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    Chamfort, Nicolas


Many men and many women enjoy popular esteem, not because they are known, but because they are not.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Attributed in Maturin M. Ballou, Notable Thoughts About Women, #3144 (1882).
 
Added on 27-Apr-16 | Last updated 27-Apr-16
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It is sometimes said of a man who lives alone that he does not like society. This is like saying of a man he does not like going for walks because he is not fond of walking at night in the forêt de Bondy.

[On dit quelquefois d’un homme qui vit seul: il n’aime pas la Société. C’est souvent comme si on disait d’un homme qu’il n’aime pas la promenade, sous le prétexte qu’il ne se promène pas volontiers le soir dans la forêt de Bondy.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées], #275 (1795)
    (Source)

Quoted by Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety (2004).
 
Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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Enjoy and give pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to anyone else — that, I think, is the whole of morality.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, 5 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
 
Added on 4-Oct-11 | Last updated 4-Oct-11
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Nature intended illusions for the wise as well as for fools, let the former should be rendered too miserable by their wisdom.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
 
Added on 28-Mar-11 | Last updated 28-Mar-11
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Rank without merit earns deference without respect.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
 
Added on 9-Apr-14 | Last updated 9-Apr-14
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Society is made up of two great classes: those who have more dinners than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinners.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 3 (1796) [tr. W. Merwin (1984)]
 
Added on 19-Feb-09 | Last updated 19-Feb-09
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The most absurd customs and the most ridiculous ceremonies are everywhere excused by an appeal to the phrase, but that’s the tradition. This is exactly what the Hottentots say when Europeans ask them why they eat grasshoppers and devour their body lice. That’s the tradition, they explain.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 3, #249 (1796)
    (Source)
 
Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
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Education should be constructed on two bases: morality and prudence. Morality, in order to assist virtue, and prudence in order to defend you against the vices of others. In tipping the scales toward morality, you merely produce dupes and martyrs. In tipping it the other way, you produce egotistical schemers.

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 5 (1796) [tr. W. Merwin (1984)]
 
Added on 16-Nov-09 | Last updated 16-Nov-09
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I have known nearly all the famous men of our age and I have seen them made wretched by this glorious passion for fame, and die after debauching their moral natures in its service.
 
[J’ai connu presque tous les hommes célèbres de notre tems, et que je les ai vus malheureux par cette belle passion de célébrité, et mourir, après avoir dégradé par elle leur caractère moral.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” “Question” (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translation:

I have known nearly every famous man in our times, and I have seen them unhappy through this pretty passion for celebrity, and die after having degraded their moral character for it.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 11-Dec-23 | Last updated 11-Dec-23
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Most collectors of verses and sayings proceed as though they were eating cherries and oysters, choosing the best first, and ending by eating them all.

[La plupart des faiseurs de recueils de vers ou de bons mots ressemblent à ceux qui mangent des cerises ou des huitres, choisissant d’abord les meilleurs, et finissant par tout manger.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 2 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Most of those who make collections of verse or epigram are like men eating cherries or oysters: they choose out the best at first, and end by eating all.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The majority of compilers of verse and sayings are like eaters of cherries and oysters, who pick out the best first and end by eating all.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Most authors of collections of poetry or epigrams proceed as though they were eating cherries or oysters. They start out by selecting the best, but wind up swallowing everything.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Most compilers of anthologies of poetry or of epigrams are like people eating cherries or oysters: they start by picking out the best and easting the lot.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 3]

Most compilers of verse or of bon mots resemble people who eat cherries or oysters, at first choosing the best ones, and finishing by eating everything.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 19-Sep-13 | Last updated 14-Aug-23
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Physical scourges and the calamities of human nature rendered society necessary. Society has added to natural misfortunes. The drawbacks of society have made government necessary, and government adds to society’s misfortunes. There is the history of human nature in a nutshell.

