we had no Defects of our own, we should not take half so much Satisfaction in observing those of other People.
Jealousie is bred in Doubts. When those Doubts change into Certainties, then the Passion either ceases, or turns absolute Madness.
A proud Man can never be a Loafer, no not even then when he renounces his Pride.
The being proud our selves makes us complain of others, and uneasie at their being so.
All Men are proud alike. The only difference is, that all do not take the same Methods of shewing it.
It looks like an Indulgence of Nature to give us Pride, that, after she had taken such wise Care to fit the Organs of the Body for our Happiness and Convenience, we might be delivered from the Trouble of knowing our own Imperfections.
Pride hath a greater share than Goodness in the Reproofs we give other People for their Faults; and we chide them, not so much with a Design to mend them, as to make them believe that we our selves are not guilty of them.
We promise in proportion to our Hopes, and we keep our Word in proportion to our Fears.
Interest speaks all manner of Languages, and acts all sorts of Parts; nay, even that of a Man that hath no regard at all to Interest.
Interest makes some People blind, and others quick-sighted.
They that use to employ their Minds too much upon Trifles, commonly make themselves incapable of any Thing that is Serious or Great.
We have not Strength enough to follow our Reason so far as it would carry us.
A Man often thinks he governs himself, when all the while he is governed and managed; and while his Understanding directs to one Design, his Affections insensibly draw him into another.
The Strength and Weakness of a Man’s Mind are mistaken and improper Terms; for these are really no other than the Organs of our Bodies being well or ill disposed.
The Whimsicalness of our own Humour is a thousand times more fickle and unaccountable, than what we blame so much in Fortune.
The Fondness or Indifference that the Philosophers express’d for Life, was purely a Tang of the Love of themselves, which will no more bear reasoning upon, than the Relish of the Palate, or the Choice of Colours.
All the Gifts of Fortune are just as our own Humour is pleased to rate them.
Happiness does not consist in the Things themselves, but in the Relish we have of them; and a Man hath attained to it when he enjoys what he loves and desires himself, and not what other People think lovely and desirable.
Every man’s good and ill Fortune is constantly more or less than he esteems it.
People that are conceited of their own Merit, take a Pride in being unfortunate, that so themselves and others may think them considerable enough to be the Envy and the Mark of Fortune.
Nothing ought in reason to mortifie our Self-Satisfaction more, than the considering that we condemn at one Time, what we highly approve and commend at another.
How different soever Men’s Fortunes may be, there is always something or other, that balances the Ill and the Good, and makes all even at last.
Though Nature be never so liberal, yet can she not make a Hero alone. Fortune must contribute her Part too; and till both concur, the Work cannot be perfected.
When the Philosophers despised Riches, it was because they had a mind to vindicate their own Merit, and take a Revenge upon the Injustice of Fortune, by vilifying those Enjoyments which she had not given them: This was a Secret to ward off the Contempt that Poverty brings, a kind of winding By-Path to get into the Esteem of the World, and when Riches had not made them considerable, to make themselves so some other Way.
We hate Favourites, because we are fond of Favour our selves: The Indignation we profess against others who are in possession, sooths and softens a little the Concern for our own being excluded. And we deny to pay them our Respects, because we would fain, but cannot, take away that which makes them respected by all the World besides.
The common Way to do one’s Business and rise in the World, is to use all possible Means of perswading People, that one’s Business is done already.
Though Men are apt to flatter and exalt themselves with their Great Achievements, yet these are, in Truth, very often owing, not so much to Design, as Chance.
Our Actions seem to have their lucky and unlucky Stars, to which a great Part of that Blame and that Commendation is due, which is given to the Actions themselves.
There is no Accident so exquisitely unfortunate, but wise Men will make some advantage of it; nor any so intirely fortunate, but Fools may turn it to their own Prejudice.
Fortune converts every Thing to the Advantage of her Favourites.
Men’s Happiness and Misery depends altogether as much upon their own Humour, as it does upon Fortune.
Sincerity is a certain Openness of Heart. It is to be found but in very few, and what we commonly look upon to be so, is only a more cunning sort of Dissimulation, to insinuate our selves into the Confidence of others.
Our Aversion to a Lie, is commonly a secret Ambition, to make what we say considerable, and have every Word received with a religious Respect.
Truth has scarce done so much good in the World, as the false Appearances of it have done hurt.
No Praises are thought too great for Wisdom, and yet the highest Pitch of it cannot insure a Man the most considerable Event. The reason of which is, that Man is the subject of its Operation, and he is the most fickle and changeable Creature in the World.
A wise Man should order his Designs, and set all his interests in their proper Places: This Order is often confounded by a foolish Greediness, which, while it puts us upon pursuing so many several Things at once, that in Eagerness for Matters of less consideration, we grasp at Trifles, and let go Things of greater value.
A good Mein is to the Body, what good Sense is to the Mind.
It is very hard to give a just Definition of Love; the most we are able to say of it is this, That in the Soul, it is a Desire to Govern; in Spirits it is a Sympathy; and in the Body, it is only a secret Desire, and a Curiosity to enjoy the Thing Beloved, after a great deal of Bustle and Formality.
Love pure, and untainted with any other Passion, (if such a Thing there be) lies hidden in the Bottom of our Heart, so exceeding close, that we scarce know it our selves.
It is not in the Power of any the most crafty Dissimulation, to conceal Love long, where it really is, nor to counterfeit it long where it is not.
Considering how little the beginning, or the ceasing to Love is in our own Power, it is foolish and unreasonable for the Lover, or his Mistress, to complain of one anothers Inconstancy.
If one were to judge of Love, according to the greatest Part of the Effects it produces, it might very justly pass for Hatred, rather than Kindness.
Some Ladies may be met with, who never had any Intrigue at all; but it will be exceeding hard to find any, who have had One, and no more.
Love is one and the same in the Original; but there are a Thousand Copies of it, and it may be all differing from one another.
Love can no more continue without a constant Motion, than Fire can; and when once you take Hope and Fear away, you take from it, its very Life and Being.
It is with True Love, as with Ghosts and Apparitions, a Thing that every body talks of, and scarce any body hath seen.
Love hath its Name borrowed by a World of Dealings and Affairs that are father’d upon it; when, alas! Love hath no more concern in them, than the Doge hath in what is done at Venice.
What the Generality of People call the Love of Justice, is only the Fear of suffering by Injustice.
Silence is the best Security to that man who distrusts himself.
The Thing that makes our Friendships so short and changeable, is, that the Qualities and Dispositions of the Soul are very hard, and those of the Understanding and Wit, very easie to be known.
