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By Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marsillac

Translated from the Editions of 1678 and 1827 with introduction, notes,
and some account of the author and his times.

By J. W. Willis Bund, M.A. LL.B and J. Hain Friswell

Simpson Low, Son, and Marston, 188, Fleet Street.


{TRANSCRIBERS NOTES: spelling variants are preserved (e.g. labour
instead of labor, criticise instead of criticize, etc.); the
translators' comments are in square brackets [...] as they are in the
text; footnotes are indicated by * and appear immediately following the
passage containing the note (in the text they appear at the bottom of
the page); and, finally, corrections and addenda are in curly brackets


"As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew From Nature--I believe them true. They
argue no corrupted mind In him; the fault is in mankind."--Swift.

"Les Maximes de la Rochefoucauld sont des proverbs des gens

"Maxims are the condensed good sense of nations."--Sir J. Mackintosh.

"Translators should not work alone; for good Et Propria Verba do not
always occur to one mind."--Luther's Table Talk, iii.


Preface (translator's)
Introduction (translator's)
Reflections and Moral Maxims
First Supplement
Second Supplement
Third Supplement
Reflections on Various Subjects


Some apology must be made for an attempt "to translate the
untranslatable." Notwithstanding there are no less than eight English
translations of La Rochefoucauld, hardly any are readable, none are free
from faults, and all fail more or less to convey the author's meaning.
Though so often translated, there is not a complete English edition
of the Maxims and Reflections. All the translations are confined
exclusively to the Maxims, none include the Reflections. This may be
accounted for, from the fact that most of the translations are taken
from the old editions of the Maxims, in which the Reflections do
not appear. Until M. Suard devoted his attention to the text of
Rochefoucauld, the various editions were but reprints of the preceding
ones, without any regard to the alterations made by the author in the
later editions published during his life-time. So much was this the
case, that Maxims which had been rejected by Rochefoucauld in his last
edition, were still retained in the body of the work. To give but one
example, the celebrated Maxim as to the misfortunes of our friends, was
omitted in the last edition of the book, published in Rochefoucauld's
life-time, yet in every English edition this Maxim appears in the body
of the work.

M. Aimé Martin in 1827 published an edition of the Maxims and
Reflections which has ever since been the standard text of Rochefoucauld
in France. The Maxims are printed from the edition of 1678, the last
published during the author's life, and the last which received his
corrections. To this edition were added two Supplements; the first
containing the Maxims which had appeared in the editions of 1665, 1666,
and 1675, and which were afterwards omitted; the second, some additional
Maxims found among various of the author's manuscripts in the Royal
Library at Paris. And a Series of Reflections which had been previously
published in a work called "Receuil de pièces d'histoire et de
littérature." Paris, 1731. They were first published with the Maxims in
an edition by Gabriel Brotier.

In an edition of Rochefoucauld entitled "Reflexions, ou Sentences et
Maximes Morales, augmentées de plus deux cent nouvelles Maximes et
Maximes et Pensées diverses suivant les copies Imprimées à Paris, chez
Claude Barbin, et Matre Cramoisy 1692,"* some fifty Maxims were added,
ascribed by the editor to Rochefoucauld, and as his family allowed them
to be published under his name, it seems probable they were genuine.
These fifty form the third supplement to this book.

*In all the French editions this book is spoken of as
published in 1693. The only copy I have seen is in the
Cambridge University Library, 47, 16, 81, and is called
"Reflexions Morales."

The apology for the present edition of Rochefoucauld must therefore be
twofold: firstly, that it is an attempt to give the public a complete
English edition of Rochefoucauld's works as a moralist. The body of the
work comprises the Maxims as the author finally left them, the first
supplement, those published in former editions, and rejected by the
author in the later; the second, the unpublished Maxims taken from the
author's correspondence and manuscripts, and the third, the Maxims first
published in 1692. While the Reflections, in which the thoughts in the
Maxims are extended and elaborated, now appear in English for the first
time. And secondly, that it is an attempt (to quote the preface of the
edition of 1749) "to do the Duc de la Rochefoucauld the justice to make
him speak English."