[Les fléaux physiques, et les calamités de la nature humaine ont rendu la Société nécessaire. La Société a ajouté aux malheurs de la Nature. Les inconvéniens de la Société ont amené la nécessité du gouvernement, et le gouvernement ajoute aux malheurs de la Société. Voilà l’histoire de la nature humaine.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 67 (1795) [tr. Hutchinson (1902)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The physical plagues and misfortunes of human nature have made Society necessary. Society has added to the ills of Nature. The difficulties of Society have created the necessity for Government, and Government now adds to the evils of Society. There you have the history of man.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Physical disasters and the calamities of human nature have rendered society necessary. To the miseries of nature, society has added its own. The difficulties of society have evolved the necessity for government, and government has added to the miseries of society. This is the history of human nature.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Physical disasters and the calamities of human nature made society necessary. Society's ordeals were then added to those of nature. The drawbacks of society led to the need for government, whereupon the evils of government were added to those of society. Such is the history of human nature.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Physical plagues and the calamities of nature made society necessary. Society added to the misfortunes of nature. The inconveniences of society brought the necessity of government, and the government added to the misfortunes of society. This is the history of human nature.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 30-Oct-23 | Last updated 30-Oct-23
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The fable of Tantalus has generally been regarded as symbolizing avarice. It’s at least equally applicable to ambition, love of fame, indeed to almost every passion.
 
[La fable de Tantale n’a presque jamais servi d’emblème qu’à l’avarice. Mais elle est, pour le moins, autant celui de l’ambition, de l’amour de la gloire, de presque toutes les passions.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 70 (1795) [tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 58]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The fable of Tantalus is hardly ever applied except to the passion of avarice; but it is at least as applicable to ambition, to the love of glory, and to nearly all the other passions.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The fable of Tantalus has been used almost exclusively as an emblem of avarice, but it is at least as applicable to ambition, the love of fame, and virtually all the passions.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

The fable of Tantalus has almost never served as a precept except in the case of avarice. But it is, at all events, a precept attaching no wit less to ambition, to love of glory, to almost all passions.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

The fable of Tantalus has nearly only ever served as an emblem of avarice. However, it is at least as much a symbol of ambition, of the love of glory, and of nearly every passion.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 5-Feb-24 | Last updated 5-Feb-24
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All passions exaggerate; it is only because they exaggerate that they are passions.

[Toutes les passions sont exagératrices, et elles ne sont des passions que parce qu’elles exagèrent.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 72 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

All passions are exaggerated, otherwise they would not be passions.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

All of the passions lead to exaggeration. That is why they are passions.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

All passions involve excess, in fact that's what makes them passions.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶59]

All passions exaggerate, and they are only passions because they exaggerate.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 25-Sep-23 | Last updated 25-Sep-23
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Celebrity: the advantage of being known by those who do not know you.

[Célébrité: l’avantage d’être connu de ceux qui ne vous connaissent pas.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 135 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Celebrity: the advantage of being known to those who do not know you.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

Celebrity: the advantage of being known by those who do not know you.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Being a celebrity gives you the advantage of being known to those not of your acquaintance.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Celebrity: the advantage of being known by those who do not know you.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Celebrity: the advantage of being known by people who don't know you.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 111]

Celebrity: the advantage of being recognized by people who don't know you.
[Source]

 
Added on 17-Jul-23 | Last updated 17-Jul-23
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Life is a disease temporarily relieved every sixteen hours, by sleep. The complete cure: death.

[Vivre est une maladie dont le sommeil nous soulage toutes les seize heures. C’est un palliatif. La Mort est le remède.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 113 (1795) [tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 91]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Life is a malady in which sleep soothes us every sixteen hours; it is a palliation; death is the remedy.
[Ballou, comp. (1872)]

Living is a disease from the pains of which sleep eases us every sixteen hours; sleep is but a palliative, death alone is the cure.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

Life is a disease from which sleep gives us alleviation every sixteen hours. Sleep is a palliative, Death is the remedy.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Living is an ailment which is relieved every sixteen hours by sleep. A palliative Death is the cure.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

To live is a malady from which sleep vouchsafes us relief every sixteen hours. That is a palliative. The remedy is death.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

To live is a sickness that sleep comforts every sixteen hours. It's a palliative. Death is the cure.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

Life is a sickness to which sleep provides relief every sixteen hours. It's a palliative. The remedy is death.
[Source]

 
Added on 6-Sep-23 | Last updated 6-Sep-23
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In order to not find life unbearable, you must accept two things: the ravages of time, and the injustices of man.
 