The most disinterested Love is, after all, but a kind of Bargain, in which the dear Love of our own selves always proposes to be the Gainer some Way or other.
The Reconciliation of Enemies is commonly a Desire to better our own Condition; a being harassed and tired out with a State of War; and a Fear of some ill Accident, which we are willing to prevent.
When we have loved our selves weary, the kindest and most welcome Thing that can be, is some Act of Infidelity, which may fairly disengage our Affection.
It is much less for a Man’s Honour to distrust his Friends, than to be deceived by them.
We oftentimes fancy, that we love Persons above us, when it is nothing but Interest that makes us fond of them; and all our Applications and Attendances, are not so much upon the account of any Good we desire to do them, as for what we expect and hope they may do us.
Our own Jealousie gives a fair Pretence for the Knavery of other People.
With what Face can we expect, another should keep our Secrets, when we could not keep them our selves?
The Love of our selves makes our Friends appear more or less deserving in Proportion to the Delight we take in them, and the Measures by which we judge of their Worth, depend upon the Manner of their conversing with us.
Every body complains for want of Memory; but you never find any body complain of the Weakness of his Judgment.
When idle Men have indulged themselves as much as they think fit, no body is then so full of Haste and Activity as they, because they hope this quickning of others, will give them the Reputation of Diligence.
The greatest Ambition does not appear at all so, when it finds what it would fain aspire to, absolutely impossible to be attained.
The disabusing a Man strongly possess’d with an Opinion of his own Worth, is the very same ill Office that was done the Fool at Athens, who fancied all the Ships that came into Harbour were his own.
Old Folks love mightily to give good Advice, because this makes them some sort of amends, for being incapable now of setting ill Examples.
Great Characters do rather lessen, than exalt, those that know not how to maintain, and make them good.
That Man, we may be sure, is a Person of true Worth, whom we find those who envy him most, are yet forced to commend.
It is an Argument, our own Affection is but small, when our Friends grow cold to us, and we are not sensible of it.
The making a Difference between Wit and Judgment, is a Vulgar Error. Judgment is nothing else but the exceeding Brightness of Wit, which, like Light, pierces into the very Bottom of Things, observes all that ought to be observed there, and discovers what seemed to be past any bodies finding out: From whence we must conclude, that the Energy and Extension of this Light of the Wit, is the very Thing that produces all those Effects, usually ascribed to the Judgment.
Every body takes upon him to give a good Character of his own Honesty, but no body to speak well of his own Ability.
The polite Wit consists in nice, curious, and commendable Thoughts.
The Gallantry of the Wit is exprest in Flattery well couched.
It often happens, that some Things offer themselves finer in the very first Thought, than it were possible for a Man to have made them by Art and Study.
The Understanding is constantly the Cully of the Affections.
Many People are acquainted with their own Abilities, that are not acquainted with their own Hearts.
Men and Actions are like Objects of Sight, that have their nice Points of being distinctly discerned. Some you must come very near to, to judge of them exactly, and others are better seen at a greater distance.
He is not to pass for a Man of Reason, who stumbles upon Reason by chance; but he that knows, and can judge, and hath a true Relish of it.
It is necessary, in order to know Things throughly well, to know the Particulars of them; and these being infinite, make our Knowledge ever superficial and imperfect.
It is one kind of Affectation, to put People upon observing, that we are not at all affected.
It is not in the Power of the Wit to dissemble the Inclinations very long.
Heat of Blood makes young People change their Inclinations often, and Custom makes old Ones keep to theirs a great while.
There is nothing that Men are so free of, as their Advice.
The more passionately a Man loves his Mistress, the readier he is to hate Her.
The Defects of the Understanding are like those of the Face; the older People are, the worse they grow.
Matrimony is sometimes convenient, but never delightful.
Men are never to be comforted for the Treachery of their Friends, or the over-reaching of their Enemies; and yet they are often very highly satisfied, to be both cheated and betrayed by their own selves.
It is as easie a matter to deceive a Man’s self, and not be sensible of it, as it is hard to impose upon others, and yet for them not to be sensible of it.
Nothing betrays more want of Sincerity, than the Methods commonly used in asking and receiving Advice: He that asks it, pretends to a respectful Deference for the Opinion of his Friend, and all the while only designs to have his own approved, and shelter his Actions under the Authority of another; and he that gives it, returns these Professions with a pretended Kindness and impartial Zeal, and yet hath generally no other End in the advising him, but his own Interest and Honour.
The cunningest Dissimulation is when a Man pretends to be caught, and a Man is never so easily over-reached, as when he is contriving to over-reach others.
An honest Intention of imposing upon no body, lays us open to be frequently imposed upon our selves.
We are so used to dissemble with other People, that in Time we come to deceive and dissemble with our selves.
Treachery is oftner the Effect of Weakness than of a form’d Design.
Men frequently do Good, only to give themselves Opportunity of doing Ill with greater Security.
The resistance we make to our Passions, is owing to their Weakness, more than our Strength.
Men never would enjoy any Pleasure, if they never flattered themselves.
The most ingenious Men continually pretend to condemn Tricking; but this is often done, that they may use it more conveniently themselves, when some great Occasion or Interest offers it self to them.
To use crafty Dealing, is a Sign of a little Soul; and it generally falls out, that he who conceals himself by it in one Instance, betrays himself as much by it in another.
Tricks and Treachery are the Practice of Fools that have not Wit enough to be Honest.
The most effectual Way to be bubbled, is to fansie ones self wiser than one’s Neighbours.
Too great a Degree of Subtilty is counterfeit Exactness, and true Exactness is the best and most substantial Subtilty.
The being a Blockhead, is sometimes the best Security against being imposed upon by a Man of Wit.
A weak Mind is the only Defect out of our Power to mend.
When once Women have given themselves over to make Love, the doing it on is the least Fault they can be guilty of.
It is much easier to be wise in another Man’s Concern, than in one’s own.
There are no good Copies, except such as expose the Folly of bad Originals.
Men become ridiculous, not so much for the Qualities they have, as those they would be thought to have, when they really have them not.
A Man at sometimes, differs as much from himself, as he does from other People.
Abundance of Men would never have been in Love, if they had never been entertained with any Discourse of Love.
They that speak without Ostentation, content themselves with saying but little.
Rather than say nothing of themselves, Men are content to speak ill of themselves.
