Quotations by La Rochefoucauld, Francois


Before we set our hearts too much on anything, let us examine how happy are those who already possess it.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
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Those who are incapable of committing great crimes do not readily suspect them in others.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
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Behind many acts that are thought ridiculous there lie wise and weighty motives.

[Il y a une infinité de conduites qui paraissent ridicules, et dont les raisons cachées sont très sages et très solides.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Jul-09
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A small degree of wit, accompanied by good sense, is less tiresome in the long run than a great amount of wit without it.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
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We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
(Attributed)
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If we had no faults of our own, we would not take so much pleasure in noticing those of others.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
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The height of cleverness is to be able to conceal it.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
Added on 26-Jul-07 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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There is nothing more horrible than the murder of a beautiful theory by a brutal gang of facts.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
Added on 21-Sep-07 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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In the adversity of our best friends we often find something which does not displease us.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
Added on 29-Apr-13 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
Added on 24-Nov-14 | Last updated 8-Apr-15
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Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, they are not so often the result of a great design as of chance.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678)
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We all have enough strength to endure the misfortunes of others.

[Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d’autrui.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims] (1665-1678) [tr. E. Stack (1956)]
Added on 1-Feb-08 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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Philosophy easily triumphs over past ills and ills to come, but present ills triumph over philosophy.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 22 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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The ambitious deceive themselves when they propose an end to their ambition; for that end, when attained, becomes a means.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 32 (1665-1678)
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We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 38 (1665-1678) [tr. Pratt (1931)]
Added on 8-Oct-12 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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One is never so happy or so unhappy as one thinks.

[On n’est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu’on s’imagine.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 49 (1665-1678)
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No occurrences are so unfortunate that the shrewd cannot turn them to some advantage, nor so fortunate that the imprudent cannot turn them to their own disadvantage.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 59 (1665-1678) [tr Tancock (1959)]
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There are very few people who are not ashamed of having been in love when they no longer love each other.

[Il n’y a guère de gens qui ne soient honteux de s’être aimés quand ils ne s’aiment plus.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 71 (1665-1678)
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True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

[Il est du véritable amour comme de l’apparition des esprits tout le monde en parle, mais peu de gens en ont vu.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 76 (1665-1678)
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The love of justice in most men is simply the fear of suffering injustice.

[L’amour de la justice n’est en la plupart des hommes que la crainte de souffrir l’injustice.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 78 (1665-1678)
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Everyone complains of his memory, but no one complains of his judgment.

[Tout le monde se plaint de sa mémoire, et personne ne se plaint de son jugement.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 89 (1665-1678)

Alt. trans: "Everybody complains of his memory, but nobody of his judgment." [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Old men are fond of giving advice, to console themselves for being no longer in a position to give bad examples.

[Les vieillards aiment à donner de bons préceptes, pour se consoler de n’être plus en état de donner de mauvais exemples.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 93 (1665-1678)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jul-13
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He who imagines he can do without the world deceives himself much; but he who fancies the world cannot do without him is still more mistaken.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 93 (1665-1678)
Added on 25-Nov-13 | Last updated 25-Nov-13
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Old people are fond of giving good advice; it consoles them for no longer being capable of setting a bad example.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 93 (1665-1678) (tr. L. Tancock (1999))
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It often happens that things come into the mind in a much more finished form than could have been achieved after much study.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #101 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 26-May-09 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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Not all those who know their minds know their hearts as well.

[Tous ceux qui connaissent leur esprit ne connaissent pas leur coeur.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #103 (1665-1678)
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With nothing are we so generous as advice.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #110 (1665-1678) [tr. Kronenberger (1959)]
Added on 28-May-08 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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‘Tis as easy to deceive one’s self without perceiving it, as it is difficult to deceive others without being perceived.

[Il est aussi facile de se tromper soi-même sans s’en apercevoir qu’il est difficile de tromper les autres sans qu’ils s’en aperçoivent.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #115 (1665-1678)
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Men are oftener treacherous out of weakness than out of any formed design.

[L’on fait plus souvent des trahisons par faiblesse que par un dessein formé de trahir.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #120 (1665-1678)
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Tricks and treachery are merely proof of lack of skill.

[Les finesses et les trahisons ne viennent que de manque d’habileté.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #126 (1665-1678)
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The true way to be deceived is to think oneself more clever than others.

[Le vrai moyen d’être trompé, c’est de se croire plus fin que les autres.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #127 (1665-1678)
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Those qualities we have do not make us so ridiculous as those which we affect.

