Reflections Or, Sentences and Moral Maxims

100.–Gallantry of mind is saying the most empty things in an agreeable

101.–Ideas often flash across our minds more complete than we could
make them after much labour.

102.–The head is ever the dupe of the heart.

[A feeble imitation of that great thought “All folly comes from
the heart.”–Aimé Martin. But Bonhome, in his L’art De Penser, says
“Plusieurs diraient en période quarré que quelques reflexions que fasse
l’esprit et quelques resolutions qu’il prenne pour corriger ses travers
le premier sentiment du coeur renverse tous ses projets. Mais il
n’appartient qu’a M. de la Rochefoucauld de dire tout en un mot que
l’esprit est toujours la dupe du coeur.”]

103.–Those who know their minds do not necessarily know their hearts.

104.–Men and things have each their proper perspective; to judge
rightly of some it is necessary to see them near, of others we can never
judge rightly but at a distance.

105.–A man for whom accident discovers sense, is not a rational being.
A man only is so who understands, who distinguishes, who tests it.

106.–To understand matters rightly we should understand their details,
and as that knowledge is almost infinite, our knowledge is always
superficial and imperfect.

107.–One kind of flirtation is to boast we never flirt.

108.–The head cannot long play the part of the heart.

109.–Youth changes its tastes by the warmth of its blood, age retains
its tastes by habit.

110.–Nothing is given so profusely as advice.

111.–The more we love a woman the more prone we are to hate her.

112.–The blemishes of the mind, like those of the face, increase by

113.–There may be good but there are no pleasant marriages.

114.–We are inconsolable at being deceived by our enemies and betrayed
by our friends, yet still we are often content to be thus served by

115.–It is as easy unwittingly to deceive oneself as to deceive others.

116.–Nothing is less sincere than the way of asking and giving advice.
The person asking seems to pay deference to the opinion of his friend,
while thinking in reality of making his friend approve his opinion and
be responsible for his conduct. The person giving the advice returns the
confidence placed in him by eager and disinterested zeal, in doing which
he is usually guided only by his own interest or reputation.

[“I have often thought how ill-natured a maxim it was which on many
occasions I have heard from people of good understanding, ‘That as to
what related to private conduct no one was ever the better for advice.’
But upon further examination I have resolved with myself that the maxim
might be admitted without any violent prejudice to mankind. For in
the manner advice was generally given there was no reason I thought to
wonder it should be so ill received, something there was which strangely
inverted the case, and made the giver to be the only gainer. For by what
I could observe in many occurrences of our lives, that which we called
giving advice was properly taking an occasion to show our own wisdom
at another’s expense. On the other side to be instructed or to receive
advice on the terms usually prescribed to us was little better than
tamely to afford another the occasion of raising himself a character
from our defects.”–Lord Shaftesbury, Characteristics, i., 153.]

117.–The most subtle of our acts is to simulate blindness for snares
that we know are set for us. We are never so easily deceived as when
trying to deceive.

118.–The intention of never deceiving often exposes us to deception.

119.–We become so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that at
last we are disguised to ourselves.

[“Those who quit their proper character{,} to assume what does not
belong to them, are{,} for the greater part{,} ignorant both of the
character they leave{,} and of the character they assume.”–Burke,
{Reflections On The Revolution In France, (1790), Paragraph 19}.]

{The translators’ incorrectly cite Thoughts On The Cause Of The Present

120.–We often act treacherously more from weakness than from a fixed

121.–We frequently do good to enable us with impunity to do evil.

122.–If we conquer our passions it is more from their weakness than
from our strength.

123.–If we never flattered ourselves we should have but scant pleasure.

124.–The most deceitful persons spend their lives in blaming deceit, so
as to use it on some great occasion to promote some great interest.

125.–The daily employment of cunning marks a little mind, it generally
happens that those who resort to it in one respect to protect themselves
lay themselves open to attack in another.

[“With that low cunning which in fools supplies, And amply, too, the
place of being wise.” Churchill, Rosciad, 117.]

126.–Cunning and treachery are the offspring of incapacity.

127.–The true way to be deceived is to think oneself more knowing than

128.–Too great cleverness is but deceptive delicacy, true delicacy is
the most substantial cleverness.

129.–It is sometimes necessary to play the fool to avoid being deceived
by cunning men.

130.–Weakness is the only fault which cannot be cured.