One Reason, why we find so very few Men of Sense and agreeable Conversation, is, That almost every body’s Mind is more intent upon what he himself hath a mind to say, than upon making pertinent Replies to what the rest of the Company say to him. The most Ingenious and Complaisant Sort go no farther than pretending to hearken attentively; when at the same Time, a Man may plainly see, that both their Eyes and their Mind are roving from what is said to them, and posting back again to what they long to be at themselves. Whereas it ought to be considered, that to seek ones own Pleasure so very Passionately, can never be the way either to please or perswade others; and that diligent Attention, and proper Repartees, are the very Things that accomplish a Man for Company.
A Man of Wit would find himself sometimes miserably at a loss, if there were no Fools to divert him with their Company.
We often brag of never being out of Humour, and are so vain as never to think our selves bad Company.
As great Wits have a peculiar Faculty of saying a great deal in a little; so half-witted Fellows have a Talent of talking much, and yet saying nothing.
The Excellencies of other People are extolled and valued more from a good Opinion of our own Judgment, than a just Esteem of their Worth; and when we pretend to commend other Men, ’tis by a Side-Wind, to put other Men upon commending us.
No body loves to be upon the commending Strain; and indeed we seldom touch upon it without some little By-End. Praise is a more ingenious, concealed, and nicer kind of Flattery, that consults the Satisfaction both of the Giver and Receiver, tho’ by very different Ways. The one accepts it, as a Reward due to his Desert; the other gives it, that he may be lookt upon as a Just and a Discreet Person.
We often chuse to make use of Commendations that carry a Sting in the Tail; and by taking Men at the Rebound, (as it were) lay open some Defects in the Persons so commended, which we dare not venture to expose any other Way.
The Design of commending others, is usually to be commended ones self.
Few People have the Wisdom to like Reproofs that would do them good, better than Praises that do them hurt.
Some Censures are a Commendation, and some Commendations are no better than Scandal.
He that refuses Praise the first Time it is offered, does it, because he would hear it a second.
The Desire of being worthy the Commendations of the World, is a great Assistance and strengthning to our Virtues; and to extol Men’s Wit, or Courage, or Beauty, is to contribute to the increase of them.
It is an easier matter to manage others, than to keep from being managed ones self.
If we did not flatter our selves, the Flatteries of other People could never hurt us.
We are beholden to Nature for Worth and Parts, but it is to Fortune that we owe the Opportunities of exerting them.
Fortune mends more Faults in us, than ever Reason would be able to do.
Some Men displease with Merit, and other People’s very Faults and Defects are taking.
All that some People are good for, is the saying and doing foolish Things seasonably and usefully; and when they are once taken out of this Road, you quite spoil them, and they are worth nothing.
Great Men’s Honour ought always to be measured by the Methods they made use of for the attaining it.
Kings put a value upon Men, as well as Money, and we are forced to take them both, not by Weight, but according as they are pleased to stamp them, and at the current Rate of the Coin.
It is not enough for Men to have great Accomplishments, except they have the Art of managing them.
Though an Action be never so Glorious in it self, it ought not to pass for Great, if it be not the Effect of Wisdom, and good Design.
Whoever expects to have what he does, turn to good Account, must take care to proportion his Actions, and the Ends he proposes from them.
If a Man hath the Address of using moderate Abilities to the best Advantage, this Dexterity shall steal upon the World, and bring him oftentimes into greater Reputation than real Merit.
There are a World of Proceedings, that appear odd and ridiculous, which yet are grounded upon secret Reasons, that are very solid and substantial.
It is easier for a Man to be thought fit for an Employment that he hath not, than for one that he stands already possest of, and is his proper Post.
The Esteem of Good Men is the Reward of our Worth, but the Reputation of the World in general, is the Gift of our Fate.
The Appearances of Goodness and Desert often meet with a greater Reward from the World, than real Goodness and Desert it self.
Covetousness is more opposite to Prudence and good Management, than Liberality is.
Though Hope be exceeding deceitful, yet it is of this good use to us, that while we are travelling through this Life, it conducts us an easier and more pleasant Way to our Journey’s End.
Many People are kept within their Duty, because they have not the Courage, or will not be at the Pains of being wicked; and in such Cases oftentimes our Vertue runs away with all the Praise.
It is hard to determine, whether a clear, open and honourable Proceeding, be the Result of good Principles, or good Management.
Vertues are lost in Interest, as Rivers are in the Sea.
We are so strongly possest with a good Opinion of our selves, that we take those Things for Vertues, which are no other than Vice; that look like them, and such as the Love of our selves imposes upon us with.
There are several Sorts of Curiosities, one that proceeds from Interest, which puts us upon learning Things that can be any way useful and beneficial to us; and another, from Pride, that comes from an Itch of knowing more than other People.
A Man’s Wits are employed to better purposes in bearing up under the Misfortunes that lie upon them at present, than in foreseeing those that may come upon him hereafter.
Constancy in Love is a perpetual Inconstancy, which fixes our Hearts fast to all the Accomplishments of the Party beloved successively; sometimes admiring one, and sometimes another above all the rest, so that this Constancy roves as far as it can, and is no better than Inconstancy, confined within the compass of one Person.
Constancy in Love is of two Sorts, one is the Effect of new Excellencies that are always presenting themselves afresh, and attract our Affections continually; the other is only from a point of Honour, and a taking a Pride not to change.
Perseverance is in Strictness, neither Praise nor Blame-worthy; for it seems to be only the lasting of certain Inclinations and Opinions, which Men neither give nor take away from themselves.
The Love of new Acquaintance, is not so much from being weary of what we had before, or any Satisfaction there is in change, as it is the Concern for being too little admired by those that know us well, and the Hope of being admired more by them that know us but little.
We complain sometimes that our Friends are fickle, only to be before-hand with them and justifie our own Inconstancy.
Our Repentances are generally not so much a Concern and Remorse for the Ills we have done, as a Dread of those we were in danger of suffering.
There is an Inconstancy that proceeds from an unsettled Judgment, a natural Levity and Weakness, that espouses all Opinions as they come, and thinks as other People think; and there is another much more excusable, that arises from a Dislike and Disapproving of the Things themselves.
Vices are mingled with Vertues, just as poisonous Ingredients are put into Medicines. A wise and skilful Hand tempers them together, and makes excellent use of them against the Misfortunes that attend Humane Life.
Some Crimes get Honour and Renown by being committed with more Pomp, by a greater Number; and in a higher Degree of Wickedness than others: And hence it is, that publick Robberies, Plunderings and Sackings, have been look’d upon as Excellencies and noble Achievements, and the seizing whole Countries, though never so unjustly and barbarously, is dignified with the Glorious Name of gaining Conquests.
We confess our Faults, by that Sincerity to make amends for the Injury they have done us in the Esteem of others.
Some Heroes have been accounted so for being greatly Wicked, no less than others for being greatly Good.