[Il y a deux choses auxquelles il faut se faire, sous peine de trouver la vie insupportable. Ce sont les injures du tems et les injustices des hommes.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 115 (1795) [tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 95]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

There are two things to which we must become inured on pain of finding life intolerable: the outrages of time and man's injustice.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

There are two things that one must get used to or one will find life unendurable: the damages of time and the injustices of men.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

There are two things that a man must reconcile himself to, or he will find life unbearable: they are the injuries of time and the injuries of men.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 29-Jan-24 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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The great calamity of the passions is not the torments they cause but the wrongs, the base actions that they lead one to commit, and which degrade men. Without these hindrances the advantages of the passions would far outweigh those of cold reason, which renders no one happy. The passions make a man live, wisdom merely makes him last.

[Le grand malheur des passions n’est pas dans les tourmens qu’elles causent, mais dans les fautes, dans les turpitudes qu’elles font commettre, et qui dégradent l’homme. Sans ces inconvéniens, elles auraient trop d’avantage sur la froide raison, qui ne rend point heureux. Les passions font vivre l’homme, la sagesse le fait seulement durer.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 118 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The great evil of the passions does not lie in the torments which they bring upon men, but in the faults and shameful actions they cause him to commit. Were it not for this drawback they would have too great an advantage over cold reason, which can never be productive of happiness. His passions make man live, his wisdom only makes him last.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The unfortunate thing about passions is not the misery they make one commit, and which degrade man. Without these disadvantages, they would overpower cold reason, which does not in the least a source of happiness. Passions make men live, wisdom only makes the endure.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

The great disaster of passions is not the torment they cause, but the debasing errors and depravity into which they lead men. Without these drawbacks, passion would enjoy many advantages over cold reason, which never produces happiness. Passions enable men to live, wisdom merely enables them to survive.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

The great misfortune of passions does not come from the torments that they cause, but from the base things they make a person do, and which degrade him. Without these inconveniences, they would have too many advantages over cold reason, which never makes people happy. Passions make a man live, wisdom and facts only make him endure.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 15-Jan-24 | Last updated 15-Jan-24
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The malevolent at times commit good actions, as though they wanted to see whether in fact they afford as much pleasure as good people pretend.

[Les méchans font quelquefois de bonnes actions. On dirait qu’ils veulent voir s’il est vrai que cela fasse autant de plaisir que le prétendent les honnêtes gens.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 122 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Wicked people sometimes perform good actions. I suppose they wish to see if this gives as great a feeling of pleasure as the virtuous claim for it.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The wicked sometimes perform good actions. One might say they wish to see whether it is true that they engender as much pleasure as respectable folk maintain they do.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

 
Added on 7-Aug-23 | Last updated 7-Aug-23
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It is safe to wager that every public idea and every accepted convention is sheer foolishness, because it has suited the majority.

[Il y a à parier que toute idée publique, toute convention reçue, est une sottise, car elle a convenu au plus grand nombre.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 130 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

It may be argued that every public idea, every accepted convention, is a piece of stupidity, for has it not commended itself to the greatest number?
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

One can be certain that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be an idiocy, because it has been able to appeal to a majority.
[In Botton, Status Anxiety (2004)]

It is likely that every public idea, every received convention, is folly, because the majority of men consented to it.
[Source]

 
Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-23
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Preoccupation with money is the great test of small natures, but only a small test of great ones; there may be a wide gulf between a man who despises money and a genuinely honest man.

