Nicolas Chamfort : Thoughts on society






{"Sébastien-Roch Nicolas, known in his adult life as Nicolas Chamfort, (6 April 1741 – 13 April 1794), was a French writer, best known for his epigrams and aphorisms.

The writings of Chamfort include comedies, political articles, literary criticisms, portraits, letters, and verses. His Maximes et Pensées, highly praised by John Stuart Mill, are, after those of La Rochefoucauld, among the most brilliant and suggestive sayings of the modern era." Wikipedia}




Extracts from:

Nicolas Chamfort

Maxims and thoughts. Characters and anecdotes

(1795)





"Most of the men who live in society live there so scatterbrainedly, and think so little, that they do not know the world that is constantly under their eyes. "They do not know it", said M. de B... pleasantly, "for the same reason that beetles do not know natural history"."



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"We do not know men who we only know in part; things that we only know three-quaters about, we do not know at all. These two reflections are enough to appreciate nearly every speech that is made in society."



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"When a person wants to please people in society, he must allow himself to learn very many things that he already knows from people who are ignorant about them."



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"To have a just idea of things, one must understand words in the opposite meaning that they are supposed to have in society. Misanthrope, for example, this means Philanthropist; a bad Frenchman, this means a good citizen who indicates certain monstrous abuses; a philosopher, a simple man who knows that two and two make four, etc."



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"Society, circles, salons, what people call the world, is a wretched play, a bad opera, without anything that deserves a persons interest, which makes itself a little bearable through gadgets and decorations."



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"Any man who lives in society very often persuades me that he doesn't have much feeling; because, I see nearly nothing there that can interest a heart, or rather nothing that doesn't harden it: what rules there is a spectacle of senselessness, frivolity, and vanity."



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"One wishes for laziness in wicked men and silence in fools."



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"Prejudice, vanity, and calculation, that is what governs the world. A person whose conduct is only ruled by reason, truth, and feeling has nearly nothing in common with society. He must look for nearly all of his happiness in himself."



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"Too superior of qualities often make a man less fit for society. One doesn't go to the market with gold bars; one goes with money or small change."



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"When one sees the trouble that social conventions seem to take to dismiss merit from any position where it could be useful to society, when one observes the leagues of fools against people with spirit, one would think that there was a conspiracy of valets against their masters."