We do not always despise Men that have some Vices, but it is impossible not to despise those that have no Vertue.
The Name and Pretence of Vertue is as serviceable to ones Interest, as real Vices.
The Health of the Soul is what we can be no more secure of, than that of our Body: And though a Man may seem far from Vice and Passion, yet he is in as much Danger of falling into them, as one in a perfect State of Health is of having a Fit of Sickness.
Nature seems at each Man’s Birth to have markt out the Bounds of every ones Vertues and Vices, and to have determined how Good or how Wicked that Man shall be capable of being.
None but Great Men are capable of being greatly Ill.
Vices may be said to take us from one to another in the Course of our Lives, just as Inn-keepers where we lodge upon a Journey do; and I question, whether if we could travel the same Road twice over, the Experience of having been once ill used, would prevail with us to change our House next Time.
When our Vices forsake us, we please our selves with an Opinion, that we parted first, and left them.
The Distempers of the Soul have their Relapses, as many and as dangerous as those of the Body; and what we take for a perfect Cure, is generally either an abatement of the same Disease, or the changing of that for another.
The Defects and Faults of the Mind, are like Wounds in the Body; after all imaginable Care hath been taken to heal them up, still there will be a Scar left behind, and they are in continual Danger of breaking the Skin, and bursting out again.
The only Reason why we do not give our selves intirely to one Vice, is oftentimes because our Affections are divided, and we are fond of several.
We easily forget our Faults, when no body knows them but our selves.
Some Men are so good, that one cannot fairly believe any thing ill of them, without the Demonstration of seeing it our selves, but never any were so good, that we should be astonished when we do see it.
We set up one Man’s Reputation to pull down anothers; and sometimes Men would not be so copious in the Praise of the Prince, and Monsieur Turenne, if it were not out of a Design to lessen them both.
The Desire to be thought a wise Man, oftentimes hinders ones coming to be really such.
Vertue would not make such Advances, if there were not a little Vanity to bear it Company.
He that fansies such a sufficiency in himself, that he can live without all the World, is mightily mistaken; but he that imagines himself so necessary, that other People cannot live without him, is a great deal more mistaken.
Those Men have but a counterfeit Vertue, who dissemble their Faults, and hide them from others and themselves. The Men of true unaffected Goodness know their own Failings perfectly, and confess them freely.
He that would be a truly honest Man, must be immoderately desirous of nothing.
Niceness of Behaviour in Women, is only a Dress or Paint, which they use, the better to set off their Beauty.
Women’s Vertue is frequently nothing, but a Regard to their own Quiet, and a Tenderness for their Reputation.
There is no better Proof of a Man’s being truly Good, than his desiring to be constantly under the Observation of good Men.
Folly dogs us every where, and at all Times. If one Man seem wiser than his Neighbours, it is only, because his Follies are better suited to his Age and his Fortune.
There are a great many Cullies that know it, and make very good Use of the Weakness and Easiness of their own Temper.
He that lives without Folly, is not so wise as he imagines.
Both Folly and Wisdom come upon us with Years.
Some Men are like Ballads, that are in every Bodies Mouth a little while.
The generality of the World know no other Way of judging People’s Worth, but by the Vogue they are in, or the Fortunes they have met with.
The Love of Reputation, the Fear of Shame, the Design of promoting an Interest, the Desire of making Life easie and convenient, and a longing to pull down some above us, are frequently the Causes of that Valour so much cried up in the World.
Valour in private Soldiers is a hazardous Trade, which they have bound themselves to, to get their Livelihood.
Compleat Courage, and absolute Cowardice, are Extremes that very few Men fall into. The vast middle Space contains all the intermediate Kinds, and Degrees of Courage; and these differ as much from one another, as Men’s Faces, or their Humours do. Some Men venture at all upon the first Charge or two, but if the Action continue, they cool, and are easily dejected. Some satisfie themselves with having done what in strict Honour was necessary, and will not be prevailed upon to advance one Step farther. It is observable, that some have not the command of their Fears, at all Times alike. Others are sometimes carried away with a general Consternation; some throw themselves into the Action, because they dare not stay at their own Post. Now and then the being used to smaller Dangers hardens the Courage, and fits it for venturing upon greater. Some Fellows value not a Sword at all, but fear a Musket-Shot; and others are as unconcerned at the Discharge of a Musket, and ready to run at the sight of a naked Sword. All these couragious Men of so many Sorts and Sizes, agree in this, that Night, as it adds to their Fear, so it conceals what they do well or ill, and gives them opportunity of sparing themselves. And there is, besides this, another more general Tenderness of a Man’s self, for you meet with no body, even those that do most, but they would be capable of doing a great deal more still, if they could but be sure of coming off safe. Which makes it very plain, that let a Man be never so Stoat, yet the Fear of Death does certainly give some damp to his Courage.
True Valour would do all that, when alone, that it could do, if all the World were by.
Fearlessness is a more than ordinary Strength of Mind, that raises it above the Troubles, Disorders, and Emotions which the Prospect of great Dangers are used to produce. And by this inward Strength it is, that Heroes preserve themselves in a Calm and quiet State, enjoy a Presence of Mind, and the free use of their Reason in the midst of those terrible Accidents, that amaze and confound other People.
Hypocrisie is a Sort of Homage which Vice pays to Vertue.
Most Men are willing to expose their Persons in an Engagement, for the love of Honour; but very few are content to expose themselves so far, as the design they go upon requires, to render it successful.
The Courage of a great many Men, and the Vertue of a great many Women, are the effect of Vanity, Shame, and especially a suitable Constitution.
Men are loth to lose their Lives, and yet they are desirous of getting Honour too, which is the reason why Men of Gallantry use more Dexterity and Wit to decline Death, than Knaves do to secure their Estates.
There are very few Persons, but discover as soon as they come to decline in Years, where the chief Failings lie, both of their Body and their Mind.
Gratitude among Friends, is like Credit among Tradesmen, it keeps Business up, and maintains the Correspondence. And we frequently pay not so much out of a Principle that we ought to discharge our Debts, as to secure our selves a Place to be trusted in another Time.
Some there are who have done all that can be expected by Way of Gratitude, and are not able for all that, to please themselves upon their being grateful, not satisfied with what they have done.
That which occasions so many Mistakes in the Computations of Men, when they expect Returns for Favours, is, that both the Giver and the Receiver are proud, and so these Two can never agree upon the value of the Kindnesses that have been done. The Giver over-reckons, and the Receiver undervalues them.
To make too much haste to return an Obligation, is one sort of Ingratitude.