131.–The smallest fault of women who give themselves up to love is to
love. [——“Faciunt graviora coactae Imperio sexus minimumque libidine
peccant.” Juvenal, Sat. vi., 134.]

132.–It is far easier to be wise for others than to be so for oneself.

[Hence the proverb, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his

133.–The only good examples are those, that make us see the absurdity
of bad originals.

134.–We are never so ridiculous from the habits we have as from those
that we affect to have.

135.–We sometimes differ more widely from ourselves than we do from

136.–There are some who never would have loved if they never had heard
it spoken of.

137.–When not prompted by vanity we say little.

138.–A man would rather say evil of himself than say nothing.

[“Montaigne’s vanity led him to talk perpetually of himself, and as
often happens to vain men, he would rather talk of his own failings than
of any foreign subject.”– Hallam, Literature Of Europe.]

139.–One of the reasons that we find so few persons rational and
agreeable in conversation is there is hardly a person who does not think
more of what he wants to say than of his answer to what is said. The
most clever and polite are content with only seeming attentive while we
perceive in their mind and eyes that at the very time they are wandering
from what is said and desire to return to what they want to say. Instead
of considering that the worst way to persuade or please others is to try
thus strongly to please ourselves, and that to listen well and to answer
well are some of the greatest charms we can have in conversation.

[“An absent man can make but few observations, he can pursue nothing
steadily because his absences make him lose his way. They are very
disagreeable and hardly to be tolerated in old age, but in youth they
cannot be forgiven.” –Lord Chesterfield, Letter 195.]

140.–If it was not for the company of fools, a witty man would often be
greatly at a loss.

141.–We often boast that we are never bored, but yet we are so
conceited that we do not perceive how often we bore others.

142.–As it is the mark of great minds to say many things in a few
words, so it is that of little minds to use many words to say nothing.

[“So much they talked, so very little said.” Churchill, Rosciad, 550.

“Men who are unequal to the labour of discussing an argument or wish
to avoid it, are willing enough to suppose that much has been proved
because much has been said.”– Junius, Jan. 1769.]

143.–It is oftener by the estimation of our own feelings that we
exaggerate the good qualities of others than by their merit, and when we
praise them we wish to attract their praise.

144.–We do not like to praise, and we never praise without a
motive. Praise is flattery, artful, hidden, delicate, which gratifies
differently him who praises and him who is praised. The one takes it as
the reward of merit, the other bestows it to show his impartiality and

145.–We often select envenomed praise which, by a reaction upon those
we praise, shows faults we could not have shown by other means.

146.–Usually we only praise to be praised.

147.–Few are sufficiently wise to prefer censure which is useful to
praise which is treacherous.

148.–Some reproaches praise; some praises reproach.

[“Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And, without sneering,
teach the rest to sneer.” Pope {Essay On Man, (1733), Epistle To Dr.

149.–The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.

[The modesty which pretends to refuse praise is but in truth a desire to
be praised more highly. Edition 1665.]

150.–The desire which urges us to deserve praise strengthens our
good qualities, and praise given to wit, valour, and beauty, tends to
increase them.

151.–It is easier to govern others than to prevent being governed.

152.–If we never flattered ourselves the flattery of others would not
hurt us.

[“Adulatione servilia fingebant securi de fragilitate credentis.” Tacit.
Ann. xvi.]

153.–Nature makes merit but fortune sets it to work.

154.–Fortune cures us of many faults that reason could not.

155.–There are some persons who only disgust with their abilities,
there are persons who please even with their faults.

156.–There are persons whose only merit consists in saying and doing
stupid things at the right time, and who ruin all if they change their

157.–The fame of great men ought always to be estimated by the means
used to acquire it.

158.–Flattery is base coin to which only our vanity gives currency.

159.–It is not enough to have great qualities, we should also have the
management of them.

160.–However brilliant an action it should not be esteemed great unless
the result of a great motive.

161.–A certain harmony should be kept between actions and ideas if we
desire to estimate the effects that they produce.

162.–The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and
often acquires more reputation than real brilliancy.

163.–Numberless arts appear foolish whose secre{t} motives are most
wise and weighty.

164.–It is much easier to seem fitted for posts we do not fill than for
those we do.

165.–Ability wins us the esteem of the true men, luck that of the

166.–The world oftener rewards the appearance of merit than merit

167.–Avarice is more opposed to economy than to liberality.