[On n’est jamais si ridicule par les qualités que l’on a que par celles que l’on affecte d’avoir.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #134 (1665-1678)
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One of the reasons so few people are to be found who seem sensible and pleasant in conversation is that almost everybody is thinking about what he wants to say himself rather than about answering clearly what is being said to him.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #139 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]
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As the stamp of great minds is to suggest much in a few words, so, contrariwise, little minds have the gift of talking a great deal and saying nothing.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #142 (1665) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
    (Source)
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There are reproaches that compliment, and compliments that disparage.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #148 (1665) [tr. Kronenberger (1959)]
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The glory of great men must always be measured against the means they have used to acquire it.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #157 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]

Alt. trans.:

  • "The fame of great men ought to be judged always by the means they used to acquire it."
  • "The glory of a great man ought always to be estimated by the means used to acquire it."
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Flattery is counterfeit money which, but for vanity, would have no circulation.

[La flatterie est une fausse monnaie qui n’a de cours que par notre vanité]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #158 (1665-1678) [tr. Kronenberger (1959)]
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True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world!

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #216 (1665-1678)
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Fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their misdeeds with success they think it is because they are right.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #227 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Nothing is so contagious as an example, and our every really good or bad action inspires a similar one.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #230 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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It is exceedingly clever to know how to hide your cleverness.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #245 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Kronenberger (1959)]
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We try to make virtues out of the faults we have no wish to correct.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #251 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Self-interest sets in motion virtues and vices of all kinds.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #263 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Few men are sufficiently discerning to appreciate all the evil they do.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #269 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and fans flames.

[L’absence diminue les médiocres passions, et augmente les grandes, comme le vent éteint les bougies et allume le feu.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #276 (1665-1678)

Alt. trans.: "Absence lessens the minor passions and increases the great ones, as the wind douses a candle and kindles a fire."

(See DeBussy)
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We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those who find us boring.

[Nous pardonnons souvent à ceux qui nous ennuient, mais nous ne pouvons pardonner à ceux que nous ennuyons.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #304 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]
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Moderation has been declared a virtue so as to curb the ambition of the great and console lesser folk for their lack of fortune and merit.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #308 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Why is it that we have enough memory to recall the most trivial occurrences that have happened to us, but not enough memory to remind us how often we have told them to the same person?

[Pourquoi faut-il que nous ayons assez de mémoire pour retenir jusqu’aux moindres particularités de ce qui nous est arrivé, et que nous n’en ayons pas assez pour nous souvenir combien de fois nous les avons contées à une même personne?]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #313 (1665-1678)
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It is no tragedy to do ungrateful people favors, but it is unbearable to be indebted to a scoundrel.

[Ce n’est pas un grand malheur d’obliger des ingrats, mais c’en est un insupportable d’être obligé à un malhonnête homme.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #317 (1665-1678)
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We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.

[Nous n’avouons de petits défauts que pour persuader que nous n’en avons pas de grands.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #327 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]

Alt. trans.: "We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves that we have no great ones."
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Circumstances reveal us to others and still more to ourselves.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #345 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]
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We rarely find that people have good sense unless they agree with us.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #347 (1665-1678)

Alt. trans.: "We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Oct-13
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Mediocre minds dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #375 (1665-1678)
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We should often blush at our noblest deeds if the world were to see all their underlying motives.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #409 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
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Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we resort to hide them.

[On n’a guère de défauts qui ne soient plus pardonnables que les moyens dont on se sert pour les cacher.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #411 (1665-1678) (1665)
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Self-confidence adds more to conversation than wit.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #421 (1665-1678) [tr. Kronenberger (1959)]
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We try to make virtues of those faults that we do not wish to correct.

[Nous essayons de nous faire honneur des défauts que nous ne voulons pas corriger.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #442 (1665-1678)
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Some people’s faults are becoming, other people’s virtues prove drawbacks.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #442 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 25-May-10 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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In affairs of importance a man should concentrate not so much on making opportunities as on taking advantages of those that arise.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #453 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 20-Dec-11 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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Our enemies come nearer the truth in the opinions they form of us than we do in our opinion of ourselves.

[Nous essayons de nous faire honneur des défauts que nous ne voulons pas corriger.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #458 (1665-1678)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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Quarrels would not last long if the fault were on one side only.

[Les querelles ne dureraient pas longtemps, si le tort n’était que d’un côté.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #496 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]

Alt. trans.:
  • "Quarrels would not last so long if the fault were only on one side."
  • "Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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How can we expect somebody else to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves?

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #584 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 30-Aug-13 | Last updated 30-Aug-13
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Self-confidence is at the root of most of our confidence in others.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #624 (1665-1678) [tr. L. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 23-Mar-09 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #633 (1665-1678) (1665) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 6-Apr-10 | Last updated 29-Apr-13
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