Men find it more easie to set Bounds to their Acknowledgments, than to their Hopes and their Desires.
Pride never can indure to be in Debt, and Self-Love never cares to pay.
The Good that we have received, should qualifie for the Ill that hath been done us.
Nothing is of so pestilent spreading a Nature, as Example; and no Man does any exceeding Good, or very wicked Thing; but it produces others of the same kind. The Good we are carried to the imitation of by our Emulation, and the bad by Corruption and Malignity of our Nature; which Shame indeed confines and keeps up close, but Example unlocks its Chains, and lets it loose.
To think to be Wise alone, is a very great Folly.
Whatever other pretended Cause we may father our Afflictions upon, it is very often nothing but Interest, and Vanity, that are the true Causes of them.
There are Hypocrisies of several kinds in our Afflictions. In one sort, we pretend to lament the Loss of some Friend exceeding dear to us, and all the while this Lamentation is only for our selves. We are troubled to think our selves less happy, less easie, less considerable, and less valued, than we were before. Thus the Dead carry the Name and the Honour of those Tears, that are shed only upon the Account of the Living. And this I call Hypocrisie of one kind, because in these Afflictions, People impose upon themselves. There is another kind, not so harmless as this, because that imposes upon all the World. And this is the Affliction of a sort of Persons, that pretend to a Decency, and a never dying Concern in their Grief. When Time, the Waster of all Things, hath worn off the Concern they really had, then they will needs be obstinate in their Sorrows, and still carry on their Complaints and their Sighs. They put on all the Characters of Mourning and Sadness, and take a great deal of Pains by all their Actions, to make the World believe, their Melancholy can never have any rest, any cessation, but in the Grave. This dismal, tiresome, and solemn Vanity is most usual among ambitious Women: Their Sex hath shut them out from all the common Ways that lead to Honour, and that makes them attempt to signalize themselves, by all this Pageantry of an Affliction, too deep to admit of any Comfort. There are yet another sort of Tears, that have but shallow Springs, quickly and easily flow, and are as easily dried up again; these are such as weep to gain the Reputation of Tenderness and good Nature; such as cry because they would be pitied; such as cry because they would make other People cry; and, in a Word, such as cry, only because they are ashamed not to cry.
Our Concern for the loss of our Friends, is not always from a Sense of their Worth, but rather of our own occasions for them; and that we have lost some, who had a good Opinion of us.
We are easily comforted for the Disgraces of our Friends, when they give us an occasion of expressing our Tenderness for them.
One would think, that Self-Love were Over-reached by Good-Nature and Vertue, and that a Man wholly forgets and neglects himself, when he is employ’d in promoting the Advantage of Others. But, when all is done, this is the most effectual Way of compassing a Man’s own Ends; it is putting out to Interest, when we pretend to give freely; in a Word, it is winning over the Affections of all that know us, and gaining upon them by a more nice and dexterous Way.
No Man deserves to be commended for his Vertue, who hath it not in his Power to be wicked; all other Goodness is generally no better than Sloth, or an Impotence in the Will.
It is safer to do most Men Hurt, than to do them too much Good.
Nothing imposes more upon our Pride, than the Intimacy and particular Confidences of Great Persons; for we look upon our selves as admitted to these by virtue of our own Desert; and never consider, that it happens much oftner, from a particular Vanity in their Humour, or the not being able to keep a Secret. For indeed, a Man may observe, that the unbosoming ones self to another, is a kind of release to the Soul, which strives to lighten its Burden, and find Ease, by throwing off the Weight that lay heavy upon it.
If we look upon Agreeableness distinct from Beauty, we may call it a sort of Proportion, the Rules of which no body can positively define; a secret relation of the Lines to one another, and of all these together, to the Complexion and Air of the Person.
A Cocquet Humour is the very Nature of Women, but all of them do not practise it, because some are restrained, either by Fear, or by better Sense.
We frequently are troublesome to others, when we think it impossible for us ever to be so.
There are but very few Things impossible in their own Nature; and we do not want Means to conquer Difficulties, so much as Application and Resolution in the use of Means.
The principal Point of Wisdom, is to know how to value Things just as they deserve.
It is a great Act of Wisdom to be able to conceal ones being Wise.
What we take for Generosity, is very often no other than Ambition well dissembled, that scorns mean Interests, only to pursue greater.
That which most Men would put upon us for Fidelity, is only a Contrivance of Self-Love, to make our selves trusted; it is a Trick to set our selves above other People, and get the most important Matters deposited with us, upon a Confidence that they are then in safe Hands.
Magnanimity despises all, that it may grasp all.
Eloquence is as much seen in the Tone and Cadence of the Eyes, and Air of the Face, as in the Choice of proper Expressions.
True Eloquence consists in saying all that is fit to be said, and leaving out all that is not fit.
There are some Persons, upon whom their very Faults and Failings sit gracefully; and there are others, whose very Excellencies and Accomplishments do not become them.
It is as common for Men to change their Palates, as it is unusual to see them change their Inclinations.
Interest is the Thing that puts Men upon exercising their Vertues and Vices of all Kinds.
Humility is very often only the putting on of a Submission, by which Men hope to bring other People to submit to them: It is a more artificial sort of Pride, which debases it self with a Design of being exalted; and though this Vice transform it self into a Thousand several Shapes, yet the Disguise is never more effectual, nor more capable of deceiving the World, than when concealed under a Form of Humility.
The Resentments of the Soul have each of them their Tone and Cadence of the Voice, their Gestures of the Body, and their Forms and Air peculiar to them; and, as this Propriety is well or ill observed in the same Proportion the Persons please or displease us.
Men of all Professions affect an Air, and Outside, that may make appear what they are thought to be; so that a Man may say, That the whole World is made up of nothing but Appearances.
Gravity is a kind of mystical Behaviour in the Body, found out to conceal, and set off the Defects of the Mind.
The Pleasure of Love is Loving; and a Man is more happy in his own Passion for another, than in that another hath for him.
Civility is a Desire to be civilly used, and to be thought an accomplish’d well bred Man.
The breeding we give young People, is but an additional Self-Love, by which we make them have a better Conceit of Themselves.
Self-Love hath no where a greater share, nor is more predominant in any Passion, than in that of Love, and Men are always more disposed to sacrifice all the Ease of them they love, than to part with any Degree of their own.
What we call Liberality, is for the most part only the Vanity of Giving; and we exercise it, because we are more fond of that Vanity, than of the Thing we give.