[L’intérêt d’argent est la grande épreuve des petits caractères; mais ce n’est encore que la plus petite pour les caractères distingués; et il y a loin de l’homme qui méprise l’argent, à celui qui est véritablement honnête.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 164 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Concern for money is the great test of small natures; but is scarcely a test at all for those who rise above the ordinary; and there is a long way between the man who scorns money and the one who is genuinely honest.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Weak characters think money all-important; for any well-bred person, it's a very minor concern.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 129]

The desire for money can go very far in proving that a person has a petty character, but it has little to say about a persons sincerity; and there is a great distance between a man who scorns money and someone who is truly honest.
[tr. Siniscalchi]

 
Added on 24-Jul-23 | Last updated 31-Jul-23
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Sometimes when a person sees the roguery of poor people and the thievery of people in high positions, he is tempted to regard society as a forest full of robbers, the most dangerous of which are the policemen that are set up to stop the others.

[En voyant quelquefois les friponneries des petits et les brigandages des hommes en place, on est tenté de regarder la société comme un bois rempli de voleurs, dont les plus dangereux sont les archers, préposés pour arrêter les autres.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 3, ¶ 198 (1795) [tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Seeing the rogueries of little men and the extortions of the great in office, one is tempted to look upon Society as a wood infested by robbers, the most dangerous being the constables sent to arrest the others.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

At times, seeing the petty thieveries of the petty, and the robberies of those in office, one is tempted to regard society as a wood full of thieves, of which the most dangerous are the officers set there to arrest the others.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Sometimes, when one observes the rogueries perpetuated by petty people and the graft committed by men in office, one is tempted to think of society as a wood infested by thieves, of which the most dangerous are the archers, posted to prevent the others from escaping.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

There are times when, seeing the nasty tricks people get up to, the gross frauds of high officers, you're tempted to think that you're in a wood infested by thieves, amongst whom the most dangerous are the police, whose purpose is supposed to be that of arresting them.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 152]

 
Added on 13-Nov-23 | Last updated 13-Nov-23
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The art of the parenthesis is one of the great secrets of eloquence in society.

[L’art de la parenthèse est un des grands secrets de l’éloquence dans la Société.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 3, ¶ 243 (1795) [tr. Sinicalchi]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The art of the parenthesis is one of the great secrets of social eloquence.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The art of parenthesis is one of the great secrets of eloquence in society.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

 
Added on 16-Oct-23 | Last updated 16-Oct-23
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Any man with few needs appears a menace to the rich for he is always in a position to escape from them, and the tyrants see that thus they lose a slave.

[Tout homme qui a peu de besoins semble menacer les riches d’être toujours prêt à leur échapper. Les tyrans voient par là qu’ils perdent un esclave.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 3, ¶ 266 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Any man whose needs are few seems to threaten the rich with the possibility of his escaping them. Tyrants are thereby faced with the prospect of losing a slave.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Any man who has few needs seems to threaten the rich with his readiness to escape from them. Thereby tyrants realize that they are losing a slave.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Every man who has few needs seems to menace the wealthy with the constant threat of escaping from them. Tyrants see in such a proposition the loss of a slave.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

Anyone whose needs are small seems threatening to the rich, because he's always ready to escape their control. This is how tyrants recognize that they're losing a slave.
[tr. Parmée (2003)]

 
Added on 4-Dec-23 | Last updated 4-Dec-23
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An intelligent man is lost if he does not add strength of character to his intelligence.

[Un homme d’esprit est perdu, s’il ne joint pas à l’esprit l’énergie de caractère.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 4, ¶ 277 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

A person of intellect, without energy added to it, is a failure.
[Source (1893)]

A man of wit is lost, if to his wit he does not join energy of character.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

A man of intelligence is lost if his intelligence is not combined with energy of character.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

A man of intellect is lost if he does not ally strength of mind to strength of character.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Any intelligent man who lacks character is lost.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 173]

A man with spirit is lost if he doesn't add to his intelligence an energetic character.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 21-Aug-23 | Last updated 21-Aug-23
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Nature never said to me: Do not be poor; still less did she say: Be rich; her cry to me was always: Be independent.

