Our ignorance of history makes us calumniate our own time. We have always been like this. Some calm years have deceived us. That is all. I too believed in the softening of manners. We must erase this error and esteem ourselves no more than people esteemed themselves in the time of Pericles or Shakespeare, atrocious epochs in which fine things were done.

[On a toujours été comme ça. Quelques années de calme nous ont trompés. Voilà tout. Moi aussi, je croyais à l’adoucissement des mœurs. Il faut rayer cette erreur et ne pas s’estimer plus qu’on ne s’estimait du temps de Péricles ou de Shakespeare, époques atroces où on a fait de belles choses.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to George Sand (8 Sep 1871) [tr. Tarver]

Original French.

Alternate translation: "Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times."

Added on 20-Dec-07 | Last updated 23-Jun-21
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