Pity and Compassion is frequently a Sense of our own Misfortunes, in those of other Men: It is an ingenious Foresight of the Disasters that may fall upon us hereafter. We relieve others, that they may return the like, when our own Occasions call for it; and the good Offices we do them, are, in strict speaking, so many Kindnesses done to our selves before-hand.
It is from a Weakness and Littleness of Soul, that Men are stiff and positive in their Opinions; and we are very loth to believe what we are not able to apprehend.
It is a mighty Error, to suppose, that none but violent and strong Passions, such as Love and Ambition, are able to vanquish the rest: Even Idleness, as feeble and languishing as it is, sometimes reigns over them; this usurps the Throne, and sits paramount over all the Designs and Actions of our Lives, and insensibly wastes and destroys all our Passions and all our Vertues.
A Readiness to believe Ill, before we have duly examined it, is the Effect of Laziness and Pride. Men are pleased to find others to blame, and loth to give themselves the trouble of inquiring how far, and whether they are so or not.
We refuse some Judges in Matters of less concern, and yet are content to have our Honour and Reputation depend upon the Judgment of People that are sure to be against us, for either their Jealousie, or their Prejudices, or their Ignorance will incline them to be so. And we should never expose our Ease, and our Lives, so many Ways as we do, if it were not to bribe Men to give Sentence in our Favour.
There are but few Men wise enough to know all the Mischief they do.
The Honour we have already gotten, is an Engagement for that which we mean to get.
Youth is a continual Drunkenness, the very Fever of Reason.
We love to spend our Judgments upon other People’s Destiny, but never care that they should spend theirs upon us.
There are a great many Men valued in the World, who have nothing to recommend them, but serviceable Vices.
The living strictly by Rule, for the preservation of Health, is one of the most troublesome Diseases that can be.
That good Disposition which boasts of being most tender, is often stifled by the least Interest.
Absence cools moderate Passions, and inflames violent ones; just as the Wind blows out Candles, but kindles Fires.
Women often fancy themselves in Love, when there is no such matter. The Diversion of an Amour, the little Commotions that an Intrigue raises in their Breasts; the natural Inclination to be Courted, and the Trouble of denying, makes them fancy that what they feel is Passion; when, in Truth, it is nothing but a coquet Humour.
The truly honest Man is, who is vertuous without Affectation.
What makes us often dissatisfy’d with those who undertake an Accommodation, is, that they very often sacrifice the Interest of their Friends, to the Interest of the Success of their Negotiation, which becomes their own by the Honour of having succeeded in the Enterprize.
When we inlarge upon the Tenderness our Friends have for us, this is very often, not so much out of a Sense of Gratitude, as from a Desire to perswade People of our own great Worth, that can deserve so much Kindness.
The Applause we give to Men, that are just setting up for Reputation in the World, is often from a Spirit of Envy; and a secret way of detracting from others, that have established a good Reputation to themselves already.
Pride that inspires us with so much Envy, is sometimes of use toward the moderating it too.
There are some Counterfeits so very like Truths, that we should injure our Judgments, not to submit to the Cheat.
It is sometimes as great a Point of Wisdom, to know how to make use of good Advice from others, as to be able to advise ones self.
There are some wicked Men in the World, that would not be able to do half so much hurt, if they had no good Qualities to recommend them.
Magnanimity is sufficiently understood, and defined, by its very Name. But yet one may say, That it is the Wisdom of Pride, the best and most noble Method for getting the Commendations of others.
No Man can truly love, a second Time, the Person whom he hath once truly ceased to love.
The different Methods for compassing the same Design, come not so much from the fruitfulness of our Inventions, as from the weakness of our Understandings; which makes us pitch upon every fresh Matter that presents it self to our Fancy, and does not furnish us with Judgment sufficient to discern, at first sight, which of them is best, and most for our purpose.
Affected Plainness is but a nicer and more laboured Cheat.
The Humour occasions more Defects than the Understanding.
Men’s Deserts are like Fruits, for they have both of them their particular Seasons.
One may say of Men’s Humours, that they resemble the generality of Buildings, they have several Prospects, some of them agreeable, and some much otherwise.
Moderation can never have the honour of contending with Ambition, and subduing it; for they cannot possibly meet in the same Breast. Moderation is the Feebleness and Sloth of the Soul, whereas Ambition is the Warmth, and the Activity of it.
We always love those that admire us, but we do not always love those that we admire.
We are very far from always knowing our own Minds.
It is a hard matter to love those, for whom we have not a real Esteem; and it is every whit as hard to love those, that we think a great deal better than our selves.
The Humours of the Body have a constant Course, and regular Motion, that insensibly draws our Will after it; they take their Rounds together, and govern us by turns: So that our Constitution hath, in Truth, a very considerable Share in all we do, though we cannot always perceive it.
A great many Men’s Gratitude is nothing else, but a secret Desire to hook in more valuable Kindnesses hereafter.
Almost every body takes a delight to return small Favours; a great many pay their Acknowledgments for moderate ones, but there is scarce any body, but is unthankful for such as are extraordinary.
Some Follies, like Diseases, are caught by Infection.
Abundance of Men despise Riches, but few know how to dispose of them.
It is in Matters of no great moment commonly, where we venture, not to believe Probabilities.
Whatever Men say in our Commendation, they tell us nothing but what we knew before.
We often forgive those that have injured us, but we can never pardon those that we have injured.
Interest, upon which we commonly lay the blame of all our ill Actions, oftentimes deserves the commendation due to our good ones.
A Man seldom finds People unthankful, till he ceases to be in a Condition of obliging them any farther.
It is as commendable, for a Man to think well of himself when he is alone, as it is ridiculous to publish his doing it in all Companies.
Moderation is represented as a Vertue, with a Design to restrain the Ambition of Great Men; and to perswade those of a meaner Condition, to be contented with a less Proportion of Merit, and of Fortune.
There are some Men cut out for Fools, that do not only make their Follies their choice, but are forced into them by Fortune, whether they will or no.
Such odd Accidents there are sometimes, attending Humane Life, that a little Folly is necessary to help us well out of them.
If there be Men whose Folly never appeared, it is only for want of being nicely lookt into.
The Reason why Ladies, and their Lovers are easie in one another’s Company, is because they never talk of any thing but themselves.
What an odd Thing it is, that our Memories should serve us to recollect all the little Circumstances that have happened to us, and yet that we should not remember, how often we have told them over and over again, to one and the same Person?
The exceeding Delight we take in discoursing about our selves, may well make us suspect, that we allow but very little Pleasure to them that converse with us.
The Reason why we do not let our Friends see the very bottom of our Hearts, is, not so much, from any distrust we have of them, as that we have of our selves.
Half-witted People can never be sincere.