[La Nature ne m’a point dit: ne sois point pauvre; encore moins: sois riche; mais elle me crie: sois indépendant.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 4, ¶ 281 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Nature has not said to me: Be not poor; still less: Be rich. But she cries out to me: Be independent.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

Nature did not say to me, “Do not be poor”; still less, “Be rich”; but she cried out to me, “Be independent.”
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Nature did not tell me, "Do not be poor"; still less did it say "Be rich"; but it does cry to me: "Be independent."
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Nature never urged me, "Be not poor," much less, "Be rich." Instead, she shouts: "Be independent."
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Nature didn't tell me, "Don't be poor!"; and certainly didn't say: "Get rich!"; but she did shout: "Always be independent!"
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶174]

Nature didn't say to me "Never be poor."; still less "Be rich."; but it cried "Be independant."
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 18-Sep-23 | Last updated 18-Sep-23
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Calumny is like a wasp which harasses you. Raise no hand against it unless you’re sure of killing it, for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever.

[La calomnie est comme la guêpe qui vous importune, et contre laquelle il ne faut faire aucun mouvement, à moins qu’on ne soit sûr de la tuer, sans quoi elle revient à la charge, plus furieuse que jamais.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 5, ¶ 302 (1795) [tr. Dusinberre (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Calumny is like the wasp which worries you, which it were best not to try to get rid of unless you are sure of slaying it; for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever.
[Source (1872)]

Scandal is an importunate wasp, against which we must make no movement unless we are quite sure that we can kill it; otherwise it will return to the attack more furious than ever.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Calumny is like some annoying wasp, against which one must make no move unless one is sure of killing it, or else it will return to the charge more furiously than ever.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Calumny is a wasp that bothers you, and against which you mustn't make any movement unless you are sure to kill it; otherwise it will attack you more furiously than before.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

Slander is like a wasp which is pestering you but which you mustn't take any action against unless he happens to turn round.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 182]

 
Added on 29-Feb-16 | Last updated 18-Dec-23
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Love, such as it exists in high society, is merely an exchange of whims and the contact of skins.

[L’amour, tel qu’il existe dans la société, n’est que l’échange de deux fantaisies et le contact de deux épidermes.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 6, ¶ 359 (1795) [tr. Dusinberre (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Love as it exists in society is nothing more than the exchange of two fancies and the contact of two epidermes.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

Love, as it s practiced in Society, is nothing but the exchange of two caprices and the contact of two skins.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Love as it exists in society is merely the mingling of two fantasies and the contact of two skins.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Love as it exists in society is only the exchange of two fantasies and the contact of two epidermises.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 6-Nov-23 | Last updated 6-Nov-23
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There are more who want to be loved than who want to love.
 
[Y a plus de gens qui veulent être aimés que de gens qui veulent aimer eux-mêmes.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 6, ¶ 360 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

There are more people who wish to be loved than there are who are willing to love.
[Source (<1884)]

Men are more eager to be loved than anxious to love.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

There are more people who want to be loved than there are people who want to love.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

There are more people who want to be loved than people who want to love.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 19-Feb-24 | Last updated 19-Feb-24
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Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more amusing than history.

[L’amour plaît plus que le mariage, par la raison que les romans sont plus amusants que l’histoire.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 6, ¶ 391 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Love gives greater pleasure than marriage for the same reason that romances are more amusing than history.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

Love is a pleasanter thing than marriage, for the same reason that the Romans are more amusing than History.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more pleasant than history.
[Source]

 
Added on 3-Jul-23 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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A man is not necessarily intelligent because he has plenty of ideas, any more than he is a good general because he has plenty of soldiers.
 