168.–However deceitful hope may be, yet she carries us on pleasantly to
the end of life.

[“Hope travels through, nor quits us when we die.” Pope: Essay On Man,
Ep. ii.]

169.–Idleness and fear keeps us in the path of duty, but our virtue
often gets the praise.

[“Quod segnitia erat sapientia vocaretur.” Tacitus Hist. I.]

170.–If one acts rightly and honestly, it is difficult to decide
whether it is the effect of integrity or skill.

171.–As rivers are lost in the sea so are virtues in self.

172.–If we thoroughly consider the varied effects of indifference we
find we miscarry more in our duties than in our interests.

173.–There are different kinds of curiosity: one springs from interest,
which makes us desire to know everything that may be profitable to us;
another from pride, which springs from a desire of knowing what others
are ignorant of.

174.–It is far better to accustom our mind to bear the ills we have
than to speculate on those which may befall us.

[“Rather bear th{ose} ills we have Than fly to others that we know not
of.” {–Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene I, Hamlet.}]

175.–Constancy in love is a perpetual inconstancy which causes our
heart to attach itself to all the qualities of the person we love
in succession, sometimes giving the preference to one, sometimes to
another. This constancy is merely inconstancy fixed, and limited to the
same person.

176.–There are two kinds of constancy in love, one arising from
incessantly finding in the loved one fresh objects to love, the other
from regarding it as a point of honour to be constant.

177.–Perseverance is not deserving of blame or praise, as it is merely
the continuance of tastes and feelings which we can neither create or

178.–What makes us like new studies is not so much the weariness we
have of the old or the wish for change as the desire to be admired by
those who know more than ourselves, and the hope of advantage over those
who know less.

179.–We sometimes complain of the levity of our friends to justify our
own by anticipation.

180.–Our repentance is not so much sorrow for the ill we have done as
fear of the ill that may happen to us.

181.–One sort of inconstancy springs from levity or weakness of mind,
and makes us accept everyone’s opinion, and another more excusable comes
from a surfeit of matter.

182.–Vices enter into the composition of virtues as poison into that of
medicines. Prudence collects and blends the two and renders them useful
against the ills of life.

183.–For the credit of virtue we must admit that the greatest
misfortunes of men are those into which they fall through their crimes.

184.–We admit our faults to repair by our sincerity the evil we have
done in the opinion of others.

[In the edition of 1665 this maxim stands as No. 200. We never admit our
faults except through vanity.]

185.–There are both heroes of evil and heroes of good.

[Ut alios industria ita hunc ignavia protulerat ad famam, habebaturque
non ganeo et profligator sed erudito luxu. –Tacit. Ann. xvi.]

186.–We do not despise all who have vices, but we do despise all who
have not virtues.

[“If individuals have no virtues their vices may be of use to
us.”–Junius, 5th Oct. 1771.]

187.–The name of virtue is as useful to our interest as that of vice.

188.–The health of the mind is not less uncertain than that of the
body, and when passions seem furthest removed we are no less in danger
of infection than of falling ill when we are well.

189.–It seems that nature has at man’s birth fixed the bounds of his
virtues and vices.

190.–Great men should not have great faults.

191.–We may say vices wait on us in the course of our life as the
landlords with whom we successively lodge, and if we travelled the road
twice over I doubt if our experience would make us avoid them.

192.–When our vices leave us we flatter ourselves with the idea we have
left them.

193.–There are relapses in the diseases of the mind as in those of
the body; what we call a cure is often no more than an intermission or
change of disease.

194.–The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body. Whatever
care we take to heal them the scars ever remain, and there is always
danger of their reopening.

195.–The reason which often prevents us abandoning a single vice is
having so many.

196.–We easily forget those faults which are known only to ourselves.

[Seneca says “Innocentem quisque se dicit respiciens testem non

197.–There are men of whom we can never believe evil without having
seen it. Yet there are very few in whom we should be surprised to see

198.–We exaggerate the glory of some men to detract from that of
others, and we should praise Prince Condé and Marshal Turenne much less
if we did not want to blame them both.

[The allusion to Condé and Turenne gives the date at which these maxims
were published in 1665. Condé and Turenne were after their campaign with
the Imperialists at the height of their fame. It proves the truth of
the remark of Tacitus, “Populus neminem sine aemulo sinit.”– Tac. Ann.

199.–The desire to appear clever often prevents our being so.