The Misfortune of obliging unthankful People is no very great Misfortune, but to be obliged to a Brute, is one not to be endured.
Some Remedies may be found to cure Folly, but none that can reform a perverse Spirit.
No body can continue long to think respectfully of their Friends and Benefactors, if they allow themselves the liberty to talk often of their Faults.
To commend Princes for Vertues which they have not, is only to take a safe Way of abusing them.
We may sooner be brought to love them that hate us, than them that love us more than we desire they should do.
No body fears being despised, but those that deserve it.
Our Wisdom lies as much at the Mercy of Fortune, as our Possessions do.
Jealousie is not so much from the love of another, as the love of our selves.
We oftentimes are comforted for Misfortunes by the want of Reason and Judgment, which the Strength of Reason could not comfort us under.
The exposing of a Man, dishonours him more than a real Dishonour.
When we own small Faults, it is with a Design to make People believe, we have no great ones.
Envy is more incapable of Reconcilation than Hatred.
Men fancy sometimes, they have an Aversion to Flattery, when, alas! it is only to the manner of expressing it.
As long as we love, we can forgive.
It is harder to continue faithful, after good Success, than after ill Usage.
Women are not sensible how exceeding Coquet they are.
Women are never absolutely reserved, except where they have an Aversion.
Women can more easily conquer their Passion than their Affectation.
Deceit goes generally farther in Love, than Distrust.
There is one kind of Love, where Excess prevents Jealousie.
Some good Qualities are like our Senses, those that have no use of them, can have no Notion of them.
When our Hatred is too fierce, it subjects us to the Persons we hate.
Our good and our ill Fortune are both resented, in proportion to the Love we have for our selves.
Most Women’s Wit tends more to the improving their Folly, than their Reason.
The Passions of Youth are not more dangerous, than the Lukewarmness of Old Age.
The Tang of a Man’s native Country sticks by him, as much in his Mind and Disposition, as it does in his Tone of Speaking.
He that would make a Great Man, must learn to turn every Accident to some Advantage.
The generality of Men are like Plants, that have secret Vertues, which are found out by Chance.
Occasions make us known to others, and much more so to our selves.
Women never can have any such thing as strict Rules in their Mind and Disposition, if their Constitution be but consenting.
We seldom meet with any wise Men, except such as are of our own Opinion.
When a Man is in Love, he doubts, very often, what he most firmly believes.
The greatest Miracle Love can work, is to cure People of their Coquet Humour.
The Reason why we have so little Patience with those that have tricked us, is because they fancy themselves to have more Wit than we.
When a Man is out of Love with himself, he finds it the hardest Thing in the World to break.
We are generally soonest weary of those Men, whom we ought never to be weary of at all.
An accomplished Man may love indiscreetly, but not sottishly.
There are some Faults, which when dexterously managed, make a brighter Shew than Vertue it self.
Some Men are more miss’d than lamented when we lose them; and others very much lamented, and very little miss’d.
We very seldom commend any body in good earnest, except such as admire us.
Mean Souls are exceedingly struck with little Things, but great Souls see all, and are discomposed by none.
Humility is the sure Evidence of Christian Vertues. Without this we retain all our Faults still, and they are only covered over with Pride, which hides them from other Men’s Observation, and sometimes from our own too.
Unfaithfulness ought to quench our Love quite, and we do ill to be jealouse when there is Reason. No body is worth the Jealousie of another, who will give any just occasion for it.
Small Faults, whereby our selves were sufferers, lessen the Committers of them in our Esteem, more than great ones committed against other People.
Jealousie is always born with Love, but it does not always die with it.
The Violences that other People use toward us, are oftentimes less painful, than those we commit upon our selves.
It is a Rule generally known, not to talk much of ones Wife, but Men do not consider as they should, that they ought much less to talk of themselves.
Some good Qualities, if they be natural, usually degenerate into Faults, and others again, are never compleat, if they be acquired: For instance, a Man should learn good Husbandry in his Estate, and his Confidences, from Reason and Experience only, if he would keep this Quality from being vicious; and on the other side, Courage and good Nature must be born with us, or we can never have them in any good Degree.
Though we pretend never so much to distrust the Sincerity of those we converse with, yet still we think they tell more Truth to us, than to any body else.
There is many an honest Woman weary of her Trade.
The generality of honest Women are like hid Treasures, which are safe, only because no body hath sought after them.
The Force Men use to themselves, to hinder Love, is oftentimes more cruel, than the severest Usage from the Party beloved.
Very few Cowards know the utmost of their own Fears.
It is commonly the Fault of People in Love, that they are not sensible when they cease to be beloved.
Nothing is so unwelcome a Sight, as the Person we love, when we have been coquetting it with some body else.
There are some Tears, that after they have cheated other People, carry on the Deceit, and impose upon our very selves at last.
The Man that thinks he loves his Mistress for her own sake, is mightily mistaken.
A Man may bear his Faults pretty patiently, when he is hardned so far as to own them.
True Friendship destroys Envy, and true Love breaks a Coquet Humour.
The greatest Fault of Penetration, is not coming short of the Mark, but overshooting it.
Men give us Advice, not the good Sense to make a wise use of it.
When our Merit lowers, our Taste lowers with it.
Fortune makes our Vertues and Vices visible, just as Light does the Objects of Sight.
When a Man forces himself to be constant in his Love, this is no better than Inconstancy.
Our Actions are like the last Syllables in Words, which every Man makes Rhime to what he thinks fit.
The Desire of talking of our selves, and shewing our Failings on that side we are content they should be seen on, makes up a great Part of our Sincerity.
There is nothing deserves so much to be wondered at, as that Men should live so long, and wonder at any Thing.
Men are as far from being satisfied with a great deal of Love, as with a little.
No Men are oftner wrong, than those that can least bear to be so.
A Block-head hath not Stuff enough to make a good Man of.
If Vanity do not quite over-turn our Vertues, yet at least it makes them all totter.
We have no Patience with other People’s Vanity, because it is offensive to our own.
Interest is more easily forgone than Inclination.
No body thinks Fortune so blind, as those she hath been least kind to.
We should manage our selves with regard to our Fortune, as we do with regard to our Health. When good, enjoy and make the best of it; when ill, bear it patiently, and never take strong Physick, without an absolute necessity.
The Air of a Citizen is sometimes lost in an Army, but never in a Court.
One Man may be too cunning for another, but no body can be too cunning for all the World.
’Tis better for a Man sometimes to be deceived in what he loves, than to be undeceived.
The first Lover is kept a long while, when no Offer is made of a second.