[On n’est point un homme d’esprit pour avoir beaucoup d’idées, comme on n’est pas un bon général pour avoir beaucoup de soldats.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 7, ¶ 446 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

A man is not clever simply because he has many ideas, just as he is not necessarily a good general because he has many soldiers.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

One is not a man of wit simply because one has a great many ideas, any more than one is a good general simply because one has a great many soldiers.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Having a great many ideas doesn't betoken a fine mind, just as having a great many soldiers doesn't betoken a fine general.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992), ¶ 445]

Having a lot of ideas does not give a person esprit, in the same way that having a lot of soldiers doesn't make a person a good general.
[tr. Sinicalchi, ¶ 445]

 
Added on 23-Oct-23 | Last updated 23-Oct-23
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Economists are surgeons who have an excellent scalpel but a jagged lancet — they operate exquisitely on the dead but torture the living.

[Les économistes sont des chirugiens qui on un excellent scalpel et un bistouri ébréché, opérant à merveille sur le mort et martyrisant le vif.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 7, ¶ 457 (1795) [tr. Dusinberre (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Political Economists are surgeons with excellent scalpels and blunted bistouries; they work on the dead to a marvel and torture the living.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

An economist is a surgeon with an excellent scalpel and a rough-edged lancet, who operates beautifully on the dead and tortures the living.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Economists are surgeons who wield an excellent scalpel and a chipped bistoury, and operate wonderfully on the dead flesh and agonize the living.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Economists are surgeons who have an excellent scalpel and chipped scissors, who operate marvelously on the dead and who make martyrs of the living.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]

 
Added on 19-Nov-23 | Last updated 19-Nov-23
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Were a historian like Tacitus to write a history of the best of our kings, giving an exact account of all the tyrannical acts and abuses of authority, the majority of which lie buried in the profoundest obscurity, there would be few reigns which would not inspire us with the same horror as that of Tiberius.

[Si un historien, tel que Tacite, eût écrit l’histoire de nos meilleurs rois, en faisant un relevé exact de tous les actes tyranniques, de tous les abus d’autorité, dont la plupart sont ensevelis dans l’obscurité la plus profonde, il y a peu de règnes qui ne nous inspirassent la même horreur que celui de Tibère.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 482 (1795) [tr. Hutchinson (1902)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

If such an historian as Tacitus had written the chronicle of our nobler kings, making an exact statement of all those tyrannical actions and abuses of authority which are now for the most part buried in deep darkness, few of their reigns would inspire less horror than that of Tiberius.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

If a historian such as Tacitus had written the histories of our best kings, with precise accounts of their tyrannical actions, and all their abuses of authority, most of which have been buried in the deepest obscurity, there are few reigns that would not arouse in us the same horror as that of Tiberius.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

If a chronicler such as Tacitus had written the history of our best kings, preparing an exact amount of all tyrannical acts, of all the abuses of authority, of which the majority are concealed by fathomless obscurity, there would be few reigns which would [not?] inspire us with the same horror as that of Tiberius.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

 
Added on 31-Jul-23 | Last updated 31-Jul-23
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In France they ignore those who set fires and punish those who give the alarm.

[En France, on laisse en repos ceux qui mettent le feu, et on persécute ceux qui sonnent le tocsin.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 500 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

Likely true for more than just France, especially as Chamfort was referring to political leadership.

The source for this fragment seems to be from a political incident. After the exile of Calonne in April 1787, after proposing a number of social reforms, Chamfort noted, "They ignored him when he started the fire, but punished him when he sounded the alarm." [tr. Dusinberre (1992), ¶ 499]. When collected as his "Thoughts," it was made more general.