The description of the "ancien regime" in France, "a despotism tempered
by epigrams," like most epigrammatic sentences, contains some truth,
with much fiction. The society of the last half of the seventeenth, and
the whole of the eighteenth centuries, was doubtless greatly influenced
by the precise and terse mode in which the popular writers of that date
expressed their thoughts. To a people naturally inclined to think that
every possible view, every conceivable argument, upon a question is
included in a short aphorism, a shrug, and the word "voilà," truths
expressed in condensed sentences must always have a peculiar charm. It
is, perhaps, from this love of epigram, that we find so many eminent
French writers of maxims. Pascal, De Retz, La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère,
Montesquieu, and Vauvenargues, each contributed to the rich stock of
French epigrams. No other country can show such a list of brilliant
writers--in England certainly we cannot. Our most celebrated, Lord
Bacon, has, by his other works, so surpassed his maxims, that their fame
is, to a great measure, obscured. The only Englishman who could have
rivalled La Rochefoucauld or La Bruyère was the Earl of Chesterfield,
and he only could have done so from his very intimate connexion
with France; but unfortunately his brilliant genius was spent in the
impossible task of trying to refine a boorish young Briton, in "cutting
blocks with a razor."

Of all the French epigrammatic writers La Rochefoucauld is at once the
most widely known, and the most distinguished. Voltaire, whose opinion
on the century of Louis XIV. is entitled to the greatest weight, says,
"One of the works that most largely contributed to form the taste of
the nation, and to diffuse a spirit of justice and precision, is the
collection of maxims, by Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld."

This Francois, the second Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marsillac,
the author of the maxims, was one of the most illustrious members of the
most illustrious families among the French noblesse. Descended from the
ancient Dukes of Guienne, the founder of the Family Fulk or Foucauld, a
younger branch of the House of Lusignan, was at the commencement of
the eleventh century the Seigneur of a small town, La Roche, in the
Angounois. Our chief knowledge of this feudal lord is drawn from
the monkish chronicles. As the benefactor of the various abbeys and
monasteries in his province, he is naturally spoken of by them in terms
of eulogy, and in the charter of one of the abbeys of Angouleme he is
called, "vir nobilissimus Fulcaldus." His territorial power enabled him
to adopt what was then, as is still in Scotland, a common custom, to
prefix the name of his estate to his surname, and thus to create and
transmit to his descendants the illustrious surname of La Rochefoucauld.

From that time until that great crisis in the history of the French
aristocracy, the Revolution of 1789, the family of La Rochefoucauld have
been, "if not first, in the very first line" of that most illustrious
body. One Seigneur served under Philip Augustus against Richard Coeur de
Lion, and was made prisoner at the battle of Gisors. The eighth
Seigneur Guy performed a great tilt at Bordeaux, attended (according
to Froissart) to the Lists by some two hundred of his kindred and
relations. The sixteenth Seigneur Francais was chamberlain to Charles
VIII. and Louis XII., and stood at the font as sponsor, giving his name
to that last light of French chivalry, Francis I. In 1515 he was created
a baron, and was afterwards advanced to a count, on account of his great
service to Francis and his predecessors.

The second count pushed the family fortune still further by obtaining
a patent as the Prince de Marsillac. His widow, Anne de Polignac,
entertained Charles V. at the family chateau at Verteuil, in so princely
a manner that on leaving Charles observed, "He had never entered a
house so redolent of high virtue, uprightness, and lordliness as that

The third count, after serving with distinction under the Duke of
Guise against the Spaniards, was made prisoner at St. Quintin, and only
regained his liberty to fall a victim to the "bloody infamy" of St.
Bartholomew. His son, the fourth count, saved with difficulty from that
massacre, after serving with distinction in the religious wars, was
taken prisoner in a skirmish at St. Yriex la Perche, and murdered by the
Leaguers in cold blood.

The fifth count, one of the ministers of Louis XIII., after fighting
against the English and Buckingham at the Ile de Ré, was created a duke.
His son Francis, the second duke, by his writings has made the family
name a household word.

The third duke fought in many of the earlier campaigns of Louis XIV. at
Torcy, Lille, Cambray, and was dangerously wounded at the passage of
the Rhine. From his bravery he rose to high favour at Court, and was
appointed Master of the Horse (Grand Veneur) and Lord Chamberlain. His
son, the fourth duke, commanded the regiment of Navarre, and took part
in storming the village of Neerwinden on the day when William III.

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