We have not the Confidence to say in general Terms, that our selves have no ill Qualities, and that our Enemies have no good ones; but when we talk of Particulars, we are pretty near thinking so.
Of all our Faults, we are most easily reconciled to Idleness; we perswade our selves, that it is allied to all the Peaceable Vertues, and as for the rest, that it does not destroy any of them utterly, but only suspends the Exercise of them.
There is a Sublimity of Mind, that hath no dependance upon Fortune. ’Tis a certain Air of Authority, that seems to lay us out for Great Things. ’Tis a value which we insensibly set upon our selves, and by this Quality it is, that we usurp the Respects of other People, as if they were our due; and this it is commonly, that raises us more above them, than either Birth, or Honours, or even Desert it self.
There is Worth sometimes, without a Greatness of Soul, but there is never a great Soul without some Degree of Worth.
Greatness of Mind sets off Merit, as good dressing does handsome Persons.
Love is the least Part of a modish Courtship.
Fortune sometimes makes our very Failings the Means of raising us. And there are some troublesome Fellows, who deserve to be rewarded so far, as to have their Absence purchased by Preferments at a distance.
Nature seems to have treasured up in every one of our Minds some secret Talents, and some one particular Faculty, which we are not sensible of; it is the Privilege of the Passions alone, to bring these to Light, and to direct us sometimes to surer and more excellent Aims than it is possible for Art to do.
We come altogether fresh and raw into the several Stages of Life, and notwithstanding we have lived so long, are as much to seek sometimes, as if we had never had any Experience at all.
Coquets pretend to be jealous of their Lovers, to conceal their Envy of other Women.
Those that are overtaken by any Subtilties of ours, do not seem near so foolish and ridiculous to us, as we our selves are in our own Opinion, when we have been outwitted by theirs.
Nothing is more ridiculous in old People, that have been handsome formerly, than to forget, that they are not so still.
We should often blush for our very best Actions, if the World did but see all the Motives upon which they were done.
The boldest Stroke, and best Act of Friendship, is not to discover our Failings to a Friend, but to shew him his own.
The greatest Part of our Faults are more excusable, than the Methods that are commonly taken to conceal them.
Though we have deserved Shame never so much, yet it is almost always in our own Power, to recover our Reputation.
After having exposed the Falsity of so many seeming Vertues, it is but reasonable I should add somewhat of that Deceit there is in the Contempt of Death; that Contempt of it I mean, which the Heathens pretended to derive from the Strength of Nature and Reason, without any Hope of a better Life to animate them. There is a great deal of Difference between suffering Death with Bravery and Resolution, and slighting it. The former is very usual, but I very much suspect, that the other is never real and sincere. There hath been a great deal written, ’tis confess’d, and as much as the Subject will bear, to prove, that Death is no Evil; and men of very inferior Characters, as well as Heroes, have furnish’d us with a great many eminent Examples in confirmation of this Opinion. But still I am very much perswaded, that no wise Man ever believed so; and the trouble they are at to perswade others and themselves, shews plainly, that this was no such easie Undertaking. There may be a great many Reasons, why Men should be out of Conceit with Life; but there can be none, why we should despise Death: Even those who run voluntarily upon it, do not reckon it so inconsiderable a Matter, but are confounded, and decline it as much as others, if it approach them in any other Shape, but that of their own chusing. The great Disparity observable between the Courage of a World of brave Men, hath no other Foundation than this, That they have different Ideas of Death, and that it appears more present to their Fancy upon some Occasions, and at some Times, than it does at others. Hence it is, that after having slighted what they did not know, they are afraid when they come to be better acquainted with it. If a Man would perswade himself, that it is not the very greatest of Evils, he must decline looking it in the Face, and considering all its gastly Circumstances. The wisest and the bravest Men, are they that take the fairest and most honourable Pretences, to avoid the Consideration of it. But every body that knows it as it really is, finds it to be a Thing full of Horror. The necessity of dying, was what the Philosophers owed their Constancy of Mind to; they thought when there was no Remedy, but a Man must go, it was best to go with a good Grace. And, since there was no Possibility of making their Lives Eternal, they would stick at nothing to make their Names so, and secure all that from the Wreck, which was capable of being secured. Let us put the best Face upon the Matter we can, satisfie our selves with not speaking all we think; and hope more from a happy Constitution, than all the feeble Reasonings, that gull us with a Fancy of our being able to meet Death unconcerned. The Honour of dying gallantly; the Hope of being lamented when we are gone; the Desire of leaving a good Name behind us; the Certainty of a Deliverance from the Miseries of the present Life, and of depending no longer upon a fickle and humoursome Fortune, are Remedies that we shall do well to make our best of.But though these be no contemptible Remedies, yet we must not suppose they are infallible ones. They may help to put us in Heart, just as a poor Hedge in an Engagement, contributes to encourage the Soldiers that are to march near, where the Enemy are firing behind it. While they are at a distance, they imagine it may be a good Shelter, but when they come up to the Place, Experience convinces them, it is but a thin Defence. ’Tis a vain Imagination, and too fatal a Flattery, to think that Death hath the same Pace near at Hand, which we fancy him to have, while we view him at a distance; and that our Reasonings, which in Truth are Weakness it self, will prove of so hardned a Temper as to hold out proof, and not yield to the severest of all Tryals. Besides, it shews we are but little acquainted with the Power of Self-Love, when we imagine, that will do us any service toward the looking upon that very Thing as a Trifle, which must of necessity be its utter Ruin; and Reason, in which we so often take Sanctuary, hath not the Power upon this occasion to make us believe, what we wish to find true. So far from that, that this betrays us oftener than any other thing; and instead of animating us with a Contempt of Death, gives us a more lively Representation of all its Terror and Gastliness. All it is able to do in our behalf, is only to advise, that we would turn our Heads another Way, and divert the Thought by fixing our Eyes upon some other Objects, Cato and Brutus chose Noble ones indeed. A Page not long ago satisfied himself with dancing upon the Scaffold, whither he was brought to be broke upon the Wheel. And thus, though in the Motives there was a vast difference, yet still the Effects were exactly the same. So true it is, that after all the Disproportion between Great and Vulgar Minds, People of both Sorts have given a World of Instances, of meeting Death with the same Unconcernedness. But still there is this Difference observable betwixt them, that in the Contempt of Death, which Great Men express, the Desire and Love of Honour is the Thing that blinds them; and in People of a meaner Capacity and Disposition, their Ignorance and Stupidity is the Thing, that keeps them from seeing the Greatness of the Evil they are to suffer, and leaves them at Liberty to take their Thoughts off from this Subject, and place them upon something else.

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