(Source (French), ¶ 500). Alternate translations:

In France we leave unmolested those who set fire to the house and persecute those who sound the alarm bell.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

In France we harry the man who rings the alarum bell, and leave the man in peace who starts the fire.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

In France, those who commit arson are left in peace, and those who sound the alarm are persecuted.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

In France, we leave arsonists in peace and persecute those who sound the alarm.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 257]

In France, people leave alone the person who started the fire and persecute the one who rings the bell.
[tr. Sinicalchi, ¶ 499]

 
Added on 9-Oct-23 | Last updated 9-Oct-23
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The nobility, say nobles, serves as intermediary between king and people. True, just as the hound serves as intermediary between hunter and hares.
 
[«La noblesse, disent les nobles, est une intermédiaire entre le roi et le peuple…» Oui, comme le chien de chasse est un intermédiaire entre le chasseur et les lièvres.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 511 (1795) [tr. Dusinberre (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The nobility, say the nobles, is an intermediary between the king and the people.... Precisely; just as the hound is the intermediary between the huntsman and the hares.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

The Nobility, its members say, is an intermediary between the King and the People. .... Exactly, just as hounds are intermediary between men and hares.
[tr. Mathers (1926), ¶ 512]

“The nobility,” say the nobles, “is an intermediary between the king and the people . . .” No doubt: just as the hunting dog is an intermediary between the hunter and the hares.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

"The nobility," say the nobles, "is a go-between twixt the king and the people ..." Yes, just as the hunting dog is the go-between twixt the huntsman and the hares.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

"The nobility", say the nobles, "is an intermediary between the king and the people ..." Yes, like a hunting dog is an intermediary between a hunter and hares.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994), ¶ 511]

"We're the intermediary between the king and his subjects," claim the nobility. Yes indeed -- and the hound is the intermediary between the hunter and the hare.
[tr. Parmée (2003), ¶ 269]

 
Added on 27-Nov-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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It is the head that governs men. A kind heart is of no use in a chess game.

[On gouverne les hommes avec la tête. On ne joue pas aux échecs avec un bon cœur.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 522 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

People are governed with the head; kindness of heart is little use in chess.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Men are governed using the head. A kind heart is useless in a chess game.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

A person governs men with his head. One does not play chess with goodness of heart.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994), ¶ 521]

 
Added on 22-Jan-24 | Last updated 22-Jan-24
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Pleasures may be based on illusion; happiness must be based on truth.

[Le plaisir peut s’appuyer sur l’illusion; mais le bonheur repose sur la vérité.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées], ch. 2 (1795) [tr. Parmée (2003), # 123]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Pleasure may rest upon illusion, but felicity must repose upon truth.
[tr. Mathers (1926), # 153]

Pleasure may be be based on illusion, but happiness rests on truth.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Variants:
  • "Pleasure can be supported by an illusion; but happiness rests upon truth."
  • "Pleasure may come from illusion, but happiness can come only of reality."
 
Added on 22-May-23 | Last updated 22-May-23
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The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed.

[La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées], ch. 1, # 80 (1795) [tr. Morley (1887)]
    (Source)

Often attributed to a more contemporary comedian (Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin) or writers such as Ben Burroughs, Grigori Alexandrov. It is arguably a clear enough sentiment that others might reinvent it.

(Source (French)). Alternate translation:

The most lost of all days, is that in which we have not laughed.
[Source (1803)]

The most completely lost of all days is that on which one has not laughed.
[Source (1891)]

The worst wasted of all days is that during which one has not laughed.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

Of all days, the day on which one has not laughed is the one most surely wasted.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

That of all days is the most completely wasted in which one did not once laugh.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

The day that we have most lost is the one on which we have not laughed.
[Source]

Other versions:
  • "A day without laughter is a day wasted." [Chaplin]
  • "The most lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed."
  • "The most wasted day of all is that in which we have not laughed."
More history of the quotation: A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted – Quote Investigator®
 
Added on 19-May-11 | Last updated 27-Apr-23
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The world either breaks or hardens the heart.

[En vivant et en voyant les hommes, il faut que le cœur se briese ou se bronze.]

chamfort-breaks-or-hardens-the-heart-wist_info-quote

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionnée], Part 2 “Characters and Anecdotes [Caractères et Anecdotes],” ch. 3 (frag. 771) (1795) [tr. Finod (1880)]
    (Source)

(Source (French))

Attributed by Chamfort as a statement in a philosophical debate, made by M. D---. Finod's translation is very much a paraphrase, as is:

Contact with the world either breaks or hardens the heart.
[ed. Ballou (1882)]

More literal translations:

Living among men and observing them, the heart must either break or turn to bronze.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

In living and in seeing men, the heart must break or be bronzed.
[Source]

Though attributed by Chamfort to "M. D----," he also used the phrase himself, and it is usually attributed to him. Toward the end of his life, he wrote:

Je m'en vais enfin, de ce monde où il faut que le cœur se briese ou se bronze.

[I am leaving at last from this world where the heart must break or become bronze.]

 
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 14-Aug-23
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You should swallow a toad every morning, when going out into high society, so as to encounter nothing more disgusting during the day.
 
[Faudrait avaler un crapaud tous les matins, pour ne trouver plus rien de dégoûtant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la passer dans le monde.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionnée], Part 2 “Characters and Anecdotes [Caractères et Anecdotes],” ch. 5 (1795) [tr. Dusinberre (1992)]
    (Source)

Though usually attributed directly to Chamfort, he credits the phrase to a M. de Lassay.

Fragment 863. (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

It would be necessary to swallow a toad every morning, in order not to find anything disgusting the rest of the day, when one has to spend it in the world.
[tr. Matthews (1877)]

One must swallow a toad every morning, when one has to go out in the world, so as not to find anything more disgusting during the day.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.
[Source]

 
Added on 12-Feb-24 | Last updated 12-Feb-24
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“In society,” M… would say, “you have three sorts of friends: those who love you, those who couldn’t care less about you, and those who hate you.”

«Dans le monde, disait M…, vous avez trois sortes d’amis: vos amis qui vous aiment, vos amis qui ne se soucient pas de vous, et vos amis qui vous haïssent.»

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionnée], Part 2 “Characters and Anecdotes [Caractères et Anecdotes],” ch. 8 (1795) [tr. Parmée (2003), ¶343]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

“In the world,” remarked some one to me, “you have three kinds of friends: the friends who love you, the friends who do not trouble their heads about you, and the friends who hate you.”
[tr. Hutchinson (1902)]

M— said, "In society you have three kinds of friends: your friends who are fond of you, your friends who don’t care either way, and your friends who detest you."
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

"In the world," said M..., you have three sorts of friends: the friends who love you; the friends who don't care about you, and the friends who hate you."
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

You have three sorts of friend in polite society, M— used to say. Friends who are fond of you; friends who are unconcerned about you; friends who detest you.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

"There are three sorts of friends in high society," M— used to say. "Friends who are fond of you, friends who don't care about you, and friends who detest you."
[tr. Dusinberre (1992), "Sampler"]

 
Added on 2-Oct-23 | Last updated 2-Oct-23
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Man comes to each age of his life a novice.

[L’homme arrive novice à chaque âge de la vie.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionnée], Part 2 Characters and Anecdotes [Caractères et Anecdotes], ch. 12 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Man arrives a novice at every age of life.
[Source (1878)]

Man reaches each stage in his life as a novice.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

A man begins every stage of his life as a novice.
[tr. Parmée, ¶412 (2003)]

 
Added on 19-Jun-23 | Last updated 26-Jun-23
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Vices are more frequently habits than they are passions.

[Les vices sont plus souvent des habitudes que des passions.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Unanthologized Aphorism, ¶ 21
    (Source)

(Source (French)).

Apothegm # 43 used by Mirabeau in his 1785 letters (Mirabeau's Letters During His Residence in England, Vol. 2 (1832)), but taken originally from Chamfort, as found in the third Appendix of the Claude Arnaud's biography Chamfort (1988).
 
Added on 8-Jan-24 | Last updated 8-Jan-24
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